I thought about using this title when I was planning to leave the States for Haiti. The phrase has been on my mind a lot lately as I prepare to leave Haiti and return to the States for a month. The phrase really is true as we are all one in Christ. A prayer meeting is held every Wednesday evening at the boys’ apartment. Last night the pastor was late in arriving but that did not matter to the boys… they started the prayer meeting without the pastor. The boys, a few of their friends and I sat around the table reading from Revelation, one verse at a time… first in English then in Creole. Next came time to pray as we held hands and audibly shared our prayers together then sang praises to our Lord. Words can not describe the beauty of the experience, the lightness I feel in my soul each time we worship together. Last night when we opened our eyes we learned that the light had gone out but it did not phase anyone; someone just turned on a flashlight and we kept going. It is amazing to me that in a land of so much oppression, we experience great joy and freedom to worship. (I learned that there is a church that meets every night from 7pm-9pm a few doors down from my house… and they just gather in the street and worship!) In a land of so much poverty, we experience and abundance of intangible but everlasting blessings. Living among these Haitians, the color of my skin does not matter… neither does the color of theirs because souls are not differentiated by color, race, gender or social status.
God has placed two beautiful girls in my life, one of which came to my birthday party last month. They also were former street kids and now live in a home just ten houses down from mine with ten other girls and a house mom. Each day we spend time working of getting to know each other better and teaching the other our native language. They joined us in the prayer meeting last night too. I never cease to be amazed at how God works all things together for good… in His time, not ours.
Speaking of timing, things in Haiti operate on a different time schedule than in the States. Something that may take a few minutes to do in the States usually takes hours or days to do here. One of the boys has back and neck pain that is excruciating for him at times. (Sitting makes it worse. He has to sit at his job and at school… on wooden benches. I wonder if I bring back an inflatable exercise ball for him to sit on at work if that would help ease the pain.) After days of asking around for an osteopath or a chiropractor in Port au Prince, I was given two phone numbers. I called the first number and received an error message. I called the second number and the guy who answered said he did not practice chiropractic medicine but has a friend who does. He asked me to wait five minutes for him to look the number up in his phone and call me back. Fifteen minutes later I called him back (thinking I may have misunderstood him) and he told me I understood him correctly… he would call me back. I am still waiting for his call and that was three days ago!
I have been working with the boys on budgeting and money matters as well as helping them to prepare for exams which will be taken next week. Believe it or not, even for natives, things cost more in December (because of Christmas) than any other time of the year. One of the boys went downtown to purchase pants for school and shorts. Because of inflated prices, he returned with only two pair of pants. I was excited to hear that they have decided to use their Christmas bonus money to paint their apartment. They are not sure what color they will paint it. They said it will be whatever color they find. I am praying it will be something bright, light and cheerful.
It was a surprise to me to learn that in addition to having to pay tuition for school and purchase uniforms, the students have to pay to take exams also. And if the teacher chooses not to write the exam on the board but pass out a photocopy of the exam, the student has to pay for the photocopies! No kidding! One of the teachers told me that very thing.
Haiti has some of the best avocados I have ever tasted. The other day I asked a street vendor how much she would charge me for one. She said 25 gourdes. I had previously been told that was too high so I did not buy it. A few days later one of the boys had an avocado. I asked him how much he paid for it. He said 10 gourdes and that sometimes he can get them for as low as 5 or 3 gourdes. Ok, so with the street vendors the color of my skin matters! Solution: I don’t buy anything in the streets. I have one of the boys make the purchase.
Funny thing happened the other day. I have labels on many of the items in my house with the Creole term for the item. The propane tank has “bobon” on it. I understood the boys to mean that “bobon” was the term for propane. When the propane tank became empty I told the boy affectionately known as Mustafo that I needed “bobon.” He proceeded to take me to a vendor, spoke with the vendor and handed me a bag of cookies to which I said, “I don’t want that. I don’t even like those kind of cookies.” Confused, he gave them back to the vendor. Long story short… he thought I said “bonbon: which means “cookie.” What I actually needed was “propan.” “Bobon” is the Creole term for the propane tank! We all got a huge laugh out of that as Mustafo and I told everyone what had happened.
My friend, Melo, who used to be the English teacher at the orphanage the boys lived at, and I have been working on getting some necessary legal documents in order for a few of the boys. There are certain forms that a Haitian needs to have in order to be enrolled in school and then there are additional forms needed for them to be able to get a job, get a driver’s license, be registered to vote, etc. The primary and basic form needed is the person’s birth certificate… everything else builds on that. Believe it or not, an error was found on the birth certificate of one of the boys, days before he was to graduate from his schooling. If it does not get fixed, he will not be able to complete his school and accomplish his goal of getting a job as a driver next month. We have been working on this issue for about a week now.
Update on lady in hospital… she is doing well. The man who was in the car accident that severely injured his leg… he had surgery last Friday. Doctors say it will be about a year for him to recover and it won’t be a full recovery.
HandUp Global Goods employs most of the boys I work with. Their Director and another member of their board was in town last week and I was honored to be asked to photograph their Christmas party. As I close this posting, I will leave you with one of my favorite pictures taken that day. I will also leave you with a picture of the view I see each week as I walk out of the school where I help to teach English. I head home to the States next week to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. Hope to see as many of you as I can while I am there and wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!