Sometimes it gets to me. Daily wading through the rotten fruit of devil worship, corruption, self serving systems, false pastors, scams, relentless begging, and the like. Sometimes we all get battle weary from having to be on such high alert from the daily barrage of constant attempts to take advantage of the slightest crack of an open door of opportunity to get something we might have so someone else can use it for personal gain. However, I recognize that my own sin has contributed to the state of this world and the corruption we see around us. I also recognize that only the grace of a loving God through the blood of Christ has saved me from living a life devoted to the practice of these things. He has now sent me to be a light in the darkness and proclaim His kingdom. So sometimes I try to be nice and take a risk. And sometimes I find that I just threw my pearls before swine. But even in this the grace of God prevails, and somehow I get out before they turn and trample me to pieces.
As I was sitting on the beach one Sunday afternoon in between church services working on my laptop because it was the only place I could get a decent internet signal, I was approached by a man holding an old rice sack. He explained that he had six lobsters and wanted to sell them. He showed them to me and they were beautiful and in good shape. He told me how much he wanted for them and they were a regular, fair, Haitian price. I was happy to pay him for them and we had a good Sunday afternoon meal.
A few weeks later the guy came back and asked if I wanted to buy some more lobster. I knew we were having guests so we arranged a time for him to come and settled on a new inflated price. Not cool, but he assured me these would be much bigger than the last ones so the price would be worth it. He showed up on time with a sack full of lobster. I told him to wait so I could get a bucket and he could have his bag back. He said it wasn't necessary and said he was in a hurry. I could just keep the bag.
I paid him the agreed price and then transferred them to a bucket anyway. Most of them were much smaller than the other ones and two had been long dead. At least they were cold and he said he had kept them in a freezer. I knew I was getting shafted, but went along with it because I at least wanted to keep up my end of the bargain.
While washing the lobster one of the cold ones came in half and didn't look so good, but at least it didn't smell bad. We boiled all of them and I decided to take one for the team and eat the bad one. Hey, I paid for it so I was going to eat it. I thanked God for His provision and started eating. It fell all apart as I was trying to get it out of the shell and tasted pretty bad, but for some reason I ate the whole thing. After the last bite I started seeing spots and feeling pretty sick. Big surprise. Then I remembered that some friends had given me some charcoal pills. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to try them out.
Amy brought them out to me and I broke one open and poured it into a small glass of water. I drank the black concoction and waited a few minutes. Somehow I started feeling a little better just knowing that I was taking some form of control over the situation. I prayed a whole bunch not knowing if I should ask for forgiveness, or mercy or what. Just help please, Lord. I opened another one, mixed it up and drank it, too. At this point I started to feel genuinely better. After an hour I was still not back to normal so I drank another one. After number 3 I was pretty healthy again. Thank you Lord for provision and for friends that give charcoal pills.
The same guy showed up a few weeks later and wanted to know if I wanted to buy some more lobster. The Holy Spirit got a hold of me and I actually remained calm and patient as I explained what happened and how there was no way no how I was ever going to buy anything from him again. I guess he thought it would just be limited to lobster because then he tried to convince me to buy fish, and if I bought fish I would have a completely different experience. Somehow I continued to remain calm, but tried to make it abundantly clear that I would never buy anything from him again. At this point he just asked for money so he could buy a lottery ticket. I was struggling to believe my ears and started blankly long enough for him to repeat his question several times phrased in different ways so that there was no mistake he was asking for money to buy a lottery ticket. I simply said, “no”, that people without wisdom were the only ones that buy lottery tickets and I wouldn't support it. He seemed satisfied that he had tried enough and had tapped out this blan for everything he could get. He shook my hand, smiled, and left.
It is nice when you can find someone with a good work ethic. The guys like the lobster dude make you want to support them even more. The welder guy finished making a cover for the back of our truck. It is complete with benches and a back door that locks from the inside. He did an excellent job, finished on time, and charged me the agreed on amount. He explained to me that the technical term for this thing is called a kowousri.
PaVle tried fixing the electrical issue with the AC in the truck. It lasted 1 day. At least I know where to poke at the fuse box when it goes out. As long as I poke at the right relay it comes back on again.
I have been planning for a while to lift the truck. It is nice to have a taller truck when passing through flood waters and climbing mountains. PaVle has a large metal box with a rusted lock on it in front of his house. When I told him what I wanted to do, he broke the lock off the box, dug around for about 15 minutes, and then pulled out two larger leaf springs that were perfect for the job. He said we would lift the back first and then the front.
After he finished the rear, we went to Port-au-Prince to find larger shocks. I hate going to the parts market. Every time I go there I only hear the timeless words of Obi Wan Kenobi echoing in my ear, “You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainry...”. We snaked through the alleys of people, parts, junk cars, people working on their cars, people selling stuff, and all with just enough room to pass that you couldn't pass a hair between us and them. The deeper we went in the more my stomach sank, the less options we had for exit, and the tighter the situation became. We continued until literally we couldn't go any more. Apparently we had arrived.
In front of us lay a mass of broken cars and people working on them. Just beyond them was a giant penitentiary. The tops of the walls were crumbled like a castle from an ancient toppled regime. PaVle assured me that the place was still operational and there were plenty of prisoners inside as we sat. He hopped out of the car and went walking around. Luke and I waited inside with the doors locked. Because the road was blocked, more people started to pile up behind us like debris behind a beaver dam on a flooded creek. Hopelessness of ever getting out of there began to slowly creep over me like a black fog.
I always try to ask for clarity on what is going on, but with PaVle you can never be too sure. I just kind of go with the flow and trust him to make good decisions for us. He always comes through. We had discussed getting duplicate keys made for the truck and I didn't know if this particular location was for the keys, the shocks, both, or something else entirely. We waited for about 5 minutes and PaVle reemerged from the shanty shops and asked for the keys. I guess this was the key place.
I handed him my only set of keys for the truck which required me to kill the ignition and surrender my only means of possible escape. I just sat there with the windows rolled up, baking in the truck turned solar oven while I waited. After just long enough for us to become completely saturated with sweat, PaVle returned with new sets of keys and an old man with an angle file. Apparently they don't have key machines on Mos Eisley and you have to find an old man with an angle file if you need duplicate keys made. He tried all the duplicates and they worked with the exception of one. He went back in, made the necessary adjustment, and it worked. I paid him, started my truck, and then sat trying to figure out how in the heck we were going to get out of this place.
PaVle hopped in the truck and sat down like no big deal. I just waited a minute looking ahead for the gravity of the situation to register and finally he said, “Hey, would you like for me to get out and help direct you out of here?” What a great idea! I would really appreciate it. At least we had AC going again and we were starting to feel life come back.
After asking all those in the log jam behind me to move slightly out of the way I was able to start creeping backward. Out of all the miracles mentioned in the Bible for some reason two always stand out to me and hit me emotionally – Balaam's talking donkey and Naaman getting cured from his leprosy. I have no doubt that backing up for 3 straight blocks out of the backside of the parts market without so much as a scratch let alone a major accident is no less of a miracle. Once we were free from the great raft it was time to look for shocks.
Of course the road we needed to take to get there was impassable, but PaVle assured me that we would just start and it would clear up eventually. 30 minutes of inching our way forward later we arrived near the business that sold the shocks we needed. At least this time I was on a street that was not completely blocked, but I was still in the way and had to constantly make minor adjustments to my location the entire time I waited. Finally PaVle showed up with a piece of cardboard and some other guy. They put the cardboard down, climbed under the truck, and then were off again. A few minutes later he came back with a receipt. I paid him and he came back with a box of parts. Finally we were done and on our way home.
A couple of days later he came over to the house to install everything. He pulled out all kinds of parts and greased them and had it all back together in a few hours. The best part about working with him is that he loves Christ and is honest. It is so awesome to be able to support someone that God has gifted to work and they give glory to God for the gift they have and the work they do.
The same night he finished the truck we went to a worship service with our discipleship group at Respire in Gressier. It was great to climb the mountain and pass over the gaping holes unscathed as we made our way to the top. We came home in a rainstorm, just missed a major accident, dropped off the discipleship group in Grand Goave, parked in the driveway and the truck died. Well Lord, thanks for getting us all the way to our doorstep before killing it.
I tried in vain to start it the next day. I looked up stuff on the internet and poked at wires but got nowhere. PaVle wouldn't answer his phone all day and finally I got in touch with him around 9 pm. He showed up at 6 am the next day and had it running again in about 30 minutes with a bypass so we could get to church on time. After church we headed to Petit Goave so his AC/Electric shade tree mechanic friend could fix it. I sat in the back of a junk truck and hung out with his kids while him and PaVle fixed the problem. At least it runs well again, but I still have to poke at the fuse box at least once a day to get the air going. At least it is consistent about starting up again when it goes out.
After getting the truck raised I bought some new tires from a place in Leogonne so I could have something with mud grips. The guy there gave me a good deal, but they don't mount the tires at the same place you buy them. I took the tires to Grand Goave where a guy and his son run a manual labor tire changing station. I have used him before and know he does a good job and doesn't try to cheat people. His 15 year old son is the one that mostly runs the stand and does the work with a band of kids around age 10. He said he could change all 4 tires in about an hour for 12 US dollars.
He showed me where to park and they got to work immediately. The kids started yelling commands at each other and they had the tires off in no time. It was pretty amazing to watch as they worked together like a team. The 15 year old mounted the new tire with some homemade tire tools while the band of 10 year olds did the jack work and rolled tires back and forth. In the midst of this entertainment a man in his 30's came up and asked me to give him money. I told him no and then he began to infiltrate the kids and start to feign work with the tires.
I told the kid in charge that I was not going to pay that man and if he wanted him working then he would have to pay him himself. He just left things alone and finished the job. When it was over the guy came to me and said he should be paid for the work he did. I told him that I had already made a deal with the shop boss and paid him. If he wanted any money he would have to work it out with him. He called over to the 15 year old that I had paid and the kid just stared at him and made the sign of cutting his throat with his finger from ear to ear. The guy got the picture and walked away.
We started experimenting with the well drilling rig. We used a long pry bar to get the hole started and made it to about 3 feet the first hour – and then inched our way after that. We found rock after rock and pried them up out of the ground. We tried using the rig, but couldn't bring up the broken bits of rock because there wasn't even enough dirt to hold them together. After 3 feet I had to invent another tool using an old piece of can and a long branch to form a makeshift shovel scoop. It actually worked pretty well and we made it to 5 feet the next day. We finally hit some sand and I am hopeful we will be able to continue with the rig.
All of that rock and hard digging is like a natural metaphor for the hearts of those that inhabit the land. It certainly feels that I am always digging in rocky soil. It can certainly be discouraging.
During discipleship group that week Luke's group decided to turn against him. They started speaking in a made up language that only their group could understand and conspiring how they could get him in trouble. The good news is he figured it out and explained to me what was going on. He finally gave them an ultimatum. Either they could knock it off and listen, or they could leave. They decided they didn't have to do either and I finally had to get involved. Upon escorting them out they decided to be disrespectful to me also. I ended up having to yell at them and throw them out. Not a good day.
That Monday I went to talk to their parents and explain what happened. Two days later two of them showed up at our house to apologize. A third the next week. Things were OK for a while, but then got bad again. Finally one decided to separate himself out from the other two and remain with us. Around this same time one of my guys decided to drop out of the group and another one stays on the fence.
As if in response to all this God sent a new guy. I had met him last year when he was going around with his soccer team raising support. I wanted to provide some support for their team again this year and was praying for God to bring me in contact with him again if he wanted me to do this. The next day I saw him on the beach again for the first time since last year. After this we started to get to know each other and he began discipleship. He goes by Frenchy.
I was sitting on the beach one day while the boys were swimming and the girls were playing in the grass when a young girl about the same age as Abby and Ann came up with only pants and no shirt. This is not highly unusual, but is still out of our comfort zone. She tried to play with my girls by they were a little unsure of her and so kept her at a distance. She came over and I talked to her for a while. She was nice, but obviously had some mental issues. Her name was Adelsia.
After talking for a while I asked her about the burn marks on her body as well as the fresh cuts on her arm. She said her dad had done that to her for leaving the house without telling him. I asked if he knew where she was now. She explained that she had come down to the beach with her sister so it was OK. She said that her dad was into Voodoo and her mom was a Christian. She explained where she lived and I knew the place. Right next to a voodoo temple.
Luke, Wesley, and I were able to attend a soccer game where Frenchy and his team were playing. I was able to pray with the team before the game started. This is a league for young men and had a completely different atmosphere from the last game I attended. It was on a full size field with full size goals. We were able to watch for about 20 minutes before a massive downpour complete with thunder and lightning started.
Some people recently bought the land surrounding us that leads to the beach. TiMouche has been working for them to clean it up. Step one involved clear-cutting the place with the exception of fruit trees. They cut all the decent wood into 3 feet long sections and stacked it in various places. Everything else they let dry for a week and then set the whole thing on fire. The entire section in front and to the left side of our house turned into a massive inferno billowing with smoke and ash for about 2 hours. Before they started it was lush and green. It now looks like an apocalyptic wasteland.
Once they completed decimating everything green and full of life, they dug a giant hole and filled it in with all the sticks. They then covered it with rocks and dirt and set it on fire to make charcoal. For 2 straight weeks now we have been living like Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius right before the eruption. The good news is there have been slightly fewer mosquitoes. Every cloud has a silver lining. Even smoke clouds.
In the area where we plan to begin evangelism and potential church planting I am only aware of one evangelical church. Through mutual acquaintances I was able to finally meet the pastor. The church is next to his mother's house, but he lives in Port-au-Prince and has several churches that he manages. He basically said that they were doing OK but didn't yet have a blan to provide financial support. I was very straightforward with the fact that I was not that person.
I discussed what my church planting strategy and he decided to impart some wisdom on my plan and saying that this is not the way they do it in Haiti. He explained that the pastor is the central figure and is looked at to be a source of financial support for the church. Especially if you are a blan the expectation to provide regular food and material resources is even greater.
I explained that in order for a church plant to be considered a success the church must be able to stand on its own without receiving further outside support. He basically just laughed at me and said good luck with that. We also discussed the difference in our understanding of the word church. I was talking about people – the body of believers. He was talking about a building. I explained that if you found a group of people that would worship God standing in the mud with the rain falling down and they would thank God for sending the rain that then you would find the church. He at least understood what I believed, but disagreed.
I did agree to preach at his church during a Sunday morning service. The first 45 minutes included a 3 person tag team with him included where they complained about all the things they didn't have and all the things they needed. It was actually pretty difficult to sit through. It reminded me of the children of Israel complaining to God after having been delivered from Egypt and him sending a giant earthquake to open up the ground and swallow them. I started looking for a nice exit in case something like that happened.
When it was finally time to preach I preached in Creole. It really is amazing the difference in connection that there is between preaching in the native tongue of the listeners and using an interpreter. I just preached the gospel. Two people gave their lives to Christ. One older lady on her knees with tears in her eyes. Praise the Lord. Jesus promised us suffering. That all men would hate us on account of Him, but the reward is worth it. I look forward to worshiping Him around His throne with that lady in eternity.
I have been putting together material for evangelism training in prep for church planting. I was able to put it to use almost immediately when I connected with another young man that use to come to our English class. I was taking him through a Creole and French version of the 3 circles tool and read all the associated scriptures. When we were done he admitted that he was still in the section of sin. He wasn't ready to commit his life to Christ yet, but wanted to learn more. We set up another meeting before he left.
Albertson and Jameson have been coming by to get food through our back fence almost daily. I hadn't seen them for a while. Albertson had a really bad tooth and I was getting concerned about him. He showed up a couple of days ago alone. He explained that some extended family had come to get Jameson and he had an appointment to go to the hospital to get his tooth looked at. It was a wonderful answer to prayer, but he was extremely sad to not have his friend with him anymore. I found out later from a neighbor that a few days before many police had been inside and were continuing the investigative process. As difficult as the waiting is at least I can see that God is still at work. Just like digging that hole in the rocks.