30 March 2011

Who I Sat With Today

Today, I sat with Marie. She was sitting outside my gate when I came back from the grocery store. I don't love living on a busy street, but it does give me the opportunity to meet some of the women who are begging.

Marie has five kids, all of whom are grown, none of whom can find work. I brought her some filtered water in a tin cup and a package of four crackers. She couldn't get the package open, so I helped.

I've helped other women who were begging outside my gate before, and I've learned a few things. When they truly need it, they open the crackers and eat them right there instead of saving them. Marie ate. I held the package as one by one, she savored them. I told her not to hurry through it.

I can see down onto the street when I get on my treadmill, and I've watched other women down there. I watched one gal for thirty minutes one time, and the only person who gave her anything was a child of about ten. Maybe that's what God means when He says that only those who become like a child will enter the kingdom of heaven.

I don't always bring the ladies food and water, but I try to at least offer some change. But today, when I saw Marie, I really felt that I was supposed to sit with her. And as I sat, a bunch of school kids who like to bother my dogs walked by. I wondered what they thought, seeing this "rich lady" sitting in the dusty, trashy street with Marie. More people waved and said hello than usually do when I'm on the street. Maybe they saw me as a person. Or maybe they just saw me. Funny how when we associate with the "lowly," we realize how alike we all are.

Thanks for your prayers.

27 March 2011

Radical, Part 1

I just finished a book called Radical, which some of you have probably read...and if you haven't, you'll get to read at least part of it. (Bwa-ha-ha.) This excerpt has been burning in my mind since I read it:

[The author, David Platt] got up to preach on going to all nations with the gospel. When I finished, I walked down to the front while the pastor got up to close the service. These were his words: "Brother David, we are so excited about all that God is doing in New Orleans and in all nations, and we are excited that you are serving there." He continued, "And, brother, we promise that we will continue to send you a check so that we don't have to go there ourselves."

He wasn't finished.

"I remember a time at my last congregation when a missionary from Japan came to speak," he said. "I told that church that if they didn't give financial support to this missionary, I was going to pray that God would send their kids to Japan to serve with that missionary."


Did the pastor just threaten his congregation with the punishment of going to the world? 

He continued, "And my church gave that man a laptop and a whole lot of money."

Apparently the threat worked...Could it be that this deacon and this pastor expressed what most professing Christians in America today believe but are not bold enough to say? (Platt, 63). 

And at this point, I feel I must be perfectly clear.

I do not feel punished.

Yes, crazy though it may seem, I actually believe that God's will for my life is the best possible scenario for me in every respect. Living in Haiti is a blessing--to me. Our life here is the product of prayer--yours and others--for the nation of Haiti, that her people might become God's people. While we raised our support, I met people who had been praying for Haiti for years, and they expressed to us their joy at seeing us sent here.

[Christine steps up onto her soap box and clears her throat.]

Making disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, in Haiti is the greatest adventure of my life--not because I'm in Haiti, but because it is a page in the redemptive history that God is writing. My page happens to take place in Haiti, but my calling is the same as yours. "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

We beg you to sign the peace treaty God offers in Christ. We beg you to lay down your arms and join an unseen kingdom of orphans now adopted, of prisoners now free, of the strong now weak, of the wise now foolish.

Again, I feel I must be perfectly clear--I understand that I look foolish. Someone asked me once if there's much money in what we do...I said no, not really. Someone asked me once if I wasn't afraid to live in an unstable country...I said, sure, who wouldn't be? Someone asked me once how I could squander my college education on staying home, taking care of my husband and [future] children...I said I didn't think it would be wasted.

I get that people will look at us and see altruism--a selfless [if not misguided] concern for the welfare of others. If only they knew how selfish we truly are and how much God's grace has changed us. If only they knew that I wouldn't be here if I just thought I was putting food into hungry mouths and medicine into sick bodies and English into Haitian minds. If I thought that was it, I'd be gone.

Praise God for His work in us. Praise God that He is sending out ambassadors, not because they're all that great or selfless, but because His love compels them.

If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

[Christine steps off soap box.]

Thank you for your indulgence.

25 March 2011

If a tree falls in the forest, should you replant it?

Do I look happy in this picture? It's only because I am. In this picture, I am on my way to the Dominican Republic for our MAF retreat. It was a much-needed rest...for four days, there were no trucks barreling by. I took a hot shower (okay, more than one), and then stayed clean. I felt the sand between my toes. 

It was glorious. 

But along the way, I got a birdseye view of one of Haiti's more serious problems. 

This is what Haiti looks like from the air.

This is what the Dominican Republic looks like from the air:

In case you missed it, these two nations are on the same island. The only distinguishing factor is the way the land's been treated. The Nature Conservancy reports that the DR just expanded its protected territories by three million acres in 2009. As far as I know, Haiti only has one protected park.

What difference does that make? Maybe a lot. 

Because when we were in the DR, I noticed that it rained. A lot. In order to get rain, you need trees. They reflect heat back into the atmosphere and release moisture into the air. In order to get crops, you need rain. Crops make for a stronger economy. In order to have a strong economy, you need...products. As it is, Haitians import almost all of their chief staple: rice. (Here's a fascinating but sad article about how cholera has affected rice production here.)

Haitians are forced to import a lot of food products, actually. The soil here is poor, they say. Really? They don't seem to have that problem over the border. Remember how I said I was clean in the DR? It's because their ground stays on the ground, rooted down by trees instead of flying on the wind. I learned in school that soil erosion is connected to deforestion...but maybe they're not teaching that here. 

So the solution is simple, you say. Just plant more trees.

And we are planting more trees--that's one of the ministries of our church here. So do the MCC and lots of other organizations. But who's going to water these seeds? And who's going to keep the goats away from the young seedlings? And if they grow, who will protect them from people wanting to make charcoal? And with only 2% of Haiti's forests still standing, will it make a difference? 

I don't know. I wish I did. Here's what I do know...

This pilot is working that uniform.

09 March 2011

One Year

Happy anniversary, friends! We've been in Haiti for one year today, and I can hardly recount all the things we've done and seen and learned over the last year. Our pastor, Serge, was marveling the other day that we could adjust to life here at all...and to be honest, I'm still baffled by it myself sometimes.

Like chickens.

Chickens running around in the street seem normal now. Ditto for goats, their kids, Haitian kids and dogs. I tune them out day and night.

Like coconuts.

I opened this coconut all by myself last week using a machete. (No fingers were harmed in the writing of this blog.) Fresh coconut in our granola is a favorite around here. I used to buy shredded coconut for 363 goud a bag...but I bought this one in the market for ten. Score one for the blan.

Like counting the days. When we first got here, I did this:

I got through our first few weeks in the village by daily reminding myself that it would be over someday. I know I haven't shared many of the "downs" of our "up's and down's," and that's partly intentional. I don't want you to worry about us, and I'm allergic to complaining. But suffice it to say, it hasn't all been easy...but we're where we're supposed to be.

Like home.

It's here now, in Haiti. Its foreignness is slowly, systematically, being replaced by familiarity. Home now means dusty roads and cold showers and kompa music outside and the dripping of my water filter. It's bananas in my tree and hummingbirds in my yard. It's uniformed school kids and afternoon thunderstorms and barking dogs.

Oh, speaking of which, Gracie says hi.

Thanks for bearing our burderns through your prayers this year. We're grateful. Please keep praying for God's direction and leading for us.

03 March 2011

Funny food

While I do have two or three "normal" grocery stores that I frequent here, some of the products still remind me that I'm not in Kansas anymore...

 For instance. Fat filled milk powder? Is the fat added, or was it already there?

My mom-in-law, Kathy, tried to tell me that there was no nutrition information on this peanut butter. Shows what she knows. 

Magic Time is one of my favorite cheaper brands...and also, it makes me laugh.

Pinto beans are called "Miami beans" here...only Miami is pronounced MEE-ah-MEE in Creole. Took me a while to figure that one out...the guy explaining it thought I was the dumbest American ever. Didn't even know where MEE-ah-MEE was. 

Oh, are you still drinking juice at your house? We've moved up to nectar. 

For export only, huh? I'm afraid to ask why. David says it's because this is the wheat germ that fell on the floor and they don't want to get sued. We ate it anyway. We didn't die.

"Is this the brand you want?" 
"Oh, sure, fine, whatever."

Because clearly, we didn't think they were arrogant enough already. FRENCH butter, people. From FRANCE. I'm surprised they stooped to printing it in English. And yet, they don't even have the decency to give you a full cup of butter so you can make cookies.

Aw, man! I got some ultra food encrusted on my dishes, but I only have NON-ultra dish soap. Rats! 

On a more serious note, the Caravan meeting...didn't happen. They're still trying to get it set up, because the official who was supposed to help us had to be with his wife, who was in a car accident in the States. His wife's okay, but please be praying for her and for the official and for the meeting...and of course, for God's will to be done. 

Thanks, guys.

02 March 2011

Parental Visit

David's parents were with us last week (yes, it was SO good to see them), and out of their experience, his dad wrote a blog post. And it was great! So I thought I'd share:

Emergency Flight

Enjoy! And please remember to pray for the Caravan's approval...they're supposed to be having meetings today!