Isn’t it funny how you can have a dozen things to discourage you, but one tiny thing can turn it all around? This is what my days are full of, God giving me the gifts that I need right when I need them. There are the everyday parts of living in Haiti & there are the glimpses that I see in people that mark real change, real differences. These are a few of my favorite things…
Estefan, posing with my bag. A surprise picture waiting for me after Christian, Stefan’s older brother, had a photo shoot with him. So many things about this picture make me smile.
Walking back from picking up the girls from kindergarten in Labourderie. I arrived to visit with the women my age in one of my favorite families and it was time to trek past the pigs and cows towards where we would find Fritzlande, Jessica, and Beyonce all running at us and talking our ear off about their day.
While we’re on Labourderie, my visits have recently included Christian & Estefan making their own music videos on their phone. Eighteen-year-old big sister Ermilie gets to make guest appearances sometimes. Once my phone stops them because it’s out of space, we sit in a crowded huddle as at least fifteen people fight for front row seats over my shoulder to watch and enjoy the videos together.
Maxon – this almost-two year old has my heart since I took him to the hospital in July. He seems to have some sickness in his body more often than not. He had a skin infection on his little bottom (always pantsless) that also spread to the ear that can be seen here covered with some tobacco to help the oozing, painful bumps. He has this way of making me sad one day and then making it so I can’t keep from grinning the next. Here he decided to pick up the comb and start doing his mother’s hair, looking up occasionally and talking his nonsensical words to himself as he ‘worked’.
Bananas (the biggest I’ve ever seen in Haiti), a giant papaya, and a bag of coconuts larger than our 50 pound rice bag. What do these all have in common? They are all gifts that have been given to me this month. Either someone walks up to me with a bag and responds to my confused expression with “for you!” or Mickens points to a bag he has brought up and asks me what it is – informing me that my answer is wrong, because the answer is that it’s a gift for me.
Learning how to open those coconuts with a machete from Mickens. Then drinking it & laughing at my coconut with a straw being worth at least five dollars at any resort around Haiti. Perspective is a funny thing.
A long afternoon spent with a dear family a community away ended in my phone getting handed back to me to call a moto driver – with a dead battery. I had warned the boys to be careful to save some of the charge for me, and they did!, but it gave out just as they handed it to me. Everyone saw this happen and there was about five minutes of “Um…” as the sun quickly set & we were at a loss as my ‘curfew’ is sunset – both self-imposed and encouraged by close Haitian friends. All of a sudden one of the fathers – in fact, the most shut off father who makes a point to say what we are doing wrong or ask for something each visit in the most exhausting manner possible – spoke up. Looking me in the eye, he said “I’ll get my friend’s moto and take you home.” This sounds simple – but this is a big deal! This is a guy who has never offered help and in fact used to ask ME for gas money for the day for tasks completely unrelated to me. I even said, “No! What about gas money?” and he casually and honestly refused help, insisting it was no problem. As he took me home and I thanked him multiple times, he just laughed and said that they were happy I had spent the entire afternoon at their house. Here’s the kicker: I got off the moto in front of the Sant Mouvman to thank him again, and he smiled and nodded. He then sat on the moto for a second, looking at me and saying “…I’m not leaving until I see that you are safely inside the gate”. This is the kind of story that may just seem like a simple favor – but this was a big deal! I went inside with a huge smile after a hard day and in fact wrote about it. Little to his knowledge, I wrote two pages and was encouraged in a big way after a rough week. What a reminder that we never know what our small gestures do for someone around us.
Having a visitor, 13-year-old Marie Claude, over & listening to her read the Creole bible out loud as I do my own devotions after we had a pancake breakfast together. She started on page one and kept reading out loud for at least a half hour before placing the book down to take a nap on the table.
More fruit – showing up at a friend’s house who excitedly tells me that they have mangoes set aside for me in their home! In feeding their family, they set aside two for me with hopes that I’d visit before going stateside.
Prayer time after the sun sets on a roof where the stars couldn’t be any brighter.
Taking Nadine to birthday dinner to celebrate her turning seventeen. A completely foreign – no pun intended – concept.
The insistence to include me in trying every food, and some rice & bean sauce that’s made better than even my favorite restaurant in Cabaret on a day when I’m craving some great Haitian food.
Bo’s birthday – I went to sing to her and give her a small gift of playing cards & as her eyes lit up in excitement, she thanked me but let me know that I was going to make her late. She was rushing to get to church on time! Two keys: She was not going to church a few months ago, even though she claimed that she was when we got a Chants Desperance (hymnal) together. Also, Eglise de la Grace (the CPR-3 partnered church of Bercy) has Bo arriving at every morning and night service before the church is even halfway full, singing full volume with only three other members present. (The rest of the church is typically on their way and ready to start a half hour after start time)
Christian was wearing a bracelet that I had to take a double look at – it’d be trendy in the US! A closer look showed that he had to have made it himself – when I asked, he proudly answered yes. I told him I liked it, good work! An hour later, I’m visiting and my attention is being pulled three ways at once…and Christian is sneaking the bracelet onto my arm and insisting that it is now mine.
This picture. Hope so happy & active that she’s a blur!
The deceiver loves to do just that – deceive. One of his favorite lies is “You aren’t effective”. He loves, especially as we run towards and beside Jesus, to beat us down.
I’m not a runner, so I cramp up pretty quick. Then my music stops – I forgot to charge my iPhone. The shorts I chose are completely uncomfortable and I’m aware of them every step I take. I’ve been running forever! – just to realize I haven’t even gone a quarter of the way yet.
That’s what it feels like. Every choice, every attempt to move forward, something goes wrong. Something comes up that reminds you why you stayed comfortable for so long before. You aren’t a runner. This is too hard. You won’t make it anyway. OTHER people are built for running. It hurts. The pain started slow and is taking over your body, and it hurts more than you could have imagined. It’s hard to breathe and your lungs are on fire. Every reason to stop and turn around is circling your thoughts as your self-preserving brain screams “STOP!”
Don’t stop. As you keep running, Jesus reminds you that he’s beside you. In the form of beautiful people in your day, in the sunset that stops your depressed thoughts mid-sentence, as you start to slow your pace with the internal debate of turning around – he grabs your hand and gently shows you that he has been running beside you all along. In fact, sometimes he straight up picks me up and just carries me as he runs and I make the journey with him.
In the middle of those genuinely hard steps, the thoughts that threaten to take over as your flesh fights back, your dear Father knows you and these ‘favorite things’ show up right when you need them. Keep your eyes open and thank Him when they show up, in whatever form they come for you.