Monday, April 16, 2012

Haiti - Days 2-5 (Finally!)

Well, it has been way too long since my last post about Haiti! I am so sorry! Life just went into full gear when I got home. Plus it took me a while until I started staying up until 2 am again. I literally wrote this in 4 different sessions because I kept falling asleep. So, here is the condensed version for days 2-5 of my trip to Haiti.

By Tuesday I felt at home in Haiti. I missed my kids and husband, but I was in love with this place. We had more of an agenda on Tuesday. Jennie, Angela, and I got to meet with some of the classes and teach them about what kids in America do. Jennie went to a school in Lakeland and taught them about Haiti. Then, those children wrote about themselves and gave pictures of themselves, their pets, and/or their families. The Haitian children listened to us share about American culture so intently. Then they wrote and drew about their likes and dislikes. We asked them questions that the kids in Lakeland asked. It was neat to hear how similar the kids are, but how different the cultures are. All the classes were so well behaved. After school we met with the teachers and found out that most of the children do not have books. On top of that, most of them also come to school hungry and are only fed 3 out of the 5 school days while at school. They have so many uphill battles, but try so hard. Of course there are the kids who just don't like school (they are kids.), but it was amazing to see how many obstacles some of these kids overcome just to get an education.

That evening we met a boy, Jean Marc, who goes to secondary school in Port Au Prince. He had met Jon back in December, so he was excited to meet me and to hear how Jon is doing. He makes baskets and sculptures and sells them. His mom came a little while later with some that he had for sale and we were able to buy our souvenirs. It was such a sweet time talking with him and learning about his family. He told me that his mom has 12 kids, but only 9 are still living. She helps him find rocks to carve. And she was all smiles. She just warmed my heart. We went down into the church where a movie was being shown. This was such a luxury for the people in Chaufford. Electricity is a luxury. After the movie, we served food, but ran out - as would be the case every night.

The next two days were super busy. We began passing out gifts to the children in the sponsorship program. We used this as a time to motivate the kids. The ones who were working hard got a little extra while the children who were slacking were given only a few items and reminded that being in the sponsorship program is a perk, not an entitlement. I was so glad that Jennie delivered the tough love because for one, she is amazing at it, and secondly, I would've caved. A lot of the kids do not have parents at home encouraging them to do their work and study. Some of the parents would rather have the extra help on the farm, but a lot just don't have the education themselves to know how to push their child. Jennie was definitely skilled at having the perfect balance of love and discipline. In fact, two of the students who were scolded came and sat with her at the worship service Wednesday evening. I think part of that is their culture though. Some of the parents may not know how to push their kids when it comes to school, but they definitely know how to teach their kids to honor adults. The kids know that part of being loved is to be corrected. I never saw any of the kids talk back or try to get out of being reprimanded. After we passed out the gifts to the sponsored children, we then gave clothes and school supplies to the other students and to adults in the community. It was so sweet being able to give our sweet kids their gifts face to face. Both Julien and Maceline were so precious. They did not have an ounce of entitlement, but were so grateful for anything we gave them. In fact, most of the kids were that way. I absolutely loved my role of giving stuff away.

Thursday afternoon, a few of us went on a short hike to Gary's house (one of the boys from the school). He ran in ahead of us to pick up his room. He then took us on a tour of his tiny, but clean and beautiful house. It had two bedrooms and a dining room, complete with a chicken tied to a chair. The kitchen was outside, which is normal since they have to build a fire to cook on. There were plantains cooking. He then took us a little further up the mountain to show us where his dad and 2 sisters are buried. Literally half of his family has died. He, his mom, and another sister are still living. He had me take a picture of him and his dad, well, his dad's grave. He seemed to be at peace with his loss. He has a step-dad and seemed to care for him a lot. People get sick and die often in this little community. It is so heartbreaking that these children know death so well.

When we went back down the mountain, the boys held onto our arms to make sure we didn't lose our footing going down the steep path. I was so impressed with them. Wednesday and Thursday night both consisted of worship services, passing out dinner, and a dance party, but Thursday blew me away. The church was packed Thursday evening. This was probably because we also passed out dry food to send home. An early dinner was served and then another after the dry food was passed out.

And that is when I experienced my first food mob. We didn't have a system for passing out the food, so everyone just came up to get some. When people got to the food, there was no way for them to get out. Everyone was pushing and squeezing their way to the food. I had to brace myself against the crowd to shelter this one little girl who was trying to eat her food. I told her to just stay in front of me and eat instead of trying to get through the crowd. So many people were not able to eat that 2nd meal, but that did not stop them from staying for the dance party. I think some people stayed all night long. We left around midnight to go to bed, but I heard the music playing until at least 2:30 am and then heard people talking around 4 or 5 am. I love how much they embrace life. They work hard and pray hard and worship hard and party hard and know death and loss too often. They live with such an eternal perspective.

We woke up early Friday morning to head out to Port Au Prince and my heart was so heavy. I had this emotional roller coaster going on inside my heart. I hated leaving but couldn't wait to see my family. Still ahead was the trip down the mountain and our stay in this super nice hotel in the city. It was all so surreal. At the hotel, I just sat there looking over the balcony wondering how this could all be. How could we be in this amazing paradise of a hotel when people are starving to death just outside its walls? How could the people who spend their lives farming and providing food for this country die of diseases that we have cures for in America while there are mansions just down the road? I kept thinking that I just have to have an eternal perspective too. Only in eternity will any of this make any sense. I read the beatitudes: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is what's real. This is what my friends who live on a mountain in Haiti experience. They must know these truths. How else would they be filled with so much joy? How else would they be able to keep moving forward? We think that we have so much to offer, but we have just as much to learn. We are blinded here in America. Most of us live in an illusion. We think we are immune from death and hurt, but we are not. The cross should remind us of that. My prayer is that I will hold tight to the truths that I've seen. Truths like I am a part of a much bigger reality that revolves around Christ's mission, not myself. Christ is not limited by poverty, or disease, or death because He has overcome those things. Hurt does not change who Christ is or what He's done, it just points to how much we all desperately need Him.