Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Key

Before you read John's story let me coach you just a tiny bit. 

If you know John it is very fun to read his blogs because you can "hear" him in his writing.  If you don't know him you likely read it thinking, "Does this man speak English as his first language?"  ;)  

For example, while I might say: "Twelve years ago I began a relationship."  John would say, "I twelve years ago began a relationship."  Sometimes a single sentence may take you places that other writers cannot take you in an entire novel.  For this very reason it is an entertaining and interesting thing to see the inner workings of the heavily-haired-head of one John McHoul.  

For as much as the teasing and irreverent mocking occurs,  let me clarify that I respect these people (John and Beth McHoul) as much as any two people in the Western Hemisphere. John can take the teasing. Trust me.

I hope you'll enjoy reading John's words about the purchase of three acres of land as much as we did. 


It may seem like an ordinary old key, but to me it is a key to the past, the present and to the future.  Sound grandiose? Perhaps, but let me explain.

KEYI almost 12 years ago began a relationship with what is on the other side of the black gate that this key opens.  The first time I passed through the gate was to have lunch with a fellow missionary at the only western theme restaurant in Haiti. The walls were decorated with cowboy hats and boots, pictures of cowboys and a whip or two.  There on the grounds were saddles, a couple of wagon wheels and the office that was shaped like an old wagon that made up the wagon trains that I would see when watching the old western shows.  Oh and there was a old fashion dance floor for those who were so inclined.

The food, well I suppose it depends of who you ask.  There usually was not much of a selection, but you could generally be sure to get chicken, spare ribs, perhaps a fried beef dish and maybe some fried pork.  It would be cooked on an rusted outdoor grill that may have actually come from the wild west era. 
You would sit outside under one or two of the gazebos or at a long table next to the dance floor.  It would be important to come with patience, mosquito spray and an acceptance of  whatever would come out of the kitchen, even if it wasn’t what you ordered.  If there was electricity there would be a dim light to help you identify and eat your food.  If the electricity wasn’t working, then there were small candles that really didn’t help much.

The food, I thought, was good and sometimes not so good, which in a twisted way makes sense after you have lived in Haiti for a few years, and was part of the allure of going there.  Would the ribs have any meat?  How tough would the chicken be?  Would you get what you ordered?

I over the years brought dozens of visiting groups there and it is a good chance that some of you reading this ate there a time of two when visiting with us in Haiti.  And I’m sure you have fond memories of your dining experience or at least of your experience.

Over the years I got to know the owner quite well and he would always take time to chat for several minutes or longer when I would go there to eat.  This, in part, was due to the fact that I can’t recall more than a few times that others were eating there at the same time.  The owner would often say, “John you should buy this place it would make a good…” Over the years I have not forgotten our conversations about buying the place and actually brought people there several times to look at the property.

A few years ago the restaurant closed due, I am told, to a lack of business and I would see the owner only now and then on the street and at a gas station and he would ask when I was going to buy the property.

Several days after the earthquake Heartline opened at its Women’s Center a clinic where we began treating those injured in the earthquake.  This was made possible by an amazing group of medical people that with just a couple days notice came to Haiti on private planes to set up this clinic.  And by the Heartline people in the States that facilitated the logistics of sifting through the thousands that wanted to come and help and who made sure that supplies and personnel got here even if we had to charter private planes.  After about two weeks we realized that we would need to provide a place for aftercare as many of the patients we treated would need follow up and could not return to their homes and for many they had no homes to return to.  So we turned what was our boys’ home into a field hospital where I can only say amazing stuff happening.  We had a regular stream of doctors, PA’s, PT’s, nurses and helpers come in to care for the several dozen patients that we had on the ground on mats and eventually on cots.  The injured were cared for, those needing addition surgeries were transported and then back to us for aftercare.  The quality of the care was so amazing that even some of the “Big Boys”  the well established and international health care groups would send some of their patients to us for aftercare as our reputation spread quickly as an organization that gave quality care and was building a loving, caring community.

Clearly God through all of this was doing something at Heartline and we realized that we would be moving away from adoptions which we have been involved in for 20 years and into other areas.  We already had several strong women’s programs going and now after prayer and discussion and with the support and encouragement of so many in the medical field we believe that we should continue on and move forward in the area of medical care and that we will begin by building a small hospital or rather a 20 bed clinic where we can minister to the needs of the people, spirit, soul, and body. But where would we build this clinic/hospital?

A couple of months after the earthquake I was at the home of a doctor and his wife that live in the area.  They told me that the owner of the now closed western theme restaurant, who they are related to by marriage, which I didn’t know, has been trying to contact me about buying the property.  About a week later I met with him at the property and we talked.  I struggled to stay focused and as I kept looking around seeing not only what was, but also what could be.   To make a long story shorter after several weeks of talking, waiting, and praying Heartline agreed to purchase the property and so the key pictured above.

Late last week, I actually received the key to the gate of the property.  The former owner is taking several days to sell what is he no longer wants or needs and so perhaps this week, Heartline will be take full control of this three acre, to which we are trying to negotiate the purchase of two more acres of land.  As I walk around the property I continue to have memories of the past but now I endeavor to see what can be, what will be.  I have spent several hours there, alone, walking, praying, listening, and seeing.

There is quite a bit of work to be done before we start putting up buildings.  There is a partially finished cement building that was damaged during the earthquake that must come down and there are portions of the wall that fell during the earthquake that must be repaired and hundreds of feet where there is no wall at all.

In addition to the hospital/clinic we expect to relocate our growing sewing/crafts/literacy programs onto the new property.  We expect as well to open a larger maternity center and we are praying for direction from God as to what else should be located on this property. We have architects coming in October and in mid November I and others will meet in Minnesota for several days to among other things determine a master plan regarding the development of this property.

There is so much that can happen and our expectations are high as we look to God as we endeavor to be His hands in Haiti.  We are thankful for you and your prayers and support.  Please continue to pray for Heartline as there is much to do to make what is not yet there, there. 

John McHoul