TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
February 9, 2010
I have to say that I feel somewhat like a lion in a cage at the zoo. There are constantly people coming to see the “people in the tents.” The Baptists come. The Jehovah Witnesses come. The Catholics come. They come with tracts. They come with treats. They come to hold worship services and to pray with the people here. The doctors come. The nurses come. The UN comes. The Red Cross comes. The school children come on their recesses. The people of the neighborhood come. The white missionaries with their Kodak cameras come. Each group peers into each tent to see what they can see. In Haiti, it is not impolite to stare. So many people stare at the people in the tents. When they come to my tent and see a white woman, I am the source of an extra long stare. Sigh! Such is the life of a lion in a cage!
Everyday activities are repetitious. The ground under the goal zone is no longer a place of goals and missed goals. It is, rather, just a place for the kids to run and play. The locker room no longer houses the teams, but is a bath house for camp residents and a place to show movies, on the exterior wall, during nighttime hours. The spectator stand no longer crowds in hundreds of people eager to cheer-on their favorite team. It is now the clothes line for the many clothes that need to be dried in the intense sun. The corner of the field where spectators enter the field is now used nightly for worship services. A singer with a megaphone begins the long repetition of familiar religious songs. A seemingly endless prayer is followed by shouts of “Thank you Jesus!” and “God bless you!” It is in direct competition with the movie being shown on the opposite side of the field.
Children find the simplest ways to entertain themselves. One little girl has been collecting plastic bottles caps of all colors and sizes and plastic spoons. She spends hours on end sorting the colors of caps and lining up the spoons in a particular order. She then turns her treasures into a tea party. She uses collected sand to serve food in her tiny bottle cap dishes, giving each willing participant a spoon to eat the “food” with.
When the temperatures turn cooler at dusk, the children make big fun of playing tag and running and jumping. A group of them will come to my tent door to see if Mommy Nora will come out and spend time with them. Some try to learn a few English words. Others are content sitting on my lap or playing with my hair, hair that is so unlike their own. Adults come out to chat with their neighbors. Conversations carry on deep into the night.
The days have become routine, almost to the state of being boring! No one seems to notice, except me. Life in Haiti is simple. Life in a tent city is not so different than life in the poorest communities of Haiti. Americans are just not made of the same resilient constitution as that of the Haitian people. Haitians take every circumstance in stride – whether it is sleeping on the ground or having absolutely no privacy. Tents crowded with people beyond their capacity are a norm for them. Everything and everywhere is crowded. Sharing the same one spoon with the whole family is no big deal. Toting a baby around, to keep him/her happy, is done by anyone nearby, whether or not it is a family member. Discipline is handled by the oldest person in any given situation. Even then, it does not matter if you are a relative of the child who is receiving the spanking.
I never thought of myself as a person needing creature comforts, but I guess I am. I am starting to look forward to my time in the USA next month. Oh how nice to have a normal bed to sleep in! I cannot wait for a nice LONG warm shower!
I cannot help wonder how many weeks, months or years it will be before this Tent City is turned back into a soccer field! It takes one resilient people to not be concerned about that!
As the people of Haiti continue the day-to-day business of living, your continued prayers are appreciated!
Thank you for putting into action the Words of our Lord as in Matthew 25 : 35 & 36
“For I was hungry and ye gave me food, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink … Naked and ye clothed me!”
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time. God willing …………