Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Take My Heart Lord

Washing dishes. Zee and Manman making sure we are doing it right. Marcy and I laughing so hard for no reason while squatting over these dishes. As soon as we are finished we hike up the mountain to find sweet little Betsayina. Definitely the wrong spelling but we’re going to have to roll with it. Immediately we are surrounded by kids from all over the mountainside. Some hanging off our arms and some wrapped around our waists. Yelling and giggling.

Bandaging Dada has become more of a dance party than anything else. We meet and every single day is like it's the first time we’ve seen each other in years. We jump up and down and laugh and everyone talks at once. We dance and dance. Marcy dances and sings and Dada wraps her arms around her. I love these daily dance bandage parties.

Crochet class is a total success. Marcy and I teach a huge group to crochet and it's so much fun. I love it. The boys are such fast learners! It's so cool to watch these teenage boys love to crochet. Im thankful Marcy is here to help me with this.

After crochet we decide to go to Zee's to escape another church service. Shhh don’t tell anyone ;) We are sitting on the peaceful porch when I just feel like I need to sing. I go inside his house because the echo is so good. I start to sing. I don’t know how long I have been singing but I can’t stop. Song after song are coming to me and I haven’t felt the Holy Spirit like this in so long. I am overwhelmed. I end up on my knees. When I finally open my eyes Marcy is singing with me. I had no idea she even came in. We just sit on the floor in silence. Man it feels so wonderful to sing. I feel so open when I sing, like I am giving all of me, everything that I am, my whole heart. Blan is handicapped and even though he was trying so hard in class last night to crochet, it was just taking him longer than the other kids. I asked him to come this morning so I could show him without everyone around. We try over and over. When I see him starting to get it I watch his face. His eyes glow and a huge smile crosses his face. He is so proud and happy. Marcy and I hold back tears. It's a beautiful thing.

Today is my wonderful Bloat Toad's birthday Judelin! Happy birthday Judelin! After bathing Betsayina and bandaging Dada Marcy and I decide to go downtown and buy a cake. I see cakes in Lori's shop every time I’m in there so it’ll be an easy day because after we drop it off we will be free to do whatever for the rest of the day. Through all the aisles. No more cakes. Tomorrow they will have cakes again. Tomorrow isn’t today. We check Kay st Fleur and they are out of cakes as well. If any of you know Marcy, you know she can bake like the wind. If any of you know me, you know I suck at baking. Never succeed. Marcy is organized in her baking and I feel I should be able to do what I want with batter or dough. So, rather than admit defeat, we decide to bake a cake. We buy all the supplies including two eggs and head back to Papa's house. Marcy is on the back of Batakol (my bike) clutching our baking supplies and the thin little plastic bag of eggs.

The hill to the house has never looked more treacherous. Marcy can’t hold on to anything due to the fact that she has handfuls of groceries and can’t break the eggs. Up the hill we go free and clear! We made it. I don’t want to say I’m surprised, but I am. We laugh hysterically as we Haitian style bake a cake. No electricity. No proper baking pans. Homemade frosting out of who knows what. With her actual baking skills and my it’ll be fine mentality we bake a cake. And guess what? IT IS AMAZING. It’s so good.

Now Marcy has to balance the cake down the hill. She does it! If this triple layer cake makes it all the way to Judelin's house on the back of my bike with me and Marcy I’m going to be shocked. Every bump we check it to make sure nothing is falling and…we make it. Judelin loves it. What a fun little thing.

I have seen more horrible creatures during Marcy's visit than I have ever seen here before. This week, a mouse crawled down her back while she was sleeping. A rat fell out of the rafters onto her bed right by her feet. We had an infestation of ants that bit her all over. There were more mosquitoes than ever before. Tons of geckos. Huge moths flapping on our mosquito nets in the night. So many mice. Cockroaches crawling over the walls. A tree frog on my bed. Hugh spiders in the bathroom. I have no idea why but I’m thankful she is an amazing sport. For some reason she couldn’t sleep very well after the mouse ran down her back. Not sure why...

Poppyseed is in Jeremie and Dan from Faithwire is flying to Jeremie to come check it out! I am going to pick him up at the airport. This is a hoot. He is broken in the right way on the back of my motorcycle on this terrible pothole central airport road. He’s traveled all over so Haiti is not a shock for him, but it's the little things that are fun just the same. He follows me everywhere just doing what I do. We have a blast.
The container has finally arrived in Jeremie! Poppyseed is so relieved! He has worked so hard trying to get it here. Spent so much time and money. He has been stressed and worried for it. Nothing is ever simple in Haiti so he is so relieved that after his hard work it will finally pay off.

The pastors of the churches are so excited to get the supplies. Thank you everyone for your donations. Now the people in the remote villages will receive their building supplies! And thank you to my folks who kept it up and never gave up even when it was discouraging. Right when I think my day is over its time for another house call. Poppyseed, Dan, Zee and I head down the mountainside to Manel's house.

Manel's uncle has seizures throughout the day and will end up falling down the cliffs. Manel's house is built on the side of a cliff. His home consists of scraps of tin nailed shoddily together. Their floor is dirt and a small oil lamp glows dimly on a makeshift bedside table. A dusty bed is kept off the floor by a bed frame consisting of bricks, wood and odds and ends. The uncle comes and sits on the bed. His whole forehead is scabbed over. His shoulder is infected and his right leg also has cuts and scrapes. I clean his wounds and sing to him when he starts to cry. Poppyseed joins me and I am completely caught in the moment. I often forget the feeling I get when I sing with my family until I sing with one of them again. I am so happy Poppyseed hiked down this mountain with us even though he is tired.

Poppyseed has a beautiful voice and one of my favorite things growing up was when he and mom would sing for us at night. I remember when we lived in Jeremie and they would sing the same song we are singing right now. We would all sit on our bed with a dim oil lamp just like this one and we would listen to this song. “Take my heart of stone away. Put a new one in its place. Let it be more like your own. Take my heart, Lord take my heart.” Now, twenty years later we are singing it together again, in Jeremie, sitting on this family's bed, with a dim oil lamp flickering and casting dancing shadows against the wall. This precious man raises his hands in the air and hums along with us. His eyes are closed and he is worshipping with all his heart. Dan, Poppyseed and Zee pray for him and we say goodnight. We hike back up the hill and Richard's mom is waiting for us on top of the mountain. She wraps her arms around me and I just hug her. I hold her. She doesn’t let go of me. We all stand on top of the mountain in silence looking up at the stars. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for being alive in this very moment.

My throat closes and tears stream down my face. No one knows nor do they need to. I am just accepting this moment. Her head against my chest and my arms wrapped around her. The stars bright and fiery above us. Walking back to Papa’s. Another wounded hand waiting for me to clean. I’ll take it. I’ll take every infection. I’ll take the lack of sleep. Every scabies baby. Every sweaty hike. Every hopeful person. Every bucket shower. Every cockroach. Every cup of overly sweet strong black coffee. Every smile. Every smell. Every ounce of dust covering my feet. Every part of Haiti. The good with the bad. I’ll take it with open arms. Every part.

Dan, Poppyseed and I had a good weekend. It was awesome to have them here. They left this morning. Thank you Dan for taking the time to go where people don’t want to go. For wanting to experience things as they are. For not minding living like the people. For being up for anything. For writing things as they truly are. For taking the time to ask questions and wait for the answer. I’m excited to see what you do with it. Thanks for coming.

This moto. I’m so glad I have it. Flying through the streets late at night is my absolute favorite. I suppose its a lot of things that make it so wonderful to me. No one is in the streets and the people that are can’t see that I’m blan. It's the only time I can fully see Jeremie through the eyes of a Haitian. No one notices me or yells or watches my every move. I can fly through the streets and trails and past shops and homes without a single head turning. Its also the only time I’m ever truly alone. No one knows where I am or what I’m doing. Just me and a road or a trail. There is one specific strip that I can really fly on. I stand up on my bike and kick it into 3rd then 4th. My hair is blowing straight back and smoke from a nearby fire burns my eyes. I feel so free. So so so free. I have a huge smile on my face and I can feel the dust on my teeth. I am thankful for Batakol. I am so thankful to be here. I am so thankful to be free.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No Place on Earth We'd Rather Be

Starting the day out at the hospital to find the sweet little boy who can’t walk. As Marcy and I enter the hospital the sweet guard is sitting there. He has been asking for a bible for three weeks now and I still haven’t been able to find one. We give him money to buy one and he says he can’t wait to show us his new bible when we come back. The little boy has been taken to a different hospital. I wish I had his contact information. I feel like a failure. Like I didn’t do all that I could. Why didn’t I come sooner? I remember his deep sad eyes looking up at me. He is what we call a restavik kid. When a family can’t afford to keep their kids they give them to someone better off and they are used basically as slaves. Not in all cases but in many. That little boy was a restavik kid. He stayed with a man that took “care” of him, but when he had his accident he was dropped off at the hospital and his real dad came to spend some time with him. The story of how he got so badly hurt changed every time I went to visit him. I whispered to him one time asking if he was afraid. He quickly looked at his dad and then looked away. He stood up one time with Aunt Beck and I but only for a few moments. He wouldn’t speak when his dad was around. He didn’t want to be healed. He didn’t want to walk again because it meant he would go right back to where he was. He was so hollow and depressed. Where is he now? Why didn’t I do more? Why am I so useless? Why don’t I have a house here where I can take in little souls like this. This is when I have to remember how small I am. How I only can do so much until I just let God take care of it. He is so much bigger than me. He loves that little boy more than I ever could. I always say I’m just doing all that I can with the time that I have. However, in this instance, I didn’t do all that I could with the time that I had. I will continue to pray for him and his most precious life and I ask that you would do the same. God is bigger than me. So. So. So. Much. Bigger. Leaving the hospital to visit Dada and put fresh bandages on her leg. Her wound needs to dry out a little bit so what better time to dance? I am joined by Dada's feisty aunt. We dance and dance and soon have a little crowd laughing and squealing for joy. Marcy laughs at me and films us. Dada's feisty aunt forgets her hurt ankle and dances and laughs and hugs me. We enter the little house again and Marcy and I bandage Dada's wound and tease her. Marcy dances and makes her laugh as I bandage. She smiles at us with her big beautiful teeth. The house is full of family members. The air is sticky and dirty. The tarp still hangs low touching the top of my head. Flies swarm my legs. Fresh clean bandages cover her leg and I love the look of it. It makes me so happy to see. So white against the dark maroon sheets.

Marcy and I walk to one of the leaders' house because he said he has some land he wants to show me. Marcy hops on with his bodyguard and he hops on with me. We drive to Testas and he shows us the piece of land. It’s a really peaceful place but I’m looking for a larger piece. We sit in what seems to be an abandoned restaurant but someone appears out of nowhere to bring us drinks. I told mama we would be home to help cook and then go pray with her on the mountain so it is time to leave.

Flying on the roads back to Jeremie. Marcy laughing at the bodyguard's little moto backfiring and giving me the look of “what are we doing." No matter what we’re doing, there is no place either of us would rather be.

Arriving back at home Marcy and I settle down to help cook. Cutting and frying banan. Juicing shadek to make the best juice ever. Tasting sauce. Making sure the Piklis has enough spice. We sit down to eat and Marcy is able to video chat with Chris (her husband.) Papa and Manman are so happy to talk to him. We all miss him and wish he was here. Chris and Marcy have been such a wonderful blessing in not just Papa and Mama's life but in my life as well. When I was living in the back of my truck in the middle of winter, they filled rubbermaid tubs with groceries and filled my gas tank. Bought me a new cot and have been there whenever I needed someone. I wish Chris was here, we all do, but he will be here soon hopefully. It was a perfect dinner. All of us talking and teasing. We are late for the prayer meeting up the mountain so we finish up and start up the mountain. I am bombarded by sweet little kids everywhere, all yelling my name. I didn’t even know I knew all the kids up here. Hugs and sticky kisses.

Sweaty little hands touching my face and arms. We hike until we are almost to the top of the mountain. We enter a sweet little yard covered in crab grass. A little garden with a few stalks of corn and herbs occupies a corner. The home is small but beautiful. Little by little the women all arrive and we start to sing. A little girl with a baby on her hip leading a blind woman stand in the entranceway.

This little girl led this blind woman all the way up the mountain for the prayer meeting. The woman sits in a chair pulled up for her and I beckon to the little girl to come sit with me. Marcy and I are sitting on the crab grass. Not the most comfortable but it’ll have to do:)

The little girl comes and sits next to me and the little girl on her hip is terrified of me. In areas like this, little kids are often scared of white people because of never having seen them before. I smile and hold out my hand. She is apprehensive at first, staring at me with huge beautiful brown eyes. Her head is shaved due to a skin disease. She doesn’t have any bottoms on and is wearing a ragged dirty brown shirt. She sneakily and quickly grabs my hand. I stretch my arm out and she is willing to sit with me. I snuggle her little self and kiss her little forehead.

Her sister snuggles up beside me as well. I realize I am still in a prayer meeting and join in in prayer and songs. It is a beautiful picture. Marcy and I sitting up here with these wonderful women. Praying and singing and spending time together. Marcy moves to sit with the sister and she holds her hands and looks at them over and over.

Looking at her fingernails and her knuckles. Smoothing her skin with her sweaty hands. Marcy just wraps her arms around her and we finish the meeting.

Walking down the mountain with this little precious on my hip. The sister takes us to her house and I talk to her mama. 

She can’t get enough water to bathe her little babe every day to get rid of this little skin disease. I tell her I’ll be back in the morning to pick her up to give her a bath at my house. Marcy and I walk back down the mountain with the group of women and eventually it's just us and Mama and Madam Figaroe. As soon as we walk into the door, Fre Ejen is there to have his finger bandaged again and he says there is a boy right down the hill who was just in a bike accident who needs his wounds taken care of. Into the room Marcy and I go to pack up my medical bag. Down the side of the mountain we go in the dark of the night. We duck under branches and jump over fallen palm trees. Through the goat trails in the jungle. Marcy and I laugh so hard at Fre Ejen's pace. He is speed walking down and up these hills. The boy is right down the mountain…lies. Where in the world are we going? The stars are bright and beautiful. Arriving near some homes and through little alleyways until we reach my patient. Squatting in the dirt to clean his wounds. One of the wounds is on his butt cheek and I tell him the drop his pants. The whole audience, Marcy and I are in an uproar. Laughing so hard. He does so without hesitating and I’m glad he did because that was the only infected little wound. No sooner have I put the last bandage on him, another patient comes our way. She burned her hand so I just put some burn cream on it and give her some for tomorrow. Back up the mountain and down and up and down and up we go. We get ourselves ready to go sleep at the orphanage. After such a long day I will admit sleeping on a concrete floor doesn’t sound the best. However, we go anyway. Papa drives us on my bike. Walking down the little alleyway to the gate made of old tin roofing patched together. Little voices sing loudly for their nighttime worship. Marcy and I sit on the cement porch with them and listen. Their little voices are loud and clear. They sing with every piece of themselves and every ounce of their little hearts. Marcy and I are exhausted and all I want to do is go to sleep. I am convinced by a couple kids to play Osle with them. 

I start a game but no sooner have I started when the door to their bedroom is opened. There are 57 children in this orphanage. The boys share a 10x12 room and the girls share a 10x12 room as well. A couple sheets are laid out on the floor for the kids to sleep on. Marcy and I nestle down and little girls from all directions come trying to cuddle closer and closer. 

Is it possible to get any closer? I write a song down for Lotez and we sing together. She has a beautiful voice. Marcy has a dozen little girls trying to do her hair and it’s terrible. 

Every year Marcy gets her hair done it's worse and worse. This year she has corn rows in a combover with half of her hair fluffing out the side. So so hideous. Little hands and sticky little foreheads cover every square inch of me and it's so hot in here. They are all sweating, but no one wants to let go. Little by little the room fills up with all the orphan girls. Each one trying to get as close as possible. 

My heart is so full. I can feel myself getting choked up but I don’t want to discourage them by crying so I keep it together. I can’t move at the moment to see Marcy, but she says she is covered in kids. 

Life is perfect. I wrap my arms around as many precious kids as possible. Why aren’t my arms longer? Why aren’t my hands bigger? Why isn’t my heart stronger? You are loved. You are perfect. You are more than enough. You are beautiful. Cement floor. Dirty sheets. Sweaty bodies. Little feet. Holding hands. Every breath. Little heart beats. Little heads against my chest. I am so content. Am I going to get any sleep tonight? Probably not. Is it absolutely worth it? Yes. With every ounce of me, yes. I fall asleep with them. 

The room is completely shut with a single oil lamp glowing brightly on a shelf. Marcy and I and over thirty kids packed on this floor, as tight as can be. So hot I can barely breathe. Someone pukes on my feet. Someone pees on Marcys head. And yet, there's no place on earth we’d rather be.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Beautiful Day

Choir practice. Papa asked me to help the youth choir so Marcy and I start singing with them. We laugh so hard singing and messing up and getting over it and trying again. They’re going to be good. It's just going to take some time. They love it and I’m loving it too. This is going to be so cool in the end.

Marcy brought glowing stars down for the orphans, but she also decorated my bike with them. It’s awesome. I now have my license plate decorated with glow in the dark paint and glowing stars down the sides and front. 

There is a medical clinic at the house today and Claeme doesn’t have school so we decide to take her to the beach. Delice, Jacques, Mackenzy, Marcy, Claeme and I go. We have a blast. Sit-ups and push-ups on the beach, splashing, burying Delice in the sand to make him look like a mermaid. Claeme is loving this. I love this kid.

Fre Ejen sliced his finger. He shows up late to have me clean and bandage it. He is so kind. He is always working. Always around. He squats on the ground next to the chair in my room so I have a place to sit. 

Are you kidding me? I grump at him telling him he’s the wounded one and he better sit in the chair or I won’t bandage him up at all. 

Marcy laughs on her bed as she watches me. She tells me I should have finished nursing school and that it's not too late. Not a bad idea. Not a bad idea.

I received a call this morning to go pick up the little baby who’s mom is getting her leg cut off. Marcy and I have already visited Marie Claude, gone to the market, visited the orphanage, visited Judelin's mom, and met with one of the leaders. Driving down into a rough part of town. Dada (little girl with leg wound) lives right by one of the leaders and so Marcy and I walk over to where she is staying. She’s been taken out of the hospital now and is staying at her aunt's. The mom of the baby is in Port still. The baby has been taken to another part of town with some friend of the family. Poor little thing. So I guess I won’t get it today. We climb down some rock steps and into Dada's aunt's home. Dada is laying on a bed. A tarp hangs low above our heads and I have to hunch over so I don’t keep hitting it. 
I ask how her leg is doing and they say they don’t have anything to clean it with. Back home Marcy and I go on the moto to get my medical bag. We make the first curve up the mountain just fine and the second curve just fine, but just past the second curve there is a huge rock and my front tire catches it. Marcy stays relaxed thank goodness because that alone kept us from crashing. We didn’t fly off the cliff…just kind of took a detour. Entering their little home again I lay my little supplies on Dada's bed. Her eyes light up and a huge smile spreads across her face. A little squeal of excitement escapes her lips and she looks at me overjoyed. I don’t know about you, but I know this is the first time I’ve ever experienced a child this excited about their wound being cleaned. She is as happy about this as most children are to opening Christmas presents. I start to uncover Dada's bandage. The smell is rough. I’m glad I came when I did because this is infected.

Marcy holds her hand and I clean all around it and wipe most of the puss away. When I feel it is clean, I bandage it again. Her aunt comes in and has a wound on her ankle so I clean and bandage that as well. She dances in her new bandage and tells me, “it's so beautiful and so clean!” What a precious family. The children outside the home wrap their little arm around Marcy and call her grandma. I’ve never heard little kids call a blan grandma. I guess they are prophetic. Congratulations Courtney on bringing a new little wee into the world. I wish you and your studly man the very best! Marcy and I tell the family we will be back tomorrow to clean their wounds again. What a beautiful day.