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Monday, July 21, 2014

Back

Just a quick post to let you all know I am back home. I've been struggling with exhaustion all weekend and getting back into the swing of things. Thank you to those who read the Haiti-themed posts I left here for you last week. This journey to Haiti was an even bigger adventure than I'd counted on, and has expanded my vision for future trips in ways that are much bigger than I can articulate without a lot more prayer and a little more sleep.

I am anxious to share my stories, but probably not coherent enough to articulate them. In the meantime, I invite you to get a feel for the adventure in my Facebook album.

Talk with you soon!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eye Glasses

Last summer, some members of our team ran an eye clinic.

The Haitians would sit in a chair positioned a specified distance from an eye chart.  Where they stopped on the chart corresponded to pre-made glasses of a specific strength.

Lots of glasses left the clinic, but, oddly, I did not see a single Haitian leaving sporting specs.

I asked Ken, who was heading up the clinic, what the deal was.

“They put them in their shirt pockets,” Ken said. “They think the glasses are to special to wear all the time. They’re saving them for special occasions.”

Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. I'm scheduled to return tonight at midnight! I'll be back with fresh stories next week!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Madame Dushane

This is Madame Dushane. She lives in a fishing village I’ve been to a couple of times, once uneventfully, and the other involving only a minor shipwreck.

I mention the shipwreck only to illustrate that transportation isn’t a given in Haiti. The distance we travelled in last summer’s 13 hour bus trip, for instance, could have likely been traversed in an hour or two here in the states.

Madame Dushane is a single mother who makes her living selling the tiny fish you see in the basket. Of course, no one in the fishing village has need for her wares, as they all have access to the same waters, and, literally everyone in the village does nothing but fish.

Madame Dushane told me that she hitches a ride on a motor scooter whenever she can and travels to places that seem impossibly far by Haitian standards to sell her fish.

She does this not just in an attempt to eek out a living, but because she has dreams. One day she wants to leave the fishing village and move to Mole St. Nicholas, which seems to be the Haitian equivalent of moving to the ‘burbs.

When you ask her if she’d like you to pray for anything, she answers in the way any momma might: that her children would pass their all important National Exams (on which the entire Haitian educational system seems to hinge).

On the outside, her life looks nothing like mine. But strip away the hut, her work, and her village and she’s a momma who has big dreams for herself and her family. Just like me.

Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one posts tomorrow. Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nail Polish

Haitians in general and children in particular love to be touched.

One day in Haiti, The Minister remarked his surprise at what he perceived to be a huge “gay population.”

Puzzled, I asked him where he got the idea. “Look around you, Mom! The men are holding hands everywhere we go!”

Ah. Yes, true…but not what you think. Haitian men walk down the road holding hands in the same spirit a football coach smacks his players butts (which seems more…oh forget it it, I am not going there).

I experienced the Haitian need for touch one afternoon when I sat down on a stoop with a few bottles of nail polish. The press of the crowd was tremendous. I felt like Jesus, the time he had to preach from a boat due to the same issue, but, in a tactical error, I set up shop with the sea several blocks in front of me.

After awhile, some of the faces and fingers became familiar. Children came back with a finger that was “missed” or “smudged” and had to be redone, or the need for an extra color over top of the first.

Jody, who heads up the mission at the Mole, prepared me for this. See, as much as the Haitians crave touch, they ironically don’t give their kids a lot of positive physical attention (see Saturdays post on voodoo). So this manicure was huge! It wasn’t the color they wanted as much as that moment with their hand in another, getting attention.


So they wrecked their nail polish. Just to have the experience again.

Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one posts tomorrow. Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Dirt Pile

On my first trip to Haiti, our team worked alongside of Haitians from the village, hired as day laborers on the construction project we were involved in, building four houses for people like the Momma of the orphanage.

An entire team of workers spent two days with buckets and shovels moving dirt a distance of about 10 yards. Inefficient? Yes. Could we "help" them do better? Absolutely. Should we? Absolutely not.

See, the operative phrase here is "hired as day laborers." Sure, we could figure out a way to get a Caterpillar over there and move that pile in 10 minutes with a couple of scoops, but then, where would that team get the money to feed their families that week? Such an act would wreak havoc on the economy.

The book, When Helping Hurts is a powerful read for anyone trying to "help" anyone else, anywhere out of poverty. It should be on the shelf of any well meaning person attempting to assist another human being.

So let the Haitians dig--smile at them, say bonjour (or bonsoir if it is even one minute past noon, I mean it!) and let it go.


Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one posts tomorrow. Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hell or Miami

If you missed Saturday's post about voodoo, you will want to go back and read it first. I can't add a link, as, at this writing the voodoo post is scheduled, but not live. It's there. Trust me.


The Haitians have a superstition about a certain spirit, a sort of bird-like thing with huge talons that can snatch people at dusk. It's most likely a cover story to explain a voodoo kidnapping, but the Haitians live in awe of this thing. It is said that if the spirit snatches you, it will take you one of two places: Hell or Miami.

See, Miami is equivalent to Heaven. Think about that for a moment and it gets pretty sobering.

But, like we talked about on Saturday, we can use that thought to our advantage. See, we blancs ALL come from Miami, as that's the flight route in. I mentioned earlier that Haitians do not have a concept of coincidence, so we are (to them) literally people who left Heaven to come visit them. It's kind of a big deal.


Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one will post tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Voodoo

In the stillness of a Haitian night, if you listen carefully you’ll hear a distant drumming. It can be exciting or exhilarating until you realize that it’s the sound of voodoo drums.

Voodoo isn’t a mystical concept from a novel, or an archaic historical fact; it’s alive and well in Haiti. Voodoo thought has informed Haitian thought, culture and customs to the extent that it’s been said that ALL Haitians practice voodoo in some form—even Christians.

Voodoo has seeped into the Haitian Catholic church, making it “voodoo lite” for all intents and purposes. In fact, the official Catholic church has had to sever ties with the Haitian church.

Voodoo isn’t a “harmless” alternate belief system; it is a set of entrenched rituals that have led to the abuse and death of Haitian children. However, an outsider with the goal of influencing thought would do well to first listen and learn.

The book Bruchko contains the best ideas I have ever heard when it comes to working with other cultures. The 19 year old would be missionary had ideas so radical (what? We shouldn’t try to change the earth into mini-westerners?) that he had to set out on his own, doing crazy things like befriending a village witch doctor and helping HIM cure a pink eye epidemic so he could, metaphorically, save face. The entire fabric of the culture was thus preserved, and, of course the witch doctor wanted to learn more about these “greater powers.” Good stuff.

This post is short by design. I am far from an expert and the length of the post is commensurate with my knowledge. But what I do know leads me to think our role as humanitarians, missionaries and zomies is primarily to observe and understand. It’s the only true inroad to lasting impact.

Friends and Readers: I am in Haiti this week, but have left you with a series of short posts highlighting aspects of Haitian culture to encourage thought, discussion, and understanding. The next one will post tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading! See you next week!

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