Friday, July 24, 2020

When Everything Broke

I flew back into Haiti last Tuesday after spending one week in America. It was a much-needed week of refreshment after having ten staff members living on site and keeping the girls inside for several months when the virus first started spreading. Tuesday came and went yet my luggage did not. Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday went by before finding that 46lb suitcase filled with supplies for the ministry. A trip to the airport is an all-day adventure. Roadblocks from gangs robbing vehicles and throwing rocks, insane bumper to bumper (or hood, or passenger side door) traffic from no one obeying 4-way stops, and police with automatic weapons making sure we have a driver’s license every few hundred meters down Route 9 caused for delay after delay after delay. Finally, I got my luggage and after 4 days back in Haiti, I felt like I could finally settle back in and spend time with the girls like I had just arrived. Little did I know what was in store for the next week. It a weird “what in the world is going on?!?!?!” kind of week because EVERYTHING started breaking at the ministry. Literally one random thing would break and within the hour something else would break. Here’s the list. Read and weep…or laugh at the coincidences. Life is all about perception.

1. Lost luggage. Daily trips into the city
2.Broken weed eater. Beyond repair. Only 8 months old.
3.Kitchen sink wouldn’t drain. Had to dig a hole, cut open the pvc pipe and drain the junk inside. The cook forgot only water can go down the drain… not scraps of food and GREASE!
4. Stopped up toilet due to some little, sweet child flushing down a whole bar of soap. The entire toilet had to be taken off the ground to dig it out. Yes, feces flooded the bathroom AND the hallway.
5.Washing machine broke. Won’t wash, wont rinse, wont spin. But it does make all the noise like it’s working!
6.My bedroom ceiling fan broke. Light works, fan doesn’t.
7.The check valve underground broke causing all of our water tanks to empty on their own overnight.
8.The school bus won’t start. Still won’t start. It never starts.
9.The community center toilet broke and overflowed flooding the pavilion. This toilet hasn’t even been touched since MARCH!
10.A standup fan in the girl’s room broke.
11.We smelt something burning and went running. Another stand up fan was smoking and too hot to even touch. Broken.
12.4-Runner won’t start
13.Tv isn’t working. What do we do without Peppa Pig and Minnie Mouse in a house full of toddlers??
14.Freezer stopped working. Right after going to the grocery store and filling it up!
15.Pvc valve broke that turns off the water to the entire compound.
16.Another toilet broke. This time is was the floater.
17.Pvc pipe randomly came unglued underground and water started pouring out of the ground. Again.

And I kid you not from July 18th-23rd all of this happened plus the 4 days before searching for luggage. (No, they won’t find it and deliver it to my house like in America!)

So, I had a choice. Get stressed out, overwhelmed, and frustrated that ALL this broke so randomly and so quickly right when I get back to Haiti… or laugh at the circumstance as I scratch my head in disbelief that this could all actually happen in one weird week.
And to be honest, I’m glad this all happened. I’m glad it happened because I learned how to disconnect the wires to a ceiling fan and install another one. I was able to tell my guards exactly where every pvc pipe runs, and where the electrical conduit is located. We were able to fix every issue and solve every problem quickly and easily (except for the bus...it’s still just sitting there) and it feels so good to see a problem and be able to fix it without needing to rely on a company… or a husband. Neither or which are anywhere to be found!
In a world with SO many unfixable problems constantly flowing through our heads, it feels good to fix one. Even if it’s as simple and small as gluing together pvc pipes in a country as challenging as this one where supplies can’t easily be found or retrieved.

It honestly made the blah days of no outreach classes and no school lively again.
Voodoo runs rampant here and with my next-door neighbor being a witch doctor, I was pleasantly surprised no one even questioned if that was the cause! Perhaps God was just reminding me of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “we are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

And though these problems are so tiny compared to SO many hardships people face daily, it is still a good reminder that no matter how much piles up, we can still push through, learn through it, and sit back in peace knowing that God’s got this. Because he does. Our attitude can change the circumstance in an instant.

This house is the only one around that has a washing machine. So, it is ok that it broke because it was a blessing to have one in the first place.
This house is the only one around that has 24/7 ceiling fans running. It’s ok that it broke and had to get fixed. I am beyond thankful to have even had that blessing in the first place.
Every single plumbing issue made me that much more thankful for running, pressurized, water which is a gift from the Lord that many, many people do not have. I had an extra freezer waiting at the school (since it’s been closed) ready to be used so the food wouldn’t spoil. So, let’s look at our problems with gratitude. It is tough when our luxuries break but think about how much harder it would be if we didn’t even have them in the first place! Trust me, washing clothes and sheets by hand is more miserable than not having running water. You also might as well go buy a neck brace after trying to carry 5 gallons of water on your head.

At the beginning of all this there was stress. I mean who can look at a problem and not get stressed? It’s the human nature. The thought of “WHAT IF it’s not just junk clogging the pvc pipes. WHAT IF the septic is full and back to the city we go taking 4 hours round trip to try and get a company to come pump it out ASAP” and knowing ASAP is nonexistent in this country and plus there’s been no diesel for a few weeks in the whole country so no truck could probably come anyway. “WHAT IF the well ran dry and there was no more water to even pump up and that is what caused all the plumbing issues.” The “What ifs” in life are one of my biggest setbacks. I apologize to God ALL. THE. TIME. For worrying instead of praying. But we can’t rest in the attitude of stress. We must escape it. I had to take a deep breath, accept the outcome, and use this as a teaching session for myself to be THANKFUL in ALL circumstances. Not easy, but it will please God. And that is our ultimate aim.
After the first few broken things, and realizing that more was to come, it became funny. Hilarious actually as my staff and I kept wide eyes to see what would break, fall apart, or stop working next. They’d come yelling for me trying not to laugh as they explain the next issue that has come to be. And I walked around with my jaw on the ground in utter disbelief at the amount of randomness one week could bring.

To all my brothers and sisters out there living on the streets or living in poverty not knowing what it’s like to have a fan, or a washing machine, or a vehicle, or a toilet. I am sorry. I am sorry if you’ve had to watch us pout and complain about our luxuries breaking. I’m sorry if we’ve acted entitled to get Mr. Fix-it out to the house in record time to help US with OUR problems while completely ignoring the man down the road dressed in rags, eating leftovers out of trash cans and simply just trying to survive. I am sorry if we have been so consumed with ourselves that we’ve lost sight of helping the mechanic who is just simply trying to put food on the table. I am sorry if our attitude and behavior doesn’t always represent the heart of Jesus when stress is within us. We are a work in progress.
We’ve been blessed with more than enough. I am reminded that time and time again..

2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”

Count your blessings. Then count them again.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The First Few Seasons

Once upon a time I moved to Haiti. It was August 2013 and I remember that first day like it was yesterday. I had just turned 22. I moved in with a Haitian family whom I didn’t even know their names. They had a two-story cinderblock cemented house. It was beautiful on the outside; a sidewalk lined with seashells to the backdoor with the scent of flowers that overtook the path along the way. The husband, wife, and their two young kids lived downstairs and my quarters were upstairs. That first night was like no other. I had two rooms, a bathroom, and a front and back porch. The back porch overlooked a giant mango tree, the front porch overlooked highway 1, a busy highway that goes North and South along the island of Haiti. Across the street was a junkyard/repair shop and a tire store where you could get air put in your tire for 5 cents.

Before moving to Haiti, I grew up sheltered and shy. Danger or risks weren’t in my vocabulary. Third worlds didn’t even exist in the map in my brain. But when I met Jesus just two years prior in 2011, everything changed. He flipped my world upside down and burst me out of that bubble I lived in. To follow Him, a crucified Savior, sounded like the most beautiful, selfless, daring, honoring, terrifying thing I could do. Little did I know the cost. Little did I care. I was head over heels and on fire for serving the Lord, though I knew very little about what that meant. I didn’t know how to make disciples, I didn’t know how many books were in the bible, or even how to pray without ceasing. I spent two years learning what I could before moving overseas but before that, church wasn’t really a big deal to me. I was a believer, but I knew nothing about Jesus and his ways.

So back to that first night in Haiti. I obliviously had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea what life in Haiti would entail but I was eager to follow Jesus and I figured He would lead me the rest of the way. I jumped in, leaning on God to teach me how to swim in the deep end.

Summer nights in Haiti are gruesome. We had no electricity and at times, no running water. Cement soaks up heat and holds it in…plus being upstairs as heat rises caused even more sweat to drip down my head in my unfurnished concrete house that I was supposed to call home.
I spread out a bath towel on the back porch and laid down. Every few minutes there was a small breeze that through the tears I would thank God for. I did have a mattress but the concrete floor was much cooler than the mattress.

I learned very quickly that I was highly allergic to mango trees thus I moved my bath towel to the front porch and began sleeping out there with the semi-trucks blaring their horns at 3am and the dogs barking every other hour of the night. Pitch black darkness surrounded me as there were no street lights and no neighbors with electricity either.

I remember my shower curtain being clear. Living in a foreign country without knowing the language and with strangers got the best of me and I wasn’t about to take a shower in the dark without being able to see what’s coming!
I would walk in the bathroom and a roach or a lizard would fall onto my head. I learned to laugh at the situation, because without laughter, there would just be tears during those first few months or learning a different way to live. I’d hold a flashlight in my mouth in the early morning hours before the sun heated up the room so that I could get a somewhat decent ponytail into my stringy hair. I lived like my neighbors so life like this became the norm. Water that flowed along the streets and used by the whole community was carried to my back porch, so I could wash my clothes by hand… or at least let them soak in soapy water… (it was better than nothing)
I had little access to anywhere outside of the village where I was building La Limyè Ministries. I was sheltered in a sense and had no idea what all Haiti had... like actual grocery stores in the city! I had taken 7 or 8 trips to Haiti before moving there but with short term mission trips, we stay secured, and in a way don’t even see the real Haiti as we are following our detailed itinerary.

Most of my food was brought in my suitcase. I had to be creative when hunger set in. I’d bring condiments from restaurants since I didn’t have a fridge to keep things fresh. After a few months, mustard on a plain flour tortilla was much better than just a plain flour tortilla. Luke warm water in my cereal switched things up from just eating dry cereal. Spaghettio’s from a can made me think I was supposed to still be in college, and as my body lacked adequate vitamins and my allergies were thrown overboard with that darn mango tree in the backyard, I stayed feeling ill for quite some time as my body was trying to adjust to a new life in what seemed like a new world 90 minutes from Miami. Looking back, I don’t remember hating the circumstances. It became normal and that helped me press on. Deep down I was blinded by the whole scenario, but God was molding me and I’m beyond thankful He did.

I got use to the roaches and those lizards that were longer than my feet pretty quickly. They had already made residence in the house and there was no kicking them out. The rats on the other hand just about did me in. Giant rats with incredibly long tails that would jump across my legs at night or sniff my feet as I slept with one eye open and my finger never leaving the flashlight button. That led to me sleeping in an old green velvet chair that the family downstairs gave me. I put that velvet chair up against the dining room table straight back chair and slept like that for a few months. There was no rolling over because the chair was only about 18 inches wide but somehow in my mind I was able to fall asleep persuading myself that rats can’t climb. Sometimes denial is essential.
Those two years shaped me. They were the hardest two years of my life, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m not sure if I could ever repeat them, but I am truly thankful for them.

I had someone pick me up and take me to the village where I was building a home every day. I’d be dropped off in the village, and then forced to learn the ropes without knowing the culture or the language. No itinerary, no schedule, just the village and I learning all about each other. It was in those days I watched a lady pluck toenails off of a chicken before cooking it. I excused myself from that meal.

Thankfully after a long season in that hot house, La Limyè in the village was near completion which was a big blessing because when a Boa Constrictor snake was found in that cursed mango tree, I was done.

I honestly can’t even remember if I had electricity and running water already when I moved into my new home. I guess in a way it didn’t really matter because I had a home. I had my own clean space. I had a big yard with no mango trees. I was excited for the next season to begin.
My nights in that rented house on Route 1 were in the past, but the memories were still vivid. I remember guns being shot down on the street as I didn’t move a muscle on that front porch hoping no-one saw me. I remember seeing bodies in the road from being hit by a car and people just walking past like no big deal, I remember tear gas dispersed as I tried to escape one of the many riots that I would see over the years on this island.
I remember lots of tears and lots of adventures. I wasn’t ready for Haiti in my opinion. I wasn’t mature enough or strong enough for Haiti. Those first few years feel like a blur now as I remember testing the waters and going through a lot of trials and errors. I learned a lot about myself during those first few years. Perhaps I never would have been ready without God putting me through those two years of transformation, growth, and maturity. I continued to make mistakes and fail at serving God as I learned the ropes of the Haitian culture and at the same time learned how to be a follower of Jesus as a 2 year old believer. I was a weak missionary but I am thankful for that because “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3 & 4

So back then and still now I lean on 1 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weaknesses.”

I’ve come such a long way since those treacherous days in the beginning. I owe every bit of perseverance to God. Every single trial I went through made me 100 times more thankful for the luxuries I would be given later. I know what it’s like to not have running water and expected to sleep in 100 degree weather. So now as I step foot in that pressurized shower of mine with any color shower curtain I want, I have such a stronger sense of thankfulness. When I open my fridge 100 times a day, I can truly praise God for electricity after having known what it’s like to go without. I can laugh instead of cry at the craziness of life knowing God’s got this and He is all we need. I can now drive wherever I want and see all of Haiti and speak their language in the grocery stores I didn't know they had!
We all go through trials. We all will go through tough seasons. Seasons that we don’t feel equipped to handle. Seasons or maybe even years when the days never end, and the vision seems clouded, and the emotions are way too overbearing and we just don't feel ready. But endurance develops strength of character and that’s good for the soul. Jesus said it himself that he has given us authority over all the power of the enemy. We could walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. So whatever season you’re in, own it. It will shape you and mold you and mature you into the beautiful soul our God created you to be. It will make you more thankful than you ever were before, and it will make you more aware of all the little blessings God bestows upon us, blessings that use to go unnoticed. God causes everything to work together. It may not be the path you envisioned, but don’t lose hope. Arm in arm with our King, you’ll make it out of that difficult season with new eyes, new hope, and an even-stronger love for our Maker- and maybe looking back you'll be able to laugh at the craziness as you see God's hand in it. Don't give up. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel.