TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
January 21-22, 2010
It is evening and I am sitting at my “command center” (a computer at a card table with a LONG extension cord to electricity) under the stars of Haiti. In the daytime, I sit in any shade that is available where the extension cord reaches. From the command center, I am able to access the internet a few hours a day. I must say that I prefer the evening times over the hot temperatures of the day.
As I write this, a large bus has arrived at the Refugee Camp with another load full of people coming to us from Port-au-Prince. Once again, this will change the flavor of the camp. I was just getting acquainted with the little ones here and now I will have more names of children to try to remember and pronounce correctly. The children are starting to call me Mommy Nora, rather than the usual “blan!” (white!) greeting!
A visitor to the camp yesterday asked me if I realized that Les Cayes is the fastest growing city in the world. I hadn’t thought about that, but indeed it is! I am somewhat saddened that the “small town” feel will no longer be here. I am anticipating a change in the level of crime and that too saddens me. I will walk the streets with much more caution than in the past.
A young boy has been fascinated while watching me work on the computer. He came to me with a piece of paper with a line or two of handwritten Creole words on it. I was surprised to learn that he was writing down his feelings about the day the earthquake happened and the days that have followed. We talked about the importance of getting those feelings out, instead of storing them inside one’s gut. I encouraged him to write a long, long paper. He assured me that he would! I told him that what he was doing was very important and that one day he would be able to share his story with his grandchildren.
It has surprised me how casually people speak about the loved ones they have lost in the earthquake. They tell me that their house is flat. They tell me that their father is dead, their brother is dead, or their friend is dead as if they are reporting the weather to me. Can it be that the Haitian people are so accustomed to untimely deaths that it is just like a passing rain storm???
I have been asked if I am suffering any post-traumatic stress. I have to say that to some extent, I am. When I re-enter the room that I have called home for the past five years, I think that I feel it swaying. When I close my eyes at night, I think I feel the earth moving! How much more horrible it must be for those who watched their houses crumble and were unable to save those trapped under the rubble.
Last night was filled with new noises. There was much more talking. There were hacking coughs and cries from the additional babies that had arrived. The influx of the newest people to the Refugee Camp has brought another period of adjustment. The newcomers are filled with anticipation and struggling to find their place in their “new world”. To aide in the adjustment, a “comedian” entertained the crowd for an hour. It was good to hear the laughter, in midst of the pain.
This morning, I noticed a large number of teenaged boys. They must have arrived with the group during the previous night. Where there are boys, there is a soccer game! A small corner of the soccer field is now being used for just such a purpose.
I have been trying to build up my strength by walking around the perimeter of the field early each morning. Bright yellow flowers were blooming in one corner of the field, totally oblivious to the changing world around them. As I passed by, it was so uplifting to hear singing coming from two adjacent tents. In the privacy of their own “home”, the occupants were praising their God, but to the whole camp they were being a witness of God’s grace!
Everyday activities bring some normalcy to life here. Water is being carried to plastic tubs from which baths will be taken. Clothes are being hand washed in buckets, teeth are being brushed, children are being disciplined and friendships are being made.
Another day has passed in the Refugee Camp! Yet another bus has arrived! Sigh!
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Nora Léon Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time. God willing …………