TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
January 21, 2010
Day #1 at the Refugee Camp (on the soccer field next to the church compound) is here and Night #1 has passed. The tremors of Wednesday’s early morning 6.0 quake abruptly shortened our slumber on the floor of the church. With our building on the church compound being declared “severely compromised” we had taken refuge in a less threatening structure, until we could determine where we would relocate the children and staff of the orphanage. By the end of the day, God provided us tents in the Refugee Camp, a shining example that God truly does know our every need, even BEFORE we ask Him! Léon and my “new address” is now Tent #915-2836 A6!
There are so many lessons to learn from the Haitian people, especially in a crisis such as this.
Last night, when it was time for the camp to be quiet, especially to benefit the sick and injured, a man with a megaphone announced that it was time for everyone to retire to their tents. But before that happened, everyone joined in the most beautiful voices-only choir of anthems. What a way to go peacefully to sleep! In the individual tents, I could hear the children of our orphanage singing with their caregivers, again, a bedtime ritual that bears duplicating. Prayers too could be heard from various tents. No! They were not silent prayers, but unashamed voices rendering thanks to God for the blessings of life and health and shelter. It always strikes me that in a land permeated with voodoo, the Christian people express their beliefs unchallenged and unashamed. Why don’t we claim that freedom in the United States more than we do???
On more than one occasion, I have been told that when you have things bad there is always someone in the world who has it worse. I just have to look around to see the truth of that statement. Although I am now living in a tent, I still have a gigantic “storage locker” to quickly return to to grab a change of clothes or other needed item. It is a stark reminder that the other residents in the Refugee Camp no longer have ready access to basic things like clean underwear or deodorant or a myriad of basic items!
It seemed really strange for white-skinned incoming relief workers to come in and find me another “blanc” as a resident of the camp. Only if you are walking in someone else’s shoes can you truly understand what the experience is like. Now it was ME that they were taking photos of. Now it was me who was “peeing” in a pail during the night. Now it was me that was wondering what it was going to be like when the rains come.
People continue to ask, “How can I help?” That question alone is overwhelming. Not only are there a thousand answers to that question, but there is also the need to prioritize. It sounds easy to say, “We need cash! The banks are all closed and we have very little money.” But then the answer to the question, “How do we get it to you?” turns into a more complex answer. There is not enough fuel for vehicles to bring us cash from the airport in Port-au-Prince to our location in LesCayes. There is danger on the roads from looters who are seeking money and goods from vehicles that do pass by. Thankfully, we are told that Western Union plans to open an office in LesCayes, where people can wire us money at NO CHARGE. But that, too, presents new challenges. There will be at least 400 people standing in line. The “you are next in line” theory just doesn’t work here and this, of course, results in heated arguments in “the line.” The available cash will run out before the requests for money do. For those successful in obtaining cash, there will be security issues of people trying to steal the money from them.
People are asking about adoption of the many, many existing and new orphans. That question too does not have an easy answer. The buildings that process lost birth certificates and other documents are no longer standing. The few people who remain who can answer the “how to” questions are overwhelmed and under equipped. It will take time for experienced organizations and refugee management personnel to work out the many details. If you are interested in adoption, please be patient, but don’t give up on your desire to help in this way!
I thank God, this morning, for a relatively good night’s sleep. My biggest challenge today is to not get more sunburned, as I sit in the shade typing this communiqué to you.
More than ever, we continue to treasure your prayers and support!
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Nora Léon Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time. God willing…