Friday, April 30, 2010

Day Two - A Night Under the Stars (and rain)

***day one is below***

Ahhh…Haiti. What a beautiful and disgusting mess. There's trash everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE! There is little pride in this country. The dream, if you ask anyone, is to get out. To escape. America.

It'd be hard to have pride in your country in a place like this. There are so many problems. So much broken. I'd want out too.

But there are also men like Saul and his family, who, where most people see problems, see opportunity. Saul is a smart man. He's been in politics, law, a teacher, an author, and just an all around fun guy. A laugh as big as any I've ever heard. He and a handful of others like him, make these trips fun. We spend most of our days here with He, his boys (Lulu and Saul Jr), Jean, Jose, Jude, the pastor and his family, and a few other random friends and faces.

We spent the first half of the second day at the Water Mission riding around with the director and talking to the staff. We both left there knowing we had made a very important connection. We were met by Saul and Lulu (who could easily stand in as a middle linebacker for some college team) and went to the small airport to fly up to Port Au Paix.

We took our 45 minute flight in a tiny puddle jumper dodging clouds and bouncing around the mountain skies of the island of Hispanol. We landed safely and were met with some good friends of Saul on the airport runway (Saul's the kind of guy who has great friends anywhere we find ourselves among the 10 million people of Haiti). We went straight to the church service - the first of a five day "conference" that will end in the ordination of Jean, and the "real reason" we're here. The service started at 6. Our people decided they wanted to get there a bit earlier than normal, so we wondered over around 6:45 (nope-not a typo). The service was just getting ready to start. We walked in the door and the worship team and singers began. It was so loud, my ears are still ringing.

Great band - the Pastor's sons all play a few instruments. Jude was on bass that night and is every bit as good as any of the excellent musicians I get to play with.

It's funny. As far as I could tell, any one could walk up, grab the mic and sing any song they'd like. The band would quickly find the key the singer landed on and jump in with accompaniment. As a musician - it was impressive.

We made it through the 3 hour service of which I understood nothing of. After the service we walked to the pastors house for a meal prepared by the pastor's wife. We sat around the table and talked for a while about the church, challenges they're facing, and what God is doing there. Sounded a lot like conversations we as a church staff have every tuesday around our table at home. Same challenges, same complaints, same God coming through in similar ways.

After dinner, we headed out. Douglas and I were ready to get to the mission.

Everytime I've been to the mission, we've been the only people in a place that is capable of housing hundreds. This time was different however. This time, it was clear as we drove up that this place was full. It was so full. There were no beds, not a spare inch on the floor for an extra mattress. But with her characteristically gracious way, Maurine from the mission told us she'd be happy to have us if we don't mind just finding a spot. And that's what we did. The only spot we could find was up on the roof over looking the city and shore line. Really a very beautiful spot. A beautiful view with a welcomed escape from the muggy conditions inside the complex walls.

As we made our make shift beds and lay down, Douglas (once again in classic Douglas form) starts talking "sailor" (yet another language I don't speak). Something about the northwinds, low pressure mixing with the southernly high pressure and the barometric pressure philharmonic existential onamonapia (at least that's what I heard). After breaking it down for me, he told me "in layman's terms" that he thought it was going to rain. I told him he just needs to believe and all will be well. We laid there for a few more minutes and I hear him get up - I look over and he's packing up his stuff to bring inside. After ragging him (something about being old and girly) I convinced him to just keep his stuff out there and stay.

Cut to 3 hours later...


I manage to slip my shoes on, thrown my bag on my back and stuff my bedding under my arm. We find a muggy little corner in the entrance way of the complex to try and sleep the rest of the night away.

Needless to say - as I sit and type this this morning...I'm exhausted.

Alright - enough for now. Grace and peace.


Day One - Nothing's Easy

The first day, like most days in Haiti, have been non stop. The trip started like most trips to Haiti. Frustration. The flight from Miami was delayed, we sat and sweated on runway for close to an hour. The flight itself was uneventful, but once we got to Port Au Prince, we walked off the plane and as we stood in line to get on the bus, I realized my iPhone was not in my pocket. I always have it in my front left pocket and remembered turning it on on my way out of the plane. Somewhere in between the plane and the line I was standing in, my phone either fell out or was taken. After going through all the normal routes of trying to find it, I surrendered to the thought of moving on and went to grab our luggage.

Luggage is always fun at the Port Au Prince Airport. The last few time's we've come, we've flown with as many bags as they will allow us to bring. We end up paying for the maximum because getting supplies here any other way is so unreliable. So we have people from our church bring in nice clothes for both adults and children, a couple tents and luggage that can be left in Haiti. It's a great idea, the thing we always forget is to remember what our bags look like before we give them up in Tampa. Baggage claim is so frustrating. All the passengers from flights that arrive file into a medium size warehouse building that is the temporary (due to the earthquake) home for baggage claim, customs, and airline offices (I heard Douglas describe it to someone as a "chaotic, boiler-house/makeshift hanger filled with hot angry travelers yelling at each other in french), The airline opens up a garage door and the luggage gets dumps into piles. Hundreds of people all looking through piles of bags at the same time. Add to it that Douglas and I have very little idea about what we're looking for, the sweaty crowd yelling in french and creole… It's always my least favorite part of the trip.

Once we got our bags together we walk out into the masses of chaos. We fight our way through the crowd finally surrendering to the pushy men around us to carry our bags and find our people. Saul, a man who has become a very good friend here, was there to meet us and take us around. We finally make it to the car with all our bags and as we get there, we see him looking in the windows and feeling his pockets…no keys. He's lost them somewhere among the mob. After altogether unsuccessfully trying to retrace steps, a man in the crowd notices that we are looking for something. Saul told him in french that he had lost his keys and was trying to find them. The man asked what kind of car he drove. Saul points to his pathfinder. The man with great pleasure told Saul he drove the same car and gave Saul his keys to try. We took the keys (mostly to just be polite) and tried it in the car. And crank - the car came to life. We were all amazed. The man and Saul drove up to a hardware store close to the airport and was able to get a few copies made of the key and we were on our way.

We often come on these trips expecting one thing and receiving something very different. We came with the intention of being a part of a ordination process for our Pastor in St Louis De Nord. That still will happen but, God had some divine appoints for us to make first. We arrived in Port Au Prince, not knowing where we would be staying for the night. We had an idea of some things we were going to get accomplished, but enough times in Haiti has taught me to stick very loosely to any plans that have been made.

Before the trip, our church had been in contact with a organization that has found a way to build very cheaply, water purification systems that need very little maintenance over time and provides reliable, clean water (10 gallons a minute). We knew the name of the place (Water Mission International) and had the address to the organization, but other than that had very little info. But we knew that we at least needed to have a conversation to see if this system might be a possibility for our people in north Haiti. We drove up to the walled complex and banged on the large metal gate to see if we could come it. A Haitian armed with an impressive looking gun cracked the door. Saul explained in french who were and what we were hoping to accomplish. After a couple minutes of a conversation I understood nothing of, the gate rolled open and we were escorted to the front door. We made introductions to a Portuguese woman named Elsa. In english this time, we explained what it was we were doing in Haiti and asked if we might talk to them about our school and how we might be able to work together. She escorted us in to the converted home and invited us to sit at a big table out back. She also told Douglas (my Pastor) that if he didn't have a place to stay tonight he would be able to stay there. Not making eye contact with me, she politely told him that they only make accommodations for Pastors and had room for only one. Douglas chuckled, patted me on the back, and said in classic Douglas form, "Good luck dude - I'll see you in the morning."He eventually told her that we were traveling together and that we would need to find a place we could both stay for the night. She kind of shrugged and said - if your only needing one night, we can make some room. We made our way back to a room with 4 bunk beds and dropped off the load of luggage we had lugged around. We toured the small complex and we're introduced to the engineers and staff and were given a full run down of the system they build for villages in Haiti (and around the world). We made, what I think will become, a very important connection for both the church and for myself. We ended up very quickly (as is usually the case here) making very deep connections with people who have a shared passion for a radical faith and a life that Jesus spoke of. We sat around the table till late in the evening with people from Germany, Honduras, America, Africa, Portugal, and Haiti. We talked about life, love, passion, and faith. Like most every of these trips, these late night conversations with the most interesting mix of people and food are what make these trips sustainable and life giving.

Enough for now, I'll stop.

Grace and peace.