Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Little-House-on-the-Prairie Style

The Lord gives
The Lord takes
Blessed be the name of the Lord

(German doctor sleeping on our campus....with his bedtime buddy!)
Yesterday was a big day.

First thing in the morning, we had a Quisqueya Parent Meeting. We were expecting around 25 kids. There were 60 children's parents there! We were so excited! I blogged about the kind of school we'll be having at www.quisqueya.org (ps, I'm writing the QCS website now, as well as checking the school email). In summary, we'll be having a Little-House-on-the-Prairie style school with the core subjects. We'll be focusing on emotional and spiritual health. The students are distraught- parents injured, homes destroyed before their eyes. They will need sensitivity. We'll have class in the morning, homework (so none will be taken home, to relieve stress) and relief effort in the afternoon.

During the meeting I noticed one parent, a beautiful youngish woman, in tears. After the meeting each parent wrote down their children who will return on my clipboard, and while she was writing she said to me, "the girls have lost their father". She has three little girls at Quisqueya- 2nd, 7th, and 9th grade. She said it so matter-of-factly. I was shocked, awkward, mind racing, wondering how to respond. I just said, "I'm so sorry." She lost her husband 14 days ago. 14 days, and she's filling out forms at a parent meeting! I would still be on the floor in a slobbery mess. I guess that's just what a mother does.

Next, we had a staff meeting. Now that we knew the number of kids, we needed to assign teachers. Ben has become the History Department for 7th-11th grade, and I'm the English Department. The seniors will be entirely taught by one teacher who is very close to them. Now, we literally stripped all the classrooms when the Army came, every book thrown into closets, remember? Now we've got to go find it all, get organized.... Wednesday's schedule: Orientation, a tour of campus (to show the Army, the doctors sleeping in the classrooms- Steve kept emphasizing "no mysteries" with the kids and honesty), worship, some art therapy, having every child tell their story perhaps? Two crisis counselors and a pastor will be here full-time. He told the parents to prepare their children for changes: a new teacher, a new classroom, a different-looking campus, different classmates, not wearing a uniform.

(Haitian staff members' kids, now living on our campus)

Yesterday afternoon I worked on fundraising. Yes, fundraising. Didn't I leave my fundraising job in Dallas to join a faraway adventure, rock orphans, and save the world? God is hysterically funny. I spent the afternoon at a desk, writing letters to tech companies asking if they might support our school's computer and communication situation. Real funny, God :)

In our apartment (as other teachers have evacuated, we've moved from sleeping on the couch in the on-campus apartment into one of the bedrooms), I overheard a conversation between two teachers here, both 20-something young women of Haitian families. They were speaking quickly, English and Creole flowing back and forth effortlessly, sharing their excitement for the opportunity now before Haiti: the opportunity to get things right, to correct some of the ills plaguing this nation for 200 years. I realized that experiencing this earthquake as a Haitian, identifying with the whole history and people of Haiti, is completely different than as an outsider, even a Haiti-loving one.

Last night the Ackermans, a missionary couple from Indiana, invited us to stay at their house up the mountain a ways. What an incredible blessing. In a natural disaster of Biblical proportions, bliss has three syllables: CASS-ER-OLE. We ate actual salad, took a real shower, got to watch a few minutes of TV. John is a nurse who runs a rural clinic, and Jodie is now teaching K-3 at Quisqueya. We had a really interesting conversation about how we're grieving after the earthquake. Ben and I confessed we've felt awkward about the fact that we aren't having crying breakdowns when everyone else is. Honestly, it feels a little like September 11: a tragic, heartbreaking disaster that we're close to, but also slightly removed from. We don't yet have Haitian friends, we knew our students' names but not their families, and we don't have deep attachment to Haiti and Haitian buildings as "home" the way the other missionaries here do. But that's to be expected- we were in the country just two weeks before the quake.

Yesterday in our staff meeting Corrigan Clay, an art and Bible teacher here, shared that losing his father and brother at a young age taught him something about how to walk through tragic grief with our returning students: Be real with them to admit that "this is really messed up". The Kingdom has not come. This is not how it's supposed to be. Blessed are those who mourn, who weep in their grief and acknowledge the brokenness and pain of our world. Our faith does not negate times of intense suffering - in fact, we know that God mourns alongside us.

Other things we're learning:
1. None of this stuff is mine. Again and again, our attachment to stuff is getting peeled off us. Get an nice apartment? Nope, earthquake, got moved out. Get some food and water? Nope, earthquake, given to the homeless. There's a missionary saying "do not cleave with your heart to what you cannot hold in your hand". Does that mean I can cleave to hand-sized small things, like my much-missed wedding ring, hiding in a safe in Dallas?! :)

2. Submitting to authority. We suck at this. Crisis +  no sleep + one meal a day + chaos = people order others around. Our leaders are making decisions like laying people off, moving us out of our apartment, telling us we're to work at the campus instead of out with aid teams. I sometimes want to say "you're not the boss of me!". But I won't. I'll respect and pray for my leaders.

3. This tragedy is a marathon, not a sprint. You can "power through it" for college finals, or for a big project deadline, but you cannot "go hard or go home" for weeks on end.

4. I remember the wise words of a Baylor professor: "Never make existential decisions during finals week." This truism applies here as well. Don't ask us about the rest of our lives. We're just making it hour by hour.

5. Character is revealed in crisis.

6. When you're hungry, you really only need a little nibble to stop feeling hunger. Just a few pretzels or a Tootsie Pop will do the trick!

On our the last night before the Army filled the soccer field with equipment, we had one heck of a Haitian vs. missionary doctors vs. Army soccer match.

Ted, our relief effort captain, meeting with the German docs of Kinder not Hilfe in the command center. 

New medical mission team from Fairfax, Virginia sorting their supplies. Nice guys.

Our soccer fields are now home to the US Army Southern Command. They built a lot of these tents, and gave us one to put our meds in.

Driving down from the Ackermans' home, we saw some new parts of the city. These homemade signs, in English, are still hanging along the main road Delmas

New graffiti is popping up. This one shows a map of Haiti, crying. Next to it was a note that said "Mr. Obama, we need $hange".

"We would like to find some help, in order to save our community. Children and adults are sick."

Teaming up to unload new medical supplies. Some docs are now sleeping in tents because 1) it is cooler outside, and 2) we are getting full.



  1. Keep doing the Lord's work. Only He can continue to give you the strength required for the job ahead. Hopefully it will become a 'relay' marathon so that at some point you will be able to pass the baton and get some rest. God's blessings.

  2. I picture you somewhat like the Israelites relying on God to provide the daily manna and fresh water from a rock. As you trust for his daily provision may you find Him as more than enough. Praying for you in this journey.

  3. Praying for you as you begin school tomorrow! Goodness, you now have had equal time in Haiti before the quake and after. Tomorrow you may feel like your "new normal" is beginning, whatever that is! I'm sure it will be another emotional day as you see how the students are dealing with it all.

    Please let us know if there are specific things - needs the students have - that we could begin collecting maybe to send... Whatever the case, please continue to blog and tell us the reality about what it going on.

    It was so great to read your lessons learned... good lessons for all of us!!

    We are with you in spirit! We are lifting you up in prayer, Katie and Ben!
    Love you!

  4. Suz & Dan MoisanJanuary 27, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Thank you for continuing to share your story! These images and stories speak volumes about the situation and the chaos that abounds. I hope those girls are right that this will be Haiti's chance to get it right!

    Love you guys and so proud of you for what you are doing!!

    p.s. you are right. you definitely cannot 'power through it' Just keeping taking it one step at a time!
    p.p.s. love the wedding ring comment!
    p.p.p.s. PLEASE say the casserole was Chicken Spaghetti. :-)



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