Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Here's another snapshot from our time in Haiti a few weeks ago....
Being a sentimental romantic sap, I love me a good wedding!!! So I was thrilled to learn the day after we arrived in Haiti, there was a wedding at the church and we were invited!! In fact, we were even asked to be the wedding photographers lol. Looking back, I am laughing at myself because when we were first invited to the wedding, Belinda and I's first reaction was "but what will we wear?" (because our luggage hadn't arrived and yet and we were pretty ripe on day 2 without clean clothes). Even though I didn't understand a word of the ceremony, I could not hold back the tears from flowing but not for the reasons one might think.
The price tag of an average American wedding is $22,000. Americans spend an alarming $72,000,000,000 annually on weddings (that's a lot of zero's). We have created a lucrative industry out of something God intended to be beautiful and sacred. The urban slang dictionary describes one aspect of this industry, known as Bridezilla, as "a new breed of soon-to-wed women who abuse the idea that weddings are their 'day.'They terrorize their bridal party and family members, make greedy demands and break all rules of etiquette, to insure that they are the single most important person on the planet from the time they are engaged to the time they are married."
Yet on that Saturday afternoon, I saw the polar opposite of an American bridezilla. Instead of a couple caught up in planning and preparations of a wedding, I saw a couple caught up in the planning and preparation of a Christ centered marriage. Everything from the decorations (which consisted only of colorful chains of links of construction paper)to the one vase of silk flowers screamed simplicity and beauty. Most of the ceremony was similar to an American wedding but just much more simple and casual. The bride and groom sit facing each other while the best man and maid of honor sit by their sides. The most beautiful sight of all was the bride and groom, best man and maid of honor, literally kneeling on the church floor in heartfelt prayer together!
After the groom and kissed the bride(and the audience erupted in laughter,) it was time to sign the marriage certificate. As the photographer lol, I wanted to capture this in a picture. But as I watched the bride struggle to hold a pen much less write her name, the picture of illiteracy in Haiti was burned on my heart as I watched the Pastor sign the bride's name for her because she could not. My heart physically ached for the bride because of what may have been the best day of her life, she was reminded of the reality that she could not read or write. I then watched the mother of bride require assistance signing her name as well and the portrait of cultural and generational illiteracy was etched onto my heart.
As an avid reader and writer, if I woke up tomorrow morning and somehow lost my ability my read and write, that would be near torture for me. Yet 55% of Haitian (more than half) can not read or write. According to UNICEF, more than half of the nation's children fail to reach the fifth grade, and only one in five young people reach secondary school. As a bachelors degree prepared nurse (who has been considering going back to school to work on my master's in nursing), I am humbled when I think about how easy my education was to access (THANKS DAD!). And as I try to wrap my mind around how different my life and the beautiful bride's life must be, I can't help but to wonder why I have been so blessed?
As my heart broke over the bride's lack of education and beautifully humble heart... I thought of quote I heard years ago.... "How many Rosa Parks or Marie Curies have we lost to poverty? How many Maya Angelous or Sandra Day O'Connors never had a chance to learn? How many Mother Teresas have lost hope due to neglect and abuse?"
Spending time in a third world country is always a dose of reality and gut check for me. It makes me wonder why I have been given the resources I have been given and what God wants to me to do about the injustices I see in the world. It also has made us examine ridiculous ways we have spent our money in the past. And yet the more time I spend in Haiti, the more I think WE can learn from THEM (instead of the reverse) and their humble nuptials are just the tip of the iceberg.
PS the morning after the big fat Haitian wedding happened to fall on a Sunday and our sweet bride and groom where spotted on the front row of church... when most couples would be on their honeymoon, they were building a marriage foundation on the rock!!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Instead of trying to condense our entire trip to Haiti in one blog... this time I am going to try to to give you snapshots of our experiences there :-)
When we went to Haiti in last November, my friend Belinda instantly fell in love with two little neighborhood boys named Ebby and Tiken. Ebby and Tiken's mother passed away several years ago and they have never known their father. When we visited in November, we found them severely malnourished and being cared for by their maternal grandmother who could barely even care for herself. Grandma worked all day at the market leaving the boys (ages 3 and 6)by themselves all day long. Belinda and her daughter Shelby felt an instant connection to the boys and after talking to her husband when they returned in December, they began pursuing adopting the boys with their grandmother's blessing.
But unfortunately their grandma moved sometime between our last visit and us going back last week. We knew they moved but we had no idea where or how to find them. Belinda had resigned herself to the fact that finding the boys and being reunited with them last week would be difficult, if not impossible.... but when we landed in Haiti we started praying that somehow God would lead us to them and she could see them if even just for a brief moment.
The first morning we were there, I asked the other neighborhood boys if they knew where Ebby and Tiken were at. One of the older boys (Watson) kept pointing in the distance and saying something but the language barrier that existed left us as clueless as to their whereabouts as ever. We eventually found a translator who told us that Watson knew where they moved but we couldn't get there by walking so we loaded up in the truck with Watson in tow, hoping and praying that somehow this kid would be able to lead us to the boys.
A few short miles away, we found a cluster of hut homes. Belinda barely waited for the truck to stop before literally jumping out and sprinting across a valley to where the hut home was. The home was empty but never underestimate a determined mom... a few seconds later, we see the boys in the distance walking back, bare naked, from bathing in the creek. And once again Belinda took off running to them. As soon as the boys realized that the "blanc" running towards them was Belinda, they too began sprinting to be reunited. The pictures above are the three of them shortly after being reunited :-)
It was a beautiful scene and I feel blessed that through my tears I was able to witness this unfolding!! It reminded me how powerful and determined a mother's heart can be. International adoption are a constant up and down roller ride of emotions that can not be described to someone who has not experienced it themselves. There are so many hurdles that an adoptive mom must cross but with the determination of a marathon runner, an adoptive mom is an unstoppable force that can not be contained!
But seeing Belinda's unwavering determination as she has faced many hurdles in this adoption already (ones that go WAY beyond them just moving), I am reminded of how RELENTLESS God was in pursuing and chasing me. He chased me when I was chasing the things of this world to find the love I so desperately needed! Belinda loves those boys so much that she will do whatever it takes for them to legally become her own children and to improve their quality of life by giving them a loving and nurturing home. God- who loves you and I so much that pursued you until you became one of his children- desires to have an intimate and life-giving relationship with you and I. And eventually, we will be at the point in our journey when we are running towards Him instead of away from Him...the more I know of His great love for me, the more I am compelled to run to Him frequently and zealously!
Please continue to pray for Belinda, Ebby, and Tiken as they continue on this journey!
Arriving at the Port Au Prince (PAP)airport can be VERY overwhelming for someone who is a PAP virgin but as we stepped off the airplane into the humid and tropical climate that greeted us Haiti, I was feeling oh so CONFIDENT. I knew what to expect after traveling there so much lately... I knew that there would be no organized exiting the aircraft and people would push their way to whatever exit struck their fancy regardless of whether it was behind them and would completely disrupt the flow of traffic. I knew to expect a long hot line going through customs where most people would completely disregard line etiquette and cut in front of you if they felt worthy. I knew that finding your luggage on the one and only baggage carousal was nothing short of a miracle and pushing your way through the hoards of anxious travelers to grab your suitcase would be difficult even for a NFL defensive linemen. I knew that a dozen men would try to carry my luggage (expecting a huge tip in return) and an ASSERTIVE "No Merci!" (aka "No thank you!") was my only hope of avoiding a hefty token of "gratitude" or outbreak of world war III. Yep knowing all this gave me a false sense of confidence that buzzing in and out of PAP would be a breeze... but I was sorely mistaken.
For starters, apparently Haiti was decided to jump on the H1N1 band wagon and even though they have a million other "legitimate" health crisis' on their hands... they now require each traveler to answer a questionnaire in customs assessing the likelihood you might be a swine flu carrier. The questionnaire is completely in French but with the help of a Creole dictionary and some savvy nursing knowledge we passed that hurdle and made our way to the baggage claim area.... only to find that half of our luggage had NOT made it's way to PAP. Being the mature and selfless person I am (lol, as if) I was thrilled to see that the luggage that had found its way to PAP was Jake's suitcases and the suitcases containing my clean clothes and toiletries (and Belinda's) were just stuck in Miami. I had to laugh at the irony of the fact that Jake's luggage made it, even though he would be perfectly happy not showering or having clean clothes all week, but mine didn't and I am the biggest hyigenetically correct, clean freak, germ- a- phob- person you will ever meet. Not gonna lie, I REALLY thought I needed clean clothes and deordant at that point but God knew what we truly needed and in His providence and faithfulness provided.
Yet this lost luggage was our first opportunity to taste God's faithfulness on the trip.... you see Jake had packed the TB test vials and syringe's in his suitcase. The vials were ice packed and needed to be refrigerated. If his luggage had not made it to PAP, due to lack of refrigeration, we would not have been able to test anyone for TB and our sole purpose of the trip would have failed miserably. In allowing Jake's suitcase containing the iced vials to make it to PAP, God's providence was once again meeting us at every step of our journey.
Last week, Jake finished up a series with the youth group called "Do Hard Things". Something he said last Wednesday really resonated with me... he said that "God is WAY more concerned about growing in my faith and relationship with Him than in my momentary comfort and pleasure!!" God never promised us a comfortable life and if we choose comfort over our calling, we just might miss out on some of the greatest adventures of our life!!
The lost luggage and my resulting brief moment of being uncomfortable (and quite stinky and dirty) was totally worth it because it allowed me to be stretch in faith and trust in His providence a little more. It also allowed to feel just a little of what it must be like to walk in the shoes of those we served... and for that I am so thankful!! And was even more thankful when our luggage arrive last the next night and I was able to shower 48 hours later :-)
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this rough one of me might just be pretty valuable.... and you could smell me from a mile away at that point as well.
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Philippians 4:19,20
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Last week, Jake and I went on an impromptu medical mission trip to Haiti along with another dear friend of ours named Belinda who is also a nurse. Early the previous week, Pastor Yves (the missionary we support in Haiti) called and shared with us the heart breaking news that one of the little orphans girls has been diagnosed with TB. GVCM needed a few nurses to come down and test all of the children at living the orphanage and the adult staff who work there as well. We were able to perform TB skin test on about 100 people in the community (orphanage and deaf school), of the 100 we tested, 17 had a positive TB skin tests. Those who tested positive and have accompanying symptoms (night sweats, fever, weight loss, cough etc)will now have chest x-rays and sputum cultures done to identify what kind of TB they may have. All the children and staff are now being treated prophylactic with INH for three months since they all have been exposed.
Haiti has the highest per capita tuberculosis burden in Latin American and the Caribbean. After HIV/ AIDS, TB is the country's greatest infectious cause of mortality in BOTH children and adults. Because of the malnourishment that exist among the Haitian population, their immune systems are weakened making them even MORE vulnerable to TB related deaths . A leading killer of children in Haiti, tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ of the body, but is usually found in the lungs. Because the bacteria that cause tuberculosis are transmitted through the air, the disease can be quite contagious. Tuberculosis thrives in conditions of poverty and overcrowded living conditions (that exist in housing such as the orphanage). Strong stigma and cultural barriers attached to TB make case detection and adherence to treatment VERY difficult.
Even though we had little time to prepare and plan for this trip, God was completely faithful to us. It's impossible to summarize all the amazing ways we tasted God's faithfulness and saw his glory on display through what we experienced in one blog so I think I'll take my time and just share a little at a time instead of condensing it all to one blog note.... But one thing that always amazes me is how at home I feel in Haiti. I am one of the biggest girly girls you will ever meant so spending time in a third world country is soooo far beyond my comfort zone it's not funny. Yet when I step off that plane I feel like I am coming home. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would feel soooo at home in a third world country but I do. Being there feels so out of my element but feels like home at the same time. And even as I write this now, my heart hurts as it longs for Haiti....