Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reflections - Brian

Its almost like a dream. Where we there? Time went by pretty slowly last week, long hot days without much more relief than shade and some warm water. But here I am, at home in a comfy chair. Dinner is in the oven, the TV is on, I have a cold drink, Danielle and Monica are doing homework, and Felicia is at work. It looks like it might rain, but that's alright, we will be warm and dry inside for the night, playing on the Internet, watching a movie or listening to music. Probably pretty similar to what is happening at your house tonight.

However, if you where in Haiti, tonight would be a bit different. Likely you are in a shelter of some kind, not a house, and you have the ground as a chair. You probably had some rice today, and your kids spent the day fetching water from the well, and playing with whatever they could find...a stick, rocks maybe a ball. Hopefully one of those strong tropical storms will not pass through and run like a river along the floor of your shelter. Tomorrow, the same as today, you will quest for water and food and do it all over again.

But you have something most people don't, even in the US...amazing faith. I saw it last year, so I knew I would see it again, but again I was amazed. It such a stark contrast to what I am accustomed to seeing. Here, we hide our faith to some degree, we are almost ashamed or afraid to show it. Some want it out of schools, and taken from buildings. It's almost cool to be complacent about faith, and radical to have it. There are more bumper stickers denouncing it than pronouncing it. A "God bless you" as a response to one sneezing may receive a scowl rather than a smile and a 'thank-you'. Not in way. They are not ashamed of it, they rely on it, and they want everyone to know the good news.

"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light."

One day as we sat on the stairs of a PID house next to the ones we where working on, a boy sat next to Bob on the adjacent stairs to me. Not unusual at all to have the kids sit with us, or hold hands, or want to be carried. They aren't just friendly, they want to be friends. They all ask "what is your name"? Then offer theirs. When was the last time a child you had never met grabbed your hand and walked with you, or held up their arms so you would pick them up, just so they could get closer and spend a few minuets with you? It's humbling.

Back to the story, the young boy and Bob on the steps. They talked about school, family etc. At a brief pause in the conversation, and the boy said confidently, yet inquisitively, " I believe in God. Do you"? Can you believe how awesome that is? The boy was witnessing to us! Such a strong faith at such a young age. Where did he get that? He is not alone though, the country of Haiti has an amazing faith that they flaunt wherever they can. The Tap Taps exclaim 'Jesus is Lord', and vehicles everywhere are adorned with the owners favorite verse. Its so comforting to walk amongst people you can almost be sure share the same faith. People you don't know will pray with you without question, and folded hands close the chasm that separates our earthly world from theirs. Democracy and wealth from Hypocrisy and filth.

A lot of Haiti's trouble has been as a result of a corrupt government who blocked aid, taxed supplies, or just plain stole the money. Canada was the first to pull out, then the Red Cross held back and is waiting to jump in when they can be effective. UNICEF has tents and small camps that are empty waiting for an open door to the country. This week, Haiti's new President, Michel Martelly takes office. Already there is hope that he will make needed changes and help the people. Spirits are up, and there is a lot of work to do. Port au prince has seen some improvements, but much more are needed. Join in prayer with the faithful of Haiti that their lives be blessed, their faith strengthened and those government will serve and not betray them. God bless Haiti!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final thoughts - Mike

It's still sinking in that we're back from Haiti, again... This trip is a very hard trip to go on with the level of work involved and the heat during the day but it's also a very rewarding trip to be a part of. I think the interactions we had are the key.

First there's the interactions with the children we see... They might be at the job site, or on the side of the road as we walk by them each morning, lunch and end of the day. They were at the clinic being treated. They were at the Damian tent city and at the Canaan building site that we may be building at in the future... What we say to them and how we act toward them, look at them, is so important. I tried to play soccer for instance when we were at Canaan to show that we were the same in some respects; liked to play sports, and that we were or could be friends. It's awkward walking into these situations and you don't want to be perceived as staring or judging and you don't want them to feel uncomfortable because you're from a better situation in life; coming from America, etc. so you try to minimize that by joining in with them through soccer, or doing a fist bump as you walk by or holding their hands for a while as you walk through their tent city... I hope that they all knew that we cared about them and that we loved them and were trying to help as best we could.

Then there were the interactions with the adults we met... They were workers from the clinic, workers at the job site where we worked each day and others we met like in the barber shop or on the sides of the roads we traveled. The same goals were there I think. We wanted to fit in and also make them comfortable with us being in their country and show them that we cared for them and were there to help. Sometimes they were more difficult to get to trust you and accept you but like any other relationship, you just have to put yourself out there first and trust that they want the same basic things you want- Love, respect, relationship... and they usually respond right back with smiles and conversations... People seem to be the same wherever you go.

Finally, there's the interactions between those of us in our group including not only those of us from OSLC but also Jack from PID, Paul from Gordon College and Lizzy and MacKenzie who worked at the clinic. We all seemed to be united and became close friends by way of the shared experiences of this trip. There was a lot of effort at the job site along with a fair share of light-hearted conversation and joking around that I think you need in order to cope with the level of work you're doing each day and also to lighten up from the reality of the poverty that you see each day.

Those interactions, where each of us met with each other and with the children and adults we met, are what keep popping into my head today when I think back on the week in Haiti. One thing is for sure. I think we all shared the same hope that we would be able to spread God's love and help to his people most in need... I hope that we helped and were a blessing to everyone we met and that our efforts and interactions with the people of Haiti were pleasing to God and ultimately glorified Him.

Good trip. Thanks for all your support and prayers,

- Mike N.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Trying to post

Sorry for the lack of blogging, I assure you it's not for lack of trying. The power here is very low (80v) and computer equipment just doesn't work like that. We will keep trying and hope to get some photos out! Brian

A little goes a long way

PID has several programs serving "the poorest of the poor" here in Haiti. These folks need more than handouts, they need purpose, skills, encouragement and prayers. PID is a community leader here, and well loved in the area. Why shouldn't they be! They have built over 40 houses, treated 50,000 since the earthquake and been in Haiti for 20 years. Let me tell you very briefly about the programs they help these faith filled people with.

There is a small business focus that people can get a micro loan of $100, if they qualify. For the most part they set up roadside (I use that word very loosely) stand or even walk around with their wares such as sandals, fruit, sunglasses etc. Sandals are about $4 US, so very reasonable. These business are helping not only financially, but they are fulfilling the sense of purpose we alll need. They have a 6 month term to pay the loan back, and if satisfactory, may get another.

As I am sure you know, there is a clinic on site. Today was a day for pregnant women to come in, but most days anything goes. Cholera cases are few, general sickness seems to keep them busy enough. They are open from 8-4, and always busy. I have not spent much time in the clinic since when they are open, the team is out on site, but it's never empty.

Child sponsorship is the program I want to emphasize because it represents a need that we can fill from the states. There are over 350 children in the child sponsorship program. These kids are the best...they are so friendly and genuinly want to know you. When we walk to the site, they not only want to say hello, they want to to know your name, where you are from, how old you are, and yesterday one child was witnessing to Bob! Can you believe that!? He was 8 and witnessing to the funny looking foreign work crew! They are a faith filled people living in deplorable conditions that are simply inhumane. OK, here comes my pitch...for $25 a month you can sponsor a child that you can choose, write to, and even visit. 100% goes to the children. The Internet is awful here, so I am unable to link to PID, but please prayerfully consider making a huge difference for one of Gods children at their web site, your money CAN make a difference. Last year, our team sponsored an entire family for $60 per month. They have a heart wrenching story, and a child with CP, he is probably alive today because of the team's help.

Lastly, PID has a housing program, that is where we fit in on this trip. If you have a child in the sponsorship program, and have had and repaid at least one small business loan, you qualify. The houses are mostly duplexes, 20X40 or so, and cost $3000. Recipients have a 25 year no interest loan. When teams come here, we essentially buy the materials and provide labor, and that is the key to keeping the cost down. No tractors or fancy equipment. You may be able to tell by the term that the cost needs to be low. This year, we are working on 5 houses at once in different stages. We have been honored by Gale, and PID to be the FIRST TEAM EVER to put a roof on a house. That says a lot for the team that was here last year, you all should be very proud that they have honored us with not only this, but would like us to consider a VBS as well. I hope to upload some pics of our progress, we started yesterday and should finish the tin roof tomorrow.

See you soon and thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rocks, dirt, cement and haircuts

Were baaaaack! The Internet is provided through a satellite, andwe have had some realty awesome evening storms which cool things down, but make Internet almost impossible. Yesterday was another tough day of moving rocks, dirt and cement. The hike to the worksiteis about 15 min. Much farther than last year. The hike there is tiring as it is, and you can always have to keep eyes where you are walking to avoid stones and huge puddles in the small dirt roads. Occasionally, this requires a little climbing over rock piles, and sneaking around precariously to avoid mud. At lunch yesterday, Mike patronized a local barber. Needless to say it was a very poular event for the locals. Here are some pictures of the day.

Love,love,love..... That's what its all about.....

The streets are clean and the stores are plentiful. The days are beautiful with the delightful sunshine and breezes,
and the nights are cool. Smooth sounds of the ocean waves crashing on shore making for a beautiful and peaceful nights sleep. Wait, that was my trip to Maine.

The streets, if you can call them streets, are gravel with holes and garbage running wild on them. The days are hot with no real protection from the sun. The nights are sultry with bodies covered in sweat, bug spray and nets. The sounds of loud distorted music along with babies crying, dogs barking and rosters crooking fill the night air. This is still today's Haiti. A year and a half after the earthquake the ruins still remind of the the Fintstones cartoon. Things that we see and experience are still from another age and time. However, this is the 21st century.

Children running around half naked playing with anything from rocks or sticks to keep them occupied and happy. As we work on the most historic and basic ways and means of making a house, the children wait for our break so they might gain our attention just for a split second so they can escape their lives as they might know it and be transformed to another, maybe happier and safer place or existence. The children, and may I add, the Haitians in general, search and desire what God calls us to do - that is Love one another. The children long for and reach up for any empty hand to hold. Though I believe that love comes natural to all of us, we still have to make an effort everyday to love one another no matter how uncomfortable it might make us. We have to put aside our old sin natural and follow Gods command to love. A very basic example of this was shown yesterday by a 5 year old Haitian boy. Another volunteer who is here had 50 small blow up balloon balls that she brought from a school in the US. She was at a tent village where she started to give them out. When she was finished giving them out, there was one 1 year old child that did not get one. This child started to cry without ceasing. After minutes of crying, a 5 year child came up to this 1 year old and gave them their ball. This was a true act of love, for these children have absolutely no toys to play with. So this child gave up all they had for the love of another who they probably did not know at all.

This society is one that not only is of one of basic existence, but is one in search of the first and basic desire, which is love. Though we some times show love with our words or financial gifts, our works of love will stick with the Haitians for years to come.