Thursday morning stole upon us quietly, just as each one before it had done. As I rolled out of bed, deftly negotiating the white netting which protected me from the midnight blood suckers, I thought to myself, "Three days of construction work hasn't taken the toll on me that I expected."
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. [Isaiah 40:29]
Still, I felt the need to stretch and exercise in preparation for the day which loomed mysteriously, our fate entwined with the path of Tropical Storm Chantal. Were we going to bunker down? Were we going to be called upon for disaster relief? I listened to the morning as I slipped a Bible and toothbrush into my backpack. There was a slight breeze blowing through the mosquito netting which covered the doorway, and I could still hear the distant drone of the big diesel generator. Everything sounded normal...
Where was Chantal?
I made my way up to the roof and found all the wooden benches turned upside down and placed neatly in rows, side by side. Those wonderful interns had taken care of some storm preparations after we had dozed off last night. Bless them.
However, absent a strong morning breeze, I could detect no threatening signs of impending doom in the morning sky. It seemed overcast, but the glowering thunderheads of yesterday afternoon did not bulge menacingly from the pre-dawn darkness as I would have expected.
I picked up a bench and carried it over to my favorite spot - the one that allowed me to lean against one of the stone supports and lift my eyes to the east in anticipation of another beautiful sunrise. As day broke, the scattered clouds fled and Chantal was - apparently - no more. I marveled at how God had spared Haiti from what would've been a pretty serious tropical event. Others will have different opinions of why the storm drifted off to the south and died somewhere in the Caribbean, but as the cool breeze came down off the mountain, I knew.
A day like any other day...
At breakfast, we spoke to Derek (our intern) and we had a choice to either go and help with Bible school - which had been running all week - or help out down at the Depot, which also serves as the Motor Pool/Garage. Having been in Haiti twice before to teach Bible school (among other things), I was pulled in that direction, but I knew that one of the key benefits of Bible school would be missing: relationships.
There had been a team of people working Bible schools all week, both at the main MoH campus and up at Bercy. I didn't want to "do" Bible school this morning just to check a box. I wanted to serve where God called me to serve. Amazingly, this ended up being helping Kirk and Jonathan in the Motor Pool. My friends will know that I am NOT a mechanic.
From my earliest attempts at being handy with my older brother's Erector Set to working on my bicycles and even today, if I take something apart and put it back together, I'll have parts left over. Maybe that's why God wanted me to work with Kirk and Jonathan - they were handy men who can sit there and figure out how something works and take a bucket of parts that the Depot supervisor gave us and put them back together.
"Can you guys get this starter working for that Polaris ATV over there?"
Jonathan replies, "We'll give it our best shot."
The Depot Supervisor hands us a pile of metal and wires and walks off.
Kirk takes the pile and, while Jonathan and I are working on a 4-wheeler with a sticky throttle and high idle, works out how they go back together to create an actual Polaris starter. It was pretty exciting when we hooked a 12-volt battery charger up to that sucker and the rotor started spinning. I was among men!
After lunch I had another decision to make: head back to the Motor Pool or join up with the team from North Carolina (Derek's other charges for the week) and ride out to Cabaret for some more Village Time. I had a productive morning in the Motor Pool but felt God calling me to get on the bus and go to Cabaret.
There is still work to be done...
We parked in front of an empty school and disembarked. We had enough folks to divide into two teams and as people began to congregate in their comfortable peer groups, something felt wrong. We had worked with Debbie, Deborah, Vince and the rest of the North Carolina team when we had visited Guitton; they were great people and I felt like we needed to mix things up a little bit as we prepared to walk the city of Cabaret. With our translator Emmanuel, a new intern (Deon), Debbie, Vince, Sheila (from NC), and myself and Keith from WHBC, we set off.
Emmanuel was more knowledgeable of the local area and was our guide as well as translator. We stopped at an open gate down the street a ways and he asked someone inside if we could come in and talk to them. After receiving an affirmative, we all entered the small courtyard of what seemed like a two-story apartment building. There were several ladies present and a couple of young children. The ladies insisted on gathering chairs for us on a tiny porch, so we all squeezed in. Introductions were made all around and after some small talk one of the ladies - whose name sounded like Sheila - asked us the big question: Why are you in Haiti?
What a huge question! I will say right here for anyone who feels the call to missions - regardless of where that call leads - having an answer to the why are you here question is something that needs to be clear before you set foot on the plane.
There are two categories into which I put the answers to that question - and we discussed them both with Sheila and the other ladies who were present.
- Spiritual: The easy answer is that God calls us to be there. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus clearly instructs all believers to take the Gospel and share it. The where is between you and God.
- Practical: The practical answer can get lengthy but Isaiah 58 is a great place to start. In fact there are so many places in the Bible where God instructs us to care for our brothers and sisters, you will be hard pressed not to stumble over one if you spend any time at all in God's Word.
We tried to articulate both of these as best we could to Sheila and the others who were present. One of the great things about Mission of Hope is their commitment to the communities around their campus and beyond. We heard a true story on the first day we were in Haiti. The story illustrated a time right after the Earthquake in 2010; hundreds of thousands of people were affected as individuals, families, businesses and even the government struggled to function in the aftermath. But there were businesses that survived and were attempting to meet their community's needs. One such was a man who sold fresh water. He had been in business for years and his livelihood centered around his water business - that was how he fed his family.
Yet, after the earthquake, pallets and pallets of bottled water were shipped to Haiti by people all over the world who only desired to offer some help to all the many who were thirsty. Well-meaning organizations began giving this water away for free to everyone, even those who could still afford to buy water. With a seemingly endless supply of fresh, clean, free water, no one wanted to buy the water the local businessman was selling. Why would they when they could get as much as they needed for free?
Eventually, the man's water business was out of business, and another need was created where before had been a self-sufficient man providing for his family.
"Why are you in Haiti?" Sheila asked.
I was there because God has called me to lay down my vacation time, my knowledge and abilities, my money, my self, and go to Haiti to serve Him and to serve the people who need to re-establish their independence. I don't know where I will go next year, if I will serve with MoH again or partner with another organization. In His good time I expect God will let me know. Until then, I pray for Sheila, for Mr. Evans and for all the Haitian people.