The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spiteful People, Changed Plans, and Rescued Kids

We went to the tent village in the slum area of Port-Au-Prince today to check on some children we found last week.  We were told by a local clinic that there were a couple of families of children whose parents died in the quake that were basically living on their own.  As soon as we arrived, last Tuesday we immediately found the kids in question.

A litlle girl in a tattered dress approached with her face covered in dried blood carrying a naked, filthy baby.  She looked to be about 5  years old but her missing front teeth clued us in that she was probably a little older.  She said she fell down the day before and hit her head on a rock.  No one was around to nurse the gaping wound.  The baby was a little boy, quick to smile even through his apprehension of a big white man playing with him. 

Another little girl with all the signs of malnutrition and worm infestation stood naked nearby, a sister in the same situation only clothed in tatttered clothes held her close.  We assumed we had found the orphaned children.  As I inquired from the gathering adults about the family the stories were inconsistent.  Finally word slipped out that there was a mother and she slept somewhere nearby.  I sent for her.  When she came up you could see that someone had tipped her off about the "blancs" asking about her children.  She quickly informed me that she was a single mom living in the tents since the quake with no one to care for her babies.  Not even a look of concern for the festering wound on her little girl's head. 

She claimed to have 3 kids so I asked about the third and a little girl darted off to find her.  A few minutes later she returned with a naked toddler with no hair and distended belly, naked and filthy.  "I found her playing in the street" she explained, happy about her accomplishment for tracking down the child no one had known was missing.  

As we inquired further we discovered from other sources that there is indeed a father that comes around when he can although he does not take any care of the kids.  I felt we could not do anything until we talked to the father and no one seemed to be of much help contacting him. 

The other two little girls belonged to another woman that quickly showed up on the scene. She told us that she had 4 kids with a man that was killed in the quake and that she also inherited his other two kids from another woman that suffered the same fate.  She claimed to have no way of providing for them and wanted us to take them.  I told her that we would return in a week after some prayer and giving them time to set up a meeting with the father.  So we decided to wait on God to reveal His plan.We left with heavy hearts knowing the kids would spend more time in conditions that would cause people to be arrested in the U.S. if they treated their DOGS that way.  Much less God's precious children.

So that brings us to today.  We had contacted the mother of the 3 children and asked her to set up for the father to meet us today.  When we arrived there  was no father or mother just the three kids playing in the dirt.  They quickly sent a friend to try to track down the mother.  When she arrived we asked about the father.  She adamantly explained that she had talked to him and he wanted us to take the children.  I insisted on talking to him so she left to fetch the supposedly unreachable father.  After thirty minutes of  playing with the kids, the father came.  I explained the situation and how the mother wanted us to take the children because she could not care for them.  I asked what he wanted.  He hesitated and explained that he understood the situation and would like for me to take the children so they would have a better opportunity to live a healthy life. 

So then the other mother shows up with the 6 kids.  She tells me she wants me to take all 4 of her biological children.  I told her that we felt we needed to help the smallest two children.  After about 30 minutes of trying to figure out the many lies that were being told we decided we were going to just take the three original children.  This other mom had lied and only the father of 2 of the children had died, but that is not the two she most wanted to get rid of.  She had a teenage boy that skipped school and gave her problems and if we didn"t take him we weren't taking any.  That was fine with me.  Then she decided to convince the father of the other three that the little baby, 15 months old, did not need to go.  The mother disagreed and wanted us to take the baby.  But the spite won out and the father decided to make the mother keep the baby even though she does not want it and he is not there to care for it.  After a very thorough explaination of my opinion of that situation, we took the two precious jewels and loaded the bus bound for The Mission.

The situation did not turn out exactly like we had planned.  But we are grateful.  Little 7 year old Naica  will have her wounded head and heart cared for in love along with her 3 year old sister Kimberly.  Although our heart breaks for 15 month old Marckenly we rest in the fact that the Lord is in charge.  The first ride in an automobile started out exciting for little Naica but turned quickly as car sickness set in.  We are arriving now in the mission just before dark.  Their first night in a bed.  Their first shower.  Their first secure night surrounded by love and compassion. 

These are the first children we have taken into the mission that are not true orphans.  But I know they were worse off than most orphans.  A mentally unstable or uncapable mother and absent father left them living in a tent village vulnerable to vile predators of the kind we don't talk about in civilized society.  So our plans were modified to an extent.  Those of you that know us, know that Josie, Judah, Jaxon, and Justice all came from bad situations but not as orphans.  We trust God will put these new little ones into homes where love and protection are the norm and God's plan is revealed. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cracked and Broken

Have you ever had a time when God seemed to pull you to the side and whisper into your ear, "Let me show you something"? I had one of those moments today.
Cracked and Broken Lives All Around Us.

They are a bother to us. An annoyance in our day. It's the homeless man in Charlotte. It's the hitch hiker on the interstate. It's the pregnant teenager. It's the folks that are bringing down the property value in our neighborhood. You know the ones. The Mexican or Asian family down the street with 6 families and one car with no insurance. The crazy women that is always at the grocery store the same time I am. It's the trailer park crowd with the broken screen door and Buick on blocks in the drive. It's the hoodlums on the corner in the "bad" part of town. It's the guy that is always asking me for a ride. It's the old women that smells funny and really gives me the creeps. It's the crowd in the Emergency room when I really do have an emergency. It's the line outside the welfare office.

For us here it's the crowds outside our gate. It's the ones coming at 6 in the morning looking for food or begging for work. The throngs of single moms that don't take care of their children. It's the absent fathers that don't work. It's the swindlers. It's the beggars. It's the pimps. It's the prostitutes. It's the dirty. It's the smelly. It's the con men.

But they are so lucky we are here. Because since God made us smarter, and wiser, and Godlier, and better we can give them a "hand up". We can give them the stuff that we don't need any more. We can serve them some food at the homeless shelter and just our smile will light up their day. "It's the least I can do". I will make friends with one of them so that they will accept Jesus. He is the only hope "those people" have.

Before Joy left for the states we stopped beside the busy street in Port Au Prince to look at a local artisan's display of furnishings and vessels. He takes broken glass and tiles and makes tables and chairs and pots etc. Joy asked him to make her something out of broken mirrors. She showed him what she wanted and he happily agreed to do it. I passed by today and saw it hanging on the block wall by the road stopped to check it out.

It did not turn out like I had hoped. Several of the pieces of mirror were messed up and the dimensions were not like we had told him. I took a picture of the bad pieces of mirror to show Joy so she would know why I did not buy it from the guy. The street vendor. The peddler. The nuisance.

When I got home I went to look at the picture and that is when God pulled me aside. I had looked at the broken mirror before but when I got home God showed me the reflection of the man. His reflection was through the cracked mirrors. The missing pieces. The dirt on the surface. But God showed me that He sees us all that way. We are all broken. Cracked. Dirty. It turns out that there is not a scale of who's dirtier...or more broken...or more cracked. We are called to just love all of His cracked children.

You see that item Joy had the guy make was this cross. It was as though God was reminding me that we are to look at everyone in the reflection of the cross. We are to see His children as He sees them. We are to see them as Jesus saw them when He was on the cross. As precious. As valuable. As cherished. Each and every one. Yes, many are shattered. Bad choices. Bad relationships. Injustice. Corrupt governments. Evil people. A sinful world. But He loves them. More than we can imagine. When we see them in the reflection of the cross, it all changes!
The Cross

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Everybody Loves Louis

Louis was the grounds keeper at the abandoned apartment building that is now "The Mission". A humble man of few words, Louis never really had much to say to or about white people. He had seen missionaries come and go from Montrouis and never really thought much of the version of Christianity they were trying to spread. He just kept to himself and did his job. Guarding an uninhabited building.

Louis has taught me a lot. I had planned to let Louis stay for a month or so until we learned how the property operated. He knew all about the water system and the electrical. I really did not think we would need him after a few weeks because the guys on our staff could do those things. Plus I really did not know him and I could not have someone living on the premises and having access to everything that we did not know. We would eventually have children there and everything and I had to keep them safe. All the good reasons to not take a chance on someone that others overlook. But God had other plans.

I could not open the gate at the mission without Louis being under my feet wanting to know what he could do to help. He would carry water, pull wiring, fetch tools. Whatever I needed Louis was ALWAYS there. Even when what I needed was just a little space...Louis was there. God began to touch my heart for this guy. I still did not know anything about him. I thought he was a typical Haitian womenizer because of the women that I saw coming in and out early in the mornings before the place was ours. I eventually decided that at the end of the month that we would let Louis keep working but he would have to find somewhere else to live.

At the end of that first month I did not have the heart to tell Louis to leave. He was sleeping on the concrete floor in our storage room. When I bought the refrigerator for the kitchen he was so excited... because the box would make a great bed to sleep on. I finally decided to give Louis a place to live and a job on a three month probationary basis. Joy decided that we were buying him a bed and putting him in the apartment with our other guys that stay there. So she took the bed, fixed him a place with a little table and everything, and had his own little living area. He was so thankful. He loves Joy to death anyway. He thanked her and thanked her... slept in the bed one night and asked me if it would be okay if he moved back out to the storage room out back. He did not sleep good in the bed! I said sure and he moved back into the storage room.

The time came for us to open the mission to teams to come. The first team that came was from Atlanta. I had told the team to be praying because Louis was not a Christian but I had been sharing with him. A pastor on the team really took to Louis. Although Louis can't speak any English he really allowed this pastor to minister to him. Before the week was over Louis felt the calling of God to become a Christian. He repented of his sins and asked Jesus to become his "Gwo Chef" (big boss). Louis could not wait to meet me at the gate the next morning to tell me the news. He has not put his Bible down since.

When the team from Tri-City came to work with us for a week, Louis shared that he had never had anyone make him feel so happy. He said no one had ever hugged him like those white people did. He just praises the Lord for sending us to rent that apartment building. He says it was all done for him to become a Christian. He says that Joy's spirit and humility helped him to see Jesus as a reality and God touched him.

Now Louis is of course a full time resident at the mission. He does all of our maintenance and grounds keeping. If the current fails at 3 in the morning, Louis is there to get the generator going. If the water tanks on the roof all empty, Louis pumps the water. And if I need a screwdriver...Louis is always right under me to get it.

He still sleeps in the storage room. We have 12 showers at the mission. Louis bathes out back in a bucket with his clothes on. He lathers up- clothes and all- then rinses- and air dries- clothes and all. Saves time on laundry. Louis now is the best friend of all the kids in the mission. The twins just love him to death. If he is not working, he is carrying around one of the babies. He is a valuable part of our team.

We go to the mission field thinking we are going to give people what we have because that is what they want.

Louis does not want my shower I can give him.

He does not want my bed I can give him.

He wants my love I can give him.

He wants my hug I can give him.

That's why we are here. I could send a bed. I could send money. I could send food.

But I can't send a hug.

I can't send 2 hours working under a sink with him and letting him tell me about his mother and his childhood.

And oh yeah, all those strange women coming in and out of the apartment building, Louis was catching water as it ran off of the roof and keeping it for them and letting them wash their clothes there. Lord make me like Louis!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bokor, Loogau, and Zombies

The thing about darkness that makes it so bad is that it is dark! I have had the opinion of many missionaries that come to Haiti that voodoo is false religion that is full of lies and based on fear. Now I have changed my opinion somewhat. I still believe that lies are fear are much of voodoo but it is not a false religion. For the people in Haiti it is an everyday way of life. Whether you are a Christian or not it is a regular part of your life and a reality. Let me share a few of the things that have been hardest for me to understand and believe but are taken as facts and reality to practically everyone I know in Haiti- including pastors and our closest friends. I want to understand these issues better- not out of curiosity, but out of a need to be able to minister to our people. I have to understand the depth of their belief and what areas I can help them see the light. It does me no good to curse the darkness without shedding light (thanks pastor Ruffin). This hits home for me because our two boys that live with us both come from voodoo practicing families and so it is total reality to them.

Here is how the information comes to me.  I am stating it as fact because that is how it is believed.

First there are a few terms you need to be familiar with. A voodoo priest or witch doctor or sorcerer as we would say in English is called a Bokor (Bo'- ku) if he is male and a Mambo if she is female. They are said to practice magic "with both hands". Meaning good magic and bad magic.

A Loogau is someone that has been turned into a soceror by a Bokor and is bad. They are usually a normal person by day but are responsible for killing babies. If you go to the Bokor's house too often they will turn you into a Loogau. It is possible to be a loogau and not know it. If you are the first one to cry at your grandmother's funeral and she was a Loogau, then you will be a loogau. A loogau turns into an animal at night to do bad things. The most common are bats, rats, and cats. But even pigs, dogs, or donkeys are known to be loogau. The most common thing they do is to enter a house and make a baby sick or kill it. Then the baby goes to the bokor for a healing or it dies and the bokor digs it up to eat it and use it for spells. Some villages have thousands of loogau. If you know your baby was made sick by a loogau, you can take it to the loogau and threaten to kill them. If you do they can make a tea to give your baby and they will be instantly healed. But to do that makes you a target to be killed too. A loogau turns into an animal but leaves his human body somewhere secret. If another loogau knows where the body is it can come and put hot peppers and salt on the body and the loogau can't reenter the body and it dies. If you kill the loogau while it is an animal and you burn the animal completely, the human body dies where it is at sunrise. A loogau only enters houses of non-Christians because of fear of being defeated by the good spirits that guard the house of Christians.

Bokor make loogau so that they will go around making people sick so the bokor will have business. Sometimes bokor make people sick with an evil spirit so that the people have to come to them and pay for a healing. If one bokor can't heal you, he will send you to a bokor specialist for the healing.

A zombie is someone that the Bokor kills and then raises from the dead to be his slave. When someone is a zombie he or she does not remember anyone from before. They cannot speak but they can do work. If you see someone that you know died and they are now alive working at the house of the bokor, you cannot say anything to them or anything or the bokor will turn you into a zombie too. You have to act like you never saw them. You can't tell anyone because the bokor will know. There was a documented case on Haitian T.V. that included the police and ivestigators and the zombie was made after the person spent a few days in the morgue before being buried. The father of the deceased waited at the grave for the bokor to come and then attacked him after he raised the son from the dead. He then tied the son up and took him home. After some time the son can't walk and can't talk but he is alive. It aired on St. Marc T.V. several times.

A "flash"- Young people cannot be in the streets after 11 or 11:30 pm because the bokor will "flash" them and they will soon die. Then they are zombified. The flash is just with a light of some kind but it labels you for the evil spirit to know you. It is like marking you with a mark to let the spirit know to possess you and kill you. Sometimes if you know you were flashed you can take off your clothes before you go into your house and the spirit will not enter the house and you will not die. If you get possessed you can ask for intercession and sometimes the spirit can be cast out and you will live.

Powder is a concoction made from corpses of dead people or dried puffer fish (some confusion here) and is used to kill people. It can be bought from the bokor. You can put it in the top of a coke bottle and when it is opened the powder puffs out and the person gets sick and eventually dies. Any way to get the person to inhale or step on or in some way touch the powder. Powder is the most common way that people use the bokor to kill people. Although you can just pay him to send an evil spirit to kill or make someone sick too.

You have to be careful who you talk to if you do not know them. They may be a loogau and if you tell them where you live they can go ahead of you to your house and turn into a bad animal and kill you then go in your house and rob you. Loogau also turn into animals to enter houses of young non-Christian women to rape them. They also suck the blood of young children for power.

Now this is not the story as it comes from those who practice voodoo. This is the belief of practically every single person I know. It is all taken as fact. I spent 3 hours today talking to a pastor at my house along with a good friend and they confirmed everything I had been told. They also agreed with me that the bokor has power because people believe it. They agreed with that. But if you say I am not going to believe in the bokor any more because I do not want him to have power... it is too late. You already believe. He already has the power. You can't not believe so that he won't have power.

So there is Haitian voodoo 101. Most Haitians do not want outsiders to know what they believe. They do not like to even talk about it because of the power it has. So there is our battle. To shine light into darkness. We hold to 1 John 4:4- "Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world".

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Friends, Floods, and Fatalism

Bristel, his sister, and their mother all lost their houses in the hurricanes of 2008. They lived beside the river in Montrouis and their houses and everything they had in life washed away. Bristel helped his mother rebuild her house and now he had saved enough money from his fishing to buy 3 truckloads of sand, 2 loads of gravel, and 30 bags of cement and was ready to start rebuilding his house next door to his mom again. He had the building materials stored at his mom's house. Bristel is my friend.

Roger also lost his house and his mother's house in the 2008 hurricanes along with everything they had. He started over again with a new wooden canoe fishing the shores of Montrouis. He is my fishing partner that helped me catch my big sailfish by hand. He rebuilt his mother's house too in the same place. The same land their family has owned for generations. It is all they have. The little piece of land by the river. He's my friend.

2 weeks ago Roger called me at about 5 pm to tell me the river was rising and I needed to see it. I had a missionary family visiting - The Robinsons- and so I did not think a trip to the river was timely. We decided to go and visit another orphanage instead but decided to at least drive by the river...When we pulled out of our driveway we could see the mass of people down the road. The river was working it's way towards our house. We decided a look at the river would probably be timely.

The river which is usually 3 feet deep and 15 feet wide was now a rushing torrent that had flooded a half mile down the road. As we joined the crowd, Roger found me. He told me his mother's house was "taking in water". He took me and Tracy through the banana fields to show us the damage. We went to check on some friends and found their house almost flooded but a wall collapsed across the road and allowed the water to flow away. We could not reach Roger's mother's house. It was too far into the water. The next day we went to see it.

Roger's mom's house was just a flat concrete slab. Everything she had was gone...again. The same for Bristel's mom...and all of his building materials. We let Roger's mom and niece come live at our mission for a while to see what we can do to help them find somewhere else. Bristel came to me today to tell me they were starting to work on his mother's house again. In the same place. By the river. He was asking if we could help. I tried to tell him that I did not think it was wise to build there again. He said their family had lived there for generations. Sometimes floods come. I tried to tell him that it is different now. The deforestation had caused so much silting of the rivers in our area that they can no longer drain the land in heavy rains. The flooding will be worse now than ever. He just blankly stared at me and said the little land by the river is all that his whole family owns. He does not believe the river is any different than it was for his grandfather. If it floods it floods. Fatalism. He's my friend. I hate it. He does not believe me and does not believe that cutting down trees to make charcoal has anything to do with his mom's house. So what do we do?

We keep working, and loving, and helping, and sending, and giving, and teaching, until they trust us. We can't reach anyone that does not trust us. We can't make anyone trust us. We can't change people's belief structure in a year. So we are here. We are praying. Everything we do helps us build trust. So our friends won't continue to be sick from preventable disease, and lose their homes by self destructive measures, and die without knowing the love of the God of salvation that sent us here.