A 24-year-old girl from the States goes to live in Haiti and lives. And God changes her life. And her community. Sometimes there is nothing more unbelievable than the truth. Fiction could never been this crazy. I’ve been going to Haiti since 2007, and this book brings you as close to being there as you can get short of a plane ticket.
This is a MUST read.
The restavek system, voodoo, crime, humidity, fake orphanages, child slavery. . . But not the book, the book is terrific – about a young girl moving to Haiti and watching God work to defeat the restavek system, voodoo, crime…
The Son of God Orphanage was the ugliest part of the book for me – even worse than the voodoo. At least voodoo is what it is, it doesn’t pass itself off as light. Anyhow buy this book, it’s the first time i’ve found myself crying while reading in a LONG time. If you want to know more before ordering here you go!
Having lived in Haiti for twenty-seven years, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen the damage caused by several tropical storms; I’ve seen the destruction caused by coup d’états and numerous manifestations, and I’ve seen the incomprehensible damage caused by the 2010 earthquake, that ravaged much of Port au Prince and nearby cities. Some estimate that up to 250 thousand lost their lives, perhaps just as many were injured, tens of thousands of houses and buildings were destroyed or damaged, and thousands upon thousands were left homeless. It was unimaginable.
And then on October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall near LesAnglais in southwesternHaiti, as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130–156 mph. This seemingly demonic force uprooted untold thousands of fruit trees, damaged many more and wiped off the face of the earth tens of thousands of gardens belonging to people that depended on them for food and for…
This article was posted by Sue, who went to Haiti with us for her second time this year. She gave one of the best descriptions of what a day in Haiti is like – it’s like being there. Happy reading…
So…this morning i am overwhelmed with emotion. Those who have been to Haiti (or any other 3rd world country) will understand what i am feeling. But this post is for those of you who may never feel called or have the opportunity to experience this level of poverty and devastating living conditions. Last year when i returned i wrote a sweet little poem about the beauty of Haiti and the enormous pride of the Haitian people…i wrote about the lovely mangos and the wind in the palms at night. I wrote about the sacrifices of the missionaries and their families. I wrote about the delicious meals we ate and the sweetness of the children we teach. I wrote about how my heart was broken for this tiny island forever.
But today…i must tell you…i painted a picture that is only half of the story.
There is GREAT tragedy that i neglected. Emotional whiplash that is hard to explain…but it is laid on my heart to try… So…here is a day in Haiti: We wake up at 7…quickly take cold showers…shake the cockroaches out of our beds and clothes..and dress for a day at the beach. We struggle to put our clothes on because the humidity is so high our clothes stick to us like glue. 17 plus people are in the kitchen making various breakfasts and the chatter and laughter is loud and chaotic. We will leave the kitchen in a horrific mess that the Haitian ladies will clean up after we leave. Some will thank them..most of us will not.
We are transporting 33 people to the beach so we pile into several vehicles…where we experience the only air conditioning available. As we drive through Port au Prince…all of our senses are overwhelmed..the smells and sights and noise are extreme. There are wonderful smells of cooking chickens and bread and rice..mixed with burning garbage and sewage and exhaust. I say it all smells like roasting chilis in October…everyone thinks im crazy…they say it smells like burning trash. There are people EVERYWHERE…but you do not see any white American tourists walking the streets of Haiti. Its too dangerous? Every building has a gate…and an armed guard…EVERY building is behind a wall…except those that are hollowed out from the earthquake and within those crumbling walls … laundry hangs and children play on concrete steps that go nowhere anymore.
Everyone is selling something. Virtually EVERY square foot of the roadsides are filled with Haitian people making a living. Dan calls it a drive through Walmart..I call it a drive through flea market. And the things they sell are American…things we….often times missionaries…have brought to this island. Pampers and Coca Cola and Snickers and Cell phones and lingerie and vacuum cleaners (VACUUM CLEANERS!!?) And next to and behind and amongst all of these things is the garbage…pampers and cocacola cans and discarded cell phones and lingerie and broken vacuum cleaners…. Piles and piles and piles of garbage…everywhere. But no garbage truck ever comes to collect…so the garbage is piled into the streets and burned…toxic fumes mix with the smells of exhaust and fresh bread. All this up against the most beautiful artwork i have ever seen.
Everything and everyone dressed in loud brilliant colors. Everyone carrying heavy items on their heads…chickens, bananas, car batteries…Everyone walking somewhere..down he middle of he street…cars…motorcycles…ap taps….all swerving and inching and negotiating their way through streets that are seemingly impassable. No road rage…just an unspoken rule of navigation communicated through hand gestures and taps on car horns. Next to a large dumping of garbage…a playground…on a busy corner…with tons of traffic…i am worried because the playground has no fence.
And then we are at the beach.
Gorgeous resort! Turquoise waters. People serving me fresh pineapple or coconut water while i snorkle and sunbathe on the beautiful beach. Two of our missionaries are not feeling well. They get sicker and sicker as the after noon goes by. They are running high fevers…could be anyone of a host of diseases…we put them in the shade…i order another coca cola….and ask for extra ice please. And finally it is time to go home. We help the sick to the vans..load our bargain souvenirs in the trunk and head home.
Along the way we see a crowd of people gathered near the side of the road. I remember last time driving this route and seeing the body on the side of the road of a young girl… this time it is a young man and I am aware that I am not nearly as upset this time at the site of a body on the side of the road as I was last time… but I can’t get the picture of the bright red blood up against the grayness of the street and the colorful people dressed in their Sunday best gathered around as they wait for the makeshift ambulance to arrive to carry the body away.
And… again back through the streets of Haiti and home again where we prepare to have a wonderful meal prepared with love and care by our amazing family of missionaries who spend every day ..living this day …and I wonder to myself….. how? And after worship and amazing music…and inspirational words from Byron, we go to bed to the sounds of pastors on loudspeakers preaching to the people of the street… long into the night. The next morning I will get up and teach babies…. some who live in makeshift huts along a dirty River piled high with garbage …and when I pick up one such child in the morning and hold her close to me I find myself overwhelmed at how wonderful her sweet tiny shirt smells like soap…and milk.
Today is the start of English Camp. 400 kids have been signed up, photographed, and had name tags made for them. 400 parents have been interviewed and cleared. 450+ kids will show up with their parents and 50 will have to be turned away. That’s no exaggeration. It’s always a struggle on day one. But, once we are under way, English camp will be awesome and hopefully I can get you some great pictures.
The picture at the top of the blog is from the opening ceremony at day 1.
We met at the church office at 2:45am on Wed June 22, and arrived here in Haiti that night about 7pm. All our luggage made it, and we only lost one American off of the back of the truck driving to our compound, so we are mostly all here. Tegan was being difficult anyway. (yes, I’m kidding) It was a great flight. Thursday – Sunday was all about doing repairs and preparing for English Camp. Andrew, the director, had been working with over 80 Haitian HS kids who want to help as interpreters and leaders. He could only keep around 30, so telling 60 kids who tried to be a part of the program NO made for a difficult Friday, but the result is well-trained help. Everyone is getting along well, and the 12 or so interns (HS/College workers from the states here for the summer or longer) are amazing.
The worship, led by Ben, one of Byron and Shelley’s kids – our missionaries here – has been amazing. It’s so encouraging to see their kids, which we have seen grow up over the last 10 years, following God and growing in grace.
We use the property next door that is a private school during the year. They have a lot of porch like classrooms – one is in the background. I like this one under the tree the best.
Our missionaries main vehicle is a 2010 Toyota Diesel Hilux. If there are machines in Heaven, we will all drive either a Hilux or a Ferrari. The clutch had recently been replaced but the throw out bearing was now making noise and it was shifting poorly, so we had to pull the transmission and transfer case. It weighed, like, 2000lbs. Not that I would exaggerate with my spaghetti arms. The worse was, late at night when we finally finished and took it on a test drive, it was not much better. Yesterday we checked the transmission oil. We put in 3 quarts. It holds 3 quarts. Not a good sign. It’s quieter now, but will cost thousands to fix so that it runs correctly. IT would be nice if it would actually shift into first gear and stay there without cramming it in and holding it there. You expect that in a Jeep, but it’s sad in a newer Hilux.
Sue, who runs the Cresh came down with Zika. No Bueno. Two of the interns are also very sick, one was sleeping in the bathroom last night to be close to the toilet. Bueno no.
The electricity is off now – running on inverters so I have no interweb, and can’t send myself my phone pics. So, this picture has nothing to do with sick workers or sicker trucks. The missionaries here run 96 kids year-round in a preschool also in their home. I caught this girl looking up when I was cutting through the class.
There is a tiny bathroom here inside the front door that is always extremely hot, full of mosquitoes and due to its location in constant use. I believe it is a portal to hell. The toilet wasn’t working, so I had to replace everything in the toilet, removing the tank, etc. When I finally got everything back in I was tremendously relieved to hit the flush knob and get out of purgatory. That’s when I realized I had installed it incorrectly and had to remove the tank and start over. Ugh. A good thing that didn’t happen on the Hilux!
Speaking of the Hilux, I have a picture of Theodore here. He isn’t an especially bad dog, great for protection I suppose as most people run away when they smell him coming. The only issue was when Jeff, Bill and I were laying under the Hilux. It seems Theodore likes to mark his territory, and he believes the Hilux and everything under it belongs to him.
OK, time to go to group devotions and help with breakfast for 400 screaming kids and all us workers. IT really is a blessing to be here, I’ve the best job in the world!
It’s that time of year again! The Cooley’s are attempting to serve our friends in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Not true.
This year it’s one Cooley. JoLynn has to work, Megan thinks being a new mom will limit her, Micah and Caleb will be at Camp Peniel, and Amanda doesn’t want to take Oliver and Emerson with her. I’m it.
Maranatha Children’s Ministries (www.mcmhaiti.org) is an organization that focuses on the children of Port-au-Prince. This year we plan to be in Haiti from June 22 to July 9, during their English Camp. We will be there before camp starts to get things ready, and for the first week to help things run smoothly.
English Camp is a program that teaches English, Math, Science and Biblical values to over 400 kids who are unable to attend school. Along with education, Maranatha provides breakfast and lunch for all the children and staff.
Spiritual Help: I’m asking for your prayers. Haiti can be an unstable, dangerous country , and I sometimes get in… situations. Worse though is the risk of disease, dehydration, fatigue, and drama. Last thing I want is to have Haitian Happiness (stomach issues) at someone else’s house with 400 kids running around. Cooley’s need their privacy. This one especially. Let me know on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you on my list for updates.
Financial Help: Those going are raising money for Maranatha Ministries through a Silent Auction and massive Garage Sale. However we must each raise $1350 for our own travel and food expenses. If you wish to donate to me go, there are two ways.
1. Snail mail a check to Cottonwood Church, 4041 Barbara Loop, Suite B, Rio Rancho NM 87124.
2. If you would like to give by debit/credit card, just go to Cottonwoodchurch.com. Click on giving, then Qgiv. You can direct your donation to Haiti Missions and put my name in the Memo box. DONE!
I just returned from another Haiti trip. Abnormality abounds.
The Good: It was the perfect 9-day sabbatical. It consisted of hot yoga, being serenaded during a moonlight swim, and afterwards lounging in the water while listening to the birds sing. OK, maybe trying one sadistic body knot, listening to some teenagers practice their worship music while wondering how to empty an entire pool with 5-gallon buckets, and then replacing valve seats in a shower while the birds fought outside. But, it was all in the Caribbean. So there. Where were you last week?
The Bad: My goal was to get the 1998 Isuzu Trooper resurrected yet again. It came back to life on day two – a record. After shouting IT LIVES for the community to hear, I took it out for a drive. I was so excited I didn’t consider whether after starting once, it would start again – nor did I think about the brakes sitting for 5 humid rust-growing months. Rather than think, I grabbed Andres – a Haitian friend – and drove to the closest gas station, which is on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Port-au-Prince, to fill it up with diesel.
You need to understand, there are no lights, no signs, no rules at this major intersection. Everyone just pushes their way through, motorcycles weaving through, big trucks, cars, everyone within inches of each other. It’s a dance really, only when feet get stepped on there is a lot of shouting.
Of course, after filling the Trooper up, it wouldn’t start. No one around would help us jump start it. Andres got into the drivers seat’ and we pushed it backwards through the crowd of people and into the intersection dance, popping the clutch to try and get it started.
Now we were in the edge of the intersection making everyone squeeze around us. And there was this scrawny spaghetti armed white guy trying to push the Trooper backwards – and now forwards. We had to go way down the street to get into another driveway – into a little store called DeliMart. It seemed like an eternal distance away. I squeezed behind the Trooper and the car inches from our bumper with it’s horn blaring, and shoved with all the might my straw-like legs could muster.
Unbeknownst to me, when I left in a euphoria of IT LIVES excitement, 3 of the 4 brake calipers were stuck. As in 3 of the 4 brakes were mostly on. It’s a diesel, it moves with brakes on or off. I’m not a diesel, not a van diesel, not a dan diesel. Haitians on the street kept yelling “5 DOLLARS” in Haitian to help push – but Andres was too proud to take their help. Easy for him – he was steering.
By now we had a few hundred cars backed up into the intersection, and most of Port-au-Prince was at a stand-still. So, two frustrated kind guys watching came and helped me push. 20 minutes and two shaking and eternally sore legs later, we made it into DeliMart, where I paid the guys $5 each for helping.
At DeliMart we found someone who would help jump us, and life was good.
Meanwhile, at the compound, others were helping the community with education and planning and food and a clear presentation of the gospel. More importantly, a few miles away, Andres and I got diesel in to the Trooper.
The Ugly: Haiti has a bit of ugly. Being with the missionary when she stopped to help a lady whose child seemed close to death due to dehydration, seeing a child’s body left on the highway waiting for family to come and take it away, the lack of education, structure, employment, and hope for a proud people who only want to make it on their own. It’s smelly and dirty and yet…
There is hope.
When you see the kids learning at English Camp, you can since the hope and power that comes from Christ making a difference. With the gospel at Maranatha comes food for the body and education for the mind, and you come back to the States and feel like you have somehow wimped out by not remaining in PaP.
Surprise #1: I left for Haiti Sunday night without the church knowing. I arrived here around 4pm Monday and did some upkeep around the place. Tuesday was the same, Wednesday I was able to work on my favorite Isuzu Trooper. Thursday at 9am was terrific.
I was able to shock most of the 14 people coming in from Cottonwood Church by meeting them at the airport. Great fun! It may have been more of a shock riding with me from the airport to Maranatha Ministries without brakes.
Surprise #2: The Missionaries stole my luggage. At the Florida airport i was asked if i wanted to check my luggage. Since I had 35lbs in my carry on and the flight to Port-au-Prince was packed, I did it. That gave me 2 50lb bags and my 35lb bag checked in the belly of the plane. When I arrived in Haiti there was the typical customs line up so it took me a while to get to the baggage claim. Not that I needed to hurry.
My bags weren’t there.
My life was in my carry-on. And it wasn’t there. I could have kicked myself for letting them check the bag. I went to the pile of bags that in this airport generally gets dumped to the side after they make a few rounds. Thankfully I put red duct tape around the handles to make them easy to find. I saw one bag with red tape. “My carry-on!” I prayed.
But it was one of my bags. One down, two to go.
I started looking around, watching people leaving the area, looking for red duct tape. There was a missions group with the obnoxious matching t-shirts loading a bunch of bags onto carts. One of the bags they were about to load had… red duck tape!
I ran over and snagged it. “Oh, sorry” said the leader.
That wasn’t adequate. So, I started looking through bags already on the closest cart. There was my carry-on, loaded and ready to go with a bunch of matching t-shirt missionaries. I snagged it. “I looked like ours,” said the leader. “Why” I wanted to ask, “because it was black?” Ugh. Anyhow I finally got all my stuff and headed out to beautiful Port-au-Prince.
Surprise #3: The Trooper Lives! Well, it lived for a day. The 1998 Trooper with endless miles that had been sitting for 4-5 months ran after a day of work. A friend and I got it to the gas station, where it died. I had my first experience of pushing a car down a packed street with motorcycles and cars squeezing and honking around me. Great fun. Wish I had a video.
We then got it running long enough to go to the airport and back. Currently it is waiting for brake parts. It was a rather hairy airport ride. We now know 3 of the 4 disk brakes were frozen.
That’s it for now. Off to work on a Trooper and enjoy some Cottonwood folks crazy enough to come out here. What an amazing church!
Last week I was able to visit my family’s compassion child, Bregard in Port au Prince, Haiti. As we drove out to his house we passed a place where the body of my friend’s brother was left on the street only a few days before. It’s a bad area. I couldn’t help but think, “How close does Bregard live to here?”.
Byron, our friend who’s lived in Haiti for 7 years (with mcmhaiti.org) told us this was the same route he used to take to drop off the trash at the dump. He quit taking it there after a gang started making him pay to use the road. He said if the car would stop on the street people would climb into the back of the truck and start going through the trash. I couldn’t help but think, “This is my 4th time here, would Bregard have gone through my trash?”
I’ve read people’s opinions about Compassion both positive and negative. Here’s what I learned to be true for Bregard.
1. Before Compassion called his father to say he had a sponsor, his father was looking into orphanages to place him because he could no longer provide for his son.
2. Before Compassion the family was separated. His mother and siblings were living in the mountains, his father in the city looking desperately for work. Due to his limited education, construction is the only job he could apply for and because he has asthma, this made finding a job in an already difficult economy, impossible.
3. After the earthquake, Bregard and his dad were living out of a tent.
4. This year when we visited, we found the whole family together again. His father has a job and the family has a sturdy home built on a hill. The placement of the house allows a breeze to run through it, which keeps the home cool and the mosquitoes to a minimum.
5. Without Compassion, Bregard WOULD be an orphan without an education and without any healthcare. Something else I learned is that if Bregard has any health issues, Compassion pays 80% of his expenses.
6. Before we left his house we swapped prayer requests and prayed for each other. I asked Bregard to pray for one of my friends who has cancer. I had a prayer bracelet and gave it to him. I told him it was my reminder to pray for my friend and now it’s his reminder.
7. I believe that because of Compassion, Bregard is my friend. My friend has a whole family. My friend has a good education. My friend has a bright future.
You can watch an extremely SHORT video of Caleb Cooley teaching at mcmhaiti.org English Camp here. I thought there was much more recorded, but that’s’ what you get with an old man operating a smart phone.
We are all back, all healthy, no one got the “bent man” disease, and we even got the old Isuzu Trooper running – potentially a greater miracle than that of Lazarus.