Through 4:52 pm, today seemed like a normal day. Then the ground started shaking, then my body started shaking, and then my heart started shaking. And really neither the ground, nor my body, nor my heart has stopped shaking for about 8 hours now. There are still aftershocks that send shocks through my spine. They keep me from sleeping, along with my still solidly shaken heart and burden that lies ahead in the morning.
Nobody knows what devastation lies waiting tonight. I do know that when the earth was shaking, I had very similar thoughts to what Jeremy
thought. We were fortunately on a walk with orphans, and not inside buildings. At first, I assumed a tractor was coming at us and I wanted to get the kids out of the way. But we couldn’t tell where the rattling was coming from. And I kept thinking, this has got to be the biggest Tractor/Train/Pack of Rhinos in the world. And then the shaking earth threw me. And kids fell. I actually developed tunnel vision and all my surroundings disappeared. I took one glance to make sure Diana was safe, and then I grabbed three orphan kids who were being tossed about. While Diana, Jeremy, Zack, and others did the same.
We sat on a moving ground.
I still cannot believe the power of this earth. And I have no idea how long it lasted. It felt like 10 seconds combined with 3 years. God’s power filled the earth. And all we could do was fall to the ground.
After the quake came the mayhem, with orphans crying and people wailing, dust settling and houses crumbled. It took me an hour to realize it was possible that I was not standing on the epicenter. And in fact, Port-au-Prince – with devastating population density and poorly constructed slums – was even closer to the center. And the few firsthand reports we have received suggest total destruction in the capital. The presidential palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, a hospital, and many government buildings have collapsed. Many reports speak of more buildings having collapsed than remain standing. In our little village alone, many people have died and many others have lost their houses. Our friends have had their houses destroyed. And then, almost immediately after the earth quaked, the sun went down, leaving us with aftershocks and leaving us waiting until dawn to even begin to consider the damage. And leaving us praying that God gives us grace to sustain us tomorrow.
We will keep you updated.
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.