TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
March 6, 2020
G O N E A R E T H E D A Y S
Gone are the days on Île-à-Vache of no roads, no cars, no electricity and simple, rutted footpaths for going from here to there. Gone are the days of only hearing the sounds of nature, rather than hearing the rumble of motorcycles and the thundering-by of trucks. The virgin-ness of Île-à-Vache will never be the same as recent days gone past. I miss that solitude, that quietness, that uniqueness. Now on Île-à-Vache children under the age of 6 have no recollection of that way of life, the life that was lived by older siblings and by their parents. Walking one hour by foot to get to the nearest market or four hours to school seems unfathomable now. Moto-taxis (motorcycles) are the most common form of transportation. Those with a little more money in their pocket can even get a ride on a tap-tap (pickup truck) to go to the places one needs to go.
I continue to treasure being in this whole different world, living life when I have no idea what is going on in the rest of the world. Occasionally, reminders of the past still surface. People, without the financial means, still walk to where they need to go, although they have wide roads to walk on. Mules and horses are sometimes used to transport goods and people still travel with large baskets balanced on their heads. The simple life continues with oxen working in fields with a crude plow and an owner with a whip. Goats and sheep are still walked to a grassy area where they can graze for the day. Clothes are still hand washed near a well or by a river or lake. Most homes do not have running water, a cistern or a well. Transporting water from the nearest water source is still an everyday (and even more than once a day) kind of experience. Food is still prepared over charcoal fires, using the three-stone method. Cement mixing and brick making are still done with manual labor and no fancy tools. In this place, a child is raised using the “it takes a village to raise a child” method, where everyone watches out for everyone else. Gardens fail due to lack of rain or too much sun. People still struggle to have food each day. Hunger and poverty are evident wherever you travel.
One might think that all this results in a life of hopelessness! Just the opposite! The people here greet you with smiles and warm hearts. Christians rely on their faith to get them through life. People here know what sharing means, as they have had to do this all their lives. They know how to gather ‘round when there is a death in the community by lending a hand to dig a grave or sharing in the cost of the funeral and burial. They know that today they may need to share their meager meal with a neighbor, knowing that on another day that same neighbor will be sharing with them.
Education is a joy! It is a privilege! It is not assumed that every child will have the opportunity to go to school. The classrooms are crude and very hot and usually poorly lit. It still is a joy to come!
Recently the joy of education became even more of a celebration. The fifth-graders of Grace School were having a competition with the fifth-graders of another school. A construction vehicle laden with wooden school benches was overloaded with excited students going to the competition. Not only the participants were going, but spectators too. The school children had a chance to showcase their spelling, science, math and other academic skills. The whole community was rooting for their students to return home boosting of placing Number One in the competition, with hopes of being able to go all the way to the Finals.
Medical care is still lacking on Île-à-Vache, but when there is a happy ending to a difficult case that would normally result in death, the community celebrates. Today, a mama came with her son to show us how well her child is doing. Last year the boy came with his young mother to our mobile clinic. A large abdominal cancerous tumor was presented to the doctor on that visit. Because of the medical team’s financial support, he was able to receive further care on the mainland. Today, his mama proudly announced that this is the one-year anniversary of his surgery. The youngster does not hesitate to display his scar. He is doing well. He survived to celebrate his 3rd birthday and he will be starting kindergarten in the fall.
Simple joys in a unique place! Answered prayers when there seemed to be no way!
Complex issues in a challenging part of the world! A God who is right there among them!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………