Monday, August 31, 2009


We get stuck in the question of "what is being accomplished here?" fairly often. In truth, we don't really know. This was a great post ... it resonates with us ... Thanks to Carrie for writing it so eloquently.


Sonia, a proud momma, and her new baby boy.

New Week

Vivien arrived on Saturday, here she is with two out of three of her very favorite students ...
We have a group from Austin, TX currently headed toward Port au Prince (these hipsters below) to spend a few days with us visiting various projects and ministries. They were also kind enough to act as mules and are bringing all of our school books and a few other important items.
Paige and Vivien will spend the week with the team and Troy. We wanted to give Vivien a chance to settle in and see some of Haiti before she starts teaching next Monday.

I will spend the week with a bunch of cornholio little people and at Womens Program Tues and Thurs. I am hoping Troy or Paige will rally for me (and for you) and write about what they do this week with the group.


Friday, August 28, 2009

As of Today

-Donation facts-
(Troy says this officially qualifies me as OCD. I say these are interesting stats and he should zip-it.)
  • Minnesota (37), California (20), Texas (16), Indiana(15), - top four states for number of individual donations
  • one donor has given five separate times
  • one donor has given three separate times
  • fifteen donors have given two times each
  • largest single gift $5,000
  • smallest single gift $1
  • 251 donations given
  • 15 donations received by mail
  • gifts received from 41 different states (only 9 slacker states)
  • gifts received from 8 countries (USA-Canada-United Kingdom-Belgium-Germany-Australia-Italy-Haiti) and 1 U.S. Territory (Puerto Rico)

Medika Mamba Totals Update:

$24,355.44 (shown on Chip In Meter)
7,800.00 (matching grants)
1,212.68 (tip jar coffee shop)
1,000. (mailed in)
566.00 (mailed in)
500.00 (mailed in)
200.00 (handed to me in Haiti)
220.00 (mailed in from various donors)

Promised but not received yet - (included in total below)
$750 from WI
$500 from NJ

Total Raised THANKS TO YOU guys as of 8/28/09
$37, 104.12 !!

That is at least 371 kids who can be treated with Medika Mamba in the coming year. I will update the totals again in one month, the day before we leave for Minnesota. THANK YOU for continuing to spread the word and support the kids of Haiti. I'd love to see 400 kids treated.

Run Report-
We pulled off 18 Port au Prince miles this morning (Beth and I). I only questioned my ability a time or two in the 8-9 mile range and again at about mile 12 which is an all up-hill mile. My adorable water boy showed up shortly after that. We changed clothes once, ate at mile 6 and 9 and 13, and stopped to hug and cry one time at mile 13.75 or so.

We don't run right together much of the time. I was out in front of Beth by a minute or so. I was on a stretch of the road where there is no shoulder and you're forced onto the road. At this place the road also curves. There are not many people/vendors/houses in that area and vehicles tend to get go about 30-40 mph. I had my back to oncoming traffic. I had David Crowder Band in my ears. I wear a visor that sort of cuts down on my peripheral vision. It was sort of a perfect storm moment. I was running along and all of a sudden I feel something brushing against my left shoulder. It bumped me away from it so that I almost went off the road into the ditch area. This is what brushed my left shoulder and this is why I stopped right where I was and burst into tears. It scared the crud out of me. It also instantly hit me how totally lucky I was to be standing there in one piece.I waited for Beth to catch up. She noticed I was freaking out and asked what happened? I told her. She got covered in goosebumps and burst into tears too. Just a minute or two before the bus passed me, it passed Beth. She saw it and was prompted to say a little prayer and said, "Lord protect Tara as she runs."

He did.

Midwives & Growth at Heartline

Beth has two midwives in for a couple of weeks that are helping get the upper level of the Women's house ready for the growing pre-natal program. They are beginning to set up a room that will eventually be used to deliver beautiful bouncing babies. :) That is so exciting to all of us. Yesterday was our first day upstairs for the weekly check-ups. The extra space was needed, it allows the sewing and literacy ladies to have the entire ground floor and the other two programs will now meet upstairs.

(Top Photo - Beth and Louis, visiting midwife with one of our Moms)
(Bottom Photo - Paige, Beth, Laura, Louis - praying for the Mom before she left)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maybe That's True

If you've been reading for long, you know that some things are explained by "TIH". That is just a way of saying "that is how things roll in this culture". Today we are introducing a NEW blanket statement that also covers a multitude of things: "Maybe that's true."

We use this daily. So much of what you hear and what you see (especially if you're the foreigner) is hard to take at face value. This culture is full of rumor, stories, and much superstition. A friend who has lived here twenty years says, "Believe nothing that you hear and only half of what you see." Because we often don't know what is true and what is rumor, we'll hear a story and say to ourselves, "Maybe that's true." It might sound a little bit rude to you. It is not. It is just another way of recognizing that we are the visitors in this culture and therefore we are outsiders and we won't ever be more than that.
  • Jeronne's only daughter Jenny spent all of July with us. She left (by Jeronne's choice) in early August. On August 12 Jeronne was trying to hide tears so we asked what was going on. Jenny had called and said that the aunt taking care of her (not Jeronne's sister - but the sister of Jenny's father) had spanked her because she said she was hungry when she was not finished with her work. Troy said, "Let's go get her." They drove out to their village and picked her up. Jenny's paternal grandmother is gone for the summer and that is who usually takes care of her. Troy asked Jeronne why she does not want Jenny to live here with her/us and suggested that having her all the time might be better for Jenny. Jeronne does not agree - but we are guessing there is more to the story than we understand. It is common for kids in this culture to be raised by aunts, cousins, grandparents. Jenny's Dad lives in NY with his new girlfriend and child. According to Jeronne he got to the USA on a boat in 2007. Maybe that's true.
  • Jeronne had a bad dream last night. It caused pain in her abdomen and back. Maybe that's true. She says it is. She is leaving to go get an herbal remedy from a doctor out in the village. We told her we could have a Haitian MD here in our neighborhood look at her. She said "system American" would not work, she needs "system Ayiti". She said that the last person she knew that had this pain and ignored it, died the very next day. Maybe that's true. We asked how she could know that the person had the same thing she has. She looked at us like we are dumb and said she just knows. She is leaving today to go deal with her pain ... as near as we can tell she is getting some sort of herbal drink that will flush her out. I could easily hand her something that would do the same thing, but culture prevails.
  • A woman shows up at the orphanage. She has a new baby wrapped up in a towel. She says she wants to leave it at the Orphanage. John speaks with her and tells her she needs to think it over, she needs to go home and really think. He tells her she needs to bring papers back if she still wants to give the baby up. She says she is sure. She does not want "her" baby. (Maybe that's true.) She says she does not have papers yet. Upon further investigation and asking around, it turns out the baby was born to the 13 year old niece of the woman and was a product of a rape by her husband. The true story eventually came out, but it took time and patience.
  • Troy is often gathering prices for things. Everything from construction materials to food for a large group to auto parts. Sometimes he will go do it himself, other times he will send Tipap to do it. Troy is not the type to yell and get angry about being quoted very high prices (he does not yell unless he is in a car accident and the person lies - but even that he is remorseful about). Many times a week when sorting through what things will cost and putting together budgets we will do our best with the information gathered but blanket it with "Maybe that's true." For example, a contractor quoted a price to build a small cement structure. A contract was written. The building construction began. Six weeks into the project the Contractor comes and says "I am out of money, it is going to cost X amount more to finish." The Western response would be "You signed a contract, you gave your word, this is unacceptable!" That would not work here. If you want your building finished you shell our more cash or you stare at an unfinished structure for the rest of your life. So - the lesson is ... When quoted a price, you must recognize that "Maybe that's true."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Need of Prayers

Vivien is finishing up her packing and preparing to fly from Texas to Haiti this weekend. We are all very excited for her to get here and we're hoping her adjustment to life in Port au Prince will be smooth.

Her first week will be spent with a team we have coming on Monday. School will start for our kids on September 7th. Parents never enjoy seeing a child jet off to far away lands ... please take a minute and pray for the Ingram Family this week and weekend. Pray for Super Viv as she makes this big move. May their hearts be full of peace.

(Photo of Viv with her Mom and Dad)

Britt and Chris started back to school on Monday. (Sic em Bears!) Britt sounded happy about most of her classes. I think there is an required arts elective that already has her rolling her eyes, but she will prevail while becoming more informed and APPRECIATIVE of the Theatre Arts. We love them. We miss them. Sometimes it feels like there is not time to stay in close enough contact. But we are constantly praying for these two beautiful young adults. We are SO SO SO psyched that they are going to come to Minneapolis the weekend of the Marathon and the WWV Banquet. Isaac and Noah are both chatting about all the things they will do with "their big brother". They basically worship Christopher. Britt is pretty much chopped liver now that Chris is officially part of the family.

Today I taught a gal that is working at the guest house how to cook American breakfast foods. As I mentioned to my girl-friend this morning --- there is some irony in that - because - I do not cook and I do not eat breakfast ... but now Michelene knows how to make - scrambled eggs, fried eggs, pancakes, french toast, bacon and sausage. She will test out her new skills on a team Aaron Ivey is bringing on the 31st.
(Isaac snapped this photo - I am not actually seven feet tall. Michelene is just tiny, as is Jeronne behind me.
But you cannot really see Jeronne. Like an eclipse I entirely block her out.

Early this week something happened to my coping mechanism. I got all crabby and felt like a weight was sitting on my chest. I have been doing a bad job of taking life one day at a time. We returned from our Jacmel weekend and the realization of the multiple things happening in the next four weeks punched me in the noggin - hard. I won't bore you with the list ... but it is a lot at once. I then began to freak out and feel totally incapable. Troy, being the wiser, calmer, less freakish of the two of us has been grabbing my shoulders and shaking me. After a good shaking, he starts praying for me to trust God with my fear and anxiety.

It is helping ... but I need to further calm myself and go back to my "one run at a time, one day at a time" approach. In reality I am scared about the upcoming 15 days of training. Up until now I have felt confident - but now -- I am freaking myself out over these long runs and obsessing (OCD style obsesssing) about the temps, humidity, heat-index, sunrise time, and my ability to finish the training well. It's dumb of me. Very dumb.

Just as they are supposed to be, my legs are stinkin tired and sore. Nine training runs from now the taper begins. With God's help I can do it. (End of self-pep-talk.)

This is the entire 18 week training schedule that hangs above my desk ... (crossing off a week is SO exhilarating).
This is what is left. This Friday's 18 and the week of 9/6 are causing the most anxiety. I need Troy to keep shaking me and praying with me. I am sure he will. He is good like that.

Lastly Tonight -
Please be praying for Lori Moise of the Real Hope for Haiti family. She is ill and in need of rest and healing.

Lord, we pray for your child Lori. We ask Father - for complete healing. Please guide the doctors and give them discernment. Return Lori to good health. Be with Licia while she handles the ministry duties and Zach while he is away and unable to help his daughters with this. Thank you that they are not alone. Thank you that you are with them. We pray you would wrap them all in your love and give them peace as they ride out this storm. Amen.

Specializing in Ornery

(While attempting to appear innocent.)

Phoebe Joy 33+ months
Lydia Beth 22+ months (the age Noah was when we moved here)
Annie Grace 21 months today

Photo Credit: Jess Mayhew

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Specializing in Bringing Joy

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Where Odd Abounds ...

When Weird Is Not As Weird Anymore ...

  • Tap-taps drive on the sidewalk on Kenz Oktobe all the time. It is never a surprise to look up and see a truck barreling toward you. Five minutes down the sidewalk it is not uncommon to pass a lady who looks like she stepped out of the Old Testament riding a donkey with a wooden saddle. Today a side mirror clipped my hip as I was running and neither I or the driver found it worth discussing or even acknowledging.
  • Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant. The server used a bug zapper racket over our table, our heads, our conversation. He bumped Troy with the zapper on more than one occasion. None of us found it odd or even annoying.
  • At the little store near our house I asked for a bag of ice (in Creole) - The lady rang it up and the guy bagging the groceries corrected me by naming the BRAND of the ice ... not allowing me to simply call it Ice - apparently you have to call it Penguin. And it is fun to correct the foreigner. He then asked (in Creole) if I was French. I said "No, not French." He said "Are you Canadian?" I said, "Nope not Canadian." He said, "Are you American?" I said, "That's it!" He said, "Oh because I love Americans ... (long pause) I REALLY love them." Okay. Well thanks! It seemed like a very normal exchange. But now that it is three hours ago I am thinking maybe it was not all that normal. (Plus, I think he really loves the French and Canadians too.)
  • After a recent run Beth asked me if I saw the giant dead Rottweiler that we ran by. I said, "No, I saw no such thing." She asked how I did not smell it even if I did not see it? Lots of things smell like rotting dead dog on a run. I do not avert my eyes from the path two feet in front of me. I do not discern one horrible smell from another.
  • True Conversation- Me- "Your baby did not gain weight. If he had eaten everything we gave you he would have gained weight." The Mom- I could not give him the Mamba because I don't have any vitamins. (Oh, okay, sure, that makes perfect sense.)
  • A dark green swimming pool can be transformed into crystal clear water in one week flat.
  • August and September seem to be the roughest months for humidity at night. Most nights our bedroom thermometer tells us it is 90 degrees with 65% humidity. That is not outdoor temp, but the cement holds heat and then said cement dumps the heat out onto our weary bodies all night long. Troy and I are busy finding ways to stay cool. We bring ice packs to bed, we try to sit in the center of a three-fan vortex, we only allow our pinkies to entwine, we get creative. But- Our child is odd. He loves socks. We don't buy them anymore, because we live in the Caribbean and we wear sandals. He has these two socks remaining from his short time in Minnesota in 2007. He goes to bed with them on most nights. He is mad when they cannot be located. After he is asleep, I sneak in and take them off. In the morning he finds me to complain that he was cold and I should not have taken his socks off without his permission.
  • Today I sat in the back of the room laughing at how absurd it was for me, as a Mom, to hear Paige translating a lesson all about birth-control and sex and pregnancy and STD's and the realities for women in Haiti. A 14 year old speaking to a group of women about many methods of b.c. including, abstinence, Depo, birth control pills, condoms, Natural Family Planning and more ... The bizarre nature of it caused me to grab my camera and capture a little video. Paige did a good job of ignoring her immature mother. :) After we talked about all the options we had a quiz/game at the end of class. (Beth teaches, today Paige translated. Beth speaks Creole -- but Paige speaks street Creole and seems to be understood so having her translate was more effective.)
Now that I spliced together a few clips from the class, I am realizing that you have no context and it might cause some to jump to conclusions. To avoid that, please know that this clip is missing 95% of the class. We teach side effects, and the full scope of each option. This is a few small pieces without any context. Yes, we teach that abstinence is the only way to assure that you don't get pregnant or get a disease. In this culture women do not necessarily get to choose that. Married women very often face dealing with a spouse that has other women on the side. It is necessary to give them other options based on the culture. I know some will disagree -- and that is your right -- but in our program we believe we need to face what is true and real in the culture. The point of offering birth control is to give the women some control in their difficult situations that might improve their lives. We believe that a woman that has two kids she can provide for is much better off than a woman who has eight that are all unable to go to school or be sufficiently fed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fun Weekend sans Babies

At the hotel/pool ... a beautiful spot
Basin Bleu Trip-
After the hike, climbing down to get to the swimming and jumping spot...
The Mangine Family got us there and showed us the ropes - literally.
Paige chillin at the waterfall -
Erin and Geoff Jumpers ...

Blurry Family Pic (of kids # two through five) ...
Troy and Noah watching Paige & Tara climb higher ... Troy made smart remarks about "there goes 35 thousand dollars" and "somebody has to raise these kids".
Thankfully, no injuries and he does not have to go it alone.
Letting the Haitian kid tell us how it is done ... listening carefully -
Talking it over, getting up the nerve ... then mid-air (thanks Gwenn!)
I like this one because it reminds me of Land of the Lost ... we look super-imposed into a shadow box just like that show. If you don't know Land of the Lost then you are not 36 to 42 years old and you missed the glory of pre-technology television. And I am sorry for you.
The air conditioning was superb. The view was awesome. Basin Bleu is our favorite place ever. We slept and played really hard. It was SO fun. Thanks to Jess and Jeronne for taking care of the little ones so we could live it up this weekend. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jacmel or Bust

Today lots of things went right. It was unusual and wonderful.

  • Troy picked up a large order of Medika Mamba without a glich.
  • Troy signed some papers without trouble.
  • Barb came to reclaim a truck we have had in our driveway this summer. It started and left in one piece.
  • I went to pre-natal program and there were no major new dramas.
  • The EDH was on for a really long time.
  • The kids cooperated (even helped) with packing for our weekend trip.
  • The pool Troy is indifferent about got even bluer and cleaner looking.
  • There were zero car accidents.
  • Paige had a good riding lesson.
  • Lydie does not have any visible heat rash tonight.
  • We had noodles and rice and beans for dinner and our guest seemed to be totally cool with the carb-load. She even thought pouring sauce from a jar straight onto the noodles was/is the right way to do it.
The only negatives which are quite minimal-
  • Ringworm on my chest.
  • "Feels like" tomorrow at 6am for long run Friday - will be 91. Wet clothing and ringworm. Yummy. Anybody need a hug?

The fun plan-
  • We are going to Jacmel to stay at a beautiful spot for the weekend. (Air conditioning is rumored.) It is our "end of summer - school kick-off extravaganza" - we figure if you name your trip --- that makes it seem like an even bigger deal. Isaac and Hope and Noah are excited to swim in a pool that their Dad did not try to ruin. Our friends Megan and Erin will be joining us. Jess M. has graciously agreed to stay at our house with the two and under crowd.
Happy Weekend from sweatyland.


We talk a lot about loving others. We talk about acting like Jesus. We say right there on the left side of the blog that we are "trying to make the love of Jesus known".

Ever since we moved to Haiti traffic/driving has been the number one thing that can push both of us to act out in anger. It can get pretty intense out in the streets of PAP. Sometimes we joke about it, make light of it, poke fun at ourselves and others. Sometimes we can laugh at it. But those situations are the ones where we held it together and did not do anything embarrassing or stupid.

On a couple of occasions we've basically gone a little nuts over traffic altercations ... not because we think Jesus would do that -- but because when you get really mad, you forget all about Jesus.

Living in the city and being in the traffic much more frequently has led to being in "hot" situations more often. This week makes our one year anniversary of being Port au Prince residents. This week we are taking a long hard look at how we act and how well we control our tempers.

We can be kind and sweet and have pleasant exchanges with the people we work with all day long .... But if we cannot get to the corner store and back without getting in a yelling match with some random bad driver, we've got serious issues.

I could make a bunch of excuses about how rude people are to us sometimes. How so often we are being kind but we get a very mean and angry response. I could blame the other guy because he was rude and angry first. I have heard plenty of people justify bad behavior this way. But the fact is --- that does not mean we have permission to act that way. How the other person acts is totally irrelevant -- or - we believe it needs to be. I am pretty sure Jesus does not have a clause that says: "If they really tick you off, go ahead and forget everything I said about bearing fruit. In that case just let them have it. You can show my love a different time."

I may be making it sound like it is a daily thing -- it is not. But yesterday Troy had a blowout after a small traffic accident that left him feeling remorseful. The damage to our truck from being rear-ended by a MACK truck was minimal ... the damage to Troy's image as the calm and kind follower of Jesus was not quite as minimal.

If we really came here to be peace and love to those in need ... we better figure out how to be better at it out on the roads.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stories ...

To see the continual miraculous growth (and be encouraged) of the four little boys out in Cazale, go here.

We need to get on the road to go pick up a giant order of Mamba and sign some papers for our truck, the stories will need to wait until tonight ... Stories of the ways in which we screw up sometimes.

I did today's run on the treadmill and listened to an Open Door sermon that kicked my butt in a good way. (And I avoided being kissed at - jawed at - and watched, which I needed a break from. Oh, and I had fans on me which made my "feels like" temp much more tolerable.)

Happy Wednesday from PAP.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Today's Random & Inconsequential

  • Phoebe (fast approaching 3) got a "big girl" bed today. Tonight will begin the cruel process of teaching her she is now free to get up and move around on her own ... yet also NOT free to do that. I plan to count how many times we say "get back in bed" and share the stats later.
  • Because of the new bed, Lydia moves out of our closet and into the room with Phoebe and Hope this week, out of a portable crib and into a real crib. It was beginning to feel abusive to put a child that size in a portable crib in a closet. Lucky for us- there is no Child Protective Services here.
  • Troy mocked me for running excitedly to him in a store to say "I found where Easter comes to die." (not Easter so much as the commercialism that is Easter these days)The graveyard for Easter candy that the USA does not consume is in Port au Prince. I am not telling where we found it because we need to go back and buy it out before the other missionary-types find it. Let me just say this: Cadbury Eggs for about 12 cents each ... victory is ours. Usually we can find the old candy - but at four times the USA price. So this was a big find! We'd sell them to J. McHoul for $1.00 each if he was in great need. Because we're giving like that. And just to be fair, we'll leave the melty marshmallow Peeps on the shelf for the rest of you expats in Ayiti. (See - always with the giving.)
  • This is our swimming pool. What is that you say? You think pools are aqua colored? You must be mistaken. Troy keeps telling me he is simply trying to recreate a Minnesota lake in August. Because he loves his children so much. And he knows they miss Minnesota. Riiiiiiiight. Algae and tadpoles in a swimming pool? It takes a special brand of indifference to pull that level of nasty off. Troy wins The world's most indifferent about his pool award for August 2009. (Notice Troy is nowhere to be found in the photo. Total.Indifference.)
  • The good news is, a miracle pool man came to fix that nightmare. He (blue shirt above)says it can be done without draining and re-filling. We will see about that.
  • More than $1,600 has come in for Mamba in the last 24 hours ... we're SO pumped about that. Totals are forthcoming but I believe we surpassed 35K with mailed in donations.
  • Total training miles complete after this mornings run - 252 miles. Total miles left to train before race day - 193. The next four weeks are high miles and important. We had an unusally cool day on Friday. For the most part the average heat index by mid run is about 96 degrees. Electrolyte drinks and gels (nasty goo packets that are jammed full of carbs) have become my close-personal-friends.
  • We're happy to see that "Ana" is now just a tropical depression, and hurricane "Bill" will hopefully stay north of the island - we are praying for a totally boring season this year.
  • Tomorrow among other things, we have two guests coming for the rest of the week, Women's program, 8 miles to run ... and whatever fun the kids of this house serve up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Explanation

I have been trying to figure out how to package this post for awhile. I have not figured it out, so I am going to just write it - and let it fly without being well-organized or too careful.

For whatever reason we've been blessed to meet all sorts of people in Haiti ... everyone from the incredibly conservative (running shorts worn WHILE RUNNING are offensive) to the total hippies (bras are offensive) ... and everything in between. We've met cool and strange people from all over the world.

We've hosted short term groups that come with their MacBooks, piercings and tattoos and short term groups with head coverings, full beards, and matching home-sewn clothing.
(The very night I moved to Haiti there were thirty formerly Amish people at our house - it sort of said "Welcome to Haiti Tara- your life is going to be very weird from here on out.")

In our exchanges with dozens of groups from varying backgrounds and walks of life some things about mission work and people have become a little bit clearer. We've had our feelings hurt. We've watched friends get hurt. We've even sent people home mad and disappointed with us. At times it has been incredibly frustrating and at times it has been incredibly wonderful.

This is my theory ...

People who live and work here in Haiti live sort of on the edge emotionally. (Or they live detached from emotion which is maybe not so good. But I am not here to judge that and I digress.)

Let's face it, Haiti is heavy. Situations are overwhelming. Trying to figure out solutions that will last can be exhausting. That whole mountains beyond mountains thing. Often times there are no solutions to be found. Just getting groceries and paying your electricity bill can take an entire day and drive you to drink. Those living and working here are so tired and irritable from dealing with all that ministry/service/life here throws at them - that by the time their visitors arrive they're not always the perfect hosts. (Guilty as charged.)

example a
One night I was feeding 25 people dinner. I put forth my best effort with my limited domestic skills. It was Shepherd's Pie and Bread and Butter. A man in the group said "Where are the side dishes?"

He was just thinking out loud. He was not trying to be rude. I went to my room shut the door and cried. I felt criticized.

example b
One night a friend decided Pizza would be a really fun treat for her guests. (Pizza is not easy to get in Haiti like in the USA.) She made a special trip to the store and bought incredibly expensive cheese (think $5.25 US for 8 ounces) and all the other things to make pizza. Her guests picked at the pizza. Finally one of them said, "Sorry we don't really like pizza".

They had no idea how much it cost to make that meal or that it was a major treat for those who live here. My friend felt unappreciated.

example c
A friend runs a ministry that rescues sick kids. She makes due with the space they have, even though she would like a much larger space. It is open air space, like many buildings in Haiti. Visitors come for a week and say, "Can't you do anything about these flies!?!?"

The visitors were just thinking about how much they hate flies. The friend was hurt because OF COURSE she has tried everything to get rid of the flies, she hates them too. My friend feels judged. She feels like the visitors think she does not care for the kids in her rescue center.

example d
A group of 10 come to Haiti. The host family prepares for their arrival and plans the meals and events for the week. The group comes in excited and wanting to ask lots of questions of their hosts. The hosts answer questions for a long while then excuse themselves after dinner. The visitors wonder why the hosts are upset. Why they did not stay up to talk longer. They want to talk. They wonder if their host does not like them.

The host is not upset. The host knows that he has to be up at 6am and ready to answer to a lot of people the next day. He excused himself to prepare for the next day before going to bed. He was not trying to be rude, he was trying to do his job well.

example e
A visitor wants to give the child he sponsors a gift. He wants to buy "his child" a bike. The missionary tells the visitor that is maybe not a great idea. The missionary makes other suggestions. The visitor pushes. He wants to give his kid a bike! The missionary digs his heels in and says "no we cannot do that". The visitor sees the missionary as cold and unkind. He leaves angry.

The visitor did not understand that the missionary knows if the child is given a bike it will be taken from him immediately. The child will be subjected to teasing and even ridicule in his village because of the gift. The gift would not have actually been a gift. The missionary has much more cultural awareness and was trying to protect the child.

I could go on and on and on.

These things happen and sometimes the people living here seem edgy and defensive and uncooperative. The people who visit seem demanding, spoiled, and hard to please.

Neither group is really that way. They just don't operate within the same paradigm. They have trouble communicating well. Everyone ends up frustrated.

We believe it is great for visitors to come experience Haiti. (Or any developing country.) There is huge value when we experience a different culture, see the big world outside our own front door and even in being uncomfortable. We need people to visit so they will care and support our work with prayers and finances. We want to offer them a chance to see and do unique things.

Sometimes our defensive sensitivity stops us from doing a great job. Sometimes we're too tired to joyfully try to meet expectations. Sometimes we seem aloof or withdrawn. (Because sometimes we are.) Sometimes we need a free pass and extra understanding. Sometimes we say no to requests because we know boundaries are important for our longevity. It is not personal.

In recent weeks I have come to realize that I retreated when I moved to PAP. I stopped trying to be hospitable and my boundaries tightened up waaaaay tight. I was tired of meeting expectations of visitors and I was a little bit ticked off. I was upset that so much of my time went to groups of American visitors when I moved to Haiti to work with and serve Haitians.

I am trying to find the right balance again. I always want to put my family first and protect us from the burnout we faced hosting large groups so frequently, but I don't want to be so protective that I miss out on the blessing of meeting and getting to know interesting people.

(Photo of sugar cane.)