Monday, October 4, 2010

a few thoughts on Haiti

This will prove I'm a lazy writer!! This began with an incoming e-mail and my reply, copied to post on my Facebook page, and now copying/pasting here!   Just things I've wanted to say for a while, and have said privately, and wish I could explain better.    

This is text of a letter I wrote to friends who sent me a news article criticizing the US government's allocation and distribution of money to Haiti since the 12 Jan earthquake.   After writing, I thought maybe I should save it.   If you're interested, read and I'd appreciate comments :)

Good morning, xxx and xxxx :)Well, I read the article. I think the situation in Haiti is, and has been, so very complicated that few people are able to give an accurate picture of today's situation. Although I can't defend our congress, I can say that the American presence is strong and always appreciated.   What isn't reported in this article is the bottomless pit in effective governmental body to receive and disburse funds in an effective manner. 

Haiti exists because other countries have been feeding the people, medicating the people, clothing the people.  A recent comment by someone in Haitian government said that monies that HAVE BEEN received are being held because they have to have an emergency plan for hurricanes...well that's fine, but there is NO plan...just money that probably has gone into the pockets of Haitian officials.

It's hard for anybody to go into another's home and tell them how to live or how to organize themselves or how to prioritize their lives.  But everyone wants to help, so we just keep sending stuff...and the people keep on surviving, but not thriving. I have to defend my country's efforts, and the efforts of Canada, France, Taiwan, Cuba, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, China, Japan, Jordan, Sri Lanka and many more I can't name.   I'm praying for righteous men and women in Haiti to take on leadership.  Until that day, no effort will be successful.

About the recent storm.   Like so many in undeveloped areas, folks live where they can, and usually it's where those who know better don't.   Many, many thousands of Haitians are now living in temporary shelters designed to last 6 months to a year; they are receiving free food and medical care.  They will not leave unless forced to leave.  They have no idea of their own ability to live apart from total support by others.   This is poverty.   There will be more deaths.   But this isn't because of US government's failures in any respect.  The deaths have been happening, over and over and over in Haiti, in Darfur, in Uganda...sometimes they're happening right here in our blessed country.   Shame on us if we can help and don't, but more if we can educate and offer tough love and don't.
David said he'd never seen the righteous begging for bread.  I haven't either.   This is not to condemn anyone, but to remind myself and others that the answer is Christ and full gospel teaching.   Not just believe and go to heaven... but, believe and surrender and follow.
I'm preaching.  Sorry.  I get started and can't stop :)     Having said all this, I'm on my way back to Haiti to work in construction (finishing up some of what's lacking at school in Beaujoint).   Daily, I'm reminded that the work is NOT the school, or the blocks, or the latrines, or wells.  The work is making disciples, teaching others what God has taught me...  In this particular time, the lessons revolve around taking up your daily cross and working hand in hand with someone you wish would go away to give you all the money and attention and power.   In other words, I'm working toward a discipleship breakthrough asking men to work together for the glory of God, sacrificially, because I know that in this lies richness of soul and spirit.  In this there is deliverance from one level of poverty.   Hope I'm writing clearly ??
I want to write a book...  but the book has probably already been written many times over.    Now I have to cook spaghetti, go to the bank, work on editing calendar, and revise the budget for Beaujoint School.    I'm sure your day is full, too...   I want to talk to xxx about H4H in Haiti, too, but another day :)

Blessings on you both!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I just spent an hour and a half blogging and posting photos, and just like that !! they're gone. So frustrating.

After three weeks sleeping in a tent, set up on rocks no less, I have found my bed nearly swallows me! I came to like my little house and the sounds of the night in Haiti, and I learned to conform rather than fight those little rocks. I was grateful for them during nights of rain when I considered the alternative of mud!

I can't say it was guilt, but a sure discomfort during those nights of rain. All around me were old people, babies, whole families scrunched together under rags or sheets of cardboard or tin, some under sheets or plaited palm fronds. I knew as certainly as I was dry, they were not. We can't change the discomforts of others very often, and yet I know I would, you would, if possible. It made me think of Jesus...He cares. Very often change is not possible in the overall plan of our Father, and yet I know if we care, how much more does He. Good to remember on those nights that these times are passing away and one day will be no more. But, what can I change? What does Jesus want to do through me?

My first response is always HOPE. One unchanging fact in my time abroad has been the truth of Hope Comes Walking. Jesus came in flesh; Jesus still comes in flesh...yours and mine! And He is our Living Hope. Led by Him, I believe Hope is the shape of my footprint.

You maybe oversaturated with photos from Haiti, the mountains of destruction, the mind boggling statistics of death, injury, homelessness. I finally stopped takng photos, the camera was so limiting. I have memories that will never fade. A few stand out to me: a 3 or 4 storey building had collapsed to a flat-surfaced table-like pile maybe 4 to 5 feet high. Toward the back there was a bit of building still erect, though not completely. A young man who must have been about 20 years of age was standing on top of the compactly layered cement rubble. In his hand he had a sledge hammer. One man and a hammer in almost machine-like rhythm, taking down this now useless pile of cement. And I saw more like him, standing atop their un-creations...rebar jutting out, cement crust clinging here and there...concrete lace to the eye. Made in the image of God...these men and women...alive and moving toward tomorrow.

Another image was of two houses, symbolic of so many others. At one time a lovely two-storey home sat side-by-side with a small one-story home that had a pretty entryway and porch decorated with beautiful flowers. Somehow in the space of 35 seconds, one storey disappeared.

And this is the closest I can come to understanding the terror of January 12: all the destruction, and it's massive, all the loss of life and the broken families, the roads ripped apart, the coastline changed forever -- this all happened in the span of 35 seconds. I am held speechless and my imagination toward understanding is frozen.

Some children told me of how they are afraid at night when they feel the tremors. Many people at the Wesleyan clinic suffered from stress-triggered ailments and insomnia. I had a grown man ask me why I wasn't afraid of the earthquake. A lady who came to learn a little English asked me how she could answer her neighbors in the street who said "I'm afraid". I sat in a restaurant last Saturday afternoon and found myself visibly disturbed by the sound of a large door slamming. That ol' earthquake has left a footprint, too, but we have the sure promise of a God, very present with us. I found myself just stomping all over those fear-filled tracks with the Truth. Fear can call out and we may hear it's haunting voice, may feel it's tremors, but it cannot control, need not control, one whose hope is in God.

Thursday, February 11, 2010's late

It's almost 10 PM and I need to get over to my tent. Early rise tomorrow and drive to Port-au-Prince.

Have some photos to post next time -- Ti Guinea, Marie Claude, and maybe PaP.

Goodnight and God bless!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sometimes when your task is to observe and report, you can become really frustrated. You see the needs everywhere -- physical wipeouts all around you, spiritually malnourished Christians, nutritionally malnourished everyone, emotional stress and lack of sleep -- and all you want to do is make some impact somewhere.

Much of Ed Lockett's ministry follows the example of Christ as He let the children come to Him. We're so strong when we know we are loved. This needs to continue unhindered. And so those who come will allow him to go on doing what God has called him to do, and also putting a hand to the plow to lift up the downtrodden here.

If you're one of the many wanting to come but not knowing how or when or where to go, be patient. God has a role for everyone. To be honest, the hardest work is done on knees bent before the King, pleading for those who've lost their voice, or maybe don't know Who to call on. This is frontline ministry.

Being down here, not really a physically strong person, not being a nurse or doctor, most of my frustration is with the question "how" -- I see much of what needs to be done, but not certain of the next dot to connect. I'm a good coordinator, a connector, so am asking God to use me in this way. Then it will be "where".

I have an idea, actually two, as of yesterday. The first is to organize a group of Haitian men in the north -- from the area unaffected by the earthquake. They want to help, too, but have no way of knowing where to go--where to put their desires into action. I want to work with a few churches in the north to bring in some Haitian teams to assist with the very demanding physical work of erecting temporary shelters and cleaning up, and the reconstruction. This will take some financing on my part in terms of transportation and food. Not a whole lot, but pray with me that funds will be there for this!

My second idea is to speak with the 3 churches who currently support me, to see if jointly we can't adopt a community. I've visited one called "Ti Ginen" and today I'm going to return to take a few pictures and write up a request. I think this would please God, for us to work in concert. The immediate needs in this community are for temporary shelters and cleanup. Yesterday a pastor there (I saw 3 collapsed churches) said in one of the tent/tin cities there are 65 families. Some are living under old sheets of tin propped together and crammed together on vacant lots. It's not pretty. There's a huge area in Port-au-Prince called Cite Soleil-- a rather well-known slum. It would be unforgivable for us to let all of Haiti become a Cite Soleil.

So, now you know how I'm thinking... I still can't answer "how", but these are my first steps in the search. I would love any responses and ideas.

Be blessed "y'all" :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

...a surprise in the night

Yesterday was Sunday and like so many, we went to church service. We were meeting outside in L'Acul, with some tarps to provide shade since the building usually used has some damage. Following the service, there was a church member meeting where Manno (the pastor) distributed to each person a bag of rice and then, until they ran out, a plastic tarp to be used for temporary shelters. I've seen lots things given away in Haiti, and unfortunately, the usual response has been without much display of gratitude...not because they aren't grateful, but I think because they've just become so used to life depending on the gifts, there's a numbness that sets in. Yesterday, however, was different. So many of the folks stopped on their way toward the back to hug and kiss and say "thank you, thank you." One young man made a point of asking me to tell the people of the United States how much Haiti appreciates them. It was very humbling.

Our afternoon was rather eventless until a couple of men arrived from the Dominican Republic -- an engineer from the States, a doctor from the DR, and a young Dominican man who's arms had been whacked with a machete as his motorcycle was being stolen from him. Life isn't always pretty. Shortly after the first car arrived, another group of doctors and surgeons arrived (from Hearts of Fire). This latter group will be working in this area for about a week. Augustin (the young Dominican) was operated on today, and although he'll lose some dexterity, he will have his arms!

We learned today that the hospital in Petit Goave is not seismologically sound. In other words, the physicians must work with acknowledged risk, and the patients receive service with the same knowledge. I saw some very committed and devoted doctors this a man heading into harm's way tomorrow. Pray for good safety and a strong witness.

Something interesting: the patients and medical emergencies that are being treated are NOT earthquake related. The earthquake medical needs, for the most part, have ceased...that part of the crisis has ended. These emergency medical teams are seeing the "normal" Haitian medical needs. It's quite a surprise for many!

I was looking forward to star-gazing again last night, and I settled in quite comfortably. I awoke with the pitter patter of rain drops. It's a neat sound and I was quickly falling back into deep sleep, until I turned over. Oh yuk ... my sleeping bag was soaked with water on one corner and I found a puddle had formed near the tent flap. Well...the puddle continued to grow and my sleeping bag continued to soak it up. Squish squish until dawn and a welcome sunrise! Hopefully tonight will be different :)

There are thousands of folks sleeping under patchwork tents, sheets of cardboard, scrap tin, or under nothing at all. Many are staring at the flattened, distorted mound of cement and rebar or wood and straw that once was home. Many looking to see the face of a loved one who is no longer there. So many are going to bed tonight in foreign cities, without a leg that supported them a few weeks ago and wondering where they can ever find another place to call "home". And the most grievous thing: many are facing the night without hope, without any security, with no source of comfort -- these things cannot be bought. They're only found in our Living Hope, our Good Shepherd, the God of all Comfort. If you know Him tonight, ask that many more will enter into rest along with you.

Lots of love in my heart for all of you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

...tearing down vs building up

Last summer, while preparing to talk at a church in the States, I was struck by the reality that God is not always building up, not always planting. He also must tear down and pull up in order to right the wrongs, fix the broken, bring in a crop of righteousness.

Haiti is broken...the whole world knows that now. The hard core truth is Haiti was broken long ago, and maybe because all the efforts over so many years never seemed to "fix" it, the world in general just sort of forgot about Haiti. Everyone seems to have had an image of Haiti as the dark place that would always be dark so don't bother sending any more light bulbs.

While I've learned God has to uproot and tear down, I've also learned it's NEVER without a plan to build and to prosper His people. God has many people, many children in Haiti, so I don't doubt for a minute that He has a plan to prosper and bless, to give hope and a future to them.

I'm writing this because I don't want people to forget Haiti after this "crisis" is over. I want us to hang in there for the long haul, see it through beyond cleaning up the rubble. All the news coverage will end, and our adrenalin surge will end, but the need for planting and nurturing will still be there...long time. Haitians are people broken-down.

When driving from the bordertown of Ouanaminthe down to Petit Goave on Thursday, I was once again awed by the beauty of Haiti-- a broken beauty, but beauty nonetheless. And I saw a dogged perseverance of the people to survive, to make it through to see another day. If there's a quality I appreciate and admire in the Haitian people, this is it. I also found a sweetness and consideration in the least likely of places -- a latrine! On the road down I found this old run-down gas station that had no gasoliine anymore, but folks used the building to store things. I saw a soldier standing inside and asked him if there was any toilet nearby I could use. He started saying something that sounded to me like he was asking for money, and I said I didn't have any money to give him. He laughed and said, "No, I'm saying the latrine isn't nice enough for you." I quickly convinced him it would be FINE for me... he led me into a dark stone building and we went up some old worn stairs to a wooden door which he pried open with the butt of his rifle. This was maybe a 100-year-old pit... He walked aways away and I began to do what I needed to do to keep from falling in! As I was leaving, I tried to shut the old door and I heard a sound behind me. It scared me at first because I thought I was alone in this place. Then I saw the soldier...he'd gone to get a cup of water and a little bar of soap and he poured the water so I could wash my hands before leaving. Haitians are beautiful and gracious people.

Eleven or so hours down the road, after an amazing adventure in Port-au-Prince traffic, we arrived in Petit Goave. [the adventure was to have a ruptured water hose at sundown in a traffic jam in the middle of the city...directly in front of a UN headquarters compound manned by Sri Lankan soldiers who spent about 2 hours working together to fix my car and give us juice to drink while we waited...sending us on our way with prayers and many handshakes. Only God.] As we drove through Port-au-Prince before the breakdown, I was amazed at how much cleanup has taken place...the road was broken in places, but traffic able to pass. Every house and building had a pile of rubble in front of it, but it was not disorderly. The produce market was open and there was a lot of routine activity. However, while my car was broken down, the sun set and darkness enveloped the city. Here it was more evident that the people are living in a state of desperation. Everyone (including me) wants to sleep outside because standing structures are not safe, especially with continuing tremors. Problem is these people have no covering, no beds. It was an amazing sight to see the improvisation of the people. Haitians are resilliant people.

Ed and his "clan" waited up for us and then helped us ("us" is Jaklin Valmyre and me) set up 2 tents and get situated for a rather sleepless night! Then yesterday, as we were getting "warmed up" for the day, a group of 3 pastors arrived. Their churches were either totally collapsed or heavily damaged and not habitable/usable. It was such a blessing to be able to give them a plastic tarp... Not a long-lasting solution, but it will provide a shelter from rain and sun so they can meet and worship. We drove over to L'Acul (smaller town on coast near Petit Goave) to see Manno's church and visit some of the families there. They live right at the beach (it's SO BEAUTIFUL THERE) and during the earthquake, not only were houses collapsing and falling apart, but the earth opened up and then continued, like a knife cut, to open up for quite a distance. It was humbling to see how fragile our little planet is, how easily it can be injured. Manno has been helping families, one-by-one, to clear up rubble, and now with the plastic tarps, they're beginning to erect some structures(like the pastors with their churches). Temporary... And so now, we're looking down the road a bit to see how our teams of volunteers can help in reconstruction.

Jaklin Valmyre is from Milot, a town in northern Haiti where the Citadel and Sans Souci Palace are located. He came with me to help in any way possible and also for me to not be on the road alone. He's a wonderful brother in Christ who loves God with all his heart. Last week (I think it was last week!) I made a one-day trip into northern Haiti and together we visited Milot, where hundreds of earthquake victims have been taken for orthopoedic surgeries and amputations. While there I met the on-site director and we exchanged telephone numbers just in case we needed to communicate in the future. Well.... yesterday a young man who is translating in another clinic here in Petit Goave came to talk to seems he was trying to find a boy who had been injured and the mother didn't know where he was. Long story short, they thought maybe he'd been sent to Milot because it looked like they'd have to amputate his leg. I was able to call the hospital in Milot and they knew exactly what boy I was talking about! AND, the surgeon who had operated already on this young Haitian boy (Jean) had made contact with Shriner's Hospital in Springfield, Mass. to see if they couldn't receive him for long-term care! But they needed a parent's consent. Praise God we were able to put the mother in touch with the hospital in Milot!! I pray it all works out for his care, but at least we know one mom who was scared she'd lost her son, sobbed with joy to hear he was being cared for and they would be reunited! Thank you, CRUDEM, for your work in Milot and for the wonderful way you have ministered to the Haitian people, not just in this crisis, but over many years.

Sometimes it's hard to know how to close out a blog.... don't want to say goodbye :) But, goodbye til tomorrow (I hope!).