« It was a dark and stormy night. ‘Antonio, Antonio, tell me a story!’ And so, Antonio began, ‘It was a dark and stormy night... » The story goes on to repeat itself, the perpetual round my dad loved to tell us anytime my nephew came to visit. Why? Because his name was Antonio and it was funny, even when it got old, to muse about what the story might be. I would imagine a pirate ship at sea, and embellish the story a little further each time in my head, even though dad would always go back to the beginning. When I sit down to write a blog about all the goings on in Haiti, this is how I often feel. The story feels repetitive, like we are forever seeking to propel forward, yet constant setbacks in a country that is yet at turmoil with herself again, seems to take our story back to the beginning. It’s not entirely depressing, though it does get old, facing more and more challenges in an environment where we dream of a better future. Haiti is that story, if you just look on the surface, if you just look at the myriad of trouble she faces since her conception really, more than two centuries ago. That’s a lot of repetitive history. I think that is what the enemy of our souls likes to keep us focused on, the failures, the setbacks, the past. But each time we get there, we look a little deeper, past the surface, we see what I think God wants us to see. The glimmers of hope, the individual stories, a shine in the eyes, that way of somehow still being able to dream what the story could look like.
Our vision is to literally see Haiti arise, and we do believe it. We keep hoping for it on a grand scale. These past two weeks God just wanted to remind us again it already is happening in the ones we are able to touch. The problems don’t deter us. On the contrary, they stir us to push farther, look ahead, share the stories again. They aren’t repeats. They are new names, new faces, new life, new hope. So let me share some with you.
We had a number of goals, things we hoped to accomplish and miraculously, it was as we felt God’s hand on us daily with favour and a sort of light beaming down on us to get each item on the list crossed off. We had goals that were tangible, some things that always seem to happen and need attention when I get there, like fixing the internet router, updating computer operating systems, figuring out why the security cameras weren’t working, get pictures of all 350 of our Education Fund sponsored kids, take an inventory of needed supplies and make sure our dogs were being fed. But then there were the myriad of intangible, heart and soul connections that you cannot make lists for. Those happen, because there is this anticipation and expectation for moments that God can use to impart hope, life and break out smiles in the midst of such dismal circumstances. We stumbled unknowingly into most of these moments. And I should know by now to not be surprised, but I always am. I find myself realizing again and again just how much I need these beautiful people and how good this country is for my soul.
Sunday morning, after our harrowing entry into Haiti the day before, it was a thrill to surprise so many as we walked into the lively church. And we got the treat of it being Youth Sunday; every part of the morning being led by the youth group. Young Augustin, his first time to speak in church, delivered a pointed, faith-filled message and appeal about walking in wisdom. We congratulated and embraced these brave young people that are displaying their hope in Christ and in the future. Then we headed to the beach.
Tammy and I had a rough plan to buy a few art pieces from the local vendors. We told them, just one or two things from each person, but once they each laid out their wares, another and another would too, each desperate to sell just one item. The beach was bare before their sheets and boxes and signs and paintings came out, cause no one is coming. No tourists, no humanitarian aid workers, no missionaries. But now we represented a small glimmer of hope for them. Maybe this week they would be able to feed their kids by the few bracelets we bought. So guess what happened? We bought more than we planned, from every single one of the 24 vendors, with the hopes that if buyers can’t come to them right now, maybe we can bring the products to the buyers. We’ll be the bridge. Now we hope we find the buyers. One young girl had only one product that is not a real hot seller; painted handbags. But since we bought from everyone, we bought from her too. And at the last moment, as everyone was closing up and we were counting up our costs, an old man came stumbling toward us, with just a few items in his hands, begging us to buy just one more painted box. We did.
Tuesday afternoon, the gate opened to four well-dressed clans coming for family pictures. We headed to the rooftop for a scenic view. I couldn’t help but think that if someone were just to look at these families’ pictures, they would never know that these were grafted seedlings that had been handpicked and brought in by God to the Children’s Village. It is uncanny how many of the children actually look like the parents that care for them and how well they blend. It proves God’s desire to place the orphan and the fatherless in the midst of a family. HIS blood becomes the bond. Each of these adorable kids have replaced their hungry protruding bellies with laughter and smiles as they run to tackle ‘Grandpa Marc and Grandma Lisa’. And the pride is duly noted on each of the parent’s faces for these kids they are raising as we took each family’s photo.
But there was one face of the fathers that couldn’t smile that day. Claudy’s expression was shadowed with sorrow, as I learned he had recently lost his mother and was grieving the weight of it. This reminded us that the Children’s Village is not just about the children. It’s also about these incredibly sacrificial men and women who have answered a call each of them felt to become that father and mother to the orphan. We cannot forget about them. Later that evening Marc, Tammy and I discussed what we could do to appreciate them, and maybe help Claudy through his sorrow by reminding him that he too is a part of this greater family he’s joined. Some laughs and food were in order, so we took their orders for goat and coke and picked them up the next Sunday afternoon for a date. And guess what? By the end of the evening, everyone was laughing, enjoying ice cream and feeling like young couples again. Another small mission accomplished.
But we still needed some updates for our kiddos. With Ken’s help, who’s become our on-site photographer and videographer, as well as an amazing pencil and ink artist, we took on an afternoon of crafts with all the little ones, giving the house parents another afternoon break. Like the pied piper, we led them to a classroom at the school, taught them how to do hand tracings and colouring, then to get all the wiggles out, ran out into the grass for some very lively circle games, finished with a full on ground tackle and pile up of giggles. Phew! That was a big task! We thought maybe the next week, we’ll try it in smaller, more manageable groups. I didn’t get to join that craft and playtime with Tammy and Ken, but I heard the plan failed. They survived the big group of mayhem altogether.
As I am sure, if you were following any of our posts these past weeks, you saw another major goal we fulfilled that is an ongoing one, to distribute food to as many and as far as we can reach. We did two days. The second Sunday of our trip, over 700 people attended church with hopes to get a meal pack for their family. Marc came alive in his opportunity to inject passion, vision and life into the audience. These are his people. He knows their language, their thought process, their ways of thinking and he knows God has called him to draw them higher. He does not hold back when he gets in the groove on that platform. He had a captive crowd that hung on each word of his message. Do you know how these people survive so much turmoil? They inspire each other to laughter and to look ahead. That’s what Marc does best. We also had invited 25 pastors from our fellowship to come receive food to take back and distribute in their communities- this extends our hands into Port-Au-Prince, Les Cayes, Jacmel, up to the mountains and reaching far north. We then served all the people and announced a date for all of our sponsored Education Fund students for the Tuesday. This was really the day I was looking forward to.
The first time I think we have ever done a food distribution with our sponsored students. Since no school has been in operation, we felt it was a good thing to help provide for these kids and their families and let them know that their sponsors still care, even though they cannot get to school right now. The turn out was even better than expected. Of all 360 kids, about 340 of them came, got their food packs and pictures taken to send to our sponsors. And our school director announced they would try to reopen school on Monday, hoping that all the kids will come. This day though, there were a few sad stories. Five young people came that I know were on our list of sponsored students before, but their names did not get called. They sat patiently to the very end, then sheepishly asked why they were not called. I was a little stumped, so had to write our Education Fund Administrator to ask what happened. The answer was what I had feared. We have lost those sponsors. I am assuming it may be because of school not happening for the past 3 months and sponsors may be getting anxious wondering what’s going on with their support money. Or maybe since these five were all high school students, their sponsors could not afford the small increase in cost. At any rate, it pained my heart to send them home with nothing. I asked Cadet to still serve them. The thing is, even though no school has been in session, we have still had to continue to pay teacher salaries since school could have restarted at any moment. And we do hope it will this coming Monday.
The last story I would like to share is a most personal one, that has taken my heart on a rollercoaster ride over the past 8 years. Our Haitian son, Kiki, was so happy to see us this trip and I was very pleased. The last year or so has been especially tough for Kiki. Our adoption process has been stalled at the last step with the Haitian government since last November 2018, just waiting for a court appointment to finalize his adoption approval and name change. But no word. As well, since the kids and I have been in Canada more this year, he has missed us a lot, and had been quite angry the last few visits we have had. He had been acting out, getting into trouble and we honestly were not sure where this may lead. Despite all this, we still know God told us to walk this path with him, that he needed a family that loves him. And no matter what may happen, official or not, we know he will still always be considered our own. Well, I am so glad to say I see a change, a glimmer of hope returning to his eyes, and a softening. He spent more time with us, listened and hugged us. My heart still hopes in God, that He will make a way for Kiki. We learned news that the courthouse in Petit-Goave, where our adoption file may be, sustained a severe fire with extensive loss of case files, even courtroom furniture, forcing it to shut down. Added to the completely crippling of any government offices being able to run the last 3 months, I don’t know when our file, if found or still intact, will ever be called for our hearing. Yet, I have a peace that God in control.
We marked off all our to-do list items we could. There are so many more stories to tell. And the story is not over. It continues. We will carry on, move forward and remain faithful to all we’ve been called to, for His glory.
We left early Grand-Goave Saturday morning, with some angst that there may be roadblocks to prevent us getting to the airport. Good news reports that a major gang leader that has been responsible for major crimes over the past number of months was caught. We thought his arrest may have led to more protests though, so we proceeded with caution. Yet God was with us again, covering us with his sun and shield, leading us through the city faster than I think we have ever gotten to the airport. And now we are back in Calgary, welcomed by 50 degree difference in weather, whitewashed of colour. I already miss the warm, humid afternoons of lush colour and mangoes and our evening walks under the twinkling stars. Soon again. For now, my heart feels healthy, like I just had a good dose of gratitude medicine for the many blessings and stories we have to share.