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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Haiti 2013 - Day 3

All this week, I am putting aside my normal blogging and writing about our just-concluded mission trip to Haiti. Three great servants of the Lord volunteered to drive us to Atlanta in the wee hours of Saturday morning, July 6th - and then drive back to Huntsville after dropping us off. Two other folks did the same thing upon our return, and we arrived in the WHBC parking lot very close to midnight on Saturday, July 13th. Compressing a week's worth of blessings, struggles, grace, mercy, thought, and anecdote into blog-form may be difficult but I'll give it my best...

The place where we spent most of our time on campus, besides the porch where we took meals and met before heading out, was the roof of our guest house. Monday morning, I was up before dawn - which is to say before the generator shut down. I made my way up to the roof and found a bench where I could sit facing east, toward the mountains behind us. There was only a pale hint of the impending sunrise.

As I studied the Bible and prayed, I kept noticing lights winding down the dirt road that had been graded to provide the Haitians an easier way to get down (and up) the mountain. Naturally, this led me to reflect on the Haitian proverb Deye mon gen mon, which I have written about on previous Haiti blogs (click on the link under the picture to jump to one of those). In short, the proverb translates roughly as, "Beyond the mountain is another mountain."

I have to imagine that as each person wound down the mountain in the predawn darkness and then rode back up the hill at the end of the day, that proverb may have occurred to them as well.

One of the main things I noticed about being on the roof is the wind. The early verses of Psalm 104 came to mind; specifically Psalm 104:1-4. On one level, we sought the wind because it cooled us and kept the mosquitoes somewhat at bay. But in times of prayer and meditation in Haiti, there was a sense that God was on the wind, that He was listening as I and others sought Him in the dim light of dawn. I remember thinking, "We are here to serve God and the people of Haiti, and the Bible says, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."" [Matthew 18:20 (NASB)]

Monday morning, I clearly sensed God in our midst.

It's amazing how cool the early morning breezes are in Titanyen. Even driving to Bercy, our work site, the wind was really refreshing. But it didn't take long for that coolness to morph into strength-sapping, sweat-inducing heat.

The transit is a harsh task master

Still, we were all grateful that the work site at Bercy was adjacent to the water. I firmly believe that if we had been inland, it would have been ten degrees hotter; count your blessings one by one...

Trenches and gravel and re-bar, oh my!

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm not Mr. Construction. Sure, I can replace a toilet in your house or do a number of other relatively handy things, but this work was taking me to a whole other level of labor that I was unfamiliar with. Much of the ground we were digging out was moist - think Georgia clay infused with Gorilla Glue - and once we got our trenches looking clean, we had to shoot our stakes with the transit to make sure everything was at the right depth and ready for gravel. Anything that didn't measure up had to be worked again until it was level and the right depth.

For the uninitiated (of which I was one), we were digging footers - the trenches that make up a big part of a building's foundation. You make the trench, you lay down a layer of rock, you lay in re-bar ladder mesh, and then you pour concrete. We had a long week ahead of us.

So here we were, the able leading the blind (thank goodness for the patience of the construction foremen who worked with us!), and then John, the big boss, drives up and casually let's drop, "There's a tropical storm heading our way; it's supposed to get here by Wednesday afternoon. We need to get this done."

No pressure.

At some point, someone decided it was lunch time. It's funny how, when you're tired and hot, you just don't feel like eating. We refilled our water bottles and headed over to the shade of the nearby dome for some yummy PB&J sandwiches.

This photo was actually taken Wednesday, when the storm was upon us...

We made some pretty good progress on Monday; but we still had a lot to do if we were going to get the trenches ready for the Haitian crew to pour concrete. Riding back, I sat silently and listened to Jake, one of the foremen talk about college football and other sports. Somehow, it sounded so weird, riding along in the back of a bouncy work truck in Haiti, talking about the relative merits of NCAA Division I football programs. Usually I'm all over that sort of thing but on Monday it seemed so far away.

As if in preparation for Tropical Storm Chantal, we had a hard thunderstorm Monday evening after dinner. Strong winds and nearly horizontal rain but we all thoroughly enjoyed the coolness it brought after a hard day driving our shovels and pick-axes.

This might be a good place to highlight a few rules and customs for those pondering a trip to Haiti. It's pretty similar to camping I suppose but it's still different that we're used to at home...

1. Brushing teeth with the water bottle: There were thirteen of us in the room so we didn't brush teeth and things like that in the bathroom; we just went out on the back porch and stood by the low wall and used the ground below as our sink.

2. If it's yellow: One of the first rules we learned in Haiti was that, even though we had indoor plumbing, the rules here are a little different...

 - Paper goes in the garbage can next to the matter what is on the paper
 - If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down

Basically, number one does not merit a flush all by itself.

This may seem a little gross by North American standards but there are tremendous reasons for the rules. MoH used to truck all their water in. Thanks to previous teams (including ours from last year) there are now water pipes from a well up the hill that feed the camp's water supply. There are a couple of God things about this development:

First, MoH is saving in the neighborhood of $140,000 per year (that's right: one hundred and forty thousand dollars a year) by not having to buy water and have it trucked in. Think of all the other places that money can be used to help clothe, house, feed and educate local Haitians...

Second, MoH had made numerous attempts to dig a water well in years past, including in the same spot where the current well is producing water. What happened? In 2010 there was an earthquake. After that earthquake, they dug again and voila! There was now water in the exact spot they had dug before and found nothing.

God is good.


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