It’s been a while since I’ve updated… there’s been a lot going on here. Good stuff. Hard stuff. And some surprises!
Two weeks ago, Reina and her cousin John came down here to see us and just BE with us… as well as check out the possibility of opening a bread factory down here. We anticipated that time so much, b/c we were craving a little slice of home, and that it was!
But, SHOOT! It was even MORE than that!!! When I walked out to greet them, one of my best friends on the planet jumped out at me with a giant hat on! Kelly Pastori! I burst into tears. Tears of joy. Gratitude. Tears that came from knowing my Father in Heaven cares for me and loves me as His child… a love so deep that He would find a way to send a friend here that I missed so dearly..
I can honestly say, that other than getting engaged, it was the best, sweetest surprise I have ever had! As most of you know, I am the only girl down here on our team, and that can be really hard sometimes. And right before they all came, it was a particularly lonely time for me. Again, tears are flowing as I write thinking about how sweet it was to have the three of them here.. Thank you Reina, John, and Kelly!!! That meant so much to all of us…really. <3
Can you believe they brought TED’s buffalo meat for us to have our favorite hamburgers?!
So while she was here, Kelly taught all my Kindergarten students “jingle bells” to sing at their December Christmas party. They loved her! And it’s been hilarious the past two days, b/c when I walked into the 4 and 5 year old classrooms, both times, they have greeted me sweetly with “GOOD MORNING DIANA AND KELLY!” I busted out laughing again today when it happened… I wonder how many days they will continue to greet Kelly when she’s not there! Haha. They miss you Kel!
…… Well. On another note… some thoughts I’ve been having… sometimes I think my purpose here is simply to love on children, and even for other adults to see that too. I think the hardest thing about the culture here is that children are not valued; rather, they’re often seen as inconveniences. This is not true in all families, of course, but it just seems like it’s just so ingrained in the culture that even Christians don’t seem to see much wrong with is. And discipline is just so harsh. And physical. And miserably fails to deal with the hearts of the children. And it breaks my heart. Sometimes it seems like I just can’t watch it any longer, and that’s when I get homesick and want to just crawl into the safety of middle class America. But then Jesus reminds me that that is why He has me down here.
People here think we are weird. I get looks all the time for holding children, picking them up, spinning them around, walking Wendylove to school, etc..It really seems like after 2 years old, they believe the kids are big enough to not need that kind of stuff anymore. But oh, they DESPERATELY do!!! Little Wendylove has come to LIFE since we’ve been living here… full of laughter and joy b/c she feels so loved!
Reina reminded me that Jesus, too, lived in a culture that did not love children well… that’s why He would pick them up, set them on His knee, and say “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” This blew both the disciples and the Pharisees away!!! They wanted to know who was greatest in the Kingdom, and Jesus not only told them to humble themselves like children but also to receive them in His name. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives ME.”- Matthew 18:5.
So that’s partly why I feel I’m here. To show children and adults that God’s word is stronger than culture. That Jesus cares about the hearts of children waaaay more than their behaviors. That hitting children only encourages them to hit others. (Children hit other children so much here, too; it’s heartbreaking.)
All this stuff weighs on me. And it’s too difficult and heavy for me to hold. So I pray that Jesus holds it for me, just as He can hold your “stuff” at home where you are too.
I have had some great times of sleeping in my life. I have slept in many places, in many conditions, and with varying grades of fatigue, but never have I had such experiences sleeping as I have here in Haiti. Sleep is difficult here. There is a lot that burdens me and I awake often in the middle of the night (this is Jay. If you know me, you know I enjoy some good sleep). Before I go on, let me list some of my more notable experiences with sleeping.
- Sleeping in an un-air-conditioned, 15 yr old RV, on one pull out couch with two other friends last summer. Duration: 6 weeks. Sleep Quality = 7 (out of an arbitrary ten). Only Issues: heat, sweat puddles, bed mates not showering for 2 weeks, smell of the couch's 14 previous years.
- Sleeping in a North Carolina shack in February in the snow. Duration: 5 days. Sleep quality = 3 Only issues: Mice, golf-cart sized hole in the wall, 8 inches of snow, cheap sleeping bag
- Sleeping in Stephen’s bed in college. Duration: 3 months. Sleep Quality = 10. Only issues: None whatsoever. The story: After much accumulation of mess in my bedroom, my bed was rendered inaccessible. I then (nobly) convinced my roommate, Stephen English, that he should attempt a bed fast for 3 months. He agreed. So I slept on his pillow-top mattress while he slept on the floor for 3 months. He grew more spiritual. I slept great. Win-Win.
- Sleeping in the Guest House at Angola Prison. Duration: 1 night. Sleep Quality = 9. Only Issues: I felt safe, but felt unsettled by my heart being unsettled by the idea of being escorted to the house by a convicted murderer, Big Lou, whom Jesus had redeemed and we had recently become good friends with.
I have slept in a lot of places, from the ground of a school bus to bat-infested hostels in Guatemala, and yet sleeping in Haiti is still profoundly different than anywhere else I have slept. Part of that difference could be our mattress that seems to be trying to conform to a Sine Wave Pattern
across my back. And my side of the bed is the top of the Wave. So I wake up with back pain, and want to complain about it to someone, and then I walk around the village and see that many people are sleeping on dirt floors, or maybe concrete floors, every single night. Some people do have mattresses, which are considered a luxury, and I wake up thinking my mattress needs to be made of cloud or something. I am thus constantly reminded of my entitled spirit, and constantly running back to Jesus for him to hold me, love me, make me and change me. But the mattress is only one aspect of my slumber disruption.
And of course the mosquitoes seem quite interested in me as well, but the biggest part of it I think is life all around. We go walking through the village and it is impossible to ignore the poverty we see. There are burdens here that cannot be easily forgotten. Yesterday I was asked by one of our friends here if I slept well last night. I answered honestly that I hadn’t slept well. She asked if it was because of the heat (which is a very valid reason here too), but I told her it was because I had a lot on my mind. She told me in Creole simply that “You need to think less if you want to sleep.” It seemed to be advice that came from experience, and it kind of explains part of the culture here. Basically, I felt she was saying that in the poverty here, if someone wants to survive and stay sane, they need to not think about the reality of life here. Life is that hard. If you want to sleep at night, you better not think about tomorrow.
The Haitians have learned that out of necessity, but it is true of life everywhere. Jesus said “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” As he had just told his followers, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26,27,34)
I want to learn to cast all my burdens to Jesus. The burdens are too great for me to carry, but in my arrogance, I sometimes see myself able enough to handle them. Life is too hard to carry them. And therefore I am ever more grateful that Jesus came to be my savior.
In American churches, especially among my generation, there is a lot of talk about poverty and the benefits of living poor, living with the poor, living poorer than the poor, being like the poor, and caring about the poor. There is a lot of truth to that, and poverty is a common topic all throughout the Bible, especially -- and understandably -- in Jesus' life.
I (this is Jay) had heard a lot of the talk before we came. Talk that the poor are happier because all they have is Jesus. Talk that our problem in America is that we are distracted by our stuff. Or that we just need to be poor to truly experience Jesus. Maybe you haven't heard such talk, but I have had many conversations on the topic, with people who nobly want to follow God's example and live with the poor/become poor/act poor/love the poor. And now I am doing all of that stuff. And in a short amount of time, I have already had some thoughts on it. (disclaimer: these are subject to change as I grow up) And these are not meant to be controversial, simply my thoughts on what I have been seeing.
Thought 1: Poverty is awful -- not an original thought, i know. But it so often seems so easy to glorify poverty. I know many of you have friends who live in poverty in America, so I don’t have to convince you that poverty is bad wherever you are. And it is truly sad when people do not have enough food to eat, do not have clothes to wear, do not have access to basic education, do not have clean water, and cannot go to a doctor when their child is dying of perfectly treatable diarrhea. And we do not even know from experience. We still live as extremely wealthy by Haitian standards, but we see it all around.
Note: I am not getting into the politics of poverty and who to vote for. Nor am I getting into the causes of poverty and how bad decisions lead to bad conditions. Nor am I getting into the economics of poverty and how to alleviate it. Go find the guy at the water cooler if you want to talk more about those ideas. (Hint: Mention Al Gore’s name at the water cooler for a guaranteed extra five minutes of bonus conversation.)
Thought 2: Poverty is not the virtue we think it is -- people are not holier or more pious because they live in poverty. People in poverty still want stuff. Their hearts are still naturally bent towards greed and selfishness. As are mine and yours. The people with no “stuff” (i.e. Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo’s, Rollerblades and Gorilla Glue) are not better or holier than people with the stuff. They just have no avenue to show the symptoms of their disease. The human condition is the disease in all of us. The desire for more stuff is the evidence of the disease, not the disease itself. And getting rid of the evidence does not, therefore, get rid of the disease. Jesus came for the rich and for the poor, because we all have the disease. Thus, becoming poor or longing to be poor is not going to fix you, or anybody else.
Thought 3: Physical poverty and spiritual poverty are not the same things – God came to rescue us because we were spiritually impoverished. We have nothing to offer. We couldn’t survive on our own. And I believe God rescuing us gives him the glory. It is good that we are spiritually needy. And I think people are blessed when they realize this need. But I don’t think the same is true for physical poverty. We have friends here who I love dearly. And I see that physical poverty is hard. And I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I think absolute spiritual poverty is a blessing. Absolute physical poverty is terrible.
Poverty is not the issue. It is awful. Our hearts are the issue. And they are spiritually needy. Thanks be to God that he has come to save us. And that one day our hearts and our world can live without poverty.
In other news, if you haven;t done so in a while, check out the pictures tab. We uploaded some new pictures of life all-around.
A couple random, funny things that have happened/been said:
-Today, two of my friends gave me a new do! I got did up real nice! Check it out:
-There is one baby in church, the deacon’s daughter, who is TERRiFIED of white people! And she cries bloody murder every time she sees one of us! I can’t help but laugh. And so do her parents. J
-Yesterday, I was laughed at for washing clothes in a machine at home. Our friend Tiwil said that there is no way they come out clean if a machine does it. (for the record, it takes about 3-4 hours doing laundry for two each week. It’s a big ordeal here, esp. if you have kids!)
-I’ve recently been asked to sing at church. HAHA!!!! This is hilarious, if you have ever heard my voice. I kept refusing to do it, telling them I was terrible, but the pastor’s family is convinced that Jesus would love it! Haha. So, I’m not sure when or where, but I’ll be sure and record it for you when I do it… be checking i-tunes in the next couple weeks!
Wow! I can’t believe we’ve been here for over 3 weeks now… it’s gone by really fast! Days have felt pretty packed for me, chock full of studying, playing with the orphans, and teaching in the Kindergarten classes. There are 3 different Kindergarten classes, and I spend about 30 minutes in each, each day. I mostly just teach them songs in English, which they love. My favorite thing is when I tell them to JUMP!! Three, four, and five year olds are HILARIOUS when they jump.
School here is soo remarkably different than in America. Most of you know I taught at an “inner-city” elementary school in Denver, and at the time, I thought I had no resources (compared to suburbia, that is). But here in Haiti, I can safely say the ONLY resource is a chalkboard. Teachers have no Teacher’s Edition lesson plan books. Everything they do is oral. There is really no hands on or visual learning going on. (I hope to introduce this here, but it’s really hard to tell people to do more of that, b/c they probably would if they had the materials!) Here’s one of the classrooms in the school:
Teachers make just a couple of dollars a day here. So do construction workers. But, as 80% of the country is unemployed, these people are ecstatic just to have jobs.
I am constantly amazed at people’s craftiness here. NOTHING is thrown away. For example, the kids’ water bottles at lunch time include a old squeeze it jelly bottle and a cleaned out peanut butter jar. Pretty extreme, yes, but it does make me seriously question why I usually buy everything NEW in the states…
So, it looks like there MAY be a possibility of building a bakery down here! I won’t enclose details til we know more for sure, but please be praying for that, b/c not only could it provide a Sunday meal for all the church goers, it could also be sold throughout the community to make some money to run the church. Not to mention provide some good jobs for people here.
Thank you so much for all your prayers!! We feel so encouraged by all of you. We love you all.