Again on Friday night we ended with a time of worship at Ikondo. After returning I followed my nightly routine of walking the perimeter of the village and praying. I finished my walk with a trip to the top of the water tower and listened to the drums in the distance. I prayed, then descended and slept.
Saturday was extremely eventful. I rode to Port-Au-prince with Sean to pick up the incoming mission team. Every trip to anywhere in Haiti is full of adventure, but this one turned out to have a little extra bit of flavor.
The drive to the airport was a little more difficult than usual because of the mud coating the roads from our torrential rains the night before. Some areas still had deep mud, and other areas had a dirt coating that rose into the air with each passing car. Of course the extra water provides excellent opportunities to bathe on the side of the road where the water collects. I guess the fact that the side of the road is also a wash for various trash, sewer, and road waste is lost on those eager to use the water to bathe. So many spiritual parallels can be drawn from the sight.
Sean and I drove the van and Sava drove the pickup. 16 people were coming and we were going to need two cars. It was great spending the time with Sean and getting to know each other as we navigated the gauntlet of confusion on our 2+ hour drive to the airport.
After picking up the mission team the real fun began. Only a couple of miles beyond the airport we ran into gridlock. Although the roads are only two lane, they are used as if they had at least 4 and sometimes 6 or 8. After sitting for a few minutes Sean colorfully negotiated with some roadside vendors for some water to give the mission team. They had already been awake for a couple of days on their trip here from Colorado.
It wasn't long before we knew this was going to be a long day. The vendors began pressing in more urgently and people started retreating from Tap Taps to the much faster vehicle of foot travel. We simply sat there, got to know each other, and vainly waited for some forward movement.
The most frequent vendors were the ones selling conch out of either a silver metal pot with a lid, or various other “recycled” plastic containers. Along with this delicacy they pour a “sauce” on top that is some red possibly tomato based concoction stored in some old gallon jug. It is amazing how consistent the containers are among vendors making the choice on who to buy from a different one. As we watched many Haitians around us succumb to the extended wait time and resort to feasting on this roadside delicacy, Sean began to joke about buying some. “When I get to heaven and they ask me how I died, I will tell them I gave up, ate some lanbi, and drank some bag water.”
We began to notice people around us yelling and pointing to the rear passenger side of our van. Since we weren't going anywhere anyway I decided to hop out and check on things. It turns out that our right rear tire was going flat. As we crept along we inevitably passed by one of the countless roadside “tire guys” and I hopped out and asked him for some air in my best Creole.
Nothing is the same as it is in the states. The air station consisted of an ancient gas powered compressor on top of an old tire. He had – like every other small engine in Haiti – to actually wrap a rope around the starting rotor to get it going. Not surprisingly it didn't start the first, second, or third try so he had to repeat the action with each failed attempt. Sure enough persistence paid off and a cloud of black smoke spelled air ( I think).
Who needs an air chuck when you can just remove the valve stem insert and shove the open hose over the top. Works like a charm. A good kick spells just enough air so that when the hose is removed you can frantically fight with the stem insert before all the air spills out, spit on your finger and rub it around the valve stem to make sure it is not leaking, and replace the cover for a perfect 35 psi – or close enough. I paid the guy and we were on our way. Took us about half an hour before we were out of his site and around the curve.
At this point I got brave. I stood on top of the van trying to see what was up. I walked up and down the street asking questions. The consensus seemed to agree that a Tap Tap crashed after his breaks went out. Of course every other vehicle on the street was only running on God's grace and a whole bunch of duct tape and bailing wire – so one small wipe out from a Tap Tap caused ripple effects for the entire population of Port-Au-prince that happened to be going that direction. And....we got to be part of the fun. So the mission team got a wonderful Haiti welcome.
While we were waiting I got a call from Pastor Lex saying that he would rather I preach on Sunday morning instead of the evening. Good thing I had prepared earlier, because I sure wasn't going to have time that night. Sunday morning brought a whole new day.
I was able to preach Sunday morning. Through the aid of Kledson, my interpreter and mostly the Holy Spirit I was able to bring the Word of God to a packed house. All of my family agreed that it was the best they had heard me do. I know they are biased, but I do feel like I belong here like nowhere ever before. I started an expository series on the book of James that doubles as a way to teach how to study scripture. May God use all of me until there is nothing left for His glory.
Without a table for our home we have been eating on buckets or just with plates in our laps since we got here. After a tense time of fussing with Amy earlier this week I hastily decided a table might help things, so I started to work right away. I took some rough pine boards that were stored in a loft area of our house for the table top, and had Luke dig through construction rubble for table legs and supports.
With the “help” of most of the boys we were able to pray and eat dinner around our new table that night. The boys here are no stranger to straightening out bent nails, recovering old screws, and recycling wood. What a spiritual lesson that God uses what others throw away and makes something that is beautiful. May they get it.
And so we all started a round of worm medicine this week. We took our last one today. That is all I have to say about that.
We have been working to get our permanent residence. Many trips back and forth to Petit Goave for various pieces of bank information. Of course they can't give you everything at once because it would simplify things for you and them. You have to keep coming back – over and over again. Well Petit Goave is known for some kind of candy and I finally succumbed to the street vendors and bought some. It was different. I ate most of mine. Lance almost threw up. Amy wouldn't even try it.
Lance: It tastes like the rubber parts from around a dog's mouth.
Abby: It isn't too bad, but it tastes a little bit like an eraser.
Anna: I can't eat it, it tastes like an old tire.
Luke: Maybe old cheese, with clay.
After returning from Petit Goave with our bank letter – Wahoo! another step closer – we needed to go into Grand Goave for some parts. We were going to take the van but it had a big bolt sticking out of a front flat tire, so the construction boss took us in the motorcycle with a truck bed thing. Amy and Luke were getting some things in Port-Au-prince with Michelle, so me, Lance, Abby, and Anna all got to be passengers.
The first stop was the auto parts store. A small cinder block building about the size of a newsstand with bars on the windows and an assortment of various parts that was way more organized than the pharmacy. A few minutes of negotiations landed us the parts we needed. Now off to the tire guy.
We drove down the street to the tire guy. He keeps a few big tires out front to keep traffic from driving right into his work area. Old tarps full of holes provide some shade, but not much protection from the rain as his maybe 8 year old son digs through a pile of tools at his father's command. Even though his dad is serious, there doesn't appear to be a hint of unkindness and the boy genuinely seems happy to oblige. His young daughter attempts to keep the place clean as she scrapes water from the rough paved ground with a tin cup. She smiles at me and I tell her she is doing a good thing.
All the surroundings in the maybe 8x10 spot next to a stone wall on the roadside are coated black with tire residue. The father works hard. He has an air of professionalism in this dirty spot that is seldom seen in the cleanest and newest tire shops in the states. His arms are full of muscles from manually working on tires all day every day. Homemade tire irons replace the need for a machine.
He finally finds the right tool to pry the bolt out of our flat van tire. Once that task is complete he stands for a moment and stares into the distance. The years of hardship are clearly read on his face and in his eyes as he catches his breath for a moment before proceeding. He washes his hands in the dirty water that has collected on the street and ,with nothing else to clean them with, wipes them on the stone wall. He makes a homemade plug out of an old piece of tire and proceeds to fix our flat one. Still every movement seems to carry with it an air of professionalism that suggests he knows exactly what he is doing. He fills the tire with air and checks for leaks with a can of water. No leaks. He carefully carves out the remaining pieces of the plug with a razor blade. You can't even tell it has been patched when he finishes. I thank him and we move on our way.
Well....I broke out in hives for three nights for no reason whatsoever. They only showed up at night and I took Benadryl to help relieve the itching. It was pretty miserable. Two nights they manifested as giant whelps and bumps. I tried some essential oils and last night they didn't show up. Maybe they are gone now. I sure hope so.
With most of the bank stuff taken care of we went back to Petit Goave for some medical tests. Apparently they need to make sure we don't have HIV or syphilis before we can be residents. The hospital was definitely third world. Bars instead of windows, wooden benches for a waiting room, and cinder block walls. Dirty floors and desks, lots of stacks of paper, and workers with no sense of humor.
A urinalysis and some blood work would be needed to complete the tests. We walked across the street to the “lab” for our urinalysis. A small room right next to the pharmacy. No bathroom. Only a curtain hung between a makeshift wall and a small refrigerator with a small bowl on the floor to catch anything that might not make its way into the cup. It was easy because the lab workers were right there to pass the cup to over the top of the fridge when we were finished.
While sitting there waiting for our turn Amy talked to a young boy who was obsessed with the color of our skin. He said that he hoped one day he could speak English and be white so that he could be smart and handsome. Amy immediately told him that God had made him just who he was on purpose and that he was indeed very handsome with his ebony skin and he did not need to speak English to be smart. What would cause these thoughts, and what may have Americans started here that even a young boy would think such things. Oh that we can always point everything to Christ as the answer. Never anything else.
Last night we had the privilege of eating at a local restaurant with the mission team. It was the best goat I have ever eaten and was a welcome treat to eat some red meat for a change. Spicy, juicy, and falling off the bone. A side of plantains, potatoes, and a Haitian cole slaw made for a good nights sleep with a full belly.
This morning we walked with Pastor Manyol to meet the neighbors. Surely some of these have to be the ones that are singing and playing drums on Friday nights. I hope to get better at speaking the language so that I can share the hope of Christ with them clearly. We walked the trails among the trees and visited the usual Haitian country home of tarps, tin, tree branches, rocks, and maybe a concrete block or two.
A group of kids with no parents around greeted us. One of the young boys fought the chickens out of his plate of food. At least he had a plate of food and actually appeared pretty well fed. School books next to his older sister suggested that his family must be wealthy enough to afford school even though the dwelling would be considered extreme poverty by even the most modest of American standards.
We had the privilege of praying for a girl whose family only lived a stones throw from our village. She tried to get away from us when we walked up but her mother brought her back and we laid hands on her to pray for her mental affliction. It must have been some form of mental retardation, but Pastor Manyol only conveyed that she was sick in the head. So many people just on the other side of this wall. So many stories and so much pain – and filled with hope in the midst. Glimpses here and there.
We met two young girls sitting outside their house. The one grating coconuts said that all the kids at the house were hers. 4 total. The other girl was just her friend and she didn't have any kids. Her kids did not attend school because they had no money. School is a privilege here.
This morning we got to meet a young man whose demeanor belied his condition. He was maybe 5 years old. At a very young age a dog had removed his manhood. His grandmother wanted to show us even though we told her that we were not doctors. She just wanted us to know. At some point he had had surgery so that he could go to the bathroom and he was actually doing OK. They had food and were both pretty healthy. No Parents. His grandmother took care of him. I fought back tears as I prayed for him knowing God's special place for eunuchs.
Isaiah 56:3-5 3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people." And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." 4 For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant-- 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.