Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No water

Day 1 of VBSBehind the walls of this hotel compound, we live, laugh, shower, almost, just almost, feels like summer camp. Except, we use bottled water to brush our teeth and eat fried goat. A rooster wakes us up with a cock-a-doodle-do. It's like the movie Dirty Dancing. There are no hammocks and line dance classes. But there is one long table and chairs to sit in. Every meal is eaten outside on the veranda. Breakfast this morning was spagetti noodles, eggs with ham, avacado, banana...and there's always a jar of peanut butter.

But once you leave the walls of this compound, another world exists. One of survival. One of the eternal search for water and an escape from the heat. We all climb into the old, cracked-seat, dirty van and slide the windows open. The manual transmission van jerks to a start and we coast through the gate of the compound. Leaving our comfortable hotel and 'luxury' behind. We head to the children to day one of Vacation Bible School.
We make the 15 minute drive to the church/work site. But the drive is a National Geographic article. Women walking with baskets on their heads that must weigh as much as my two-year-old. A child brushes her teeth standing on the dusty, rocky ground at the edge of the road. Motorcycles packed with so many people that the tires are weighed down and their feet drag the ground. I chuckle to myself that we are in the HOV lane, like Atlanta traffic. Every truck is filled with anywhere from 10-25 people. They are literally hanging on for dear life. At least I think I would be. They appear to be clinging on, without much thought. I suppose this is how they have traveled all their lives. The dust swirls around us and the uneven road goes on lanes, no lights, no lines, no shoulder....just pot holes, rock piles and road construction.
We pull up to the job site. No kids. No tent. Hmmmm.
We've been told not to underestimate the Haitian people.
So, I don't.
Sure enough...out of the back alleys...around corners come huge logs and men with shovels. They dig deep holes and raise the logs. They fasten tarp to the logs, creating a place of shade. They even give us 2 tarp walls. Our 'VBS room' was constructed in no time, and with absolutely no problem. I feel so happy to have the shade.
Children start arriving. They flip-flip-flip over the silly bands! They've never seen them before, but they freak over them. Me and the VBS team had a couple dozen on each arm. It may have been the best thing we could have ever done. It immediately broke the ice with the kids. They swarmed us. Some were patient, most WEREN'T. I would put a silly band on one arm and they'd stick out the other. I was so focused on taking the silly bands off of me and putting them on one of the 34 arms that were 2 inches from took me a while to see the little stinkers with an arm with 5 or 6 bands on it behind their back as they extended the other bare arm for me to see.
These children LOVE love. Just like my children. They want to be talked to. They want to be touched. And they want to touch. When you ask their name in Creole, they answer very formally, very seriously and very quickly. But they give you their entire full name. First, middle, last....which sounds a bit like an enormous amount of letters, syllabuls and words. I lean in. A name. I want to get it.

'The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.' John 10:2-3
As soon as they understand my name, they call to me. 'Jhen Kneeee' and when I turn to them, they smile and begin to talk to me in French Creole. I don't know what they are saying. So at first we are timid. Them and me. We use body language. I rub them. I pat them. Fist bump them. I touch their faces. I melt when I look in their soft brown eyes. They laugh. I laugh. I pray, 'Break my heart Lord for what breaks your heart.' But strangely, I don't think this is it. Here it seems, the Lord sees a group of dirty, hungry, sweet, precious children.
I am so grateful to be in their presense.
To hug them, touch them. Hold their hands.
They giggle at me and smile a smile I don't know if I've ever seen before...It is a smile of complete childlike joy.

'Perfect love casts out fear.' 1 John 4:18
I think it's a face I saw once, when Carlisle was 3-years-old and we were at Disney. But the object of her affection was something not-real. A fake princess.
'And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.' Colossians 3:14

My darling sweet one, Wilda. I'm starting to get it. God didn't put me in Haiti to do anything BUT show God's love.
'We love because he first loved us.' 1 John 4:19
And so, I do.
And do.
And do.
Sometimes we are under the tarp, but with little breeze and 200 kids in an area smaller than my living room, it's HOTTER than HOT.
I sweat through my shirt and then sweat more. The sweat here is in motion. It rolls and rolls. There is no water. Today, somehow, our cooler full of bottled ice water has disappeared and we are all fading fast.
We dance with them. I laugh. They laugh. We dance somemore. Shaking your booty appears to be funny in every language. I brought my iPhone full of songs and a speaker so that I can blast the music. It's not really loud enough for a couple hundred kids and I forget to take it off the setting 'shake to shuffle'. So, as I'm dancing, it's switching songs. I turn it off and we just dance. I teach them Evelyn's favorite dancing song, We are the Dinosaurs. They teach us some song where you dance around a paper plate on the ground. We have NO clue what we are doing, but we are doing. They smile. They crowd around us. I think I want to stay here a month. I wonder why this trip is only for a week. I have a girl crush on our translator, Kally.
She's a dancing, translating, kid hugging, smiling, laughing, SWEATING machine. She clearly feels about the kids the way I do. She's saucy. Like a saucy, Haitian, 24-year-old Evelyn. She loves the Lord. And the girl can DANCE.The sun has become my source of constant reminder of how life here is SO VERY VERY simple. Stay out of it.
Find water.
Somehow I manage to uncling the 19 little ones who have slung themselves over my arms, legs, waist, clinging to my shirt, pants, holding my hands...making it near impossible to walk. I go next door to the church /construction site. I stop inbetween two 2x4's and breathe. It's so hot... I seriously am about to pass-out. I fake a smile and hope that someone has found water or gone to get some. We've been playing in the sun with the kids for hours now...I ask the construction team if they have any water.
There's 1/4 of hot coke left in the bottom of a random bottle sitting on the ground.
I ask them if I could please drink it.
I don't wonder whose it is. I don't ask. And I don't care. It's hot.
But it's wet.
I take a sip.
I ask those around if anyone wants the rest, or can I finish it. They don't. I drink it all the way down.
When I walk back over to our new blue tarp home, I feel terrible.
Terrible that I can sneak somewhere and sip a drink. Even a hot drink.
Terrible that I don't have enough to share. All of a sudden I want Jesus here. To break the loaves and the fishes and feed our little 5000. But of course, Jesus IS here. Message from Brian: Evelyn's prayer for you this morning, "Dear God, thank you for Mommy and that she go, and that she help the mommys and daddy's that don't have brothers." Maybe she's a little off on her details...but she's got the jist.
We do arts and crafts. Each child gets a visor, and a plate with the words 'Jesi remman ou' on it. 'Jesus loves you.' And stickers to decorate it. We hand out coloring sheets. They DIG coloring. And, they are incredibly good at it. I notice that the older teenagers really get into the coloring...
Linda shares her heart and love of Christ with the children and gives an 'invitation'. That, if they do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but would like to, come forward. Not one or two jump up and come forward, like 40 come. The language barrier is tough with only 3 translators.
Jesus prays in the book of John for all believers...
'Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.' John 17:24
I agree Jesus! I want these little Haitian sweet ones in heaven. I want to say in heaven, 'I know you! I remember you! We met in Haiti.'
I stoop and talk to the children that have come forward. I kneel right there in the dirt. I tell them that Jesus loves them. That God sent Jesus to save them from their sins. Victoria tells them we are here because we love you. They are in the dirt with us. Sitting. Listening. I wish I knew what they are thinking about us gringos.

The little baby girl from church. I am rethinking her age. I remember Brian saying that because of malnutrition, they are much smaller than American children. Maybe she's two. I pick her up, she's SOLID. She actually weighs more than my almost 3 year-old.
The men of the church are STERN. If the kids get out of line, they whip their belt off of their pants. It works...the kids listen.

Brian leaves me a message on Facebook today: 'Jennie my love! It's me Bri! I saw your posts and my eyes filled with tears. A slew of emotions ran through me, but the biggest of them all was "now she knows!" Now she knows what those children are like. Now she knows those orphan's faces. Now she knows why Jesus and His commands to serve and help the poor have changed me so much. Now she knows what ture poverty is. Soak it up baby. You are about to be changed forever. Dont ever forget the faces of those little girls there. Watch how they worship. Your babies are great! I am really enjoying this time with them. Crazy baths, water fights, tickle fights, and a few small "accidents". We are great, but we miss you badly.

More to come...


Kathleen said...

I love you! you explained it JUST how it was! your amazing =]

Nic said...

Blown away!

Jones Family said...

Love it. Thank you for your honesty and rawness.