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.