Saturday, October 15, 2011
This running joke about possibility defines my Haiti experience. It reflects that with God, the seemingly impossible can happen... or it could not. It’s possible for people who don’t speak the same language to come together and sing joyously together. It is possible. As I got violently ill by mid-week, it was possible for the women in the community to run to me, wash my head, and wipe my face with their bare hands as I knelt and vomited. In Haiti that kind of love was possible. It’s possible for people who have been beaten down by years of injustice and desperate circumstances to continue to have faith, to work, and show such great love. It is possible.
With our Haitian brothers and sisters, these weren’t mere possibilities. They were miracles that happened that created inextricable bonds in Mellier and why we felt so strongly about questions we would ask back at the Methodist guest house. How had the teachers we’d met last time still not gotten their fair pay? How was it that though we’d paid for workers to get 5 days of food, that they hadn’t eaten the last day? How had the work not progressed more since our February trip?
We reflected on these questions with Tom Vencus, the UMVIM Director in Haiti, for over two and a half hours. Together we wrestled with the difficult questions of how to make sure that the people we came to love and share community with could be served and engaged at the level they deserved. Our role in this was clear. It is not simply to move dirt from one place to another for a week and come home. It is to create and nurture the deep relationships we made and through these relationships become advocates for the people we met. Our presence and questions serve to continue to help hold leaders feet to the fire and more effectively serve those whom we came to know and love.
With God everything is possible. We learned that this week. Yet it’s not divine grace alone that creates these miracles. It’s a combination of divine grace and persistent human action and willingness to make the hard decisions. Through these decisions and actions justice is possible and yes, injustice is possible. Authentic community is possible and yes, deep distrust is possible. Love is possible and yes, indifference is possible. With God everything is possible and we as a church and ministry team must do our part to make justice, community, and love here in Haiti the possibility we know it can be and that our Haitian brothers and sisters deserve it to be.
(Note I'm responsible on reflecting on day 8 of our trip here. Stay tuned for other members entries for other days!)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Thursday October 13, 2011
Started around midnight with a beautiful moon halo, which some members of our team had never seen before.
Brian and Kaiyra and Onel and Pierre Louis finished the dirt pile! The rest of us did our part to make the work go faster by watching it happen. Someone has to do that. Brian continued working up a storm with the workers, along with Angie and Kaiyra. Some of us helped clean up the classroom that had been flooded, and put up tarps to keep out the rain.
We invited the teachers to have lunch with us. We heard their anger and frustration as Ernson told us they hadn't been paid since June. They told us how they felt there was a lack of support for education. In their words, if the schools close, the jails open. Caz talked about the potential of young people, but also their hopelessness because of the lack of opportunity.
Pastor Jacob visited us. It was great to see him again. The teachers and Patrick expressed a lot of trust in him. We shared our concerns with Pastor Jacob and he encouraged us to continue to raise the questions.
We found out that the workers had not received lunch, although we had provided VIM funds for this. This was really upsetting.
Pastor Fed and other church leaders arrived for a meeting. Ace and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to speak with him and Pastor Jacob and Patrick about the issue of the worker lunches, and the teacher salaries. We didn't get clear answers, but we expressed our concerns.
The issues and relationships are so complex here. On one hand, it would be completely naïve to think we could possibly understand what's going on in a week, or even in a year or 5 years. At the same time, we were clearly being encouraged to use our voice to ask the questions, to ask for accountability. Our team was not of one mind, as we struggled to be faithful in such a challenging context. I can only imagine the choices and challenges our Haitian sisters and brothers face each day as they too struggle to be faithful people and leaders in the midst of such injustice.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
On a day like today you are not awakened by noisy commuters passing by below your window, nor by car horns asserting themselves as each vehicle moves down the block, or even by a siren in the distance rushing to an emergency. Rather you are awakened by a cacophony of the animal kingdom both of land and air. When you arise it is barely day break and the people have already commenced daily activities of setting up
Such a full day today. In the morning, our team was able to teach the school children a condensed geography lesson. We showed US and World maps and our connection to each other. The children are so bright and there is so much energy and love in them despite the incessant impressions of hopelessness they face everyday they offer so much hope for Haiti. The children shared with us that they like colors, cars, soccer, jump-rope, and one very vocal young man said he loves to make his garden! It is painful to know that even if most of these kids are able to make it through primary school there is little support that would allow them to matriculate to high school or even finish and for a great majority of them college is out of the question. shop at the marketplace, gathering hand tools for the days work, or carrying water from the well. In each activity in each day there is such a sense of community, everyone does his/her part and the movements continue all working individually for a collective purpose.
My eyes have definitely been opened up to new ways of performing routine tasks; washing and drying clothes, storing food, cooking food, cleaning dishes. It really is a different way of life, a simple life, a resilient life, a get-up-everyday-and-do-what-is-required-life.
In the afternoon we visit Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake. Haiti once thrived on exports to sustain her economy yet due to constant political unrest and a shift in agricultural resources Haiti now imports more goods than it exports. Here in Leogane we visited a sugarcane factory which was once a thriving business and was nearly disposed of with the fall of the Duvalier government. The factory continues to run today but not as robust as it once had. We did see a silver lining in the cloud when we visited a Co-op. Local growers are able to come to the cooperative center to turn their peanuts, fruits, and other crops in to marketable goods such as peanut butter and confiture. The center was initially funded by foreign investment but now is fully funded without outside endorsement.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Sunday October 9th 2011
To pass the time on the shore, some of us read, worked out (I did a few pushups and air squats to get the blood moving!), and others chose the universally appreciated game for inserting a bit of fun and interactive vigor into the day—soccer (…er non-pig-skin football)! Terry, Laurie, our translators Jean Claude and Kaz, Patrick—the man who drove the van and who is also Mellier’s school principal—and his sons, showed great skill, though not infrequently a kick would just miss its intended target and someone would schlep into the water to retrieve it. Others of us swam (or waded, to be more precise), and while we did all of these activities, we were surrounded on two sides by undulating bluish-green hills and mountains, and were able to see our feet in turquoise waters that came up to our waists 50 yards out from the shoreline.
It started to rain as we made our way back and we spent the remainder of the evening doing quiet activities—journaling, reading, playing cards (Uno was a crowd favorite), chatting with our new friends in a pidgin of gestures, Creole, French, and English. We had a light meal of okra and oatmeal—a combination I’d never had before, but is a tantalizing blend of textures and flavors—for dinner, given that we’d had a late and filling lunch. At around 8 o’clock or so, we capped off the evening with singing, each of us lending our voices to the harmony of God’s creation—individual voices evident, but clearly part of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The van is full to the gills with of our luggage, food for a week, cost for 12 people, shovels and water. We receive our last minute briefing from Tom about safety, customs and procedures, and we circle for a prayer and leave with anticipation. Passing through Port au Prince and then on to the highway to Mellier we witness the swirls of market day, women with large bundles of goods balanced on their heads, scores of beeping mopeds, Tap Taps and autos speeding past thousands of blue tarped tents and temporary dwellings , home to thousands of displaced persons in the quake zone. We will come to know the constant dust, debris and animation of the Haitian life. Noises are everywhere, barking stray dogs, skinny and disliked; crowing rooters, chiming in at 4:30; strange sounds in the night of birds or who knows what. It is a scene which will be repeated throughout our week when we venture forth from the Mellier countryside. We will also come to know the constant warmth and welcoming love of the Haitian people and their children. We pick up our trusted interpreters, Jean Claude and Caz in Carrefour, who are well known from the prior VIM trip in February, and with good cheer we rumble on towards Mellier.
Arriving at the site, we see a small work crew shoveling dirt into the stem wall foundation of the new church and are greeted by young children who run to our prior VIM team’s members, bursting with animated greetings. Setting up our "camp” in the temporary school rooms and unlading supplies takes several hours at which point we break for a light lunch and are introduced to our loving cooking/ support team of Dina, Betty, Claudie, Michelin, and Marlene. We bring water to the workers and visit the temporary church/schoolhouse.
A light rain begins to fall mid-afternoon and an impromptu recreation session starts in one of the school rooms. We assemble crayons, color paper, paste along with a session of UNO and reading and 20 or so children of all ages along with several parents sit around the desks as we color, play and get to know each other.
It is a warm and loving introduction to these wonderful children of Mellier who glow in the attention and laugh at out bad French and silly jokes. For the first of many cycles, our tiny tape recorder is put to good use as we listen to one the two tapes of kids’ music we have brought: Cajun Boogaloo. As with many things in Haiti, we lean to improvise, make do with what we have and to slow down time to relish relationships and the simple things in life, held together by the palpable sense of common caring for each other that is thick in the air.
Later in the afternoon as after the rain has subsided, Jean Claude and Caz take us on a walking tour of Mellier. We amble down the rutted roads of the village, past vast sugar cane fields until we arrive at the local river, brown with silt erosion from the mountain, and a large gravel digging site, in which 40 workers and several large dump trucks are busy digging grave
l from the river. We pass by the homes of the villagers: clusters of three of four temporary tents, with outdoor charcoal fires for cooking in front, surrounded by the few possessions they have. We pass several of the large mapou trees known for their spiritual power in voodoo ceremonies, and we stop at the one bar in Mellier for a well-deserved cold Coke and reflection.
After a wondrous supper of goat, fried okra, beans and rice, plaintines, banana and mango, we have our evening reflection. We share our first thoughts on what God has put before us to understand: widespread poverty, endless displaced persons, damaged homes and amongst it all, the Haitian people, survivors, making the best of a desperate situation, bound by family, friends and a powerful sense of the Sprit. After dark we gather outside under the stars for the first of our evening Creole hymn sessions, led by Caz and the women of our team who know each of the hymns by heart; they are sung with a deep devotion and rhythmic repetition, showing the powerful soothing powers of these hymns for all of us. Our Creole is bad but we sing the hymns with gusto, and interlace English versions that are also known by our Haitian friends.
Our evening ends with the sounds of the Haitian night arising around us, a cool breeze and a sense of anticipation for the remainder of the week.
Friday, October 7, 2011
On Friday October 7, 2011, Foundry United Methodist's VIM team arrived in Port au Prince, Haiti where they met President Martelly at the airport.
Foundry's VIM team will spend one week working in Mellier alongside Haitian construction workers to rebuild the local church and spend time with the children in the community.
Stay tuned! best picture is still to come!
posted by Lauren VanEnk