TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
May 27, 2021
When traveling to Île-à-Vache (IAV), one is bound to have an adventure or two. Of course, getting there requires taking a boat. I have to say, I have never gotten gracefully into a boat headed to IAV. This most recent trip was no exception. To get into the boat, one must step off the cement wharf and down into the small boat next to the wharf. No big deal, right?!!? The seas were extra choppy. The wooden boat crashed onto the side of the wharf and then the winds and waves quickly pulled the boat away from the wharf, again and again! Timing is everything! The goal is to get on the boat in one piece, not land on someone’s head or not end up testing one’s life jacket in the murky water between the wharf and the boat. With my weak leg, even on a calm day, I need extra help getting into the boat. The Haitians make it look so easy. 1-2-3 and they’ve stepped into the boat and have already found their seat. Me - well, not so much. On this particular day, two people on the wharf grabbed my hands and the “go!” and then the “no, don’t go!” game began. When the time actually came, two men in the boat braced my fall into the boat, with one man having to “bear hug” me to steady my landing. Still in his embrace, I looked up at him and said “Thank you!” and then we both broke out laughing. So much for gracefulness!
The seas remained choppy for most of the trip. Even Léon, who rarely puts on a life jacket, had one on. We had a large tarp covering half of the boat from front to back in an attempt to keep all of the occupants dry. Nearing the island, the wind cut down and the final parts of the journey went smoothly.
Nearing the village where we would get off on the dock, a huge number of people were gathered. Instantly, the Haitian people in the boat knew what that meant. They had to explain it to me. The police boat was there to transport 4-5 recently jailed inmates to a securer prison on the mainland. An unfortunate dispute among friends, ended in tragedy, with even a 14-year-old girl being arrested. In this judicial system, she will remain in jail until she is 18 and can be tried as an adult. It was quite the talk of the villagers to watch the prisoners being escorted by police from the jail to the police boat. As soon as the boat left the island, the crowd dispersed and went back to their everyday life, with a story to tell their friends.
Staying on the island gives a person the opportunity to live where the people live. The kids, especially, love to come to visit and see if there is any action happening. And, of course, the perpetual asking for things begins. At times, I find this exhausting! So many needs! Not enough to offer everyone! Having to say “no”, when saying “yes” would end up with dozens of people leaving with nothing, is very difficult. This visit was no different. Two little brothers, perhaps 6 and 8 years old, were relentless. First, they asked for ice. I had none. Then they asked for ice cream (I wish!). I had none. Then they moved on to bigger and better things. Eyeglasses - “no you can’t have mine, I need them so I can see.” Perhaps a soccer ball - not this time. I had none. How about a bicycle - dreamers! They just wouldn’t give up. Finally, I jokingly said to them, phrasing as they would ... “Gimme a mango!” “A mango?” they asked. “But not any mango. A BIG mango.” I replied. They said “OK!” It was then that I stopped them and said I was just joking around with them. Finally, they departed. I went inside and they disappeared. Perhaps 30 minutes later, there was a loud banging on the metal entry door. Someone answered the door and told me the same boys were back asking for Manmi Nora. Oh no! What now? I went to the door and there were these cute little faces. The older boy had the lower half of his TShirt turned up as a pouch and in it were, yes, some large mangoes. Where in the world did they get them from?!?! This variety is very rare on IAV. But they had found them and brought them to me. It melted my heart. I thanked them and told
them to wait a minute. I went inside and grabbed two delicious miniature bananas that were extra sweet and swelling within their peel. I gave each boy one. They seemed very happy and turned and left. Back inside, I returned to what I had been doing. About one an hour later, another loud banging on the door. There they were again, these two little boys, laden with even more large mangoes, with sweat rolling down their little faces. Oh, wow! I thanked them again and told them that I was very happy and I did not need any more mangoes. They seemed almost sad. But in the end, I think they were relieved that their job was done and that they had pleased Manmi Nora. It humbled me! It made me realize that they were the ones with the biggest hearts and they were proud to bring me something I “needed”! The basic truth was that they were “givers” and not “beggars”! Another lesson learned.
On another day, I little girl came presenting me with a cut that she had on her finger. It was swollen and infected. I instructed the parents, that when the weekend was over, they needed to take her to the doctor. I knew it was money they did not have. The following day, they were back. This time, the blister had popped and there was an exposed area. I hauled out the alcohol wipes, some antibiotic creme and some Band-Aids. I cleaned the area and applied Band-Aids and said that the little girl should leave the Band-Aids on all through the night. The next morning, the family was elated. The swelling and redness were gone and it appeared no trip to the doctor would be necessary. Such a relief for these financially struggling parents. To us, cleaning a small cut and putting a Band-Aid on the “boo boo” is a natural response to a small crisis. To many here, self-care such as this, is not common knowledge and owning any type of first aid supplies has never been heard of. Simple things can make a HUGE difference here. Interestingly enough, this is the family, that a few days earlier had come bearing gifts of papaya, eggs, and almonds. The family is penny poor, but rich in hospitality. Again, an example to follow.
Later, during our stay, we received the sad news that the birth mother of two brothers, who reside at the orphanage, had died suddenly in the marketplace. Although she had been very sick for many years, it still came as a surprise. It was because of her illness that we had taken in her boys in the first place. The mother had been brought to Mother Teresa’s home for the dying and we thought she would soon pass away. She rallied, was able to go back home, but was unable to care for her children. She went on to survive for several years. The family has no funds to bury her. A simple funeral here costs about $1500 - but to them it may as well be 1 million dollars. Our heart goes out to them and we are seeking funds to help with the funeral and burial costs. Sadly, this is not a unique situation. So many here have no means to bury their own.
Mixed in with the sadness and sickness, we were able to enjoy the season of plenty. We were brought mangoes, papayas, bananas, almonds, eggs, fish and more! It is this time of year that the people of IAV suffer less, as there is fruit on the trees and bellies are full. What a blessing from above! It is a natural way that God is taking care of His people in Haiti.
I wouldn’t leave the island before yet another medical case was presented to me. This time
an almost two-year-old girl, with a crippled right leg, was brought by her mama and a friend. At first, I thought they were presenting a birth defect, but it seems that when the girl was learning to walk, she fell and injured her knee and/or her leg. A doctor was unaffordable. The little girl adapted to the pain and continued to learn to walk. Sometimes her leg gives way out from under her. Sometimes she complains that it hurts. (To help to understand the family’s situation, I want to share their housing situation. They live in a small four-room house. Thirteen people live in the house. Each room is the living quarters for two families.) Once again, this need is a need that takes money that they do not have. They came to me asking for help. Most likely the baby will need some sort of surgery, which is financially impossible for this family. Based on a similar treatment for another child, I estimate it will cost $700 for the care that she needs.
As I mentioned earlier ... the needs are many! We rely on YOU for prayers for the afflicted and endurance for us as we labor among the hurting! We rely on you for funds for special needs, such as the ones that are detailed above. We cannot do this work without the blessing of God and friends like YOU! Thank you being a crucial part of our ministry!
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………