Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Most Corrupt Country in the World!

I check the google news for Haiti a few times a week just out of curiosity to see what the rest of the world is saying about us. Today I was interested to note that Haiti was listed by a watchdog group as the most corrupt country in the world. Hmmm. A few thought are that this is not news to me or my family. Everyone who spends any time in Haiti realizes this pretty quickly. In fact, it is more expensive and costly to be honest. Working with the changing government(s) over the past few years requires a delicate dance to say the least.
One good example was when my husband worked about 10 years ago to get our school licensed with the Haitian government. Documents were submitted, site visits held, multiple meetings, etc. that one would expect. I asked those responsible wasn't there something that could be done to speed up the process only to be told, "well, we could bribe them, but that is beneath us". Very often many development workers in this type of world get impatient and just pay it. This begins a steady decline and slippery slope descent into decreased effectiveness. Many believe though that it is just the price to be paid to work in a world with little accountability.
I'm really grateful for the workers I see that won't descend to this level though. Years ago, I was told that the most important thing we can ever do is just live here, and live in a way that reflects the values of our maker. While that may see obvious to believers/supporters in the states, let me tell you that the constant wear and tear of "corruption" is tough to stand against. Be praying for your friends/co-workers that live here, ok?
While the "most corrupt" label is a sad one, it only states to me the great need for our presence here. While we work to build up infrastructure, buildings, classrooms, train people, etc., THE most important aim we have is working towards the ultimate goal of getting people's heart changed. And I know who can do that, because He's done it in me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The toilet has left the building

You never know what the next day will bring. Recently (of course while we had house guests) the toilet upstairs refused to flush.

We have two bathrooms in our home, one in our living quarters and the other downstairs in the guest room. So we do have alternatives….and indeed are privileged because most folks around here are using outhouses. Anyway, the funny part of the story comes after we called an area plumber.

Knowing that a lot of workers don’t really have the necessary supplies, my husband asked the guy if he needed a snake or anything else to help with the project of unjamming the toilet.

He was like, no, we’ll work it out. Later we found out he just didn’t want to ask us to spend more money to purchase anything. (what a guy!)

I returned to my homeschooling duties and the next thing I knew I saw the gentlemen and his helper had heaved the entire toilet onto their shoulders and were taking it outside. (!)

Wow, talk about commitment. I knew better (years of experience) than to even question what exactly they were trying to accomplish.

My 8 year old daughter wandered in with the comment, “Mom, the toilet has left the building…”

My children then gathered around the hole in the floor in the bathroom and wondered what to do the rest of the day.

Eventually it did get returned, but man, if this doesn’t illustrate the willingness to do the impossible around here, I don’t know what does.

Talk about longsuffering.

You’ll be happy to know we did finally return the toilet back to it’s proper spot.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Katie with her new doll...


the first doll

When we arrived we were greeted by many friends and family members and lots of boxes! We'd held our mail/cargo while in the states so nothing would get misplaced in our absence. Several boxes were gifts from sponsors to children and about 15 large boxes were filled with Christmas gifts to be given out to area children. We've held the annual Christmas holiday party for several years so neighborhood kids were getting excited. One little girl, Katie, who's been Ben's sister (see previous entry) came to me. She quietly whispered, "Do you think you can find a doll for me?" I told her I couldn't promise her anything but I'd look through the boxes and see what God had provided us to give. She willingly accepted that and agreed to check back with me later.
As we waded through the boxes (literally) I was surprised to find one with Katie's name on it. Then I remembered that Katie had just recently been assigned as a sponsored child through our school program. I happily called her to me the next day the showed her the box from her sponsor. It was loaded with 4 wrapped packages all for her! They held crayons, a coloring book and several outfits and new barrettes. And then....a huge box holding a cabbage patch doll just for her! Most Haitian kids are pretty shy about sharing their feelings, even when receiving neat gifts. This little girl was so excited she couldn't contain herself. She jumped up and kissed the doll's face through the box! It even had barrettes like her!
What really touched my heart was her brother's response...he said, "Ma Caleb, when Katie was getting ready for bed last night, she prayed, 'please God, help Debbie find a doll for me.'"
God's sovereignty is not to be second guessed. Katie told me this was the first doll she every had...I hope I can convey to her sponsor her joy and excitement!
This week I was reading a Time magazine story about the people of the year. I think the choices they made were good ones, I have respect for all those selected (Bono & Bill & Melinda Gates). However I am a champion for the underdog, the unknown heroes. The vast majority of donors which support our work here in Haiti are NOT known nor do they even want to be.
A reported was following Bill & Melinda Gates on a info-gathering trip in India last month. After their visit to an impoverished home, the reporter went back to the mother of the family and asked if she knew who it was who just came to visit her. She said something like, 'those nice people, no, not really.' She was told by the reporter that the gentleman was the richest man in the world...her response? 'oh, well, everyone is richer than me'. I had to laugh outloud at that, it is so what everyone here would say. My thoughts keep returning to her comment tho', because folks, you don't have to be as wealthy as the Gates' to make a difference.
Katie's answered prayer for a doll may not seem like a big deal, but her smile and renewed faith are priceless.

Eager Greeters

Traveling to Haiti makes one feel quite popular. When I flew in a few weeks ago, there was a small crowd waiting patiently at our grass strip airport for us to arrive. One of the group was a little boy named Ben. Ben is about 9 years old and had a vested interest in us coming back. Earlier in the fall my husband had told me that the students who were having the most trouble in school all came from broken homes. He referred me to Ben as an example.
Ben lives in my neighborhood and in fact his mother works for me helping with laundry and ironing three days a week. He has a younger sister named Katey. Ben's father has not been in the picture for years and noone seems to know quite what happened to him. Ben is an active little guy and has been hanging out at our house more and more often over the past year. After being told that he was really struggling in school, I asked his mom if I could try to motivate him.
She agreed and I made a deal. I told Ben that if he could show me two semesters of passing grades when I came home from our fall trip, I would bring him a toy car. He agreed that was a fair deal so that explains why I was suddenly so popular at my arrival.
I had to laugh because literally the first face I saw running out to the plane was this little guy. He was pretty dissappointed when I told him that my bags had been lost. Anyway, I told him I needed to see his report card. Sovereignly, the report card and lost luggage arrived the same day later in the week. Sure enough....he had passed both grading periods thus far. I produced the promised battery operated 4X4 pickup truck, fresh from Wal-mart. It was pretty cool, it made all the expected noises and would drive off and the return to the operator. Ben's smile told me he thought it was the coolest thing since electricity in town.
Maybe that enthusiasm is what motivated his sister's expectations....

It took my head two weeks to get here...

People frequently ask how long it takes to travel to Haiti. I tell them it's less than a 2 hour flight from Miami International to Port au Prince. So physically we got to Haiti on Dec. 27th by 10 AM. Our bags took another 4 days but that is another story altogether...
What I want to communicate here is how long it took me to get back to the mentality here, which is not necessarily a bad thing. When I first get back I'm always energized after good visits and food, etc. from the states. It takes me a few days to get "beaten down" again to the reality of life. It started when we realized the electricity/invertor system we have to store energy in our home was not working quite right. We have 8 car batteries that are charged by solar panels, wind turbine and generator power depending on what's available. It's been about 5 years since the batteries were changed so we're basically needing to replace all 8 to have a stable power supply to get basic work done. Will have to put that on a list of needs for our prayer warriors. But that was not the big thing.
After several days of fetes (parties) for various groups in the community (employees, neighborhood kids, etc.) we were beginning to slow down a bit. One night when the city power came on, I went on the roof to oversee pumping water from our storage cistern to our rooftop. I usually have to do that every 3 days or so. Water normally falls in our two cisterns during rainy season and if we're careful, we'll have water to last throughout the coming dry season (December-May). Well strangely the pump only got the water level up to 150 gallons (half full) so I walked down to the first floor to see if there was some problem. Got the keys, unlocked the cistern to look inside.....uh, oh, it's empty, pretty much dry. On closer inspection it appears that some tree roots have grown into our cistern in search of water and drained off all my stored water! UGH.
Let me explain what this means in practical terms, I know because I went through this before several years ago when it happened before. This means that every ounce of water we use to drink, wash or bathe with for the next 5 months will have to be hauled from a well. This is going to be a very long winter. The first time this happened I developed a new appreciation for Bible verses with references to cisterns, especially DRY cisterns.
Anyway, the realization that we didn't have any water was pretty discouraging. I remember when I told Caleb about 15 years ago that I thought I could live in Haiti as long as I got a shower every day. That hasn't changed (smile) Add this new need to the fact that our family promptly got sick as soon as we arrived back...kids with fevers of 103, etc. I was exhausted for the first three days we were back dealing with illnesses, etc.
BUT....my head is finally back home. I can happily tell you that all these frustrations (otherwise known as day to day life here) have been good for me. When I first arrive from North America, I'm still running at the pace demanded by life there...which is both good and bad. I have to slow down here, slowed down by the sheer difficulty of day to day things. Answering questions like, am I going to have water to bathe with today? Am I going to find all the supplies and power to print out the document the pastors wanted? Am I going to take the time to smile at and speak kindly to others asking me for help? Even when I can't help them?
Okay, ya'll I'm home now.