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!
This Sunday at our church is Compassion Sunday (For more information visit Compassion International).
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.
For those not on Facebook, here is the link for the Haitian ladies singing The Love of God in Creole. My dad used to sing The Love of God beautifully – he sang it at Megan’s Child Dedication. Anyhow the Haitian ladies we work with sing it at morning devotions and it brought back good memories. For the insane reference, read the lyrics through to the end.
Lyrics – in English!
- The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
- When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
- Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Verse 3 was penciled on the wall of a narrow room in an American insane asylum by a man said to have been demented. The lines were discovered when they laid him in his coffin.
Today is the first day of English Camp. We have 13 here from Cottonwood. Today is the first day of English Camp. It is going super smooth. We have 13 here from Cottonwood, but with all the interpreters, summer staff and support help we have almost 40 workers for the 400 kids who were signed up. Most of our workers are working with the kids- teaching English or Bible or doing Sports, that kind of thing. Kids are divided up between boys and girls and then go through different stations. Megan is working in the Kitchen, Caleb is teaching Bible, Jon is doing repairs somewhere, and I’m writing you.
English Camp is kind of like a Vacation Bible School, but with an emphasis on learning English. . . and twice as long. . . and with interpreters. . . and all outside. . . without AC. . . and with two meals a day.
I guess it’s really not like VBS at all.
It sure is cool to watch your kids serve this way. The kitchen is a brutal place to work. It’s a normal sized kitchen, supper hot and crowded in there, with 400 breakfasts and lunches to prepare. They do seem to have a lot of fun working together, and the new sink should be a help. Caleb has a great interpreter, they should have a lot of fun working together.
Megan just walked by and asked, “Are you still doing nothing?” So, let me say that working in the kitchen is really easy. There is food whenever you want it, drinking water close by, no kids screaming at you, what a life.
So I was getting to bed pretty late last night – was the last one up around midnight. I left the bathroom using my flashlight so as not to wake up others, and I saw a rat. I was walking towards my room, so not thinking i just kept on going. That freaked the rat out, so he ran in front of me. I kept walking, he kept walking. So, i stupedly chased the rat into my bedroom at midnight. Thankfully he didn’t snore.
It’s been pretty crazy here. We just finished replacing the rusted out sink with a new stainless one before the 400 kids show up for English Camp tomorrow. There have been a ton of projects, including getting the new propane bug trap set up, fogging, fixing tons of plumbing problems, and training for the kids coming manana. Today we did church in the morning and ate at a fun bakery this afternoon. It looks like we got all the projects finished in time for camp, so it will be fun to watch things run tomorrow. The generator we purchased last year is wonderful. Nothing like having electricity and running water when you need it. The interweb has been sketchy here, so I’ve not been able to post much. Hopefully this will upload.
The pic is of Caleb and his friend Kyle hugging a toilet. OR repairing it.
Will try to post again in a couple days.
The flight in Dallas was about 2 hours late leaving, so no problem! That left us with 2 hours less to sleep in the airport in Florida, but there was no sleeping anyway. They were doing construction inside the airport at night. So, we are now sipping coffee waiting for our 6am flight to PaP. That’s 4am ABQ time.
We ran into another missions team from ABQ going to Haiti – so have been able to make some new friends and pal with another group. They also have a lucky 13 people going. Hey, the disciples and Jesus.. 13.
And, all our baggage made it on the plane. We had to shuttle some stuff from bags a pound or two over the limit to those a pound or two under, but we made it with 1360lbs of supplies for mcmhaiti.org. Sweet!
Time to board and try to sleep with my knees above my ears. The pics are from last year. I forgot my phone cord – just bought a new one wi