Haiti Trip: Day 3

Today  marked the last full day here in Haiti, it started very early as Patrick, Butch, Michael and myself went out to take a look at one of the places were looking to possibly relocate the Deaf community. The land looks like a really good option, though nothing is certain yet.

 

The trip out and back to the land was a short drive, but a long trip because of Haiti’s traffic and poor roads – this is the single biggest challenge to anyone patience, though our team has never showed a sign of frustration toward it. I got to sit and talk with a young man named James. James is going to college and majoring in computer science. He speaks English really well and taught me several Creole words including the word for sweet, which is pronounced something like “doose” which is also used the same way it is in the States – to express that something is especially cool. Kyle Reschke and I have adopted the word for expressing our approval at something.

When we reunited with the rest of the group at the deaf camp we were excited to find that they’d made a great deal of progress on the Census. As soon as we got there Tara interpreted for a young man who wants to be a preacher. He said he reads the Bible but he doesn’t understand it all and he wants to be educated – it was a powerful testimony.

 

Anne Louise and Kaylee were hard at work in the deaf camp painting the faces of the children. The kids in the camp are so cute and they’ll walk up to anyone and just hold their hand or beckon you to pick them up. Several of the kids were ver fascinated by my equipment. Something that was funny to me was that even the youngest of them wanted to see every picture I took of them on the back of my camera. It reminded me of my nieces and nephews who did the same before they could form sentences.

The kids are so affectionate and trusting, its hard to leave them, but with the census completed and a thorough ‘orvwa’ said to all we climbed back onto our bus and left the deaf camp. As we were leaving a deaf man came up to the side of the bus and signed to robin. “I need a Laptop, a TV, anything. I’m married. I’m bored.” We couldn’t help but be a little entertained from the young man laying it out there. This did eventually turn into a real discussion of ways we could encourage community building and even entertainment within the deaf community.

 

In the afternoon we visited a church where we discovered they have a considerable ministry to the deaf already in place. This Baptist church would be considered a small to medium building in the road in the States, but here its one of the larger churches in the area. Walking into the church there was a sense of calm. Butch commented “It feels like Frazer.” We sat in their sanctuary and met their pastors then we went out into their courtyard and played basketball with some of the teenagers at the church. We met a few deaf folks that don’t live in the camp. Its exciting to meet future partners in ministry here.

Last night we enjoyed dinner here at the children’s home one last time and sat down with our team plus Margret and Tara and debriefed. It was clear that everyone was excited about the possibilities moving forward; moving the community, building them homes, getting them clean water, educating them, building them as a community, giving them fun things to do and building  them a church.

There is much more a could tell you, but I have to get packed. I’ll see many of you soon. Thanks for the prayers!

Haiti Trip: Day 2

Bonswa everyone! It has been a busy day here. It started with breakfast at the guest house. There was delicious mango that was (as with most of the food) grown right here on the compound. After thinking the kitchen staff, we drove to the deaf camp to take a census of the residents.

In order to take the census more quickly we split into two teams, each had one person who could interpret for the deaf and one person who could interpret for Creole. The Deaf camp has made considerable improvement over the last time we sent a team. They now have what are called “T-houses” – T for temporary. The houses are made of plywood and have tin roofs but have no bathrooms or water of any kind. They do have porches which is where they spend most of their free time.

 

The Census was mainly to find out if the community was interested in relocating and overwhelmingly they responded in the positive. During this time I walked around with my HVX200 video camera and a D90 still camera. I was surprised that everyone who saw me smiled – many beckoned me over to take their picture. I was shocked by how interested they were in being photographed. This reminded me of of some interesting charities I heard about at Catalyst last year that take photos of people in marginalized communities so that those people can have a photo of themselves and their family. So I’m contemplating a photography mission trip in the near future.

While the situation was much better than it was last time (largely thanks to the IFRC who built the T-houses) it is far from what most americans would consider livable. They have to walk to another part of the camp to take a shower, they have to walk even further to use the toilet. Parts of the camp have very tall grass still, which means misquotes and malaria.

 

Robin Pass, who was worried at first that she would have trouble communicating with the deaf, served as one of our interpreters. She was surprised to find out that the deaf here in Haiti are very similar to those in Alabama. Possibly the biggest difference is that when they sign they are mouthing Creole. Robin and Tara speak english while they sign. Both Tara and Robin say that the Haitians do sign with a Creole “accent” while Robin signs with a southern “accent” and Tara signs with a New York “accent.” It made me wonder if there are any deaf people who do impersonations of each other.

In the afternoon we took a drive around down town Port Au Prince.

If you have heard that Haiti has not progressed since the earth quake and didn’t believe it, here is photo proof. What you see here was actually a government building that housed several government agencies. It still lies in total ruin. As we drove past the first time I couldn’t process what I was seeing fast enough to take a picture – this was from the second time we passed it. We also visited St. V
incent’s, a school for the handicapped that had to be relocated after the earthquake. They teach deaf, blind and otherwise handicapped children. Robin signed with some teenagers there and remarked on how much they were like American teens; they were coy with their signing at first, blocking her view – (whispering, if you will) but they eventually warmed up to us. When we asked about school they all said they were done with school for the day and they didn’t want to talk about school

things. We took a picture of our entire team including Tara, Ronald and Margaret from 410 Bridge and several of the kids at St. Vincent’s.

The young man in the wheel chair told Robin that his parents abandoned him because he was deaf and lame and therefore ‘useless.’ Robin wouldn’t let him go until he finally said “I now understand that I am important.” He and all the kids at the school really enjoyed having their pictures taken.

We continued through Port Au Prince where we continued to see more devastation.


These piles of rubble are everywhere throughout the city – combined with trash and (sorry if this is too graphic) even human waste. Perhaps the greatest indicator of the condition of the country was what they call the palace. This is their White House and in the wake of the disaster it looks like a strong wind could blow it over.

Could you imagine our white house looking like this? The dome is cracked and fallen forward. It looks like a scene from the movie Independence Day after the aliens have attacked. Could you imagine living in a country that couldn’t organize enough to repair it’s president’s house?

When we finally got back and had dinner we met with a woman named Georgia who is part German part Haitian. She works with the deaf community. This was very helpful in learning about all the players in the situation.

  1. “Friends of Deaf Haiti” – an organization that got the community to the location its in today and with the help of a french diplomat and an American. These people advise the community and are trusted as the leaders. 410 bridge is working on building their and our relationship with them
  2. 410 Bridge – the mission organization with which we’ve partnered. Most well known for their work in Africa, they specialize in building self-suffecient communities based off of micro-enterprising.
  3. Frazer – Us, the church that wants to preach the gospel, educate and build church for the people in the deaf community as well as answer any medical needs they have and assist in their becoming independent.
  4. The IFRC – International Federation of the Red Cross (not the same as the American Red Cross) this group oversees the land that the camp is on – they want to move in blind and paraplegic Haitians.
  5. Other smaller players – We’ve run into a few other smaller groups that also want to get involved in way way or another – not all of them are looking to collaborate in their efforts.

So the short version is – we need prayer to be sure that all entities can come together to help this community as best we can.

Haiti Trip: Day 1

As some of you know, I have the honor of accompanying a few folks from Frazer on a Mission cultivation trip in Port Au Prince, Haiti. While our church has taken many trips to Haiti for different purposes, this is the second in a series toward a long-term goal of growing and developing relationships with a deaf community here (here because I’m in La Plaine as I type this.) We’re hoping to help them over the next several years, build housing, develop education and most of all show and tell them about the love of Jesus Christ.

Already the trip has been quite amazing – after a long journey that started at 3 am we arrived in Haiti this afternoon and made contact with Tara, a young woman here who is working with the deaf community. Tara introduced us to Ronald and Tompi who are both Haitian men that are also employed by 410 bridge. The team that came late last year for the vision trip had met Ronald at that time. He speaks english well and all three of the 410 staff here are obviously passionate about their work here.

We were escorted by a policeman to a children’s home that has a very impressive walled compound here. We’re staying in the guest house – we had a great meal here – most of the food was grown right here on the compound, its the only way to be sure its clean enough to eat fresh.

 

John Paul’s Story

After dinner here we were introduced to Pastor John Paul. Now, I’m going to try to tell his story in brief because its amazing, I might not have all the details exactly right. John Paul was born in Haiti. When he was young he went to a revival where a missionary called him down and said he wanted to pay for him to go to the US and be educated, go to seminary and return to Haiti to preach. He agreed because he wanted to go to the US.

The man was true to his word and got John Paul to live with a family in the states where he finished high school and went to seminary. The missionary showed up at his graduation and John Paul didn’t even know who he was, the man gave him $1000 and told him to go back to Haiti and preach the word. John Paul thanked him and stayed in the states. He got an electrical engineering degree. He got married He got a job. He had kids. He lost a job and got a better one. All the while he had a dream in which he said he saw ‘a man’ who said to him “When are you going to go back to Haiti?” All the while he was getting wealthier and more comfortable. One day when he was taking his kids on a vacation in a brand new car when the car lost control – perfectly good weather, first time driving the brand new car and he lost control of it – he nearly drove it off of a bridge when it suddenly stopped.

That night he had the dream again and this time the man said “I could’ve killed you today. Go to Haiti or I will kill you and send someone else.” He was awakened by his wife who said she had a dream in which a man told her that He would’ve killed them because her husband hadn’t come back to Haiti. This was particularly miraculous because in all their time together he’d refused to tell her how he got to the US or anything about his life in Haiti. She asked him “What kind of deal have you made?” and he told her. They agreed he needed to go to Haiti. He came back here eight years ago.

This is all the short version, believe it or not, but today he has a children’s home with 60+ kids and a church with 2,000 members. He told several miraculous stories, but possibly the most amazing was about the day of the earthquake here. He had a meeting with his staff that day because he was tired of the Kids getting dinner late because it wasn’t ready. He told them if they didn’t eat earlier that day that he would fire them all. He even stopped through halfway through the day and reminded them. In the afternoon he felt unusually tired and so he went home early – so he wasn’t there to be sure that they got food on time.

When he got home the earthquake hit and by the time he got back to the shelter he saw that everything was flattened, including the place where they ate their meals. He began to cry and shout, looking for everyone when someone came and found him. “Pastor!” he said “They are all alright… The food was’t ready!” As it turns out the staff had worked hard to get the kids there on time and they weren’t ready. All of the children and his staff survived.

The earthquake’s effects are unimaginable; tent cities as far as the eye can see in some parts of the city. John Paul’s congregation lost over 200 people to the Earthquake, so much prayer is still needed – Imagine one pastor having to comfort 200 grieving families.

There is much more

It is clear there is much to be done here and I could write for hours just on today, but I hope that I’ll be able to get some good footage tomorrow and perhaps tell you more about it tomorrow night. Prayers are appreciated. To God be the glory!