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This American (Haitian) Life

May 27, 2010

This American Life Radio Broadcast – May 23, 2010

The podcast below from This American Life ran on Sunday May 23rd.  You can download it for free for a week after the broadcast from their site, or for quite a while from the iTunes podcast site.  Listening to it gives a great deal of insight into how Haiti became the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even though it has the highest concentration of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) in the world.  (Haiti has been called the Republic of NGO’s)

There is also a great piece about the old style of doing missions in a compound mentality vs. the newer style of community development missions similar to what we were working on while we were there with TouchGlobal.

This Program is going to be strongly recommended listening for our family!  I can’t recommend it highly enough for you.

Island Time

Unprecedented amounts of money have been pledged to Haitian relief in the last few months. American households have given over $1 billion and in March, 120 countries pledged over $9 billion(!) to rebuild. The only problem is that – historically – blanketing a country in aid and money has never really worked so well. Is there a chance this time things could be different?

This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 1.7 million listeners. It is produced by Chicago Public Radio, distributed by Public Radio International, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards. It is also often the most popular podcast in the country, with more than a half million people downloading each week.

via Home | This American Life.



May 27, 2010

Haiti has never left my mind or my heart since I left the country at the end of March.  There was an odd feeling leaving the old airport terminal in Port-au-Prince behind and boarding the  airplane.  The four hour transition was gradual from the dusty noisy streets to the friendly skies, and that was probably good.  The most striking dichotomy however was to walk from the boarding gate which was like a Greyhound Bus station, through the open air walkway to the jetway and finally onto the airplane.  Immediately we could have been anywhere in the world as we crossed the threshold of the aircraft.

The plane smelled fresh, the seats looked clean, the crew was refreshed and they were not exhausted like everyone I had seen for the previous month.  I did not realize how exhausted I was.  It was only 10 in the morning but I was asleep in the cool cabin of the airplane before we left the runway and I slept all the way to Florida.  I slept the whole flight to Dallas and almost all the way from Dallas to San Diego too.  We arrived late in the evening, and after I got home, I slept the whole night without a problem, I guess I had some catching up to do!

We’ve been back now for nearly two months, we’ve experienced our own quakes here in San Diego, and they remind me of Haiti each time I feel one.  Every time my screen saver plays my Haiti pictures I am touched by the faces of the children, or the memories of Rosita cooking the Birthday dinner for Charles’ son.  I speak to friends and colleagues in Haiti less often, but haven’t stopped praying for them.

I am going to begin posting on this blog again, posting some of the e-mail updates that I’ve received, and some of my thoughts as well.  This may be more for me than for anyone else.  It is on my heart that the people of Haiti, my acquaintances, my friends, and those that we will return again to serve to not get forgotten as time passes and the news of the day begins to dominate once again.

God is Good

March 23, 2010

What do you do when the tank is bigger than the truck

Today started out like many other days of this or any other short-term mission trips, but it ended like few ever had. We began our day with a brief team meeting, divided up tasks and the team with each person or sub-team heading of to do things that they were well suited to do. Some of us transported two of the 1000 gallon tanks about 5km up the road to the Obinson Joseph School where Samaritan’s purse completed the demolition work last week. The rest stayed here, Steve G. re-hung a kitchen cabinet that was threatening to fall from the wall, Jim and Hal began the process of installing the electrical and plumbing inside the”doghouse” for the purification system. In the morning I began to prepare the well pump and then became the personal shopper for the team for the rest of the day since I have a pretty clear lay of the land. The two Steve’s finished up the well pump installation overcoming some issues with a close fit down the hole. By the end of the day, we were pumping water out of the well with the new pump at about 15 gallons a minute to both our new 1000 gallon storage tank and the existing storage on the roof of the house. Tomorrow we should finish up the installation (I know I said that yesterday, but this is a mañana kind of place).

On the way back from the second (totally unsuccessful) hardware store run of the day. Our driver Miguel asked Rick and I if we would like to see his house. “It’s just up there” he said, motioning ahead to the village called Marechel where many of the Brazilians had ministered last week. To be honest, I was thinking about how much time I had already spent away from the house today, how much I was going to need to spend away tomorrow morning, still looking for a new purified water tank. I was pretty interested in getting back to the worksite and checking on our team’s progress.

The day we arrived in Haiti – more than two weeks ago, Miguel was our driver. I remember on the way back from the airport asking him if his house had been damaged in the earthquake. “It has a large crack in the wall, I don’t know if it can be repaired. I would like someone to look at it.” was his answer.

One thing we’ve learned over the last few weeks is that in Haitian culture it’s a sign of friendship to be invited to someone’s home, and it’s a sign of friendship to accept that invitation. We’ve been calling each other friends for these weeks, and we did not turn down Miguel’s invitation. Neither Rick nor I were prepared for what we were about to see.

Miguel's House - With a "large crack"

This young man, who has been a driver for the ministry house was living in a tent next to his house which had massive holes on two sides. The roof had shifted several inches during the earthquake, and not a wall in the house was not cracked all the way through.

Miguel has picked up and dropped of dozens of people from the airport. He has driven on tours and mini-tours, pointing our areas of destruction and landmarks, detailing places that are no more and areas where there are still persons who are no more. Being in this place, at this time with Miguel was like looking at the map on GoogleEarth as it begins to zoom in from the whole earth view to the view of the one spot for which you are searching.

I was stunned to walk through this modest, once lovely home that you could now see straight through. Rubble still lay where it fell in some of the rooms, on the bed in the master bedroom, and around the walls in the guest bedroom. Pictures remained on the walls, calendars from 2009 fluttered in the breeze in a kind of eerie timelessness. Rick and I prayed with Miguel, in his house. We prayed for his peace, and for our wisdom. We prayed for discernment on behalf of TouchGlobal that they would know how to best serve these communities. We prayed that God would send more teams to minister to Haiti (that involves some of you reading these words as senders, facilitators and as go-ers). Finally we prayed for ourselves that we would be good tellers of the stories we’ve heard and that we will be people who can inspire in others a passion for these people.

Miquel's Front Porch

The macro story of the Haitian earthquake became a micro-story of Miquel’s family’s earthquake this afternoon. He told us of where he was on January 12, and how his wife has just sent their 13 year old son inside to do his homework, because he had spent too much time playing soccer with his friends that day. Miguel told us of how this particular house in this particular spot was a “miracle house”. He had built it with his own two hands, before and after work so that he and his family would be able to live closer to his workplace. This unique house in the sea of destruction has been saved from repossession by the hand of God and the generosity of men that Miguel has known through his work with other missions. This house that has been redeemed from the financial brink, now literally literally teeters on the physical brink, and with it the future of a small family. We could see this in Miguel’s eyes and the eyes of his son and his wife.

Both Rick and I were struck by the awesome fact that driving down the highway, or small roads in each town, at every collapsed building there are stories like Miguel’s. We don’t know them, because we’ve never met these people. We cannot possibly meet each person, but after this encounter today, seeing the enormity of this disaster for a single family drives home the fact that this land that was devastated by an earthquake 9 weeks ago, is populated by individuals and families who suffered through and continue to suffer through an enormous personal disaster. They have lost everything they have ever worked for, many have no realistic hope of recovering or rebuilding what was lost. To discuss the future with them almost always leads quickly to a conversation that involves the hopelessness of the situation with the present government that is not concerned with the people. Many who can remember back that far, recall that 1986 was the last time when Haiti was “grand”. No-one can see a time in the future when their homeland will ever be “grand” again.

There is a most amazing phrase that we’ve heard from many Haitians. We heard it at least 3 times that I can recall from Miguel today the last time while standing on his porch, after he told us that he knew he may have to tear down his house: “God is Good”. I have heard this time and time again, every time I am amazed that this is the attitude of a person who is living through these times in this place.

I am thankful for being called, and prepared, and sent for such a time as this.

Worship and Sabbath

March 22, 2010

TouchGlobal takes the sabbath seriously, and encourages teams to rest on Sundays.  I’ve seen this each time I’ve served with them in New Orleans so I expected it here in Haiti.  I had no idea how much I would appreciate it today.

Today we went to Jesus in Haiti Ministries to worship. I worshiped there two weeks ago and that was a very rich experience. I was really excited for our team to experience worship there today, I was very blessed again myself. The drive to JiHM takes about 2 hours in each direction, and it takes us through PaP, past all of the places that we’ve been involved in ministry so far. It gave me time to reflect on the medical clinic, the orphanage, and the dump. I was able to pray for the people that served there and were served there.

We drive past the endless tent cities where hundreds of thousands are housed in structures that most of us use for recreation. These will probably be totally inadequate when the rains come in a few weeks. Many believe that these tent cities will be the source of the next wave of crisis as disease spreads through their populations. We also passed right by the area that was used for the mass graves after the Earthquake in January. Another sobering point of reflection in this very sobering landscape.

Somehow after we arrived at JiHM, all of this is pushed to the back of my mind. I was drawn to the large cistern, where Pastor Roger was baptizing people who had recently accepted Jesus by immersion. Immediately after this, we all migrated to the massive white tent as pre-worship music was being played. At least 700 people were worshiping today, and I was really moved by the music and the passion of the believers present. Several came forward at the end of the service to make first-time commitments of their lives to the Lord.

As worship began to flow today, the idea of setting aside the sabbath continued to cycle through my mind. How truly lovely this is, to know that I am not planning anything else today, not rushing out to complete a task (except catch up on this blog), or run from here to there. Our church and Bible study have discussed this issue over the last several months.

We have tried as a family to set Sunday’s aside and keep the Sabbath, but to be honest, we have failed. Once we set the time aside, something manages to expand to fill it. Here’s a head’s up to my family- I have been blessed by this for the last 3 weeks here, I am ready to give it another serious try at home.

I was also touched and encouraged by the choice of scripture today. I needed refreshing after the last 3 days of dealing with border agents, customs, etc. and getting the run-around. The passage chosen was Psalm 144. I was drawn to the last half of the text: vs 7-15

Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, O God;
on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,

to the One who gives victory to kings,
who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword.

Deliver me and rescue me
from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.

Then our sons in their youth
will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
carved to adorn a palace.

Our barns will be filled
with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
by tens of thousands in our fields;

our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
no going into captivity,
no cry of distress in our streets.

Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
blessed are the people whose God is the LORD

By Friday afternoon I had had my fill of foreigners whose mouths were full of lies and right hands were deceitful. I had prayed and prayed for God’s deliverance of our parts into our hands and I was frustrated by individuals who had no desire to help us or their own people. I was feeling discouraged and defeated. It is good be reminded that many have felt this way before me, many will feel this way again. God has delivered them, will deliver us, and will deliver those in the future.

I am rested and refreshed after this sabbath and ready for another week of service – Praise God!

Unloading and Installing! (Finally)

March 22, 2010

The tanks are BIG! but fortunately not too heavy.

We woke at first light to unload the truck so Eduardo and his Men could get back to Santo Domingo. When we opened the doors to the truck, it was like Christmas Morning. Everything we expected to have on the truck was there! Boy are tanks that hold 1000 gallons of water big!

We unloaded the truck into the driveway and patio, Eduardo described several things to us, we shook hands and they were off. We continued to count parts, brought out many more parts that the team brought from San Diego and reviewed our plan for this site.

We almost immediately began the installation of the system for the ministry house and worked through the day until about 4:30 or 5. Jim and Hal began on the roof and worked downward from the pure water tank. Steve G. and Glenn began chipping through the existing driveway to lay some pipe under it. And Steve H. and I began to install the Raw Water tank by the pump house. It was like the Transcontinental Railroad working from both ends to the middle and trying to ensure that we could drive the golden spike.

This team of people that has come together is a good group, many of us have worked together as a team before and all of us have worked together on small projects one or two at a time. The ability to come together and break off with the confidence in each other is a great blessing.

This is not an OSHA approved ladder application

We are hoping to have the new system in place by the end of Monday at the ministry house.

“bòn anivèsè”

March 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Jeff/Dad/Honey!!

We miss spending your special day with you but we know you are in great hands. Maybe you can have a happy birthday sweet potato casserole!

Missing you here – knowing your so happy there.

To Jimini and Beyond!

March 22, 2010

On Thursday after barely scooting through the closing border gates into the DR from the no-man’s land between the DR and Haiti. Charles, Steve and I drove with Eduardo and his two drivers to Jimini in the Dominican Republic to find a place to stay for the evening. I have to start off by saying that Eduardo, our supplier for much of the water purification equipment had already shown himself to be incredibly patient and was now beginning to prove to be one of the most congenial persons I’ve ever met as well.

As soon as we arrived in the border town, we discovered that the town was celebrating the anniversary of it’s founding and there were no rooms to be had. Eduardo was able to check into the same hotel that he and his men had stayed at the night before (He may have set this up by telephone earlier). For us there was literally no room at any inn. We ended up staying in a dormatorio, which is a single room, with a toilet with no seat, a bucket shower and a bed. There was a fan and power though. These rooms cost $30USD for all 3 of us for the night. The power shut off at 3AM, about an hour after the blasting music from the town anniversary celebration ½ a block away. Steve Horrex’s evaluation of the accomodations was that they were not as nice as the AMOR camp, because at least at AMOR you knew what you were sleeping with, and where the water came from when you bathed. I slept with my clothes on, and covered exposed part with insect repellent. Steve and Charles, not so….

Steve and Charles and I joined the men from Santo Domingo for a great dinner and fellowship at a restaurant that was basically in a families house. We ate at the family’s dining room table and talked about everything we could translate with simple Spanish/English and hand-gestures. The next morning we woke to rain and walked to a typical Dominican streetside diner and had a breakfast of plantains, spaghetti, ham, and a type of sweet potato that is almost ubiquitous for all cooked meals here.

We headed for the border for our 8AM “appointment” to find a line of trucks a mile long waiting to get in. In typical fashion, we drove along the wrong side of the road beside them all to reach the point of entry to get to the actual border crossing. We went to the customs house to find – no one – of course – what could we have been thinking. The director finally arrived at about 9, and we waited for him to drive around two engine blocks on the lawn to park his personal vehicle on the sidewalk outside his office. After an appropriate amount of respectful time, Charles approached him to query him about our situation. He directed us to Civil Protection – the office we started in the day before, but was today unoccupied. It remained so for another two hours. After a few more visits with the director, we were sent directly to the finance office, where we were told in no uncertain terms “Port-au-Prince” – you have to go to Port-au-Prince to get this approved. Back to the director’s office, eventually to Civil Protection where they told us to bring the pastor who wrote the letter for them to meet. I said no-way we are getting the run-around, they are just going to say no again. Finally they said, If I hand-wrote a note explaining what we were doing, where we were doing its, they would approve the request.

These items were just sitting around at Customs- Not exactly a bonded warehouse.

Simple enough, I wrote the letter (in English) they read it, queried us a bit more. Wrote a note of approval, made some photocopies, kept one, gave us two and sent us to the finance office! I left the CP office behind Charles and another interpreter, gave Steve a big smile and thumbs-up and we headed next door the the Finance Office! Charles presented all of the documents to the same lady in finance, who said “Port-au-Prince”. She told Charles that the guys in Civil Protection don’t have a stamp, so they can’t approve anything like that. It was about noon, and we had reached a dead end. I had already told Charles that we would pay the duty so we needed to get moving so he told the lady in Creole “This is Haiti, you are powerful and can do anything you want. Someday though you will get what you deserve!” He was not translating for me (unless he was telephathic), and it wasn’t exactly the right time for that sentiment to be expressed I thought, but here we go.

Now we start the process of paying the duty. To make an even longer story somewhat shorter, We didn’t leave the border until after 3. You can’t pay with cash at the border, cashier’s check only (Port-au-Prince), but there was someone there who would vouch for us. It’s always nice to find someone who will back up your cash, for just a little more cash.

The entire day Friday was a few steps forward – wait – step back. Step forward – wait – step back. Eventually we left the border and led Eduardo and his men to the mission house where they parked the truck, supped with us and spent the night after we set them up for showers. They were 3 days from home had no clean clothes, and were exhausted.