This was a day that the Lord made.
Our first outreach of the day was to a home for 25 elderly women in Port Au Prince. This is a wonderful, unique, special place where women who have no family to care for them are tended to by a group of Catholic Sisters.
In Haiti, when people reach a certain point in their lives where they are no longer able to provide for their family, they often excuse themselves and disappear so as not to burden their family. What happens to them I can not say, but it is rarely the outcome we experienced today.
We traveled through the extremely crowded center of the city and up the mountain to where our transport had to stop because the road was blocked by a dump truck. We carried our equipment the rest of the way up the dirt road, knocked on the iron gate and were greeted by the nicest nun you've ever met.
The ladies were seated and anxiously ready for us and seated in rows of chairs on a covered veranda that sometimes serves as the garage for the sister's suv or motorcycles.
Our wonderful team immediately dove in with bottles of lotion and massaged the hands and feet of all the ladies. Then we broke out the fingernail polish and did up their nails and pampered them as best we could in the short time we had.
To say that this was not awkward would be a lie. It was probably as 'different' for them as it was for us, but it didn't take time for everyone to settle into their roles, myself and the other boys included, as nail artists.
As we wrapped up the manis and pedis, I got out a guitar and started playing Amazing Grace very quietly. One of the non-verbal women, who had refused the manicure, immediately lit up and started dancing in her seat and humming along. We broke into song and the entire room erupted with music.
It was a magical time. For the next hour, we sang song after song with, for, and to, a group of people who were genuinely, abundantly appreciative of our special day with them.
Following the songs, we treated them to a feast of meat and cheese sandwiches, chips, applesauce and Tampica (juice.) What they didn't eat, they hoarded for later.
All of us will remember this day.
We spent the next couple hours at the Haitian National History Museum so that we could all gain a little knowledge about how this country came to be. In a nutshell, for those who don't know, the island was originally colonized by people from Brazil and Venezuela hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Christopher Columbus and his crew landed here and began the process of enslaving the original inhabitants. Eventually the aboriginal settlers were eradicated and slaves from Africa were brought in to work on plantations. The French challenged the Spaniards, the island was divided in two and Spain kept the Dominican Republic and France kept Haiti.
In 1804 the slaves overthrew the French (led by 40,000 of Napoleon's soldiers) and won their independence. They have been working hard to survive as best they can on this island ever since.
We rounded out the rest of the day at an orphanage where we again sang songs, played games, and did crafts with a fantastic group of children. I am always amazed by how universal our songs are and how many of the people of Haiti sing along with us.
It was a great day.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Wow, water truck day #1 was crazy! We woke up in the morning, and some of the team helped the ladies cook our breakfast. We had pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and fresh fruit from the Healing Haiti farm. We all wore our water shoes and green shirts as we prepared to be very wet. We prayed for safe travels and for God to bless the Haitians as we set off for the day.
After a harrowing ride on the Tap-Tap, we made it to our first water stop in Cité Soleil (sit-ee so-lay). It is considered by many to be the worst and poorest community in the western hemisphere, if not the world. As we got off the Tap-Tap, there were children waiting to meet us on the steps. They were saying “po tem, po tem” which means “pick me,” or “pick me up.” Most of them only had a shirt on, or just shorts. Many were naked, but you picked them up anyway. That’s what we’re here for. Kids even nine to ten years old were asking to be held. They would grasp your hair and jump on you, but mostly they just wanted love and attention. They would hug you and look into your eyes, searching for some care. Kids and adults alike were lined up in the middle of the street with anything from a little pitcher to a huge tub. 5-gallon pails were the most common. We worked the big hose from the truck, helped keep the water containers in line and moving fast, helped carry them home or just lifted them onto heads. All the while the kids were jumping and laughing. Some of the older boys and girls (read: teenagers) asked us to help them practice their English! Forty to forty-five way too short minutes later, the truck would be empty and we would have to leave quickly, as the water is our protection from the horrors of the city. As the Tap-Tap pulled away, the kids would run after the truck, with smiles on their faces.
While waiting for the truck to fill up again, we visited Hope Church and School. Because it was summer there were fewer kids, and they weren’t in uniform. The kids are from Cité Soleil, and they were sponsored by someone in the US. We helped pass out lunch and took a tour of the facility. They are currently even building a medical clinic. We said our goodbyes and we loaded up for stop #2.
As before, the truck sounded the horn and we all scrambled out of the truck, making our way through the mass of children and picking a few up on the way. I played hand games with a few of the kids and even formed a dancing circles. There were a few less people at this stop so everyone who came got water. Because we had extra, people got to come through again and the kids were splashing each other and us! Later, following a weird mix of water fun and exhausting work, we piled back in the truck to head to our next waiting spot.
After loading up on Propel and snacks, we headed out to the Fleri Farm, owned by Healing Haiti. Here they employ Haitians to grow coconuts, bananas, mangos, avocados, limes, and much more. They supply the guest house, and Grace and Hope churches. Nothing is wasted. As we were walking our guide cut us some fresh sugar cane for us to enjoy. We took lots of pictures and hung out with the dogs before heading out to the last stop of the day.
We started stop #3 already exhausted, but that quickly gave way to frantic energy once again. Because of the riots, the water truck hadn’t run for two weeks. It went again last week, but there was still desperation in the people. The Haitians had been pushy before, but now they were almost violent. More than a few times we, and especially the truck drivers had to shove people and buckets out of the way when they were cutting in line. A few people almost came to blows when fights over buckets and line places broke out. The kids in their tattered shirts were positively hungry for any scrap of water or attention they could get. Laura, one of our leaders said that that was one of the worst stops she had been to, as far as how poor the people were. We didn’t get to fill all of the buckets that were in line, but those that got water were so grateful. One seven-ish year old girl even looked at me and said, in English, “Thank you Jesus.”
There were so many stories from the day I couldn’t hope to record them all. We were so tired after we got back. We ate a supper of “ramen chicken surprise,” went to the pool for a little bit and headed for bed after meeting with the group. Everyone was thankful that we could help these people, and share Jesus with them. “Jezi remen ou- Jesus loves you!”