The Bethel Mennonite Team from Wayland, IA is currently in Pignon, Haiti.
To read previous entry Day 1 and 2, click here.
Wednesday, June 26
We feel more rested after a good night of sleep finally. We are staying in a dorm of a hospital compound. This morning we had a tour of the hospital, the upstairs is for paying patients and the downstairs is for people who have no money to pay. We saw where they make prostheses, an eye clinic and a dental clinic. Then we listened to a presentation from the organization that runs the hospital.
In the afternoon we went out into the city and painted a new building, which will be a sewing center for women in the area. As the painting was going all the neighborhood children came to watch. Several of us ended up playing with the children – Frisbee, jump rope, bubbles, painting fingernails and drawing pictures. Then half of the group went with our interpreter to visit several different families in the neighborhood and pray for them. Their prayer requests were similar to ours; they want jobs and to be able to provide for their families, houses of their own, education, and to be healed from illnesses. When we got back we had 2 or 3 hours of free time. It was interesting to hear everyone’s high and low points of the day. After dark we showed a movie in the street. Our group is getting along great and having a great time!
Elaine & Jim
Thursday, June 27
“We vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing.” …Dallas Willard (The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Stearns)
It has been an epic adventure for our little family. We began worn from the extreme pressures of our careers and the worries of everyday life overwhelming us. It may seem strange then to come to a place full of such pain and …WORK! Boy have we worked! It is not a vacation for a bodies…but it has been a rejuvenation and awakening for our souls. In his novel, Shantaram, Gregory Roberts said what impacted him most about Bombay “…on that first day, was the smell…” This was true for many of us. It was beautiful and painful. It was exotic…and homely. It was archaic…and yet it was now. I can only liken it to Old Threshers, but tropical and ethnic as well. Tuesday was incredibly exciting. Wednesday we were confronted by pain so crippling, it bit me to the core. I enjoyed the hospital: the presentation which showed with data how successful this organization has been in helping to change the statistics, the professionalism of the new Haitian doctors and nurses; but halfway through, the realities began to set in. The smell had somehow changed. It was no longer delightful. Did I just not know the scent of fear? No drama intended, it was a sickly smell. Here there were no hugs and nail painting and Frisbees; here there were serious expressions, whispers, and a pervasive fear. It stayed as we went on to the sewing room to paint, carrying piles of supplies down a hill over a narrow path used by washer women coming up it from the spring with piles of washing carried on their heads, unsmiling. What I did not know until later is that we were passing close by a rum distillery and that smell can be like the worst sort of human excrement smell ever. That was my low. I wondered what I was doing here by the end of the day. I wondered what ANY of us was doing here. Did they really want us here or were we just invading their turf. Everything I ate and drank tasted like that smell. Everything I touched.
Today was different. We went to the school, one of nine throughout Haiti. I spoke to one of the 5th grade teachers, Isaac, (also Haitian). We had so much in common. I found in one of the rooms piles of children’s papers and teacher’s manuals spilling from the teacher’s desk I was moving. They were studying more difficult things than one would have thought. Their teachers were using some of the same methods as we. It looked the same as the pile on my desk back home. This was in the countryside and the air was fresh, the homes were poor by our standards (important to note), but they were homes with tended gardens, some well-cared-for, some not…no different from us. The children slipped through the gates, crowded around the doors, watching and as adults joined them, commenting in a strange language, pointing. It was hot and we felt caged in, intimidated. As the awkward tension and heat rose, and our autistic daughter was nearing meltdown, Alicia and Ryan began to sing How Great Thou Art. Elaine and I joined in. Franzie, one of the Haitian mission teens who was painting with us, began to sing along passionately, but in Haitian. Then a wonderful thing happened. The Haitians at the door found common ground and joined in, laughing and joyfully. I came to find that Franzie and Woodson, these two Haitian boys who are part of the mission, have lost so much, parents and family and friends. Death is just a regular part of their lives. Few have much hope of living past 40 or 50 here. But it is changing. Woodson has hope of becoming a doctor, seeing others who have done so through this organization and others like it. Our group leaders, the Van Maanens, are leading us through the above quoted study in the mornings at breakfast. I was so moved by the truth I quoted above from it. I could speak for hours on the things I have heard and seen here so far. I will leave you asking you to meditate on that quote and what it might mean to you. It now means so much more to me. There is no hole in the gospel but us.…Gina