Friday, December 2, 2011 DAY ONE
Our day began at 5:00am in Miami, where we were to board out flight to Port-au-Prince. I found myself seated next to Esthere, a beautiful 22-year-old Haitian who has lived in the States since she was 7. She was returning to Haiti (first time since 2007) to bring her mother to live with her in Seattle. A college student, Esthere expressed great care for her mother and will be spending a month in Haiti assisting her in closing out her life in Haiti. I believe that her mom is going to be blessed to begin her new life with this loving daughter.
We arrived at the PAP airport around 10:30 and began the one aspect of the trip about which, I must admit, I had some anxiety: making our way through the PAP airport. It was everything I had been told, but because of the detailed instructions I had received (again!) the night before in an email from Marty Grimes, we made it through with relative smoothness . . . if you discount having a cart we had just paid for snatched by an “airport pro,” Buddy by-passing Elie Chery (sent by Dan Irvine to meet us and walk us through to our being picked up) with a stern “Non, mési!,” and my being detained by the police as I tried to re-trace our steps back to where he was, and the vehicle that was to pick us up being caught in traffic.
But, at every turn, there was evidence of the “path being made clear” before us. We were graciously given a replacement cart, I was able to find Elie Chery (after overcoming the language barrier to explain to the two policemen why I was trying to get back in the airport), and a security guard was secured by Chery and used his personal vehicle to drive us to Carl and Maya Gilles’ guest house.
The trek through the streets of PAP to the guesthouse was almost more than I could bear! Not because of the rough, rutted streets or the required “aggressive” driving habits necessary to make your way through the city, but because of the overwhelming, pervasive, unspeakable poverty and living conditions everywhere. I found myself wanting to scream . . . at someone, at God, at something. People were not created to live this way. Sidewalks and alleyways lined with makeshift “kitchens”, endless lines of pots and containers simmering in the heat–”street food” it is called. We learned that for a very small price, you can eat along the roadways.
A few pairs of shoes laid out on a board. Perhaps someone will come by and purchase a pair, allowing the vendor to buy some street food for him or his family.
Here and there, a solitary man with a welding torch, squatting on the sidewalk making a repair that may provide money for his family.
Everywhere . . . dust and dirt that covered, literally, every surface; earthquake rubble; and men clustered in the scant shade of a tree or a tin roof. There are no jobs to which they need to go.
This is not living . . . and yet it is life. I found myself barely able to breathe at times.
We drove past the UN facility. “Keeping peace?” We drove past the American embassy. We drove past the beautiful grounds and house to which Aristide has returned . . . a “have” in the ocean of hundred of thousands of “have nots.”
I am choking, yet not from the dust.
After about a 45-minute journey (can’t really be called a “drive”), we arrived at the Gilles’ lovely guesthouse nestled among many, many other homes in the hills above PAP. This place is a much-welcomed respite for visiting mission team members and others as overnight lodging before they head elsewhere on the island of to LaGonave. It also houses teams who may be working in the area, as well as guests such as ourselves.
Maya greeted us, along with her three beautiful daughters: Bethsaina, Thea, and Zahra. Carl was away overnight conducting a leadership event. We immediately sat down to a delicious lunch that included homemade yeast rolls that had just been taken from the oven (the aroma had greeted us even before Maya appeared!) There was tuna salad, a lettuce and tomato salad, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
There were two young women from LaGonave staying overnight: Kate, who teaches the missionaries’ kids at the compound, and Merlen (“mare lyn”) who serves as bookkeeper and assists with other tasks at the compound. Merlen lost three younger siblings in the earthquake. They had spent the Christmas break on LaGonave with the family and had returned to PAP to resume their schooling just 36 hours before the earthquake. We sat on the patio in the cool afternoon breeze as she told of how the prayers of God’s people had sustained her family, keeping her mother from “losing her mind with grief.” Kate and Merlen were in PAP to do some grocery shopping and to meet a medical team from Indiana that is arriving tonight and lodging her before going over to LaGonave.
There are two cooks/housekeepers here and a gentleman named Joseph who “looks after things” and provides security. (The grounds here are surrounded by a high wall, topped with razor wire—a reminder of PAP’s reputation as an extremely high-risk crime area.) Dinner is served in a common dining area to everyone who is staying in the house. Tonight is was a dish of cooked corn meal topped with some delicious beans in a bean soup and a meat stew, fried breadfruit and fried sweet potatoes. Buddy and I made some chocolate chip cookies for everyone later that evening (after successfully converting Fahrenheit to Celcius in setting the oven temperature.)
We visited for a while longer with Chantal, a French Canadian who is also living here since September as she works her way through the extremely slow and erratic process of adopting two almost-one-year-old twins (they were actually two of three triplets, one of which did not survive). Chantal is a business attorney (in Canada) who now practices human rights law here in Haiti. We learned much from her about prison conditions and the outrageous legal system (or lack thereof) in PAP. There are children as young as six or seven who are locked up for stealing food/water in order to survive. An overlooked horror story following the earthquake resulted from the fact that, in PAP, it is the responsibility of the families to bring food/water to those who are imprisoned. In the days/weeks after January 12, 2010, many, many prisoners simply starved to death or died of dehydration because their family members had been killed, or were buried in the rubble, or simply could not get to the prison with food and water!
Chantal is a very savvy and compassionate woman. Please pray for her and for Carl and Maya as they live out Christ before her on a daily basis.
Went to bed around 9:30. Our room is spacious and clean, with a double-twin=king-sized bed, and a beautiful wardrobe.
This has been an unbelievable day with so many different experiences. I’m thinking of the $5 I spent for a coffee before leaving Miami this morning. Seems oh-so-extravagant now.
Father, I am asking you to be my ever-present interpreter on this trip. I am in great need of your eyes, your ears, your voice. If there is sense to be made of all of this, reflections to be forever-remembered, lessons to be never-forgotten . . . please grant my request.
Saturday, December 3, 2011 DAY TWO
Slept really well. Awake at 6:00am to the sounds of roosters who seem to be in competition with one another, and to the hum of voices and noises drifting up from the city and houses below.
Our breakfast, shared with the Indiana medical team, was yummy sweet baked oatmeal with milk, fresh oranges and pineapple.
Another resident of the guesthouse is Wesler Desrambeaux, who is providing assistance to Carl (and being equipped for future leadership). Through our conversations with him (excellent English skills), we discovered that Patrick Gué had been one his professors at the Bible School here! Buddy visited with him at length later in the day.
The medical team left for LaGonave at 9:00am, and we then had some time to visit more with Maya and the girls, giving them our gifts from home and the Advent Calendars (with miniature chocolates that, miraculously, had not melted!). A fun time!
Maya planned an outing for us, so we left around 10:00am, along with Thea, Chantal, Wesley, Phillippe (our driver) and another young man. We drove further up into the hills to do some sightseeing. The weather was wonderful . . . cooler and very clear (there is often smoke at the lower levels). We were told that the past two days have been cooler than normal (we thank you, God, for that).
The outing was a six-hour trek through indescribably crowded streets (Saturday is a market day), through Pontien-ville (wealthy area of politicians, businessmen, and the home of the new President), up into the mountains. We stopped at a beautiful vista that overlooked the entire city of Port-au-Prince and the ocean and the gulf. There was also a small market for handcrafted items and artwork there. I bought three necklaces made of coffee beans and small pieces of wood.
We then stopped for lunch, which turned out to be extremely pricey because we didn’t know what we were getting into. It was, however, delicious, and we had a lot of laughs about it. We then went to the Baptist Mission, looked around there while Phillippe went to the hospital on-site to receive some medical attention. We also got ice cream treats there . . . really enjoyable in the early afternoon. After a stop at the Giant grocery store (most Americanized on the island) to get some Diet Cokes for Buddy, we returned to the guesthouse.
After a nice afternoon nap, we enjoyed pumpkin soup for dinner, along with some more homemade bread. The soup is a traditional January 1 meal, celebrating Haiti’s independence. The cooks also served a fabulous drink that combined the juice of some fruit (whose name I don’t know), sugar, and milk. The result was the most delicious “smoothie” I have ever tasted!
I sent our kids a quick email, then we visited with Carl for a while in the evening.
Took my first cold shower ever. Not too bad . . . actually refreshing.
It’s almost 9:00pm. Time for bed.
Sunday, December 4, 2011 DAY THREE
Awake at 5:45. Roosters, daylight, and the sounds from the hillside below.
The sounds from the city below immediately took my mind to the people below. Then the words, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” But not for them, Lord. Not for them.” I continue to struggle with, and be haunted by, the scenes from that first drive through the city.
We will have breakfast soon; then we are leaving for Babaco—a rural area church/community where Carl will preach today. Following the service, we will join them in feeding around 100 children and some adults. I am filled with anticipation. I want to see Jesus today. I want to be Jesus to them today. I want to experience this today. It’s a starfish opportunity and I feel a need for one of those.
We are back from Babaco! It is about a hour or so from the guesthouse (not taking into consideration the 25-minute wait for two riders who had asked Carl to pick them up, but then failed to show . . . non uncommon, we were told).
Turning off the main road, we traveled a little further and arrived at a small cluster of homes beside a newly-constructed church building AND a newly constructed school building. About 35 adults and at least twice that many children were already gathered, with more making their way down the lanes.
We were introduced during the service and brought greetings to these brothers and sisters in Christ . . . a congregation that was started more than 25 years ago by Pastor Francois Gilles! There was lots of singing, lots of praying, and a wonderful sermon in Creole by Pastor Carl. A young man was assigned to translate for us.
The service closed with communion and I was so powerfully humbled to be at the Lord’s Table with these believers.
After the service, we went over to the school area where the children’s program had been held simultaneously with the worship service. There, the scores of children were waiting patiently on the benches for the meal they knew was coming. It was being prepared by volunteers in the old church structure (barely more than a well-worn shack) in stifling hot conditions.
During the wait, 7-year-old Bethsaina occupied the children with her singing and teaching them new songs. One of the songs was “He Knows My Name,” and I was in tears as I listened to her crystal clear voice, watched her expressive face and eyes, and sang with these children about a Maker and Father who knows every one of them by name. Over and over again, I find myself simply amazed that I am here!
Soon it was time to bring out the food. We made trip after trip into the kitchen and then out to the children, setting the stainless steel plates, piled with steaming rice and beans and a piece of chicken, in front of them. Then we were given a plate as well. Humble food never tasted so good!
After our good-byes, we made our way back to Port-au-Prince, dropping off the two earlier no-shows who had taken a tap-tap all the way out to Babaco. Carl says perhaps they will be more prompt next time! I laughed.
Once back at the guesthouse, we rested for a while. That evening, we had Thea’s favorite meal: rice topped with beans and a sauce made of numerous pureed (almost) vegetables. Once again . . . delicious! I made peanut butter cookies with M & M’s for an evening treat.
We repacked/reorganized our luggage, preparing some to go with us to LaGonave tomorrow morning, some to Dan and Joy’s, and some to be brought by Maya to the ladies’ retreat this weekend.
To bed at 9:00pm.
Monday, December 5, 2011 DAY FOUR
Up at 5:00am . . . about 15 minutes after the roosters.
Our driver, Judain, picked us up at 6:15 for our drive to the airport to catch our Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flight to LaGonave. We flew at 8:00 and it was a smooth-as-silk flight of about 20 minutes over beautiful blue and blue-green waters. We landed on a very small dirst airstrip and were met by Greg and Heidi Edmonds, and their son, Luke. It was wonderful to see these friends again!
On our drive to the Wesleyan compound, Greg took us to see the land that has been purchased for the new orphanage home. It’s near the sea and is going to be so much larger than their current location.
We then drove through the poorest section to Anse-a-Galets: the Salines. This is very flat land running right along the water and is very prone to disease due to the human waste that washes back in with a high tide.
We arrived at the Wesleyan compound, adjacent to facilities of WISH (West Indies Self Help) which provides water systems for the island. Many of the WISH staff are Global Partners missionaries as well.
After getting settled into the apartment so graciously prepared for us by Larry and Marty Grimes, we were taken on a two-hour tour of the compounds (Greg joined us for the hospital portion). This also included about a 50-minute visit with Matt Smith, who is the director of OKIPE—the non-profit NGO that is supervising the orphanage (and many other humanitarian and compassionate ministries around the world.
The new hospital that will begin being built in early 2012 cannot come too quickly! This is the only significant hospital on the island so it is certainly essential, but conditions are incredibly sub-standard (by American standards).
Buddy and I gave out Advent Calendars as we met all of the children of the families here. They really seemed to appreciate them, especially when we told them there were chocolates inside! We had Southern Wesleyan University tee-shirts for the teens.
Back at the apartment we tried to rest a bit. It was much too hot to sleep, but we did take it easy for a while.
Greg was thrilled with dinner. It was his favorite meal of barbecued chicken, green beans, scrumptious mashed potatoes and homemade cinnamon rolls. What’s not to like about that?!?
A very welcome cold shower and some reading and studying, followed by a few emails, and I was ready for bed. It was 7:25pm! I sent a few more emails, clicked “send” on the final one just a few seconds before the nightly electricity cut-off at 9:00.
I tried to go to sleep, but our wonderful neighbor was watching a movie at max volume. I’ve decided to tell him tomorrow that he must either turn it down or invite us to the party!
Went to sleep around 1:30am.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 DAY FIVE
Just as Marty had said, “the workers will start at 5:30.” So our day started then as well.
Our breakfast of delicious grapefruit, yummy oatmeal and toasted yeast rolls gave us just what we needed for the morning ahead.
Off to the mountains! The trip up the mountain to Piqme (“pick me”) was arduous, to say the least! Two hours to travel about 7 miles! The road is rocky (large rocks most of the time), deeply rutted (knee-deep at times) and steep. Fritz, one of the translators, rode with Greg, Buddy, and me in Greg’s truck (with the added comfort of air-conditioning). Two of the medical team members rode in the back of our truck. Another truck with about 10 in the back and a four-wheeler carrying two more personnel completed the convoy.
We passed through one or two village areas, but primarily rural, brush areas. Saw many, many people along the way—received lots of stares and looks and were told by Fritz that the Haitians on this part of the island don’t see very many “blanc” in their area.
We arrive at Piqme, pulling into an area next to a church. School children, and their teacher, came pouring out to see us. I was able to take some incredible video of them singing to us and some other pictures of the children. Once they realized they could then “see” themselves on the camera screen, every one of them wanted to be photographed! And many of them were!
After the med team got their supplies organized (they had decided to split into two teams), we accompanied one of the teams to the first house.
We found a young couple and two small children there, a two-year-old girl and a five-month-old boy. Both were carefully examined, measured, and through the translator, the parents were asked questions about eating habits, activity, etc. Both children were declared to be healthy. Written reports were photographed with cell phone cameras and these pictures will then be recorded. This medical team plants to return on an annual basis and continue to monitor and tend to the health care of this “adopted” village.
The mother and father were also examined and as we were leaving with Greg to head back to Anse-a-Galets, the father was being more closely questioned for possible medical issues. The medical team continued going from house to house for several more hours.
Greg, Buddy, and I returned to the compound, along with Esner, another valued Haitian worker at the compound. The trip down was every bit as jolting as the trip up. Upon our return, we enjoyed a delicious late lunch, rested and then journaled during the afternoon.
My muscles are sore, but my soul is soaring!
We shared dinner with the medical team and some others. It was the corn meal with beans and a meat for topping (similar to what we enjoyed at the guesthouse), homemade bread and an avocado salad. There was also a tasty cookie to finish the meal.
After dinner, we were invited to Heidi and Greg’s house for the evening. Coffee, popcorn and playing with Haley and Luke, and visiting with Greg and Heidi was simply great! We are so proud of this couple and their full obedience to Christ.
Back at the apartment, I read and studied a little more and went to bed at 9:00.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011 DAY SIX
Awake around 6:00am (but stayed in bed until 6:50). Listened to the voice of the men working on the guesthouse and spent some time praying for them. Buddy will be sharing with them later this morning as they take a break.
Father, prepare their hearts as you prepare Buddy’s. May they hear and understand Your message on this day.
We shared a breakfast of fried eggs, toasted homemade bread and fresh grapefruit with the medical team and others at the compound, then spent the morning transcribing my journal in a Word document. Due to scarce and limited access to the Internet, I’m unsure as to when we will get to post these entries (along with our pictures). This may actually turn out to be a post-trip blog post.
After lunch (fresh bread, tuna salad, and oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies), Buddy and I walked over the adjacent WISH property where some local vendors come each Wednesday afternoon. We bought some gifts for the grandchildren. (I rather enjoyed the bartering!)
We then went with Greg and Heidi to visit the orphanage here in Anse-a-Galets—something we had been anticipating being able to do while here. We took an interactive world map (a gift sent by Beth Petersen) for their classroom, and also brought dozens and dozens of cookies to hand out to them for a mid-afternoon treat. Madame Soliette and her compassionate ministry under such inadequate conditions is almost impossible to comprehend! Currently, there are approximately 70 children—infants to mid-teens—living in a 3-story structure with no yard and few, if any, amenities. I again felt incredibly humbled to meet her and share even a few minutes with her. I am so hopeful that the new orphanage, to be constructed in the form of multiple “childrens’ villages” clustered on the grounds of the newly-purchased and walled property, will become a reality sooner rather than later. We left, stopping at a streetside vendor to purchase some diapers and then returned to deliver this much-needed item to Madame Soliette.
Greg then took on a sightseeing tour of some more areas of Anse-a-Galets, including a drive back down to the Salines to show us the house that was recently constructed for “the seashell lady.” I had followed Greg’s blog posts about the project, so was thrilled to get to visit it first-hand. We met Jilday and her children, received a big smile and equally big hug from her; then she disappeared into her home. Moments later she returned, carrying three beautiful conch shells she presented to me. With limited language skills, I sought to tell her how much I appreciated her kindness. More hugs, then our goodbyes.
As we were standing there, a crowd of children gathered, and noticing my camera, began to let me know that they would love to have their picture taken . . . and I obliged. One of the older boys began to introduce the children to me. He introduced a small boy standing in front of him as “Ken-nu” then turned to another small boy and said, “Ken-ne.” Looking into their faces, I realized they were twins! Identical twins: Kennu and Kenny. I’m still smiling.
Driving a truck onto the flat, rock-less Salines is an open invitation to all of the children playing there to “jump on” and ride for a bit! Every time Greg would stop, the truck bed would fill with these energetic, smiling kids. So much fun!
On the way back to the compound, we stopped to buy a block of ice for the homemade ice cream Greg was planning to make tonight! After our dinner of rice, beans, chicken and some chocolate chip cookies, a local family was brought in to be examined by the medical team. The doctors spent a great deal of time with them and gave them some medicines. The rest of the team continued to transcribe the records from their day spent in Piqme.
Buddy and I were able to spend some more time with Matt Smith (Okipe) and then . . . Greg kept his promise of homemade ice cream! It was absolutely delicious! I have not decided that Haitian vanilla is superior to my previous favorite, Mexican vanilla.
A cold shower (so refreshing!) and to bed at 9:00. Tomorrow we take the boat over to the mainland.
December 8, 2011 DAY SEVEN
We were up at 5:30 and finished packing for our departure from LaGonave. I did a couple of loads of laundry (sheets and towels) so everything will be ready for the return of our dear friends (the Grimes) when they return in January. Thank you, again, Larry and Marty, for the use of your apartment.
We went to breakfast (wonderful, fluffy pancakes) and fresh juice. We said our goodbyes to the medical team, the cooks, and others who were there.
Back at the apartment, Greg came by to show us a hermit crab that had taken up residence in a small metal bottle (about the size of a pill bottle). We watched him and his new home travel across the porch, drop off the ledge, and then travel slowly out of sight. We then took one last walk over the Greg and Heidi’s to leave the two remaining Advent calendars. As we were leaving, Heidi handed me a thermos of Starbucks coffee (perfectly creamed and sugared!), and wished me a “bon voyage.” It was one of the most thoughtful gestures I’ve experienced . . . and I’ve experience many!
After the two motors for the boat were loaded onto the truck, Greg came to the apartment and our luggage was added to the cargo. Driving to the “private” dock was a trip of only about five minutes and after a few minutes of getting the Wesleyana readied, we had prayer with Greg and said our goodbyes.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, the breeze was blowing, and we were off on another adventure! About three minutes later we were pulling into another dock . . . the public one. Once the boat was docked, Gilbert, our captain, and his “assistant” jumped off the boat and disappeared! Buddy and I just sat and looked at each other. I was trying to remember the route we had taken to get to the area (wondering if we could retrace our steps and get back to the compound). About 10 or 15 minutes later, the men returned with something to eat . . . and two more passengers! We were off again!
The boat trip was perfect! The sea was calm (for which we were thankful) and there was a refreshing breeze. About halfway across, we shared some cheese crackers with everyone . . . and then Buddy and I had a great laugh as we watched them “studying” the label on the packages. We were hoping that “Nip Chee” didn’t mean anything inappropriate in Creole!!!
We traveled across the Gulf of LaGonave to the wharf on the mainland, adjacent to the station (home) where Dan and Joy Irvine (Haiti field director) live. We docked and were greeted by Joy Irvine and Heidi Bezanson. This is a gorgeous location . . . right on the beautiful water. We were given an opportunity to freshen up and then just relaxed a bit before our delicious lunch of tuna salad, fresh yeast rolls, lettuce and slice tomatoes, and grapes. The drink was fresh-squeezed lemonade sweetened by dark brown sugar. Fabulous!
We were joined by two pastors who had already arrived for the leadership training event in which Buddy will be participating. One of them is pastor of the church in Palma, a village through which we passed on our way up the mountain to Piqme on Tuesday. He also serves as the District Superintendent for LaGonave.
The afternoon was spent just relaxing, reading, and meeting the arriving pastors/district superintendents/board members as they arrived. It was so fun to watch them take their bags to their rooms, returning downstairs just minutes later to head for the beautiful, refreshing waters of the Gulf of LaGonave, jut a few steps from the door! The sounds of their laughing voices let us know that they were truly enjoying this rare moment of relaxation and fellowship.
Since the number of those attending kept increasing (10 were invited . . . about 20 arrived), Joy decided that she, Heidi, and I would go on over to Kaliko, the resort site for the women’s retreat that will start tomorrow, for dinner. After getting checked into the room, I joined them poolside for a few minutes before we enjoyed the buffet dinner. Lots of delicious salads were available, but I unknowingly topped my fresh greens with some habanero peppers! First time I’ve ever tasted something that was actually painful! There was a delicious-looking dish of sautéed shrimp and “something else.” I asked the chef and was told it was lambi . . . conch. Madame Gilles (wife of our pastor in Anderson) had told me just a few weeks earlier that this was the one food she missed the most from her native land, so I knew I had to try it. It was delicious, with a taste similar to scallops, but a bit tougher texture.
Joy and Heidi returned to the Ministry Center for the night and I returned to my room to finish unpacking. The accommodations are very nice and there is air-conditioning (except in the bathroom where there is an open screen to a small courtyard. A sign in the room requests that the door between the bedroom and the bathroom be kept closed, so staying here provides two climates . . . one cool, and the other quite tropical.
Buddy arrived about 9:30, following the first session of the leadership event. It had been a very “interesting” evening as these leaders work through some vitally important issues together. That afternoon, Buddy had begun a series of leadership sessions with almost 20 pastors and national leaders on Thursday evening, meeting at what is hoped will become a ministry center for the Wesleyan Church in Haiti along the coast of the northern peninsula near the town of Montrouix. The beautiful house and the adjacent building are being rented by the church, and it is anticipated the property will be purchased as a gathering place for the national pastors, laypersons and missionaries. It is adjacent to the wharf that the Wesleyans have used for many years on the mainland.
The sessions focused on “Staying Power for Ministry.” In the second portion of the evening session, the emphasis was on the importance of transparency and maintaining a clear conscience. In the small group sessions following, and then in the group as a whole, some interesting things began developing as some of the leaders began openly discussing the leadership situation that is still a source of contention more than a year after the transition in national leadership as well as a change in leadership in one of the district superintendents last summer. A “late night” session resulted in further dialogue that is hoped to bring the church to an increased place of unity. Throughout the day on Friday and into Saturday morning, there were additional times of sharing with the group. It is clear that the Haitian church is in a time of transition that has the potential to lead it to increased effectiveness. The unexpected and unanticipated result of the session on Thursday evening was moving the national board to discuss areas that needed to be addressed. Thank you for your prayers. Buddy reported that he felt them being poured out during this special time of ministry.
We got ready for bed and prayed for tomorrow’s events, preparing for another day in Haiti.
Friday, December 9, 2011 DAY EIGHT
Today is Emily’s 31st birthday! Happy birthday, dear daughter!
I slept until 6:40! Buddy was already up, showered, and ready for Dan Irvine to pick him up. Buddy let me know that we did have hot water here . . . it came on about 10 minutes after he showered! I later discovered that this was not completely accurate. There was hot water at the sink, but not in the shower. I finished getting ready and the enjoyed a breakfast of omelet (with ham, cheese, onion, and green pepper), fresh juice, papaya, and coffee . . . with milk! The setting: an open-air dining terrace area overlooking white sand, palm trees, and the incredibly blue water. This was nourishment for both body and soul!
Steve Campbell (Oakway Wesleyan) is in Haiti and will be taking the boat to LaGonave this morning. Greg Edmonds is so thrilled to have him here, as he will be laying the block retaining wall on the new guesthouse at the compound. May God bless you, Steve, for your ministry in Haiti.
Eight ladies will be arriving later this morning and we will spend the next 24 hours together, relaxing, talking, and mixing in three sessions designed to encourage and bless them. I enjoyed a precious time of mind and heart preparation as I anticipated spending these hours with some very special women.
Father, anoint me for your purposes during this time. Create in me a spirit of availability and listening. Hide me, reveal yourself. Draw each of us to you. May we hear your voice, know your love, and experience the joy that comes from expressing our gratitude to you.
It’s probably time to insert in here that I am not feeling great! It began Wednesday evening and continues. It has reached a point where I’m sensing it’s probably best that I eat very little and drink lots of water and juices.
The ladies have arrived: Joy, Heidi E., Heidi B., Michelle, Beth, Kate, Cassie, and Maya. Following lunch, we met for our first session together, The Power of Being Remembered (I Samuel). I presented them the gift bags filled with things from back home: snacks, convenience foods, magazines, a copy of Jesus Calling, beautiful handmade pins, soaps, a journal and more. Thank you to all of those who contributed to our being able to bless these women in this way. We had a sweet time together, then the pool and an afternoon of much-needed relaxation was waiting for them. For me, I felt that some time in the room, drinking lots of purified water, and perhaps a bit of rest while I waited for my system to settle was the best thing.
About 4:30, I joined the ladies by the pool. I loved listening to them as they shared their insights and wisdom with one another. The early sunset (around 5:15pm) was breathtaking. I found Maya and her three daughters down by the water, where we sat and talked until around 6:00. (Carl had gone to join the men’s group for the afternoon.) Carl and Maya have such a tremendous heart for what they do . . . 1) operating a guesthouse in Port-au-Prince that serves as a respite and stop-over location for visiting teams and many, many others that God brings across their path, and 2) utilizing EQUIP materials to provide leadership training, a much-needed aspect of the work in Haiti.
I joined the ladies for dinner (did not eat) and then got ready for our second session, “Doing vs. Being: Finding the Balance.”
Father, anoint me once again for this time of sharing. May we all sense that what you want (desire) most from us is us, not our work.
We had a wonderful session together and there was a great deal of sharing about this very needful and critical topic. This is an area where we all find ourselves seeking balance. Father, please guide each of these women as they seek to hear your voice and to set aside the time necessary for cultivating a relationship as a “fully-devoted daughter” of yours.
After our session, it was “Girls’ Movie Night.” I stayed for a while and then left to finish preparing the notes and cards for Buddy for tomorrow.
I find myself thinking of the men’s group where Buddy has been all day. Father, be in the midst of them and anoint Buddy for this assignment.
When Buddy returned to where we were staying at Kaliko, he was now experiencing the same physical issues I had been having for about 24 hours. I’m guessing it’s probably quite difficult to go through an extended trip abroad without this “souvenir.”
Saturday, December 10, 2011 DAY NINE
I slept until 6:30, once again waking to find Buddy already up and preparing to leave for the men’s meeting. I got ready, ate a banana for breakfast, and then finished packing up the room.
I had asked the ladies to bring their juice and a piece of bread from breakfast as we gathered together for one last time together. I taught from Jesus’ example of “giving thanks” in demanding, overwhelming, and threatening situations: feeding of the 5000, standing before Lazarus’ tomb, and at his last meal with his disciples before his betrayal and crucifixion. “Eucharisteo”—giving thanks—is a means of introducing and applying grace and joy into our lives. Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts has been used powerfully by God to help me realize the beautiful and life-changing truth of this and I sought to communicate this to this group of special women. I then encouraged them to spend some time before our heavenly Father expressing gratitude and thanksgiving. We closed with a time of prayer.
After closing, the ladies took time to make a group picture beside the beautiful Christmas tree that graced the central rotunda of the resort. We then loaded up to head back to the Ministry Center, where Buddy and I said our goodbyes to Carl and Maya and their girls, then walked over to the boat dock to say goodbye to those headed back across the water to LaGonave.
Buddy had just finished up the meetings with the pastors and other leaders. Here’s a recap:
On Friday and Saturday morning, additional topics were covered and the pastors became increasingly comfortable in communicating in English. (Buddy had correctly assumed that their English was much better than his Creole!) He was moved by a presentation of the priorities of the North District as they shared their need for assistance to move forward as a district. He intends to share these with our district family in the hope that we can assist in one or more of the following areas: completion of a dorm on their district property; completion of the Cap Haitian church; assistance with ministerial training; and the need for medical training so the clinic can be staffed by Christian personnel. He was also impressed with the leadership capacity represented by this group. By the end of their time together, he felt a very strong connection with the pastors and counted it a joy to be able to share a monetary gift with each of them from funds contributed by our district family.
After a light lunch, Buddy and I were shown to our room on the second floor overlooking the sea. It was bright, airy, and, on this day . . . very hot! It is a warm day, little breeze, and the sun streams in the windows. This is an absolutely beautiful location!
We went downstairs to relax some for the afternoon (it’s cooler there) and then, around 4:15 . . . we went snorkeling! What great, cooling fun! It is just a short walk (about 15 yards across the yard), down a couple of steps, and into the water. We spent the last hour of daylight in the water, exploring along the reef and then just visiting with Dan and Joy as we watched an incredible sunset.
Back inside, a refreshing shower and then dinner . . . a burrito bake. It was delicious, but we ate sparingly, as my intestinal troubles have worsened and Buddy’s have not improved. After dinner, we talked for a while longer with Dan and Joy and then it was 9:00pm . . . bedtime. On this night, the room was so warm that sleep was difficult (but I must note that this is really the only night we’ve had where this was the case).
The ministry center is a beautiful place that serves as home for Dan and Joy and also a much-needed gathering place for leadership training, housing guests going to/from LaGonave and other destinations. They are within $30,000 of being able to buy it!
Sunday, December 11, 2011 DAY TEN
Awake at 6:00am. The start of another beautiful day in Haiti!
Due to the busy weekend, everyone was somewhat weary. In light of this (and the continuing intestinal issues Buddy and I were having) Dan decided that we would all stay on-site today and have our worship service here instead of traveling 40-45 minutes to church for the 2-3 hour service in a facility with no restrooms!
We shared a breakfast of fruit, boiled eggs and toast.
We then had a wonderful time of worship focused on Jesus’ “remembrance” admonition at The Last Supper. After reading from Luke, Chapter 22, Buddy asked that we tell of an item that represented “legacy” or a special memory to us. We then shared communion together and prayed. It was such a special time!
I spent the rest of the morning reading . . . and journaling.
Lunch was toasted chesses and tomato sandwiches and fruit. Quite good!
Since the temperature was much more comfortable today, we were able to rest for a while in our room. About 4:00, we headed for the water, and more snorkeling, again. Again, we watched the sunset over the mountains and the water. I could get used to this!
After a cool shower, we shared dinner together: a delicious casserole of mashed potatoes, cabbage, and bacon. It was really delicious, but, again, we ate little.
It was suggested that perhaps it was time for Buddy and me to take some Immodium, since we do not seem to be getting better. 4½ days of this have left me a bit weak.
We went to bed at 9:00, thanking our Father for another wonderful day in Haiti . . . and for the fantastic breeze that was blowing in off the water.
Monday, December 12, 2011 DAY ELEVEN
On this, our last morning in Haiti, we got up around 6:30, having slept all night and feeling much better. (Buddy was not yet feeling great.)
We began organizing our bags and doing the final packing for our return trip. We were planning to leave at least one piece of luggage here, but Buddy received an email last night from the team that is coming in January and they are needing luggage, so we will take it home and give it to them.
We went downstairs for breakfast: fruit and delicious oatmeal. I truly enjoyed the sweet oatmeal and a piece of toast.
We then finished packing. I gave Joy my copy of 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp, some remaining cookie mixes, and travel tooth-brushing kits. Buddy gave Dan an LED flashlight and donated his Crocs (great for going in the water there) and some t-shirts. We’re lightening our load!
We were set to leave the Irvine’s around 10:15 or 10:30 so we could be at the airport no later than noon for our 2:13 flight. This would give us plenty of time to get our boarding passes, go through immigration, and the multiple security checkpoints in the airport. The boat was coming over from LaGonave with Heidi Edmonds, Haley and Luke, and Merlen (see first day). Heidi and the children would travel into Port-au-Prince with us, meeting Carl Gilles at the airport, since she was going to be staying at the guesthouse and flying out on Tuesday. Combining schedules and travel in Haiti is a matter of necessity.
At 11:00, the boat was still not in sight. A few minutes later, it appeared on the horizon. At about 11:15, we loaded up the van, driven by Judain, and drove over to the dock area to wait. As soon as the boat docked, Heidi and the kids were quickly loaded into the in the van and we headed for the airport. It was now about 11:40 . . . about 1½ hours behind our hoped-for schedule.
We had driven for about 10 minutes when Judain pulled into a gas station. Pulling up to the pump, he handed the attendant some money and we waited. About 60 seconds later, he jumped out of the van and began to have a heated conversation with the gas station attendant. He had just put about 6 liters of diesel into the gas tank!!!
One sure sign that Buddy has, indeed, mellowed (and is even less assertive) with age: He had been somewhat anxious throughout the morning about the delay in our leaving. When the driver stopped in front of the diesel pump and got out, Buddy commented to Heidi and me that he was quite sure this wasn’t a diesel engine, and wondered if he should say something. He chose to keep silent (with my blessing) assuming the driver (and the attendant) knew more about this particular matter than he did.
There are just so many variables when traveling in Haiti. This, however, was one we never could have anticipated. After attempting to start the van, then adding some gas to the diesel fuel, then trying to start it again, it became clear that this vehicle was going nowhere! A phone call brought Dan and a replacement vehicle, and we resumed our trip at 12:20pm.
Dan thought he would have us to the airport an hour ahead of our flight, but that just wasn’t going to happen. We pulled up in front of the Delta entrance at 1:32 (can you tell we were watching our watches?), paid out $30 to get our bags inside the door and onto the conveyer belt, and raced to the Delta counter. The rep’s first two words: “No chance!” There was no way we could get on that flight (the only flight of the day).
After this news sank in, I ran back outside to see if perhaps Dan was still there waiting to make sure we had made our flight. He was gone! I returned to the counter and, for the next 30 minutes, attempts were made by the rep (speaking on the phone to a Delta rep in the US) to reserve seats for us on the same flight the next day.
I went back outside two more times to see if perhaps Dan had driven back around, but saw no sign of him. I then began to contemplate how we might get comfortable enough (using clothes from our luggage as pillows, etc.) to spend the night in the airport.
Here is a brief description of our situation: We were stranded!
• We had no usable phones (ours were not set up for use in Haiti).
• We had no Internet service.
• We had no phone numbers or street addresses for the Carl and Maya or Dan and Joy.
• No one knew where we were and that we had missed our flight.
We could not go further into the airport because we had no boarding passes or tickets for a flight that day, and those were necessary for getting through immigration and security checkpoints. There were no bathrooms, no water fountains. We had already been told not to go out into the streets as that was not considered safe.
After about 30 minutes, Buddy convinced the counter rep to let him speak with the Delta rep on the phone. God provided us an incredible “angel” named Susanna Gonzalez! Explaining that she had been having great difficulty understanding the counter rep (so had we), she then proceeded to quickly take care of the flight changes, allowing us to use miles to pay the charges. Then, when Buddy explained our full situation, she truly went above and beyond her responsibilities!
She asked Buddy if he had email addresses for anyone who could perhaps help. He was able to access contact info from his phone (even though it was not activated for phone use in Haiti), so he gave her email addresses for Carl/Maya Gilles and Dan/Joy Irvine. This wonderful lady (in her office in Dallas, TX) sent emails letter them know where we were! What a blessing she was to us!
Buddy then went to the immigration desk (located in our little area), told the gentleman there our story, and was allowed to go to some nearby vending machines and came back with some water for us. Since there were no more flights out of this area today and the place was getting rather empty, we decided to “set up camp” – gathering our bags around us, pushing a movable stand up next to a rather tall table (it helped me climb up), and making ourselves comfortable on our tabletop seats. We shared an oatmeal square, some crackers, and the water . . . and received quite a bit of smiling attention for the airport employees and red-jacketed men scurrying around the entrance.
Since we had no way of knowing if or when the two emails the Delta rep sent would be received, and we had a NYC hotel reservation we needed to cancel before 6:00pm if possible, Buddy felt he needed to go in search of internet access. He asked and was told that there “might be” a possibility in the American Airlines section. So, leaving me at our “camp,” he went out the door and headed down the sidewalk to the next entrance.
He had been gone about 45 minutes and I was getting a bit anxious, because I had realized that the remaining personnel in the section of the airport where I was sitting were “closing up” . . . putting away the kiosks and equipment. It was beginning to look quite bare, and I began to realize that spending the night in the airport was not going to be an option at all! (I found out later that they actually do close it!)
At that moment, I heard a voice calling, “Madame Rampey. Are you Madame Rampey?” I turned and saw a smiling face peeking around the barrier between where I was sitting and the entrance! “Hi, remember me?” It was the same friendly gentleman who had offered his vehicle (and himself as driver) when our pre-arranged driver had gotten stuck in traffic on the day we arrived in Haiti at this same airport!!! Unbelievable!!!
I was absolutely thrilled to see him! He assured me that he was going to take care of us and went off to find Buddy. He returned twice without him, then . . . the third time brought him and Buddy in together!
His name was Bourdeau (“Bhu-doe”). As we, with unspeakable relief, drove to Carl and Maya’s guesthouse, we began to piece together how it had all unfolded:
The Delta rep had, indeed sent the two emails, using her personal Smartphone to do so.
Going to the American Airlines terminal, Buddy was finally able to gain the favor of an eavesdropping security guard (after speaking with three others). He took Buddy upstairs where he was able to access the Wi-Fi. An email was sent to Beth Petersen, daughter of Dan and Joy and Administrative Assistant at FWC/ALIVE. Then, in an effort to cover all the bases, he sent a follow-up email to almost everyone else on staff there—Tom, Pete, Patrick and Stephanie—asking them to have Beth check her email ASAP. She did and then phoned her Dad and Mom.
Joy then called Carl and Maya who called one of their drivers. The driver called his friend, Bourdeau, who was sitting in front of the airport. God had answered prayer in such an unexpected, but wonderful, way!
As he drove us to the guesthouse, Bourdeau shared his story: He was a married father of three (5, 3, 2), and a driver for private corporations and security details when the earthquake hit in January 2010. His five-year-old daughter was killed and he was badly injured, requiring extensive surgery on his right leg and about a year of rehab and recovery. He found himself with a wife, two surviving children . . . and no means of support.
He told us how God had provided for him/them in miraculous ways in the past 23 months:
• His quicker-than-expected recuperation
• A place for his wife and children to live, while he slept in his vehicle for 3 months! Said he prayed and worshipped almost all night every night . . . and saw God’s provision for him and his family.
• A friend he contacted about job possibilities told him to come to the airport and just sit and watch and wait – learning the job of being a driver for arriving visitors to Haiti.
• One such client, whom he referred to as Dr. Nancy has made it possible for him to have the funds for his sons, now 5 and 4, to attend school.
He considers him as God’s employee and his vehicles are God’s vehicles. I couldn’t help but feel my spirit soaring as I listened to Bourdeau’s praise-filled testimony. He glows!
We arrived at the guesthouse, unloaded our luggage, told Bourdeau goodbye, and went in just as everyone was gathering for dinner (“supper” in Haiti). In addition to Carl and Maya, Heidi and the kids, there was also a group of 3 (1 Californian and 2 Canadians from Sarnia) who arrived that day from the Dominican Republic. I sat and talked with 82-year-old Rose Hall and learned about their reasons for being here. They (she and the gentleman who was from Sarnia also) have partnered with Tom (from CA) and others and are going to meet with Haitian government officials tomorrow to present their project: erecting a new community on some “virgin coastal” property that will provide 250 homes, a school, and a retirement village for Haitians! She spoke with such enthusiasm and hope for this new venture.
It was also the 1st birthday for Chantal’s twins so we celebrated with balloons and delicious carrot cupcakes Maya had made.
We were, understandably, weary, so we said our “good nights” and, after one more cold shower, it was time for bed. Our second “last night” in Haiti!
I am SO thankful to be in a comfortable bed, a safe place with friends, clean water, a fan . . . and an overwhelming awareness of God’s provision and the help of some “angels” along the way today.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 DAY TWELVE
We were up at 5:30 to begin our day. It was decided that we would go ahead and go to the airport with Heidi and the kids this morning (they have a 10:15am flight), even though it will mean a long wait for our flight (2:15pm). Doing this would mean that 1) we could help her with the children, and 2) we would run no risk of missing our flight again!
We hear the driver’s horn at 6:30 . . . but he would just have to wait. It seemed that no one in the house was on our time, so we would just have to adjust and be on theirs. (One would think we would have learned this by now!) Instead of leaving at 7:00, we began taking the bags out to the waiting vehicle at 8:00 . . . and there was Bourdeau! I think that all of my rave reviews last night about this driver may have earned him a direct all last night from Carl! At any rate, I was so glad we got to see him one more time.
We had a great, though slow, drive to the airport, but I was getting concerned about Heidi’s cutting it so close, as we didn’t arrive until almost 9:00am. Buddy had arranged with Bourdeau to give our tip dollars to him, letting him select our “helpers” from among the pressing crowd of men outside the airport, all trying to grab the pieces of luggage (and support their families). The arrangement worked well, but after telling Bourdeau goodbye and getting to the airport entrance doors, we were told that Buddy and I could not enter yet since the Delta counter wouldn’t open until 10:00am. Buddy was able to talk the security person into letting him accompany Heidi and the kids inside to help her as they were checking in. The airport personnel do seem to have a soft spot for those traveling with chidlren.
Outside, I settled in with our five bags in a shady spot on the sidewalk just outside the entrance. I passed the time by turning away no less than a dozen street vendors and an equal number of red-jacketed men offering their help in getting me through security (for a fee). My vantage point allowed me to see this process at work. If you give the red jackets some money, he pockets some of it, then gives some to the security guy at the door. My dim view of this system, not to mention my seriously-diminished cash flow, made it easy for me to refuse to play along. I would just wait . . . and continue to disappoint the street vendors!
After a while Buddy returned and was happy that he had been able to stay with Heidi and look after Haley and Luke until she had gotten through the check-in process and was on her way.
A few minutes after 10:00, we were allowed in, and suddenly there was a gentleman beside me offering to help with the luggage I was trying to maneuver through the door. I tried to tell him “No,” but he just smiled and said, “Please, m’am. You pay no money.” I finally relinquished the bags and, in no time at all, he had them through the door down the walkway and on the conveyor belt. He then turned, smiled, shook my hand and said, “See you next time.” About that time, Buddy caught up with me and told me that this was the gentleman that Bourdeau had hired at the curb to look after us! I must assume that he had just been keeping tabs on us until he knew it was time for us to be allowed in . . . and then he was right there. Thank you, Father.
Once inside, we were told to go and stand off to one side of the room with others who, it turned out, were also waiting for the Delta counter to open. (All of the counters in this area serve at least one other airline.) While we were standing in the line, the Delta agent from yesterday walks in, sees us, smiles, and says, “You’re here early today!”
Around 11:00, our line began to move through the check-in process. There are no scanning machines so all luggage had to be placed up on the tables and manually searched. We then got to the counter, received our boarding passes, and we were set to go!
During this process, we talked with a Haitian who now lives on Long Island, New York. We had met him the day before (he had also missed the Monday flight). We found out later, after de-boarding in NYC, and talking with him in the US Customs line, that he is a water engineer and employs about 30 people in a company that is working to provide clean water systems in Haiti.
Going upstairs to a lounge area, we found seats, bought some ice cream, and waited. About an hour later, we headed downstairs to the main waiting area . . . and saw Heidi and the kids! They had been taken off their plane twice due to a mechanical issue! Buddy held a sleeping Luke so Heidi and Haley could go get some lunch. They rejoined us and we waited for our flights.
At about 1:15, their flight was called and we said goodbye to them again. (We counted that we had now done this five times: Thursday on LaGonave, Saturday at the dock, Monday afternoon outside the airport , earlier this morning, and now in the afternoon!) A few minutes later, our flight was called and we boarded, sitting just two rows behind the gentleman from Long Island. We were off! Goodbye, Haiti . . . for now!
We had an incredibly smooth flight to JFK. While waiting in baggage claim, Buddy heard someone calling, “Anyone here that sat in Seat 17E?” Buddy turned to look, and there was a Delta person carrying Buddy’s backpack and computer! He had left it on the plane. We felt that we were truly being looked after (by God and by Delta).
Taking the Air Train to Federal Circle, we were picked up by our hotel shuttle. After getting settled in, we ordered some fantastic fresh Italian pasta dishes that were delivered to our room from a nearby restaurant. Yummy! We sent a few emails and went to sleep in NYC. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we go home.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 DAY THIRTEEN
Up at 5:30, downstairs at 6:30 for a 7:00am shuttle ride to the airport. Everything went quite smoothly and by 8:15, we were ready to board our flight for Charlotte. I had been watching a group of children (about 8 of them) with two adults . . . all wearing matching shirts reading New Horizons for Children. I listened at heard them speaking what sounded like an Eastern European language. I was amazed at how well they were all handling the many lines and processes they had gone through that morning. They boarded our flight with us. I used my phone to Google what I had read on their shirts and found that this is an agency, based in Georgia, that provides trips to the US for Eastern European orphans. Beautiful!
Arriving in Charlotte, we were picked up by our son, Aaron, and then met Liz and the kids for lunch at Cracker Barrel. We then drove to see Buddy’s parents, who had observed their 69th wedding anniversary two days earlier.
We arrived at Table Rock around 6:30pm! It felt both wonderful and strange. We are immensely grateful for this trip. The spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical impact of it cannot be minimized. We will be in the “sorting” process for some time to come. The disparity between here and there is simply too great to comprehend . . . you cannot begin to compare the scope and depth of what we have been given (and allowed to have) with the scope and depth of what the Haitian people do NOT have.
I loved the time spent with those who are giving their lives in serving Christ in Haiti. I loved the time spent with those who are being served. This journal probably contains, for most of you, more “insignificant” detail than you care to read, but I didn’t want to miss a thing . . . nor forget it when the days and weeks have created distance between me and the days spent there.
Almost everyone asks: “Do you want to go back?” Absolutely. “To do what?” I don’t know. I just have a sense that there is more.
To those of you who prayed . . . we owe a debt that cannot be adequately expressed. God opened paths that we could not have anticipated. He protected in situations we didn’t know would develop. He spoke to us through the planned and unplanned.
To those of you who gave . . . we sought to use your financial gifts to bless all those to whom God gave us access.
To those of you who think you might want to go to Haiti sometime . . . do it.