Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ravine news - good and bad

Mumps are making the rounds through Port-au-Prince. Several of Sherrie's school kids and orphanage kids have it and a number of my ravine kids have had it. I may not be very familiar with mumps, but the Haitians sure are and they promptly wrap the poor little child's face in cloths and some kind of thick leaves that supposedly bring the swelling down. Dear little Maranatha, who mirrors her mother's cheerful "Hello's" and smiles, had it last week and never lost her big smile throughout. Sendhie, my assistant here at Angel Missions, had it 2 weeks ago. And this week Wisnal, my community health worker at Sherrie's, has it.

Immediately after my busiest stop on my ravine rounds, I walk past a tent where the woman on the right lives. She doesn't have any children in my medical program anymore (they have grown up and are in school) but she always calls out to me regardless. It's a mini-miracle each time; most adults I encounter only engage me in conversation if they want something from me but this woman wants nothing more than to say "Hi" and ask me about my day. Last week, I was in the ravine when I got the call that my grandmother had passed away. She was the first person I told and she was as kind and sympathetic as an old friend. I don't even know her name!

Vesly is 12 years old and has an eternal case of tinea capitis (head fungus). This sounds horrible but I'm glad she's been sick because I wouldn't have gotten to know her otherwise. She's got that undefeatable spirit that I've seen over and over in young Haitian women.

And then there's Betty's family. Her youngest is Samania, the little girl who has been terrified of me ever since she turned 1. Edmirson is the middle child, who was also afraid of me from about age 1 until age 2. And her oldest is Sandina, who I rarely see because she goes to school in the mornings. Since the quake, Betty, her boyfriend, and the kids have been living in a tarp-house. I've never met the boyfriend but I know he has a temper - one day in the ravine, I saw that the door to their tent was ripped off and Betty told me that he did it when he was angry with her. Scary!

The good news is that he is working and he does provide for them. A month ago, Betty called to me from the door of a real house! They'd pulled together enough money to rent a cute little 2 room apartment and when I walk through now, Betty proudly invites me in. The house must have some magical qualities because Samania overcame her fear of me as soon as they moved in. She will actually stay in the same room as me now and high five me and wave good-bye without any screaming or hiding.

Finally we come to Bergine. I first treated Bergine in the fall for his mysterious skin condition and overall deterioration. In the following months, I had him seen by several American doctors and a Haitian doctor. No one knew what to do for him. His family moved him out to the countryside after Christmas and I would hear news about him secondhand. Last week,when I stopped at his house, his sister told me he'd died over the weekend. We still do not know why.

Monday, May 23, 2011


A graffiti artist named Jerry has been covering the walls of Port-au-Prince since the earthquake. This is my favorite of all his drawings. The words translate to "Haiti will not perish!" I love the swollen bellies on the children, the way the words drip paint like blood or tears, and the fact that the mother is sitting on a pile of broken concrete blocks as she sews a ripped flag. Beautiful.

To me, this one simply says "HOPE."

And my other favorite is this one from a wall in Petionville. It shows Haiti suffering from the cholera epidemic, again, a very realistic and deeply moving picture.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rain, rain, go away!

Reminiscent of the freak storm that hit us in September last year, ripping down tents, trees and St Joseph's temporary tin fence, 2 weeks ago, we had another such storm whip through Port-au-Prince. This time, I had just gotten home, accompanied by one of the teenage boys from youth group who wanted to escort me and show me a shortcut through a ravine I didn't know. He left as the rain started and I quickly began putting my plants outside for their usual bath. But the wind was so strong that my plants blew over, so I brought them back in and stood in my covered porch to watch.

The rain blew sideways and the winds threatened to take down my neighbor's trees. And suddenly, with a great creaking and groaning, St Joseph's 12 foot high tin fence came crashing down, straight onto my house. First in the earthquake, then in a freak storm...I have got to convince my neighbors to stop dropping pieces of their house on mine!

The wind subsided after a few hours and the kids joined me on the sand pile for some rainy fun. I love when it rains here but sometimes I get tired of getting up at 6am the following morning to shovel away the pile of sand and mud that washes up in front of my door every time. I shouldn't complain; at least I don't have anyone's sewage draining towards my house like the people below me do!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tet Kale!

New President "Sweet Micky" Martelly was inaugurated yesterday. The streets were empty as thousands went downtown to watch the proceedings live on Champs de Mars, while everyone else stayed home to follow via radio or television. Of course, the dear current government cut power to the city for much of the day, making it impossible for your average Haitian to watch TV, and I am told by friends who did watch that former President Preval refused to actually place the ceremonial sash of authority over Martelly's head, as is tradition. He gave it to someone else who then adorned Tet Kale. I appreciate the good example of our former President - thank you for showing children and adults in this nation that we should cling to our differences and use every opportunity to show our opponents that we dislike them.

Regardless, it was a day of celebration in Port-au-Prince. Many people stayed up partying all night Friday night in anticipation (I know because the music from the parties was blasting when I went to bed at 10pm and was still going strong when I woke at 6). Walls, telephone poles, trees, and even the street have been painted with his colors, pink and white, and last night, a real fireworks show, the first I've ever seen in Haiti, went off from the mountain high above the city, so that everyone could see it.

The people love him, but now the real test starts. He has made promises. Will he be able to keep them? And how long will the people wait if the promises are slow in coming to fruition?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blockade Runner Part Two

Going home from Zanglais is always a sad affair. The kids are tired, we are tired, and everyone is bummed to be going back to normal life. The bus is silent.

We were halfway home when traffic completely stopped. For 45 minutes, we waited in the rain, not moving. When the rain let up a little, Scotti and I walked down the road and saw a familiar site: a large truck parked sideways across both lanes of traffic, obstructing the road. In that part of the country, a minority party won the local elections, but current President Preval's party members were named the victors. So the people have been protesting, primarily by blocking main roads. In this case, the driver was there, but the key to the truck had been taken. Scotti and I prayed over the truck and the key.

The UN arrived and began a futile attempt to tow the truck out of the road. Scotti and I decided it was time for God to move things. We went to the bus and started the youth singing worship songs, songs with lyrics like, "My Savior, He can move the mountains," and "How great is our God!" People walked by and stared at the bus full of 40 Haitian teenagers singing English Christian songs. We kept singing.

Within 5 minutes, the key had been located. Within 10 minutes, the truck was moved and we were steaming towards Port-au-Prince.

Needless to say, the atmosphere on the bus changed a little. We'd seen God move swiftly and dramatically in response to our praise; what better assurance that He was coming home to Port-au-Prince with us and that "Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done here!"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You should become a youth leader too!

How lucky am I? I get to live on a Caribbean island and work with teenagers in every moment of my free time. Invite me on a cruise, a trip to Paris, an African safari...I will turn you down each time. None of those could possibly beat my four day vacation at Zanglais with the youth group, playing wild games and doing crazy team cheers, and becoming a family.

We spent hours on the beach, getting slammed by waves and playing in the sand.

And we had our daily sessions of prayer, worship, Bible study, time to write words of encouragement to one another, and plenty of music.

Last year, the kids served themselves so much at meals that by the time we got our plates at the end of the line, there was frequently minimal food left. So this year, we served them. I dished up rice, spaghetti, chicken casserole, more rice, while Marc handed out silverware. Other days, Marc and I got to sit while Jenny and Eric served. And on those days, inevitably, a 17 year old girl named Dieula, would give one of us her plate and then get back in line for herself. We always serve the girls first and on the last evening, they, of their own accord, gave their plates away to the boys until all were served.

We occasionally second-guess ourselves: "Is everything that we do with these kids actually changing their lives? Will any of it stick with them as they move on in life?" At a bonfire on the last day, all doubts were removed.

Blanc and Bernadin, two young men who are graduating high school, shared their testimonies. Blanc used to be the biggest troublemaker in his school, stealing money from younger students, terrorizing teachers, and wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. Now, he spends most of his free time at the church, making music and helping with whatever is happening. He is dirt poor but he loves to "Stop and pray for people who are really poor." Bernadin was your typical TV teenage boy, going to parties, drinking, and rebelling against his parents. But he turned his life around when he realized that his younger brother was leading a better life than he and was losing respect for him. He told us, in tears, how hard it was to leave his old friends, but that God has blessed him through the youth group with new friends who are like brothers. One of our most reliable kids, he is now a serious student, a peer leader, and a model son and older brother.

I'm not kidding. If you haven't considered it already, you should think about becoming a youth leader too!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Climb every mountain

On our first morning at Zanglais, we got up with the sun to climb the mountain that overlooks the bay. A dozen kids stormed the top and explored and reveled in the views from high above. How a morning like that makes me wish that I lived in the country!