Friday, August 3, 2012

My second trip to Haiti

I came back from my 2nd trip to Haiti this past weekend. It felt different this time. When we flew in, I wasn't overwhelmed with it's beauty like the first time. I mean, it was still breathtaking to see the mountains, but I felt like I was coming home. I felt a peace at the familiarity and an eagerness about seeing people who seemed to have a fuller picture of the importance of life. As we flew in, I was not filled with anticipation at whatever may lie ahead, but felt harmony with this place and these people who are not inundated with facebook and tweets and busyness. The trek up the mountain was still a little nerve wracking, but even that gave me a sense of peace because I knew the worse the roads got, the closer we were to our village. We arrived in Chaufford right in the middle of a wedding. There were not glares from guests because we interrupted the ceremony nor were we made to feel that we just ruined the bride's big day. Everyone just rolled with it.

But even in the midst of the peace I felt about being in Chaufford with these friends, I had a hard time. I came with a specific task - to teach some women to make beads. When I got there, I brainstormed with Jennie Ellis, one of the leaders of CPI, and we felt that it would be best to get girls in their late teens/early twenties to make the necklaces. Most of the older ladies have arthritis and a lot of the moms really don't have time to make beads. Plus the girls we were considering are in secondary school in the city, which costs their family a lot of money. We talked with a few girls and asked them to round up a total of 10 girls who would be responsible and would work hard. I told them I would teach them to make the necklaces and then we could sell them in America. They were very excited about it. Things were going in the right direction.

So, you are probably wondering why I had a hard time. I mean, all I had to do was make beads with ten teenage girls. But, if you know me well enough, you would know how much out of my comfort zone I was sitting with these girls. 1. I am not crafty or creative in the slightest. I am an inside the box thinker. I cannot conjure up images or patterns or fashion ideas in my mind. I put my clothes together in a formulaic fashion. I categorize and match colors and have such a hard time doing anything the least bit outside of the box. 2. I am a doer. I do not like to sit still. Laundry and dishes are the last chores I finish. In fact, I'll have vacuumed, mopped, dusted, and cleaned the bathrooms a few times before getting a basket of laundry folded. It's just hard for me to sit still. I always feel like I should be doing something. I've gotten so bad that I feel like I spend a huge chunk of my day walking in circles trying to decide what I should prioritize first. 3. I am not a girly girl. I do not paint my nails on a regular basis or even fix my hair very often. I loathe shopping and wear flip-flops almost every day. I have 3 boys and (aside from the noise) love it. I love watching them wrestle and jumping into tickle fights. I love that their version of dress up involves capes and guns. I love that my sons do not talk about who they will marry when they get older. So, you can see how making beads with ten girls is not my normal activity.

Me and my beautician
The first day I was supposed to meet with the girls, I woke up, went to our team meeting and then went to organize our room and get everything laid out. I "swept" the floor with a rag and had everything separated into piles. The girls were supposed to arrive at 10:00. I was ready by 9:45. (Yes, I was actually early!) By 10:30, I went looking for them. I didn't have to look far. Most of them were at Milo's house (one of the church leaders) right next to the church building. They were still waiting on a few girls to meet them there. So while we waited, they braided my hair and tried to teach me Creole. It was nice. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had someone brush or braid my hair. I could tell how sweet and mature these girls were, but I still felt way out of my comfort zone. Once the other girls got there, we headed to the church and I started our bead-making lesson. They learned quickly. I had to tweak a few of their beads, but they were naturals. However, they quickly began to make the beads their own. I kept handing them "pretty" paper and tried to get them to make beads all the same color and perfectly symmetrical. That did not bode well with them. Some of them made their beads from straight strips of paper instead of long triangles. Most of them used paper that looked plain and bland to me. But as they worked, I noticed how beautiful the beads were turning out. By Tuesday, we were stringing the beads and they did an amazing job combining colors and patterns. They had a knack for this creativity thing. But by Tuesday I was also feeling useless. I had been sitting in a room with teenage girls for 2 days, barely talking to them (because I don't speak Creole), and helping them make beads. The rest of the team was putting up walls to finish the upstairs and healing wounds in the clinic and leading huge groups of kids in English classes and VBS. I just went from girl to girl helping her make beads and not even speaking into her life. By Wednesday, I tried to stop our bead-making early so that I could go "do" something. But they wanted to keep making beads. I was getting so antsy.

My girls hard at work
But then I started to realize that maybe me sitting with these girls and helping them make beads was worthwhile. I think my realization came from the book I was reading. I was reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I was on the chapter about Media. She was talking about how we are so inundated with media that our mental abilities are shifting. We brag about being able to multitask emailing and texting and work and phone calls, but really, we are losing the ability to dig deep and stay focused on long term goals. My girls were perfectly content sitting and talking and singing and making beads. They knew that the end goal is to help their family with their school expenses. They were very content fellowshipping with one another while they worked on their common goal. And I wasn't doing nothing. I was helping them. I was encouraging them and teaching them. When they felt uncertain about their beads or necklaces, they had me there to ask for help. After reading that section in the book, I decided to try to embrace my time with these girls. I couldn't ask them about their school or if they have boys in their lives. I couldn't tell them to stay away from the bad guys and to study hard because an education can make a life or death difference in their lives. But I could encourage them and help them and show them that I value them. Over the next couple of days, I found ways to laugh with them and tried to focus more on how to encourage them than on trying to hurry up so I could get busy.
The finished product!!

The water souce
On Thursday, we had to wrap up early because of the construction that needed to be done in the room we were working in. That morning, I decided to walk down to the water source with some other people, which meant I got back past our 10:00 (which normally meant 11:00) meeting time. I expected that they were going to just start to arrive when I got back, but found that they were already in our room working. When the construction guys told us they were almost ready for our room, the girls diligently finished up the necklaces they were working on. They wanted to have as many necklaces finished as possible. They ended up making over 100 necklaces. In one week! That was more than double what I expected. I was floored. I realized that their 1 week of work would help them pay for about 1/3 of a year of their schooling. That is huge. They each got a bag of supplies so that they could continue to work on the necklaces throughout the year. I am so excited about the skills these young ladies are learning and the ways our project can help their families. And, I ended up being able to "do" something after all. Once the construction was finished, I got to help sweep the upstairs to make it ready for the up and coming school year. I even got blisters!

In addition to our success with the necklaces, the CPI teams finished the upstairs to the school, we had amazing worship services every night (in which the Haitians way outlasted us tired Americans), Bernix (a Haitian-American who lives in Miami and is involved with CPI) provided food so that we could serve meals or pass out food to take home, Troyce (our nurse from Clermont) treated a cazillion patients, we held English classes and VBS every day, Kendall and Kenny (the two pastors) trained pastors, our teachers who went held teacher training workshops, we cuddled lots of sweet children, several of us were able to connect with our sponsor children, and every person on our team walked away impacted from the beautiful people of Chaufford. It was an amazing week.

On the way down the mountain, I noticed several houses not too far from Chaufford that I could totally see my family living in. Wouldn't it be amazing if God opened those doors?

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