Blog from a Janice, Tulsa First Foursquare Church Oklahoma.
Breakfast was Haitian oatmeal, a blend of oatmeal, cornmeal and cinnamon. It was delicious! We also had bananas, mango and papayas. Because it was another holiday, Craig decided to take us to the orphanage in the mountains. 6 of us got to ride in the air- conditioned cab and 8 rode in the back of the truck. We had air-conditioning, but the people in the back had a better view accompanied by a much rougher ride. We wound through the streets of Haiti. People were out everywhere displaying their goods to sell; chickens, clothes, fruit, paintings, anything you could think of and more. The Haitian people are so beautiful. Many wash their clothes by hand in streams of water that we would consider unclean. They drink it, and they use it for life. Their clothes are well fitting, and they usually look dressed up. You rarely see anyone who is dirty. It does something congruent to your head. How can it be? They look nicer than we do and they are living in tents with no air-conditioning, no shower, and no washer and dryer!
They are friendly too. When our eyes would meet from the tap- tap, many would smile and wave. A few of the people were not happy to see us, one man gave us the finger as we drove by, but the majority seemed to really appreciate people who came to help.
After a long ride, we arrived at the orphanage that Pastor Bellande runs. It was in the mountains and really beautiful there. The hills were covered with green foliage, and it was cooler than in Port Au Prince by at least ten degrees. They opened the gate for us to drive in. Gates are very important for safety. Earlier someone had come to the orphanage and tried to take a couple of the children saying that they were “their” children. They made the mistake of pointing to the pastor’s biological son when they said who “their” children were. The care giver did not open the gate for them.
It was a three-story building with winding stairs inside, nice by the standards of Haitians The kids were very excited to see us. I handed them stickers as I came in and realized that they were not quite sure what to do with them but still happy to have been given something. Craig picked up a little girl with big eyes and tried to hand her to me. She reluctantly came to me. I have never seen a face so full of sadness. The sadness pooled in her eyes and emanated from her face. She just wanted to be held, to feel love. 9 of these children had lost their parents in the earthquake.
They ranged from 2 to 10 years old. We talked to Pastor Bellande, a gentle man with the presence of God all over him. He said that he had been an orphan himself, and that after the quake, he took all the children into his home in May. “Was it a challenge?” I asked, thinking of the little boy on the floor, going around and around in circles, full of life and youthful energy!
“Yes!” he said, “Some days are more challenging than others, but every day is a challenge.” “But it is worth EVERYTHING, if I can save just one of them,” he said with resolve in his eyes. I asked him what it was that he needed for help to run the orphanage. “I work full time and my wife works full time”, he explained. We need care givers, we need money to send the kids to school, the kids must wear uniforms, they need lunches every day, and we need food. I thought of the mountain of laundry that they must have to wash by hand every day, and the patience and love you would have to have to help ALL of those children.
He continued with his incredible story explaining that during the earthquake he thought he was going to die.” I just held up my hands, and the only thing I could say was ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,’ as the building crumbled all around me. When it stopped I was still here. My mother- in- law was buried under the rubble. We dug her out, and she only had cuts and scrapes. No one in my family or my church died”. He has a church of 150 people in Port Au Prince. We handed out toys to the children and the glee on their little faces was incredible. It felt wonderful to be able to give to these little people, who had lost so much, a small bit of joy. There were smiles all around as the children tried to figure out how to play with these strange American toys.
Soon it was time to leave. We said our good-byes and piled back into the truck, soon stopping at a lookout point with an incredible view. People were selling their wares; paintings, sculptures, little mahogany boxes, and jewelry. Tent cities, the blue sea, and buildings were below us, but more interesting than the breathtaking view was the thin man with a white shirt standing 10 feet away from the group. He caught my eye. I walked up to him, glancing at the paintings he had for sale. “See this one?” he said. “I will give it to you for 400 dollars”. “It is beautiful!” I said, “But I cannot give you 400 dollars for it. Instead, I will pray for you. What is your request?” I asked. He looked pensive but not surprised that I had asked to pray for him. “I am sad, I hurt for my people. Pray for Haiti.” “You are sad?” I repeated. “Yes”, he said. ‘I need safety. It is dangerous here. I am afraid that someone will rob me.” Pray for me, because sometimes I am sick and cannot work”. I told him that God had sent me from America to pray for him and would do miracles on his behalf. I asked him his name, which I could not pronounce, and he said “Just call me Junior.” God knows his name; I can only remember his face. When I finished praying for him, he was SO appreciative. “Thank you for the prayers! They are more important to me than money.” Then he said it, “Jesus is my life.” It was a theme I heard over and over. “Jesus is my life!” I purchased a statue of a woman holding a baby from another vendor, and we finally got back into the truck. I noticed he had come back to the truck from his position on the overlook to stand and watch me. He waved. His eyes said thank you. He watched intently as we drove out of sight. I felt determined to remember this man in my prayers. I can still see his face, I can feel his pain.
We saw the incredible destruction of the earthquake on this trip. We could understand why so many people had died and were buried in the rubble. When we arrived back at the base, it was time for the ESL class. Debbie Booker, one of the base camp leaders was teaching it. She set the program up in March and I was amazed at how much English the people knew already. She is a beautiful woman, who is stylish in the midst of incredible heat and tough conditions. I marveled at how she stayed so pristine in this place. Rachel, the young girl who helps is just the same. I could not figure out how they did it. The second day, I gave up on my make-up, and I took on the “missionary look” these glamorous women did not portray. After a lesson from Debbie with the whole group, we broke into groups and taught the Haitians the meanings of American proverbs and then asked them the meanings of Haitian proverbs that we were given. One of the Haitian proverbs was “Money makes the dog dance”. Connecting with the people was one of the best parts of this trip. I loved the Haitian people! After the meeting a young man gave me his e-mail address. “You will not forget me?” he pleaded. I was so happy for the opportunities that we were given by the base camp leaders to allow us to connect with the people. The most important part of this trip was being able to pray with the people and sharing the gospel with them. We saw many people saved. We did not build many things because of the circumstances, but we built relationships, which is ultimately what it is all about.