Ok, don’t get me wrong… earthquakes are terrible and the toll of this earthquake makes me cry if I think about it with much focus and reflection at all. If I look down my broken street and remember that, once upon a time, I used to live in a land far away where not only was pavement normal, but homes did not have to have razor wire and high brick walls, it makes me remember just how jacked up Haiti is… and that was before all that razor wire and masonry got flung on the ground by earthquake “Samson”.
Haiti needs a day of silence, or a week of mourning, or a millenium of prayer and fasting. This week many of us are committed to the latter…
BUT, and this is such a big “but” that it deserves all caps and an extra “T”, so let me say it again:
For all the sackcloth and ashes, I have to confess, helping Haitian people is a ton of fun. In talking with other friends who have been in Haiti from the beginning of the quake and before, we all admit a secret kind of guilty joy in participating in this relief effort. Partially this is because of the sense of being purposeful and helpful. Everybody likes to feel necessary to somebody. We all like being a source of life… which is why creativity, healing, reconcilliation, and childbirth are the pinnacles of human experience… But that’s not really what I’m talking about. The joy of helping goes beyond a self-congratulatory sense of achievement or the joy of giving hope and life to people. I’m thinking more about the adventure of it: the ride of waiting, and working, and seeking, and loving, and giving, and being in the dirt with a fun and interesting batch of God’s people.
Haitians are funny. I’ve seen some Haitian street kids beg for food with a loaf of bread in their hands or an orange in their mouth.
“You are eating right now!” I told one boy who was chewing on a mandarin while he begged.
“No, this is an orange, so I’m drinking right now.” He replied with a witty grin.
“I need food to go with my drink.”
Haitians’ grief and suffering is not so sacred to them that they can’t interrupt it to laugh at a guy who bonks his head on a tree limb because he’s ogling a pretty girl. When they are starving to death they still laugh at jokes about eating rocks and pooping out cement, and they don’t stop laughing for about two hours, even though the laughter is the most action their stomachs have seen since a meal eaten 3 days prior. Yesterday I sprayed ant killer on some ants and one of my students asked if ant killer was flamable. I illustrated the answer for him with the strike of a match and the noise of the ignited aerosol sounded like another earthquake to some of our Haitian friends in the next room. Within moments all of our artisans were outside, some of them were lobbing their babies on their shoulders and running, with fear that they might loose ANOTHER child under the crushing weight of falling cinder blocks. But rather than shivering at the morbid traumatisation of all this, we all spent the next hour laughing about our jumpy nerves and recounting how high certain individuals jumped and who had the funniest looking scared face. This is why Haitians will endure this natural disaster better than almost anybody on the planet could. They know what it’s like to trust God and find joy and humor in times of lacking resources. This is not new territory for the Haitian poor.
But the other thing that just lights up this time of darkness is watching God show off. He just loves to flaunt his power and love. In the first days of the earthquake literally everything we needed personally, such as food, water, diapers, and medicine, came in through prayer. We had very little communication with anybody but God, and we went to Him with our requests like they were a shopping list. At any other time I confess I feel awkward approaching God with such requests. In John 15 and 16 Jesus seems to make a big deal about how much he wants us to take advantage of the right he gave us to ask God for stuff, but it has taken me a long time to relish in that and not think that it was selfish… even when what I was asking for was for the sake of helping other people. But Paul said that asking with faith in God’s overabundant, benevolent charity actually honors God because in responding He gets to reveal more of His goodness to us and to the world. Well, God definitely made his presence known and glorified in those first weeks. We literally had door to door delivery of specific brands of diapers, prescription medications, lactose free baby formula, the right kinds of fuel, batteries, and enough food to feed all the people we were helping in our yard as well as many of the people in the slums, and in most cases we had not told anybody but God those specific needs.
After Shelley left to the states with the children (another answer to prayer regarding our adoption process) my prayers for water in the cistern were answered, as well as our prayers for cash flow and open markets for purchasing food aid.
The following is the latest story of God’s extravagence:
Yesterday I went with my senior class kids to a small area where some ramshackle homes had fallen in the earthquake so that we could gather data for teams that may come to rebuild in the future. Besides the fact that about 6 families were sleeping on the dirt with no tarp or blankets, two great needs were apparent to me. First, many of the kids had no clothing. One boy, fascinated by my ability to speak creole and by the way my hair refuses to curl into “pepper corns” like his, insisted on petting my arm and my head, making me more than a little uncomfortable because he wasn’t wearing any underwear or pants. One of the mothers begged me to bring back some clothes the next time I visited. “Nou pa gen anyen, ditou ditou! Tout plat yo te craze, timoun yo pa gen rod, pa gen manje.”
“We don’t have anything at all. All of our plates are broken, the children don’t have clothes, and they don’t have food…”
If the sorrow in her request was not enough to motivate a response, the awkwardness of being on the receiving end of Pepper Corn Nudey Pants’ ongoing displays of affection gave me resolve to address the nakedness problem. I counted up the kids who needed clothes, not knowing where I could find enough for all of them. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 kids.
The second need I noticed was that there were two young girls with malnutrition serious enough that their beautiful black hair had turned “rouge”. This kind of malnutrition has a medical name that I should know, but I forgot what it’s called. Something that sounds like the french song “Frere Jaques” when you say it right… not that I ever have. What is more important is that I know the cure, thanks to the Livesays and Licia out at Real Hope for Haiti in Cazale: MEDICA MAMBA. Medicated, vitamin enriched, yummy-for-malnourished-kids peanut butter. Troy Livesay gave me a box of Medica Mamba before he left for the states, so I knew I could deliver it today, and I thanked God for providing this miracle drug for such a time as this.
Note: Tara Livesay ran a marathon to help the Medica Mamba company raise support and awareness… but I told rock-to-cement poop jokes in creole to a kid who was about to eat the stuff… the peanut butter, that is. I think that’s almost as cool as running a marathon, but if I get in a cool contest with the Livesays, I’m doomed. Troy has more coolness in one strand of his feathered hair than Miles Davis had in a million blue notes wafting from his muted jazz trumpet. Troy sneezes coolness. HE SNEEZES COOLNESS!
O.k., back to my story…
SO I knew I could deliver on the request for food and diapers, but I wondered where I could find clothing for such a broad swath of ages and genders. Literally five minutes after I got home, Sean Blesh called me to tell me that a truck had dumped a bunch of free clothing at Quisqueya Christian School and he asked if I had any use for any of it. “It’s mostly kids clothes though, for kids between 3 and 15 though,” Sean told me over the phone. I sent the seniors to grab what they could and they came back with four boxes of clothes brimming over. God was showing off again. I love it when He does that. We took the clothes to the kids today and the families were overjoyed to receive it. Oddly enough, one parent had asked me yesterday if I could find her some shoes. In our four boxes of clothes there was only one thing for adults… a single pair of shoes.