Journal Entries from Haiti

I have been back from Haiti for 5 days and still have not acclimated to my American life. For some ridiculous reason, I think every time I return that  this will be the trip where it is easier…..but then I have to ask myself the hard questions. If it gets easy, then doesn’t that mean that I have grown numb or uncaring about  poverty, lack of clean water, and the scarcity of free education in Haiti? Doesn’t it mean that I have sold out to the lie as long as I am comfortable I can forget the children with nothing to eat and whose parents are dying of easily cured diseases? I truly believe it can never be a smooth transition….and if it comes to the point that it is not a struggle, the people of Haiti need someone different. Someone who cares enough to come back to the US disillusioned by the excess and the waste of the American culture and the lack of opportunities that exists in Haiti.

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For the first time, I had the opportunity to journal the whole time I was in Haiti. The journal is called  “The Essential Writer’s Notebook” and it has a guide for writing. The portion at the beginning encouraged me to write my “first thoughts.” Not the cleaned up, well-put ones but the ones that come straight from the heart….and here are some pieces of those entries.

Day One

I am headed to Haiti. I miss the smells- open fires with beans and rice cooking. The sights- raw beauty and uncensored reality. The sounds- horns honking in the city and the noise fading farther and farther away the higher we climb the mountain.

Every time I board the plane to leave the US I know I am headed for my destiny.

My calling.

My paradise of purpose.

In the hotel last night we told a lady we were going to Haiti and she asked if we were going snorkeling. The man at the front desk asked if we were going on a cruise. I wanted to sit them both down and tell them from my soul how our trip would be so much more rich and beautiful and tender and true than a ship with lots of food and excursions. I felt that they were being robbed of valuable information by me  not telling them. If only they knew the people! The countryside! As I started to explode with what I wanted to tell them, I kept walking. Maybe they don’t want to know but I felt selfish keeping it to myself.

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Day Two 7:30 am

I sit and watch people walking by constantly carrying everything they have to make a living. A bag of eggs. A bundle of green onions. And I see two things- desperation and peace. How can they exist simultaneously? One exists because of the other? Or the desperation becomes so overwhelming that peace must enter in or there is no hope? I am not sure but their eyes are unsettling. As I sit and think that I MUST be the world’s greatest philanthropist, I am struck immediately with…..this is their life- every minute of every day. And I enter in at a week or two at a time. I don’t know their suffering. Or their struggles to feed their children everyday.  Or the disappointment of the students who graduate from our school in the sixth grade and cannot afford secondary school in the city. Those students who are now working on the farm look at me with such longing to sit in a desk and learn that I become overwhelmed. Burdened. Desperate for answers. My mind begins to reel and then it just becomes a weight I cannot shake.

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Day Three

Today we are headed to the market. I love going there! It is where I get to see friends and meet new ones. It is where I was told that the Haitians call me “good mama” and was the defining moment when I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be…but then there is the other side of reality- sometimes I wonder if I can keep doing this work as hard as it. And as I begin to unravel all the reasons why this work is draining and exhausting, I see a smiling face underneath a load of carrots or a uniformed student learning to read and I know this is my calling.

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Day Four

Today we leave to go down the mountain. It is bittersweet. I see in their eyes two things- I appreciate you coming and are you going to leave me here? It is hard and beautiful. Sad and encouraging. Tiring and invigorating. Maddening and settling. My mind feels like chaos and peace. Chaos for what is left to do and peace for what we have already done.

What do the Haitians think when we leave? That we have abandoned them? Do they wonder if we will come back? If we are just part time friends? Or do they know we have given our hearts to them?

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Day Five

Sitting in the airport waiting to go home. Tears are welled up in my eyes. I feel broken. Lost between two worlds. I am leaving so much work unfinished. It is like walking away in the middle of a conversation and wondering how you could have ever aborted the discussion in the midst of something important. In these moments I am not comforted by what we have already accomplished because in this moment they do not cure disease or enroll students in secondary school. Those problems still exist and I go home to the comfort of my home, my over-indulged pets, full pantry, and easy life. Life in the US will never be as difficult as it is in Haiti.

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Truths I lave learned to rely on:

Stay true to the calling.

Never stop telling people about the desperate, beautiful people of Haiti.

A comfortable life is not one well-lived. A sacrificial life will leave a mark.

I must be motivated by purpose.

Many entries were left out of this blog because they were too raw and too honest. I would be glad to share them if anyone is interested.

The Struggle is Real….

 

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Every time I return from Haiti, it is a struggle. Leaving a village that has no running water or electricity, parents struggling to provide one meal a day for their children,  and dear friends of mine fighting for their lives as disease slowly takes over without the means to see a doctor weighs heavily on me as I board the plane to come home.  Much of the time, the U.S. does not even feel like home. I spend so much of my time here in the States feeling like an outsider. Like I just don’t fit. As if I was created for something different.  Often loneliness sets in. Other times I withdraw- not meaning to- and stop answering my phone because I am stuck in the world of in-between. In-between my life here and my life there.

The struggle is very, very real.

I  got back last Monday and had lunch on Wednesday with one of my closest friends, who happens to be a therapist. She texted me days later and asked if I was ok and said that she was worried about me. It was  then I knew I was not adjusting back to my American existence as well as I thought I was.

This trip was the hardest transition so far- out of at least the 20 times I have been to Haiti. I think my dream team of three was able to really engage with our friends there and  realize how many obstacles they face. To have the time to truly listen to their hearts and God opened many doors.

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Jean Marc suffers from pain every day due to a genetic disease that affects his joints. In spite of it, he has always been outgoing, confident, and has overcome all the obstacles. This trip I sat with him while he recounted for me the stories of how he was told as a child he “was nothing but a cripple” and how people discouraged his parents from sending him to school because they said he would never amount to anything. A Christian school by his house

IMG_1455actually refused to allow him to enroll so he was left walking 1 1/2 miles in the mountains in order to get an education. Some days his legs got him there and other times the pain was too much. Listening to him recount how he has carried this with him all his life was heartbreaking…..but such a privilege to share in his struggle.

 

 

The school where we work is grades K-6th. It has been our dream for years to add a secondary school but the cost has been too much for us to manage. As it stands, students who graduate from our school must leave the village for 7th grade and live 20 miles from their parents to attend in Port au Prince. They must have approximately $500 US per year for books, uniform, and tuition and have a place to stay (at an additional cost). For the farmers in Chauffard, this is rarely an option. So after 7 years of applying themselves academically and overcoming so many obstacles, the students are forced to quit school. Even though I knew this was a problem, I was overwhelmed with the reality when I saw one of our graduates, Julie, selling in the market because she was not in school.

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One day a student, the next a graduate, and then the road to education stops. Why? Money. Smart, motivated, studious, and driven but hindered simply by the fact that her parents are farmers and cannot provide an education for her. As I snapped the picture of her in the market, I was weeping. Weeping over her and the other 16 students who graduated last year from our school who are not able to continue. On the plane ride home as I was wrestling with this, I came to a realization. Education has always been an issue in impoverished countries and will continue to be if we are not advocates. If we don’t stand in the gap for those who have no voice. So my attitude has been slowly shifting. As I have begun to recover from the despair and desperation I feel for these students, it has turned into a feeling of thanksgiving that I get the opportunity to be the voice for them and the one who fights for education. In a country where we very much take schooling for granted, I get to educate others on the struggle that occurs all around the world. As my friend so simply put it …….

 PAIN INTO PURPOSE.

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The stories from this one trip could easily fill up a book. The lives full of loss and gain, triumph and defeat. Not much unlike our lives, but the struggle is so extreme in Haiti that sometimes my mind cannot even comprehend it. The people of Chauffard have never seen a cent from the government- NOTHING. No help with education or roads or food. They are contributing members of society yet they are declined anything to improve the way they live.  And yet…..they persevere through the hardships and the disasters. I have yet to see one of them give up. I will never understand the capacity of the human spirit in them. It will always be a mystery to me.

The mountains are calling and I must go.

My shoes sit by the door and I am ready to go. To help. To learn. To encourage. To be blessed by a people who teach me more in a day than I could learn here in a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring on the rain…..

I have complained at least 10 times a day for the past few weeks about the constant rain.  The pool is overflowing, our road is flooded, the grass is growing too fast, baseball games cancelled, and my hair turns into a frizzy hot mess!  
Then this morning it hit me….

Water.  A necessity but a scarcity for so many.  Walking hours just to fetch water.
And then only having the amount that you can carry on your head.

Contaminated water.
Sometimes just a trickle of water coming out of the source.

Most not having a simple rain barrel.

Washing clothes and dishes conserving every drop of water.


In Haiti we have a school that has grown from 40 students 5 years ago to 300 children currently and there was not a way to catch the rain until recently.  We had a cistern built but no gutters.

Then we built a gutter system.

The cistern had been empty for months but we waited and prayed for rain.
The team was ecstatic about the new gutters but still no rain.  We waited and prayed for rain.

Then it came and it did not stop.  And we hoped it wouldn’t.  In that moment, we knew the importance of the rain.  That is sustains life.  That it is essential to living.  We were not thinking about the inconveniences of the rain or the slippery mountain mud that we would have to endure after the storm.  We were only grateful for the fresh drops of cool rain that poured from the sky.  We were content and not complaining.  
We knew the blessing of the rain.
And the next day the community had water in the cistern that saved them a 3 hour round trip hike to the water source.
So today I have a new attitude about the rain.  As I see it come down, I think about my friends in Haiti who count on it to survive. To boil their rice, to drink a few sips, and wash their few bowls and forks.
I pray one day every single person in our village in Haiti has a rain barrel.
I am hopeful that my inconveniences won’t consume my thoughts but that I would be radically changed because I have seen the need.  Once you have seen you can’t stay the same.  I slip into my little pity parties and God drags me out and reminds me that there is work to be done and there is no time for being consumed with what does not matter for eternity.
Bring on the rain.