Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sak pase? (What's up?)

These first few days in Haiti have been beautiful and challenging.

On Friday after watching two physiotherapists train Haitian therapists on cerebral palsy and soft tissue release in French and Kreyol, I hopped into a van for a winding ride up to the Kenscoff orphanage, sans air conditioning, while feeling the effects of humidity and a heavy head cold, not feeling myself quite yet. 

We passed giant turtle shells of rich brown hues, bold pink bougainvillea flowers trailing over partially completed stone walls, vibrant metal work of all shapes and sizes for sale, and graffiti announcing directions to shops and publicizing candidates "Vote Dr. Senina, Depute."

Each gate to a home is a different size and color and the metal work is different on each one- some turquoise with twisted spirals atop, others burgundy with chipping paint, glass topping the wall nearby for a homemade anti-theft system.. They are first looks at a house and your personal decorations since gates and walls are important for security here. My favorite view was of a hillside with house after house painted a different color- magenta, light rose, mauve, forest green- with houses stacked 3-4 stories high, an artist's dream palate.

The horn is a crucial part of driving here as well.. No street dividers, traffic signals and signs or regulations for driving exist (besides a license as far as I know) so the horn communicates many things: (my own interpretations are bellow) 

"I will run you over if you don't move!" (Drivers have right of way)
"My car is bigger and faster so move or I'll hit your car"
"I'm about to try a risky driving move and squeeze between you and the oncoming tap tap, so here goes"
"What's up?"

Things become less important here too, I've noticed, and Matthew 6 is wonderfully put into real life application with people sharing and meeting each other's needs:

-Didn't bring extra clothes? Borrow some of mine, don't worry about wearing the same thing again, rinse it out and it'll be dry in the morning

-Who would like some salad? Some tea? Have some of my biscuits and Nutella if you like! Want some wine, I  have extra! 

-the kids are also generous with their time and seem to enjoy drilling me in Kreyol and teaching me sek (a game where you keep a metal circle up with a stick), NNB (a game similar to hop scotch where you stay on one foot and get one touch to get a rock into the next section, no touching the lines with the rock or your foot allowed!), and this morning as we walked back from mass hand in hand, one of the little boys pulled me to the side when the motos came speeding up the road. My hair has a new look each few hours as well as the braiding boys and girls get ahold of it. 

I also find myself getting into new habits:
- greeting everyone to be respectful (Bonjour, Bonswa, Sa va, Sak pase?)

-checking my bed and clothes occasionally for big ol' bugs (yes, night two i found a stowaway cockroach in my sweatshirt sleeve)

- brushing my teeth with my water bottle water to avoid cholera and other fun things

-not throwing TP in the toilet but in a trash can always, and flushing by pouring some recycled shower water into the twalet (they flush pretty well as long as you pour at a good speed)

-using my phone less than at home, as Internet is a lovely occasional thing (when I'm in volunteer housing and the generator happens to be on or working again after lightning storm)

-munching on crusty old bread and things I wouldn't normally eat.. everything tastes so much better when you're feeling hungry and have more limited options (and we still have access to so much!) 

-and being surprisingly comfortable being the only blanc around at times, or sitting down to eat while the conversation around me is totally in French or Kreyol.

I do not mind the new habits and appreciate the adventure. I think it's healthy to have your normal habits shaken up a bit- it helps me let go of focusing on myself and awakens gratitude for things that I usually take for granted. Today I'm grateful for these words of Jesus' in a new way, having seen so many here live out of enormous generosity: 

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I am all cozied up under my mosquito net tent and reflecting over the last two days. The park down the street is hosting a boisterous musical party (sporting some trumpet and techno music, honking horns, and night-owl chickens who live next door). 

Some things to remember when traveling internationally: 1. pray  2. potential friends and helpful strangers are all around 3.keep a strong mental note of your belongings (money, passport, boarding passes, and bag check tags, luggage, etc.) 4. think creatively about what you've brought and what alternative purposes it can serve. 

One thing I learned about myself this trip: when I travel tired and with a big ol' sinus cold (making me a little loopy) it messes with my ability to do #3 above (but wow, I'm grateful for #2 and Gods grace and provision and how He got me through the adventures these last few days!).

First was the adventure of leaving my phone in my moms car as she and her friend Laurie dropped me off with 2 carry-ons and 2 bags of donations to check. Enter stranger #1 who let me borrow her phone (and my realization of how important it is to have those backup numbers memorized, like the number for mount hermon which I eventually called to get ahold of Laurie, since my mom is habitually phone forgetful). My phone was brought back to the airport (thanks mom), with plenty of time to catch the first flight and meet my snoring large seat partner who was really very friendly when he was awake. 

After flying to Dallas and Miami, it was time to navigate the near-empty 12:30am airport and choose a spot to cuddle up on the floor (with a sweatshirt as a sleeping pad and a not-so-successful attempt to sleep with a tough looking scowl on my face). A noisy night of about 2 hours of sleep and then onto Haiti!

 I was singled out and offered a free bump up to first class and it's lovely leg room. As we boarded, I met a Haitian man who befriended me, calling me "Santa Cruz;" i walked with some very kind missionaries through customs, and met my new friend again at the baggage claim. He helped me roll my bags outside the airport and talked me through each step of the customs checks ("hey Santa Cruz get out those bag stubs so they can see these are your bags). We made it outside and there was a tall, blond white guy (my brother Stephen) waiting to pick me up. I said goodbye to my Haitian friend, and then promptly stole his bag.

Accidentally of course! 

I had helped him wheel his small bag as he carted our large bags out and in the hand off we both forgot that I was still carrying his bag. As my brother Stephen put it, "you can't trust those pretty, sweet girls.. Look away for a minute and they'll steal your bag!" Much ado and some time later, my friend Franc was rediscovered and got his bag back.

There were many awesome people to meet today, and Haiti has reminded me so much of Uganda actually, but with cleaner air and more expensive groceries.  I am staying outside of Port au Prince with some wonderful international physiotherapists and health workers (Camille from France, Annette from Sweeden who lives in Ireland, and Colin from Ireland). These are my housemates for the next few weeks, and tonight we ate mangos from the tree outside, went grocery shopping, and got to know each other a little better. I am grateful to have these seasoned people to live with who can talk me through the ins and outs of living here. I'm also grateful to have wireless when I am at my lodging (so I am able to text or even FaceTime when the internet is up and working). And now that the music has died down it will be lovely to sleep ( : 

Peace to you all,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Do the Next Thing

I came across this anonymous poem while reflecting on the life of Elizabeth Elliot and what her example and writing have meant in my life. It is one that she treasured: 

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that,
as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.

And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.

Here are some words from Jesus: 

Matthew 6:34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. 

This is a verse by Civilla D. Martin:

Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
 And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
 His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

This theme of "doing the next thing" is on my heart today as I prepare to leave for Haiti, departing in a week from today. 

This trip is a next step, a "next thing" as I walk with Jesus. Like all good adventures, it is full of risk, and came about unexpectedly a few months ago when my brother Stephen asked me if I could visit him. 

As a school-based therapist, I gratefully have summers off and am delighted to travel again, to sharpen my heart for God and His kingdom, to love the people I meet and learn from them. 

Next Tuesday it is San Francisco to Dallas to Miami by 12:30am and a wonderful catnap, bags tucked under my arms, till the 7am flight over to Haiti. What I picture is a month full of meeting new people and world-wide medical volunteers, soccer and therapy and hilarity with the kids, going to mass and honoring the poor in Haiti who have died, seeing what Jesus is doing now- praying for His kingdom to come and His loving will to be done! 

It is easy to live in past regrets or future excitement or anticipations, but today my "next thing" is to rest, to sit and listen to God tonight for a few moments before bed (and not just make prayer speeches at Him), and to eat a late dinner. I am thrilled for what is to come but also, with Gods help, choosing to be present here and now.