Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whirl Wind Week

Random words whirl through my mind but I'm still at a bit of a loss on how to describe this last week. Incredible? Amazing? Even life changing for some. Words fall short. Pieces of conversations, emotions, and memories blend together, making it difficult to put it in words. Sure, I know the stats. 13 houses completed. 400 children fed. Over a hundred pairs of shoes handed out. A 1000 articles of clothing distributed. And most importantly, 185 Bibles given out. But how can I describe what it was like to hug Jen, a fatherless boy, always angry and mean, who cried and covered his eyes just because I broke through his armor and showed him I cared? Or the way Joceleyn's eyes lit up at the possibility of having her own Bible? Or clearly seeing God working in the lives of members of our team? It's been truly an incredible time experiencing Haiti with a team of nine people we barely knew and growing so close in such a short time. Seeing time and time again evidence of God working in and around us. To be part of this was truly beautiful and although you may not get an opportunity to experience Haiti like they did, these pictures will give you some idea of what it was like.

Watching them drive away this morning all piled up in the pickup truck, I knew they each had their own story to tell, but it was special to know that for one week their stories were intertwined with ours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Haiti Housing Report

10 houses complete. 57 people now have a place to call home.

I look at the filthy stream and then at Shelley.

She takes off her sandals and wades across, so I follow her example. I clutch my bag in one hand and my flip flops in the other. Today is report taking time. Armed with my camera and notebook we visit each one of the ten homes that MAF has funded and write down the information. With the help of a team from our home town Chilliwack, BC, each home is now completed and all the families have moved in. Since the homes are spread out over a large area we hike a trail on the side of the mountain, walk through ditches and gullies and cross over polluted streams.

Everywhere we go we are welcomed and each family proudly shows us their home.

“How many people sleep in your house?” I ask each family and am amazed at some of the replies. “11 people,” A girl tells me as she sits on the concrete porch rocking her baby.

"Eleven, really? Wow, that’s incredible."

“Can you spell your name for me," I ask a young woman who tells me her name is Faswas.
She shakes her head. She can’t write or spell. “But my son Donaldson is going to school," She tells me proudly.

What a blessing these homes are to these people, who now live in a town fondly dubbed Chilliwack.

Shelley can't help but laugh as she holds up the sign.

“Thank you, thank you,” I hear over and over again as we go from one house to the next.

Once we’ve visited each home and I’ve taken down all the information I need, Shelley and I head back to the Apparent Project. Eight new prefabricated homes have just arrived today and are now sitting in pieces, waiting to be put up. With 8 more coming next week that makes a total of 26 homes MAF will put up. Working together with the Haitian people a team of 9 people from Chilliwack hope to arrive November 23. How exciting to be part of this, to have opportunities to witness while working alongside the people.
To help the poor who’ve lived in tents for 10 months now, and learn from them.

Monday, November 22, 2010


If you would like an email copy of our latest newsletter regarding the housing project we are working on, and MAF's involvement with the cholera outbreak, please email us at jwkrul@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Like Old Times

I push open the small door inside the gate and step through. Dana follows close behind me. Brittany's already here and since there's only one empty seat inside the truck's cab I hop in the back. Jasons' home today since he worked Saturday so it works out great that I can leave Jayden with him. Sitting on the edge of the truck I hold on tight as Brittany fights the potholes and dips in the road. I soon decide to lean a little forward so I don't lose my balance and flip off the side. The sun is comfortably warm as it shines down on me but the roads are dry and dusty so I blink rapidly to keep the dust out of my contacts. We are heading to Child Hope International. Dana's here for a one week visit and she's excited about helping out at the feeding program that she managed for almost a year. It's been several months since I've helped out there due in part to my busy guest housing schedule, and in part to the fact that there's no MAF vehicles available during the day. Thankfully Brittany, another one of my friends, has agreed to pick us up so we could attend. After 15 minutes we arrive at the orphanage and it's fun to see how excited the kids are to see Dana who's been gone for 5 months.

They crowd around her and hug her and ask how long she's staying. When they hear it's only one week I can see they are disappointed, and I understand how they feel. You just have to appreciate the time you have, I remind myself.

I soon get to work organizing the kids so they can participate in games, listen to Bible stories and pray. Once that's going smoothly, I find a spot next to Brittany and spend some time catching up with her. When the kids are finished and the food is ready I get up and help hand out the plates of rice and beans and tin cups of water.

No matter how often I do this, it's still always touching to see how thankful the children are for their food, and how quickly they eat it.

Once the food and water have all been handed out I spend some time just talking to the kids and patting their shoulders. The kids always love to talk and get very excited when there is a "blan"(white person) who can speak Creole. Many also crave affection and will pull on your arms until you pick up and hug them. What if that was Jayden? I think to myself as I pick up another little child and hold them in my arms. I can't imagine him being so desperate for affection that he would go up to a stranger and beg to be held. I hug one child and then another until it's time to head home. Driving back, my heart breaks as the faces of the children fill my thoughts. Oh Haiti, what a hard place for these kids to grow up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Walking Talking Wash Machine

I bet you've never had your wash machine talk back? I did. What did my machine say? It said, "Hey, that's my blanket! Don't wash that. Let me take that out!"

My wash machine really enjoys washing. "This is so fun," my machine keeps telling me, as we both jump up and down covered in soap suds. By the time the wash cycle is done soap suds cover the bathroom floor, walls, and toilet seat. Sigh, I must admit it's messier than most.
What is great about my machine is that it's very energy efficient! No big city power bills, not for us, just peanut butter bread and chocolate milk.
Once the machine is finished the wash cycle it does the rinse cycle in a fancy blue wash bin.

Washing clothes is hard work. When my machine gets tired it says, "I'll just lay down for a minute Mom."

I love my little wash machine!

Princess Jocemine

Isn't she the cutest girl ever!

Monday, November 8, 2010

She's back!

It's 6:30 Sunday night and already dark outside. As I put the last few dishes in the cupboard I hear a knock on the gate. Maybe it's Denise? The thought flashes through my mind but I hardly dare hope. We have been unable to contact her since Friday morning and with no money how could she get back? Still curious, and half hoping I crack open the front door and slip out into the darkness. Anoud has already opened the little door in the gate and I hear voices on the other side. Walking towards the gate a voice that sounds just like Denise's reaches my ears. I run the last few steps as the little door cracks open. Sure enough there she is. I run towards her and give her a hug. "Mwen sal twop." (I'm too dirty) she protests, but I don't care. Am I ever happy to see her back. "I prayed so much for you Denise," I tell her, "and I'm so happy to see you. But how did you get back?" "Well after the tap tap that was supposed to take me back to Port au Prince turned around and didn't refund my money, I had exactly enough left for one more ticket. So I promised myself, no matter how hungry I got, I wouldn't use it for food, because otherwise I'd never get back home." I take a step back and look her over as she steps under the light. Wow, she really is dirty. Black unruly hair sticks out in all directions around her head. Dirt smudges her face and arms. Her clothes are filthy and clearly portray how thin she's become. "Ou tro piti Denise!" (You're too small/skinny") I exclaim, and she laughs at me. "Mwen pa mange anyen." ( I didn't eat anything) she replies matter of factly. Anoud lifts the sack of whats left of her belongings and she makes her way up the steps. The kids who've been singing for days "Mama ap vini" (Mom is coming") seem happy to see her, but she insists on washing up before touching them. As soon as her belongings are put away she gets to work heating some water. "Let me do that for you I tell her and take the pot out of her hands. I'll make you something to eat too, you go sit down." She laughs at my bossy tone, and then thanks me. I quickly get to work boiling water for her bath, making grilled cheese sandwiches, ice tea, and for dessert a big piece of reeces pieces chocolate square. As soon as everything is ready I hand over the food and she finally sits down to eat. Once she's finished I question her more about her trip. "How come you didn't just fly back from Jeremie?" is my first questions. "I couldn't hear Mr. Jason on the phone when he was talking to me," is the reply. "All I could hear was loud rushing noises." "Were you scared during the storm?" "I was really scared, and the bus station, or tap tap rendezvous, was right by a river and it kept rising and rising." "Where did you sleep?" There was a little building where they parked the tap taps at night, that's where I slept, but it was so horribly dirty." She shudders. "The first night we tried to get back, our tap tap got stuck on the side of the road, so we all slept sitting up in the tap tap." I sigh. I honestly can not imagine what that would be like. "If I don't go back to visit Jeremie for another five years that's soon enough for me," she then tells me. "Next time we just have to time it right with flights," I tell her. "Five years is a long time to not see your family!" She agrees, and then I ask her more about her visit. I'm happy to hear her family is doing well health wise. Her Dad although "very old" according to her, still has a garden to supply food for the family. "My Mom bought a goat with part of the money I gave her," she tells me proudly. "What is she planning to do with the goat?" I ask. "Well, it's their emergency fund. In case of an emergency they can sell it and get a good price for it or they can eat it and use it for food." I'm quite impressed by this since most people don't plan ahead. "I bet it was nice to see them and your brothers and sisters." "Yes," she replies, "the visit was really nice, but the trip, well that's another story." She then looks closer at me, as if to see if I've worked myself to the bone while she was gone. "I really worried about you doing all the laundry by yourself," she tells me. Seriously? She's stuck in a hurricane and she's worrying about how I can do all the laundry by myself? "Well scrubbing hours by hand didn't go so great," I finally reply, "but then Christine came over and helped me with her wash board and rapid washer, and I've just heard about a new, even better method. "What's that?" she asks curiously. "Fill the bath with water and soap, put the laundry in and let Jayden jump on it." "No way!" She exclaims. "Oh yes," I reply grinning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A New Day

I shift in bed trying to find a more comfortable position. On one side I knock into an elbow, on the other side a small head. Jayden must have crawled in sometime during the night. I give both him and Jason a little shove till I have some breathing room and then just lay still and listen. Water pours out of the gutters unable to keep up with the torrential rain falling from the sky. It's still dark and I'm not sure what time it is. It feels like it's been coming down for hours. I worry about those in the tent cities and low lying areas. Our house is built a little higher up so everything just flows down into the streets, but what about those in the ravines and tent cities? Unable to sleep I spend time in prayer. Eventually I doze off. Several hours later we all wake up from Jason's cell phone alarm. It's time for him to get ready for work. Once I've helped him prepare his lunch he leaves for the airport. He calls me once he arrives and tells me that although Port au Prince didn't get a lot of wind damage, there is a lot of water everywhere due to the heavy rains. Although many previously booked flights had been canceled there are many new requests so he says he will be flying to some of the different villages and cities in Haiti. "That will give me a chance to see if any other parts of Haiti have any storm damage or flooding," he tells me. I once again inquire if he heard anything from Denise, but other then the call yesterday afternoon where we could hear her, but she couldn't here us, we've been unable to reach her. "Her cellphone battery is most likely dead, and she left her charger here," Anoud tells us. Without being able to contact her we can't organize a pick up for her. Later when I talk to Anoud again he tells me she does have other family living in Jeremie that she can stay with. I'm glad to hear it and tell him we will keep working on trying to reach her.
An hour later Christine calls to see if I want help hand washing clothes. What a great friend! A little later she comes with a washboard and a rapid washer, which looks a little like a plunger. Working together with these two apparatuses the work gets done a lot quicker. Jayden is quite taken with the "rabbit washer" as he calls it, and I soon take advantage of his interest.

As we work the sun starts to break through the clouds that have been covering the city for days and we enjoy its rays. Everything looks sparkling and fresh in the light. A new day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hurricane Tomas

It's 3:00 a.m., Saturday morning, and I slowly open my eyes. In the stillness of our bedroom, I can still hear the rain outside. It's been raining steadily since 2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Jason stirs beside me and then gets up. Too exhausted I hardly have the energy to move but he returns a few moments later with his computer. "Look at the eye of the hurricane here." he shows me a satellite image which shows Hurricane Tomas is just coming over the south western tip of Haiti, where Jeremie is.
I sigh. Poor Denise. Last week Friday she left for Jeremie with a sack full of items she purchased for her family and the money she had earned making necklaces, to give them. On Tuesday she called to say she was leaving and was waiting at the tap/tap rendezvous. On Thursday she was still waiting. Since MAF was doing a flight to Jeremie Thursday afternoon Jason called her to say to get a short ride to the airport instead and they could pick her up. This way she would be back in Port au Prince in under an hour. She told him she would think about it, but had already paid her fare, 500 Goudes, ($12.50 USD) for her trip in the tap tap. "I will try to get my money back," she said. Hours later she called to say that the driver was unwilling to refund the money so she opted for an 18 hour Tap Tap ride, instead of a 50 minute, free airplane ride. I honestly don't know what she was thinking. Hours later she called again to say the roads had become impassable and the tap tap had turned around, could she still catch the airplane? No, It was to late. The airplane had already come and gone. "But now I don't have any money left and I haven't eaten all day," she told Jason. "Plus my family lives on the other side of the mountains so I can't walk back there again."
Which means she is now stuck in the middle of nowhere in the eye of a hurricane. Seeing the satellite images, I get on my knees and beg God to keep her safe, to provide a shelter somewhere for her, for kind strangers to take her in, and for her safe return to her family here. All the uncertainty and stress of not knowing what's going to happen in the next hours as Hurricane Tomas comes closer to Port au Prince begins to take it's toll. As I begin to doze off the words of Psalm 32 that we had read earlier come back to me and comfort me. "For this shall everyone that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. 7 Thou are my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble, thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone

I'm sure that applies to much of life, but right now I'm specifically thinking "wash machine". How long should it take to wash 2 loads of laundry? Hmm, let me see, put the wash in, turn the knob to the right cycle and power on. 2 minutes max? How about 4.5 hours later, bleeding skinned knuckles, 72 mosquito bites, and aching shoulders and back? Okay, I really have nothing to complain about, people here do it all the time, but still, like I said, "You really don't know what you've got till it's gone."
Let me back up. About a month ago the wash machine started smoking, smelling like burned rubber and then blew off it's belt and came to a grinding halt. Jason spent a lot of time opening up the machine, replacing the belt, and then troubleshooting and researching why it still didn't work.

He finally decided it needed new bearings, but all though we've worked together for hours trying to get the old bearings out, they are stuck on tight and nothing we've tried or researched has been successful. With all the guests and teams that we will be housing in the next weeks, we've stepped up the pace to search for a new one here, but so far that's been pretty disappointing. For the cheapest, lowest-end model, $790 USD just seems too high. So while we brainstorm ideas, I scrub everything by hand.

Once each inch of clothing has been soaped and scrubbed, it then gets placed in rinse basin number one. Once it's gone through rinse number one, it goes into rinse basin number two, after that it's rung out, towels are especially fun for this, and then shaken out and hung up.

I have to admit though, this is really limiting the amount of clothes we put in the laundry basket. Once you realize how much time it takes to wash, you think twice before putting it in.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trip to the ER

Friday, Oct 29

It’s 5:00 a.m. and I slowly open my eyes. Our room is still dark and I wonder for a moment what woke me. It is then that I hear Jason in our bathroom and it’s obvious that he is sick. I close my eyes for a moment and get this sinking feeling in my chest. We’ve been back in Haiti for less than 48 hours. Can he really get sick that fast? With Cholera on everyone’s mind any sign of sickness is scary. Still half asleep, I slowly get up to see if there’s anything I can do for him. “Can I help you?” I ask. “I’ll be okay,” He replies. “I just need to get back in bed.” Once he’s back in bed I go back to the bathroom and spend some time washing and rewashing my hands. I then find the bottle of hand sanitizer and use that as well. “I guess I’d better call and tell the guys you won’t be going to work,” I tell Jason, and he nods. Once I’ve placed the call, I find the Gatorade powder and make Jason something to drink. After drinking some of it, he dozes off and I go help Jayden get dressed.

Later that day, Jason comes in and out of bed, drinks more Gatorade and tea, and also eats some toast. Although he still makes many a trip to the bathroom he doesn’t feel really sick.

Saturday, Oct 30

1:00 p.m.

Jayden is napping and Jason had been keeping food and drink in for several hours so I decide to make a quick, much needed run to the grocery store. Just after I arrive, Jason calls, telling me he is now vomiting as well, and has fainted in the bathroom. “Please hurry and come back Will. I don’t know if I can get back in bed and I feel so sick.” I make a quick phone call to Dr. Ed, who, since all the hospitals we would normally go to have shut down after the earthquake, finally suggests I take him to the Bernard Ves hospital. Back at home, I find Jayden still sleeping and Jason back in bed. When I suggest taking him to the Bernard Ves Hospital, he refuses. “We’ve never been to that hospital and who knows what kind of level of care there is there.” He reasons. Unsure of what to do, I decide to call our Program Manager who tells me if we do decide to go to the hospital, he will drive us.

6:30 p.m.

Jason’s stomach is now cramping so bad he is in terrible pain. He’s also hardly keeping any fluids in and is bleeding. Right then I make the decision to take him to the hospital. Jason no longer protests, and seeing how weak and sick he is, I know it has to be bad. I make a quick phone call to our Program Manager who promises to be right over. I then call my friend and fellow MAF wife Christine to see if she can take Jayden. While on the phone the seriousness of the situation hits me and I can hardly make myself understood through my tears. After hanging up I pray again to God for Jason’s health and also for peace and calm in my heart to deal with the situation. Feeling better I quickly get to work packing my purse with water, snacks and money. I then get Jayden changed into his pajamas and pack an overnight bag for him. Shortly afterwards our Program Manager arrives and I help Jason and Jayden into the truck. We leave a very worried Anoud behind, who is currently taking care of his three kids on his own since Denise is visiting her parents in Jeremie. The streets are dark since there is little street lighting. Christine lives close by and it only takes a minute before we’ve stopped at her gate. I call her cell phone and a few seconds later she opens the gate. I pass Jayden to her who at first is very happy to see her but then begins to cry as I leave without him. After giving him a quick hug and kiss I head back to the truck. Since none of the other MAF staff has ever been to the Bernard Ves hospital we now rely entirely on the information that Dr. Ed had given me earlier to find it. Thankfully we are able to find the hospital with little difficulty but are surprised to see the sign that says “University of Miami Field Hospital” attached to the gate. At the gate we are let in and immediately approached by an American Doctor. After several questions he determines that Jason does not have Cholera and does not need to be isolated. In the emergency room there is one bed open so Jason is immediately admitted. American Doctors and Nurses mill around inside and we are greeted in English. Nurse Brad gets to work filling out paperwork and getting Jason comfortable.

Shortly after Dr. Jeff Daniel hooks Jason up to an IV. After asking numerous questions the Doctor decides that Jason has a bacterial infection and prescribes Cipro. While waiting for the prescription and for Jason to get pumped full of two bags of IV, we get a chance to talk to the Doctors and Nurses and examine the ER a little more closely. We find out that this team of Doctors and Nurses had just arrived that afternoon into Port au Prince and are here to work for 7 days before getting replaced by another team. Because they just arrived they have a hard time finding where everything is stored and kept. A team of translators work with the Doctors, so patients can be diagnosed. In the bed beside Jason lies a man who we find out has Typhoid and Malaria. After getting his prescriptions he is helped by a friend out the door, and a teenage girl is led in with a deep cut in her knee cap. Apparently her boyfriend was jealous of her talking to some other guy and attacked her with a broken ceramic plate. She’s all alone and I feel really sorry for her. Looking around the ER I watch with interest as one Nurse spends all his time trying to organize paperwork. Observing him I’m certain he has a “C” type personality and has a difficult time functioning in a disorganized environment. Nurse Brad who keeps checking up on Jason has a bandanna tied around his head and with his tattoos and little dance moves reminds me more of a Rock Star than anything else.

“How you doing Bro?” He keeps asking Jason, and I do my best to hide my smile. Doctor Jeff offers me a camping chair to sit on beside Jason’s bed and I note that it is one of the only chairs around. From my vantage point I carefully observe the ER. Duck tape labels are pasted all over the place and hastily scribbled descriptions explain what is supposed to be in the various cupboards and drawers. The floor, although not terribly dirty, does boast its share of muddy foot prints. Under Jason’s bed I spot a small container of spit, or is it vomit? All in all though, for a Hospital in Haiti, I’m impressed. The care really is just incredible. The Doctor himself even walks over to the pharmacy to fill Jason’s prescriptions. While he’s gone, another Doctor spends some time telling us more about the Cholera Epidemic. So far they’ve narrowed the source down to the Artibonite River and have warned people to no longer use that water for drinking, washing food or bathing. Cholera is not spread from person to person, but from eating or drinking contaminated water and food, or touching contaminated feces. So far the only five cases reported in Port au Prince are from people who had traveled from the Artibonite River area. Cholera is treatable simply by hydrating the patients. “If you stick with bottled water, and boil your vegetable, you should be fine.” The Doctor finishes and we thank him for the information. Shortly after Dr. Jeff Daniel returns with Jason’s medication. After explaining when to take them and how often and when to return if symptoms worsen or change, we are free to go. All medical care and medicine is given free of charge. With fluid levels back up, Jason is feeling much better and is even able to walk back to the truck unassisted. Driving home, I thank God for his care and for the wonderful care Jason received at the hospital. After picking up a sleeping Jayden at Christine’s we head on back to our house. We find an anxious Anoud pacing at the gate who when I tell him Jason is doing better raises his hands and says “Mesi Bondi, Mesi Bondi!” I whole heatedly agree. Back inside I’m happy to note we finally have city power again after over a week, and that it’s only just after 10:00 p.m. What a day.