29 December 2010

Crackers, and why I don't have any

I'm ready to head out the door, so I do my checks: keys (check), phone (check), money (check), sunglasses (check), mace (check), crackers...gone. It's no surprise, really. I can't go outside anymore without crackers. They used to be for me. I hate being without a snack in case I get stuck in traffic or my errands take longer than I think. But lately, I find I'm putting them in my purse for my...posse.

I hesitate to call them that, but I can't think of a better moniker. After all, they're part security team, part fan club, and always trying to sponge off me. Their leader is about ten, and I call him Sandal Kid. The first time I met him, he told me he needed new sandals. Talking with kids is a good way to practice Creole, so I engaged him about school (he doesn't go) and his family (he said his mom died in the earthquake...still not sure if that's actually true).

But he was persistent. "Buy me some sandals," he insisted. "You don't have to come with me, just give me the money." I pointed out that he already had sandals, as he does every day…he claimed they were borrowed, as he does every day.

I told him maybe another day, which was my attempt at cultural politeness (they don't like to say no). I've been telling him that for about six months now, and he still asks me every time I see him along the road.

“I’m sorry,” I told him. “I don’t have anything for you. Maybe another day.”

It was true in one sense—I didn’t have anything for him. But untrue in another sense—I wasn’t sorry. His greediness bugged me. Because if he wasn’t asking for sandals, then it was food. If it wasn’t food, it was money. If it wasn’t money, it was a free ride in the MAF car. He was willing to take me for whatever he could.

And yet, I was convicted by how irrelevant that was…and my poor attitude. Little by little, God kept putting the truth in my path. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. I’ve heard that verse pushed aside due to cultural context…but it kept coming up, in my context. I’m still not sure exactly what it means, but it seemed pretty clear in other verses as well that when given the opportunity, it was better to give.

Somehow, even before I'd felt convicted to give more, the group started getting bigger. Now I'm up to four kids who I see on a regular basis, though not always together. They like to come to the gate and antagonize my dogs...because then I come out. “We’re hungry,” Sandal Kid says. “And thirsty,” he adds. Peeking in my gate’s door, he says, “You need to cut your grass. I’ll do it for you…if you pay me.”

I thought about it for about five seconds before I said no. “I can’t give you a job, you’re too little to work. You need to go to school.”

“How am I supposed to learn to work if no one will give me a job?” he yells, dramatically throwing his hands in the air. “Buy me some sandals!”

I shake my head. “That’s your family’s job,” I tell him.

He lights up. “Oh, you want to give my family a job? I can go get my dad…”

I shake my head again. “No, I mean, it’s not my job to buy you sandals. You’re not my kid.” He seemed to understand that better. I wasn’t exactly sure what the liability of hiring a kid was, and I’m not willing to risk an angry family member coming to my gate. I gave them crackers and water in tin cups and waited in the sun while they finished. They didn’t thank me.

My posse came to the gate every day for a while, until I told them that I couldn’t feed them every time they came. I can’t stand the idea of them becoming dependent on me for their survival, but I still see them along the road, frequently…and frequently, they give me the opportunity to share.

On Tuesday, I gave Sandal Kid and his friend two rubber bands…and they shared the package of crackers I’d put in my purse for him. They’re his crackers now, and he knows it. And I’m still learning how to imitate the giver of all good things, one package at a time.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas



Merry Christmas!

Love, David and Christine, Gracie and Onesimus
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15 December 2010

The World First, Me Second

I read this in Streams in the Desert last night, one of my favorite devotionals. Thanks for putting us in your prayers, in whatever order we may fall.

How do we pray when we follow the desires of our own hearts? We say, "Lord, bless me, then my family, my church, my city, and my country." We start with those closest to us and gradually move outward, ultimately praying for the expansion of God's kingdom throughout the world. 
Our Master's prayer, however, begins where we end. He taught us to pray for the world first and our personal needs second. Only after our prayer has covered every continent, every remote island of the sea, every person in the last hidden tribe, and every desire and purpose of God for the world are we taught to ask for a piece of bread for ourselves.

13 December 2010

Intervention

Dear Haiti,

I'm so glad to see you're back to normal today. The pilots are working, the tap-taps* are running, the ladies are out selling, and all is right with the world. However, Haiti, I've been concerned about some of your behavior lately. See, if I go out now, everything will be great. People joking with one another, carrying stuff on their heads, playing with their kids. It's a beautiful thing, really.


But tomorrow, you might implode again, and then David and I will have to pull Scrabble back off the shelf. You've got American Airlines running scared, Haiti, and frankly, you sometimes scare me, too. Burning things and throwing rocks isn't a super way to resolve conflict. It's still strange to me how you can reverse direction like that, in an instant, from peace to violence, in the blink of an eye.


I just hate to see you like that, Haiti. There's more out there for you. Your history is impressive, really...an uneducated group of slaves who stood up again tyranny. Sure, it wasn't all peachy, but you won your freedom. You built something worth saving, something to be proud of. Now you're throwing around words like revolution and civil war, and if that's the way you want to go, I guess I can't stop you. You're right that you need change, but if this is the way you choose to go about it, you may lose more than you gain.


There's a lot to gain, Haiti, and we pray you'll get it. We pray you'll find peace.

With deep affection,

Christine

*A tap-tap is the Haitian version of public transportation sans reliability and/or safety measures.

11 December 2010

Grocery Store Sneak-out

At 7:55 AM, we strategized--we would meet at the supermarket. She drove. I walked. I got there first...to find the gate closed. "You're not open yet?" I asked the guard. "Soon, soon," he said. I stood out on the street for a minute, but that made the guards uncomfortable.

"Here, come inside, and stand just inside the gate." I did, checking my phone to see if Will was coming. I stood there, feeling white. If you've ever gotten special treatment overseas, you know the feeling. Sometimes, it's not a bad one...I'd rather be inside the gate than outside it alone. I texted the other wives to let them know it was opening, and I surveyed the two-story supermarket...they've hung white twinkly Christmas lights, and it looks nice. They didn't look like they'd been looted, either, in the three days they'd been closed. This was their first day of regular hours since Tuesday, and I was determined that no one was going to beat me to the dog food. (Gracie and Onesimus are people, too, after all.)

The guard opened the gate for Will, and we waited together, a little nervously. They finally let us in around 8:10, and all told, I ended up with 60 pounds of food...not counting the dog food... OK, so that's a little embarrassing, but we were told to stock up. Turns out I'm pretty good at stocking up.

According to MAF protocol, we're prepared to evacuate, if need be. Things seem mostly back to normal today, I'm glad to say, but they could get crazy again on Monday, if the rumors are true. The guys are able to fly today, and they're having a very busy day, praise God.

Thanks for your prayers for our safety and for peace here...but don't stop yet...

09 December 2010

Too Quiet

It's 6:30 AM, and I'm just starting to hear people outside. Someone turned on a radio...I think it's the Digicel guy who sell phone cards just across the street.

But life here usually starts at 5:00...cars honking, people walking by with things to sell on their heads, people going to work. Today, the dogs and the chickens are the only ones who didn't get the memo.

It's really...too quiet. Eerily quiet.

Unfortunately, it probably means that things are still pretty crazy out there. That people are afraid to go out. 

We did have some non-quiet moments near our house yesterday. There's a large main road which runs near our house, and from our front bedroom, I could see and hear large groups of people going by from time to time. Pictures from a friend confirmed: they were overturning dumpsters, billboards, folding chairs, whatever they could find to block the street. They set stuff on fire...just before we went to bed, we looked out again, to see that the fire in the street was still going, the shops awash with orange light. I could see a column of smoke about a quarter mile away, over the palm trees and cement rooftops, for most of the afternoon.

It seems that one of my Creole "words of the week" was appropriate this week: danjere, dangerous.

Time will tell if the guys go to work today. It makes it a little easier that AA canceled flights, because it means fewer people need MAF flights, too. But we're still in the middle of cholera, and I hate to think what this is doing to people who really need help. In all honesty, I understand why the protesters are upset, and I think they have a right to be upset, but I wish they could see how much they're hurting their country in the process.

Please pray for peace here. Pray for wisdom for our boss to know how best to lead the program. And I admit that I wouldn't mind it if you prayed for us...

08 December 2010

All Quiet

Here's some articles about how un-quiet things are here:


NPR article
NY Times article

But at the moment, things are mostly quiet at our house. David's at home for the moment, though they're hoping they won't have to cancel all their flights today. But people are, predictably, unhappy at the results of the election. Please pray for the "excitement" to remain elsewhere.

I'll try to keep you updated as long as I have the internet. Thanks for your prayers--it's a comfort in tense times like these.

06 December 2010

Christmas in Haiti

Well, it turns out Christmas in Haiti is sort of like Christmas where you are...with a few notable exceptions. My friend Will and I went to the QCS Christmas Bazaar, so I decided to bring you along with us, too. Oh, don't mention it. It was no trouble at all. :) 


 The view across the soccer field. As you might notice, Digicel was involved. (That's our cell phone company.)

 J was scared of the bounce house, but he was interested in winning candy...and only had to cheat a little.


 He was also interested in pizza. Smart kid.


 However, this was the first Christmas Bazaar I've ever been to which had a dunk tank. Also, I realized that most of my Christmas garb was centered around sweaters and long-sleeve shirts which didn't make the cut to come with us. So I wore Christmas tree earrings. You do what you can.


I did end up getting one Christmas present from my friend Shelly over at the Apparent Project and a big plant for my entryway. All in all, a good day. 

But Christmas here is pretty strange. First of all, there's not too many reminders, outside of my own decorating, that it is Christmas. We finally sang one Christmas carol in church, but it was in French, and I couldn't remember the words in English. It's sunny and 85 degrees. Christmas feels like something from another world. And honestly, I've found myself feeling a bit...depressed about it. 

If only I could go home, I keep telling God. I think I'd feel better if I could just be somewhere else. This really doesn't seem like the place for me, I tell Him...not at Christmas, anyway. 

And gently, though not in words audible to human ears, I heard Him ask me a question back:

Whose place would you rather be in? 

How about K, grieving a husband, a newly-single mother? 
How about J, fighting cancer, mostly losing? 
How about W, whose father is ill? 

How about the girls I did sewing class with at the orphanage? 
How about someone living in a tent?
How about someone with cholera? 

That's when I decided that I might have an attitude problem...so I'm working on it. I put up more paper snowflakes and bought a wall hanging with a word I need to remember: "Joy." As a friend put it, you can find Christmas in Haiti...but you have to remember Who started it all. 

Hope you're enjoying the season, wherever you are...or aren't.

24 November 2010

A conversation in the market...

Picture me, walking home from the supermarket. I have full bags, which I set down in order to visit my favorite gal in the mache, or open market. The following conversation has been translated from Creole...

Me: Good afternoon, how are you today?

Gal: I'm fine, how're you?

Me: Oh, I'm fine. (I gather up one lime and two heads of garlic)

Other gal: Good afternoon, madam--you don't need green onions?

Me: Not today--maybe another day. Are you going to vote on Sunday?

Other gal: Oh yes.

Me: Who are you voting for?

Other gal: I won't know until I get there. Who are you voting for?

Me: ... Only Haitians can vote. I'm not Haitian.

Gal: Yeah, only Haitians can vote.

Other gal: Well, give me a number. (The candidates are designated by numbers for those who are illiterate.)

Me: Pardon me?

Other gal: Give me a number, and I'll vote for that one.

Me: I can't do that. You have to decide for yourself. You each have to choose who you want for president.

Other gal: (Obviously disappointed) Oh. You can't tell me who to vote for?

Me: No, I'm sorry. (I pay 25 goud for my lime and garlic, about fifty cents.)

Gal: You don't need onions today?

Me: Not today. See you later.

In case you're wondering, she was not joking. I wish she was. Please pray for a good outcome (against all odds) to the elections on Sunday...

23 November 2010

Giving Thanks for B

One of the things we've prayed for since before we came was good house help. See, the whole idea is still pretty strange to me...hiring someone to clean my house. Someone who works while I watch M*A*S*H. Someone to leave my dirty dishes for. It's weird. I got used to the idea more while we stayed across town, mainly because their house help was so great. Totally trustworthy, while still totally personable.

The interview process didn't go too well...no one told me ahead of time that the monthly stipend was negotiable. The first one came in talking about their Christian faith, and then offered $1,200 a month...and I wondered what percentage of my income they thought that would be. I had asked around and had a a fair figure in mind...I asked around again, just as a sanity check. Sanity confirmed, we kept interviewing...the second gal wanted 25% more than I was asking, but her personality was much friendlier. Still, I didn't have any references for her.

Then came along B. She had a personal reference from a friend. She's worked for blan (white guys) before. And what's more, I liked her. She's got a quiet joy about her that I often wish I had more of. And then I found out the rest of her story...her husband died of AIDS, which around here, sometimes means he was unfaithful. She has two girls, both in school. Not surprisingly, she thought my price was perfect, because she hasn't worked for ten years until this job.

Yeah, I have friends who've lost jobs because of the recession...but ten years. Ten years.

What's more, she's actually grateful to wash the spaghetti sauce off my plates and clean my toilet and mop my floors. Now that she's been here a while, we've developed a good working rhythm. We chat while we put away dishes together. She sings softly while she works. She knows where to find the ironing, and Gracie's warming up to her, thanks to some Beggin' Strips. I got to meet her daughter, who's studying English and was, by the way, a delight.

And when she leaves, she always says, "See you next time, God willing." It's encouraging to see how important her faith is to her...she showed me her church attendance card, and she hasn't missed a Sunday in over a year. She prays for my health, too...and I pray for her, that her husband's AIDS will never find her or her girls. (And not just because I'm not sure I could live without her now.)

This Thanksgiving, I'm thanking God for B, and I can only hope I'm as great a blessing in her life as she is in mine.

14 November 2010

A tour of our kitchen

I made this video for you last week. You're welcome. :)

As always, if you want to watch it bigger, just click on it to watch it on YouTube.

13 November 2010

Lovely in Limbs, and Lovely in Eyes Not His

David's sister, Marybeth, came and spent a week with us over David's birthday. I asked her if she'd be willing to do a "guest" blog for us, and she hesitantly agreed. And then she sent me this wonderful bit of prose that I know you'll enjoy...so enjoy. 

LOVELY IN LIMBS, AND LOVELY IN EYES NOT HIS

I am sometimes insanely jealous of my brother.  I mean, he gets to be a bush pilot.  In Haiti.  Speaking a new language and flying people and supplies in a single-engine plane to airstrips with annotations at the hangar like “Watch for goats in the tall grass along the runway.”  I tell people what he does and they’re always impressed and get all animated and ask a million questions.  My nephews believe they have the coolest uncle ever.

What he does is so adventurous.  So exciting.  So meaningful.

I’ve been on several short-term trips of various kinds to various developing countries, and they’re often flavored with a bit of that adventure.  There you are, traveling around with a group of people, where everything is new and remarkable, with this heady atmosphere that you are going to save the world and see God do spectacular things.  Even the “inconveniences” are exotic and make good stories when you get home.  And in all of it, there’s this slightly manic drive to learn and serve and accomplish as much as possible in a very short amount of time.

Judging by the flocks of matching t-shirts I saw in the airport terminals en route, I assume that that’s how most of my fellow travelers experienced Haiti.

For me, though, this time, things were a bit different.  I didn’t visit Haiti to build schools or distribute medical supplies or show the Jesus film or feed orphans.  I went to visit my brother, because I miss him.  I went to hang out.

And that’s what I did.  I got to briefly join the lives of David and Christine and their fellow MAFers—missionary pilots extrordinaire—and experience Haiti at the pace of people who are there all the time.  People ask me what I did during my visit, and I have to sort of laugh; I’m not quite sure how to answer that.  I mean, a few things stand out: flying with David on one of his trips to Pignon, visiting Christine’s English class, driving up into the mountains to look for Fort Jacques (which we never found, but hey, the scenery was beautiful).   

But mostly, I just did what they did.  And mostly, that was pretty normal stuff.

We grocery shopped.  We did dishes.  Christine and I helped (a little) David install a ceiling fan.  We did laundry.  We read books and compared our favorite MythBusters episodes and watched Back to the Future.  We ate homemade cake and ice cream to celebrate David’s birthday.  We talked.  We sat companionably not talking.

We hung out.

Yes, for me, there were plenty of sights and smells and sounds which were unfamiliar and beautiful and interesting.  But it didn’t have the same somewhat-glamorous quality other trips have had, because I was just visiting my brother in his new normal life. 

Correct, this Haiti-normal is not always like U.S.-normal (although the household pests and crazy drivers were disconcertingly similar to Baltimore).   But when you deal with something everyday—be it fitful electricity or ridiculously good weather—you adjust, hey?  The novelty, good or bad, eventually wears off, and it becomes your new ordinary.

And it’s in all that strange ordinariness that I saw God in Haiti.

You see, David and Christine would say—have told me—that they don’t consider their call to Haiti to be any more “special” than any of our callings anywhere else.   They’re just obeying.  Their obedience happens to have taken them to do crazy, exotic things in a foreign country.  And we all prayed and watched that big, obvious step of obedience when they chose to pack up and move.

…but now they’ve done that part.  They’ve moved.  They’re there.

It’s in all the obeying that they keep doing that I saw God working.  It’s in all those now-mundane details of their lives, which we back in the States don’t really see—when things are wearisome or inconvenient or just routine—that God is doing amazing things and drawing people to Himself. 

There’s this poem* I love which includes the lines:

Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father, through the features of men’s faces.

I found it running through my head over and over again during my visit.  There’s Christ, lovely in the limbs and eyes of David loading that airplane with cargo and debriefing his passengers.  There’s Christ, lovely in the limbs and eyes of Christine as she teaches her English class with love and enthusiasm.  Lovely in the limbs and eyes of that Haitian pastor teaching his congregation on Sunday morning.  In that guy, driving people across town to the hospital in the middle of the night. In that American, learning and speaking Kreyol even though language-learning is really hard for her.  In that family, hosting a staff meeting at their home.  In that friendly exchange with the woman selling plantains on the corner.   In that guy doing paperwork at the hangar.  In sharing meals and in raising kids and in encouraging words and last-minute babysitting and simple generosity.
 
I realize I haven’t really addressed what most people have asked me about since I’ve been back: What things are like in Haiti since the earthquake.  Whether things are sad.  I mean, sure, Haiti counts on the interesting-places-to-live list, but it’s not known for being particularly nice.  What about the poverty, the devastation, the disease?  The violence?  The spiritual darkness?

Indeed, Haiti is a country whose needs are many and—especially since January—well-publicized.  And yes, some of the things I saw there were frustratingly, helplessly sad.  Tent cities and collapsed buildings and a ravaged ecosystem.  Mothers cradling hungry children.  Faith misplaced in powerless gods.

Haiti is broken and suffering in many ways.  It needs Jesus desperately.

…But this whole fallen, groaning world of ours is broken and suffering.  And it all needs Jesus desperately.

I say this not to minimize the very real struggle for survival faced daily by millions of Haitians, but rather to encourage us to remember that just as Haiti is no more broken than anywhere else, it is also no less redeemed by the work of Christ.  It is no less beyond repair.  He is no less present. 

So take heart friends, and continue to pray for Haiti.  God is in His people there, and He is being glorified greatly through their ordinary lives, every day.

…May it be so in our own lives as well, wherever we are.

________________

* As kingfishers catch fire, Gerard Manley Hopkins


09 November 2010

Giving while...giving?

Christmas is coming! That sounds kind of silly here, where every day is sunny and 85 degrees...(it's okay to stop and imagine that for a moment. We'll wait until you're done)...but it is coming, and I know many of you will do online shopping. If you want to "give while giving," you can make your gift count double--for free.

Sounds like a scam, huh? It's not. Last year, friends and family helped our ministry earn $140 through their online shopping, and $40 of that was from Christmas alone.

Here's how it works. I'm a big Target lover, so I go to the SendThemForHim website. I usually use the alphabetical list, because it's faster. It's in the Department Store category, so I click on that, scroll down and find Target. Then I click the Target link, and I'm ready to shop. That's it. I shop, I buy, Target gives our ministry 5% back. So if I spend $20, our ministry just made $1 because I spent thirty seconds going to the SendThemForHim site before I shopped.

Here's the only catch--you have to go through the SendThemForHim site BEFORE you put anything in your cart. So if you remember and try to go back, you have to empty the cart. (I know, because I usually remember as I'm checking out. Sigh.)

So I'd encourage those of you who aren't participating in the Advent Conspiracy to let your gift-giving count twice this year. And to those who are, I say kudos and just ignore the rampant consumerism I'm touting.

05 November 2010

In the Aftermath

Well, praise God, we were waiting for a storm that never came. Never came to Port-au-Prince, that is...some of the outlying areas are experiencing flooding, like in Leogane. The airport was closed today, so our guys aren't working, but we should be back to regular flights tomorrow. And my guess is that there will be plenty to do!

I forgot another praise: David almost got stuck in Jeremie last night, which is one place that was hit the hardest. Praise God that he made it safely home!

Your prayers made a difference--God spared the lives of the people here because you asked Him to. On their behalf, thank you!!

In the Night

I woke up at 3:30 AM. It was startlingly quiet. No dogs barking, no roosters, no cars. Out my window, I could see the vines moving in the wind, and it was still raining. Off and on, it'd been raining since about 2:00 the afternoon before. I tried to fall back asleep, but my brain started to wake up. The thoughts began to creep in...Should I let Gracie out before the storm really starts? Should I pull my plants inside? Should I pull my laundry off the line? Should I check e-mail before the internet goes down?

It was the laundry that finally got me out of bed. Leaving my sleeping pilot, I wandered downstairs to find my keys and shoes. The power was still on, but our batteries were already charged from last night, praise God. I quickly crossed the laundry room, hoping not to meet any mice on the way. The laundry was still soaking wet, of course, but at least it wouldn't blow away in 50 mph winds. I have no desire for my laundry to end up in Cuba.

I pulled the plants inside, and my teeth started to chatter. 'Weird,' I thought. 'Probably partly stress.' Then I laughed. 'Gee, what would I have to be stressed about?' I locked up and went back upstairs, my "watch dogs" sleeping through it all. I delightedly pulled the quilt out of the closet and tossed it on the bed. I'd like to tell you that I snuggled up and fell right asleep, but I didn't, so I can't. But I did fall asleep praying, praying for God to turn the hurricane away, reminding Him that the wind and the waves obey Him.

It's about 7:30 here now, and it's raining, but so far, we don't have any high winds. The airport is closed, so David gets a day off work. I'm usually in favor of long weekends, but not in this case.

Thanks for the prayers...we'll see what the rest of the morning brings.

04 November 2010

In the Waiting

It's tense out there.

The streets seem more crowded that usual, probably due to school being canceled. More people in a hurry, honking, impatient. The grocery store opens at 8:00. When I got there at 8:15, there were about ten cars in the parking lot. When I left, it was full. What were they buying? Drinking water. Bread. Milk. Pop. "Hunkering down" stuff. Settling in for the wait.

My dogs are restless. Barking at every passerby, wrestling in the driveway, panting. Onesimus, our castaway that we've adopted, has stationed herself by the back door, Gracie by the front. Both would like to come in the house, but that's not going to happen...unless it gets really bad. They should be safe in the garage...what do I do with dogs during a hurricane? The internet was unhelpful.

The wind has been waffling between a steady breeze and none at all. It's dusty on the road, but it won't be for long--they're forecasting five to ten inches of rain, with up to fifteen possible. I walked down to try to get diesel for our fourth fuel container, but they were out. (That actually happens a lot here.) So we're rationing the fuel we have for our generator, in case city power doesn't come on. We do have a battery system, but it needs to be charged regularly.

I feel unequipped. I know I'm ready for this hurricane, but I don't feel it. My previous life didn't really prepare me for this...because in my Oregon life, my disaster checklist went like this: candles; canned food; blankets; firewood; flashlights; etc...and here, the checklist translates like this: I already use candles regularly. I cook with propane, so canned food is unnecessary. I haven't used a blanket in six months. With a fireplace, there's no need for firewood, and my solar flashlights stay regularly charged. I've enough food for what feels like an army.

What am I forgetting? Probably nothing, but all I can do is wait.

Please pray with us in the waiting.

P.S. The storm will probably knock out our internet, so if you check the blog and we haven't posted, that's probably why. We'll try to get word out once it passes.

22 October 2010

Cholera

It started out as an Embassy advisory--there was a diarrhea outbreak in the Artibonite region, north of Port-au-Prince. (Kind of gross, I know, but impolite diseases and maladies are just more...normal here, and therefore more talked about.) Since David does flights all over Haiti, I try to be aware of things that are happening outside of Port.

Then we find out it's cholera.

Wait. What?

Isn't that what people died of on the Oregon Trail?

Shouldn't this be eradicated by now?

The Wikipedia article had some interesting things to say. "Cholera is a major cause of death in the world." And then there were some more scary words. Ravaged was one. Pandemic was another.

Hmm. And where does this leave us? Well, hopefully, it leaves us praying and not worrying, which is pretty expressly forbidden by my favorite book. Will you pray with us? That God will comfort the 138 families who have already lost someone, that He will protect others from infection, that He will somehow be glorified.

God, you came down and healed us once through your Son, Jesus Christ. Please heal Haiti's sons and daughters now. Yet not as we will, but as You will. Show us how we can help. Remind us to pray. And remind us that we're safe in your hands, no matter what. We love You a bundle and a bunch.

20 October 2010

Prayer and Prayer and Love

Every six months, MAF has a day of prayer, where we suspend our operations to ask God for many things, as well as just spend time with Him. Though today was the Day of Prayer at headquarters, here in Haiti, it was yesterday (too many flights were already schedule for today that we couldn't rearrange). Here's some of the things we asked for, as a program:
-Funding a new family who's coming to support our program through administration
-Increased safety, due to trouble with traffic, rioting, kidnappings on the rise, etc.
-That the hearts of the people here would truly want to know God and obey Him and abandon voodoo entirely.
-Effectiveness in all our efforts here, whether it's flights or building houses or teaching English.

Right now, our president John Boyd is at a conference in South Africa...normally, I wouldn't take up valuable blog space talking about something that seems kind of...mundane. But 1) John Boyd is Scottish-South African and therefore has the coolest accent ever... 2) He is a truly a humble, godly man... 3) This conference is a truly unique gathering of organizations all over the world who are trying to spread some good news. Would you pray for John and the conference in Lausanne? If you want to read more about it, click here.

Also, my English class students took their first test today, and they did pretty well! We had a fascinating conversation the other day about the difference between "worship" and "adore"...Creole doesn't have as many adjectives as we do, so consequently, the distinction between "like" and "love" and "adore" is sort of lost on them. Hence why a friend at church always tells me she loves me every Sunday. But it's okay--I love her, too.

With love and gratitude for you, too...

Christine

15 October 2010

Old, But Exciting News


We realized that we never told our blog readers, that I begun operationally flying without an instructor pilot! Granted, this happened three weeks ago, but we still thought some people might not know, but might care. Or perhaps, I am just delusional that anybody would care.

I have been checked out to about five of our most common airstrips. Of course, about 90% of our flights are to one of those airstrips, so it isn't as limiting as it sounds.

For those of you who have been following us for a while, thanks for all of your prayers and support.

14 October 2010

The Fallout

Drinking glasses broken: two

Glass canisters broken: two

Picture glass broken: one

Mice caught: seven and holding...but the traps are still out...

Cockroaches killed: two

Meals cooked since Saturday: two (just got our propane hooked up, in time to host a guest last night for dinner)

Guys it takes to move a generator: six

Ceiling fans installed by David the wonder husband: two

Nights where we've had power: one

"Realtors" paid: two

Dogs who started out as unwanted but then worked their way into our hearts: two

Bird varieties sighted: three

Plants transferred: four

Stars seen from my bedroom window: plenty

The move-in process continues! David's working on hooking up our generator so we don't have to conserve power as much. He feels inadequate to the task, but I'm personally quite impressed.
 
He goes back to work on Monday, so please pray that we can get things functional before then. Also, we're having some issues with government permissions to fly our new Caravan here...so please pray that their hearts would be softened, because it would really be an amazing tool here.
Christine

10 October 2010

Who's Holly?


This made me laugh in church today, so I thought I'd pass it on. They rarely try to sing in English in church, so maybe that's a good thing. :)

The move went well--thanks for all your prayers! Our MAF family pitched in well. Now we just need to get our generator and our stove hooked up...until then, we're hoping for city power! Didn't get any last night, so we'll see. Praise God for a safe night in our new digs.
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09 October 2010

Moving Day!

We're moving today! Please pray for a smooth trip and that we'd be able to get settled in quickly.

Wow, that was a short post, but I've got to go eat breakfast and finish packing!

Christine

07 October 2010

Heroes



I went with my MAF friend J to put together some rice and beans packages for some families at her church...this was after one guy fainted at work, because he hadn't had anything to eat. When we arrived, she looked out at the soccer field and said, "Oh good, the soccer team's here."

I didn't think much of it at first, but as I looked, I noticed there was something a bit different about these guys.

Some of them didn't have both legs. But these guys rocketed around like I couldn't have imagined. The midfielders and forwards didn't just move forward on their crutches--they launched themselves. What's more, they managed to further increase the effectiveness of their catapult by hopping on one foot to squeeze a little more distance.

Some of them didn't have both arms. It's a requirement for goalies on this team.

This is the Haitian Amputee Soccer Team, and they're making the best of a bad situation. Most of them are new amputees since the quake--yet they've qualified for the World Cup of Amputee Soccer in Argentina on October 17th. If their visas come in time, they'll get to go (hint: you might pray about that). They've been staying at J's church in order to practice more. They're group showering to save water.

I don't think it's dramatic to say that these guys are my heroes. And I pray God's getting the glory for this, because it's pretty awesome.

If you want to find out more about these guys, you can visit here and here.

Heroes, people. Heroes.

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28 September 2010

Our New Home

Yes, you read that correctly. God has provided us with a house in a great location--within MAF's budget!! We're so grateful for your prayers in this process--they were truly invaluable. So, we thought we'd give you a peek at what we've waited so long for! :) (If you click on them, they should get bigger.)


Our front door, inside the gate.


Our banister. A little fancy-schmancy for my taste...I might have to paint it something other than gold.

 Kitchen! The space for the oven is on the left, out of sight, and the space for the fridge is on the right edge.


Door between the kitchen and the living/dining room.


Living room/dining room. 


View from the upper level, front door below, and balcony door above.


Guest bedroom at the top of the stairs


View from the guest bedroom window


Guest bathroom. (Watch that step in the night!)


Another guest bedroom (and/or office)


Porch off the downstairs bedrooms.


Upstairs common area


Upstairs patio, with a view of the hills of Petionville. (This is going to be a favorite spot of mine.)


Alternate view of the upstairs common area


Yard, including banana trees! 


The househelp quarters, from above. 

That's the grand tour! If you want to see if with furniture...you'll have to wait a while. :) We're picking up the keys tomorrow! Praise God!

27 September 2010

House

Just a quick post to ask that you pray for our housing today...we are very close to a deal on a house that's a good size, good location, pretty good condition and the right price! The landlord stopped by to talk with our boss today, and they've worked out a contract. If it looks right tomorrow, we're signing it!!

This is what we've been praying for, for such a long time...please pray that if it's God's good plan for us, it would work out!!

Thanks, friends.

Christine

25 September 2010

Tomorrow

Yesterday, I was doing dishes when the wind started. Today, I am sweeping leaves, seed pods, dirt and water out of the gallery.

Yesterday, I heard it coming in time to pull my solar panels off the patio and my laundry off the line. Today, we hear that five people didn't make it to safety, and they died.

Yesterday, I ran to shut the windows as the rain drove sideways. Today, I notice that every horizontal pane is spotted in muddy water, but none of them are broken.

Yesterday, I called David to ask him not to drive in the storm, but couldn't get through (He still didn't drive in it). Today, I'm thankful that the many branches, power lines, and billboards in the street did not keep him from coming home safely.

Yesterday, I flip-flopped my way down my flooded driveway, soaked to the skin, to check on my neighbor, KM, who was home alone and scared and very glad to see me. Today, I hope she's remembering fondly our time yesterday, playing Boggle until her mom got home.

Yesterday, we cried over the people in tent cities, because their lives just got harder. Today, they still have nowhere else to go.

And I can't help but wonder how God's grace will be evident in all this, and what tomorrow will bring...yet, I'm listening to Matthew 6:33-34, and trying to believe that there's good things ahead.

Thanks for praying for our safety--you are being heard.

21 September 2010

Gracie

While “house-squatting,” we have been tasked with taking care of their animals. There are two: a calico cat named Sally and a golden…mutt named Gracie. I want to call her a lab, but I know she’s really not. Gracie wandered in just after the earthquake, and they took her in. She’s mixed up in a lot of ways, and it’s not just her breed…

She doesn’t bark at strangers…she barks at us.
She tries to bite kids.
She intentionally lies down when you tell her to go out.
She likes to chase the cat and eat her food.
She jumps up on you (even when you remind her not to with a whack to the head).
She will only chase one toy…and it’s inevitably the one we threw on the roof.
She’s afraid of thunderstorms.
She digs in the yard under the windows.
She won’t eat unless both her bowls are full.

She’s not really a good dog.

The night we arrived in Port-au-Prince, we accidentally left the gate open, and she took off. We looked and looked, and that’s when I realized…Gracie looked like every other dog in Haiti: “yellow, medium-sized, no distinctive marks.” For three very long days, we waited and prayed. “She’ll come back when she gets hungry,” Y assured me. I wasn’t so sure.

But after three days, a very penitent, tail-wagging Gracie showed up outside the gate. We were extremely careful to keep the gate closed after that…until last week. From then until now, something’s happened to this dog…at some point, we both developed nicknames for her (“Gracers” from David and “Gracie-bell” from me). David taught her to shake hands and not to lick him when he comes home. It has become a routine part of our day to throw the rope for her when we finish our evening walk. She likes to sniff my basil. I know the kind of sound she makes when she’s got fire ants in her food and wants me to get rid of them. She let me give her a bath (possibly the first one of her life). She’ll sometimes go out when I tell her to.

And last week, I left the gate open. As I gasped and whipped around to chase her, there she sat, in the open gate, her long tail thumping the concrete.

She’s not really a good dog…but someday, she might be. Oh, for the wisdom to have a heart that would rather stick close to God than to go it alone.

Housing update: Found a great one…talked them down to $4,000. Still too much. Found an apartment with possible earthquake damage in our price range…with the tiniest kitchen I’ve ever seen. Please keep praying!
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13 September 2010

My Second Soul

Back when we were in language training in Colorado, we heard a Czech proverb: “Learn a second language, get a second soul.” The thought kind of haunted me, I must admit, but I didn’t realize it had actually happened until we went to St. Louis. (Yes, I realize I didn’t tell you all that I was going to St. Louis. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: I’m sick, but I’m probably not dying any faster than anyone else.)

St. Louis was great. I got to see doctors and get tests. I ate apples and peaches and strawberries. I went to Target and got new clothes in a new size and Oxyclean and powdered Gatorade and other stuff I can’t easily get here. We went to the Arch, which made me feel oddly contemplative. We went to the zoo, which was way too cool to be free. We had the joy of getting to know Matt and Sara and their beautiful girls (Matt is David’s cousin).

It was great, but I felt like a part of me was…missing. I was different than when I left. I tried to blitz my way through reverse culture shock and very nearly made it, but five days just wasn’t quite enough. I still wasn’t right. I wasn’t me.

I didn’t feel like me until I got back on the plane to come to Haiti…and then I realized, I’d found my second soul. Sure, David and I spoke Creole in St. Louis, but it’s not the same as speaking with native speakers or hearing it around you. Creole is boisterous. It’s dramatic. It’s colorful. Even the way it sounds makes you laugh. And oddly enough, it draws out a different part of my personality to speak Creole, a part which I’d missed. But thankfully, I know where to find it from now on.

Despite the temporary housing situation, it’s good to be “home.” Thanks for the prayers for my health and for our housing…I hope to go out looking again tomorrow, so please be praying!

31 August 2010

MAF Housing Project

Description of a Traffic Jam

I was recently reading an article, and came across this description of a traffic jam in Port-au-Prince.

When a car breaks down in Port au Prince, the driver’s default is to either abandon the car until further notice, or wait for someone to come by and help repair the vehicle—yes, exactly where it is, in the middle of a 1 ½ lane, two-way street. Such decisions result in hours of traffic congestion, frustration, and lots of sweat while sitting under Haiti’s unrelenting sun. So, for the past three and a half months, I have learned to build traffic-time into my daily schedule, while I pass by unchanging collapsed buildings, and street vendors scrambling to sell whatever that day may bring to the market (today it was television antennas, car floor mats, purple detergent, and delicious avocados).

For some reason, the street vendors don't seem to understand why you don't need to by purple floor cleaner every day on your way home from work.

26 August 2010

Band-aid Love

I finally made it back to the feeding program at Child Hope yesterday...Jameson wasn't there, but I found plenty of other friends to play with. After being put to shame by some very fine young soccer players (is 26 old? Because it sure felt it), I decided to sit down for a while. A girl of about six came up to me and wanted to be picked up, and I was more than willing to oblige. I noticed she had a scraped knee, and as you might expect, she'd fallen down on the concrete while playing.

It may sound silly to you, but very often, no one looks after scraped knees here. No one kisses their boo-boo's. No one wipes their tears away. And it makes them and me feel pretty helpless sometimes. So I decided this was a moment for action.

I went and got my water bottle, which has purified water in it, and cupped my hand around her knee, slowly pouring the warm water on the wound to wash it out a little. It occurred to me that I shouldn't touch it, since I was just reading that morning about how AIDS continues to be a problem here. An older boy tugged at my sleeve and pointed across the yard. Two people, wearing rubber gloves, were inspecting and treating various wounds. Even better! I pointed her in the right direction, even as three boys with a ball found me again and wanted to toss it around.

I'm ashamed to say, I quickly forgot about the girl, in the hustle and bustle of things. But as we started worship, I felt a tug at my sleeve and looked down into the smiling face of a girl wearing a purple jumper, the same girl I'd helped before. I picked her up, but she kept shifting around in my arms, trying to move my left arm up. Then I realized--she was showing me her knee, now clean and dry, with a brand-new Band-aid on it.

And it may sound silly to you, but that Band-aid made our day.

Other random updates: I'm planning to help out with a sewing class at the orphanage, starting next Thursday...The housing search has stagnated for the moment, I'm afraid...but we're continue to trust God's timing. David's hard at work, mostly doing inspections right now...but at the dinner table last night, he admitted that this is the first job in his life he actually likes. That's what a wife likes to hear!

Thanks for all your prayers, friends.

20 August 2010

From the Ants

As some of you well know, "guest bloggers" are a common thing these days. Well, we didn't think we should be left out, so today, the ants that live in my house will be writing the blog. Enjoy!

Our plot to take over the house is nearly complete. We have infiltrated the living room and the kitchen, including some couches and the cupboards (though we have not found a way into the food. That Snapware is touch to crack). She has tried everything to get rid of us...sprays, baits, squishing, stomping, drowning, etc., but at this point, we believe we will still prevail. The Battle for the Bedroom was, indeed, a set-back...we made it all the way to the bed, but she put a stop to that with a vengeance. We have maintained a stronghold in the bathroom, where we frequent the sink. The increase in geckos has also been a set-back.

However, today, our latest push has failed. We called for back-up--two cockroaches from the customs warehouse--thinking that would surely drive the humans out. However, before they even made it into the house, a spy (fellow MAF'er) alerted her to their possible presence and she exterminated them with extreme prejudice. Drat. Will be calling for more back-up; perhaps more tarantulas.

Thanks for that, ants. By the way, David and I will be celebrating our sixth anniversary tomorrow...time flies when you're married to the man you most love and respect. We're praising God for six great years, and hope for many more to come.

13 August 2010

House hunting!

Just a quick request...we're off to our first round of house hunting with our friend George tomorrow--please pray that we'd be able to find a good house and have the wisdom to know it when we see it! We're excited, but nervous, too.

11 August 2010

David Harms, MAF pilot


The pilot guy, on his first day...he looks tired because it's the end of his first day. I think he felt a bit like the first day of school...but he looked too cute to let it go by without a picture.
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10 August 2010

Case in point

We went driving downtown yesterday, attempting to get a picture taken for our driver's licenses. I got to see some parts of the city I hadn't seen before, so I took the opportunity to show you what I saw...think of it as the visual representation of my last post.

A tent city. One of many, I'm afraid. At our MAF wives prayer group today, someone mentioned that there's a ministry looking to house fifty pre-teen girls from the tent cities who are being abused. The sooner people can get out of these places, the better.

A fallen down building. Again, one of many. Our MAF driver, Dieucon, showed us where his church used to be, which is now just a pile of nothing. I asked him where they're meeting now, and he said they found a space above a store, and they're taking up a collection to rebuild. And I thought to myself, "I wonder how many of them really have money for that?"

A guy working. This is how rebuilding will happen, one guy, one wheelbarrow, one shovel at a time, by God's grace. Thanks for praying for us.
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09 August 2010

How Things Are Now

People are asking how things are here, the earthquake about eight months behind us, rains coming down. There's a popular expression people use here, when asked how they are, that kind of sums it up: "I'm not worse."

There is slow, slow progress being made...buildings that have been condemned are slowly, slowly coming down. I'm seeing work teams in hard hats with matching shirts from time to time, trying to condense and clear the rubble. Remember, I just live in one little corner of the city, so my observations may not be true for all of Port-au-Prince. But from what I can tell, there's still a lot of suffering. From what I can see, there's still a lot of people in tents. From what I hear, jobs are down and crime is up. I haven't heard of any increase in deaths due to the rains, thank God, but we do hear about an increase in pregnancies and malaria because of the camps, and people are still very uncomfortable there. There's talk of more and more people leaving Haiti, and of people encouraging missionaries and aid workers to leave as well. Yet MAF just finished building our third pre-fabricated house with disaster relief money...there's still a lot of work left to do.

The presidential election seems to be what everyone's pinning their hopes on here...because so far, only 10% of what's been promised to Haiti in aid has come in, and most of that is canceled debt, not actual funds. The next president will have a lot more interaction with other countries and with greater resources, greater opportunity for either good or corruption. Demonstrations and rallies are already ramping up...I expect that will be the case until November. In some ways, it's a needed distraction...and in other ways, it just reminds us of what's at stake.

At church yesterday, we talked about praying for a Joseph...someone who's been appointed by God, someone who can use evil for good. Someone who will use these resources so well that other nations will come to Haiti to find out how reconstruction is done. Looking around, the only reason I have hope is because I believe God can raise up such a person. We know that all national leaders are appointed by God, and while He may not appoint a godly person, He is able.

Please pray with us for these elections, for them to be a turning point in Haiti's history. Pray for peaceful proceedings and for God's hand to be with Haiti.

01 August 2010

A Mix of News

First, an overdue update--David (and most of our stuff) made it safely here from Florida!! Hooray! Thanks for all the prayers about that. Aside from a few broken drinking glasses and the things still in customs, we're a little more put-together than we were before, and that's a good thing.

Another praise: I drove in Port-au-Prince--and I didn't kill us! I did have one scary moment on a big hill in a stick shift, but it all worked out. Praise God for husband with cool heads and for protection from crazy drivers and pedestrians.

Also, we tried a new church today: Calvary Chapel Port-au-Prince. It's in Creole (which is good), so I didn't get all of it, but I got more than our last Creole church. The worship at the end was good...we came in during the sermon (oops), even though we came at the time their website said they started. Their building was damaged in the earthquake, so we were all outside...and I kept getting distracted by the lovely shadows the palm trees were making on the tarps overhead. I think we will try it again next week, God willing.

Lastly, David starts flying tomorrow! He's been going to work since we got here, but it's been all maintenance and ride-along's until now. So please pray for calm nerves for him and a good, safe start to his official missionary pilot career. :)

29 July 2010

Jameson and me

Gifts

While David is in Florida, Will Krul invited me to come and stay with her. Her husband Jason is traveling with David while he renews his medical and he’ll help David with our shipment tomorrow. David is relieved to have someone with him who’s been through the customs process before, and it’s easier for me to stay behind knowing David isn’t completely on his own.

Will, her son Jayden, and I kicked off the visit by going to the store to get a birthday cake for Jocemine. She’s their goddaughter and also the daughter of the family who works for them. We put her in the high chair and set the cake in front of her. I’d like to tell you that she suddenly broke out into giggles and smiles, but the bewildered expression you see on her face was the one she maintained throughout the celebration. Will gave her a balloon, a toy frog that squeaked, dresses her parents had sent, hair clips, and shoes.

Her mom Denise seemed particularly excited about the clothes and accessories—Jocemine mostly wears Will’s son Jayden’s hand-me-downs, so having something girly was pretty sweet. Her brothers and Jayden were also given balloons, which lasted about as long as you’d think. But there was lots of lovely shrieking and running and laughter before the bubble burst, so to speak.

Today, Will and Jayden took me with them to the outreach feeding program she helps with at a local orphanage. I wandered around a while, watching the kids lining up and watching the Americans and the program helpers dink around with the balls while the food was being prepared. My mission was to “go and love,” according to the program director…no problem.


Finally, the gates were sprung open and one by one, the kids began to put their rocks in the can and come inside. It’s not a free-for-all—the couple who runs the orphanage has identified some of the needier kids in the area, and they give the kids on the list a rock so that they know which ones are supposed to be there. After three or four kids came inside, I noticed this really small kid who had lost most of his hair. That’s a sign of severe malnutrition, as well as the hair turning orange.



I scooped him up and started to skip across the cement soccer area, much to his delight. When I got over to the beads, I thought he might like to make a bracelet. “Eske ou ta remen fè yon brasle?” I asked him. He didn’t answer, so I started to put him down, but he pulled his feet up. I laughed. He looked like a pill bug, clinging to my neck and rolling himself up away from the ground. “All right,” I told him in Creole, “but you can’t pee on me. If you have to pee, you can tell me.” (I’d had a bad experience in the past.) He put his head on my shoulder, and I took that to mean he had accepted my terms.

(I had more pictures, but it's easier to post it in two posts--see below for the riveting finale!)

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