Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Role In Life


2: something that attracts
I am a magnet. Which means I could say that I am attractive. Unfortunately what I'm about to share isn't the attractiveness I desire.

I am a magnet for poor customer service. When it comes to dating I am a huge freak magnet, but that is a post for another time. For now I'm going to talk about how I draw horrendous service to myself and whatever party may have the misfortune of being with me.

Allow me to offer a few examples. Several years ago I was shopping with my dear friend Jef. She needed a black skirt for a recital. After searching for hours she found a skirt that was perfect. Unfortunately it had a button missing. The button was covered in the same fabric as the skirt so she was going to have to replace all the buttons. The young sales girl offered a discount on the skirt for the inconvenience. This young lady was truly amazing with her service.

As Jef was looking for a skirt I happened upon two white blouses I simply had to have. The shirts had just been stocked and neither had any pricing. The same sales girl (she was a teen) looked up the price for me (asking the manager about one of the items) and told me the shirts were $25 each. I decided to get both of them.

When Jennifer and I approached the register the manager was behind the counter and took over the sale, no doubt because she wanted the commission. She rang up Jef’s skirt for the full price. When we explained about the buttons she didn't seem to care and didn't want to give the discount promised. Knowing Jef needed the skirt for the recital a couple of hours away we persisted. The manager reluctantly gave in and told us that she would give in to the discount but that the sale would be final and could not be returned. I found that ironic considering the large sign above her head that said, "No sale ever final." The same sign said, “Ask about our lay-away program.” But when we asked to put something on lay-away the manager told us that the lay-away program had been suspended.

Then it was my turn. When the manager rang up my shirts the total was WELL over $50 plus tax. I asked about the discrepancy and she told me that only one of the shirts was $25 but the other was much higher. She said they had made a mistake in quoting that price to me. (It was in fact the manager that quoted the price to the sales girl.) She asked if I wanted to purchase the shirt at the much higher price and I declined. She then proceeded to tell us that she thought we were bad people trying get something for nothing. She also told us she believed we were acting the same as thieves.

As we walked through the mall I told Jef that I was angry by what had happened and wanted to go back to the department store. She just smiled and turned around.

We returned and I told the manager that I didn't appreciate her words or attitude that afternoon. I went on to explain that it was wrong, if not illegal, to quote a price on an item and then change that price at the register. I got the second shirt for $25 and I still have it today.

Another example would be my relationship with a certain restaurant chain. On five back-to-back occasions this chain has abused me. Yes, abused is a strong word. But when it happens five times I think you can choose to call it as such.

And before anyone asks why I was pathetic enough to keep returning to the same establishment I hope to redeem myself. You see, the first two times I could chalk up to coincidence. The 3rd and 4th times I stopped by to join friends already on location. The 5th time was sheer stupidity.

The first couple of times at this eatery (no longer in business at that location) I was served the wrong dish. If I ordered chicken I received steak. The 3rd time I placed an order but it was never delivered. Thankfully my two friends shared their food. We mentioned my lack of a dish several times to no avail. And the best part! Our server gave me a check anyway! We just stared at her and told her that the joke wasn't funny. We paid for my two friends and started to leave. Then our server told me she needed me to stay until she got my ticket handled. Um, excuse me? We explained that we needed to get to our movie. She was not happy we left before she could talk to the manager. Sadly that wasn't the last time I would order at a restaurant and not have my dish delivered. It has happened three times.

The 4th occurrence was as simple as me ordering a steak medium well and it being delivered rare. So you see, it isn't that I'm being unusual with my orders.

Several months passed and I tried the restaurant one last time. I ordered a salad to go. My mistake was not checking the salad before I left. When I got home there was an ingredient spread all over the salad that I did not like. Since that ingredient isn't supposed to be on the salad I wondered if I had been given someone else’s order. Nonetheless I wasn't going to eat it.

So I called and spoke to the manager. I explained I was too far away to drive back and asked for my debit card to be reimbursed for the mistake. He agreed and asked if he could do anything else. I told him there wasn't and then explained my five visits to his establishment. He offered 2 free meals to make up for the poor service. It was a nice gesture, but I declined. He continued to insist and I finally gave in and gave him my address so he could mail the coupons. When I got the coupons a week later they were not for two free meals as he had stated. Instead, I received two coupons for a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees. And the two coupons couldn't be used on the same visit. Wow.

A few years ago my Sunday School class went out to eat after class for my birthday. While we were eating one of my friends told our server it was my birthday and asked for a piece of cake to be delivered to me. Five of us ate the cake. When our checks were delivered I noticed that I had been charged for the birthday cake that I hadn’t requested. How nice.

Now this type of service happens to me on a regular basis. My friends can attest to this fact. One evening, when going out to eat with several friends someone piped up and said, "Who wants to guess how Tauna’s order will be messed up." To which another friend added, "That's if she even gets any food."

And a story from Miami. When we were at the bakery my friend Kim and I took numbers and got in line. She was #60 and I was #61. They called her number and assisted her. Then my number popped up on the board. A lady behind the counter turned, looked at #61 then said, "Number 62." I held up my 61 and said, "Ma'am, I'm #61," but the lady with #62 stepped up next to me and she was taken ahead of me. So I waited. Then another bakery lady walked up and said, "Number 63." Mind you my number was still on the board. Again I showed my number to the lady and asked for assistance. She didn't acknowledge me but Instead helped #63. I finally found someone to sell me a pastry.

Just last Sunday I decided I wanted nachos from a place near home. I walked into an empty lobby with another lady and we waited for the host. When the host arrived I explained that I wanted an order to go. I didn't mind when he asked me to wait while he seated the other lady. However, I began to mind when he kept seating everyone that walked in after me and never took my order. He also didn't call anyone else over to take my order.

I stood for 10 minutes as he seated five more parties. When I asked about my order he told me to wait until he was finished seating the rest of the lobby and he would then go get someone to take my order. I said, "No thank you," and left.

I found another restaurant, placed my order and took it home. It was the wrong order.


Monday, July 28, 2008

End of the Journal

I realized I never completed the Haiti Journal. Well the only thing remaining is the trip home.

We were up at 4am on Saturday, July 5th. We loaded the buses and headed out a little after 5. I tried to capture the sunrise out of the bus window as we bumped down the dirt road away from the mission. Too bad the pictures were all blurry. I can't imagine how that happened. Here's a blurry shot anyway. The color alone makes it worth posting a terrible picture.

(The blurring makes this one looks like an impressionist painting.)

We made it to the airport with no issues and were off to Miami. Along the way we saw some of the most beautiful cloud formations, and the water between Cuba and the Keys was beautiful.

Once in Miami we had a 10 hour layover. Kim & Colby MacDonald and I hopped in a taxi and went to lunch at a local restaurant. There was a bakery on site and we grabbed some pastries for our long wait at the airport.

Oh, and did I mention that I was almost beaten up by an eight year old? I'll explain.
We played cards as we waited. While we were playing a young girl was watching us. Colby asked if she wanted to join our game. Chichina was born in Miami but raised in Jamaica. She and her teenage brother were flying from Jamaica to Texas to see their dad. As we played cards with Chichina she asked if we could guess her age. We all said 11 -13 (she was 5'1" and about 130 lbs). She laughed and told us she was only eight. Her brother confirmed her age and we all sat in astonishment. So remember that name because we are sure she will be in the WNBA someday.

Being eight years old she started wrestling with me. It was fun until this child (who is the SAME size as I) began to get rough. Chichina grabbed my arms behind my back and began shoving me. Unfortunately she didn't know when to stop. I was afraid she and I were going to end up in a heap on the ground. I could have broken her grip but I didn't want to hurt a child. I finally spoke to her in a tone of voice that made her let go. It was obvious she wasn't accustomed to obeying adults, and it it took a moment for her to respond.
Still, Chichina begged me to take her with us as we walked down the hall in search of food. I explained that she had to stay with her brother in case they announced her flight. They had already missed one connection. I don't understand why anyone would allow a 15 and 8 year old to travel without an adult. I hope they made it to Texas.

We arrived in Nashville around 11:30 that night. When we got off the plane there were several parents waiting to collect their children. One of the parents laughed and told me I looked like I was returning from the Peace Corps. I had to agree. I had a backpack, was wearing cut-off khakis, and had a do-rag over twisted hair. Quite the look for me. By the time I got home and checked email it was after 1:00 when I got into bed. I think I was asleep before the sheet sank down around me.

What a blessed life I have. God has so gifted me with amazing opportunities. I am so thankful for the relationships I have in Haiti. I pray I get to return soon. If anyone reading my journal has been touched by what they've seen or read and would like to help please contact me. If you are interested in sponsoring a child through New Missions PLEASE contact me. I promise you have no idea the impact it would have on the life of a child.
Thank you for all your prayers and support regarding this trip. I am humbled and loved by you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Haiti Journal, July 4, 2008

I woke up this morning with a fat lip. My top lip was the size of my thumb. While big lips looks great on some people it is not a good look for me. And did I mention that it doesn't feel so hot either. I have the beginning of a fever blister. Thankfully I brought medication for just such an occasion and the swelling was down before anyone else was awake to notice.

Then it was off to the pavilion for another beautiful sunrise. A storm was passing in the distance. Besides the beauty it added to the sky it also ushered in strong breezes off the Caribbean Sea. What an enjoyable morning.
After breakfast we had our last devotion under the mango tree. When asked what we should sing someone suggested "The Star Spangled Banner." And while some thought it was an odd thing to sing at devotion I loved the idea. After all, today is our Independence Day and my patriotism is an extension of my faith. So we stood, some with our hands over our hearts, and we sang our national anthem in Haiti. What a great memory.

A little while later we loaded a bus and a truck and headed to the beach. The nice beach an hour and a half away. The beach at the mission is black sand with lots of rocks, thorns, and pollution.

The beach we are going to today is more along the lines of what you will find in the states, but for the water. The water is so different. It is magnificent shades of blues and turquoise that give pause to your soul. Blue has always been my favorite color and the variations I experienced through the water and sky brought a welcomed intermission to my life. Here is a view of the beach just before you step through the gateway in the rock wall.

We camped ourselves at the beach in the distance at the right of the background. Kim MacDonald, Lauren Hurst and I walked up the beach and around the point (on the far right). We collected shells for various friends back home. Then Kim pointed out a treasure to me, tiny seashells near the tide line. There were tons of these precious little gems. No one was looking for small shells so there were plenty to find. I grabbed about 20 and hope to make necklaces with them. A couple of the shells are so small you could fit 7 of them on a dime. Thank you Kim!

We had another opportunity for shops at the beach. This time I was ready. I asked God for wisdom on what to buy and the price to pay. As a result, I had a much smoother time this go around. I actually walked away with quite a few gifts and can't wait to distribute them when I get home.

And I can't forget our musicians. Last March we were impressed by a couple of guys and their ingenuity. One gentleman played a medley of songs on his kazoo as he tried to sell a few seashells. He played hymns and Christmas carols. And why is this memorable you ask? What makes it memorable and remarkable was that his kazoo was really a rolled-up leaf. Cool huh?

The second gentleman wasn't as musically talented but he gets high marks for creativity. As the resident guitarist he walked the beach showing everyone his guitar and singing. His playing wasn't good and his singing was worse. However, how well could you play a guitar made with tin cans and strummed with a plastic spoon?

On the way back to the mission it began to rain - HARD. Those of us in the back of the truck were soaked. Now I realize we just came from the beach but that was warm, beautiful water with a hot sun overhead. The rain was another story. It started as a sprinkle that no one minded. The sprinkle quickly became sharp, wet bullets as we traveled down the road at about 50mph. And in case you haven't ridden in the back of a truck in a while let me remind you how windy it can be. Even I got a little chilled and that is saying something since my friends have vote me as "Most Likely to Spontaneously Combust." All in all I have to say that I still enjoyed the ride.

When we returned to the mission it was time for the other activities we had signed up for during the week. Some folks were going on boat rides while others had manicures and got their hair braided. I chose hair braiding, or rather hair twisting. It took awhile to explain what I wanted, with the aid of an interpreter of course. Finally Carmen understood what I was looking for and set out to turn my head into a mop of tiny twists. Bless her heart because she was one of the only ladies that didn't have an assistant to help her. She was flying solo and I have A LOT of hair. So as soon as Lauren's hair was finished one her stylists came to help Carmen.

When it was over I had a funky, ever-so-slightly cute, quite a bit ghetto hairdo. I had 2 options. I could leave my hair as it was or I could don a do-rag. Hmmm. Ghetto or Pirate? I chose pirate. Unfortunately the only photo I have is blurry so you will have to make do with this one of Lauren and me at our silly best.
(I actually kept this "do" for a couple of days and went to church as a pirate. Everyone at home got such a kick.)

Since it's Friday we gathered after dark by the pavilion. Charlie, our missionary, has a Friday night tradition to end each mission week in Haiti. Fireworks. It's especially appropriate today. I'm always amused when we have the fireworks show. I wonder if the nearby villages are used to Charlie and his pyrotechnics or if they think he's crazy. Regardless, they have to enjoy the gorgeous explosions that fill the sky.

We headed to bed rather early since we have a 4am wake-up call. We have to be on the buses at 5:00 to leave for the airport.

I can't believe this week is over. I have so much to process. There are so many amazing memories for which God has allowed me to take part. "Thank you" seems so inadequate sometimes. I am so blessed. My heart has much to digest.

Beautiful people. Beautiful country. Beautiful faith.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Haiti Journal, July 3, 2008

I got up at 5am to see another beautiful sunrise. Someone had left a boat on our beach overnight. I know the owner will return for it but until then it is mine to shoot while waiting for the sun.

After I finished my journal entry last night I went to the pavilion to look at the stars and listen to the waves. I didn't get into bed until after midnight. A small lack of sleep is worth capturing these magical moments of peace.
At 9:00 this morning we walked to the mission depot for the rice feeding. When we arrived someone was calling my name. A message was being yelled across the yard that Nadia was at the office. Maclane had told me he wanted his picture with Nadia so the two of us started walking toward the office. As we approached Nadia walked through the gate and met us at the road. She was smiling from ear to ear and said, "Tauna! Tauna!"

I just about melted. The same shy, beautiful girl that barely spoke to me in March was smiling and calling my name. We stood in the gateway and hugged each other. Mesi Jezi!

I introduced Nadia to Maclane. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared for her to be there so early so I had to ask her to wait while I walked back to the cabins to get the gifts I had for her. Maclane went back to assist with the rice feeding and Colby MacDonald walked me back to the cabins.

When Colby and I returned to the office Nadia was gone. We were told she left but they were sure she didn't go far and would return. I still don't know where she went because she lives a long way away. By the time she returned we didn't have much time to visit because I had to get back to the rice feeding. I gave Nadia the card and money from Melissa as well as some pictures I took of her last Spring. There was a cute picture of her and her brother.

I asked Nadia if she would walk over to the feeding with me so we could get that picture with Maclane. We also took a photo of Nadia and Missy. As we said goodbye I gave Nadia a few bucks for a tap-tap ride home. She had traveled alone this time and I wanted her to get home safely. I wish we could have visited longer.

(Beautiful Nadia wearing the necklace I made for her.)

The rice feeding went well. We fed over 200 families and the leftover rice went to feed Bord Mer LaSalle. I saw a lot of humility on some very proud faces as they accepted the rice. There was one older gentleman in particular that captured my heart. He stood with his bag of rice and waited as we were about to pray over his group. I could see the pain and gratitude in his features. The beauty of it made me turn away. I couldn't allow anyone to see the tears filling my eyes lest he or anyone mistake them for pity. There was no pity, just compassion. I admired than man.

(A side note: My stomach was growling out loud as we prayed over the hungry families with their bags of rice. It made me realize how hungry I wasn't.)

For lunch we hosted the sponsored kids. It was so amazing to see the kids with their sponsor families. Kerri Forbus got on her knees and hugged her little boy as she met him for the first time. I'm so happy I witnessed that introduction.

Watching the host families give presents to their Haitian families was such a blessing. And getting to see the children playing with their American families was priceless.

(Scott & Kelly Mills with their son Wednell.)

(Schnieder is the son of Chad and Whitney King.)

This trip has been about building relationships for me. The March trip felt like an introduction. An introduction to the land, the culture, the people and particular individuals. This time around we have been able to move beyond the surface and begin the journey to something deeper.

I pray God will allow me to return to further develop what He has started. I hope to continue with the friendships I've initiated here with the Haitians and Americans alike.

After the sponsored children went home we went to the pavilion to watch the soccer game between the Haitians and Americans. We all laughed when John Mark, Yaguel, and Alan took off their jeans and they were wearing long, soccer shorts underneath. Nika also played and represented the girls very well. She was quite the little goalie. We had a great time watching and cheering.

Around 4:45 we loaded onto the flatbed and rode to Biree to see Madame Bolo and her daughter Suzanne. Madame Bolo is in her 90s and blind. Last year Madame Bolo accidentally burned down her house on the beach (made of twigs). Sonny (remember him) saw the smoke and saved Madame Bolo. Brent Gambrell's family built her a new house in a new village and we were going to see it. Last March the house was just a foundation so we were excited to see the new 3 room home. We had a sweet, albeit short, visit before we walked back to the Mission.

It was fun walking back through Neply. Since I've only ever ridden through it was fun to get to walk with some of the children rather than just wave to them as we passed by. As we walked through we said our final goodbyes to John Mark, Alan, and Yaguel who all live in Neply. Then we rounded the corner for home.

By the time we had devotion under the Mango tree my head was hurting badly. I ended up going to bed at 8:00. What a bummer! I've been enjoying sitting out at the pavilion after everyone is in bed. I hated missing that.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot Dyllan and his machete. D cutt the tail off of a lizard with his machete. Then as the tail lay wiggling on the ground he chopped it into pieces. He is truly "Wild at Heart." I can't wait to see what God does with his life.

For that matter, I can't wait to see what God does with mine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Haiti Journal, July 2, 2008

Once again I got up early to sit by the sea and see the sunrise. Phillip usually beats me to the pavilion. As I walked up he told me I had just missed a double rainbow. I would have enjoyed seeing such a sight.

I sat a while with my Bible study and prayed. About half an hour had passed and I decided to walk past the gate, onto the beach. As I walked across the field I looked up talked to God. Sounding much like a little girl asking her daddy for a prize I asked aloud, "God, may I have a rainbow too?"

Sixty seconds later...
God is so cool. I like Him so much.

Back to ConCrab for day two of VBS.

This morning as we finished our morning devotion under the mango tree, Mike asked for everyone going to ConCrab to gather together. He then had the rest of the group surround us and pray over us in light of the disturbance that happened yesterday afternoon regarding the rice tickets. I wasn't nervous to go back to ConCrab after that incident, especially then, standing together as Heaven was being poured down on us by our friends.

VBS was pretty much the same except today I got the pastor to do the Chicken Dance with us and the kids LOVED it. He was such a good sport. And I had so much fun with Nika. We laughed a lot. She is such a lovely girl.

We completed Bible school without any issues. But then I didn't expect any.

We ate tuna salad sandwiches on fresh baked rolls for lunch. Since I'm a big fan of tuna salad I was quite happy. Unfortunately we didn't have plain Lay's potato chips to go with the sandwiches so it wasn't the same as home. Then again, we don't have fresh, homemade rolls at home. I'd call that a fair trade.

Today is "Friend's Kids Day!" That means you get to meet with your friend's sponsored child. After lunch I took a very quick shower to wash off as much Chicken Dance and Macarena sweat as possible. Then I went to the Mission office to visit with Nadia. (Note: Melissa Leaver is the Women's Ministry Director at TRBC and she is Nadia sponsor.) Unfortunately Nadia didn't come. I waited until the last person was gone. Even though she was scheduled for today I hope she shows up tomorrow on "Sponsored Kids" day. I would really like to see her again.
Later that afternoon we went to shops. I like shops but I also dislike it a great deal. It's fun looking for little treasures to take back to folks at home while blessing a Haitian family at the same time. However, it is impossible to bless each family. When I go to shops I feel torn between wanting to bless a family and feeling like a fat, rich American.

Kim MacDonald and I ordered 5 machetes from Sonny (our friend from LaSalle who told us about the preemies). However I think we were too cheap with our money for what we asked. We decided that if he is able to get the machetes for the money we gave him then we will give him an additional sum for his troubles. If he is unable we will offer the extra amount and ask him to try again.

There was another situation at shops today that I don't feel as if I handled it as well as I could. It was with a vendor selling a short, fat machete. I feel as if I should have given him another dollar. Lord, if I offended that man to the point of causing a roadblock to You, please forgive me. It's utterly amazing what $1 can mean here.

It didn't occur to me to pray over going to shops today. Silly me. No wonder I lacked the wisdom I needed.

Tomorrow we will pack family gifts and conduct the rice feeding at Bord Mer. I pray the feeding goes well and there aren't any incidents.

Oh! I almost forgot! We went to church at Bord Mer tonight. I sat with our interpreter Cindy and a bunch of munchkins who wanted to sit with a blan. It was SO much fun to worship there again. Church here is so free. We laughed. We danced. We cried. We WORSHIPED. Father God, I truly pray You will let me return to Haiti to continue with the relationships I've begun.

(This is one of my beautiful, little church buddies.)

I missed the opportunity to get a picture of the beautiful sunset because of the service and yet I'm just fine with that. After all, church was more than worth it and He did give me a rainbow this morning.
This was the first night the sky wasn't socked in with clouds. I hope I have an opportunity to capture another Haitian sunset before I leave. If I know my God, He'll have plenty more painting to do before we go.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blog Note

In an effort to catch up with posting my Haiti journal I have/will be posting more than one entry per day if possible. Currently, I have posted 5 days of my journal with the earliest post toward the bottom. So start low and work your way up.

Thank you to those who have expressed interest in seeing the photos and hearing the stories. And thank you for the notes you've left me. I am so encouraged by you my friends.

Haiti Journal, July 1, 2008

I love sitting under the pavilion looking out at the sea in the morning waiting for the sunrise. There's no time for my journal now. Right now I am going to talk with God.

It's now a little after 9pm and the generator has been turned off. There is a raucous gathering across the way on Mike & Scott's screened porch. It sounds like lots of fun but I want to get my thoughts of the day down on paper before I go to bed.

The day started with a mile and a half walk to ConCrab for VBS. I said I was curious to see what Bible school was like here. Boy-oh-boy is it different. Whitney (the bgm Missions Director) said it was a week of VBS crammed into an hour. The way it works is amazing.

VBS runs from 10am to noon for about 100 children. Half the kids were sent to the Big Room and the other half was divided into 5 groups of 10. Each group of 10 went into a classroom to hear a Bible story and do a craft. So you have 5 classes that last 10 minutes each. At the end of the 10 minutes a whistle blows and the small groups change classes until each group has attended all 5 classes. Unfortunately we could only handle about 100 kids per day so there were children, and adults, watching through the windows and doorways. They wanted to participate so badly.

While half the children attended class the other half was in the Big Room playing games, singing, and learning the Chicken Dance and Macarena. The kids LOVED the Chicken Dance. It was SO much fun but my word, I think I sweated 3 gallons. I literally soaked through my clothes. It was gross but no one cared. In fact, we were sweating so much that when we linked arms to swing each other around I almost threw a little girl into the wall because we slipped right off one another. Oh, the fun! If only that sweating equaled pounds lost.

After all the relay races and dancing the pastor at ConCrab presented the gospel to the kids. What a great spirit in this man.

We returned to the mission to my FAVORITE meal from the March trip. I was so hoping to enjoy this dish again. It's beans and rice but what makes it so special is the stewed veggie topping. I don't know what all veggies are in the mix but it is cooked and cooked and cooked until everything melds together into a thick, delicious medley.

Following lunch we divided into several different teams. One team went back to ConCrab to hand out tickets for the rice feeding. Another went to LaSalle for door to door evangelism. My team went to Bord Mer LasSalle to host a medical clinic for the children.

Several things happened between the groups. The ConCrab team got mobbed by the people and things turned a little ugly. The pastor lead the Americans to the church and shut them inside. Once there they waited a little while until the crowd dispersed a bit, then they returned to the mission. They weren't able to hand out all the tickets because of the commotion. They related that it was slightly scary but mostly sad because of how hungry and desperate the people were.

The LaSalle team led two people to Christ while going door to door. One gentleman converted from VooDoo. Mesi Jezi.

Finally, my team returned to Bord Mer LaSalle with Jenny for a clinic. I acted as the pharmacist for Jenny just as I did in March. However, this time the clinic wasn't as chaotic. Jenny said she is learning how to better run a field clinic and it definitely showed.

Jenny appointed Kelly to act as the check-in administrator. Kelly Mills (a bgm girl), with Nika to interpret, did a great job keeping things organized. Tim Jennings (from AZ) was in charge of crowd control. He was wonderful at keeping the flow moving with a constant smile on his face. Brent Madden (from SC) was equally as great in this endeavor. And we had several young ladies, Hallie, Mallory, Beth, and Laura Grace that played with the children who had gathered around to see what was going on. We also had several guys that played soccer on the beach with another group of kids. All in all there was plenty to keep the kids occupied so Jenny was able to treat her patients without a crush of curious bodies. It went well.

When the clinic was finished we sent our team back up the beach to the mission without Jenny, Nika, Kelly, TJ, and me. The five of us went to LaSalle to see the preemies we 1st met on Monday. The mama is still in the hospital but the babies were sent home.

We visited with the grandmother and her little girls. Jenny looked the infants over and asked Grandma lots of questions to ascertain the care they were receiving and what assistance was needed. We left lots of formula and bottles with preemie nipples for the belle tifis (beautiful little girls).

(Notice that Jenny's finger is bigger than the baby's leg.)

We were late for dinner by the time we returned to the mission. We ate yummy macaroni and cheese, broccoli salad, and sweet bread. I have to say that I am so glad we walk several miles each day or this food would be the death of me.

Later, while we were having devotion, a strong storm rolled through and soaked us. Devotion was in the screened dining room. However, with 40+ people it is quite crowded and warm so 5 or 6 us us sat outside and listened through the screens. Then the wind began to blow hard and the rain fell. It felt so good and cooled the air. We also had a fabulous lightning show.

God, thank you for this amazing day. Thank you for the unconventional approach to VBS. What a great reminder to think outside the box. Thank you for the opportunity to help so many children with a medical clinic out of a suitcase. Thank you for sustaining such tiny lives in such primitive surroundings. Thank you for bringing us comfort in the form of wind and rain. Thank you for the magnificent display you presented to my enjoyment. And Lord God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for the hope I see in Haiti.

I'm tired. Good night Lord.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Haiti Journal, June 30, 2008

(Monday) I don't know why but it feels like it should be Wednesday already. The week seems to be going by so slowly, much slower than last time I was here. It's definitely slower than I expected. This isn't a bad thing.
I wonder if Daddy has gotten an appointment with a surgeon to discuss his aneurysm. I wish I could be in touch to see what is going on with that situation. (Update: My dad has an aneurysm in his groin that had his doctor concerned. After consulting with a surgeon they decided on medication coupled with a "wait and see" approach and my dad has less pain and is doing well.)
After breakfast we split into two teams. One group went to the Bord Mer school (next door to the mission) and the other team went to the LaSalle school. Both groups painted the school benches in the classrooms. I went to LaSalle.

It took about 20 minutes to walk the trail to LaSalle. The experience with the high tide made several people hesitate to travel via the beach again. Thankfully the path had dried out from the rain yesterday.
(Everywhere we walked we had an entourage. Here, Missy walks ahead of me with our companions.)

The kids all gathered to watch us from the windows and doorways. It didn't take long to paint and we had fun playing around with the children for a few minutes.

While we were painting a man named Sonny found Missy to tell her about a new mother that wanted our prayer. The bgm girls know Sonny so Missy told him we would go to the woman's house to pray for her as soon as we finished painting. We probably would have stopped painting and gone at that moment if we knew what awaited us.

When we got to the two room house (above) we found a young woman of 23 or 24 lying on her stomach facing right. She was lethargic and did little more than look at us. As Missy spoke to the woman, with the assistance of Sonny, I moved into the 2nd room. Lauren Hurst was standing by a bed with two tiny babies. Each little girl's head would fit into the palm of my hand.
We learned that the young woman had given birth to triplets last Friday (the 27th) and one of the babies had died on Sunday. Of the two remaining babies only one was somewhat responsive. The mom was paralyzed on her left side and below her waist. This was most likely from a stroke according to our nurse Jenny.
When Missy finished praying over the young mother she came into the room. She stood next to me and looked at the meager little ones made smaller by the enormity of the full-sized bed. As soon as she saw the babies Missy began to sob. I don't know what happened but it opened a floodgate for Lauren and me. Missy was so overwhelmed she couldn't speak. She choked out the words, "Will you pray?" as she squeezed my hand. To be honest I'm not sure of what I said but I'm positive God knew what was on my heart and all the hearts around that house.
We left the house and went to one other house to pray before our trek back to the mission. Missy said she would get Charlie and Jenny and go back to see the young mama and her babies.
When we got back to the mission I had time for a quick shower before lunch. I was not going back to LaSalle with Jenny because there were several people already going to see what help could be given. One more person would have been too much. The young woman and her little girls were taken to the hospital. The babies were returned home while mama remained. Jenny said there will be little recovery due to the lack of available rehab for the mother. As heartbreaking as it is you realize there are some things you have to give to God. I would rather rely on His ability to carry this situation than our's.
We ate lunch and had free time before we were given our VBS assignments. In fact we've had a lot of downtime compared to my trip in March. (I am not purposely trying to compare the trips against one another. It's just that I only have one other experience from which to draw upon.)
We received our VBS assignments and had Creole lessons from Marta. Kim MacDonald and I were dying with laughter watching Colby (her son) during the singing. His face was screwed up into a "huh?" expression almost the entire time we sang in Creole.
After Creole 101 Kelly and Missy demonstrated the Chicken Dance and The Macarena for those of us leading the "Big Rooms" at VBS. So we did the CD and the Macarena under the almond trees that run between the cabins. There was lots of laughter and booty shaking. (NO pictures will be posted because I value my life!)

When dinner was over we watched the new New Missions promo video and had a Haiti history lesson from Charlie.
Wow. I've said more than once that the pace seemed rather slow, and it does. However, after reading back through what we've experienced in a day I'm pretty sure the pace is just as God has planned.
We are so spoiled in America. We don't have to give birth in clay covered, stick houses. We don't have to worry about wrapping our babies in 6 inches of clothing because there isn't an incubator for 1lb preemies. We don't have to drink, cook, and bathe from water that is contaminated with filth and feces. And yet, somehow, we still find the ability to whine about our lives and ask God for more.
Father. God. Thank you for ALL you have given me. Teach me to be a better steward of Your love. Oh, God. Thank you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Haiti Journal, June 29, 2008

We went to church in Santo today. The church was much smaller than the rum factory church in March. It had many fewer people, at least when we arrived. It didn't take long for the word to get out that we were there and people starting filling the seats. Soon the church was packed. A couple of guys even took the benches out of the back of one of our trucks and placed them at the back of the church for additional seating. (Riding in the back of the trucks is always so much fun, even if it leaves you with a bruised bum.)

The building is incomplete. The doorways and windows are open holes. Our missionary Charlie explained this by telling us the pastor had blown the budget on the church on three separate occasions.

However, I must say the lack of completion made for a much cooler service. The open, airy, albeit unintentional, design allowed for a breeze to sweep through with welcome comfort.
We sang "Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord" in Creole and English. When we sang in English the worship leader sang, "Open Your Eyes of My Heart Lord." What a beautiful "mis"interpretation. I think I will carry that rendition with me forever.

Lord, please open Your eyes to my heart while I am in Haiti. Show me why You have brought me here. Quiet my heart with Your love (Zephaniah 3:17) so I may hear You speak.

After church we headed back to the mission for lunch, which was delicious. We had BBQ chicken, mashers, string beans, corn, fresh bread, watermelon, and homemade (of course) chocolate cake. Yum, yum, and YUM. I am going to gain 10 lbs while I'm here.

When lunch was over we finally took the tour Charlie promised everyday last Spring. He walked the office grounds and gave us a bit of the New Missions history. (Editorial note: I would encourage everyone to check out New Missions here to learn more about this amazing organization.)

Following the tour we donned our water shoes for a trek up the beach. Mike wanted to show everyone the villages of Bord Mer LaSalle and LaSalle. Along the way we stopped by one of the mission's neighbors so Jenny could look in on one of her patients. (Jenny lives in Manhattan but was on her 3rd of 5 trips to Haiti with bgm.)

The grandfather of the neighboring family has a machete wound from last November. When were here in March we stopped twice so the nurses could care for the wound. Even now, almost 8 months later, it still has not healed. Jenny said it looks like a diabetic ulcer and that is how she was going to treat it.

The same family has two little girls that we met last Spring. One girl's name is Angela and I didn't understand the name of her cousin. I must get her name before I leave. The girls, along with their brothers, sisters, and friends followed us up the beach just as they did the last time we were here. What precious gifts God gives.

It was a long walk today. We left late and the tide was much higher this time of year and there were a few places that were quite difficult to maneuver. We had to pick up the smaller children and carry them through the tide surges.

While we walked through LaSalle it began to rain. The rain was so cool and refreshing. The temperature dropped and the rain washed away the sweat. Unfortunately it also washed away bits of our path as well. Not only were we traipsing through mud (made of more than dirt and water), but my shirt was soaked. Note to self: thin cotton may be cool but it doesn't go well with the rainy season. So much for modesty.

Dinner was sub sandwiches and fresh squeezed lime-aid (yay). I tried picklese for the first time. Picklese is a relish but it looks like cole slaw. It is spicy and adds a kick to your sandwich or whatever else you add it to. I thought it was pretty good. It gets its heat from habanero peppers.

When dinner was over we had some free time. I went down to the beach to get a shot of the sunset in the storm. I wanted to get a photo of the lightning in the distance over the water but I never got a good shot. I'll share my photo and one from Brent Madden. Brent captured an amazing picture of a triple lightning strike.

Just standing on the beach watching the storm in the distance was beyond spectacular. Is there a better word than beautiful? If so I'd like to use it now.

Haiti Journal, June 28, 2008

Wow. I didn't realize I missed this until sitting here just now. The sound of the waves, the breeze, the palm fronds slapping against themselves, and sea beyond the fence all bring me back to a place of simple peace, and simple faith.

In a way I can't believe that we are back - that I am back. It's going to be different this time around. For one thing it will be hotter, and the pace will be slower. I'm excited to see what VBS looks like here. I can't wait to see all those little faces.

So far the trip has been uneventful. Everyone arrived with all their luggage. That's always a good start, especially since we have 46 people at the mission this week.

We sorted the suitcases rather quickly. We had fewer cases than in March and we didn't have all the school supplies to organize.

I am in a small room this time. My room is in the same cabin as the bgm girls. bgm is Brent Gambrell Ministries. There is a screened porch with rooms to the left and right. I have only 2 roommates and have to say it's kind of nice to have so few vying for the shower. One of my roomies is Jenny Jenkins. She is a nurse I met on the March trip. It was so good to see her again, especially since she rounded up a better mosquito net for my bed. However, I forgot to bring my own sheets so I will use the choo-choo train sheet I was given.

We saw our first tarantula tonight and it was a biggie. It was on the cabin across from ours. It was HUGE - as in larger than my fist. Abner, one of our amazing guards, took his shoe off to kill it. As he stood there with one bare foot the bgm girls yelled and pointed out another tarantula by his foot. So he stepped on it! With his BARE foot! Blech. I thought Kelly was going to be sick since she was closest to him.

Thus ends day one. Thank you Lord for this amazing opportunity. Wow. You must really love me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pardon the Delay

It seems that I have doubled my readers. So to the four of you that read my blog and have asked for an update, I beg your forgiveness. It will be a little while longer before I am able to post pictures and commentary from my latest Haiti trip. Unfortunately I got so run down on this trip that I now have sinusitis and bronchitis. Then as fate would have it, I broke my pinkie toe this morning.

I've only broken one bone in my body but this is the third time I've done so. I fear the toe is forever compromised and I will not be able to set it in place properly.

Bed seems like a beautiful idea at this moment. Alas, I must be at work.

I feel poopie. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

(Okay. Here's a sneak peak.)

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