Neighbors

“She did WHAT?!”

“She tried to give herself a tattoo with pikan.”

I grabbed the arm of the teenage girl in front of me and looked at the freshly opened skin with the English word “Love” written out. Yup. She had just told Tiffany, and now she was showing me with a big grin – she tattooed herself with a thorn from the dusty ground. She then showed me her other arm, turns out she did it on both sides. But the opposite side wasn’t as clear (I guess you can’t write great when you’re using a thorn as a pen on your flesh)…”What’s this side say?” “That’s the name of my child”

Why am I surprised? Here I am worried about a do-it-yourself tattoo, and you’ve already had a child.

“Your child?! How old?” “Two months.”

“And how old are you?” “17.”

I controlled my face, sucked in a deep breath, and looked sideways at Tiffany. This must be one of the girls that Pastor Pierre told us about, who dropped out of school this year because she was pregnant. I was only coming over because Tiffany had wanted to show me the arms of the two friends who had somehow skipped infections, but I dropped to the ground, crossed my legs and got ready to spend some time with Nadia. I talked with her as her friend (with a matching ‘Love’ tattoo) listened and occasionally piped in. We talked about school, the father (not around, happened to work down the street a while ago), where she lives (literally a 60 second walk from the Sant Mouvman – without knowing it, I’ve met her family and daughter before), why I think she deserves a man who will stay with her and the baby, her own father (absent), my empathy for her. I got just a little vulnerable for her, opening up where I had similar walks in life to her. And in there, she asked the question that pulled me in for good. The conversation along with it cemented her into my heart. “Do you need a baby? Can I give you mine?”

I sat back and exclaimed that I couldn’t take a baby! I live in a work site, the baby isn’t mine, I’m working and wouldn’t be able to be with it. (These are all reasons that go along with the obvious “it’s your child!”) As we talked about this, she started to joke about throwing the baby in the toilet.

That’s when I had to check myself again and really control my face.

I’ve said it before, I don’t cry a lot here. But this conversation, the fact that most children are ‘accidents’, byproducts of physical relationships instead of intentionally planned in a family, the mindset that two teenage girls could laugh after what was said – I felt tears coming. I controlled myself and continued to feel drawn to keep the conversation going, and I did. I let her know that I wasn’t okay with what she said, we talked about our opinions of why it was or wasn’t funny. We went on and kept talking about other things, from how we could trade hair to what her mother sells by the road each morning. And you know what? When I was about to leave, it clicked. I looked Nadia in the eyes and said “You don’t want to give me your baby. You love her. You just tried to carve her name into your arm.”

She was caught. With her tough exterior she laughed it off, but without using words she let the guard down in her eyes and I could see that she knew what I did. She may be guarded, life may be hard, she may not have support in her life that represents a full, loving family – but she loves that little girl.

She still asks me every day if I need her baby, if I’m going to take it yet. I still respond no. Her daughter is beautiful, and her family is learning what to do with the white girl that keeps stopping by to say hello. I’m going to do life beside her, and we’re going to learn together.  We’re going to invest in that baby together, and I’m going to remind her about the father with perfect love whenever I can as we talk about life. There’s a reason my new home happens to be a simple sixty second walk from hers.

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Planning

We’re officially in the Sant Mouvman, with a team! We’ve been here for about a week now, and the team has been here for 3 nights. We’ve also grown our CPR-3 team for June as we added three summer intensive students. Like always, things are moving!

In the whirlwind of moving out, moving in, living on a work site, planning for teams, new people arriving…it can get stressful. Did I remember each detail? Will this be successful? Will they like it?

And He humbles me again. I’m so thankful that he does, and with a patient hand that quietly guides me to the truth. It’s when I sit back and reflect on what’s going on that I realize that he’s teaching me – it’s not thrown in my face that way that we like to teach each other.

We’re catering food instead of going to a restaurant, which means that we were surprised with leftover food on the first night with the team. The next day, one of the kids who commonly helps and hangs around (but never asks for a thing, he’s got amazing character at just 14 years old) admitted that his family is not well to Tiffany. They are already stretched thin – but now their plantain field is not able to get produce and they aren’t selling or eating. She comes to tell me and I put the two together – we can ask if this team is willing to give up the rice, beans, chicken, and sauce that we were surprised to have.

Today, we went to church in the community where I go on a weekly basis. I greeted one of the older women after church and she told me that she had a fire in her home yesterday. I went to look at it and later showed the team, asking if they’d like to pray with her. Out of their own initiative, they began asking questions about what needed replaced.

We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves. And this isn’t about a schedule but making sure that we are making an impact, touching both sides of the cross, stretching those on teams to grow. There’s a pressure that we put on ourselves to make sure there’s a ‘good experience’. But his plans are better.

A hungry family, without the big picture – just trying to find out where the next meal will be. An American team, without the big picture – just trying to figure out how to help as they ask questions like “Why do I have leftovers when I know someone around here must be hungry?”

A fire; destroying a mattress, mosquito nets, sheets, and all of the clothes of a 17-year-old daughter. A group of individuals with sheets, nets, and teenagers planning to donate clothes. Even extra mattresses, not needed after our organization has left the Shernando and bought new ones for our home.

He knew. And he wove it all together, the beautiful body of Christ.

I can make all the itinerary drafts I want, brainstorm all the great ideas that I can, and try my hardest to carry the entire weight on my shoulders. But at the end of the day He still lifts it off with no effort, gently reminding me that He knew the best plan the whole time.

Moving…

Saturday was a day of packing, sweeping, lifting, and coffee. Lots of coffee. We packed up our rooms and traveled in a tap-tap to the Sant Mouvman to unload our things!

Now, understand that the Sant Mouvman isn’t done. Like me, it’s a work in progress. We plan on living in our finished rooms while the rest of the building is finished. Our rooms weren’t as far along as we had planned so we piled our things into one room and worked half the day to touch up and finish our rooms. Afterwards we headed back to Shernando to get our bags to stay at the home of an overly generous missionary family for the weekend. We prayed with Maryanne & Mickens (two workers we love dearly from Shernando who have been talking all week about how they will miss us), checked out of our dramatically empty rooms, and hopped into another tap-tap to get to our friend’s house and sleep for the night.

There’s been a lot of flexibility this week – a key word in Haiti. And He has been good through it all. We also have a team here working on our solar panels and electricity, and one of the team members worded it perfectly as we had a conversation about it: “You need flexibility if you’re going to be working in Haiti. And really, that’s true if you’re going to be following Christ in general”.

So my last post was wrong, I’m not typing from the Sant Mouvman. Even better, I’ve had full days of working in our future home and full nights of fellowship with a wonderful family. I’m using their wi-fi to write to you and I get to start my day refreshed after sleeping through the whole night with a fan and a great mattress. He blesses us wherever we are.

 

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Moving truck! Somehow we fit both of our rooms into one big tap-tap.

Oh, and for those wondering…Jessica came up to me and asked in her sweet little voice again about the ocean this Sunday. This was after her own version of Peek-a-boo (hiding behind Tiffany’s chair and saying “Stephanie pa ka wè mwen!”) and laughing with me as we played with her tiny shoes, trying to get them to fit me. He is good. We are a constant work in progress as He patiently watches our progress.