I am here. I am alive. (this is Jay speaking). I feel conflict, unrest, peace, hope, poverty, and justice. I feel like I am fully living today. Everyday. Right where I am supposed to be. But it is not always easy, and life has been easier than this before. Still, I would not trade it for anything... though there are some things I would love to trade a goat for, including a warm shower, a working knowledge of Creole, and a county edict to remove all roosters from a 15 mile radius of my bedroom.
I feel like I am adjusting to life in Haiti though. I am seeing how comfort-spoiled I have been, and God has given grace daily to allow those comforts to die painlessly. I often feel like I have fully acclimated to life here already, and then I experience something that would seem routine to me, but is actually very far from it.
For example, getting a new tire for our truck. Not expected to be a big deal. You just go to the local Tire Kingdom to purchase a new tire. Until you pull up and the local tire shop and see things are done a little differently. The tire shop has no tire inventory, with the exception of the 4 used bike tires strewn across the yard. Haitians are incredibly resourceful though and I stood amazed as the Haitian tire-fixer confounded me with his brilliance. Here is what he had to work with to get our bad tire inflated:
Thin slices of rubber (think party balloons)
Broken scissors (handles broken. blades functional)
Half of a philips head screwdriver (no handle)
A piece of a truck crankshaft (used for hitting stuff with force)
A used lawnmower blade (when leverage is needed)
Oily Sweatpants (to clean?)
Used motor oil (in a clorox bottle)
Flattened cardboard (still unsure why it is needed, but it functions like a denist chair, allowing the tire to rest while being repaired)
5 palm fronds (for shade)
A compressor that lacked a belt and a pull cord. (To put air in the tire, he had to find some rubber and rope to get it started). (I would have bet a donkey that he would not be able to get it started) (And he did) (So I kind of owe him a donkey)
Basically the finishing touches come when the thin rubber slices get shoved into the tire slit, oiled liberally, and then -- from what I can gather -- we are told to go drive to melt the rubber slices (balloons). I am amazed. And the tire is still working. A new truck tire here costs over $200 for a light duty truck. 4 times more than it would in America -- in this country where the average native makes less than $2 per day. So that means 3 things: 1) I wonder to myself why tires cost so much 2) of course Haitians are going to repair tires and find ways to do so effectively, and 3) We need to start importing tires to make some profit to fund the orphanage. (still praying about #3 :)
Please keep praying for us. We are learning the language, and every day feeling like we make a little more progress. It is both encouraging to see great improvements, and discouraging to still understand so little. But it is amazing getting to be a part of what God is doing here. The orphans still stop me in my tracks seeing their smiling faces, sharing joy with them, and hearing them laugh. We are making so many friends with the people in the church here. And hope to continue to be able to communicate with everyone more and more. We feel encourgaged. We feel joyful. And we feel hopeful that God will continue to be our everything.
The past few days, I have been feeling kind of discouraged. While every day has been filled with lots of little joys, there have also been some frustrations, that usually come in the package of, “Yep, yet another thing that’s nearly impossible for me” b/c 1. I can’t speak the language, 2. I grew up in a place with every resource, every food, everything you’d ever need to make everything easier... And 3, I don’t really understand this culture yet, (as completely expected).
Here’s some things that have been really hard for me (forgot to mention, this is D speaking)… It’s really hard for me to watch how discipline is done here. Even the littlest children will get hit, sometimes hard, for doing something wrong, whether it was an accident (like they wet their pants), or they obviously just didn’t know it was wrong… it’s hard to see parents/adults do this, b/c then kids think they can just hit each other too, which I’ve seen more and more of every day.
Even at the orphanage. And it breaks my heart. The kids are PRECIOUS. And I love them more than I can express. And as I said before, they are truly coming alive and it’s incredible. But along with that has come a new “entitlement” to take charge and hit back when someone has done something wrong. And it’s so hard to not be able to speak Creole in these times, b/c I so badly want to help them deal with it another way. But then I feel doubly attacked, feeling like, “Who are you to think you can even reverse the way of an entire culture?” It is daunting. And truth is, I can’t do it.
Little things have also been hard, and I won’t go into all of them, but just like the story i told you about the diaper..., how in the world do I get a rectangular piece of fabric, extremely stiff in nature, to fit nicely around a baby’s butt? It wasn’t even made to be a cloth diaper. And then when the house mom sees how bad I do it, how do I explain, “I’m sorry. I’ve never had to do this before. In America, we have throw away diapers that are easy to put on. But I promise, i really do want to be helpful.”
Ahh!!! Sometimes I just feel soooooooooo incapable here! But I have read some GOOD news this morning. And if you’re still reading this far into this blog, I’d like to share it with you.
In the midst of feeling so incapable, God is showing me that He is capable.
Paul said, “and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the POWER of GOD.” 1 Cor 2:4-5
That’s good, b/c my words are DEFINITELY not plausible here. Or wise. Or impressive. Far from it. They are not even understandable most of the time. But it’s not about my words, b/c it is the power of God that will change anything, not what I can do or say. And that’s really comforting to me this morning.
Then I read on that we are “stewards of the mysteries of God.” 1 Cor. 4:1
Seems like a simple verse, but for me today, it was chock full of sheer amazingness. It shed a lot of light and truth into how I’ve been feeling. While I so often times want “instant gratification,” and want to see God doing awesome things thru us here constantly, God says that I am a steward of what will probably always be a mystery to me. If it weren’t this way, I’d probably get really proud, (“so that none would be puffed up” verse 6) and think I did something great or something. Or think God needed me. Far from it!!!!!
Of course God is performing miracles here. Of course He LOVES these children more than I do. And every single day, He is working. I just won’t see, or understand, all these “secret mysteries” all the time. Which is really probably the best thing for me… b/c it is both a relief and a good thing for my ego to know it’s not about what I can do here; instead, it’s about what He’s already done in Christ. I believe He’s bringing me to the end of my rope here in order to show me this.
“For the Spirit of God does not consist in talk but in POWER. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a ROD or with LOVE in a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor. 4:20-21
Here’s what God spoke to me this morning: God’s kingdom and power do not need us. They don’t require fancy talk, elevated language, or “perfect Christ followers” [if that were even a thing, hah]. Instead, Jesus just wants our imperfect hearts to know HIS oh so gentle LOVE for us. He LOVES the imperfect, b/c they know, when God moves, that it is the power of God working, not themselves. When we know this, we can respond to Jesus’ spirit of gentleness. Instead of the rod. I feel like each day, we have a choice to either live under the law, the rod, or to pray Jesus helps us sit and rest in the finished work of Christ. His love. Jesus’ heart is that we would trust that He has already taken the rod for us. That Jesus has followed the law for us. And that He longs to love us tenderly and personally. And from THAT, and only that, may we respond with hearts of gratitude and servanthood. If it is the law that is motivating us, or our own need to feel important or “justified,” we will get nowhere!!!
For some WILD reason, God chose us, little old us!, to live in Heaven with Him one day. And while on this earth, to be freed in every way so as to experience His wild rescue of us daily, even as our hearts wander and want to do it on our own… all so we can experience His magnificent love even on such a broken planet as this.
Today, God is performing “secret mysteries” that we may not even see or sense. I pray we can trust in that today. In Him. Instead of our wimpy selves. <3
One thing is for sure: Haitian women have SOUL.
Yesterday, I was about to start studying Creole from my book after teaching, when I heard the most amazing singing coming from the church across the way. I decided to go in instead of studying, and man, good decision, me J
It turned out to be a women’s prayer time… when Haitians get together to pray, it is amazing to watch God to compel them all to bust out in song, mid-prayer. It was wildly beautiful. As most beautiful things are.
[as I write, I just found a giant bug crawling under my shirt. Oookay, so some things aren’t so glorious here.]
Here’s the general gist of it: one woman stands up to pray, and pours out her heart. And they keep taking turns. Until all of a sudden, one woman decides it’s time to sing, and she leads this incredible worship song, and somehow, everyone else joins in to make a perfectly harmonized song. With SOUL. And then they may continue to sing or someone will just pray right after… with no cues or anything. Anything and everything goes. Then, at the end, all the kids (the orphans were there too) and women went up to the front of the church, held hands, and sang songs together in a circle, and prayed some more. One woman was like 80 years old, which is about 110 years for an American, and she was just belting her heart out to Jesus for the last ten minutes. Wow. It’s amazing what a needy heart does for prayer.
Of course, I had no idea what was said the whole time, but I was so glad I went.
On a different note, the orphans in the orphanage have pretty much all come to life in the past two weeks. There are now 11 boys, and the one girl, Mindylove, has moved out to live with the pastor’s family. I was really sad when she moved out, selfishly, bc I knew I would see her much less. But God blessed me last night with a little gift. About 10 minutes after I told Jay how much I missed Mindylove already, and how my heart breaks for her b/c she’s never had any stability in her life whatsoever (she’s 3 ½), guess who walks in our bedroom door. Mindylove. The pastor’s wife and family was staying here for the night. Anyway, in walked Mindylove. And my heart lit up. She had the saddest look on her face, and she crept right into my arms and honestly I’m not sure who loved it more. <3
After about 20 minutes of holding her, I asked her if she wanted to do my hair. I was so surprised when she nodded, b/c that meant my creole was right! Woohoo! Small victories J anyways, I took some pictures to capture it, b/c it was the first time I’d ever had a 3 year old orphan do my hair with black girl twists. Haha. She tried to make it look just like hers. so cute :) She got a little carried away when she started parting my hair with a pen, and then putting Vaseline in it to give it a nice, slick, greasy texture, but it was putting smiles on her face, and making her giggle lots, so I went with it. And it was so fun. Here’s some pix:
On a different note, I’ve successfully mastered two Haitian dishes with the help of my friend Woosna. She is incredible, and for some reason looks out for us so much. She loves us a lot, and she is truly a gift from God himself! And I’ve never seen her laugh harder than when jay and I told her we could wash her family’s clothes… (she had just told us she would wash ours.. bc “blancs”, white ppl, don’t hand wash clothes).. she said she just could not imagine white ppl washing Haitian ppl’s clothes! Hopefully we get to break some stereotypes while we’re down here!!!
Well, that’s all for now… we love you all! Thanks for praying for us!!!
Ps. we went to the market again today, and took this pic so you could get a taste of what the Meat tables look like...mmm!!!
Since we got to Haiti, every Haitian that we have asked has insisted it is safe here now. Even the white foreigners say that Haiti is safe now, that the gangs have been dispersed, and that Haiti has peace. For now. We are however (and forever will be) very careful here. We never travel anywhere without Haitians with us (partly because we can not function or communicate, but also for safety purposes). I have noticed, though, how peaceful the country seems politically.
Life feels a little less peaceful when entering the market. We went to the local market (with 5 Haitians of course) on Thursday. When I say market, I really just mean utter Mayhem. Chaos. Havoc. Everyone is running around. Carrying anything and everything. Its muddy from rain. The smells all combine to form a nostril-cleansing pasty haze. The meat selections come covered in flies, and of course cow esophagus and donkey hooves are both options for the taking. Live chickens cost more than the pre-slaughtered variety. Noises everywhere, buckets carried mostly on heads, and yet most of the people give us huge smiles, loving the fact that we are experiencing their lives, living with them. And they may not know that we love being here even more than they could realize. I feel alive here.
One of the guys who walked us to the market is a guy named Andeson. He is a member of the church here in our village and he is so incredibly gentle, yet has a laugh that can ignite uproarious joy. He is 24 and speaks perfect creole (as expected, but i am still jealous). He was at church today and hanging out with some of the church staff this afternoon. I met him years ago, and every time I see him, I think I really want to be his friend. For real. I know that much just by his demeanor, his smile, his handshake, and his laugh. But there is this gaping language barrier between me and about 98 percent of all Haitians. Andeson included. But today we attempted yet another broken creole/broken english conversation. I was so blessed. He asked me if I love Haiti. I explained I did because the people here are so special (but I dont know how to say even that sentence in creole). So, all I got out was that the people in this village love me. And I love them. He said that is because Jesus is in his heart. And Jesus is in my heart. And so "we love us" is how the creole phrase translated (meaning, the Haitian and the American believers love each other).
My new friend and I realized we both want to learn each other's language. We both need a teacher. And thus we are starting English/Creole class tomorrow. He is the Creole "pwofese", and the Americans are the English "teachers". And we get to hang out every day and grow as friends. I can tell him about my culture, and he can teach me about his, and we get to share life with each other. Daily. Learning from each other. And growing together as friends.
So God continues to give us friends. We feel blessed. The Haitians love us really well, and we love getting to live this life together with them.
P.S. Jay wrote this blog -- just clarifying for anyone worried about Diana spending one-on-one time with Haitian men. That is not happening. Nor vice versa.
I will remember today for the rest of my life.
Today, 4 children came home.
I will always remember their smiles. How their smiles sang. And it was incredible. When they walked into their new home, filled with a spread of yummy food and lots of toys, their wide eyes put tears in mine. And as they filled their hungry bellies, they kept wanting to share with Jay, Jeremy, Zack and I. Wow.
Tonight was a party on earth. And a celebration in Heaven. God says in His word, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”-deut. 10:18. Today, He brought a little bit of Heaven to Earth. And in that, showed His great love, mercy, and justice towards these children.
When we got back to the compound today, after hanging out with a missionary couple and their kids for the day, there were about 100 kids gathered around, including the four kids that came to the orphanage. The four of them were so shy. And weren’t talking to any of the other kids. When I came and sat by two brothers that were orphans, my world changed. My heart exploded with love for them, and I knew in that instant that God brought me here to love on these boys. (pictures of them will be added in the next few days!)
A little while later, we all gathered in a circle, and we prayed for the kids and then Pastor Gabriel and Pastor Charles’ wife gave a talk to all the kids that were there- they shared that these four orphans are God’s children and we need to love them as our brothers and sisters. They talked about how there is another orphanage in Messailler (about 15 min away, with another org.), and all the kids there get made fun of bc they are orphans… which broke my heart. I pray that Jesus protects these boys from that. That they know they are loved, deeply.
Wow. I feel so loved on by Jesus right now.. just getting to be a part of this. So many times a day, my flesh takes over and I think how much cooler, or cleaner, the States is, and Jesus reminds me that it’s not about me. And look how gently He does it! He does it by showing me this Awesome picture of how He brings orphans home. And showing me again and again that He is bringing redemption to this planet… the whole purpose of this life. And somehow, somehow, we get to be a part of it. We feel so blessed.
We have now been in Haiti for less than 3 days. And a few things are already apparent: 1. God is here. 2. The country is beautiful. 3. The people are beautiful -- their smiles and their eyes are powerfully warm. 4. Haiti is very hot. AND 5. my heart has complete peace about living here.
As we stood atop our house today over looking the village, we could see vibrant colors of plant life in every direction. From above the area is bright and fertile. Yet there is a giant difference when comparing this view to the view from our walk yesterday. We walked through the hills and paths and saw utter poverty. The people are hungry, the animals are hungry, and the ground is barren in many places. Trash is strewn everywhere as Haitians live there lives in this broken world.
And yet there is joy here. God has not abandoned his people. And he is still in the business of redeeming people and the world. There is an obvious peace that is present in the people's hearts that he is redeeming. It does not make a lot of sense when contrasted with the surroundings, but we are seeing God's promise for peace lived out by my Haitian brothers and sisters.
He promises "...the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" -- Philippians 4:7
As we go to sleep tonight (earlier than I have gone to bed in a long time) I am grateful that God gives us peace. It doesn't necessarily fit with the discomfort, pain and poverty here, but God has given our hearts rest and peace today, and shown us his peace through the lives of our Haitian friends. And for that I am truly grateful.
Well, in less than two days Jay and I will officially be Haitians! More upon arrival...