Monday, May 25, 2009

Why is there so much poverty?

As we walked back to the compound I just wanted to understand, understand why there is so much poverty. It is nothing they did, for they did not ask to be born into this way of life. I did not ask to born an American but I am so grateful to have been born to wonderful parents in a country where they could start their own business and provide well for their six children. How I wish every parent could provide for their little ones.

I have been writing in my journal holding a small flashlight sitting on the top bunk of the dorm bed I was assigned. The fans are humming and a gentle breeze flows through. And I feel cramped. Shame on me. Tamara and Johanne live in a one room house. The bed Wanda’s class purchased for Tamara is the only thing in the two room house. Johanne when asked if she got the bed, smiled from ear to ear and said yes, yes. Oh what I take for granted.

Before letting Bhen go on his way, we prayed for him to be a bold witness for Christ when he preaches on Sunday; at all times he preaches. Lord, make him a bold witness! Lord please bless Bhen and his family. Thank You Lord for the ways You have moved in my life. I didn’t do anything to be born to Carl and Helen. But WOW! What fantastic parents they are. They clothed me and my 5 siblings. They worked hard on the farm and at building houses. They always took me to church and they taught me how to share. I watched how my mother took food to the family that lived in the woods beyond our house. She never made a big deal about it, in fact, I learned about it when I was a teenager and she needed me to take the food because my little brother was an infant.

The Haitian children see how the missionaries take care of them and they in turn take care of others.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our interpreter, Bhen, was an extraordinary young man. He was thirty three, married with two children. He is studying to be a preacher. In fact he was to preach on Sunday at the Lifeline church. We would be attending. He helped us as we met with the sponsored children. Wanda and her school children sponsor Tamara by sending her thirty dollars a month and sending her toys, clothes, school supplies and food.

Meeting Tamara and her sister, Johanne, was one of the highlights of the trip. What a beautiful teenager Johanne is. Her ebony skin and her very detailed hair style made her stand out among the rest. Her spirit was gentle and kind and she accompanied her sister to the compound because her mother was working. They have no father in the home and their older brother is twenty one. We asked if we could visit their home and they were delighted to show us the way. We did ask how far they were from the compound. From the story Judy Rand had told us about her trip to see her sponsored child we thought it would be wise to have an idea of how much time it would take. Judy’s interpreter said it wasn’t far but after walking three hours over the mountainous terrain, she thought she would have a heart attack. Then she had to walk three hours back to the compound. Plus, she did not know if she was in a safe environment.

The girls lead us down a narrow dirt path through a small neighborhood of houses that were put together with twigs, cement and patched roofs. There is no running water or electricity. There are windows with no glass and doors made of shower curtains. Little children ran around with no clothes on. We passed a toddler with a shirt on but no pants. He reminded me of my grandson, Hayden. I am sure he was being potty trained and there was no use to put underpants on him. Once in awhile I would get a whiff of fresh urine and be reminded of my grandparent’s outhouse on the farm.

Just as I was getting used to seeing people going nowhere and living in despair, we walked by a broken down hut where a woman was sitting in her chair reading a book as she watched the food cooking on the outdoor stove. A few houses later was a man listening to music as time passed by.
When we made it to Tamara and Johanne’s house we were greeted by several of their relatives. A man was holding what appeared to be an infant of no more than three months while several toddlers were watching us with anticipation. The father didn’t care if we took pictures and Diane went over and asked to hold the baby. It was so precious. When the American missionaries visit from Lifeline they bring gifts of food and clothing and more important to the children are toys.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Haitian children love to go to school.

When we got back to the compound we were able to go through the school. Starting at the school kitchen where three ladies were working hard getting lunch ready for the children and ending walking through the school to the playground. Lunch looked like a thick yellow soup that would be poured into the bowls the children brought from home. The children crowded the window and gave us big smiles. Some sat patiently on the ground talking, laughing and you would not know that for many this may be the only meal they would receive for the day.

The school was an open air building; literally. It was basically a roof over 4 poles with hard benches and a blackboard. And the children didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact they seemed thrilled to be at school and eager to learn how to read and write. The girls had green bows in their hair and both the boys and girls wore uniforms. They carried book bags just like the school children at home except of course, they each had their own bowls for lunch.

Our tour ended at the toddler nutrition clinic on Lifeline’s compound. The parents brought their toddlers to the pavilion and listen to a devotion. Peggy, the only African American with the group, was a beautiful woman who spoke to the Haitians about God’s love. She used John 3:16 and Wanda and Glenda did the hand signals they taught our children. The children sat so still and listened. Then the awaited moment came when the parents took their empty buckets and stood in line for what looked like porridge. It was a thick soup filled with nutrients. Before the mother could take her child and leave the sight of the missionaries two things would happen. First, the child had to eat a good portion of the soup; it was for their benefit. As soon as they left the pavilion they joined the rest of the families and sat underneath the tree sharing the food.

Second, they were prayed over. It didn’t matter that they did not know what we were saying for they understood "in the name of Jesus". I had to hold back the tears. There were times I didn’t know what to pray or say. I felt incapable of knowing what their needs were. I prayed they would know the love of Christ. Now I know why Paul prayed for us to know the love of Christ…some earthly needs may never get met. Some will go hungry night after night. Some will die from malnutrition. Malnutrition, when there is a food surplus in the United States. WHY!!?? Maybe this will get me fired up to do something about it.

A young mother stopped me and wanted me to take a picture of her two little boys. They each had on white sock caps, which surprised me because it was so hot. Then she pulled off her youngest son’s hat and his air was orange. I really didn’t know until later that the little guy was malnourished and that is why is hair had turned orange.

After the toddlers were fed their parents had to attend a class where a local nutritionist taught them about the feeding their children. Most do not know their children need food regularly or if they nurse them the child rarely gets the nutrients because the mother’s can’t produce enough milk because of their own malnourished bodies. There was a very young mother who brought her twin infants to the clinic. The nurses were teaching her how to feed them. She looked young but so did the nurse and she was thirty three and just getting married. Diane picked up one of the twins. It was so awesome to see Diane’s heart.

At lunch, I felt bad eating so much food. It just doesn’t seem fair that I should have plenty, while those around me have so little. I have some extra weight because of eating too much and moving too little. I noticed the other missionaries were in the same boat. There were a few ladies that were thin, but not many. In Haiti if someone comments on how thin you are, it is not a compliment. If you are heavy, you are blessed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More on Grand Guave

We meandered through the dirt streets and falling down houses and just when I was convinced no one must have any money, we would stumble upon a very nice house, it was weird. It was out of place. We were told those were the houses of the missionaries.

There was a group of children on a porch of a house that appeared to be at the end of an alley. Diane took Fred, the stuffed pink flamingo Jan asked us to take to Haiti, up to the children. It was a good opener especially since they couldn’t understand us nor us them. Diane gently rubbed Fred across the face of one little boy, saying “Soft.” They seemed to catch on rather quickly and smiled. So I gave it a try and approached a little girl. Children love toys and it was easy to make a new friend. I asked them if I could take their photo and of course they wanted me too. They love seeing themselves.

Gretchen stopped several times and prayed with women whom she knew from church. A blind older woman called out to Gretchen. She was having health problems and Gretchen being a Registered Nurse and director of Lifeline, gave the woman advice. Then she prayed for her. Another time, a woman was making what looked like potato patties and was cooking them outside on a grill. She was preparing them to sell. Gretchen stopped and asked the woman why she had not been in church lately. The lady smiled a pretty smile as if she was happy that someone noticed she was missing. She promised to be there the following Sunday.
We passed the local bakery. Wow, is all I can think to say. Not wow in the sense of it was great, but wow in the sense it was difficult to believe people actually ate something that was made in this barn. Sweat from the bakers, fell into the dough and acting as if this was just normal, the men didn’t stop to wipe their brows. Gretchen said the bread was very good. I just couldn’t imagine eating it.

A young man stopped and greeted us in English. He had graduated from Lifeline school and was in college. He was studying to be an eye doctor. It was rather surprising to find this very well educated and well dressed young man in the village. I soon discovered there are several men that are being educated in order to help their community. This young man was also a translator for the women missionaries and had a craft booth where I purchased some souvenirs to remind me of Haiti.

The Catholic Church stood stately among the ruins and beckoned me to take pictures. I could feel the presence of the Almighty. A school was attached to the church where several thousand children were being served. The hospital was more of the size of a clinic. People were sitting patiently waiting to be helped. The banks were not banks but lotteries. The hair salon looked just like ours and there were several kindergartens brightly painted and welcoming the children in.

We came across two boys playing soccer. The little guy was born with a birth defect and his legs never grew but that didn’t seem to stop him though as he dribbled well passed the bigger and stronger player. Both stopped for a photo and gave us big smiles.

Even though times are tough in Haiti there was still construction taking place. We saw several men building a block house or business. It was hot and they had on long sleeved shirts. We passed a hair salon and a few small stores. The most colorful building was the kindergarten school.