Monday, June 12, 2006

Get to know a Haitian Family - #2

We have learned to accept that, to most people, we are a strange family. Two kids from Haiti, a wild baby, two older daughters ...our five kids don't all have the same last name. A lot of our friends are on baby one or maybe baby two. We are the freaks of our peer group. It is confusing, we know that. People definitely want to try and figure us out.

You can watch the wheels turn while people do the math to figure out if Troy can possibly be the biological dad of all these kids. (Hope and Ike are a little easier to figure out.) We are so used to it, that it entertains us to just let people try and figure it out themselves. We never offer information anymore, we just make them ask (if they are gutsy enough) "Wait a minute, how old are you Troy/Tara? Britt is 16?" It is a fun game. One time, when we had first moved to our house in Zimmerman, a little girl came up to Troy and said "My mom says there is no way you are old enough to be Britt's dad." Troy just smiled and said, "Tell your mom she is right."

In Haiti nothing about our family (well, other than our whiteness) is very unusual. We are very straightforward compared to a lot of Haitian families.

Put aside all distractions, this is confusing.
Introducing, the Belzince Family.

This is the family of our favorite gateman, Tipap Belzince. Tipap is a nickname it means "little daddy", it fits him pefect because he is so good with kids and seems to genuinely enjoy them. Tipap's given name is Roberson.

Tipap has 15 siblings, only one sibling that shares the same mom and dad as him. 12 that are his dad's kids and 2 that are his moms kids --- or half siblings.

Tipap's dad, Adam Belzince, is a big deal around here. We had no idea until recenty, what a big deal he really is. We're happy to have him as a friend now that we are starting to understand the "Haitian system" a bit better.

If you did not spend your entire life in La Digue, then you are an outsider. Even if you have lived here ten or fifteen years it is not the same as having been born here and living here your whole life. Adam is an insider, a village head so to speak. He has been here forever and he knows everything there is to know about LaDigue. When trouble comes up, in whatever form, people see what Adam thinks. He speaks, people listen. You want to land on the same side as Adam, because that always seems to be the winning side.

Last year, in September of 2005, Troy and Paige and I visited Lifeline to decide if it was where God was calling us to serve. During the church service that Sunday, Adam stood up and made a little speech. Everyone knew that we were in the crowd because we were considering moving to LaDigue. Adam's speech paraphrased went like this --- "There are a lot of changes happening here at Lifeline. There are people leaving (meaning the outgoing missionary family) and new people coming. The problem with that is you never know what that will mean. It is like when you leave your wife, you don't know if the next one will be better or worse than your previous wife."

Yes, yes, that is the analogy he used in church. Aaahh, the Haitian system.

Adam has since decided that we are okay and that the trade off was not a horrible thing for LaDigue. In the time we have been here, we have come to understand Adam's analogy better. It seems Adam has traded an old wife for a new one more than a couple times. He should know the risks better than most.

Adam had 5 kids with Sonie, 1 boy and 4 girls.
Adam had 2 kids with Jislene, 1 boy and 1 girl. (Tipap's Mom)
Adam had 4 kids with Rose, 1 boy and 3 girls.
Adam had 3 kids with Ziya, 1 boy and 3 girls.

14 kids for Adam. 4 boys, 10 girls. The oldest is 32, the youngest is around 10 ... no one knows exact ages. Their names: Michel, Wislaine, Roselaine, Sonide, Cleante, Meliane, Iloxene, Roberson (Tipap), James, Kettie, Kettia, Adrienne, Angena, Angeline. (There is one set of twins in there.)

Tipap/Roberson's mom, Jislene, had 2 kids with Adam and then later had 2 other sons.

Tipap tells us that some of the kids have Belzince as their last name but 2 kids go by Louis and 2 kids go by Nicolas. He says he has a brother that is in Guadaloupe and a brother in Canada.

Tipap is a really good guy. He credits Bryan, the former missionary, with helping to lead him to Christ. He tries very hard to live his life according to Biblical standards. He is an encouragement to us as we can clearly see him trying to what is right. Adam is actually a kind and good guy too. He is level headed and smart. We understand why people respect him and listen when he talks.

Having many children with multiple women is culturally accepted here. Of course, God has easier and better ideas about that, laid out in His word ... but this culture has not chosen to pay much attention to those Biblical guidelines.

It makes things difficult, or more difficult as the case may be.

So, you can now see that the Troy Livesay family is actually very easy to figure out. (All things being relative.)