Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tour of my quarters

Hello, and welcome to my life here in Haiti!

I live in what is considered to be THE nicest resort in Haiti. It has hotel accommodations for short-term guests and an apartment complex for long-term residents.

When I was driving from the airport to here, I was contemplating the poverty and desolation of the average home, and I started feeling a certain level of disdain for missionaries who lived in splendid quarters while the Haitians around them lived in that. I wondered what mission stations looked like, and wondered how anyone could be so insensitive and culturally inappropriate as to maintain the American lifestyle while trying to reach the Haitians.

Then I realized that I was one of those people. I was going to be staying at Club Indigo.


But the other side of that viewpoint is that "obedience is better than sacrifice." It's not necessarily more spiritual to live in poverty. My life is about doing what God calls me to do, and it doesn't really matter what form that takes or what it looks like, as long as I am walking in obedience to Him. If He calls me to live in America, fine, and if He calls me to live in Cité Soleil, fine. Privations and a Spartan attitude do not make missions more effective or the Gospel message more powerful.

For our first week, we were at Club Indigo almost every day, and I ceased to feel like I was even in Haiti. The only Haitians I came into contact with were the Club Indigo employees and our Haitian nannies. I had to make more of an effort to reach out and show an interest in the people around me, like our cleaning ladies, because I couldn't just go exploring out on the streets. How I longed to just mingle with the people and discover what their everyday life was like! But for safety reasons, this was not possible, and I didn't speak Creole anyway, so I just made it a point to use my new Creole every day on somebody on staff here.

It was hard to deal with this adjustment, especially once we started getting out and about a little more, visiting the creche every day, and having a little more contact with normal Haitian life. But I trust God that He has a purpose in it. Our primary role here is the rescuing and nurturing of abandoned children. (However, this is not to say that we have the attitude of "I'm here to teach, not to witness. Leave the evangelism to someone else.") However, Club Indigo itself is its own mission field, and we have ample testimony to live and speak a testimony of Christ before the employees, residents, and guests here. Perhaps later we will be called upon to live in a ramshackle hut that leaks when it rains, but for now, we're getting our feet wet and learning the ropes in Haiti while enjoying a gentler transition.

With that said, here is the basic idea of what kind of place I'm in.

Club Indigo from the outside
You go up these stairs (sorry I had to blur the baby--Hague rules forbid me from posting pictures of these kids)
Walk down this hallway.

Then walk down this hallway.

Open the door and go in. Welcome to my apartment!

You will appear in this hallway. The first door is the toilet, and the second is the shower & sink.
Here is my side of the room (I sleep on the double bed).

Here is the other side of the room. The apartments are a mirror image of each other.
Sink and shower area
Shower--and so far, the water has been hot every day!
Inside of the shower
Our other sink/shower room (we use this one for dish washing and baby bathing)
Closet area for hanging clothes, etc.
Closet area on the other half of the room
My shelf

Some of our books...riches!!!

View of the sea right out our windows

System for safe drinking water: Buy a bottle & install pump! The outside of the bottle might look a little iffy, but so far the water inside has been pure and has kept us healthy.

Baby bed
So there you have it! A brief tour of where I will be living for the next few months!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

No delay admitted

I have posted before and spoken often about my struggle to get up in the morning and give God the first part of my day. This is something He has asked me to do since 2006, and I have struggled and fought unsuccessfully for years before finally breaking through recently to a measure of victory. While I was at Ellerslie, my victory was unprecedented, but unfortunately, towards the end of the semester, I started letting things slide, and when I went home, I was again failing to get up in the morning.

Then I went to Haiti. I knew that I needed to jealously protect my intimacy with the Lord, but still, every morning would come and my tiredness would overcome my resolve to get up, and I indulged in sleep for the entire first week and a half. I still did my devotions later, but I knew I was being disobedient and not pressing in with all my strength, and I knew this would weaken me spiritually.

On Thursday, I went up to the roof of the creche to pray, and stayed there alone for about two hours, finally connecting with God and breaking through to the level of prayer that I had enjoyed at Ellerslie.

My little spot on the rooftop
Something dawned on me while I was talking with the Lord.

Getting up in the morning is my 19-dollar test!

(For a detailed explanation of the concept of the 19-dollar-test, listen to the message "The Anatomy of Faith" by Eric Ludy.)

Every day, I encounter the 19-dollar test, and every day I look within myself to see if I have what it takes to pass the test, and every day I come up empty. I have no "money in my pocket," so I fail. I have been beaten up by the 19-dollar test for about 6 years now. In that moment in the morning when the alarm clock goes off, I look within myself to see if I want to get up and spend time with Jesus, or if I want to keep sleeping. And without fail, in that moment of sleepiness, I can't find anything within me that wants to get up. So I decide to go back to sleep.

The problem is, I have been looking within myself to see if I had what it took to pass the test. You would think I would learn that I never do. I never did. I never will.

Of course! That was just it! I was coming up empty on my 19-dollar test, but there was no need to continue to do so, when God has provided the "$20 bill" of grace for me.

I must look to HIM for it.


View of the front of the creche from where I was sitting

It became crystal clear to me that pride was the cause of my failure, because in looking to myself, I was essentially saying, "I think I have what it takes, and I don't want to get it from God if I can do it myself." Even after 6 years, I was still holding out hope that I would develop the inner strength and resolve that I needed.


And it's so easy to look to Jesus for it! All you have to do is take Him at His word that He has provided the grace I need to obey Him. All you have to see is His omnipotence and authority to realize that He can do it.

So this morning, I was all excited. I was going to try something new when the alarm went off in the morning. I was going to look to Jesus for what it took to pass my 19-dollar test.

"Yes!" I thought. "I finally figured this out! I finally remembered how to get back up on my feet to toddle forward a few more steps!"

View from the back of the creche roof
So at 4:30 am, when my sleepy eyes refused to open and my will refused to cooperate with the idea of getting up, I looked to Jesus for the grace and strength I needed.

He gave it to me immediately! A rush of spiritual strength just infused my being. My tired eyes were superceded by the excitement of getting alone with Jesus, and my unwilling will became willing.

"Wow, thank you, God!" I exclaimed silently from my bed. "I'll use this in just a few minutes, after I just close my eyes for a second." (Can you believe that? Ah! How could I?)

His word impressed itself upon my heart in a quiet but forceful statement.

"I will permit no delay."

I thought about that. He had instantly given me my request. How ungrateful and horrible it would be of me to then keep Him waiting until my own good time before I used His grace.

And I got up.

Ah, the joy that flooded my soul as I met with the Savior and spent an hour of sweet fellowship and communion with Him! How much better it was to begin the day in obedience to Him! A song rose in my heart and put a lilt into my steps.

Hark! the Redeemer from on high
Sweetly invites His favorites nigh.
From clouds of darkness and of doubt
He gently speaks and calls us out. 

Come, my beloved, haste away, 
Cut short the hours of thy delay. 
Fly like a youthful hart or roe
Over the hills where spices grow. 

Thus I discovered that there were actually two halves to my constant failure in this area (which, to me, represents any kind of spiritual failure). One was looking to myself rather than to Jesus for what it took to obey. The other was delay and procrastination. Those two factors are like the two legs of progress. Get both of them standing up and operating, and you can walk forward into victory!

~ ~ ~

"If our Beloved cries, “Rise up My Love, My fair One, and come away,” let us not linger for an instant! If He cries “Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion,” let us arise in the power of His call and shade ourselves from the dust! At the first sound of Heaven’s bugle in the morning, let us leave the bed of carnal ease and go forth to meet our Lord and King. Herein is communion—the Lord draws us and we run after Him! He awakens us and we wake to serve Him! He restores our soul and our hearts praise Him!" 
--Charles Spurgeon, sermon #1255, "How to Converse with God."

Friday, September 28, 2012

What to do?

Every day brings its new adventure.

One of the toddlers in the creche who has HIV got a fever and was throwing up yesterday. Any illness is very dangerous to someone with HIV, so we brought her back to Club Indigo where she could be looked at by the pediatrician and be in an air conditioned room instead of the blazing heat.

Her fever was 103.7 when we took her temperature, and that was after her temperature came down due to  an Advil and air conditioning. Her pulse was 260. Her breathing rate was 78. She lay there, listlessly, her half-closed eyes barely seeing.

We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, trying to keep fluids down her, praying for her, and trying to make her comfortable.

What do you DO when you have no access to normal medical options? "Just take her to urgent care" isn't an option here.

At about 2:00 in the morning, after I had been praying for a good while, the Lord gave me Psalm 118:17. "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD." Her fever broke and her heart rate went down to 110. She was able to fall asleep. We went to bed and in the morning her temperature was normal and she was no longer throwing up.

Thank God that we serve a God who is powerful!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"The Least of These"

Mt. 25:40 "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

We are in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. What worth does Haiti have in the world's eyes? Even when you take the country as a whole, it's small, it's despised, it's the victim of prejudice and corruption, and it's full of crime and oppression and violent perverting of justice. It's one of the least attractive places to be.

Go down from the country as a whole to a single individual. One Haitian woman--what is she worth to the world? How much would she be valued, cherished, and honored by the world? Would she even merit a passing glance?

Go down from there to the baby in her womb. Unknown to her, the baby is a girl, which alone is enough cause to make her a second-class citizen. But on top of that, she is blind. And she has hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

[Hydrocephalus is frightening. Doing a search for "hydrocephalus" on Google images might give you nightmares. However, as gruesome as it looks, hydrocephalus does not have to be a terminal illness. In America, they simply put a shunt in your body that drains the fluid out. Babies survive hydrocephalus all the time. But in Haiti, where there is no money to pay for the surgery, it is a fearsome condition that leads to an early death.]

The baby was born to this unknown Haitian woman by C-section. And not even mother-love could induce her to keep it. The baby was abandoned in the hospital.

How much lower could you get on the totem pole of the world's esteem than by being Haitian, being a blind baby girl with hydrocephalus, and being abandoned as a newborn by your own mother? This child is literally "the least of these."

Our director heard about the baby and organized a rescue. She sent a Haitian nanny to feed her and care for her, because left alone in the hospital, she would have literally starved to death. (Hospitals here don't feed people.) Today a group of us went to the hospital to see her. We named her Grace. We petted her and prayed over her and held her. If she dies, she will die in someone's arms, with a full belly, surrounded by love and comfort and everything we can do to bless her with God's love. (So far, we haven't brought her home yet, because the paperwork is not complete to release her to the creche, but until then, we will be going in shifts to sit with her at the hospital, feed her, and love on her.)

I got to be among the group that went to the hopsital, and I felt like I was holding myself in. I had to steel my soul to bear the sight. I couldn't allow myself to feel anything. If I allowed sorrow and pity in, they would simply deluge my soul, and it would be too much. Uncertainty ("Can I touch it?") and revulsion ("Uh, that's really scary-looking") battled together in my soul, but finally succumbed to my efforts to repress them. I strengthened my resolve. "Be strong," I commanded myself, and came out of the hospital without any tears.

It was only when I had climbed into the back of the tap-tap and we were driving away that Jesus reminded me of something.

"I love that little girl."

And in that moment, something happened. Jesus invited me to share His love for her, and I allowed my hard exterior to break. I opened myself up, became vulnerable, and His love poured into my heart in such a gushing, abundant measure that my heart hurt. The tears came then. I received the piece of His heart that he shared with me, and though there was a deep-set agony about it, it was beautiful. I didn't naturally love our little Grace, and I tried to steel myself from the emotions--but I couldn't steel myself from His emotions. He gave me a glimpse into His heart: Kind, firm, tender, always loving, always upholding, always faithfully beating with love for the little one, the least, the last.

How upside-down is that?

The God I serve stoops to the lowest place and washes the feet of those whom the world despises.

Jesus is not looking for a celebrity to admire--He is looking for a little Haitian hydrocephalus baby to pour His love into.

And I got to play a part in being a channel of that love.

Thank you, precious Savior.

Our newest little rescued baby, Grace

Update: Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My new duties

Sorry about the lapse in posts. The internet has been down since last week. It goes down every time we have a thunderstorm, and so far, we've had a thunderstorm every night.

Our roles, which were somewhat up in the air at first ("just serve wherever you're most needed") have been more defined, although every day there is some new drama that arises and changes things up. Today's is that there is an abandoned hydrocephalus baby at the hospital that we are going to rescue. Hospitals don't feed people here (your relatives must take care of that for you), so until the baby gets released to the creche, we are organizing shifts of people to feed and change it. People said Haiti is unpredictable, and they were right.

Anyway, I had thought I might be assigned to work in a Christian school, and I will actually be the teacher for the older children at the creche. It is literally a one-room schoolhouse, with 15 children from age 4-12, at all different grade levels. I will be the only teacher, though Kate and Leann may assist in some ways (we haven't officially worked that out yet).

My one-room schoolhouse
When I heard that this was what I was going to do, I marveled. "Lord," I said, "What in the world? You must have looked everywhere on earth for the most challenging teaching opportunity that you could possibly give an uncertified teacher--and I am going to love it!" I was also slightly terrified. How could this ever work? But if a 15-year-old pioneer girl could do it on the prairie, then surely God can give me the strength and the grace and the resources to do it.

Yesterday I went to the creche yesterday for the first time and saw my new work. I met the kids and their current teacher, James, a Haitian who is going to the USA for 10 months to serve with His Little Feet. I saw the classroom and took a few pictures.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Club Indigo

They say this is THE nicest place in Haiti, and I believe it! 

The view from my bedroom window

The dining area

Place settings in the dining room

Salad bar

Fruit and vegetable display

Fresh grilled fish

Chocolate mousse desserts

Artistic tomato rose garnish on the rice

Decorations on the buffet table

A yummy avocado dish

My plate

My dessert

View from the apartments

Well-groomed lawns

Permanent residents' housing

The beach

The bar where we can get coffee drinks, ice cream, milkshakes, etc.

The pool area--look at how we have it all to ourselves!

Hotel rooms for short-term guests

Internet access area where I'm sitting right now

Lily pond

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I have arrived!

This morning I woke up in a hotel in Charlotte, having had an overnight layover from Tri-Cities. The alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:00, and I woke up at 3:59. I rubbed my sleepy eyes that still had my contacts in them, checked out of the hotel, rode the shuttle to the airport, and boarded my plane without any problems. I arrived in Miami and proceeded to gate D24, which was my departure gate for Port-Au-Prince.

I chose a seat that was facing a row of 4 pay phones. People kept coming up to use the pay phone, and the phone kept eating their money, and I kept offering them the use of my cell phone, which they gratefully accepted.

Kate arrived at about 9:30, and we started talking nonstop, finding out each other’s stories. We have a lot in common with each other! It was fun to get to know each other better after having only exchanged brief emails.

Angela arrived at about 11:15, and she had an amazing story of faith and God’s clear direction to take this step. Leann arrived about 11:45, and we didn’t get to hear her story, because we went to get some lunch together.

The place we chose to eat had only some horrible little sandwiches for $10 each, plus really nice, yummy coffee. I had a café con leche, which was delicious, and I bit the bullet and bought the sandwich, because I was starving hungry, and it was not so delicious. None of the other girls wanted anything, so we went to a Wendy’s that was farther down the concourse, and right across the aisle from the Wendy’s was this beautiful, cheap Cuban restaurant with empanadas and tostadas and amarillas and beans and rice and fresh orange juice and all sorts of deliciousness. I was so SAD that I had spent 10 bucks on that sandwich when I could have had THIS. Angela ordered from the Cuban place and Leann and Kate ordered from Wendy’s, and then we all went back to our gate to wait to board the plane. I did get myself an empanada for only $1.35, and I LOVED it!

When I had booked this flight, I had prayed about what seat to choose, and I had chosen 21E, sort of at random. Only middle seats were available to choose, and it was the closest one to the front, so it seemed the best option. However, when I got to the check-in counter in Charlotte, the agent said, “Oh, let me get you a better seat.” So she put  me in a window seat, 17A.

I got to the seat and the husband and wife seated in my row looked like Christians. “Have you all been to Haiti before?” I asked.

“No, have you?” they asked.

“No, this is my first time,” I replied. “So are you going on a mission trip? humanitarian aid? What’s the call for you?” I asked.

“A wedding, actually,” the wife said. “My sister is getting married on Saturday.”

They told me the story of how she had fallen in love with this Haitian named Elage, and now they were getting married. Ironically, they were going to the same city and same street as the orphanage I was going to!

So many “coincidences” occurred in our conversation that I could not think it was an accident that we had sat next to each other. I wasn’t originally supposed to be on that seat, and they weren’t originally supposed to be on that plane (they had missed an earlier flight due to a too-short layover).

The flight was pretty short, and we got off the plane and walked down an air conditioned concourse to an escalator that led to a door to the outside, where a shttle bus was waiting. Apparently this was new, because everyone around me was saying, “Whoa, this is fancy!” and “Wow, last time we had to get down off the plane and take a shuttle bus to the baggage claim area.” Through the windows of this concourse, we could see the airport. It was in not-so-good shape.

Leann, Angela, Kate, and me about to get on the shuttle

The scene of the immigration location

The orphanage had sent a man named Ronald to get us and manage our luggage and exit from the airport. He was amazing! He collected all our bags, got us through customs, and took us to the van affectionately dubbed “the Blue Bullet,” which was to take us to Club Indigo.

Ronald and the Blue Bullet

The Blue Bullet felt very dependable and sturdy, despite it's dented appearance. I was sitting in the front seat and noticed that the odometer said 113,000. I wondered if that would be miles or kilometers, and in either case, I thought, that was pretty low for a vehicle to get to this condition. (Maybe it's a million and 113,000, I thought.) But about an hour later, I realized that the odometer hadn't moved--so it's anyone's guess. The speedometer also didn't move--the needle just rested tranquilly at zero, giving such a sense of dichotomy to the times we were aggressively passing a tap-tap, going uphill in the oncoming lane.

The sights we saw on the two-hour drive to Club Indigo were far more numerous than what I could photograph. The photos are actually reflective of the least interesting sights, because the more interesting ones (the ones that included people) were never taken in the first place, because I had to be careful about showing my camera out the open window. So I only really got any pictures when we were really moving on the lonelier stretches of road, and most of those turned out blurry. However, for what it's worth, here are some:

I sat silent for most of the drive, my eyes alive with curiosity at all the sights, and my mind racing with a multitude of thoughts.

One of the thoughts I had was about withdrawing cash. They had told me that it was difficult to get cash, but I  had said to myself, "Oh, that doesn't matter; my debit card always works at ATM machines; and I'll just go and make a withdrawal in local currency. Why would that be difficult?"

But on our 2-hour drive, we passed through several towns, and I began to realize that I hadn't seen a single bank. There was a lack of brick-and-mortar institutions in general--Not just a scarcity, but a total absence. It dawned on me that the difficulty in getting cash lay in the nonexistence of ATM machines at all, not in the difficulty of finding a place to exchange for American dollars.

And then I saw a bank. I realized that I had seen a bank, dozens of them, lined up along the main road in every town. So I started trying to get a picture of one. I know this picture is blurry, but you get the idea. The other pictures I had were even more blurry, believe it or not. (My camera simply WILL NOT FOCUS.) :(

THIS is the bank.
Now I understand why they were saying that about getting cash. Hmmm...This should be interesting. But I brought some with me, just not as much as I would have if I knew this much had to last me for 3 months. Well...maybe it will just have to do.