Tuesday, July 31, 2007


We learned earlier this afternoon that baby Marius passed away on Sunday. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to breathe.

It leaves us with mixed emotions and feelings that are difficult to sort out - but we serve a Sovereign God - when things confuse us - we remember He knows.

Thank you for your interest in his story and for the love you showed him. Your love for him encouraged us.

In His Grip,

T & T

Iron is the new crystal meth

There is ONE door in the entire mission house that we do not have a key for, never have had a key for it ... 12 doors in the house ... only one missing a key.

For whatever reason a certain 3 year old is fond of locking that ONE door. He has done it three times. It does not matter most of the time, we only use the room when teams come.

Today Troy sent Pastor Rony, a 5' 3" man, up into the ceiling to jump down on the other side of the door and unlock it. Troy has done it before - but at a towering height of 5' 10" its just not that easy. We like to tease Troy that he came to Haiti so he could be a tall man. Look at him, he's a giant.
We're organizing our house and the second house for the teams arrival. Lumen is getting rid of two months of cobwebs from the bedroom corners, we're washing curtains and cleaning out the refrigerator. We are all peppy and full of spunk today.
I have found that Iron is every bit as effective as any sort of speed available on the drug market. Crystal Meth seems like a long way to go to have energy when really, an iron tablet changes lives.

Let it be said that my refusal to go get lab work has indeed come back to bite me in the butt. I thought I was depressed, sick of the heat, maybe sick in general ... possibly lazy... total exhaustion has ruled my life for 30 days. All I needed was some lab tests to show that I have pregnancy anemia. My family does not know what to do with my new found energy. They're a little bit afraid. Britt said "What is up with Mom?" Troy said, "She's high on iron."

Before I go back to crazed energy-filled cleaning and organizing, please check out this permanent link added on the link-list of the blog. If you know of anyone that might be qualified and interested please share this with them.

Monday, July 30, 2007


(Above, before we left for our big date Sunday afternoon.) (Below, Troy walking into the broken bone wing of General Hospital in downtown PAP this morning.)

Mme Felius seemed in good spirits again today. She has a corner bed in a room with about 18 beds. The building that she is in is much better than the main warehouse sort of area of the hospital, but still each patient is right next to their neighbor and no one can draw a curtain or have any privacy. While people here LOVE being visited when they are sick, and culturally they almost expect it, I found myself feeling bad for the other people in the room that don't necessarily care to have some stanger seeing them in their misery. It is such a sad place, I am praying God's answer for her means not too much more time there.

We told her that lots of you were praying for her and that we were all waiting for and expecting big answers for her.

After we left General we went to our appt. with Guichard.

Dr. G. managed not to call me an oinker today, which was nice of him I thought. He did look at Troy and the neck-disease thing and say "You gotta be careful with that bump - you've been messing with that haven't you?" He then felt it and all its nastiness and told Troy it will probably need to be drained at some point.

Our Day in Photos Part Deux

Dr. Guichard calling around trying to figure out if the expired Rhogam was still effective. In the end we realized it was the only Rhogam available in the land so it was certainly better than nothing. The pharmacy allowed us to pay full price, in excess of $200 U.S. - we did our part to support Haiti's economy today.

Mixing up a Birthday treat for Tara.
A SUPER cool Chinese place we found today (thanks to Dr. G.) - had lunch here.

The gang at brownie time.

Happy Birthday, # 35!

Isaac is fond of referring to his immediate family members by their ages. Today we are celebrating a number change of the gorgeously pregnant number 35 (yesterday's 34)

She is blessed enough to be spending her birthday in the lovely capital. Last we heard she was dining at a Chinese restaurant in Petion-Ville and had already purchased and received her Rhogam shot (which was ridiculously expensive and in the end 2-months past expiration ...)

Birthdays seem to pass a lot like holidays here .... it's hard to make the day "special" or seem any different than the day before. The heat persists, and chances are you're still going to be sweaty and the rest of the world will go on not caring that it is your birthday (or Governor Schwarzenegger's for that matter.) But we don't want #35's birthday to go unmentioned ... and will hopefully make brownies and sing to her later tonight.

Happy Birthday, Mama - we love you!!!

Here's to being and truly LOOKING 35-years-young!
~Number 17 (Britt)

P.S. - I tried to find something interesting that happened on this day in history. It seems that society is partial to recording bad events ... so I skipped over the battles, natural disasters, deaths, and the watergate scandal and found these:

1729 - Baltimore, Maryland was founded (not sure if she's ever been there...maybe she should?)
1954 - Elvis Presley made his debut as a performer (explains her dance skills ... but not her singing skills - or lack there of)
1956 - "In God We Trust" was authorized by the joint signing of President Eisenhower and the U.S. Congress (woot to that)
1963- Lisa Kudrow was born (contrary to popular inquiry, NOT how #9 months -Phoebe Joy-got her name)

By Britt, Final Paper World Religions

Interview of a Voudou Witch Doctor

The past year and a half of my life has been spent living abroad – serving in a rural village on the island nation of Haiti . To say that Haiti has a deep history of voudou is a blatant understatement; voudou is at the nation’s core, running through the veins of every Haitian. Voudou and the Haitian culture are synonymous; it is an inbred set of beliefs. The roots of this faith extend from the west coasts of Africa, where millions of future Haitians were taken from their homes and sold into slavery in the Caribbean . When the slaves overthrew their French masters and gained independence in 1804, the nation was officially dedicated to the devil.

For the past year and a half of my life, I have lived on land that was once dedicated to the ultimate deceiver; that fact is sometimes daunting, but always challenging. Much deception and confusion remains as a result of the devil’s grip on this nation, but I desire to try to clear up some of the confusion foreigners have concerning the faith and practice of Haitian voudou. For my personal interview I chose to interview our village’s hougan or boko, which is Creole for witch doctor.

I met with hougan Marcellus at his nephew’s home; we had originally planned to have the meeting in the open-air building that houses the local weekly voudou ceremonies, but the afternoon rain forced us elsewhere. For the sake of clarity and partial necessity, I decided to enlist the help of our translator, who also happens to be the Christian nephew of hougan Marcellus. I came prepared with a list of questions and started off the interview by stating that I was only there to ask questions and try to become better educated about voudou so that I could iron out some of foreigners’ misconceptions – not to argue or accuse. He was very open to answering all of my questions; I think he tired of my curiosity towards the end of the interview, but overall he was nonchalantly friendly. I felt comfortable throughout the entire time period, even when I was asking more personal, possibly offending questions (if he profited financially from the services he offers and how much, etc.) I did not feel hated or belittled by the hougan – it was a cordial exchange of inquiry and information.

If anything, my expectations of his personality and how I would feel were far off-the-mark. I expected to feel disliked or put down simply because of the fact that my interviewee is the central leader in our community’s veneration of the devil – I wrongfully presumed a devotee of the devil to share some of his characteristics. I expected him to be arrogant about his beliefs and his position in the community and to have a gruffer demeanor. Quite to the contrary, he was soft-spoken and maybe even unsure of how to answer some of my questions about his faith. The fact that hougan Marcellus was less than emphatic made me feel that he himself was even unsure of voudou and its attributes. I walked home from the interview feeling an array of emotions – angered by the work of the deceiver, saddened for the deceived, and intrigued yet confused by all of the new information I had just received.

Hougan Marcellus defined voudou in his own words as “of the devil” and said its purpose is “for pleasure.” Although this is his personal definition, he told me that voudou is basically the same throughout the nation; there are not denominations like in other religions. I asked how he first became involved in voudou; many of his family members are professed born-again Christians. However, Haitian religious demographics are said to be broken down as 80% adhering Catholic/Christian and 100% to voudou. As stated previously, voudou is ingrained in the culture and it is very common to practice both faiths simultaneously; I wondered if upbringing had anything to do with his belief in voudou. He said that it was not his choice – he did not intentionally seek out voudou. Rather, he believes that he was sought – that the loa (voudou spirits) chose him to be a follower and leader in his community.

A witch doctor has many roles in his community; he is essentially the pastor, worship leader, accountant, and prayer-chain all rolled into one. A witch doctor leads the weekly worship ceremonies. There is not one sacred day like Sunday for Christians, each body has a different day that they pick to meet for worship but most take place after dark; our village’s is held on Thursday nights (as evidenced by the sounding rhythms of drums and chants from my bedroom window.) Attendance to these weekly ceremonies is required if one desires to take voudou seriously and for the voudou loa to take him/her seriously. If someone does not attend or skips a week, this basic rule of thumb of spirit worship/worshipers applies: if one chooses to ignore the spirits, the spirits can be expected to ignore him/her.

The ceremonies consist of calling the spirits, worshipping the spirits, and submitting requests to the spirits. There are two categories of spirits: good and bad. Reverence and appeasement to both is practiced. I thought that the concept of balance hougan Marcellus described of worship to each side was very similar to the Taoist concept of yin and yang; each kind of spirit exists in and of the other. The good spirits heal, protect, and bless; the bad spirits are associated with curses related to illness, injury, misfortune, and death. Spirits can be either female or male; when I asked if there was one spirit higher than them all, hougan Marcellus said that there are several that are revered higher than the others, but that there are thousands of spirits in voudou.

With so many spirits, I wanted to know how it is determined which spirit to worship and at what time. The answer he gave me was kind of unclear, but basically a worshiper moves from spirit to spirit, based on the out-put of the spirit. For example, if a particular healing spirit is providing no help, one moves onto a different healing spirit. Haitian voudou is an animistic religion in the sense that it is a faith characterized by the appeasement and manipulation of the spirits. If a bad spirit become upset with a worshiper, he/she must do more to please it. For example, a particularly bad spirit called Dentor is known as the wicked one and if he asks you for something, you give it to him – no questions asked.

The symbols of voudou that many foreigners hold are drums chants, dances, and black crosses. First of all, I discovered that the cross is rarely burned black, like many outsiders assume, but rather painted black and used to mark recognition and respect for ancestors of the area over which that particular cross presides. The only time the cross is burned is in a rite-of-passage type ceremony for voudou converts and the cross burning can only be done by voudou priests, which are much more ceremonial/political-type figures than active leaders in the voudou faith. The significance of the drum in the voudou ceremony is its use as a communication tool; its beats beckon the spirits to join and even occupy the worshipers. Prayers are also chanted to make the spirits come; some are said directly unto the devil and his spirits, but others are traditional Catholic prayers (Voudou followers were forced to assimilate Catholicism when French slave masters tried to convert their slaves. The slaves renamed many of the voudou spirits with the names of Catholic Saints. This intermingling of the two religions is a major reason why the nation is 80% Catholic, 100% Voudou; the two seem to go hand-in-hand.) Once the spirit has arrived, chants are sometimes spoken “for” the worshiper as the spirit speaks through and to them. From what I gathered, this state of “possession” is the ultimate goal of the worshiper as it shows that the spirits have taken favor with his/her follower. I think this statement was confirmed when I asked hougan Marcellus to define the weekly services’ purpose; it is a time for believers to “take pleasure with the spirit.” Dancing then can only be described as a major part of the “pleasure” purpose of voudou, both for the worshiper and the spirit.

When followers are possessed, often times the spirits will give them messages. It is the hougan’s role to interpret these messages/visions, usually for a small fee, similar to how one pays a palm-reader to predict the future. The hougan alone has the power to request the help of the spirits – for both good and bad. People seek out hougan Marcellus at the weekly ceremonies or a separate time to discuss and place curses or cures. For these, there is also a corresponding fee; I asked if there was a baseline price for cures/curses but hougan Marcellus said he basically names the price based on the size of the request. He also makes and administers some home remedies, but they are not his own. Rather, he is directed by the spirits which ingredients to use. For example, each leaf is associated with a different spirit and medicinal purpose and is revealed to him for use on the sick or wounded. This role is how the position earned the “witch doctor” title – but it appears to be less about mixing up magic potions and pomades and more about understanding the partially viable uses of the products of nature.

However, there are some sketchy, hocus-pocus-like guidelines concerning what the witch doctor has the power to treat and what should be treated by traditional health care. For example, if someone comes to him with a broken bone, he can only request the spirit’s help to heal it if the broken bone was a result of a curse that was placed on that person. However, if it was a simple accidental fall from a tree, he has no power in the situation.

Hougan Marcellus was trained by the then-abiding hougan of our village’s “congregation;” this is the typical procedure for knowledge and leadership to be passed from one hougan to the other – there is no sort of formal training or requirements to become a hougan. Known requirements do not exist because, as hougan Marcellus said, it is not a choice but rather a “calling” or predestined role. Before hougan Marcellus dies, it is his job to train who the loa (spirits) have chosen to be the next leader.

I discussed the concepts of predestination, the afterlife, baptism, and Jesus’ position in relation to voudou. When I asked hougan Marcellus what Jesus is to him, he said that Jesus is his “big brother” or in other words, a helping friend. Jesus and Mary are among the good spirits. Baptism is practiced but only occurs at night and is performed in the ocean water. I asked if everyone could be baptized or if one had to maintain a certain level of devotion to the voudou faith. He said that before a person can be baptized, he/she is asked a series of questions that determine whether or not he/she is knowledgeable about voudou beliefs and how committed he/she is to being a lifelong follower of voudou.

Predestination in the voudou faith is not very definite; rather, the spirits know what is going to happen and have control over one’s destiny, yet the person can attempt to manipulate the spirits in order to change the outcome of the future. This is where the role of curses comes into play; curses are placed against foes or in negation of previously placed curses to create the desired advantageous or malicious affect on the cursed person or family. Curses, which are received based on one’s appeasement of curse-specific spirits, are believed to hold the power to twist and alter fate.

There is no afterlife for the voudou follower; death is the final door. I asked how that could be and inquired about the difference in death and afterlife between a person who lived a good life and for example, a murderer. At this point, I kind of felt like hougan Marcellus was making up his answers but he said that a murderer or similarly “bad” person would suffer a much worse death than a “good” person. However, when a person dies – no matter what kind of life they lived – he is finished. Hougan Marcellus did say though that the Christian adherents of voudou go to heaven. I asked what his personal attitude was towards the practice of both religions and Christianity in general. His attitude and voudou’s general attitude is one of “I’m okay, you’re okay.” In other words, he said that there is no judgment or problem with the practice of both religions. As far as his attitude towards Christians, he said that he does not hate Christians or Christianity and that faith is more a matter of personal preference and spiritual calling.

It would appear the most obvious bridge for witnessing would be to focus on the Catholic aspects already dwelling in voudou; however, I believe that too much has been twisted for this to ever be a functional link. After sitting with the local leader of the voudou faith, I had a greater sense of voudou’s lack of guarantees and heavy reliance on each individual’s actions and ability to appease. I think these flaws would be the best things to concentrate on in preparing a way to share the Gospel with a voudou follower. I think that one would be prone to tire of continuous fluctuation in what the spirits desire and necessitate in order to produce the promised result. I believe within every person is a desire for justice and the truth; voudou’s conflicting beliefs and unsure practices are weak spots, but strong points for witnessing. Because our works will never be enough, there is no hope – it is a constant cycle of always coming up short. But with Jesus, we put all of our shortcomings in His hands and rely on Him to be our intercessor, rather than on unpredictable, moody false spirits. It is only then that we can rest assured.

In a country as unpredictable and unkempt as Haiti , the following passage from Romans 8 holds truths specifically relevant to potential converts from voudou and is one of the truest hopes for Haiti :

13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

From the Mom-

I am impressed by this paper Britt wrote. I asked her if we could post it here. A hundred Christian missionaries would have a hundred different opinions on voudou and how concerning it is. Some see it as sinister, some see it as simple superstition. This happens to be the fairly informed opinion of a 17 year old-one that I love. These are her thoughts after living in a very active Voudou area and interviewing the village Hougan.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Stuff

Paige cornrowed Phoebe's hair ... we think she has an Alan Iverson thing about her now ... a chubby Iverson maybe?

Phoebe's Stylist at work...

Last night we watched Facing the Giants. (Mom and Dad, it came yesterday - thanks!) If anything, it served to prove what we've been talking about the last few days. Troy is not nearly as guilty as I am, but I realized that my initial reaction to most problems is to immediately begin solving the problem myself. I don't immediately ask God for guidance, I don't even think to pray first ... I just go to work figuring out what the options are.

After talking about Mme Felius with Troy on Friday night it occurred to me that I've only prayed we would figure out how to fix it -- I never actually asked God to fix it or God to lead us.

As far as Marius is concerned, we probably need to sit down with the family this week and see if they are interested and/or OPEN to letting Marius go to the USA. We need to determine how serious they are before we start running around solving things. I don't know what to expect after all that has happened. At this point, I won't be shocked no matter what they say or do.

I do know that we heard two dollar amounts last Saturday and two "solutions" and in our ignorance and excitement, we got ahead of God --- and now one week later, we're back to square one and trying to go about it in a better way.

Monday Troy and I will again attempt to find my overdue Rhogam shot and we'll bring it to Dr. Guichard ... a little birthday treat for me. But, more importantly we are sure we need to stop into General Hospital and pray for Mme Felius, not pray for our solving it --- but for God's solving it - asking God to solve it and give His direction. I am a slow learner, my desire to fix things often gets in the way of what I ought to be doing. Praying.

After we see how all of that works out we are going to begin tackling the team grocery shopping. A large team from Michigan arrives next Saturday, we're going to split the shopping into two trips and start with the bulk items on Monday.

Please pray that we stay out of God's way and that His plans for these people are revealed in clear ways.

Posted by Picasa~Tara

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Part Two

I left the mission Friday morning to prove to myself that something could get done. Praying something could get done.

Leaving the baby Marius case behind for a while, I went to Port-au-Prince to see Madame Felius and try to get answers for how to help her, who can help her, and where to help her.

Skipping ahead to the end of the day, upon our return Tara asked Peter how things went. He used a one word description - "Tragedy". I'm sticking with my three word theme. I'm going with "nothing works here".

Walking through General Hospital looking for Madame Felius, I told Peter I already know what hell looks like - and we were in it. It seemed a little better than last time I was there for Madame Bozor, but this time I didn't see the same rooms. We walked through four or five large rooms full of beds and suffering people until we found her. It was worth it to see her smile when she saw us. She's laying in that awful place, and has been for weeks now. More than three weeks ago she broke her femur at the hip joint, and has had nothing but the equivalent of tylenol to ease the pain, and she smiles and kisses me on the cheek when I greet her. Absolutely amazing.

She is in good spirits, even though :
-Her son hasn't been there to see her in over a week (been too busy, and hasn't had time to donate blood that she will need for a surgery either). In Haiti, there is a blood bank, but you can't take any out of it unless members of your family/friends come in and donate some to replace it. NOTHING WORKS HERE.
-Her husband comes and goes whenever I give him money to visit her, lingers around for a few days, and then goes back to his failing garden. He has asked already if we can take her out of the hospital and visit some local faith-healing-bone-mending-potion-brewing quacks who are - in my mind - probably only in it for the money and by no means qualified to change a bandage.
-So far the expert treatment she's received at General is to have a bucket of sand tied to her leg to stretch it out and try to get the bones to align. Her current Doctor is suggesting that we wait three weeks to see if it heals, take an X-ray, and then determine if surgery will be needed. Maybe she'd be better off with the quacks after all.

I explained to her that we were taking the existing X-rays to show other Doctors and try to find her help somewhere else. She was so happy to see us I don't even think she heard anything we said.

We then drove all over Port, visiting two other hospitals, two clinics, and finally a medical organization called Healing Hands (thanks Cheryl for the referral). This is one of the places that is willing to look at finding help for baby Marius. Things had been looking really bad, but then we were shocked to find someone who started making calls and actually trying to help us. We ended up being escorted to the office of an orthopedic surgeon who is very competent and ready and willing to help. For a price. As we discussed all the options and requirements to get her surgery done, I quickly realized that the money we thought we would need is nowhere near enough.

The amount we thought it would take was based on the initial quote from "Dr. Bucket of Sand" at General Hospital. He was guessing that the initial procedure for her would cost around eight hundred US dollars. For the real surgeon, who can do it right - knows what he is doing - showed us some of his previous work with similar cases - is confident and willing to help - and will not tie any buckets on, we learned that it will take more like three thousand US dollars. He was willing and able to get things set up and do the procedure on Monday.

In checking around we found two other options, but they were both even more expensive. That cost includes the materials (pins and possible prosthetics), the procedure, hospitalization, and some medicine. I still don't know about the cost of other medicines, the cardio-pulmonary exam that will be necessary, or the anesthesiologist.

I was thrilled to be meeting helpful people, and then excited about the contacts we were making, and hopeful we could get this done for her - and then my faith bubble was burst while I did the math on my cellphone's calculator. For a while it looked like something might actually work here...and maybe it can. Now we wait and see what God has in mind. His ways are higher, and knows why I'm running around desperately trying to find help that either isn't there or is out of reach.

Defeated and feeling deflated, Peter and I dropped off our helpful escort from Healing Hands, said our 'thank-you's and 'goodbye's and our 'we'll see what we can do's. So close, but yet so far.

After eating a sandwich made from some questionable meat products in downtown Port, we felt refreshed enough to make a last-ditch effort to see if we could get more help at General Hospital. That sandwich must have been laced with some serious hallucinogenics.

Dr. Bucket was completely useless, and obviously not interested in helping us find alternate solutions for Mme. Felius - and even admitted that he's scared to do the surgery route because it's so complicated. And the surgery they're considering consists of some temporary metal supports being attached to the bone and then being removed later in a subsequent surgery - not a permanent proper solution like we'd found elsewhere. One Dr. says that he's confident she could walk again - the other one (Bucket) says there is no way to know.

The good news is that I've at least learned enough living here and possibly been refined enough that I can handle all of it, and still laugh. At least I try. I called Zach on the phone and told him my really inappropriate joke I came up with while banging my head on the steering wheel in the parking lot of General Hospital. I told him that it was a good thing that Job's friends (you know, the Job in the Bible with the boils, etc.) weren't around - because I'm pretty sure I'd reached the point where they would be saying: "Curse God and die" - you know, just get it over with, man, and let Him put you out of your misery. (I even have the boils on my neck now.) We got a good laugh out of that - the kind of laughing where you're just doing it so you don't cry or go insane.

On the long drive home, here are the things that I reflected on:

With the money that was donated previously (including that which wasn't used yet for baby Marius), we have about half of what will be required to get Mme. Felius the surgery she needs. That was actually encouraging to realize we're not as far off as I thought when looking at the totals.

I don't have any idea what will happen or what God wants or anything. I just don't know. So, we're letting go and letting God. Tara and I are visiting her on Monday, and all we're going to do is pray. I might even take the church there sometime next week and see if His plan is just to blow through that wretched hospital and heal her on the spot...and if I feel that power moving I might just ask for an X-ray to see how she's all back together again. God can do that, and we might get to see it.

The money to fix her up the boring medical fleshly human way might just come in miraculously, too. Hey, His plans are perfect, so I'll be happy either way.

Here is what makes me mad and want to curse something - like this country or it's leaders or the devil and his deception. I looked back and saw that I'd spent two days giving everything I had to find help and make something work in this place where nothing works, only to make little or no progress. That I can deal with. What brought me to tears, however, was the realization that there are countless other cases just like these all over this country - but those deformed babies or suffering women don't have anyone out there running all over trying to help them - even if we don't find help - at least they have some hope.

Many of the others, though, are laying in a mud hut with a thatch roof with no hope and waiting for a miracle or more likely death. Sometimes the relief of death seems like a miracle to me for some who suffer here... and it's the same all over the world, outside of North America and our freeways and gated communities and superstores and sit-coms. Sorry for getting preachy, but it's the truth. More people in the world live like the people here than the 'civilized' world likes to think about or acknowledge. That other world (which I am from and join in the guilt of being ignorant and blind) will throw money at the problems and hope they go away.

These two sad cases, out of all the hundreds we've seen, and the thousands or millions in this country - are the ones God has put before us and laid on our hearts and really convicted us to get involved and try to help. I don't know why, but I'm sure it's good. Baby Marius might be in heaven already right now, and Madame Felius too, I don't know. But that sure would be better for them than being here. Or maybe we're going to see a miracle happen. Or maybe we'll watch God's awesome provision and perfect timing come through yet again.

Whatever it is - God is in it, so it will be good, and He will be praised and glorified. Hallelujah.

New three words - Selman avek Jezi - Only with Jesus


Friday, July 27, 2007

Part One

“we are pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned - struck down but not destroyed.”

(quoting a song that is quoting a smart guy who wrote some good stuff in a really good book…{Yes Lord, Apostle Paul, The Holy Bible}…maybe you’ve heard of them)

In Haiti, we’ve learned over and over, and over, and over – things are not always what they seem.

If you asked me last night for three words to describe my experience in this country here they are: “I hate Haiti.” I was standing in the yard reflecting on the day where we spent a lot of time and resources trying to help a helpless child, only to realize that the child’s family was trying to rip us off, and has more interest in getting money out of the ‘blans’ than helping their sick child. I was trying to reflect and calm my nerves and pray while I listened to another child in the village being beaten and crying for mercy. I heard his father yelling in Creole “don’t ever look at me again”. I don’t know the reasons for any of it, but it wasn’t right regardless – and it made me hate this place.

I trust you can deal with honesty if you are still reading this blog after all this time – and this will be nothing but honest. So if you can’t handle that, stop reading now, because you’re probably already offended.

I actually love Haiti, and have never been happier or felt more fulfilled or more blessed or more in the center of God’s will for my life. God is good. He is refining me. Refining isn’t always fun and beautiful. Sometimes it hurts and makes us curse and want to give up. The only way to get through it is to surrender yourself to Him and let His Spirit lead you. That isn’t always easy for a fleshly sinner like me.


Britt and Peter and I drove to Deschapelles to visit baby Marius in L’Hopital Albert Schweitzer. It was a beautiful drive, although the roads try desperately to break your bones along the way, and we got to see parts of Haiti we’ve never seen before. We arrived in the Artibonite Valley region and marveled at the flat land and farms and lack of mountains. We’re not used to that sort of terrain anymore. For a minute, I thought I was in Nebraska.

We were excited to see the hospital that is so well known in this country, and to move forward in helping baby Marius. It was like a road trip and adventure and short-term mission trip all in one. The hospital was exactly as I expected it – I had been warned – it has an amazing reputation in this country, but when you look at it relative to the rest of the available health care here…an amazing reputation in this country isn’t saying much. It is a large dilapidated compound that seems understaffed, overcrowded, and saturated with the feeling of desperation and hopelessness, without nearly enough people around who give a damn. By Haiti’s standards, it is still amazing.

We talked to three separate staff members (including the head nurse) about baby Marius and heard the same story from each one. They all remembered him well. The father and Marius had been there last week, but were sent away because the surgery he needs could not be performed at that hospital. They were given a referral to go back to General Hospital in Port-Au-Prince (the hospital that referred them to Deschapelles).

They left Deschappelles on Friday of last week. Friday…The day before we made arrangements to get involved and raise money and try to help this poor child. On Saturday, I had spoken with the father and was excited to hear that they found someone to do the operation, and that it could be done so cheaply, and that the hospital in Deschapelles had been so helpful. I told him to return last Monday so we could make arrangements. We then asked for help from our blog readers last Saturday night to provide funds for his surgery (and the surgery for Madame Felius).

The funds were all accounted for by Sunday afternoon. We were elated, to say the least, and anxious to see God’s plan and provision unfold for baby Marius. The father told me that the doctor at Deschapelles could do the procedure for $300 dollars US. I told him the funds had been provided and we would take him back to the hospital on Thursday to pay for the surgery. The father never showed up on Thursday morning. We sent people looking for him, and were told that he’d “already gone up” - so we went on our way to find him and his baby boy.

When we arrived in Deschapelles, I learned that no doctor ever said they could do the procedure, or asked for three hundred dollars. The father and baby Marius were nowhere to be found. I checked and double-checked, but the story was the same all over the hospital, and not only was there no one there who could perform the operation, but Marius had been sent away six days before I arrived...and three days after the father was still telling me that the baby was there in that hospital.

We left the hospital and drove home confused and concerned; where was Marius? Had his father returned to General Hospital in Port without telling us? Why hadn’t he kept his appointment to go to the hospital, and who had said they would do the surgery? The questions went on and on. I sent word to the father’s cousin that lives in our village that we needed to find them. She came later that night with the rest of the story. Or at least some version of some story that may or may not be true – and once compared with the learned facts – turned out to be all lies.

The story changed further with every question and explanation – in the end, I was extremely disappointed, disillusioned, and saddened.

I still have not spoken with or seen the father, or baby Marius – but I learned that they are in Montrois (a city about an hour north of here) and that they are awaiting our help.

Their current story is that the person in Deschapelles who could do the surgery “went back to America” (not true according to the people at that hospital) – and now that same hospital that sent them away last Friday gave them a referral the following Wednesday (the day before I arrived) to go to another hospital in Cange. Conveniently enough, I can’t drive to that hospital and check things out. It is true that there is an amazing hospital there – it apparently isn’t true that they were ever referred there. From our investigations, it appears that once the family saw our interest in helping this baby, they saw it as a money-making opportunity and wanted us to hand over the cash for a surgery that couldn’t and wouldn’t be done.

Not a dime of the money that was donated for this cause has been handed over to baby Marius’ family, or any hospitals/doctors that may or may not have been trying to help him.

After learning all of this last night, I had the ugly “three words” experience I mentioned earlier.

Then I prayed.

Then things started looking up.

If you asked me Friday morning for three words to describe my experience in this country here they are: “There Is Hope”.

This story will be continued – Friday in Port was a whole other adventure - but for now know that we have made contacts who may be able to obtain a medical visa for baby Marius so that he can have an operation performed in the States. Please pray for guidance, direction, and provision so that this can take place.

The money donated for the surgeries is being held in reserve while we figure out how to get help and where it will be best used for the intended purpose. Please also pray for discernment as we figure that out.


Friday's Fun

Troy has a huge amount of information to write up and pass along. He did get lots of answers and clarification today, some of it is a bit overwhelming, some a bit discouraging. He'll write to share all he learned before the end of the day Saturday.

Troy has this abscess type thing on his neck. He called Lori for advice yesterday. She gave him some good advice. Tonight he and Britt were ignoring her and poking around seeing if they can make things worse. My favorite thing he said yesterday ... in all seriousness -- "Gosh, this bump ... it is ... it is just driving me crazy ... it's just there and hanging off of me -- I'm so constantly aware of it." I paused the appropriate amount of time and said,

"Uh-Huh, I have no idea what that would be like. I can only imagine."

The beach/pool was fun today. I took zero photos -- sorry Aunts and Grannies. We had the pool to ourselves a lot of the time. We went the cheap route and smuggled in M& M's, cheese and crackers and Noah's favorite- COLD hot dogs. Paying the fee to have their plate full of noodles, potatoes, rice and mystery meat is like a knife in the heart of this Dutch girl. I cannot do it. No one even likes the food, we just eat it because it costs so much. Today's plan worked way better.

The only truly entertaining thing that happened was between Isaac and some people he met.
First, you must know that Isaac is by far one of the friendliest five-year-olds you can meet. He is agreeable, easy-going, never pushing his way onto someone else. He trusts everyone, thinks all of humanity are certainly good and interested in knowing him ... he is blissfully unaware of the reality that mean and unfriendly people exist. It is SO true that even when someone is mean to him, he does not notice.
It's a nice little bubble he lives in - we're mostly happy for him. Our only concern is convincing him that trusting strangers implicitly could lead to big problems... a lesson we keep trying to teach him.
Today a boy, about 10 or 11 years old, walks up to him and says, "Take those water wings off and come swim with me."
Isaac, always happy to oblige, takes off the wings and jumps in with the kid. The kid appears to be Haitian, his English is perfect, no accent can be detected.
Here are snippets of what we overheard-
Kid- So, where do you live?

Isaac- In Minnesota.

Kid- I know Minnesota, I am from New Jersey.

Kid again- Oh, so you're just visiting Haiti too?

Isaac- Yeah.

Kid- (Pointing to Britt) THAT is your sister?????? (incredulous)

Isaac- Yep (ignorance is bliss)
Long pause -- swimming together

Kid- THAT is your sister?

Isaac- Uh-huh.

Kid- How can she be your sister?

Isaac- Because my mom is white. (pause) I am adopted!! (positive announcement)

Kid- Oooooh.

long pause

Kid- So, you're an orphan?

long, long pause - Isaac thinking it over ...

Isaac- well ..... I did came from and orphan-age.

(Again, Isaac cannot be insulted -- he has no idea what the definition of an orphan is -- nor would it occur to him to say "NO - I am NOT an orphan - I just told you that is my mom!)

The kid leaves shortly after that. He was wearing a red suit, Isaac played with him 15 minutes total. About ten minutes later another kid in a light blue suit jumps in the water near Isaac.

Isaac- Hey, are you the guy I was talking to earlier - I don't remember.

We asked him later why he said he lives in MN, when in fact he has lived in Haiti for 18 months. He shrugged and said "well, I am FROM Minnesota" --- Britt said, "You know you are technically FROM here, don't you????" He shrugs again, jumps into the water.

I have a very real (and well founded) fear that this boy may refuse to come back here after the maternity break. He really does not think of himself as Haitian --- at all -- or ever.

Meanwhile, Hope gives everyone who comes too close to her the stink-eye. She does not trust a single stranger. She sends a vibe that says "If you don't know me, don't try talking to me."

The very last funny observation out of Isaac came towards the end of the day. The largest Haitian man I have ever seen came walking out to get in the pool. He was easily pushing four Franklins. The man was very loose - jiggly really.

Isaac, watching him closely, talking only to himself, says "Huh, THAT GUY has some biiiigggg muscles.Oh, yeah, he does and he has a mustache just like Papa's."

(Turns, looks for me, and yells) "MA - doesn't that guy have the same mustache as Papa?"

Whatever you say Isaac. (Dad - I think Isaac misses you. The comparison was a stretch.)

Not sure if you know this ... Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrates a birthday on Monday, July 30th. His claim to fame; he was born the same day as me.

Before I go ... an early birthday gift I just received --- that must be shared -

From some of our best friends in the whole wide world ... every time we see a new family photo we just sit and stare and analyze and grin ... they make us happy. Their daughter is ALSO a Haitian that is now FROM Minnesota ... and if Isaac has anything to say about it - she'll never come back here.

With Love from Haiti,
(Where some of us live, some of us are from, and some of us are just visiting.)

Meet the Cooks - Part 3

This is the last of the Kitchen staff. My mom said maybe next week I can interview the gate-guys and post that too.

Above is Lumen. She has been working for Lifeline for a very long time she said. She was born in La Digue. Her family, the Williams family - is one of the bigger families in the village. She has five kids and has never had a child die. She is 36 years old. Her mom died early this year, she still wears black every day. She is more of a substitute cook, she is not always needed in the canteen. She comes to our house for an hour each day and sweeps. (She is with Hope in the photo.) She is also the cook we hire for when teams come and want to have a Haitian meal. She is great at making the teams a nice meal, and she gets to make extra money to do it so she really likes that.

This is Mirmose. She has worked here 3 years and lived here 8 years. She lives with a man that is our day-time gate guy. They have not saved enough to get married but they want to sometime. She is 22 and has never had a child.

This is Sonia, She came to work here November 6, 2003. She came to live here in 2003 too.
She has 5 living kids. One has died. She is 30 years old. She is in charge of the Sun oven that makes the bread each day.

Marie Irose has worked her for one year. She has lived her 11 years. She has 3 children.
She is 27 years old.

This Is Rosema, she has worked her for 1 year. She was born in La Digue. She has 1 child.
She is 25 years old.
That is it from the ladies in the kitchen!


Another story about improved stability.

(Incidentally, Killick, the man quoted in the story, attends the same church that we attend. He has an active and important role here.)

Fun for some on Friday

While Troy is in Port au Prince dealing with all things slow, ambiguous, unorganized, problematic and confusing ...

I will be taking these two clowns and their four sisters to the beach for the day.

It is a tough job
But somebody has got to do it.

Jack was trying on Troy's suit last night, thinking it was perfect beach-wear for today. When he tripped and fell on his face he changed his mind. He'll wear the size 3T rather than the mens size 33.

It's a no-nap Friday in Haiti.

Hope your day and weekend are great!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Communication Breakdown No. 7,954

Did you hear that?
That was the sound of Troy's head exploding all over the wall.
I promised I would keep you posted on Marius and Mme Felius.
I did not promise it would be pretty.
Troy and Britt drove SIX - count them, SIX hours to Dechapelles and back --- only to learn that the Dad and the Baby left. There are four stories circulating, the one the Hospital gave, the one Pastor Rony was told, the one a cousin is telling and the one that we made up to entertain ourselves.
Currently we have NO IDEA where the Dad and baby are. Makes it tough to help them.
Tomorrow morning Troy is picking up Mme Felius from the pit that is called "General Hospital" and bringing her to another ministry that had done some surgeries of that nature. No one seems to be taking charge of her care - not her husband, not her son. Soooo, Troy will put the pieces of his head back together sometime this evening so that he can try to take charge and get something accomplished.
Tonight it could easily be said we are experiencing some culture fatigue. Things being said around here are best not repeated until we've had time to get over being annoyed at a total wasted day.
More when there is more to tell.
We start over tomorrow.

Get to Know the Cooks - Part 2

By Paige-

This is Mme Emmanuel, she came to work here March 2006. She has lived here 2 years. They got to La Digue a few months before we did. She has 4 living children - two have died. She is 40 years old. When we have teams here she helps out with other things too, like cleaning. Sorry about the frowning photos, lots of times Haitians don't smile for photos --- but Mme Emmanuel IS friendly and DOES smile. Just not when we take a photo.

This is Jeronne, she has worked here 1 year 1 month. My dad thinks she has huge pipes for a woman. She looks like she lifts weights. She was born here in LaDigue. She has one child living, two have died. She is 32. She is a fun lady.

This is Mme Mercius, she came to work at Lifeline in November 2003. She has lived in LaDigue for five years. Her husband is Pastor Rony's (Lifeline's Pastor) cousin. She has seven living children, but one of them lives in an orphanage in Port because she is too sickly for the Mercius' to take care of - they have lost one child, it was a miscariage. She is 39. She is pictured with her youngest child, born earlier this year.

This is Anite, she has worked for lifeline for 1 year and 5 months.
She was raised here in LaDigue, she moved here as a kid. She has 3 boys.
She has never lost a child. Her little boys are SO cute and ornery. She is 23 years old.

The cooks do work very hard, they work as a team and take turns doing certain things. They start cooking at 5am during the school year and at 7am in the summer. They usually go home by 2pm. They also have a nice thing worked out where they take turns going to check on their older kids and going home for a break if they need it. The moms with babies can go nurse their babies too. During the school year they come and get things going then take turns going home to get their kids up and ready for school.

Haiti tastes peace under Preval - LA Times.Com

By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer July 25, 2007

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — Shoeless boys with angry eyes and empty stomachs no longer loiter outside the green iron gates of the National Palace.

The odd jobs of oppression have disappeared. In the unfamiliar atmosphere of peace, there are no more orders to bash heads or crush dissent that once earned the ragtag enforcers a plate of rice and beans or a tube of glue to sniff.

A year into his second tenure as president, Rene Preval has broken ranks with two centuries of despots and demagogues.

Preval has eschewed the politics of brutality and confrontation, quietly achieving what only a year ago seemed unimaginable: fragile unity among this country's fractious classes.

Allies and adversaries alike credit the reclusive president with creating a breathing space for addressing the poverty and environmental devastation that have made Haiti the most wretched place in the Western Hemisphere. Preval has taken small steps to crack down on crime and corruption, and improve Haiti's infrastructure and food supply. But he largely holds fast to the strategy he used in defeating more than 30 rivals in the presidential race last year: Make no promises, raise no expectations.

Observers say Preval's low-key approach may be what Haiti has needed, but they worry what will happen if his shaky health takes a turn for the worse or if the country's 8 million people start to lose patience with his go-slow approach.

Preval loathes the limelight, evading ceremony and exuding moody impatience with meetings, limiting them to what aides insist are essential contacts to begin moving mountains of corruption, injustice, squalor and 70% unemployment.

He seldom leaves the palace, where visitors find him padding between his office and apartment in polo shirts and sandals. When he must go out, he travels in a modest motorcade without the customary sirens and outsize entourage.

A loner chafing in the midst of liveried staff and a protective contingent of U.N. soldiers, the president has been known to sneak out for a nocturnal stroll, incognito in the poorly lighted parks surrounding the palace.

His private life, by contrast, is more of an open book, at least in the gossipy circles of the business and political elite. The bourgeoisie in the elegant villas of Petionville were atwitter six months ago when Preval installed a new paramour at the palace, driving out his estranged-then-reconciled second wife, Geri.

A once-legendary consumer of the island's famed Barbancourt rum, Preval has lately cut down in favor of an occasional whiskey and decidedly fewer Marlboros. Some attribute the reining in of his excesses to a cancer scare over the winter, when doctors found signs suggesting a recurrence of the disease. He makes regular visits to Cuba for treatment, grouses about the side effects of his medications, but looks to be weathering the demands of office as well as can be expected of a 64-year-old long advised to make lifestyle changes.

Colleagues panic at the thought that the prostate cancer that was diagnosed and treated six years ago could recur and force him from office."It would be a catastrophe, the end of everything. We can't even permit ourselves to consider this possibility," one advisor said.

Those closest to Preval praise his modesty but sometimes despair of his reticence.

"Some people think he's too laid-back," conceded Lionel Delatour, a business consultant and friend. Preval hasn't made a single diplomatic appointment since taking office, Delatour said, shying from the kinds of decisions that could alienate factions in his broad coalition.

"He isn't going to make waves," Delatour said. "He told his ministers that he didn't want to see massive firings" of civil servants, as occurred after his mentor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, fled following his ouster in February 2004 and a caretaker government swept his supporters from office.

Aristide basked in ceremony, donning his presidential sash with relish. In contrast, after 14 months in office, Preval has yet to tour the countryside, make a public address, give a news conference or grant an interview.

"He's a very low-key president, but it would be a mistake to think he's not a hands-on president," U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson said. Still, she wishes he would get out more and promote the hard-won stability he has secured to give confidence to potential tourists and investors.

Some point to Preval's 1996-2001 presidency, when he was perceived as doing Aristide's bidding, as the cause of his reluctance to trumpet recent successes.

"He's very cautious and low-key, perhaps because he was part of the mess," veteran human rights activist Jean-Claude Bajeux says of Preval, whom he considered too willing an accomplice of Aristide when the former priest was arming street gangs and repressing opponents.

Preval, the son of a gentleman farmer and former agriculture minister, was educated in engineering and agronomy in Belgium in the 1960s, when leftist student movements set the political tone across Europe. His rural, but privileged, origins in Haiti and his foreign experience forged a politician who was initially "not just a populist but an anarchist," Bajeux said.

He believes Preval is now skillfully moving the country away from the disorder of populist revolution but without any recognizable governing model. That experiment could fail if the millions without work or much hope of it in the near future get restless, he said.

"Recovery is very slow, and time is against us," said Bajeux, 76. "There is misery now like never before. People are hungry, children's health is declining. People are not endlessly patient."

One reason Preval was drafted into running for president was his success in transforming the small town of his birth, Marmelade, into an island of agrarian prosperity. The town, in the lush northern Artibonite region, is planted with bamboo that locals harvest, fashion into furniture and market throughout the Caribbean. Profits from the cooperatives formed by Preval have been plowed into a community Internet center, public works and schools.

In office, Preval has confronted only the most egregious troublemakers. Kidnappings for ransom surged late last year, prompting him to authorize U.N. peacekeepers to target slum gang leaders. Two major criminal bosses were killed, a dozen jailed and any remaining kingpins have gone into hiding. Kidnappings fell from 42 in January to eight in June.

With the security situation improved, Preval turned to crimes of the elite: corruption and tax evasion. One of Haiti's wealthiest men, banker and mobile phone magnate Franck Cine, has been in the fetid penitentiary since mid-May pending trial on charges of expropriating deposits.

There are glimmers of improvement: Electrical generation plants are being repaired with foreign aid. A new road to the north is under construction. Food aid for orphanages and health centers is flowing. Flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York have tripled in the past year, bringing thousands who patronize hotels, restaurants and open-air markets selling paintings, voodoo flags and punched-metal sculptures.

A handful of new investments in the mobile phone and textile industries have created a few hundred new jobs but in a country needing millions.

The business elite and other former opponents praise Preval for those small steps to improve the economy, but that has gained him little capital on the squalid streets of Port-au-Prince, where two in five Haitians live. Most of them are jammed into one-room hovels, often next to open sewers and charred reminders of gang war.

The few complaints Haitians voice about their leader center on the achingly slow pace of change in their daily lives.

"We're living in a very delicate moment now," said Micha Gaillard, a professor who was a political opponent of Preval but now serves on his committee to reform the judiciary. "If there are no clear signs of improvement at the social level, everything he's done to combat insecurity and corruption could come to an explosive end."

Some of the poor say they are not impressed.

"If there's anything to be thankful for, God is responsible," sniffed Nadine Domaius, a 42-year-old mother of four who was selling soft drinks in the crush of rickety pushcarts, honking jalopies, smoke-belching trucks and women carrying heavy bundles on their heads.

Denis Sonel, another slum-dweller selling prepaid phone cards across from the National Palace, concedes it is now safe to walk the streets. But he, too, is reluctant to credit Preval.

Motioning with his head toward the palace, the 53-year-old father of five said: "Preval was already there once and he didn't do much.

"Much of Preval's support among the poor stemmed from his association with Aristide, who vowed to seize the wealth of the nation from the few dozen families who control 90% of the economy.

Many of those who voted for him last year thought that if he were elected, he would bring Aristide back from exile.

"We voted for him, but he hasn't said anything about the return of Aristide, and the population is getting very angry about that," said Annette August, a militant supporter of Aristide's Lavalas movement.

For conservatives such as Daniel Fouchard at the other end of the spectrum, Preval is a strange political bedfellow but an effective leader.

Fouchard has been brought in to the Tourism Ministry to craft a plan to help eradicate poverty one household at a time by drawing local craftsmen, drivers, cooks and cleaners into restored community markets, eco-touring and rural hostels.

"Preval has opened the government to all," said the businessman, who backed a wealthy colleague in last year's election. "For the first time since the 19th century, we have no troublemakers at work. It's not a window of opportunity, it's a great big gate."


We were in a coffee shop in Petionville. The general sentiment is that the last six months have been the most peaceful six months since 2004. As we drive around Port doing business, we also think it feels calmer, safer, less tense than a year ago. Whether or not people are going to stay patient with the slow progress remains to be seen. I personally would NEVER want to be in Preval's shoes. I don't know any more about him or his integrity then I do about any of the past Presidents. How can you possibly know who to believe? Leading a country with this history is more than a daunting task. It amazes me that anyone even takes on such a huge and difficult job.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More for Mom

I know my Mom well. I said we had a good day in Port, but I got an email wanting the rest of the details ... which is exactly why I said I'd share more later. :)

Britt and I went on a walk to Barbancourt this afternoon during the end of nap time, so I could not take time to write about the trip to town right when we got back. It was nice to get exercise, it was nicer to be done getting exercise. I won't ever turn Britt down for a walk now though, our walks are numbered.

The first stop today was adoption related, we needed to pick-up Hope and Phoebe's birthmom. She was ready to go and happy to help us. We went to an office to have her sign some documents. The people at the office tried to get us to pay money we did not owe, but Troy was onto the game and Peter backed him up. Their effort was sort of wimpy. The lady said "Did you pay for a morning or afternoon appointment?" Troy said "Uh, I paid everything I needed to pay and was told to be here at 9:30 am." She pushed him to give the amount he had paid, but knowing whatever his answer was, would end up being less then what a morning appointment costs for blans on Wednesday, he just held his ground until she gave up. After that it all went fine, we were in and out quickly.

Second stop was to exchange a check for Haitian cash. We got the surgery money and got all ready for payroll on Friday. The exchange rate is killing us right now, but that means good things for the Haitian economy - so we'll deal. $100 U.S. used to get us $810 Haitian Dollars when we first moved here. Now it only gets us $690 Haitian Dollars. This also means that a gallon of generic "Shur-fine" ice cream at Caribbean Market now costs $14.20 instead of $12.09 - now THAT is a crisis.

Third stop UniLab for bloodwork and Labs that the OB has been crabbing at me to get for three months. Troy claims I am the world's least compliant patient and if he were Dr. G. he would refuse to treat me. I just did not think I needed the labs. Troy says, there I go again pretending I am a Doctor. I digress ... The lab was air-conditioned, organized and fast. The only difference from an American lab was that they give you the cup for urine analysis --- AND a handful of toilet paper ... none in the bathroom - there is some in-country rule that does not allow for anything to be placed on the spools in public restrooms. It cost the equivalent of $36 U.S. and we were on our way. They even call the results to the Doctor! We still need to find the Rhogam shot, but we're thinking next week is the week to tackle that.

After that we were feeling so good about how well everything had gone, we went for a hamburger. Our girls' birthmom thought it was VERY good. It was really fun being with her and asking tons of questions - with Peter's help we were able to better understand a lot of her life story. Peter came with us today in case we needed him, in the end we probably did not but it was fun getting to know more about his childhood.

After speaking with his mom last month I have been so curious about how they decided to leave Haiti.

I will give you the condensed version.

In 1968 his parents lived just outside of Port au Prince. His dad was successful and working for a sugar cane plant that was owned and operated by an American. The American respected his dad and the work he did so he asked him to come to New York to work for him at another company he owned. Peter's dad moved to NYC in 1969. He saved money, bought a car, found a place to live and one year later he sent for his wife. In 1970 Peter's mom moved to NYC too. They BOTH worked hard for one more year and saved enough to send for the kids in 1971. All seven kids flew to NYC. The oldest was 13 at the time, Peter was 11. He remembers being very scared and a Nun who was supposed to be helping them sort of disappeared so they were alone. They found their parents in NY and piled into a big station wagon. Peter said it was about five minutes into the ride when they realized his little brother was missing. They went back to the airport and found him clinging to a police officers leg. The officer did not speak Creole and Peter's brother did not speak English.

They all enjoyed the American dream and wanted to be in America. They worked hard and went to school and everyone did well. His siblings are mostly college educated professionals today.

Without ever giving the entire story, we can deduce that Peter thought he was a legal-enough U.S. citizen. He says he knows his mother told him after he turned 18 that there were things he needed to take care of to make himself legal but he never worried about it – he admits that was a dumb move on his part. He went as far as to say that becoming a citizen was easy back then, unlike today, so he kicks himself for not taking it seriously. After getting in trouble for something else and being found out, he was deported in 2000. He lived in the USA for 29 years. Besides his immediate family of origin, he also has an ex-wife and an adult daughter and grandchild in the States.

It is interesting to be with him and listen to his observations. This is the country he was born in, he lived here until he was 11, and he will now live here until he dies. He is Haitian. But culturally, he is not so Haitian.

We were behind a loaded down tap-tap (loaded down is the norm, but this one was REALLY full) and Peter said, “That guy is not so smart, he is going to spend way more fixing that truck then he is ever going to make by having those extra people on there.”

Later, when the lady tried to see if we would pay her more money for our morning appointment Peter said “Most people, they are just out to see what they can get from you.”

When sharing our birthmom's story, he ripped on men who father a baby and take off, leaving the mom to deal with the pregnancy and the kid alone. That is the vast majority of his country's men.

When we were at the place where we exchange money I had a heavy load, named Phoebe, sleeping in my arms and he started hinting to the security guard that it sure would be considerate if he got up off his chair and let the pregnant lady holding a sleeping child sit down for a minute. He went on and on about it after the guy ignored him, he kept shaking his head and saying “some people, they just don’t get it.” He translated back from English to Creole just to make sure everyone understood his point. I finally told him to cool it, I was really okay standing. I figured at some point harassing a guy with a sawed-off shotgun becomes a bad idea.

Peter makes observations all day that are not at all something a person of this culture would recognize or verbalize.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Get to Know the Cooks - Part 1


I went down to interview all the cooks. I asked each of them a few questions. They were nervous about why I was asking. Peter told them not to worry about it, that I was just curious. I put the info about each cook underneath her photo. In our opinion these ladies have the hardest jobs at the mission. They cook food for 1,000 kids Monday through Friday.

This is Lizette.
She could not remember the date but said she has worked at Lifeline more than 5 years.
She was born here in LaDigue. She has two children, both boys. She is 40 yrs old.

This is Marie Elise. She came to work here March, 2006. She is one of the newer employees.
She has lived in LaDigue 8 years. She has 1 child, a daughter. She is 26 years old.

This is Licienne. She started of saying that she does not know how long she has worked here, but then just said she has been here the "whole time." She has lived here in the village of LaDigue all her life. She has 8 children living and 2 have died. When I asked how old she is, she said, “ I do not control my age.” So we don’t know how old she is. She is probably at least 50 though. She is a really tough lady, we like her a lot.

This is Aline. She is the mom of one of my friends.
She has been here working for Lifeline since Lifeline first came out here from Port. She came to live in LaDigue in 1982. She is our "head cook." She moved into that position about a year ago. She has 5 children. She has never had a child die.
She is 41 years old.

There are nine more cooks, I will introduce you to them soon.