25 August 2017

Loving my neighbor, too late

He showed up a few months ago, my new neighbor. There's two older ladies who live directly across the street from us, and he seemed to be related to them. He sat in their big rocking chair on the balcony, his white sleeveless undershirt pulled up under his armpits, revealing his hairy, middle-aged belly. He listened to kompa all day. Loudly.

The first time he antagonized the dogs, I ignored it. But it started happening daily...even multiple times a day. Finally, I whipped the outside door open and snapped at him, "Is that polite? Really?" He laughed. He made eye contact with me, daring me to do something about it. He just kept "barking."

That was my first clue that something wasn't right with him. He was either a Class A Jackass or maybe there was something else going on...I started to notice more details. He'd wander away and go to bed, leaving the radio on. Someone else always carried it out for him. He joined the ladies for their weekly pedicures on the balcony, while they giggled away. He talked to himself. Every night, he went out and played that radio, blasting directly into my bedroom. I started cranking up the fan and putting in my headphones as soon as the kids were in bed, just to have some peace.

I longed for him to go home; they've had summer guests before, so he was probably not from around here. Maybe today would be the day he'd pack up and get out of here...I prayed for relief from the noise.

Then, as I was welcoming a friend inside my gate, I noticed he was standing on the balcony. "Hello!" I called up to him in Kreyol. "How are you today?" I smiled at him...and slowly, expressionless, he turned on his heel and shuffled into the house, saying nothing. Oh, I see. Not a jerk, after all...but I sure felt like one now; I didn't mean to scare him. Not long after that, the gal from Public Health showed up. She didn't mean to knock on my gate; she spoke French, and I didn't catch much of it. But she was looking for him. She was looking for Barker, and I pointed her across the road.

I never saw him again. The neighborhood is quiet now at night, except for the real dogs and chickens.

So quiet.

I didn't love him. I didn't even really like him, and I hated how he inconvenienced me. But nothing good could come from his disappearance. The places where they put people who aren't "normal" here...they are not good. Is he scared? Is he being cared for? I don't blame my neighbors for needing help; he seemed like a handful. But if comes back, I will gladly lie awake listening to his music, knowing that he's not in some dirty, neglected place, forgotten.

I have not forgotten him. I cannot. His disappearance is as heavy as his presence was. 

09 July 2017

Giving Women Wings

http://www.hungryforlife.org/partners/calvin-christian-school-group/july-2017/arrived-at-lemuel

My friend Wilhelmina Krul came to visit this week. She and her husband Jason worked here for MAF for several years, and they've now moved on to a great ministry called Hungry for Life. She's leading a team of 13 people, and they were headed to Anse Rouge for the week with MAF the next day with David. (See the link above for the team's impression of their flight!) 

And that same day, I'd talked to another missionary mama out in Jeremie who was heading back to the States to support her mom through a surgery. Her husband was able to put her on the regular flight with David and know she'd get to Port safely to catch her international flight.

And it just struck me how our ministry has such a potential to support female ministry leaders. It's something I'm doing a lot more thinking about lately; how do we empower women on the mission field, especially in somewhat unstable places like Haiti? And good transportation is part of that equation. I love that we could support each of these women as they seek to serve those around them.

04 July 2017

Happy Fourth!

Well, we tried harder this year. Normally, the Fourth of July goes by without much to-do around here, given that we don't get the day off work and life goes on as normal. There's a fancy party at the Embassy to which MAF is always invited, but I think only our boss goes and mostly to network. With little people in our lives now, it didn't seem like a good idea. 



But we made a paper flag in homeschool preschool, even though I had to look up a picture to make sure we were doing it right. The kids seemed awfully confused about this holiday until I hit the magic words: "It's America's birthday." Ah. Got it. They decided that America also wanted us to eat cake in its honor, and I was okay with that. I looked for sparklers at the grocery store, as I've had a lifelong fantasy to recreate this picture my parents have of me with chocolate fudgesicle on my face and a sparkler in each hand...but alas, there's always next year. 

David came home around 4:00 and reported that his Haitian coworkers were appalled that we didn't get the day off. Then again, it seems to us like they have a holiday every week! Funny how different cultures can be. We quickly made burgers and fries (usually just a weekend food). Ellie was most excited about the pickles, which Peter inhaled the fries with LOTS of ketchup. Thankfully, they totally forgot about cake; we'll have some tomorrow with lunch, maybe. David found some Sousa on Amazon Music, so we listened to that during dinner, and afterwards, we found some fireworks on YouTube...but it just doesn't give the full effect. Fireworks are loud! They fill the air with smoke! And you're supposed to be sleepy, bloated and crammed next to your family onto a plaid wool blanket on a football field when you watch them! 

But we're making memories, and hopefully, we're imparting to our kids that we're proud to be Americans. God willing, they'll get the full effect next year on furlough. 

29 April 2017

Hope in the Husk

Media outlets have a tendency to sensationalize the situation in Haiti. That's what sells newspapers, right? And I want to believe that that's the case in this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-4455968/amp/Downpours-ruin-spring-harvest-beleaguered-southwest-Haiti.html

But I know it isn't. This is exactly what we were afraid would happen when Hurricane Matthew hit last October. Knowing that people are slowly starving to death just miles from you...forces action. Something inside you whispers: "It is not. right." We fly for organizations that are helping: David says he's flying a lot of groups doing roof repair, which is much-needed as rainy season returns. But that feels out-of-touch to me...I know in my head that we're helping, but it isn't enough. 

 

So I've been sending them seeds from my moringa tree. I know it's barely making a difference...maybe not making a difference at all. But it is what I can do. They grow fast; the leaves are very nutritious. Food is what they need. 

 

 

Even more, the bees, hummingbirds, and beetles love it. Their ecosystem in the south has been thoroughly devastated...but maybe this helps. If nothing else, it assuages my conscience. No, that's not right--it assuages my soul. It comforts the part that cannot stand to see people suffer and die just because they're hungry. I send these seeds like a letter: someone cares. Don't give up. Don't lose hope. Your life will flower and bloom again, even when all seems lost, even when it all seems dry and dead. In that husk, sometimes, you can find just what you need to start over. 

 

Thanks for praying for those suffering in the south. 

27 April 2017

April 27th, 2017: A Normal Day

My life here has become normal. It is hard to write about normal.

This morning, the kids and I made dog food to stick in the freezer. I gave them plastic knives to cut up spinach and zucchini, and once they got bored, I finished it. Normally, I wouldn't care if my dog eats cheap dog food...but she's got arthritis, and this helps. We also stuck some zucchini on the dehydrator to run while the solar power was good: we're learning to concentrate our power consumption in the middle of the day now.

The kids then had a snack and watched Netflix while I finished prepping to teach Bible study about the Sabbath. The internet was up until around 10:50, at which point it was down. That's normal. I plug in the backup connection and move on. Someday, I will start calling Natcom again, and they will once again start sending people who will try to replace my router...even though I know it's not the router.

I made their lunches, since we don't get done with Bible study until 12:30, and we went across the street. Our Haitian babysitter, Denise, met us at the gate with a big smile. She doesn't speak English; my kids don't speak Kreyol. Oddly, in this case, it doesn't seem to slow them down.

Three ladies show up: a pretty good turnout. Two text and bow out: one for unknown reasons (hmm, I'll have to call her) and the other is stuck in a government paperwork line. We've all been there; we get it. It's a fruitful time studying Exodus; I love these ladies and I love how transparent they are about their struggles. Friendships on the field have a deep quality to them: there's more hurt to share, less independence to fall back on. Leading them is really just facilitating their discussion and bringing the Word in whenever I can. It fills me up.

At this point, the language barrier comes into play, and I can hear E wailing upstairs...not her normal frustration sound, but an "I'm hurt" quality to it. I venture upstairs and find out what happened. As soon as Denise's back was turned...I know the rest of the song, so I bring a snuffling daughter downstairs to finish prayer requests. Adoption proceedings, family members in trouble, patience with kids...some heavy requests. We figure out who's leading next week and part ways.

Rush home (across the street), eat lunch, NO, you can't have a cookie, because it's NAP TIME that's why. I know you're not tired, it's entirely for my benefit. I think about calling a grandma while we eat our beans and cornbread, but we're already way behind, and it's too easy to just keep talking. We miss them so.

That afternoon, I start work on a blog post for my new blog, missionarymamas.wordpress.com. It's something new for me this year, and it's another thing that fills me up. I realized I'm not the new kid anymore, and I might as well embrace my role as a "veteran missionary." Strange that seven years qualifies me for this, but there you have it. Peter manages to get his hand caught in the back door, and we make popcorn on the stove to hasten his recovery. I email with my househelper's daughter about her medical expenses. I am the health insurance; it's an uncomfortable role for all of us.

I started some laundry (again, go solar power!), but stopped when I realized we were almost out of water. (It had started raining anyway.) We can't pump it up to the roof unless the city power is on, and it hasn't been. David goes out to start the generator, but its battery is dead. He spends the rest of the afternoon trying to fix our battery charger and get it going so our househelper can wash dishes tomorrow. I pull a bucket of water directly out of the cistern for my shower just in case--I'm not going out there in the dark, man. There's cockroaches out there.

The kids balk at cold baths, but are in bed soon enough. We watch TV together, then go back to our own evening work. I sit down to write this blog post, and I hear a weird noise...a clicking. Irregular. My ears perk up, and eventually, I find him: a small mouse is caught in my trap behind the pantry shelf. Since it was just his leg, he is still alive. He is very unhappy, and he squeaks his feelings to me all the way outside. I figure, the dog can finish him off. Live to fight another day, mouse...just don't do it in my kitchen. I finish my paperwork to rent a car on furlough and send an email with spelling advice for one of my students. Leaving my classroom doesn't mean they leave my life; I'm "all in" with these kids. They're the best.

David runs down the street to help a neighbor with her inverter remote. The city power is on, but it's being weird; only sending 102 volts instead of 120. The pole on the street starts sparking, and a neighbor texts to let us know. We disconnect.

And speaking of disconnecting, it's that time again for me. If you want to read my thoughts on the Sabbath, it should be up on the Missionary Mamas blog within a few days. Good night!

14 January 2017

Broken

I found more glass in the kitchen today. I was sitting on the floor, helping Ellie pick up some beans she'd spilled, and there it was, another shard of glass.

I guess that's what happens when your house falls down.



More than the sound of splintering wood and shattering glass, more than the unexpectedness of your house falling off the wall, more than the helplessness of having to just stand there and watch it happen...what got to me more than all that was the timing.



I was standing right there, not three seconds before. I was standing there, cooking dinner, like I do every night. But there was a toy on my cutting table, and I suddenly wanted it off my cutting table. And for some reason, instead of just brushing it to the floor or calling to the kids to come and get it, I decided to take it into the other room myself. I hadn't gone five steps when I heard it start to separate and whirled to watch it come crashing down. I could hear myself screaming, but I couldn't seem to stop. As soon as I could stop screaming, I started yelling, "I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay," for the benefit of my panicked family in the other room.

This is the toy that was on the cutting table.
I have no idea why it bothered me. 

Everybody needed a hug after that.

I might've gone to pieces, but it's a little tougher to just get delivery around here, and people gotta eat. Also, I'd already called a friend to come over and learn to make tortillas...so I wiped away the tears, and I showed her how to make tortillas. I'm afraid she now thinks I'm Wonder Woman. Additional time and interaction will surely correct that opinion.

But the good news is, I'm still here to interact with.

My emotions in the days that followed have been complicated: anger with the person who didn't attach it to the wall better (it appeared to only have six nails without anchors); relief that no one was hurt; sadness over how strange it looks now; annoyance at the inconvenience of storing things elsewhere and the expense of replacing it.

Where our cabinets used to be...
Yet in the clean up, when I realized that there were five toys on my cutting table which had been there for days, none of which had bothered me before...what I felt mostly was gratitude. I believe God protected me. It's in his character, it wouldn't be the first time, and I'm guessing it won't be the last. It's so easy to fixate on the unknowns here: could we have gotten me to competent medical care in time? And that I don't know. But when I fixate on the character and goodness of God, I begin to see it everywhere. I love the quote by C.S. Lewis: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." 

On that table, I had several things of high sentimental value: one was a gift from my grandmother, a mother and child statue carved from an olive tree from Israel. It could've been a clown carved from a maple tree from Vermont, I'd still love it. It was from her, it had been in her house, year after year. It didn't have a scratch on it. 

In the cupboard, I had some high-priced ingredients I was saving: sesame oil, pad thai sauce, and worst of all, fish sauce. A broken bottle of fish sauce won't just ruin your day--it ruins the day of all your neighbors within a two-block radius. And yet, despite all being in glass bottles, they came through just fine. It would've been enough for me to come through unharmed...but it wasn't enough for God. And that kind of broke me. 

Oh, friends: we have a God who cares. We really do. You can trust me on that.

22 December 2016

My First Water Truck

 

Here it is. My first water truck...and what an appropriate hood ornament it had. I've lived here six years and never needed one until now. My first house mooched off the neighbor's city water. We paid them $100 a year to turn a valve and let theirs feed into both our cisterns. It wasn't that generous of them--they paid a flat fee no matter how much they used, and it didn't come on that often...like once a month in rainy season and less when it's dry.

My second house got city water for free because the valve broke in the "on" position and they didn't feel like fixing it. Between that and David's system of pipes to catch the water from our roof, we were golden. 

Until now...

 

Someone small was a little excited about this...yes, he's skipping. Maybe it's just because he got to get up from his nap. (Why does everything exciting always come during nap?) 

 

Here's how low it was. Our cistern is actually under our house, and I'm pretty sure it makes David very nervous that our floor is going to somehow give way and provide us with an indoor swimming pool. Being the fool that I am, I thought I could just kinda stick the end in there and it'd just gently flow out...seriously, it was like Old Faithful coming out of the opening in the ground, and all I could think was 'one dollar, two dollars, three dollars...' 

So we locked my big dog in the laundry room, and his assistant came around to hold the hose in a better position. Then, as it started to run out, they wanted to know where my buckets were: they didn't want me to lose all the water still in the hoses, but they couldn't pump it in. 

Not having enough buckets, I suggested that they roll up the hose from the back and push the water into the cistern. "It's very heavy," he said. He looked at me. I smiled at him. "Do it my way this time, and I'll get more buckets for next time," I said. Surprisingly, he agreed.

 

TA-DA! $35 and 20 minutes later, and we have water again! Of course, you can't drink it unless you treat it first, and I have no idea where it comes from, and it'll probably rain tomorrow, but hey, it's water, and it's all ours.

26 November 2016

Your Skin and Mine

I cannot resist cheap books. Old, new, wrong language, whatever. It's a compulsion, really. So I don't know where we picked this one up, but it's a good one. 

 

Everybody's skin makes melanin, it says. 
Some skin makes a lot of melanin. 
Other skin doesn't make very much. 

That's it. Here we are, created in the image of God, with varying amounts of melanin. In language school, I used to try to eavesdrop on my neighbors, wondering what the heck they were talking about. You know what they were talking about? Money. Lies their friends told. How So-and-So's hair looks ridiculous. Whose turn it is to make dinner. All the same stuff I talk about. I don't know why I was surprised. 

 

And today, this happened. E was running around like a crazy animal while I was trying to navigate the new craft store without the benefit of a baby cage cart. The employee who's supposed to watch for theft was sitting there, and she was out of breath, so she sat down next to him. He was delighted. They couldn't talk to each other, and it didn't seem to diminish their enjoyment of sitting together one bit.

I want to develop that part of me. The part that recognizes the image of God in everyone, whatever the melanin content of their skin. The part that loves innocently, indiscriminately. The part that just sits down next to you, whoever you are, the part that just wants to be together and hear what you've got to say, even if I don't understand. I think it's important. I think it's getting more important every day. 

24 November 2016

Thankful Thursday: Chicken Edition

Today, I am thankful for:

*Chicken, which, when grilled over hickory chips, is a fine substitute for the pardoned bird.
*My children, who keep wishing me a happy birthday today. (Kids, if it were my birthday, there would be more chocolate.)
*Special time together with my parents and distant relatives at the beach this past week. Always too short, but I'm thankful for it nonetheless.
*I didn't burn anything, but I did make butter accidentally. It did not go well with pie.
*God loves me. You guys, God loves me. Still hard to believe.

Happy Thanksgiving!



11 November 2016

Nighttime visitor



"Oh, hello," I said, seeing him on the wall. 

Well, it was more like, "Oh, HELLO?!" 

And then we said goodbye. 

Forever.