26 December 2011

A late Christmas present for Celine

I am sitting in the hangar office on December 26th. We're supposed to be closed. This stuffy tin box of an office has the six AM sun on its pieced wooden walls.

A store on Delmas, still decorated

David just called me on the HF radio to say that he left the wheelchair out front. I said, "copy that" because it sounded right...and cool. Earlier, I kicked the chocks out, and I felt useful...and cool. Earlier, I manifested three passengers, weighing them, making small talk about Christmas.

We're supposed to be closed today...but here I am, for a boy named Celine. You never realize how great electricity is, you know. If he'd had electricity, maybe he wouldn't have tried to light the fire with kerosene. That's not so bad. I've done it. You just use a little. But Celine mistook the gasoline for kerosene...and now, he probably shouldn't be alive. But he is. 

When I first approached the pilots about someone to do this flight, I expected to meet resistance. But I didn't. No one said, "we're supposed to be closed." No one said, "that's a holiday." They all said, "Make it happen; if you need my help, let me know." I had told Jim we were closed...but he didn't back down. (That's a theme in my job, by the way...people not backing down.) I suggested he try one of the other private operators--he said, "I don't trust anybody but you guys." I suggested he drive him down--he said, "He won't make it that way." His voice was somber, serious. I didn't know then how much time Jim had spent with Celine, but I know now what an advocate he's been for him. And with his help and donated airline miles and miles of paperwork and a generous Shriner's hospital in Boston, Celine is going to get the help he needs.

"FLY landing Pignon!" David yells into the HF radio. "FLY landing!" I yell back, recording the time. It's 7:20. Celine's international flight leaves at 10:30. And an MAF flight was the last piece of the puzzle. How could I say no?

When they landed, Jim picked up Celine and put him into the wheelchair...even at twelve years old, he was so slight that it wasn't hard. As I wheeled him into the terminal, I felt guilty. I wanted to take a picture of him for the blog, but I couldn't. I had my camera in hand, but I couldn't. His hands said it all--one looked as it should, brown-skinned with normal kid scratches and hangnails, while the other had clearly been engulfed in the flames, its skin white and puckered, its nails black or missing. Even in the sparse airport, people gathered around him to stare. (Americans would stare from a distance, pretending not to. Haitians don't have such inhibitions.) Jim shooed them away and by then, their ride had arrived to take them to the international terminal. His mom had the sweetest, gentlest smile, and I told her "bon voyage" and I'd be praying for her.

Please be praying for this kid and his family. You can find more updates about his trip here: www.helpceline.org

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Yeah, the picture pretty much says it all. It's warm here, but we had a good Christmas nonetheless. In many ways, we've celebrated the day as we normally would...cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a lit tree, lots of cardboard and wrapping strewn about, spoiling my dogs with treats, Skyping with the family. I started a new Kindle book and we watched a movie, then had dinner with friends.

But now, as I'm watching a fuzzy NBA game in French, I realize that there are a few things that might be different. My sparkling cider probably cost more than yours. No one caroled me. And fireworks and noisy church service characterized my Christmas Eve, not a "silent night." Instead of temporary lights and garland, people just re-paint their whole house. This year's neighborhood theme was yellow and white...which I much prefer over Martelly pink.

But you know, the differences really didn't matter as much this year. Last year was really hard...but this year, I was able to set some of my cultural traditions aside and just embrace Haitian Christmas like it is...and it gives me some hope for myself, that if I can do Christmas so differently, maybe there's lots of other stuff I could do, too.

So here's to a different kind of Christmas. Hope you had a good one, too, wherever you may be.

21 December 2011

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

Today, I'll be doing a "market basket survey," where my friend J and I go to different grocery stores and write down how much things cost. It's one of the ways MAF makes sure we have enough money to buy food. However, I highly doubt these will be on the list. This is actually round two for this particular survey...because we didn't read the directions. (Figures.) Pray for stamina and patience.

17 December 2011

Must be Christmas...

Because my fridge and freezer both smell like peppermint.

Because my Amazon cart is full.

Because that Hawaiian song by Bing Crosby is getting a lot of air time on my iPod.

Because It's a Wonderful Life is warming up in the DVD player. "Happy New Year to you...in jail!"

Because I still drank cocoa while trimming our cute little tree, even in 90 degree heat.

Because it's Christmas!

05 December 2011

"Nap tann ou, Jezi."

My friend M called to see if we had Bible study a few weeks ago.

I said yes, that I was just leaving my house and would be on the road soon. And although we were speaking English, she ended with a common Kreyol phrase: "Nap tann ou." (Pronunciation help: Nap rhymes with "mop," tann rhymes with "yawn," and oo is just like the sound you make when someone gives you a bar of dark chocolate. Well, I do, anyway. It also rhymes with "you.")

The phrase "nap tann ou" has bothered me for some time. Literally translated, it means, "We're waiting for you." To my American ears, it had always meant, "you will undoubtedly be late, and we'll be forced to delay until you arrive." But knowing M's good will, and that she would be glad to see me (whenever I arrived), I suddenly realized that that wasn't what she meant at all.

I realized that she meant that they'd be expecting me, that her waiting would be one of anticipation, not frustration. That to her, "nap tann ou" was an expression of love.

That she meant we're waiting for you, as a child waits for Christmas morning, as a bride waits for her wedding day, as a family waits to be reunited with a soldier finally coming home.

And in the same moment, it occurred to me that this might be what Jesus meant, too, when he said for us to wait for his return. Do I expect that? I mean, do I really expect it? Or will I be caught off guard?

Looking around at the world we live in, you'd think it would be on my mind constantly...but it's not. Maybe I'm afraid of seeming, well, fanatical. (No prompting from the studio audience, please.) From the outside, I can see how it looks. This guy, whom most of the world believes has decomposed a long time ago--we think he's coming back. That's unusual. And some of us have really gone pretty overboard about it, too, based on how I woke up this morning...to a man with a megaphone, using the acoustics of the ravine to his advantage. He was shouting the Gospel. That's not love, dude. Not at 5:30 AM or any other time of day.

And then there's those who get so excited that they start to predict silly things...I'm thinking of someone in particular. I don't want to give it away, but he's an old white guy whose last name rhymes with "stamping." That's no good, either...and frankly, sort of misses the point. In my humble opinion, it's not about when Christ comes back, it's about why, and it's about how we've spent our days and hours and minutes and seconds since then.

So here's my benediction: may our lives convey a patient excitement, a quietly strange expectation, a holy yet unobnoxious longing, a sense that we are redeemed souls who say, "Whenever you're ready...we're waiting for you. Nap tann ou, Jezi."

03 December 2011

A BIRTHday life in the life

So MAF's been doing this thing on Facebook, where they take you through "a day in the life"...and I thought, "Oh man, I bet I'm the only one who's done a BIRTHday in the life!" If "a day in the life" is good, a birthday in the life is even better, right? Right?!

So here we go. A Haitian birthday. Because YOU asked for it.

This is the dog who wouldn't go outside on my 28th birthday. She was subsequently locked inside all day and was therefore very glad to see me when I got home. VERY glad.

 This is the traffic I sat in on my 28th birthday. (Booo.)

This is the road that was freshly graded, the day before my 28th birthday...making the ride on my birthday particularly smooth. The people at the Caterpillar company have my gratitude. 

This is the slow, rusty truck I followed to church on my 28th birthday. No, wait, slow isn't the right phrase...he was excruciatingly slow. 

This is what the clock said when I rolled into church for an 8:00 Bible study on my 28th birthday. (Who said God doesn't care about the little things?) It was a small group, but they were glad to see me. I've been doing a study in English for some of the leaders in the church. And every time, they point out things I didn't think of--my 28th birthday was no exception.

This is the baby I got to hold on my 28th birthday. (He's cuter than this, I promise.) He was born about two weeks ago, and he'd just gotten back from the Embassy, where he was applying for his passport. I'm fairly sure it was a long wait. Welcome to the world, kid.

Those are the notes I took at my white lady Bible study on my 28th birthday. I Peter. Good stuff. (For those keeping score, yes, I sometimes have two Bible study groups on Fridays. I really love that book.)

These are the ladies who hugged me and prayed for me on my 28th birthday. Their friendship is a greater gift than I can express.

But Will also gave me a real gift--a lovely card made by my pseudo-nephew J and some cookies he'd helped bake. I hate to disappoint, but if you were hoping for one, you're out of luck.

This is what I ate for lunch on my 28th birthday. Classy, I know. I just can't beat peanut butter and honey for lunch. I eat like a five-year-old...and there's a pirate on my peanut butter jar.

 This is the laundry I did on my 28th birthday. (Life goes on, right? At least it wasn't by hand.)

This is the mail I got my on 28th birthday--REAL MAIL. Not catalogs. Not bills. Cards and notes, for me. Since I hadn't had any mail in two weeks, this was particularly exciting.

And there was Cooking Light. I'll be honest--I can't cook hardly anything in this magazine for lack (or expense) of ingredients...but I love looking through it anyway. 

And on my 28th birthday, we had staff meeting at my house. After the "meeting stuff," they sang to me and we ate chocolate cake. And then they indulged me while I demonstrated how Swedish angel chimes work. Yes, my house is already decorated for Christmas. Yes, it was a good birthday. 

And my husband is right now, at this moment, down in the basement, trying to put our water pump on our backup power system, so I can take a shower with pressure before we go out for a fancy-schmancy lunch. 

A happy birthday indeed. Thanks for the cards, phone calls, e-mails, and many Facebook wishes I got. 
You guys are the best.