Monday, October 27, 2014

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Have you ever been offered food that you turned your nose up at? Maybe it was something sweet, but you were craving savory. Maybe It was too light, and you were wanting something more substantial. Or maybe...It was a peanut butter sandwich, and you just weren't in the mood.

Today, we were tasked with delivering lunch to several elderly people in Titanyen. The translation of the city's name? Less than nothing. Before leaving, we made up several peanut butter sandwiches. A simple meal, but one we'd  been advised their stomachs could handle. We bought a few cartons of orange juice too, which we poured into paper cups. Something refreshing to wash their meal down with. Our tap tap drove through the hotter than hot desert climate,  and eventually turned off the road, onto a bumpy, gravel and weed padded down path, lined tightly with one room shacks made of cement and metal. As we jumped off the back of the tap tap, we were greeted with eager neighborhood children, all hopeful and curious of what we came bearing. I quickly concealed the sandwiches under my shirt, knowing they were intended for the specific elders we were delivering to. One of the most painful things about Haiti is coming to learn you can't meet every smiling, desperate face with a so needed physical gift, be it food or drink.

The first shack fell below my expectations, as I crossed through the crooked door into a dark, dirty and small room. Greeted by Marie, a 104 year old women who sat on the filthy hard floor staring straight ahead and smiling. No entertainment in the form of TV, radio, crafts, etc. No comfort except the thin blanket that separated her frail bones and housecoat from the floor where she sat. Yet sadly, she knew nothing different.

After each home we visited, my role as conductor of the greeting wagon, bearing the sandwich became harder and harder. My optimistic smile slowly became forced and a lump in my throat quickly formed after every home and life we peeked inside of. Eventually, our group moved onward into the fourth home. We were welcomed into Aloude's home, a bit more spacious and bright than the past few.  Her children and grandchildren followed her and us closely inside. After a brief greeting via our translator, I handed the peanut butter sandwich to Aloude.  Sometimes it's uncomfortable giving away something  like a peanut butter sandwich, which to us, feels small and minimal. But Aloude very graciously accepted it and within a few seconds began ripping the sandwich into pieces, dispersing it amongst her many wide eyed, hopeful grandchildren until there was nothing left. At that point, my heavy eyes could no longer hold their tears. Amongst the  deep poverty and despair in Titanyen  lies selflessness, love and generosity deeper than any I've ever witnessed. Which all stemmed...from a peanut butter sandwich.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Haiti is a baffling intellectually, unbelievable sensory experience in terms of sights, sounds, and smells, and an intensely emotional overload.  It is a spiritual journey of biblical proportions and an opportunity to feel more alive, more gratitude, and more love than one can imagine while trying to serve the people of Haiti.
Wayne Jeffrey
October 25

Yesterday our team went to two amazingly beautiful orphanages where the children are well cared for and loved.  

It brought me back to my first mission trip to Haiti in 2010.  On that trip we visited two very poor, run down orphanages.  At one of these orphanages I met a young man of about 11 years old.  We hugged, played and bonded for a life time. In his eyes I could feel the hope of having a mother to call his own. His smiles were addicting.  He was fun and played joyfully with the other children.  Fast forward 6 months when I returned once again to the same orphanage.  As soon as I jumped down from the tap tap the boys went running to find my “ Haitian son”.  They brought him to me smiling and he was once again full of joy.  Between playing soccer with his friends he would run to me for  hugs and love.  

Now, fast forward to yesterday, October 25, 2014.  It has been over a year since I was last here in Haiti.  Today we visited his new orphanage, which is outstandingly beautiful.  A castle on the hill overlooking the city below.  The children were all busy with the events of that day and I had been wandering around the complex for awhile.  As I glanced up to the top of the hill where the children were taking part in the days events, I  saw to boys staring down at me.  One was pointing toward me for the other to see.  My heart leaped because I knew it was my boy.  The next few minutes will be replayed in my heart forever.  Our hearts instantly connected and we walked quickly to one another and embraced.  This time his eyes were sad.  I could feel his lack of hope that one day I could be his mother.  Tears were in his eyes, as we both told one another that we loved each other.    That’s when I became shattered.  My heart and soul hurt to the very core.   I would love nothing more than to be his mother.  In my heart I am.  But it hurts so desperately much!!!!!!

I know we are not supposed to bond to one orphan over another, but it just happened.  The other children know of our bond and make sure to always bring us together. No matter how much time passes, our life long relationship will always be.

I believe our whole team has been amazed and shattered at different times in different places on the trip this week.  We leave our hearts here in Haiti with the Haitian people.  They will always be with us as we travel back to the United States.  

“I am a shattered person amazingly used by God”

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday October 24      “Kids”

Today we went, as in the bible, “up the mountain.” Two hours in the tap-tap truck, through another city in Haiti at a higher elevation, still obviously Haitian but much more upscale and bourgeois than anything we have seen here. Yet we drive still higher till the pavement ends and only a rough pathway up the mountain remains. As we crawl along in the tap-tap, we are passed by people walking faster than we can drive. Creeping along with mere inches to spare to the edge of the mountain, we are passed by a small motorcycle carrying 12 “kid” goats, 6 per side. 
At long last, we arrive at Reiser Heights School, climb out of the truck, and are awed by the magnificent vista looking down the mountainside to a huge lake in the distance. As we make our our way into the school of 340 students we are met with smiles that melt our hearts. The students dressed in their crisp uniforms come to us with hugs and high-fives and the younger ones hold our hands and jump into our willing arms. Each classroom is filled with children eager to learn and behaving as obedient, respectful students.

As we move from classroom to classroom, the children flock to us unconditionally. Even though words fail us with a language barrier, the language of smiles and hugs and affection break through with no problem at all. The school is emptied to the schoolyard and an inspirational, joyous singalong is begun with the students, translators and mission team.

Too soon, it is time to leave these lovely, loving young children and load us up in the tap-tap for the trip back “home” to Port-au-Prince. As we think and reflect about our trip and all we have seen so far and the things about  which we have learned, changes for the better very likely will be effected by the educated people. The people of the future--the kids.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“I thirst” 
In the chapel in which we celebrated Mass today, the words, “I thirst”  were affixed to the wall next to the crucifix.  These were some of the final words uttered by the Lord as he hung upon the cross.  With arms outstretched, Jesus spoke of the very human need to satisfy physical thirst.  But, his words also revealed the heart of God’s plan of salvation, a divine thirst that each person lean into God’s loving and merciful embrace.

We spent the rest of the day attempting to satisfy thirst - human and divine.  We met the Reiser Relief water truck in Cite Solei, a portion of Port-au-Prince that many regard as the poorest area in the world.   Most of us agreed with that assessment.  The conditions were horrendous.  One of our group described the conditions as “subhuman”.   The truck honked the horn, alerting the people that the water truck had arrived.  The people, mostly women and children, arrived at the truck with various size buckets to collect water.  Several girls and women picked up buckets full of water, placed the buckets on their heads, and walked to their homes.   They then hustled back to the truck and repeated this routine several times.  The team helped others carry the buckets to their homes, which gave us a different look into their lives.  Hopefully, the water in these buckets went toward satisfying the human thirst for at least one day.

Our team was also privileged to participate in God’s plan of announcing His divine thirst for them, especially the children.  They flocked to us, some with dirty clothes and some with no clothes at all.  They raced to us, wanting to be held, to be embraced, to be loved.  What a joy to welcome them into our arms, sometimes a child in each arm and one on the back.  God was thirsting for them and used our outstretched arms to reveal that thirst, that they would know of His intense, personal and eternal love for them.

But, God was also revealing his thirst for the team members.   The children approached us with outstretched arms, inviting us into their embrace, into His embrace.  At that moment, amidst such difficult conditions, we needed to be reminded of God’s thirst for us, of his intense, personal and eternal love for us.  We needed to lean into his merciful embrace, which was accomplished through the outstretched arms of the poorest of children.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sick and Dying Babies

The lobby was a hot, open room with a tiled floor and a dozen mothers and fathers holding their sick, dying, and crying babies. Some were nursing. Some were sleeping quietly in their parents' arms. All were painfully innocent, and had succumb to more pain and suffering in their short lives than any adult I have ever known. 

We had arrived at the aptly named home for “sick and dying babies”. 

Once our collection of donations had been wheeled in, we gingerly made our way through the lobby and to the grounds. Beyond the lobby lie countless sick children. Some are orphans, but most live there due to a lack of proper medical care at home. Babies cried in their cribs, their bodies too thin to hold up poorly fitting cloth diapers that hung low off their hips. There were older kids too. Playing with blocks, or sheepishly making their way over to us in a hope to be noticed. Of course, we were happy to oblige. We held them, fed them, played with them, and gave them the special attention that a handful of overworked and underappreciated nuns and workers couldn’t always provide. 

One young man in an orange Tigger shirt took a liking to me. I don’t know if it was my smiling face or sweaty shoulder he was using for a pillow. Either way we were a good fit, and saying goodbye was more difficult than I expected.

Today was surreal. There wasn’t our jobs, or bosses. There were no tall buildings, no morning commute. There was nothing for us to grab on to to define “reality” as we knew it. There were only people. Babies, kids, sisters and workers, and a loving group of Americans that, for a couple hours, held and fed sick and dying babies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reality Becomes Personal

Yesterday reality stared us in the face.  Today we got to touch it.  Fifteen of us just finished debriefing the day.  We were all asked to share one word that reflected our feelings of the experience we encountered.  Our words were diverse ranging from “incomprehensible” to “joy” to “touch”.  Let me explain the diversity.  
Yes, all of us are struck by the dire conditions. We drove for over 3 hours today and everywhere we went, the view was the same (no “it gets better around the corner.”)  The other words reflected the “personal” experience.  
This morning we were on the road by 9:00 heading to a home for sick and dying.  While there we all gave massages to people of all ages.  For the woman, we also painted their nails if they wanted.  That’s where reality become personal.  It’s hard to describe the joy you see on someone’s face when the comfort of cool lotion is rubbed on their skin or their feet and shoulders and arms massaged. The smiles and the eyes which say thank you are priceless and memorable.  (As my son said before I left on this trip “mom - smiles overcome any language barrier”.  He was right). 
The afternoon took us to the Village of Jesus a home for abandoned aging women.  Here we feed them lunch with our homemade peanut butter sandwiches and orange juice (which were a huge hit.)  We then again did our “spa treatment”.  This is when “touch” begin to resonant with us newbies (first mission trip).  Touch is something that gives others respect.  We quickly learned showing people they are special through touch is powerful.  People just want to know they matter.  
As all of us head to bed exhausted from the days experience (and heat) what appears to be the most dominate feeling or thought is this.  As one of the group put it “we are all special in God’s eyes.  When we touch others sincerely trying to make them feel special, they are the ones who make us feel special”.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oct 20: Haiti: The Concept Becomes Reality

4:30 am:  MSP airport, 30 50-pound suitcases with donations from baby clothing to health supplies, 15 carry-ons, 15 back packs, and 15 teal-shirted travelers eager with anticipation.
2:30 pm: Port-au-Prince airport, same 30 suitcases....15 carry ons...15 back packs....and 15 teal shirted travelers jamming into a mini bus called a Tap Tap - looking similar to the "how many clowns can we get in the tiny car" circus act.
4:30 pm:  Arrive at our new home - bags down, and off to buy some supplies in that same clown car, and our first chance to see the streets of Haiti.  What we experienced:
-  People carrying huge loads of "wares" on their heads, including water
-  Selling any and everything on the street - including mattresses duct-taped to the dirty fences lining the street
-   Several LOTTO stores (gambling)
-  A man urinating on the street
-  A grocery store not that different from "the states"
-  Traffic - chaos, gridlock, pick up truck-taxis jammed full of Hatians, bouncing up and down - HARD on the streets - us too.
-  Boys  about 10 years of age jumping on to the back of our moving bus/tap tap - sticking their hand through the security screen in the back of the bus begging for anything we might give.
-  An evening of tired travelers feeling a sense of oneness around a table prepared with shepard pies and then getting our "gear" (donations and food) ready for tomorrow.
-  Last prep: our heads and hearts.  A deep breath, a catch in our throats:  first stop - hospital for sick and dying - Carrefour.  Our job:  get up close and personal - as in - rub lotion on the elderly that are in need of loving touch.  Stop #2:  Village of Jesus in Leogane:  Home for Elderly Abandoned Women.  Assignment:  Love them up thru serving lunch, mass, singing/music, and washing their feet.
Nothing like jumping feet first into the deep end.
Here goes...