The Family

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who's Afraid of Frog Peepee?

It has been a while since I have had a good chance to sit down and blog and I don't really have one of those chances now but I wanted to update everyone on the cholera outbreak here.

We have had to stop buying fish from any of the guys in our group because of the fear of the people that the fish that live in the ocean go and drink the water that comes out of the rivers and so they can make you sick.  Our fisherman have just paid their money to put their kids all in school and now have no income because people are too afraid to buy fish. We do not have any cases here in Montrouis of contracted disease.  The little mission hospital where we have our eye clinic has had 4 die and have treated hundreds.  It is harder finding IV saline so keep that in your prayers. 

This is Haiti's first significant cholera outbreak in 50 years.  It is caused by a river in the Artibonite valley that became contaminated.  We have seen about 3000 cases reported with almost 300 deaths.  That is a terrible ratio even for a disease of this severity.  The lack of understanding by the people of the cause of the disease and even bigger...fear.  Fear killed many of the victims.  They were afraid to drink more water because they heard water is what made them they died of dehydration.  Tap tap drivers, local transportation, refused to carry passengers that were sick so they left them on the sides of the road to die...because they were afraid.  Many hospitals and workers were afraid to take in patients and work with them at the onset because they did not know the cause of the patients died outside the hospitals.  Fear is a powerful thing and a major part of life here in this little corner of reality.

People have some of the most irrational fears you can imagine.  They are so scared of frogs because if it peepees in your eyes you will go blind...tough one to disprove but they get so upset with me for picking up frogs.  Lucky for me, none have been able to pee in my eyes yet. 

People fear all sorts of things concerning the spirits and voodoo.  They fear many animals because it may be a lougau in disguise.  They fear zombies.  They fear witch doctors.  The fear upsetting the family spirits.  They fear dishonoring someone in power.  They fear the government due to past leaders indiscriminately killing dissenters.  They fear hunger.  They fear food they are not familiar with.  They fear a slight fever. 

But out of all the fears that affect the people here, the one that is the greatest risk for them is the fear that comfortable Americans have of being drawn out of their comfort zone.  The fear of millions of "Christians" that if they really give in to what God wants them to do to reach the world with His love, then He might send them to some crazy place like Haiti.  When the reality is that if we would just surrender fully to God, He is most likely to keep us exactly where He had already placed us, but use us more effectively to fullfill our deepest desires and impact the lives of people from our home town to the far reaches of the world's densest jungles.  But the fear that somehow God is going to demand something radical of us is a fear used by satan to keep us from really amounting to anything eternal.  The fear is so strong that it triggers our defense mechanisms in our minds that cause us to build up walls to reality.  We allow ourselves to be consumed by our surroundings in order to dull the sensation of reality.  The sensation that just possibly we have totally missed it.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our selfish, self serving, self helping, loveless, sacrificeless form of religion we inherited from our parents and perfected ourselves is somehow the Christianity described in the Bible. 

That fear is the most dangerous fear in the world.  More orphans, widows, homeless, starving, sick, helpless, and desperate souls die each year because of that fear than because of any fear I encounter here that we like to call "irrational".  You want to talk about irrational?  Is it rational to believe that a God who has ALL power in the universe and LOVES me more than I can comprehend could possibly devise a plan for me that is anything short of spectacularly amazing?  I wish the greatest fear of my friends back home was frog peepee.  Then maybe we could change the world.

Our greatest fear should be of the day we stand before a Holy God.  We will give account for every thought, every action, every dollar, and all of our skills.  I somehow don't think excuses like our kids are too small, our parents are aging now, when I get that raise we will give more, when we pay off some debt, if I could just hear from God, we're just waiting until we know for certain, I just don't feel "called", I just don't think this church is feeding me, I can't align myself with that pastor, that youth group is too culturally relevant, that church is not culturally relevant enough, etc. is going to pass when God asks why we would not obey the hundreds of instances in His word that He commands us to reach the world with His love.  If we all feared that day as much as the Haitians fear zombies we could take care of the millions of orphans in subsahara Africa that become prostitutes because we are not there to give them a home. Or the sick in India that die because they don't have access to antibiotics that cost 75 cents.  As I was typing this a man showed up from PAP crying.  He has interpreted for us before at crusades.  Degraff sat in my yard and cried as he explained that 3 days ago his 18 month old only son died of respiratory arrest and is in the morgue because he can't afford to have him buried.  At the same time Joy was walking and met a man from another village sitting by the road holding a dead baby.  The child died after leaving the hospital and the father had no money to get a tap tap to get back home.  The world is literally dying and we spend our days complaining about the lines in Walmart.


On a lighter note, Luke arrived here in Haiti 3 weeks ago.  He is doing great.  He is a 16 year old missionary and not just a missionary's kid.  He has already begun to have an impact on the people here.  He is working with the fisherman and has gotten involved in the basketball community here.  He is home schooling and doing well.  You can see the first episode of his video documentary by clicking the link below.

We will try to keep folks updated about the cholera as things change.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stuck Between a Rock and a Mango Tree

Roger, Gary, and Lifrans got caught at sea in the stormy weather we have had this week.  They were trying to get their little wooden fishing canoes to the beach where they store them when the waves really kicked up. 

Roger and Gary made it to our house but could not get past the reef to the area down the coast where they were headed.  We managed to pull their canoes ashore and secure them in our yard.  Which Jaxon loved because he thinks he owns them anyway.  He climbs in everytime they come up with fish.  Then I have to pull him out screaming and covered in the tar they use to water proof them to try to cut down on some of the leaking...I can't tell that it helps any.  So we stored Roger and Gary's canoes for a couple of days until the storm passed.  Lifrans was not so lucky.

As he tried to manuever past a point through the shallow reef that he had passed hundreds of times before, a large wave caught him and crashed him into the rocks.  His little wooden canoe shattered into pieces.  All of his lines and jugs and fishing equipment was tossed into the crashing waves.  Lifrans was picked up by another fisherman trying to get his canoe to safety as well.  Everything was lost.  Two days before the fishing season officially begins and he is at ground zero. 

So that is the story I learned of yesterday as everyone gathered for our weekly meeting with our 12 fisherman and 1 scribe in our economic development program.  We wanted 12 fisherman but none of them could write so we had a scribe join the group.  I spent the meeting talking about the things were we doing and the challenges and the great things that were happening.  I thought everyone was really getting into the depth of the business potential and how this was going to change the economic stability of Montrouis and the overall quality of life for their families.  But at the end of my sharing I asked for questions.  Finally Roger asked when I was going to follow through on my promise I had made several weeks ago to start teaching them all how to write their names... They all agreed and wanted me to start this week so they could all learn to write and sign their names and asked if I thought they could be taught to read a few things.  I was humbled beyond words.  How do you say no to a group of friends asking if you could take the time to teach them to write their names?

After the meeting was over the discussion turned back to Lifrans.  Everyone was disappointed to hear about the loss because they all could relate and they knew the implications.  But Lifrans, one of the most likable and hard working guys in the group, already had a plan.  He had found a guy who had a piece of wood for sale and had negotiated a good price of $1300 haitian (or $165 USD) for the wood and talked to Pierre who was not a "boss" canoe builder but had dug out canoes for several of our guys in the group in the past.  Pierre agreed to "dig" the canoe for $1000 haitian ($125 USD)  So nearly $300 was going to be needed just to get the canoe.  Then Lifrans has to find jugs and buy lines and hooks and everything else to get ready to fish.  And due  to bad weather, no one has been able to catch any fish in over 2 weeks.  So that is where I came into the picture.  As Lifrans was telling his tale, eventually all eyes turned to me.  They all wondered what I was going to do to help Lifrans get his fishing business back in the water.  Finally, Lifrans asked if I would at least go with him to look at the wood.

Today we had all of the guys in our group meet me at The Mission to pick out shoes for all of their kids that start school Monday.  These 31 kids are not in our sponsorship program because I know their fathers now have an income.  Instead I am just helping them get everything done on enrolling and buying the books and uniforms.  It was a great time.  After the shoe fitting party, the entire group joins in on our trip to see the wood. 

I had in my mind a little guy sitting in front of his little haitian shack on a big piece of mango log in his front yard ready to argue over a price.  Instead, Pierre, the carver, takes us into one of the few remaining patches of forest left in our zone.  After a brief walk through a familiar area of woods, he stops and points to a large mango tree and says "that's it".  That was not what I wanted to see.  One of the 2% of mango trees left standing in the entire country and now they are asking me to buy it so they can make a canoe.  The alternative is to say no and explain how mango trees are precious to the Haitian ecosystem and that conservation efforts are never going to succeed without making sacrifices...

Now let me tell all of you tree hugger hyper-conservationists reading this...I ain't into that.  I can get on board with saving babies but not baby seals or spotted owls.  I never have been the activist type.  I would actually love watching the guy cut down the tree with a machete and then meticulously carve out a canoe day after day.  It is not about the "karma" or the feelings of the mango tree or making the spirits of nature angry. 

This was different.  I see the huge importance of mangoes to this culture.  You don't dare steal someone's mango.  It's like a capital offense.  Mangoes are called God's gift to poor people.  People plan their lives around the mango seasons.  But they have not seen that cutting down the mango trees is bad.  I have tried to fight the cutting of the trees to make charcoal.  That is the  main reason the trees are cut down and the roots dug up.  It is to make charcoal for cooking.  That is the main issue.  Not cutting down a few trees per year for canoes.  BUT, now that most have been cut down for charcoal, the canoe issue becomes more relevant.

In my gut I want to buy the mango tree... don't let them cut it down... then lend Lifrans the money to buy a fiberglass canoe- through my contacts in the U.S. and ship it down on the next container that comes in.  But there are several problems with that plan.  First, then EVERY guy in our group wants a fiberglass canoe.  Second, the container has weeks before it gets here and the season starts now.  Third, every person in Montrouis will try to sell me their mango tree that they are about to cut down if someone doesn't buy it quickly.  I could see me ending up with a whole forest of mango trees with little brass plaques that show the date they were saved from destruction.  I would be known as the nut case doctor with the mango tree sponsorship program. 

So as I sit here tonight trying to come up with the best plan for tomorrow, I think I will try to find someone who has a wooden canoe for sale and help Lifrans get it.  That at least buys me some time.  Then maybe we do try to start a system of getting canoes shipped down for the fisherman here.  Each mango tree canoe only lasts 5-6 seasons if it is a good one.  Many only last 2-3.  Who knows.  But I am glad that I am here to get to help Lifrans figure it out.  He is my friend.  He is a quiet guy with a firm handshake and I know that tonight he is thinking that tomorrow I will have the answers to help him out of this dilema.  That is where my faith comes in.  I don't have all the answers that these guys think I have.  I don't always know what to do.  But I know my God has a plan and that He is never confused by rocks and mango trees.