Sunday, September 4, 2011

10 Years In Haiti

Here is a photo of me with my pastor's family in September of 2001, on my last Sunday at Community Christian Church before I moved to Haiti. I moved here on September 4, 2001, and had no idea that I would still be here 10 years later. Here is a list of some of the highlights and low points of the past decade. I'll leave it up to the reader to determine which are which:

-waving goodbye to my nephew Lukey at the airport and trying to control my sobs on the plane
-watching the 911 attacks on cable t.v. in the CSI guesthouse living room
-wondering why it hurt to move my eyes, my head, my entire body...then finding out it was dengue fever and I wasn't going to get better for a couple of weeks
-laying on my cot the first night in Seguin, in my damp sleeping bag, thinking "what have I gotten myself into?"
-laying blocks for the walls of my apartment on Christmas day
-meeting Margarethe for the first time and thinking she was so skinny I better do some bloodwork on her before we hired her
-clearing out the rat eaten meds and starting a new pharmacy room
-falling down the stairs of death...repeatedly
-learning to master a stick shift in stop and go traffic on steep roads (I apologize to all the walls and vehicles I gently rolled back on)
-rushing Jean Dony to the hospital to get him treatment for his burned body, while trying to dodge people dressed like bulls and other beasts (it was Mardi Gras)
-delivering my first infant (Idamanthe is a beautiful nine year old now)
-delivering two babies in two different houses at the same time (that involved a lot of running)
-trying to set up the internet (that sentence doesn't convey how much time, effort, and agony went into that process)
-delivering a baby in the back of the pickup, while trying to keep Margarethe from having her baby in the front of the pickup
-living with Chelsea and Jean Dony in a haitian home for two weeks (cooking on a charcoal stove is hard)
-telling Lifrane to stop knocking on my door for cookies (this happened nearly every day for six and a half years)
-teaching my first Sunday school lesson in Creole
-leading my first group of students in a baptism class, and then watching them get baptized
-wrapping 500 presents for school kids on Christmas eve, while listening to Christmas music in Spanish on the only radio signal Seguin received
-watching movies at night to hear people talk to me in English
-asking for a blanket when it was 90 degrees out (malaria makes you do funny things)
-working with Danny and Leann
-saying goodbye to Danny and Leann
-delivering Jabez
-saying goodbye to Jabez
-working with all my wonderful interns
-watching all my wonderful interns go back home
-hiking to Margarethe's mother's house (it's not too far, they said. they lied.)
-watching a witch doctor tell a pregnant lady to put a pot on her head and eat an egg, shell and all
-driving Kenscoff road and getting knocked off course by a boy with a herd of sheep
-walking Kenscoff road and getting schooled by a woman twice my age
-driving a hemorrhaging patient in my brand new truck to four different hospitals before finding her help
-delivering two non-breathing, nearly pulseless twins
-visiting with those twins and their mother a year later, and watching them crawl and smile and play
-praying with Margarethe and her family when the loneliness started taking its toll on me
-waking up each Tuesday thinking "ugh. it's dental day"
-staring at a broken generator. again, and again, and again.
-crying out "Jezi, sove nou!!" as I floated down a river in my truck with a haitian man named Chrisnet and a cat named Blackbeard
-riding on the top of a bus, the back of a dump truck, the bench of a taptap, the spare tire of a mack truck, the book rack of a motorcycle, and the bony back of an emaciated horse (to name a few)
-making the decision to leave Seguin, praying for guidance, and receiving an email from Jim and Sandy asking me to come to Christianville
-meeting an American missionary optometrist and thinking "he's cute, but quiet"
-saying goodbye to all my friends in Seguin
-preaching devotions at the Christianville clinic and seeing patients respond to the gospel
-getting engaged under a waterfall in Jacmel
-flying back to Christianville in a helicopter after our honeymoon
-meeting my baby girl for the first time and thinking "I didn't know I could love something this much"
-surviving the earthquake on January 12, 2010 and still attempting to survive all its aftermath
-sleeping under an avocado tree
-having church outside
-learning how to live indoors again without panicking
-giving birth to my baby boy and thinking "he's absolutely perfect"
-starting up a Sunday school program at church and busting out the ol' felt board again

And that pretty much brings us up to today. Some people have told me that I should write a book about my time here in Haiti. But I tell them, "I don't know the end yet." I felt God called me to Haiti 10 years ago, and I came with the intention to stay until He called me somewhere else. He hasn't called me anywhere else yet, so I'll keep serving Him here, one day (or decade) at a time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The youth from my church family at Community Christian Church in Tamarac, Florida came to visit Christianville this month. They were a great team. They helped with construction on the new medical clinic, they did various odd jobs for the other ministries here, they worshipped with other teams that were here, and they brought the other missionaries and me some goodies and some encouragement. I am always glad when teams from my home church come to visit, and it was really nice to get to know these youth. Some of them were just wee little kids that I saw in children's church or at VBS when I left for Haiti 10 years ago, so it was great to chat with them and see where God is leading them now.

During the week that the youth were here, another team decided to blow up water balloons to use for their VBS ministry project. The balloons sat in a container and taunted Nora all week. We would walk past them and her eyes would get big and she would shout "BOONS!", but I wouldn't let her play with them. However, the team that planned on using the balloons must not have had time to incorporate them into their VBS and ended up leaving without using them. So there they sat, tempting us. On one of the last days that the Community youth were here, Rita, our interim guesthouse coordinator, suggested a use for the balloons that everyone got excited about. Rita's plan was to have the youth line up on the patio on Monday morning, during Christianville's bi-monthly distribution of food for the elderly. Then, as each elderly person came to receive their food, they would be instructed to throw a water balloon at the team before leaving. I was skeptical about the plan. I really didn't think those old folks would be up for it. I thought they might be too shy. Our pastor of outreach, Mr. Laguerre, was surprised at the plan, too. But he duly translated Rita's wishes to the elderly folks. The people that you would think would have the objections --the youth-- thought it was a great idea and lined up like great sports for the abuse.

At first, the elderly people were hesitant to throw the balloons. But after the first few threw the balloons and saw the good reactions of the teenagers, the whole crowd got excited and the rest of the recipients of the food had no qualms about lobbing, tossing, throwing or out-right fast pitching the balloons at the young people. Nora stood by the container of balloons shouting "Boons!" and smiling.

As I was watching the whole affair, looking at the happy faces of the old folks and the haitians gathered around, I began to reflect on a book I just read, called "When Helping Hurts". The book talks about different methods of helping poor people that can actually hurt everyone involved, because those methods encourage a paternalistic attitude in the giver and a feeling of powerlessness in the recipient. The book suggests several ways to avoid this pitfall, one of which is to never do anything for someone that they can do on their own. Well, the elderly people in Christianville's feeding program have troubles finding the resources to feed themselves adequately, and the government lacks programs for these people, so I believe the elderly feeding program is a good and necessary one. It does, however, make people feel a bit powerless, when they have to rely on a mission or an agency for handouts. So, while it wasn't a suggested method in "When Helping Hurts", I think the 'balloon exercise' was a great way to put just a tiny bit of power back into the hands of those elderly men and women. For just a few moments, while they were getting their free food, the recipients were able to give something back: a little water, a little fun, and a lot of smiles.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bearing Fruit

This blog post is dedicated to Phil and Myriam Raber, the optometrist and dentist who lived in our house in the mid nineties and planted a dozen fruit-bearing trees all over the yard. While they lived in the house, the trees were young and didn't produce fruit, so they never enjoyed the fruit of their labor. By the time we moved into the "eye doc house" 15 years later, however, the trees were raining down fruit. We get pummeled by avocados in the fall, and oranges and grapefruit in the winter. The spring brings us hundreds of mangoes. There are coconut trees that give year-round joy to Rezimond, the teenager who washes our truck each week and gets a bonus coconut when he finishes. Just the other day, I picked cherries for Mme Eugene to take home for juicing, picked a papaya off a tree for a smoothie, and pulled a few plantains off the tree near the laundry line to use for supper. Every time I enjoy the fruit in our yard, I think of how little effort it took me, and how much effort Phil and Myriam put into it, and I thank them in my heart.

This reminds me of a passage in John chapter 4, verses 34 to 38. Jesus is talking to his disciples and tells them to look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. He reminds them that they did not sow, but they are going to reap. "For in this the saying is true: One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." Every Tuesday, I prepare and give a short devotional to our patients who are waiting to be seen at the clinic. At the end of the gospel presentation, I ask anyone who would like to respond to the message of salvation to raise their hand. Very rarely, someone will respond. But more often than not, and especially in the past couple of months, the audience just sits there silently. Sometimes, I find myself getting discouraged and having a hard time finding the motivation to preach each Tuesday, when so few people respond. But then I remember this Scripture, and I remember Phil and Myriam Raber. Some people plant, and others sow. Perhaps at the clinic lately, I am a planter. People may not be ready to respond every day, but they still need to hear the good news that Jesus came and died to take away their sins. And hopefully, one day, after hearing the message several times, they will open their hearts and someone will get the chance to "reap"... to lead them to the Lord. I thank God I'm part of the process.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mother's Day

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my second mother's day as a mom. As any of you who have had small children can relate, it wasn't my dream day. The children are not old enough to say "happy mother's day" or give me gifts, but they are old enough to throw fits, need punishment, push my buttons, and make me want to crawl out of my skin (or at least out of the house for a few solitary hours). But a few days ago I got an unexpected present for mother's day, just a few weeks late. The kids and I were playing on the back porch and heard an accordion and some men's voices singing nearby. This isn't a rare experience here in Christianville, because the men's choir at church often rehearses in the afternoons. But on this particular day I felt that the kids needed to get out of the house and, since they both like music, we decided to walk over to see the men's choir practice. Normally they practice in the empty lot that used to be the eye clinic, but we found them this day in the school yard, sitting in one of the transitional classrooms. When the men saw us standing there, watching them from the doorway, they stopped practicing their individual parts and decided to put on a show for us. Fanfan, the dental assistant/accordian player/choir director, led the men in a mother's day song that they had been practicing for Haitian Mother's Day, which comes a few weeks later than ours. The men sang of their love for their moms. Nora clapped and Titus smiled, and the men sang on. Nora stopped clapping when the men drew the song to a close with a verse that said, "You are my mother, you have the right to punish me, so go ahead and spank me." I don't think she approved of that verse. I thought it sounded pretty practical, though.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Visit to Seguin

After three years off the mountain, I decided to go back and visit again with all my friends in Seguin. There is an agriculturalist that works here at Christianville, and he was interested in visiting Seguin with me and possibly feeding the school children in the HCO school, so Ryan and I, Nora and Titus, along with Edsel (the agricultural expert) and Jimmy (a friend) took a long ride up to Seguin a couple weekends ago. I made the mistake of taking the Fond Jean Noel route up the mountain, because I knew it would have a good view, but I had no idea how horrible the route had gotten. It took us quite a bit longer to get up there than I had expected. Once we arrived, everyone in the local area came to see us. It was great to see everyone again. Margarethe made us some food, and we sat in Christnet's home and chatted awhile. Then we visited with everyone in the yard. Nora played with the kids, and Titus cried because of the cold and all the strangers.

I was able to visit with Papa Alexandre, the local voodoo priest, for awhile. He is going blind and not very healthy. I talked to him about accepting Jesus as his Savior, but he is convinced that he is a good enough person to make it to heaven on his own merit.

We were able to visit with Marie Lourdes and her newborn babies. She is still very weak and anemic, and her babies are small and having some troubles growing. Doctor Clayton is back on the mountain now, though, so she is in good hands and hopefully she and the children will get healthy and strong quickly.

As our visit came to a close, I sat on the porch and chatted with Margarethe while Nora played with the local kids. At one point, I noticed that she was sitting down with six other kids, and that four of those six were children that I had delivered. If anyone would have told me that one day I'd be sitting on the porch, talking to Margarethe like any other day, but watching my own child play with the kids, I'd have told them they were nuts. God is good. He blesses us much more than we deserve.

When it came time to leave, I felt a tremendous sadness come upon me. I miss Seguin. It feels like home. I miss my neighbors and my friends. I also feel the burden of the poverty and great needs that are ever present there. I am thankful for Kyle Martin and Clayton Bell, who helped Seguin this past year by reopening the clinic. I am hopeful that the new Haitian doctor that HCO has found will keep the clinic running well. And I'm thankful for Margarethe, who continues to stick it out in Seguin, despite all the hardships she faces there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Marie Lourdes update

Happy News!

Marie Lourdes Auguste and her husband Emmanuel welcomed their family's newest two additions to the world on Thursday, April 28th. They are Manoucheka and Calipson Auguste, each weighing a little more than four pounds.

their little girl, Manoucheka

and Calipson, their little boy

Marie Lourdes was barely 8 months along in her pregnancy, and began bleeding. She needed a transfusion before the doctors would perform a C-section to deliver the children. Qasim sent word to Marie Lourdes' friends and adoptive family back in Seguin (she is an orphan who has no family of her own), and they all came up with excuses not to come and give blood. So in the end it was Qasim, Maslen (Bubba), Yves (TiBra), and Eli (PeeWee) who were the heroes that went to the hospital to donate blood. Thank you, Qasim, for showing unselfish love. Thanks also go out to Maslen, Yves, and Eli, who overlooked the stigma and horror stories about giving blood that are common in Haiti, and volunteered anyway.

Marie Lourdes is recuperating slowly from her surgery, and doing her best to get some rest, while breastfeeding and taking care of the two wee-ones. She is expected to be discharged from St. Michel hospital tomorrow. The babies are breathing well and feeding well, despite their small size. Please pray for Marie Lourdes, Emmanuel, the new babies, and the rest of the family that waits at home. They have a long road of recuperation and growth ahead of them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Marie Lourdes and Easter

Last year at about this same time, I got a surprise visit from my Seguin friends, Marie Lourdes and Emmanuel. It was the day before Easter, and they came to get medical attention for Marie Lourdes, who suffers from a lot of health problems. They stayed a couple of days and got some tests done and some medicine. This past year, we've worked with Kyle and Dr. Jim and come up with what we thought were some solutions to Marie Lourdes' health problems. But, as things often turn out here in Haiti, our plans didn't shape up as we'd expected them to. Marie Lourdes got pregnant with twins. So, once again, it's Easter time, and this year, instead of a visit, I got a phone call from Emmanuel. "Marie Lourdes pa bon, mis". (Marie Lourdes isn't good). After asking about the situation, I found out that Emmanuel took Marie Lourdes to the hospital in Jacmel because of some pregnancy related issues. Danny went to visit Marie Lourdes and passed me around on the phone to her and the doctor (it's really good to have him back in Haiti and free!) It appears that she will have a c-section soon. This isn't great news, since the twins aren't due for at least another month. Please pray for Marie Lourdes, Emmanuel, their unborn twins, and their six children on the mountain that are awaiting their return.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Too Old to Blog?

Has it really been three months since I've blogged? Many people accuse me of being a "bad blogger", and I admit it, I am. My sister has a theory behind this. She says that I'm too old to correctly blog. I missed the window of good bloggage by a couple of years. This might be very true. For instance, I had no idea that if a person doesn't blog once every couple of weeks, people get tired of looking at the site and will stop following the blog. Hmmm. So I guess once every three or four months is probably bad, then. Interesting. Once again, I'm resolving to blog more often. We'll see if I'm able to stick to that.

I'm trying to remember what happened in our lives these past three months. Titus got bigger and started thinking about rolling over, every once in a while. Nora didn't gain any weight, but she grew up into a little girl who uses words and likes winnie the pooh and hangs out with the kids in the neighborhood when they come to wash the car or pick mangoes from the trees. Ryan and I got sick and had to cancel a long-awaited trip to Seguin at the end of March. I am hoping to reschedule and make it up there before our trip to the States this summer. It seems there's always something keeping us from visiting friends in Seguin. Thankfully, my Seguin friends have come to visit me recently. Margarethe spent a few days at our house during Mardi Gras. She brought her three kids and her sister, as well as a bunch of produce and a live chicken. She asked me whether I would like to cook it or if I wanted her to. It was a joke, though, since she knows what live chicken tastes like when I butcher and cook it (a little like jerky, but not as moist). She and her sister made us a great haitian meal. We had a good time talking and catching up, although I had an emergency at the clinic come up which kept me running and cut down on our "girl time". Her kids enjoyed the gadgets and toys at our house. The swings, blocks, and dvd player were their favorites. Sonson will be nine years old this summer. Craziness! My sister is right... I'm OLD! He is growing up into a great kid, and Joseph is really fun to have around, as well. Margarethe's little girl, Marie Phara, is talking and potty trained. I tried to get Eleanor to learn some skills from her, but I don't think it worked. The same weekend that Margarethe visited, we also got a visit from Chrisnet and his wife. They and their four girls are doing well. Chrisnet's wife, Dieula, needed some reading glasses so Ryan hooked her up with some. I can't believe Chrisnet still thinks of me as a friend, after I nearly ended his life in a watery grave in the river all those years ago, but forgiveness is his specialty.

The formula fund is alive and working well in Seguin. A haitian man named Qasim is in charge of it, and administering it well. I would post some pictures of the kids on the program, except that Qasim's flashdrive has too many viruses and crashed my computer last time I tried to download some pictures from it! There are two girls here in Christianville that I see regularly who have benefited from the formula we give out at the clinic here. One is a little Down's Syndrome girl who was found under a bridge in Carrefour at four months old. She is now 2 and has just learned to walk, which made her caregivers so happy. The other is a little girl born the same week as my Nora, named Isabella. I don't ever see her in the clinic anymore, because she's too healthy. I see her in church, though, and I can tell from the noise and disruptions she makes that she is doing just fine!

The boys in the Jacmel Boy's Home are hanging in there. They have gone through a hard year with many changes and stressors, including Danny's imprisonment. They were overjoyed, like the rest of us, to see him freed. They are doing well in school and we are able to see them every month or so. I think even Jackie will be taller than me soon.

For those of you who stuck with this blog, despite its disuse, I thank you. And maybe I'll even post something new next week....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Grace on the Anniversary of the Quake

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving a devotional message to our patients, on the anniversary of the quake. I felt the best message would be one on grace. "Are we alive today because we are better people than those who died last year in the quake?", I asked my patients. They all agreed that was false. So why were we spared? I have no answer for that one, except God's grace. An undeserved gift. And it's that same grace that will usher Daphne and other christians who were killed in the quake into heaven's eternal peace. Salvation, just like life, is an undeserved gift. All that is required of us to find that gift is to accept it. Accept that Christ's work, His death and resurrection, is all that was necessary to atone us. That's hard for a person who likes to be in control, like me. Often, I would rather be given a list of do's and dont's, and told that if I stick to the list, and am a good enough person, I could be spared traumatic death in natural disasters and would never suffer horrible tragedies or hardships in my life and would die peacefully in my bed as a very old woman and would then be ushered into heaven, all based on the fact that I was so good. But that's not how it works, and if I think about it for any length of time, I'm glad it doesn't work that way. Because if it did, I would find that I was never quite good enough, or never certain of my good/bad status, and always fearful of what would happen to me and what my eternal destination would be. Instead, there is grace. God's grace that says, "Even if you don't deserve this, I'll give it to you. Just trust in the goodness of my Son." He is good, indeed. Thank you, Lord, for your undeserved grace that saved us in the quake, and saves our souls for eternity.