I admit, we have utterly failed at keeping up with the blog and newsletters faithfully this fall. And it sure is not for lack of news. The series of crazy events that has kept Haiti on her toes merits reporting. But this year has been so chaotic and stressful for the country, for our ministry and for us personally that I have found it exceptionally challenging to put into words, not to mention the constant obstacles of time, electrical outages and sporadic internet service. I sit down at the computer often to write knowing that news REALLY needs to get out, but just stare blankly at the screen from fatigue, or find the spiritual atmosphere so hard to describe that I write, and erase, write and erase.
It has been an odd weekend, waiting for the eminent hurricane. There were looming clouds, scattered showers and some winds, but no hurricane. Sunday morning was eerie when we woke and there was no sound outside- usually there are roosters crowing, goats bleating, dogs shouting messages to one another, lots of bustle in the streets and the Catholic church bell rings early morning. But this Sunday all you could hear was the roar of the ocean. It was a little unnerving.
Well, we have jumped back in with both feet. Got back down to Haiti after a six week tour of Alberta, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana, visiting churches and thanking the many who gave since the earthquake. Chris and Rebecca Girvan did such a fabulous job at holding down the fort while we were in North America. They took initiative and have earned tremendous respect from the locals by serving joyfully. You can check out their blog at In His Service. They have done much more than teach English!
Chris & Rebecca Girvan arrived in Haiti just two weeks ago, August 17 and are going to be working with Haiti ARISE until June 2011. They will be teaching ESL, doing basketball clinics and youth Bible study. With the myriad of other ministry opportunities we are sure they will be busy and get their hands dirty. Becca grew up a farm girl and Chris is from Red Deer, Alberta. This is Chris' third trip to Haiti. They spent two years previous in South Korea teaching ESL, so the culture is quite a contrast to the fast paced, high tech city life. So far they are enjoying themselves. They will be working with the Haitians to keep the work going while we are in Canada. You can follow their blog at In His Service. Things are starting to progress. Four posts were set yesterday for the new wall system and the footings for the tech school are being dug. The road is being fixed too with the Bobcat, smoothing it out with rubble removed from the property.
It is hard to believe a whole month has passed by since I have written anything. One day passes into the next here with so much activity that time slips through my fingers. It does not take long after being back down here to be hit with a myriad of challenges. Necessary tools are not at hand, equipment breaks down daily, office electronics don't want to function properly in the heat and the power goes on and off as if at it's own will. If we keep the North American mindset of productivity here, frustration mounts up when things don't run smoothly.
It has been a busy week already since coming back. There are so many things to attend to, so much to reorganize, plan and set back into action. The feel in the country is a mix of anticipation and discouragement. It has now been six months since the quake and so many are still living in a state of limbo, waiting for help, expecting to get ahead, but daily facing the reality of a slow rebuilding process.
We are working hard to construct temporary elementary classes to open in the fall. This week is also occupied with preparing Education Fund Reports and Student cards. We are delighted to have some helping hands with us. Alice Smedes, one of our Canada board members, is here again to help with the reports and with our kids. Chad and Kelly O'neill from Surrey, BC are here with their 10 month old, Dublin, for five weeks to help in construction and administration. They wil be keeping up a blog that you can follow here: O'neill's In Haiti. We will get a newsletter out very soon to update you on all the details of what is happening!!
As a family, we had some time this month to refresh. Marc, baby and I went on a REAL holiday, for the first time in 10 years- meaning totally away from work and just having fun!
Before we were married, I served in Italy for 2 years under Steve and Patti Gray teaching in an international school and always said I would return one day. Marc and I have been saving airmiles since we started traveling back and forth to Haiti for that purpose and this year being our 10th anniversary, as well as undergoing so much stress, we felt it was the right time to go.
And we are so glad that we did. The sites were amazing, walking through the same places where the Apostle Paul walked! We came home refreshed and now feel ready again to put all of our energy back into the work in Haiti. We will back there Tuesday, July 13th and be joined by Chad and Kelly O'neill from Surrey, who will be working with us for the summer. We have four other couples lined up this fall to come work. Rebuilding projects are going to commence right away- the technical school foundations, the medical clinic & home rebuilding in the community. We have also built temporary classes to open the elementary school in Sept. We are moving from immediate relief phase to rebuilding for long-term. Unlike many relief organizations, we are rebuilding our community to last, even if another earthquake would hit the country. That includes teaching the locals to build better and using the local resources to ensure sustainability. I can't wait to be back. It's gonna be a sweaty summer in the Caribbean humindity!
One more team has come to serve the people with us. This time the focus will be for the children, a much needed time to share with them the love of Christ and encourage them that they are important too. There will be 3 days of Vacation Bible School this week. The following week will be a sports camp for the teens for 3 days. We usually hold basketball camps each spring, Not long after the earthquake many of the young men who come to the camps came to Marc and asked if we planned to have it this year. They expressed the need to have an outlet, a way to get their minds off of all the stress of the past few months. So they are looking forward to it, and we are too, cause it is an awesome opportunity to share the gospel with young men and women who normally would not come to church. A part of the team is keeping a blog that you can follow if you like: My Deep Thoughts, by Jon Theissen.
The kids and I are packing up again, for the fourth time in six months, and heading down to WA. I look forward to the day when we won't have to pack up again... maybe someday... soon. I can't wait to get back to Haiti, to get back in the sweat and back in with our friends. Soon...
Spending the very short week back in Haiti with Marc, the leaders, the staff and the medical team was so refreshing. It stimulated again all the vision and heart in me for the work of the Lord there and renewed my sense of hope for the people. In the many talks I had with so many of our friends, hearing their experiences and stories, I found an underlying theme. One put it very well. Marc Eddy with a very positive attitude said that this earthquake has brought many to Christ, and if that was the only purpose in it all, the hardship and suffering are all worth it. He is so right. Many all too often forget God when life is easy, comfortable and void of conflict. It is when we are laid bare, stripped of all that God is able to grab hold of hearts best. Though there is a sense of fear of what may come, the many so dear to us in Haiti seem to be all the stronger in faith for what they have survived. It was a wonderful trip, one I can't wait to make again, as soon as possible and for a longer period. I am ready to go home, where my heart is.
Clinics are running smoothly, and almost all of our Haiti ARISE board members are here on the ground with us. It is really exciting. There will be blog posts from the others here, and you can also follow the blog from Jen Hartley, our communications director at A Restless Green and the HFL Medical team blog at HFL Haiti. Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement. We WILL see this nation rise.
To leave here is going to be very difficult for me. I was very tempted to tell Marc to fly down here with all the kids and lets just stay. There is so much to do and even more so, there are so many here to love. As I have conversations with staff, family and friends, they all want to recount the dramatic events of the past months, with much expression and demonstrations. They are so lively, full of enthusiasm and love, despite all the challenges that they are facing. Difficulty is nothing new to the Haitian people. Suffering seems to be a way of life here. Though it is not chosen or prefered, it does form such a depth of character in a person, and draws them to rely on God's power and omnipotence. Yet, the earthquake is far beyond what any here have ever experienced, and the trauma of it is still having an impact. There is small pockets of progress happening, clean up of rubble, homes beginning to be rebuilt.
Finally, my feet have hit the ground again in Haiti. It has been different, and am sure it will continue to be for this week and a half. So much has changed. Haiti is not the same country it was before that defining moment of January 12th. A day that will definitely mark the history books. But I am feeling such an amazing peace, a true happiness, knowing I am back where I was called to be. The medical team is getting set up for clinics to begin this afternoon, we have already done our debriefings and staff meetings. I am right back into the heart of things. And it feels so right. Just missing four things- Asher, Miesha, Jasmine and Marc. The kids are anxious to get back here too. With tears down their little cheeks, they said "Why can't we come too and see if it is safe now for us to go home?" I wish they were here. Marc will be coming Saturday and our dear friend Kim will be watching the little ones. I am not sure of the likelihood that I will get to blog daily, but will try. The blog from the medical team can be followed though. Click on this link to Hungry For LIfe Team Blog.
Please keep us all in your prayers. We will be doing not only medical, but also be doing PTSD talks and times of prayer with the people. There is still so much fear, uncertainty... One thing I know. For now, I am home.
The snowy blizzard in Central Alberta today reminded me, yet again, of the stark contrast of Canadian and Haitian life. My, how I miss the warm weather of the Caribbean. I was struck though, by the fact that here, in bad weather, I can run for a cozy cover and a fire place. In Haiti most people only have bed sheets now to cover their heads from the rain, and that surely won't keep them warm. These tent cities will be the collective reality for probably months to come. This is certainly only aggravated by the recent and less than inspiring news from President Preval to the shell-shocked and displaced masses that they could expect yet another, even larger, quake. He told them not to retreat back into any cement buildings, so even if their homes are still standing, they are sleeping outside.
I feel a different sense of displacement, a separation of family and a sort of loneliness that you just can't experience in Haiti. In Haiti there is just no space for this sense of separation. I am going on four months now up in Canada. I know God has his hand of protection on us, but there is still so much emotion that goes with being isolated from all that I love - my husband, my dear friends and my calling. Yet each day, His mercies are new every morning, His grace sufficient for another night. Though my sorrow lasts for the night, I find new joy just around the corner in the fresh smiles of our new baby Ariana, the laughter and jokes of our older two and the new-found facial expressions of our Jasmine heading for her twos.
Marc will be home in a few days, leaving the staff and David and James to continue to capably oversee the work. We are so blessed with amazing, vibrant, passionate people in Haiti to work with us. It is a good thing, because Marc is in desperate need of a rest. As am I. For now, I will cuddle up under my fuzzy blankets and thank God for the shelter from the storm.
Here are some links to other blogs, one from David and James who are in Haiti for another month. Run The Race. The last recent team from the Link Church in Medicine Hat, BC were in Haiti April 6-13th. You can see their blog with video coverage at: Haiti Trip. We also have a new album of photos posted on Facebook: Wall Progress, April 2010.
We received this email today and thought you would all enjoy:
"When I returned from Haiti one of my wife's friends put us in touch with a guy out of Halifax who is the worship leader at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Halifax and is a music producer as well. He and a large number of East Coast musicians were in the final stages of a project to put together a video in support of Haiti and he was very excited to talk with me about Haiti Arise, my experiences there, and see some of the images I had from my trip. The link below will take you to that finished product and I am sure you will recognize some of the pictures and video used. They also have included the link to Haiti Arise as one of two options to donate at the end of the video as a result of the conversations.
Bondye beni ou, Aaron"
It has been a great week with Marc back here. The kids, my mom and I drove down to WA two weeks ago, I booked a romantic hotel in Seattle and set the kids up at my sister's. Marc was scheduled to fly in on Wednesday night, March 24th, but due to storms, airplane troubles and flight regulations forbidding airline staff to work overtime, Marc did not get to fly in til Thursday... so... I had a relaxing evening in the hotel by myself. Couldn't really cancel the reservation at 1AM, so I decided to just enjoy the peace. We had a great time when he got in though. We went to a Celtic concert, visited with my family and of course, talked a lot about Haiti. It has brought me a sense of security having him here. I am more anxious to go now than before, to be with Marc, to see everyone, hug friends and see firsthand what has happened. Marc expressed how challenging it has been for the people to work through the fear and uncertainty of life there now. Getting the wall up around the property has been a vital step though, in re-establishing security, but even deeper than that, bringing a sense of healing to our people and reassure them that they are protected. You see, as North Americans it is hard for us to understand why a wall would be important. Yet, we too have walls. Homes are enclosed and provide us with a sense of belonging and protection from vulnerability and danger. In Haiti, the people do not spend their time inside their homes but to sleep. Their homes are open. It is the walls around their homes and around the places that they consider shelters of safety that bring them protection. Now, all the walls are down, people are sleeping in the open and their fear of vulnerability is apparent. So, yes, the wall brings much more than just tangible security. It brings healing.
I am very anxious for tomorrow to arrive, as Marc will be coming back home for a week and a half. It has been too long being apart. But God is faithful. He always takes difficult things and teaches us through them. I want to share that this time the distance has really brought a sense of revival in our marriage and also an urgency to regain the focus of making our family our priority. It is so easy to get caught up in the havoc of crisis and overlook what is right in front of you - the children. In this resepct, I have completely sensed God's presence and grace knowing that he allows me to be in North America rather than Haiti so I can give them my attention despite all that is happening. Though I am anxious to get back to Haiti, I am also grateful for this time and all the more excited to have Marc here with us for the little time that he can. He will be going back again with the next team, and returning again when they return. This is only a season and so we endure, believing that through this God will bring greater blessings.