Questions.

We come here to solve, and instead I end each day with a longer list of random bits from all over the place that I’d like to have answered.

Two things to wrestle with before I go to bed.

Why did Maxon get diagnosed with pneumonia today, the doctor telling me it was a result of getting the flu once, twice, possibly three or more times without being treated? Why is this boy who hasn’t been here for even two years of life yet spent what has probably been most of it with a fever, runny nose, and a cough that throws his body? Why did I sit on the back of a moto on the way back from Cabaret’s pharmacy thinking about how he reflects children all over Bercy, all over Haiti – who are sitting in the corner coughing? Whose runny noses are constantly causing dirt to stick to their faces as they sit with half of an outfit on and watch others with that open mouth and glazed eye look…or play halfheartedly? Why, and what is going to happen, to the thousands of children who are constantly sick – so different from the comfort and immediate doctor visits of where I grew up? Why are these children not being held, why is this so normal that children don’t get “sick day cuddles”? Why do parents run to the hospital pre-maturely in America while children here have serious diseases that don’t get checked out? Why, oh why, do I have to set him back down in the exact same dirt-covered, mosquito ridden, parasite ridden environment?

Don’t have answers for it. Thoughts, cultural insights after a few months of observation, room for hours of debate – but no answers tonight.

And then there’s those girls. The challenging teenage ones, standing by and waiting for me to come over so that they can ask me what I have for them before bothering to offer even a “Bonswa”. I saw one girl today who successfully asked me for a dozen different things in seeing me just four times. Not including the general “What did you bring for me?” A pretty good ratio – fitting at least three each time I was in the general area that she was. One of the frustrating things is that she isn’t someone I have a relationship with – she doesn’t care to know a thing about me. And here’s a cute touch: “Come here.” (After my questions of why, my response of no because I know the answer) “Come over here to talk to me.” (And when I give in – she’s called me over to where she is to ask me to buy ____ for her)

Here’s the thing: laying in our loft, staring up at the stars after a with a head swimming with …everything, something hit me. I am that girl. With my cocky attitude, no time to listen, and my hand out waiting. I am that girl, as God comes around the corner and I’m ready to ask – just ready to get something for me. Even with the best intentions, my prayers are about me. I have my days where I care a lot more about my plans than the one I’m going to. The relationship? I’ve got better things to do. We’ve talked three times, with about two dozen asks. I react the same as the girls do when I point out their lack of greeting – “Oh yeah, and hi. Thanks for my health. Sorry I used the little Kreyol I know to be sarcastic to that guy in market. Anyways…” And here’s my cute touch: “Come here. Let’s do things on my terms today. Give me this while I pursue this ‘for you’, okay?”

Don’t hear me beating myself up, and don’t think my realization was that I’m beyond hope. I’m covered by grace, thanks to his beautiful mercy, and I’m a work in progress each day. As I said in the last post, I’m being challenged to fall more in love with him (end goal is WORSHIP not WORKING). I have a relationship, and it’s not all asks. And I’m not asking for a new car, these are legitimate requests for Bercy and for people back home.

…but in comparison to the girl that’s been a real challenge for me the past week? I’m not as different as I’d like to think. On a scale of me (a breathe, a blade of grass, etc.) to GOD – I am that girl. He’s still patiently coming back around the corner, smiling when I learn to pause to listen to him before starting to talk about what I want. God, why all this patience with me? God, how is grace…..grace? God, why do you CHASE me when I’m me and you’re Creator of the Universe? God, why don’t you smack me with my attitude – Jesus, why did you step in? God, how do I stop thinking about myself? God, how do I learn to listen more in our relationship?

See what I’m talking about? More questions by the end of the day.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday.

Maybe you guessed it after the last post – the internet is still not doing too great. I don’t say this to complain (come on, we’re in HAITI) but to explain why the week got cut off after just a couple of days. As much as I love the idea, sometimes (most times) plans change!

Some bits from the past three days:

  • Everyone is sick. Malaria, parasites, typhoid fever, and various un-diagnosed “icky” feelings – including a cough for our faithful Mickens. Ironically, I was beginning to start to feel normal again when everyone else announced that they had to call our Haitian friend Dr. Arys.
  • Challenged to LOVE HIM first. Be a lover, then work flows. Stop being a do-er. Constant message, constant challenge….really sent to me last week. Reminds me of my own passion for sustainability and change in this country – why do so many come work or help, and they don’t even ask a Haitian before starting? What an ironic reflection of the ‘things’ I can fill my days with – good work, yes, but we weren’t created to work. We were created to worship.
  • Thinking on overall structure issues, long term government and NGO tactics and programs and ideals and missions, Haitian worldviews, history and infrastructure and everything that goes into real change and renewal in this country. It’s not just hugs and bracelets with kids (even though that love does matter) – there are other big changes and revolutions. We don’t even think about the stability and things that are already set up for us in our government and the overall structure of America. From running water to a democracy, from the availability of jobs to putting our trash on the curb to be taken away.

In these days, I’ve had about half a dozen posts I could write, passionate thoughts and experiences and questions and my great Father working. For now, we’ll focus on seeing if this will post.

Wednesday.

No internet (hence a quick update this morning), made our first pizzas after the treat of CHEESE when one our team members went to Port-au-Prince yesterday, lots of ‘house-keeping’, and relationships.

Humbled as we studied childlike faith, and what it means as we look deeper into it and try to understand how we can actively apply the concept as a team. Kids are TEACHABLE (and constantly observing and asking), TRUST their father (and look to him first, without question), and kids in the New Testament were considered ‘lowest of the low’ – they didn’t even have a social status before the age of 12. 

Turned from being taken care of to telling others on the team to go to the hospital – worried that my team is getting bitten by the same mosquitoes that I am. Telling you so that you can pray for the physical health of our small team.

Worked on getting Westalinda to sit, she’ll be four months old in 2 days. Every time, I have to push myself to go out. Yet every time, once I’m out, it’s hard to get myself to come back home. Every night this week has ended with being with Jeslin & her family.

Laughed at Kiki, who showed up beside me at Jeslin’s home and just hung out. He’s one of those two year old’s who’s hilarious because shows up all over the place and he’s just a little strange.

Tuesday.

How’s your week holding up? Personally, my day didn’t go as expected – but that’s almost expected by now. Thankful that the iffy internet made a turn around before bed!

  • Waking up: Today while I had my coffee I watched last Sunday’s sermon from home (and finally understood why people from my church were posting strange sounding statuses about ‘Eating more Jesus”… http://www.gracepickerington.org/sermons/he-said-what/wonder-bread-7-21-2013), then I worked on studying childlike faith for a study tomorrow night – humbling as there are always crevices to be found in my inner parts where I’ve tucked pride away. As I’m typing, reading, and listening to music I hear Samedy talking to me. He was over to measure windows and build screens for our top floor & I had given him a pastor’s laptop to check his e-mail. He looks up and says “Oh! I forgot! Today is my birthday!” (I paused what I was doing at this point.) “Samedy, you forgot today was your birthday?” “Oi! – (Samedy’s VERY expressive, this is complete with the high voice and big eyes) – Wi! Kent says….(and he read the English “Ha-pee Birf-day Samedy”)….Stephanie Pineda says….(and he read her wall comment as well)” Amanda and I laughed and looked at each other, we had to do something! Amanda asked Samedy to come by later and he was happy to agree. She asked to take a picture of him for his birthday and he said no! “Later. I need to go to the barber shop.” (Amanda: “Oh, of course, the birthday barber shop visit!” as we smile at each other) I shake my head and go back to working after singing Happy Birthday.
  • I worked until a little before noon and decided to have an early lunch so I could get out for the day – can I get another AMEN for that fridge?
  • I grab my bookbag & stick my kenips in the side pocket and head out to go visit a family with a mother I haven’t seen in a few weeks besides running into her in Cabaret. The family lives in Bercy, so I walked a road on the way that stopped by a house that Lougiani – one of my favorite little girls – lives. Lougiani is the granddaughter of the woman I was going to see (Madame Renfort) and used to live with her, but was bounced to a different family member in Bercy last month. She’s got a special tug on my heart. While her father lives in Port-au-Prince and her mother lives in the Dominican Republic, it’s pretty rare for her to see either one and she is actually scared of her dad (since he’s a stranger to her). She always lights up with a smile for me, and she’s grown from being reserved and nervous from me coming over to running from a distance before I even see her. This is all irrelevant, of course, because I was called over before getting to either home. It’s common for me to hear my name yelled and a lot of times, I just wave in response. But I stopped and thought one of the kids yelling it from the abandoned radio station could be Lougiani so I headed over. I honestly didn’t know any names of the kids or mothers at the station, but I recognized some faces and they definitely knew me so I followed and sat down as they grabbed my hand to lead me. I then proceeded to get my hair brushed for an hour as kids asked for my bag & played with my sunglasses and a mother asked me for money and showed me that her toddler had fallen. In the meantime, the kids have found my kenips and are climbing all over me (while I have hair blocking my eyes) asking for them. I try explaining that they’re for a friend and the kids listen, look at me, and repeat “Give me a kenip.” I eventually give in and explain I will share SOME and save the rest for my friend. While this happens, Madame Renfort and her son come over – hey, that worked out! – because the toddler’s mom had called him. A boy starts to try stealing my bag for the rest of the kenips while the girls keep dropping my hair to chase him, and I wonder what I’m doing as I just sigh and internally debate how much it really helps to have me show up sometimes. Between multiple debates about why I can’t give away the money in my bag that I brought for a tap-tap and kids coming and telling me they’re hungry and that kenips aren’t enough, I quickly started to operate from HIS patience and love. Then Lougiani shows up! (Like I said, it just works out sometimes!) We play and I end up just giving away all of the kenips with plans to buy more for Nadia, finally leaving when some guys come over and start the typical conversation starting with “Do you have kids?” and ending in “I love you”, with various questions about me finding a husband in Haiti in between. Before I left, I was happy to see that the girl that had been begging for food was called by her mother to come eat – she was being a regular kid and ‘testing’ me.
  • After the radio station pavilion: I walked over to the road, running into Madame Renfort again, and stood waiting for a tap-tap with one of the girls from my English class asking about a new session starting soon. A tap-tap blasting rap stopped for us and I enjoyed the music and the energetic worker dancing as he jumped off at each stop while singing along and took money on the way to Cabaret….then got a talk from a man on the back of the tap-tap about how he wanted to see me and the dancing worker together. Oh man, one of those days.
  • Market: I walk to the stand I promised to visit & sit with “Casino lady” as she braids the hair of a friend who sells beside her. We sit in the shade while kids come and stare at the blanc, then giggle and sprint when I greet them in Creole. After the hair is finished, I buy some pineapples and ask about the price of kenips…getting a giant bag for the price of a few bundles because she’s always generous with me. A neighboring stand has people sitting who decide to start talking to me and I make some new friends as (I’m not heartless, there are just a LOT of names to remember!) CL wraps up a melon that she wants to give me as a gift. I say my goodbyes to everyone, tell them I’ll see them Thursday (because they ask, and they want to know WHEN), and start walking to grab a moto. I stop first to visit my friend Baslais, a guy who has done construction for CPR-3 and speaks some English. He’s always got a big smile when we stop by and he believes I can’t visit market WITHOUT stopping. I sit and talk for a few minutes, he tells me to take someone’s money and give them 15 gourde back (“I’m teaching you how to sell. After this you can work for me.”), and he celebrates when I have my first successful ‘transaction’. We go through and talk about the prices of everything that he sells and he PROMISES me, “100 percent”, that he’ll be at church Sunday (100% is one of his favorite things to say. The Sunday promise is another favorite, we’re still working on him actually showing up.) He makes sure to grab a moto for me (“I work for CPR-3, I’m security, I take care of you!”) and I take off for Bercy.
  • It’s not necessarily typical for me to just sit in market – the trips are hot, dirty, and exhausting! Many of them are done as fast as I can – but like I said, every day is different.
  • As the moto turns into Bercy: I see Kellie playing cards outside of Richard(our neighbor)’s house. The moto stops there and as I give him money, he doesn’t have change. Haitian style, I ask Richard’s sister Jeanine for change as they have a stand outside their home. One of the little boys grabs the purse, gives me 25 gourde, and the moto takes off as I pull a pineapple out of my bag to give to Richard’s mom. I love his mom, and she reacts with a big smile and laughs that I brought her something. I sit with Kellie and do some translating (Kellie speaks a little less Creole and both her and the family have things to say to each other that they couldn’t before I was there) and then see Samedy pull up on a moto piled with his wife and all three daughters, dressed adorably to come visit. Amanda had made a cake and she called me in,  I went upstairs to go celebrate with them. Shama, Samedy’s 3-year-old (4 in two days!), eventually started spinning around the dining room singing Happy Birthday after re-watching the video of us singing it on Jordan’s phone for the fifth time and we enjoyed pineapple and laughed about Samedy forgetting his own big day. Dadiye from Laborderie came in as Samedy left to say hi, sing some Celine Dion (if you think we butcher lyrics in America, try a country that doesn’t speak the same language) and tell me that I missed seeing the girls from Laborderie who came earlier. Mickens nicely escorted everyone out as we started to wind down for the night.
  • After heating up some soup on the stove – thanks to a fridge to save it! – I unpacked my bag from market and grabbed a few handfuls of kenips. I walked past Richard’s house again, sharing some of the little sweet fruits, and made my way to Nadia’s house. Sharing kenips, I talked with Nadia, Jeslin, and Christella until the sun went down. God showed up as I had specifically asked him to – because I’m in the ‘comfortable’ trap. Here’s this family, clearly on my heart. Here’s the gospel, clearly needing to be shared. Here’s the relationship, clearly still being built but with so little talk about Jesus as I sit underneath vodou items. I’m here every day, in such a dark environment, it’s not like I’m walking up and preaching the Good News every day….or ever. But that’s the ultimate question: God, am I doing the right thing in building this relationship and trying to tread lightly? Or am I being selfish and enjoying being comfortable, refusing to sacrifice this relationship for the sake of eternal life for others? God, you gave me a spirit of BOLDNESS, so what’s the right way to be bold? I’ve felt convicted and had no real answers but to pray, so that’s what I did this morning….and then Christella started asking her own questions. Somehow it ended on if I see Jesus, can I say “Bonswa” – which led to “Do you talk to him?” – which led to “And does he respond?” – which went on to “I know I sound crazy, but I talk to him and yes, he DOES respond, I just hear it in my heart.”…I honestly talked about how of course I sound crazy, but I mean every word as I say that I hear Him. I related it to the fact of how I am in Haiti right now, and I saw the girls actually listening. And they asked me to pray out loud, in English. So, I did. And somehow, Nadia also opened up about “white magic” for a few comments. He’s working, even in my own weakness of having no clue what to do, or if I’m doing it right.  Thank you God, for being right beside us when you send us out. Eventually the kenips ran out, the sun was way past sleeping, and Christella walked me home.
  • Walking in…: And then I hear this “thump, thump, thump….” and I turn around to Kiki jumping up to me! This kid is 2 and a half and was scared of white people the month before we moved in. I picked him up and he nestled his head into my shoulder to cuddle as I asked him about his day. I walked back over to Richard’s house, “Look what I found…”, as his family told me he was looking for Richard because it’s ‘movie night’ with Kellie at the Sant Mouvman. I take Kiki over, who sits for three minutes then decides he wants to go back. I take him, sit for a few minutes, then come back home and laugh with Mickens as he talks with me and works to get the internet faster for me.

Every time, let me tell you what transforms the entire day: Giving it to him. Asking for him to graciously help grab my hand and pull me into lean on his strength, patience, love, and wisdom for the day. Who knows how He’s using what I did today – but I can confidently tell you that nothing I did surprised Him today. He walked with me in market, sat beside me for all kinds of conversations that I could only understand half of, and probably chuckled at yet another “I love you, baby” conversation. And He’ll be with me, no differently, when I’m back in America next month, pumping gas or having breakfast at Panera.

Monday.

A question I get all the time is what I do on a normal day. Members from teams commonly asked “So when we leave, what does life look like?” This is a question that’s impossible to answer. It changes day to day, teams came when we were moving into the Sant Mouvman which meant that life routines would change, and it’s hard to explain a day when just the basics are so vastly different from the point of view of life in America. But I’m here to challenge myself and try to give you guys an idea of what life looks like this week. (No promises that next week will look the same.)

  • 8am: Woke up to my Natcom phone’s alarm & threw clothes on to walk past workers and grab a bucket of water from our drums to take a quick “bucket bath” in our bathroom. Walked upstairs and started boiling coffee as I poured some (Stoney Creek, thanks to a wonderful friend!) coffee into the french press. (French press was the only coffee option at Shernando, now we have electricity but I can’t have it any other way! Plus, we can’t really buy coffee filters like the US.) Hopped on Skype with an apple (imported from the US, a splurge to buy at 60 goudes) and my coffee for a meeting with our new child sponsorship coordinator who lives in Columbus.
  • 11-ish am: After some e-mails and my morning reading, I drank a big cup of water and got myself out of the gate to see some people that I’ve been missing  the last week while I was stuck inside. On the way out I stopped to check out Kellie as she broke into a locked latrine with the neighborhood boys to check out what’s been going on with the latrine with the missing key. Simon stopped to ask me questions about my day and I held Kiki, wearing American flag shorts, for a few minutes before making my way to Nadia’s home. Saying hi to neighbors on the way I actually ended up walking beside Nadia’s brother, who was on his way home from summer school and telling me that his mother has been asking about me. I told him that’s where I was headed and we walked as I asked questions about school (He answered a few questions on my to-do list from my morning meeting!). Jeslin, Nadia’s mother, gave me a huge hug and smile and said the phrase that replaces I miss you, “I don’t see you!” As I explained that I knew I disappeared for a week and why, she got a basket of mangoes for me, telling me that this was the second basket she had for me because she hadn’t seen me for so long she had to get another one. I thanked her (trying hard not to say “You didn’t have to!” because it does NOT translate – even though I say it every time) and sat down in a chair in her front yard as she yelled into the air for Nadia (not into the house, but the air. Nadia was somewhere else in Bercy – people yell from home to home and I’m pretty sure the mother’s voices can carry across a field) – after yelling “Stephanie vini pou we’ou”, Nadia literally ran over! My heart was full as she gave me a much warmer and emotional hug than a typical welcoming kiss on the cheek. We sat, talked about me being sick and not seeing me and what had happened the past week, and just enjoyed company for an hour or two. Nadia cleaned Westalinda’s nails while I turned and tried to swallow the fact that I have to look in the face of little toddlers covered in flies while a young boy with a fever came and laid his head on my lap – I see this all the time, but I’ve been praying for fresh eyes and God answered. Plus, being sick renews your compassion for the sick around you – especially when you can see how much better your living conditions are. I want so badly to just walk to to hospital with a single file of kids behind me, I have to fight the urge to just walk away with children at times. That’s not the best way to do things. I sigh and push back the feelings while going back to answering Nadia’s quizzing “What’s that?” (every time I visit and sit, Nadia starts to point at people and things to test if I know people or my Creole words)
  • Before leaving, Nadia stuck some earrings in my ear (yes, she put them in) as a gift (they’re really shiny Mickey Mouse heads) and I thanked her while saying that I was on my way to market for the day. Then the question came: What are you getting for me? (I get this DAILY from people all over). Today I played along with my friends and asked what they’d like, Jeslin playfully reminded me of the drinks that I had last week, reminding me that she said she liked them. In Cabaret, there are people all over with cardboard boxes on their head selling ice cold soda – usually Jugoo, 7up, and Toro (Haitian Red Bull). Two weeks ago, I had Toro two different days as I was feeling exhausted and had no idea why – these drinks are full of ice to where it’s like drinking a slushie, they are SO refreshing. Anyways, I play along and promise a Robusto (some energy drink that I haven’t tried) & a Jugoo for Jeslin & Nadia. I say no so many times, I like saying yes to the little things in the right moment (I can get both for the equivalent of $1.25 American).
  • 1pm: Go back to the house, get lettuce and chicken leftovers (Thank you, fridge!!) and sit with Mary Claude as I have lunch. Mary Claude informs me that if I eat oil while I have malaria, I’ll die.  After failing at asking “WHY would I die?” I thank her for the concern. (“Why would I die?” “Because you have malaria.” “What about it would kill me?” “If you eat oil.” “Why would eating oil while I have malaria kill me?” “KILL you. You’d be dead*Insert re-enacting dying, as if THAT’S the part I don’t understand.*”) Mary Claude was at the house because she shows up all the time, she had been with Amanda all morning. Mary Claude and I walked to Route #1 with her to catch a tap-tap back to Cabaret, dropping off some alcohol swaps a neighbor asked for on the way. We talked about hoping to find one with room because the tap-tap’s are always full on big market days. One came and we hopped on, Mary Claude on her way back home & me going to get ready for dinner. I asked the truck to stop at Laborderie so I could visit some friends and walked down to the home with my favorite family in the community.
  • Laborderie (2-ish pm): I walked up to Estefan running up to me with his great smile (saving me unknowingly as someone had caught me off guard with my open reply to “Stephanie?!” to asking me for money) and we walked hand in hand to his home, where Miguelson, Jessica, Biyonce, and Fritzlande were running to come say hi. Ermilie yelled “Stephanie’s here” to the family and a chair was ready before I was. I greeted everyone with the kiss on the cheek and sat down as three kids tried to balance on my lap and Estefan started to play with my hair. I answered the questions about my health, responded to “I don’t see you!” again, and tried to balance my attention between children and teenagers/adults talking to me. Ermilie kept asking me why I was going to market, then laughing when I told her that I was making food (and what ingredients I was buying for it). My bag started to ring and she opened it to get my phone, we called Kellie back and she asked if I was going to Cabaret. Her & Richard (the boy who lives next to us) met up with me so they could go to the pharmacy. After plenty of jokes about dinner and lots of time with energetic kids, we eventually left Laborderie (after I saw Hope SMILING and playing with Estefan!) and walked to get a tap-tap to Cabaret.
  • 3pm: We piled out of the tap-tap & walked through Cabaret for carrots, onions, herb bundles, bread, a trek in big market for bananas, and chicken. I ran into Jeslin too, who was buying food for tonight because she sells coffee in the morning and meals at night from her home. This included a split from Kellie & running into “Casino lady”, a vendor that I’m friends with. Turned out she visited my home yesterday (don’t know how she knows where I live, don’t be creeped out?) while I was gone. She gave me the gift of some free kenips (which I didn’t have the heart to say ‘no’ to, even though I think they’re like eating eyeballs) and I promised to visit tomorrow and buy a pineapple. On the way to grab a moto home, I stopped a man with a cardboard box with green lids and asked if he had the new Toro Citron. (He did, I was just curious because it’s new and somehow Red Bull has sucked me in with their Haitian drinks…) I asked for a Robusto & Jugoo with lots of ice, then weaved to get a ride. I asked two drivers “Bercy?” and had Kellie & Richard hop on a moto while I hopped on one. (We can all fit on one, but why be uncomfortable? It’s the same price because you pay by person.) A random friend from Laborderie was asking me to scoot up before I knew it, and in the craziness of market we took off with an extra passenger who promised they weren’t planning on me to pick up their bill. After dropping them off, I had the moto take me to Nadia’s house so I could drop off the drinks and enjoy her surprised smile (I KNEW she thought’d I’d forget), then I walked home to get my chicken in the freezer after stopping at Richard’s house to buy some bagged water & support their family.
  • 4(ish)pm: Time to start dinner as a pastor’s meeting goes on upstairs. I cut up pineapple and the mango that Jeslin gave me then get vinegar water and citrus ready to wash the chicken from market. The meeting ended and I gave Pastor Pierre a hug while picking his brain for ideas to work with teenage girls. While the chicken boiled I cut and ground and combined the veggies (be careful to clean them, my recent parasite reminded me) from raw in market to soup-ready and attempted to clean as I went since we have no sink, let alone dishwasher. Amanda came up to make the best part, garlic bread, and we were eating before 6:00.
Even with a kitchen - about 4 hours of my day to get this when you include market! Chicken & rice soup with garlic bread is one of our favorites though, even if we sweat through eating it.

Even with a kitchen – about 4 hours of my day to get this when you include market! Chicken & rice soup with garlic bread is one of our favorites though, even if we sweat through eating it.

 

  • After dinner: I almost forgot! When I told Nadia I was cooking dinner and had to get home, she laughed too (I’m used to it). I told her everyone thought it was funny that I could cook, as if it’s impossible – I promised to bring her some back. After dishes, I remembered this and got a small bowl to take to Nadia. I walked up and her eyes got wide – she let out a huge laugh and yelled to Jeslin to come look, I was there with the food I had made. They tried it, her mother first, and told me it was good…but it was hilarious. Jeslin had no idea how to eat it because it was chicken and rice soup – she eats it all separate and called the broth sauce. After she said it was good, which I’m pretty sure was to be nice, I told her she was supposed to eat it together! Nadia’s younger sister, sixteen and feisty, comes over excitedly and then tells me it’s awful. Nadia says it’s great and throws it out into Westalinda’s bath water when she thinks I’m not looking – I pretended to not see as she thanked me again and told me how good it was. We left to go get the family goats (Didn’t even know they had three, tied up on the path to the ocean!) and when I came back, a girl that’s done my hair a few times that I nicknamed “Bo” gave me some fried things (forget the name) that she sells in market, then Nadia filled the bowl I brought back up with food that her mom had made. Nadia and Bo walked me back because “the sun was sleeping” (my way of telling people when my curfew is – when the sun goes to sleep) and I came here to eat cold pineapple & write about the day. I promised Nadia the gift of some kenips tomorrow…since I happen to have a bag I don’t plan on eating.

Man, that’s LONG when it’s written out! So there, with as many details as I can add to help you see the picture, was my Monday. Different from what you imagined? (If it was, know that every Monday looks different anyways). Just a couple of the hours were sit down “work” today, yet I’m definitely ready for bed as I listen to YouTube playlists and look for a picture from Amanda from the day. (iPhone’s back in just one month, friends!)

With the details you got in the difference in tasks today, I’ll work on shorter posts throughout the week. As I give it to HIM, we’ll see what tomorrow brings!

23.

What does a birthday in Haiti look like?

For a lot of friends that I have here, not a lot. It looks like telling the people around you what day it is, and getting a song or good wishes in response. For some kids, it looks like guessing what day is your special one. For some adults, maybe they never really have seen the day as something worth mentioning to most people around them.

For me (in the endless battle of the juxtapositions that surround my life here), I found myself sitting beside friends on a small floating dock looking over a perfect Caribbean beach that was blasting great music while the sun reflected perfectly clear blue water….thinking “Wow, God. I’m so glad I left behind what I thought made me happy.”

Maybe you know some of my story. Maybe you’ve lived some of my story. I can guess that whether it’s my exact story or not, your heart can understand where mine was. A peer group & acceptance, there’s happiness in that, right? Playing the good part, that’s what to do for a good life? And the kicker – a relationship – never been happier, there are butterflies in my stomach and of course life is at it’s best right now!

And in the moment, I really thought there wasn’t anything better. In fact, I was ready to set my future based on some of these things thinking that I’d hit the ultimate joy. I am so thankful for a Father who continues to chase us after we’ve gotten bored and turned to what we think is so much better – usually because we misunderstand what He said in the first place, or what it meant.

It wasn’t until after I gave myself over, gave it ALL, that I started to work towards true joy and happiness. It started with me at my lowest, breaking off the ‘happiness’ and sitting in the shattered pieces of the joys in life that I had built up, believing in Him but wondering what He’d do with the pain that I was now swimming in.

And now, I’ve said it to others who have checked in on me these past few months – I could not be more content with my life. I have true joy in my days and the things that I THOUGHT were ultimate, unbeatable happiness were so small or so small in their meaning compared to the true joy and truly full life that I love now.

Not saying that you’ll follow me (aka Him) & you’ll be at Wahoo Bay for your next birthday. And not saying that it’s all perfect – I mean, you’re reading words typed by a girl getting over a malaria/parasite combination that took her out for the week. But what I can promise – because I’m only repeating His promise – is true joy. And from experience, I can guess He’ll give you some pretty awesome blessings along the way too.

My DEAR friend happened to post this quote a few hours ago, and it so perfectly expresses this: “How sweet all at once it was for for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, You who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, You who are sweeter than all pleasure.” -Augustine

Time to go change my bio to my new age!

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Bits of July

What’s been going on?

  • Visiting Nadia’s house once a day (or trying to) and sometimes just sitting for hours. This has also led to my hair getting done every day – now to the point where the next hairstyle is planned as they are in the process of doing the braids for the day. More importantly, it’s led to subtle but big differences in a family that can be very aggressive. (You need to understand that Tiffany once thought Nadia was mad and yelling at her, then understood what she was saying in Creole was “Play marbles with me!” – I love the girl, but she’s got a personality). I’m also seeing Westalinda, her daughter, being held and getting attention while Jeslin, her mom, is willing to talk to me about the good and bad parts of the Haitian church that she’s experienced (Clothing is always the issue here).
  • We’re getting used to having our own place! We got to invite our friends from Laborderie (the family that has Jessica & Hope that I can just sit for hours with at THEIR house every week) over for dinner and some play time. It’s wonderful to have them here and just see the MUTUAL relationship that is building. Jessica is giggling, talking, and playing as she runs with the other kids while Hope chooses to stay back in her world right now. In the middle of this blog I actually got a visit from all of the teenage girls for the afternoon!

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  • We said goodbye to Tiffany earlier this month, who is back home now and readjusting to America while she plans what she wants to do next. We’ve talked about how being here is a constant transitioning at times, and this is yet another season for me. I learned a lot from Tiffany and her heart for people and relationships – and I pray that His strength will keep me going out and being as effective as I was with Tiffany pushing us out!
  • Walking out the gate to a group of kids waiting each day. They’ve started to filter out since teams, but there’s almost always a group sitting on the steps when we walk outside.
  • Learning the balance of relaxing (and using the shaded oasis of a home we now have in Bercy) after a busy team season and getting back into life – yet another transition has left me tired and struggling to stand up and start running again, but I’m slowly learning. I have a spirit of boldness in me and confidence and motivation for His mission to motivate me as I try to learn where I fit now.
  • We have an oven. This girl and her team have been able to eat CHOCOLATE CAKE & HOMEMADE CINNAMON BREAD. We also have ice now (big deal!!), which is perfect timing in a country where the heat index was 130 degrees today (no joke).
  • Finally, malaria & a parasite hit me at once. Please DO not be worried as they are treatable and on meds – but that’s been a part of life, me being slowed down and being stuck in while sleeping for days straight. Praise God for who I happen to be, because I was born an American I have the small amount of money that most people I interact with on a daily basis can’t afford for themselves when they’re sick. It’s really humbling to go to the hospital and be quickly treated while I know I have struggling friends here. Like my last post, being ill has once again brought people to pray for me and ended in people asking for me to come out and see them – love the relationships here.

God has been GOOD, always!