Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Lesson In Satisfaction

These past few weeks I’ve kept busy with cooking, cleaning, and repair projects around the house, not counting the time and energy I daily invest in my husband and kids. Without meaning to my morning devotional time began to slip. As the task list increased, it didn’t take long for me to begin skipping it altogether. 

I soon grew impatient, restless, insensitive and dissatisfied. I tried to fill the void growing inside me with things; a new dress, a book, a belt. They made me happy for a little while, but after hanging the dress in the closet, finishing the book and wearing the belt a few times I felt the same way again. 

One day as I was cleaning my Tupperware cupboard and dreaming up the next thing that might make me happy I was suddenly reminded of the words of Psalm 90:14. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days

As I pondered these words I guiltily realized what I was doing. I was looking for satisfaction everywhere except in Him. 

Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. 

Weren’t those the words Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well? Getting up I opened my Bible and found the words in John 4:13-14. 

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 

This is true, I marveled. The material things of this world can’t satisfy me for long. I’ve experienced that first hand. 

Picking up my journal where for the past two years I’ve been recording my Bible memory verses I read these words:

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22& 23 

There was that love, joy, patience, gentleness, and peace I’d been missing lately! 

But God? I wondered. Isn’t my busyness legitimate? 

Remember Martha and Mary. 

I looked it up and found this recorded in Luke 10:38-42 

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

That answered that question! 

So now, every morning I once again spend time at His feet. 

O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” I repeat softly as I sit. 

And He does.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You Never Know What You Will Wake Up To

January 11, 2013 (6 days ago)

“Mama, mama, waa!” Friday morning crept in dark and early, just like any other morning, without a single hint of the events about to transpire nearby. 

I sleepily roll over and open my eyes. Through the screened patio doors I can see the sky outside is just transition from black to gray. Sitting up, I reach over and turn my fan off; always conscious of conserving power.

Not too excited about getting up at this time I pull on my clothes and dig my glasses out of the bathroom drawer. Trying to insert contact lenses in my bleary eyes at this hour is simply too painful.

In the boys’ room I find Justin standing up in his crib chattering unintelligible to his big brother. As soon as he spots me he frantically waves his arms begging to be picked up. “Mamamama.” 

“Mom, look at what I’m doing! This pirate called Blackbeard is just hanging from the sail!” Jayden, playing on the floor with his pirate ship begins to chatter now too.  

“Mommy’s still waking up honey. How about you show me a little later?” He nods.

Picking Justin out of his crib I carry him to the playroom couch.  Jayden follows close behind. Cuddling with the boys and their favourite blankets we wait for the sun to rise.

At 6:20 a.m. Jason joins us. More awake now, I get to work making breakfast and lunches. As I open the front door for him to leave I notice dirty smoke billowing upwards. Ugh. This constant burning trash has got to be the worst thing about living here. I sigh.  Closing the door behind him I get to work helping Jayden get ready for school.

A little later my cell phone rings. It’s a friend and neighbour letting me know about the protests happening nearby. “People are protesting on Delmas 83 due to lack of progress on the road construction there.” She tells me. “When we pick up Jayden for school we will take a detour to completely avoid that area.” 

I thank her for the information and then open my front door again. The smoke is still there and now I detect the acrid scent of burning rubber as well. Shots echo, mingling with the sounds of screaming and yelling. I close the door again and help Jayden finish packing his backpack. After going over his memory verses we pray. Today it’s particularly for protection and peace.

When I hear the honk at the gate signalling his ride is here I give him one extra hug.

“I love you sweetie.”

“I love you Mom.”

Reluctantly I let him go and then wave him off. Heading back inside I get online to see if I can find out any more details about the protest.

As the internet slowly loads a networking sight I ponder the situation. Although I know protesting is never the answer, I do sympathize with the plight of those living on Delmas 83. Two and a half years ago the government gave notice to everyone living on that road to move their walls back in order to widen and improve the road. There was no compensation for that expense. Those who didn’t comply simply had their security walls demolished. Almost 2 years later, heavy equipment was finally working on grating the road. City workers began to build sidewalks by hand. Several months ago the work simply stopped and nothing more was done. Now with the long period of drought we’ve been experiencing here in Port au Prince, driving on Delmas 83 is comparable to what I imagine driving through the Sahara Desert in a dust storm is like. The clouds of dust that are kicked up by the vehicles traveling up and down that road are simply incredible. The dust is so bad many walking that stretch have resorted to wearing dust masks. Never mind the houses on that street that have to deal with the daily coating of ever increasing layers of dust.   

The website finally loads and I quickly make a brief scan of the information I find. To get the governments attention, those living in that area blocked the road with burning tires, branches and rubble. Any vehicles ignoring the barriers could expect a rock through their window. Police were on the scene shooting tear gas into the crowd. 

As time ticks on the sounds diminish.

When it’s time for me to pick up the kids at school at 2:45 p.m. I no longer see any signs of smoke or hear any shots or screaming. Unsure of the route to take to avoid the area completely I decide to see if the main road has become passable once again.   

A few turns later I’m inching up the steep incline just below Delmas 83. To the left of me I see blackened pavement and burned tire treads.

Turning the corner I can hardly believe my eyes. 

‘Attention Hommes au travail,’ (attention men at work) reads a sign as heavy machinery grates and smooths the road once again. 
 

 

They are actually working on the road!

Slowing down to watch them work I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement.  I travel Delmas 83 on a daily basis and it will be so nice to have it finally paved and dust free!

 What are the implications of this? The thought strikes me and my excitement sobers. I know the issue with the road is legitimate but what kind of message does it send to the people? If you want something done burn tires and throw rocks at vehicles?

Life can be crazy here sometimes. You just never know what you will wake up to.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Remembering

3 Years Ago   

January 12, 4:59 p.m.
I poke at a meatball in the pan to check if it's ready. Looks good!  Satisfied, I reach for the oven mitts and move the sturdy black pan from the stove to the counter. It smells delicious! Golden sunlight streams in through the kitchen windows adding a serene glow to the peaceful setting. It’s another beautiful afternoon in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Suddenly I hear a rumbling sound. Those dump trucks going up and down our street are certainly getting annoying.

The rumble gets louder and louder; then the sand coloured tiles beneath my feet begin to shake.

What is going on? Is this an earthquake? Haiti doesn’t have earthquakes! Hurricanes, riots, political unrest, sure, but not earthquakes!

The shaking increases in intensity and so does the noise.  Between the rumbling, rattling and tinkling I hear the sound of thousands screaming “Jezi! Jezi!” My heart fills with fear. 

Terrified I stumble towards the kitchen doorway.

In the doorway I stop. Through the clouds of dust I can see my husband staggering towards me, his face white with shock.

“Where’s Jayden?” I scream. Our two year old son is nowhere to be seen.

Jason turns around as the floor continues to buckle and wave. Losing his balance he drops down on all fours and begins to crawl back towards the living room. The seconds drag on and on.

Where are they? Is Jayden okay? "Please God, let them be okay."

Through the clouds of concrete dust I strain to see any sign of the two people who mean the most to me. Suddenly they emerge. My heart leaps.

The danger hasn’t passed yet though. The ground continues to rumble and shake. I hear the sound of shattering glass mingling with the screams of thousands of people.

 “Doorways are safer!” I yell over the noise and Jason nods. Covering Jayden we crouch under the doorway. 

Closing my eyes tightly I pray without words. No words are needed. God is here with us, amidst the rumbling, shaking and screaming. He is an ever present help in trouble.

We remain there in a tight cluster, one small family; until finally, thankfully, the shaking subsides.

One Year Later

For a year I pondered the question that many have pondered when tragedies happen

Why? 

Here is what God taught me during that time:

There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:11

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:33
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17

And call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Psalm 50:15
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.1 Corinthians 13:12
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35
and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Revelations 22:20

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I May Have Used the Only Toilet

"Excuse me Sir. I was just wondering where your bathroom is?” I innocently direct my question to the director of the school on the Island of La Gonave, just off the coast of Haiti. It’s December 26 and we are wrapping up the feeding program we participated in for 50 of his 300 students.

The director looks at me uncomfortably for a moment and I watch amused as a handful of construction labourers stop what they are doing and stare.

“Is it a number one or number two?” He responds in perfect English. My mind goes blank. Number one or number two? What?

“Oh, I just have to pee,” I respond, blushing slightly, unaware of the dilemma I’ve just created. Watching him I can tell he is struggling to respond but I haven’t grasped the problem yet. This is a school after all. They have to have a bathroom somewhere!

“Eske ou gen papye twalet?” (Do you have any toilet paper?) He turns to the group of construction labourers still gawking and one nods. Reaching into his dirty pocket he pulls out a tiny square and holds it gingerly towards me.

Struggling not to laugh I shake my head. “I have some,” I tell them, and watch as he carefully puts the tiny square back into his pocket.

Was it just lack of toilet paper that was the problem?

“Follow me.” The director turns to me and I comply. We head out of the school, out the front gate and through a maze of streets until we stop at an open door of a small concrete home.

“Bonswa!”(Good evening!) the director yells.

A large woman is sitting in the front room on a bed surrounded by a few children. From the conversation I gather she is not family, but a distant acquaintance.

“Can this ‘blan’ use your bathroom?” he asks her. Without acknowledging my existence she nods. One of the kids shows me the way through a narrow hallway. At the bathroom entrance I stop. There is no door!

Thankfully the child and the director, who had followed us, retreat back to the front room and I can use it privately. It doesn’t flush though. When I’m finished the director comes with a bucket of water to pour into the toilet to flush it manually. Not wanting to add to the already awkward situation by standing around and watching, I quickly thank the lady, who still doesn’t acknowledge me, and make my way back through the twisted streets to the school.

Back at home in Port au Prince, curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to do some research on toilets, or rather the lack thereof, on the Island of La Gonave.

Here is what I found:
Consider this...essentially no households on La Gonave have a flush toilet and, astonishingly, fewer than 10% of the 10,000 families on the island of La Gonave, Haiti have even a basic outhouse latrine. This, in a land where diarrheal illnesses (e.g. typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, etc.) are one of the leading causes of death.* Urination and defecation are done on the surface of the ground wherever and whenever the need presents itself, and without regard to, or even the understanding of the consequences to health and disease. 

It’s obvious - any serious effort at restoring health and dignity bringing lasting change to La Gonave must start here, at this most basic level of human sanitation and hygiene. 

OUR VISION: A working latrine for every household on La Gonave. 

TOTAL NEEDED TO GET THE JOB DONE: 10,000 family latrines. 

As we move about the La Gonave’s villages, one of our starting points is educating their people on the importance of having a family latrine in order to prevent disease. All too aware of the ravages of cholera, villagers have been extremely receptive when we tell them how basic sanitation and hygiene measures can prevent the disease. 

Relieved to know that they can basically choose not to get cholera, they are taking us up on our challenge to them to build a latrine. We have put out a challenge to them; if they will dig a deep latrine pit, we will provide them with the concrete with which they can build a base and toilet stool. We allow them to house their latrine, then, with whatever materials fits (corrugated tin, palm fronds, etc.). 

The response has been overwhelming. So far, over 1,000 latrines have been built and are now in use with several small villages boasting 100% latrine use! This in a land where fewer than 10% of homes have latrines. 
• $20 will buy the materials to build a latrine for one peasant family 
• $2,000 will provide latrines for an entire 100-family village

** Please consider your part in helping us send shock waves throughout Haiti by making the island of La Gonave, the only part of Haiti where every single family has a working latrine! 

*Some 580,000 people have suffered from cholera, and more than 7,400 people have died from cholera since it showed up in Haiti two years ago. 

 Reading this I am stunned. I may have very well used the only, almost flush toilet, on the whole island! 

Obviously, there is still a lot to be done! If you want to help with this very useful project just visit this website: http://www.starfysh.org/current-projects/latrines  and remember; don’t take your toilet for granted!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Northern Haiti Adventures

Our Northern Haiti adventures began on December 28. 

Jason flew us northwesterly and we landed on a dirt runway in Ouanaminthe (pronounced Wanam├ęt).


As you can tell by the crowd, planes didn't land here very often.

As soon as we disembarked we were surrounded. Many of the kids had never seen a white baby before, and they crowded around to get a closer look.

Matt, a friend and fellow missionary we had know from Pignon, who had since then relocated to Fort Liberty, came to pick us up. Since a friend of his had crossed the Dominican border to purchase a mattress we followed suite.

It was free market day, meaning Haitians could cross partway into the DR to purchase supplies without passports, and the border crossing was packed!



It was incredible to see what had all been purchased and was now making its way back into Haiti.


On the other side we were once again awed by the smooth roads, pretty stores, and the yellow dividing lines on the road. What a difference between the two countries.


Once we had safely secured the mattress on the roof of the suburban we crossed the border back into Haiti and traveled north to Fort Liberty. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the Paulous group housing project where we would spend the night.


Jayden soon found a whole group of missionary and Haitian kids to play with. He had a grand time.


At night we watched the full moon rise in all her splendor.


The following morning we did some sight seeing around the area.


There was a lot of beautiful things to see.


Once we finished our touring we drove back to the little dirt strip and waited as Jason readied the plane for our next destination.


Once airborne we circled over the housing project where we had spent the previous day.


Nearing Cap Haitian, the second largest city in Haiti, we were pleased to see a tree planting project below.


A few minutes later Cap Haitian came into sight. 



Although the airport terminal was small, there was definitely signs that an expansion was in progress.


A driver, Jason had prearranged, was waiting for us outside, ready to take us to a small boutique hotel on the beach.


Nestled between mountains and ocean it was a quaint little place; perfect for a few days of resting and relaxation.


After depositing our bags in our rooms, the boys hit the beach.





With coral just meters off shore, we took turns snorkeling and exploring the reefs.


The water was perfect!


That night, after a tasty meal, we toured the grounds and photographed some of God`s beautiful flowers.


On Monday morning we flagged down some motorbikes outside of the hotel and made the short trip up to the nearby cruise port.


Mom and Dad were a little nervous, as prior to this trip they had never ridden on motorcycles before, but the drivers drove slowly and carefully and they soon began to relax (somewhat).

Labadee, the cruise port, was spectacular.


Beautiful beaches, lots of activities and delicious food.



Jason somehow managed to talk his parents into trying the worlds longest zip line over water.





They said spending time with us made them age rapidly. What can we say?

Back at the hotel we watched the cruise ship come around the bend and head on out to her next destination.


All good things come to an end, and on January 2 it was time to head back to the Cap Haitian airport.


We stared out the windows as the city slowly disappeared beneath us. 



Landing back in Ouanaminthe we were once again greeted by a crowd.


Another friend of ours was there to meet us and take us across the border into the Dominican so Mom and Dad could visit Anthony, Sherilyn and family there. 

On the drive the two brothers played with the sword and sheath we had purchased for them at a souvenir shop in Labadee.


Once we said our goodbyes we crossed back into Haiti and returned to the Ouanaminthe airstrip.

Waiting for his daddy to finish loading the airplane, little Justin balanced on the seat and waved goodbye to the kids crowded around the plane. 



Till next time!