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


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,


*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.