Haiti Day 2: Water Truck
The last two days have flown by in a whirlwind. On Wednesday we had the opportunity to deliver water to Cite Soleil. Cite Soleil is the poorest city in the Western Hemisphere with an estimated population of 200-400 thousand people. Haiti does not take a census, making it difficult to get accurate population totals. In Cite Soleil, we saw so many people in what we would consider great need. There were “homes” fashioned from anything and everything the owners could acquire, sewage and garbage nearly everywhere you looked, and kids with not only no clothing, but no parent or adult in sight.
While it would be easy to look around and feel saddened, it’s actually quite the opposite experience. Again at the end of our day, we all chose one word to describe how we were feeling, what we had seen, or thoughts for the day. As we went around, everyone spoke of hope, joy, and contentment. Never in my life had I witnessed the sheer joy of the water truck arriving. Fortunately for all of us, we’ve never been in need of basic necessities such as water. Having the opportunity to be a deliverer of such a precious commodity sure makes you appreciate the immense abundance and access to not only water, but so much more that we are all afforded, simply because of where we were born.
Throughout the day, so many of us experienced a moment that will forever change us. At our second stop (we had three total) a little boy was standing on the roadside watching the commotion. He was naked and looked to be 10-14 months, but it’s really hard to tell just how old the children are. I went over and scooped him up and just snuggled him in close. I told him he was precious and so sweet and just swayed with him. Moments later he was asleep in my arms. Safe to say I did not put that baby down until the absolute last moment possible. When it came time for us to go, I looked around – surely someone was missing this tiny, sweet baby – but there was no one. I found an adult and in my best sign language/simple English, asked who could take this baby, she took him, and set him over on the side walk, groggy from being woken from his slumber and just looking around. We pulled way and I just looked at him… what a tiny life in a big world, seemingly all on his own. This is an everyday reality in Cite Soleil, but those tiny lives are resilient. They are brave and hang with the older kids (when I say older, I mean 4-5 year olds). They find their way and for a brief moment, I could snuggle him close and let him know he was loved, so sweet, and pray God would watch over him.
In between our first and second stop, we had the chance to go to Hope Church. I think back to November of last year, sitting in the worship space in Blaine, watching a video of our Pastor Jason in an almost finished Hope Church. In that video, they showed a small Haitian boy playing with a truck he had made from a water bottle and jug caps. I still see that boys face, and my love for the country of Haiti was born in that moment. When the opportunity presented itself to come to this country, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. When minutes before we had been surrounded by rubble, behind a giant gate, on top of what used to be 8 stories of trash, sat the most beautiful church and school. Hope Church has three kindergarten classes and represents its namesake – the hope of the Haitian people to have access to education, employment and empowerment for their families. It was remarkable to see the contrast of children dressed in their purple school outfits, and the sweet little faces with no clothing on, just on the other side of the gate.
At all of our stops, there was heartbreak, but more present was joy and laughter. It was loud. When the horn of the water truck sounded, people clamored with their buckets. We were rookies with the hose but we did our best to fill them up and push them along. We let little kids budge in line with their tiny buckets, only to look over and see them chasing each other and dumping it on their heads, making make-shift slipNslides, and fitting as many tiny, naked buns into a basin as possible. Their smiles were huge, and one thing was evident – kids are kids in every corner of the earth. Water makes them giggle, they crave love and attention, and their joy is infectious. We will go back into Cite Soleil on Friday to deliver water again. I can’t wait.
Haiti Day 3: Grace Village, Elder Visits
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning,
It’s time to sing Your song again,
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me…
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”
Today (Thursday) had God’s hand written all over it. I sat in the front of the Tap Tap (bus) today. We snaked our way through paved and unpaved roads, dodged goats, cattle and motos, and Brune (our driver) poked fun at me when I had a few nervous moments wondering if we would sneak by in the crazy traffic – I’m happy to report we made it through every traffic snafu and Brune is an excellent driver. He and I chatted from our Guesthouse all the way to Grace Village. He is a native Haitian and proud of his country – and with good reason, the people and countryside are beautiful.
As we worked our way from the guesthouse to Tetanyan where Grace Village was, we saw everything from roadside stands, to women with huge baskets on their heads filled with every merchandise imaginable. We saw industrial areas, rivers, and piles of garbage that pigs were riffling through. On the left was the beautiful ocean side, flat lands similar to the Midwest, and on the right were rough, mountainous terrain… and on every inch of it, Haitian life was happening.
As we pulled in closer to Grace Village, you could see this beautiful structure erected high on the hillside. The roads were bumpy and we slowly pulled up to the giant purple gate, the guards opened it, and it was as though every sad or heartbreaking experience we had felt previously left. Grace Village is an orphanage, school, and medical/dental clinic built by Healing Haiti – and it is astounding. KeKe, our tour guide for Grace Village is exactly where God has placed her – she is phenomenally invested in Grace Village and overseas 62 orphans. If ever there was a woman who deserved a super Mom award… it would be her. She lead us through Grace Village, showing us the meal room, where they have grown from providing bread and juice, to a full hot meal. We walked through during lunch time and saw the cutest little students in their purple uniforms. They ate there meal with the occasional “hey you!” peppered in between. We were then shown the transitional housing they have available for emergency situations where an orphanage in Haiti may need to be closed down. They are the only orphanage in the country that has the ability to take in an entire orphanage as not to displace the children from the family they are used to. Furthermore, Grace Village does everything in its power to reunite these children with some form of biological family – maybe it’s a grandma, aunt, mom or dad – but they ensure the child can be taken care of and they provide resources, support and check ins for the family. It’s nothing short of remarkable that these children make it back to their families.
At Grace Village we were shown the library, playground and clinic – all of which were beautiful, modern, and so well taken care of. Seeing Grace Village really represents the progress and hope of this country.
After Grace Village we went out into the city of Titanyen to visit four elders. Healing Haiti has a program that provides meals and comfort to the surrounding elder community. These are individuals who may or may not have family, but are in need of assistance.
Because I have not been to Haiti before, and very accustomed to the Western ways, I assumed we were going to visit the elders in some fashion of a retirement/elder home. I was not prepared for finding these sweet souls, mostly alone, in their make shift homes. They were simple, with a bed inside, and maybe a table or chair. Most did not have food, and were in need of assistance to move around. Despite all of this, there were two very clear things – They were SO thankful for our presence and their faith in Christ is rock solid. We visited with them, sang with them, washed their feet and massaged their worn bodies. Through all of this we heard, “Merci, Merci, Merci” over and over again. “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.” While we were with them, we asked what we could pray for them. Most asked for healing for their ailments, some asked for protection for their families and provision, but all of them talked about their faith in Jesus and how good he has been to them.
Again, we sang the song with the line “God is so good to me” and I had to take a moment outside of Edmunds home. As I stood there, seeing a man with so little sing, “God is so good to me”, the same as Andres had… the emotions overcame me. We live in a world of plenty, and so often forget to thank God and acknowledge that he is so good to us. Yet, here in a shack in Titanyen, God was so present, and so praised, and our elders are so loved.
We came back to our guesthouse, all humbled by the experience. We shared our thoughts over dinner, looked at our pictures from the day and raised our voices in worship together. We have so much to be thankful for, and as much as we are doing this week while we are in Haiti… we have yet to realize the gifts that will continue well into our lives from being here.
One of our worship songs tonight had these lyrics… may we all be this faithful:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You may call me.
And take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith would be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.