Sunday, March 18, 2012

Updates on Haiti

Natural Hairstyles of the Haitian Children

I love the way the Haitian mother’s braid their children’s hair.  The styles are neat and creatively designed.  The styles are simply beautiful, the children are BEAUTIFUL!

Physical and Political Earthquake: If should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Well last night we had a 4.6 earthquake.  I was asleep when it happened and Katie to wake me and tell me what just happened.  She was a little shaken up because she was in Haiti 2 years ago during the major earthquake.  You could feel the slight tension outside in the community.  People were talking differently than the usual laughter and conversations. There was no music. playing.  Our neighbor, the Dominican Republic, have been experiencing several small earthquakes, from about 3.0-4-4, for the past 3 or so weeks.

Plus we have some political upheavals going on.  There is a group challenging Presidan (Haitian spelling)  Martelli’s Haitian citizenship (hmmm, sounds familiar) and another group protesting for the former presidan, Aristide, to take back the Presidancy.  We were told to stay home until we hear from someone from CONASPEH.  One of the employees came home and stayed with us for a while because the streets leading to and by her home have been closed and she cannot get home.  After we heard the news of Pres. Martelli proving his citizenship, she decided to go home.  We are waiting for her to call when she gets home. She made it. Praise God!

I pulled together an emergency bag and will do weekly emergency drills so I can try to be ready.  I don’t feel bad or scared.  It is, what it is, in Haiti.  I know where I am and earthquakes as well as hurricanes as well as political  upheavals can happen at any time.  I’ll just try to be prepared the best that I can and say the prayer of my childhood.  In Haiti, it is more meaning to me:  “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” 

The CONASPEH Congress (basically a conference) was held February 24 – 25, 2012 on the land of the CONASPEH office.  Since the earthquake, they have not had a place that could hold 5,000+ people.  I surely did not think it could happen at CONASPEH.  But it did and it was wonderful!  People from the 8,000 churches that are part of CONASPEH, people from the community and travelers from America attended this Congress.  Julia Brown Karimu, Co-President of Global Ministries, was the guest speaker on Sunday.  Wonderful speakers from Haiti as well as the United States gave inspiring presentations.  Ministers and Bishops (for the first time) were ordained and the first year nursing students were capped.  The conference was free and each attendee received lunch and morning and mid-afternoon snacks.  All FREE.  The only money involved were the T-Shirts which cost $3.  All of this was held outside.  The food was cooked and served outside.  It was a WONDERFUL Congress! CONASPEH, may God continue to bless you as you continue to follow God’s leading.  Amen! 

Nursing students; a pastor that is also a midwife in his community, his church is 4 hours outside of Port-au-Prince and he has delivered over 100 babies in 20 years!  When the baby is coming, he tells the mothers to shout HALLELUJAH!!; CONASPEH Congress; Rev. Felix introducing some of us to a woman pastor, who had and still struggles with being recognized as a pastor.  Sounds familiar doesn't it sisters  in ministry.

Thank you!
Thank you to all who sent their address to be part of my newsletter mailing program.  I hope you received it by now and it is OK.  I do not have a copy of the newsletter.  Those who sent their address too late will be put on my list and hopefully receive the next newsletter in September.  Thanks again!  Love y’all!

My Apartment, Finally!
In December 2011, I finally got an apartment and spent most of the month preparing to move.  I had to purchase a refrigerator, stove, an inverter, 8 batteries, 2 beds, 2 mattresses, and 2 pillows for me and Katie-the intern.  There is a small space for the stove so I had to buy the smallest stove I’ve ever seen or used.  I live on the second floor.  It has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and is very spacious. My landlord  and his family live downstairs and they are very nice.  Before my stove and fridge were delivered, they would invite me to have meals with them. I moved to my apartment on January 2, 2012.
The topography in Haiti is very different.  To the left of the apartment are my neighbors who live in a wood house with a tin roof.  In fact, there are a many houses like that mingled with concrete houses throughout the neighborhood.  Haitians get up early in the morning to cook, wash dishes and their clothes outside.  When I get up in the morning, I can hear the women preparing food for their families.  They take a variety of fresh seasoning and smash them together to be used for whatever they are cooking.  They also smash coffee beans to make their own coffee.  I’m not a coffee drinker but the homemade coffee smells so good.  Oh yes, there is a mango, avocado and a cherry-looking  tree in front of the building.  I can almost pick a mango off the tree from my front balcony.

Two views of my kitchen, yes it is large; my bedroom, yes it is large; view from the balconey off of my bedroom; the front entrance leading upstairs to my apartment and the 1st floor apartment; the gate in front of the apartment-every living space has a big metal gate; and the CONASPEH car we use to get around Haiti.

Hope you are having a wonderful blessed Christmas with your family and friends.  I have been trying to contact my family since this morning and cannot get a connection.  Oh well, I am in Haiti.

 It is a very interestingly different Christmas for me.  First, I am not bombarded with Christmas spending, materialism, commercialism.  You do not hear about toys, gifts-cheap/expensive and absolutely no advertisement on what to buy.  I was told that if there is any money available it is use to buy food for the family.  It appears the Haitian understanding of Christmas is in sync with the biblical interpretation (NO Santa Claus). 

 Second, they celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve like we celebrate New Year’s Eve--fireworks, loud music, various street celebrations and more fireworks, all night long into the morning.  In fact, I woke this morning at 6am to the song, "How Great is Our God." That song truly kept me focus on what this blessed day is all about.   It felt wonderful to my spirit.  I attended a church a few steps from the guesthouse and I didn't understand the message, but I love the singing.

I attended my first Haitian funeral in December 2011.  It was similar to a basic funeral service in America.  However, it began at 6:30AM! That’s right, in the morning.  I got there at 6:45AM and some family members were wailing.  I haven’t experienced wailing at a funeral service since I was a little girl.  Wailing is a public display of grief usually done by women in the family or women in the community.  Some countries/cultures, hire “professional Wailers” to be part of the service.  The wailers at this funeral were members of the family.  They wailed from 6:30am to 7am and during the service.  Psychologically speaking, wailing can be considered a way of dealing with releasing emotional as well as spiritual grief. It helps the community share the grief of the family and be with the family as they journey through their healing process. I did not know the deceased, but the wailing helped me to feel the emotional pain of the family as my eyes filled with tears and I begin to quietly pray for them.  The service started at 7am and surprisingly lasted for 45 minutes.  They immediately left for the burial.  I did not get a chance to attend the burial.

Serving at CONASPEH
At CONASPEH, I serve as a teacher of Theology and the English language, and host groups from our denomination (DOC and UCC) interested in visiting and doing mission work in Haiti.  I teach English language classes to the terminal students (high school seniors), nursing students and the theology students.  All the students are excited to be learning English.  The terminal students feel that going to college and learning English will better prepare them for their future job search in Haiti.  These students have such a strong desire to continue their education.   The sad news is that most of the seniors will not be able to go to college because of limited family finances.

Classes are held outside under a tent.  Not a full tent but a tent covering.  The ground is not flat or paved. It is very dusty and rocky.  And the first time I taught, a rooster walked across the ground in front of me.  I am a city person, so you know I jumped.  I am going to try to get a picture of the roosters cutting across my classes.

It is a very busy week, but I have a wonderful time when groups come to visit and learn about CONASPEH and Haiti.  CONASPEH is a grassroots national organization of 8,000 poor Protestant churches supported by Church World Services, Global Ministries and committed churches of the Disciples of Christ (DOC), and United Church of Christ (UCC).   CONASPEH believes in liberation through education and therefore, provides an opportunity for all children to go to school in spite of their family’s financial status.  Majority of the students at CONASPEH would not have the opportunity to receive a formal education.
Some of the churches connected to CONASPEH have orphanages.  When groups come to Haiti, they visit the orphanages and mingle with children that are always happy to see visitors.  After the earthquake, many children were left without parents or a home.  My mother use to say, “God can make a way out of no way.”  That is what these poor churches do for homeless children.