Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vivir

This morning we drove to the grocery store. As you can imagine, it is not a good idea for us to walk, since that would mean walking back carrying groceries in a nation of hunger. Denny, amazing Denny, offered to drive us to Eagle, which just re-opened. The store already smelled usually, most strongly in the fish section. Today, there was no fish (or any meat outside of cans), but the whole store smelled very strongly, suggesting that things are going bad, quickly. There were a lot of empty spaces on the shelves. Not sure what the re-supply situation is.

Ben and I have this recurring conversation in grocery stores because I am, unfortunately, extremely cheap. I say obnoxious things like "is that the best use of money?" (unless, let's be honest, it's something I really want, like Toblerone). Poor guy. We got to the wine aisle this morning in Eagle and Ben asked if I wanted a bottle. I have a very limited taste for wine (much to the disappointment of our more vine-wise dear friends), so I only buy things I've had before and liked. Ben pointed out a few things while I scanned, looking for a label I recognized. I finally did see one I love, and Ben grabbed it. Then I saw the sticker- this bottle is usually about $7 US, but my quick Gourde-math told me it was $10 or $11 here. I protested to Ben, but he turned his full face toward me and said with complete earnestness and kindness:


"Katie, we are still alive. Buy the bottle."

It stopped me in my tracks. He was right.

I think B and I have skipped that whole discussion. We. are. alive. It wasn't a foregone conclusion. Buildings collapsed all over, pancaking people of every color and nation and age. We could have died. I don't think I've really absorbed that fact. Or adequately thanked God. The other night Jamie and Bearded Tony and I went to dinner at Corrigan's (other young teachers here) house, and he was telling me that the night of the quake some Haitians slept in his living room because their house fell. He heard the father praying out loud for two hours: Thank you that my wife is safe, thank you that my kids are safe, thank you for giving us that house to begin with. Two hours of thank yous, on the night of the quake.

But that's the way every day is, really. We're always dancing on the edge of a razor, a second from death, whether we're in Haiti or perusing the aisles of Target in Dallas. Car accident, freak heart attack... it could always be next hour. So. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Jesus, that we are alive. Thank you for sparing my husband. Thank you for keeping us alive, and with these extra days you've given, us, let us do nothing but bring you glory.

.................................................................

So, while listening to a John Mayer song that begins with the lyric "who says I can't get stoned", B and I have now blogged today about beer-bottling factories, wine, and Cuban cigars. Ha! What kind of missionaries are we? :) Jesus-needing ones, that's all I know.

Katie

Sunday's Random Thoughts

We did not get out this weekend like we had planned. It had nothing to do with illnesses, plans just fell through.

A stomach virus is spreading through the camp rapidly. Everyone is now on mandatory doses of Cipro for a few days and every surface is getting a good scrub down. Hopefully this will solve the problem.

We have not left the compound since Tuesday, and a little cabin fever is starting to set in. There is a paramedic team here from Seattle that is riding motorcycles out to the tent cities to do wound care and first aid until they run out of supplies every day. I desperately wanted to tag along with them this weekend, but for a few biological and scheduling reasons was not able. Could you imagine that as a blog entry? The time I road on the back of a Chinese motorcycle with EMT's to a tent city in Port-au-Prince... amazing. I should probably stop scheduling my outings based on whether or not they will make a good blog entry. That is a good way to use up my nine lives, and I am sure I have burned through at least two already.

Every Haitian church sings How Great Thou Art in French. How I the world did I attend a Baptist church for so long and not learn all the words? At least then I would be able to sing along with one song. I cannot wait to be at Fellowship Metro or Central get to enjoy some home-cooked worship services.

Somethings are back to "normal" in the city. A few markets have opened and so has the bakery. But I wonder how long their inventory will last and when they will be able to resupply. For example the bottling plant here that makes a local beer and soft drinks was heavily damaged and won't be able to resume for about 3 months. This is a situation worth watching... not the beer situation... the other one, with the food.

Another situation that has every one's attention is the local forecast. As of right now rain is predicted for the end of the week. A rain storm in this city would be catastrophic right now. It would be just the thing to set off a "second wave" of health concerns. The water table in the city would be contaminated from the dead bodies and open sewage. Cholera would be almost epidemic.

In the coming weeks I will be blogging about a few different things. One, will be writing about the amazing people we are working with, they have stories that need to be told. Two, Katie and I wrote down everything that happened the first week and I hope to take those notes and make sense out of them. Of course should I get to ninja around town with motorcycle EMT's or cowboy around the city in any other way, I will let you know.

B

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Life

Seventeen days ago, the niece of one of our Haitian Snack Shop cooks died on our school soccer field from internal injuries sustained during the massive earthquake. 

This morning at 8:10 am, a healthy baby girl was born in our school music room, right under the bulletin board describing the treble clef.

Let me back up just a moment.

I woke up, feeling much better after two days of very, VERY ill. I gingerly got ready to teach. I headed over to the chapel where all grade levels are meeting each morning for singing, prayer, and short devotions.
 
They sang
"this is the day, this is the day
that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made
I will rejoice, I will rejoice
and be glad in it, and be glad in it".
They sang it in a cute round, standing up when it was their turn to sing.

After chapel, I have about two hours until it's time to teach my first class- 7th and 8th grade English. I went up the command center to use the computer to create new syllabuses (syllabi?) for the second time this month. On the way to the command center I hear the news....

a woman's in labor in the music room!

Not ten minutes later, little Thalina is born.
 
This is what my mother and I like to call "one freshly hatched baby"! Not one hour old! She's very healthy and mom and baby are now resting comfortably (still in the music room, mind you!), not 100 yards from where 175 doctors are ready to care for them.
The full story is this: QCS staff member Els Vervloet was working the overnight shift in the command center that is coordinating all our relief efforts (answering emergency phone calls, etc). Around 2 am, one of our Haitian guards comes to her and say that one of the Haitian women living on our campus (in the art and music rooms and adjoining porch/outdoor areas) is pregnant and is "having pain". Els goes to the woman, learns her name is Vanessa, and times that the contractions are really contractions and are about 7 minutes apart. She goes to wake a German doctor, and they try to figure out 1) if there are any midwives/OB's staying here, and, once they discover there is a midwife 2) where the heck she is sleeping among this Elementary Building/anthill of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping docs, and equipment sprawled everywhere. Somehow they find her and wake her. By the time morning came, the labor was progressing, but the first-time mother was becoming tired and discouraged. At this point, our school nurse Miquette joined in. When it was time to push, the baby was born within 15 minutes- and Els, the midwife, and Miquette were there for the whole joyous entrance of little Thalina.

Els is in LOVE! Els kept saying, "it's the day before my 48th birthday, and I've waited 48 years to be part of a birth!". Happy birthday, Thalina, and Happy birthday, Els! When I went in to see Vanessa and her baby, there were about 30 people in the music classroom, passing the baby around- not one hour after her birth! About 20 of them were kids. Vanessa was lying in the corner on the floor (beneath the aforementioned treble clef bulletin board- the whole contrast of the birth/elementary music classroom was pretty crazy to me) on some towels and sheets, looking happy and proud and tired. She had an IV in her arm. I've been to the hospital the day my friends the Bowlins had their precious kids Olivia and Jack, and the contrasts were so striking. No hospital, no nursing staff hovering, no children-kept-out, no hospital bed, no wall-mounted hand sanitizer every 25 inches, no "four guests at a time" or visiting hours, no whisked-away-for-APGAR-testing to the nursery, no incubator, no birth certificate, no little pink-or-blue hat.....

Little Thalina's birth was probably a lot closer to what Jesus' was like than anything I've seen before!

While checking on baby Thalina I got a quick update on Quincy - the little boy with the broken femur that I was so concerned about the night of the quake. He is no longer in traction or attached to a catheter. Today I saw him sitting in a chair with a thigh-to-ankle hard cast on one leg (the left one, the one we thought had the femur fracture). There were signatures on his little cast:) I love that that's a cross-cultural trend. His eyes were still pretty black, and he looked thin- we'll continue to pray for Quincy. I originally guessed he was about 3, but it turns out he is 5- it's hard to guess kids' ages in Haiti because I'm used to what American-fed kids' sizes are. Praise God that he is healing.
Also, in other joyful news, happy birthday to little Kyle Varnell, born to my sweet Buckner friend Jill just yesterday - welcome to this world, Kyle!

And then, after all that, I had to go teach two classes. I mean, I was excited to teach, but it was quite a high to be a part of that joy. Felicitales, mama Vanessa.

Corrigan Clay, a real true friend and mentor to Ben and I since we arrived here, is now teaching the seniors for all their courses. Five were in class today, with a few more arriving next week I hear.
 The last hour of the day is intended for homework, so the kids don't have to take work home if they use that time wisely. Today, a group didn't have any homework, so I decided to teach them Chickenfoot, game-of-choice of the Blankenship/Kilpatrick clan! Thank you, Gran and Poppy, for teaching me to play! Here are my students Stephanie, Marlee, Maika, Ebony, and Raphael tallying the scores after a round. They really got into the game! It really helped me see some personality aspects that weren't coming out as quickly in the classroom.
The best part of my day, each day, is reading your notes and knowing we are prayed for. 
Team, you are irreplaceable.

Katie

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Less sickie

"I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, that I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do." - Edward Everett Hale

Feeling a bit better today. I truly think I have never been so sick as I was yesterday. I had a high fever- covered in fleece blankets, but freezing, in the fetal position.  Stomach troubles very often. The height of indignity- I'm in the restroom at 2 am, feeling absolutely terrible, and who should poke his little head out of the bathroom cabinet door? El raton. I stomped my feet on the floor to make noise, and he ran back inside.

At about six or seven last night I had Ben go get a doctor from the Acts of Mercy team - a group from the church I attended in college that is staying here on campus. Two doctors came up and saw me. They asked lots of questions, prodded a bit at my kidneys and appendix, and proscribed some meds: a hefty sleeping pill/anti-nausea, ibuprofin to bring down the fever, a sip of Gatorade every ten minutes, another anti-nausea. Very, very sick.

I woke up today around noon, took a shower, and felt much better. I ate a granola bar. Listened to Ben teach my classes in my living room (did I mention, we're teaching classes in our living room of our on-campus apartment, due to space constraints/distractions in our one-room school house?).

And then. Joy of joys - CARE PACKAGES! My parents had gathered items from other friends and family and then found two aid teams coming to Haiti to send them with. They both arrived today- snacks, TIME magazines, t-shirts, athletic socks, bug spray, shampoo... all the things we'd asked for. Such a blessing! I even ate a few Skittles.

I felt really great for a few hours, now I'm feeling puny-er. Don't want to push it. One of the teachers at our school has a beach house in Haiti, and is letting the other teachers stay a night there on a rotating basis. Apparently Ben and I are going on Saturday- wonderful!

One miraculous story from the doctors tonight. A woman came in, SIXTEEN days after the quake, very pregnant and with a crushed pelvis. They prepared to remove the baby, whom they knew must be dead, so they could hopefully save the mother from infection. Lo and behold, the baby was alive and healthy! Whatever trauma caused the crushed pelvis somehow spared the child- praise God.

Please pray for our little one-room school house as we continue. I'm teaching 7-11th grade English, but don't even have a class set of the textbooks yet.... one step at a time. 66 kids came to school today, more than anyone thought. I did an activity with the kids yesterday where I asked them to raise their hand after I said a sentence if that sentence applied to them. For the sentence, "I'm glad to see my friends again", they all raised their hands. For the sentence "I wish I was out of the country", about half raised their hands. For the sentence, "I don't want to talk about the earthquake" they all raised their hands. I desperately want to take care of their emotional health, but that was a loud and clear signal of their desires. Hmm.

175 doctors slept on this campus last night. 175! I'm so proud of Quisqueya.

To God be all the glory.

Katie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sickie

Special prayer request:
I woke up this morning pretty sick.
(Or, actually, the opposite of pretty)
Stomach sick.
Gross.
I hate it.
You know that moment, when your brain has woken up, and now your body wakes up? You think "man, I am cold" or "man, I'm really hungry".
The instant I had that moment this morning, I knew:
it was going to be a terrible, horrible,
no good, very bad day.
In the stomach-y way.
It's very common.
Everybody told me it would happen before too long.
But really?
The first day back to school, God?
I kept down some juice after lunch.
There are 150 docs sleeping here.
I'm sure I'll be fine.
But for now
I'm sick, sick, sick.

Taught my two hours of class (7-8 English, 9-11 English).
Had more kids than I thought:
13 in junior high, 14 in 9th-11th.
Got them started on a writing assignment
("The Last Two Weeks: A Journal")
Tried to learn a whole new bunch of names.
One of the classes met in my apartment living room:
hard to focus with 5 classrooms in one chapel.
I had two of the three sisters who lost their father.
One was wearing a man's gold wedding ring
on a chain around her neck.
I didn't ask.
I almost lost it when I saw it.

Back to bed.

Sickie Katie

Tabarre

We are easily making friends here. Surviving a natural disaster will do that.

Katie wrote about how kind the Ackermans are to us. I am finding John to be an awesome tutor about all things Haiti. John is also one of the funniest missionaries I have met and he likes M*A*S*H. He owns the whole series on box set. I wonder which character he identifies with most?

Today John told me he had some errands to run and wanted to know if I wanted to go along. I jumped at the chance. I had not left the school since I went trespassing on the airport in the borrowed school truck so I was anxious to leave. But I was also hopeful that it would be less adventurous than driving across every UN member nation's camp site.

When you drive down the roads in Port you see things like this:

Rubble blocking streets. Two lane roads become 1.5, prompting a game of chicken on roads that were white-knuckle-terror-inducing before any quake hazards were added.

We are headed to Tabarre. John needed to visit another missionary, Animal, who is his best friend. They have some business dealings that must be sorted out. John, Animal and others are the kind of people I want to be likein this country- able to find anything, and knowing of just the right people to make anything happen.

It is a long road to where Animal is working right now, so we pass a lot of this:

Buildings that have collapsed. I have no idea how all of this rubble will be removed. I have only seen heavy equipment at a few sites. Most of those are ones that were heavily reported on immediately after the quake. This country has little in the way of tools. I think that piles of rubble will remain for many years.

After driving for about 30 minutes, during most of which John lectures Haitian drivers on their terrible judgement and motor skills, we arrive at the "house" where Animal is.

Animal is not his real name. But when I saw him I immediately thought of the character from the Muppets. I think it was the hair. Animal is a missionary from Boston. He speaks his Creole with cah's and ah's. He has long wavy red hair that looks like a wild mess. He is short and stocky but he clearly is the center of wherever he is. The nickname fits- Animal.

The house Animal is at was a women's clinic. In this small Port-au-Prince suburb it is now a hospital. One of the nurses there (a Texas Tech Grad! Wreck 'em!) tells me that in this modest home the have done a few amputations, a C-section delivery, and treated a gunshot wound, amongst other earthquake-related injuries. When I asked her where they did all of that work, she pointed to the porch and said, "Right there!"

She was full of great energy for the task at hand, but others were worn out. While John and Animal talked, I snooped around the clinic.


On the balcony a volunteer grabbed some much needed shut-eye.

John finishes swirling around the house/clinic, encouraging the staff and checking on supplies. He stands in a doorway and motions for me to follow him. We walk back outside with Animal and another missionary, get in Animal's truck, and head off.

Money is the issue at hand. Haitians are only selling things in the local currency and us blans are buying a lot of things. Most of the cash we have on hand is in US dollars. John gave Animal some money to get exchanged but it has not been done yet. Apparently we all are going...

John and Animal sit in the front seat and howl with laughter. They give each other a hard time about past offenses and Animal even suggests that he spent John's money so John will need to give him more. They laugh like old friends. I sit sheepisly in the back seat wondering what bank we are going to... I know they are all closed and have heard many different time frames about when they will open up.



The back of Animal's head... it doesn't do his mane justice.

We pull up to the Tabarre market. An open-air market bustling with people. Everywhere. Everyone shouting in Creole. People selling everything from hot dogs and soda pop to jeans and cell phones. Apparently they also exchange money here.

Animal walks in like he owns the place. He sees the man he wants and fires off quick sentences in Creole with big hand gestures. We leave the open space and walk into a row of stalls next to a woman selling toiletries, soap, shampoo and hair extensions. Very quickly large wads of cash are produced by both parties and the haggling starts.

I am overwhelmed. There must be thousands of US dollars and tens of thousands of Gourdes out right now. High rollers in Vegas do not carry stacks like these two groups of men produced. I ask the other missionary, whose name I never learned, if it would be impolite to take a picture. He quickly says yes. They argue about the conversion rate. Before the quake it was 42 Gourdes to 1 US dollar, but now there are no banks and paper money is in short supply. They settle on a rate of about 38 to 1. A good price, I am told. Now both sides are counting stacks. At one point our Haitian friend actually runs out of money and pulls up his pant leg, revealing in his tube sock an even larger roll of cash. He continues counting. There is some good-natured joking and all the money changes hands.

As we walk out of the dark aisle between stalls and back into the open air of the market, Animal stops and speaks to a woman in Creole, then takes her bottle of soda and has a long swig of Haitian Coke. John starts cracking up. Animal walks five more steps, takes a bite of another woman's hot dog, swallows, then declares, "I love this country!" At this point John is laughing so hard I am worried about his surgically repaired heart. Animal has changed just under several thousand in cash and shared an impromptu meal with total strangers.

We get back in the truck and go home.



Leaving Tabarre.

I wish there was some moral to this story or something to say to wrap it up neatly. But there isn't. These missionaries need big-time cash to keep their work running, and sometimes they have to go to crazy back-alley places to get it in the right currency.

Please know that while this post may sound humorous, we in the city are dealing with the devestation around us every day. Nothing is ok in the city.

Ben

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.

Katie

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Haitian Sabbath

Today is Sunday in Port-au-Prince. It is early in the States- most of you are grabbing your morning coffee and thinking about where to watch the Conference Championship games today. I am sitting in the command center and Katie is sleeping. She pulled an all-nighter in the command center and I kindly relieved her so she could sleep.

Haitians are starting church- I can hear their songs right now. Shouts of Hallelujah are echoing over our campus from the church next door. I am hoping that today is a slow day in the relief effort. I know there is much to do, but I can see the signs of stress on campus. People who have been slow to anger are starting to be quick with a rebuke. Who can blame them? It has been 12 days since the earthquake A lot of people are running on 12 consecutive days of 3- 5 hours of sleep, and eventually that catches up with you.

Sitting after church today I thought about a question someone asked me. When I went to the DR, a woman on the team I picked up asked me if I thought that the devil knew he was defeated in Haiti? This woman clearly has not seen enough dead bodies, food riots, looting and general devastation to know that right now evil is alive and well in Haiti. During the church service at our campus, we sang in French the hymn (I wish Brian was with me to feed me the rest of the words) says "This is my story, this is my song". I sang in English jumping in when I could one white voice in a sea of French-Creole.  During the sermon from Jer 29:11 I understood a few words. I understood that they were saying, "Thank you Savior, Thank you Savior!"

JT English would say that Haiti will be fully restored one day when everything is made perfect, and I agree. So my answer to that woman is that the battle still rages for Haiti. Evil is not defeated here yet. To declare victory now would mean that we could say there is no more work for us to do and if you have read this blog in the last 12 days you would know that there is plenty to do. Check out www.quisqueya.org to donate to the relief fund, find a work group that is coming to Haiti in the coming months and pour your sweat into the country. If you want to declare victory over a place you have to be part of the effort.

Ben

Yes


This is a little boy I met a few days back at HIS Home, which at that time was camping out behind Quisqueya Chapel, near Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince. HIS Home's building was destroyed. I had my camera out, and he really wanted me to take pictures of him and hear him singing this sweet little song.

Katie

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Waste me on you

"The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. 

If you will spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land." -Isaiah 58

  "Use me, break me, waste me on You, Lord
Ruin me, take me, waste me on You
For to die is to live...

(Strange new graffiti in Port-au-Prince)
To starve is to feast
Less of me is more of Jesus
Lord, I want it all
Lord, I want it all

(Formerly five-story University of Port-au-Prince)
If I lose my life
I gain everything
At the cross
Away with all death's sting
Lord, I want it all
Lord, I want it all


Help me find my gain in loss."

Shane and Shane, "I Want it All"

Yesterday morning one of our staff friends Sean had me come along while he drove a team of doctors to CDTI, a hospital here in Port-au-Prince. CDTI has serious cracks in the walls, and the majority of their Haitian patients won't go inside. This is the Post-Op tent outside. Can you imagine, spending your hours after surgery here? Medical supplies and teams are moving more and more, but very basic equipment is still completely missing - we desperately need battery-operated bone saws, anesthesiology machines, dialysis machines, cast cutters, Medevac helicopters... It is so tough on the doctors. Yesterday one doctor staying here shared emotionally about how incredibly difficult it was to have to tell a teenage girl that her leg was about to have to be amputated.

This beautiful church crumbled away in the quake.

Can you imagine having been inside that building? One of the looming catastrophes of this thing is that under every one of these buildings (and there are millions) are dozens of bodies. No one will recover them. There is no government demo crew coming to clear the rubble, no electric company coming to secure the downed power lines, no health department coming for the bodies. They will sit, and they will rot. What will happen the first time it rains (its dry season right now)? Every water source in this nation will be contaminated with material from the decomposing bodies. The first wave is the broken bones, the crush injuries, the wounds. The second wave coming, which may produce even more deaths, is the public health disaster.

Our Quisqueya crisis response center is up and running. I'm now the communications/ PR person for Quisqueya, so I'll be writing about school updates also at www.quisqueya.org.

These giant whiteboard charts help organize each team of doctors, in which classroom they're sleeping, which hospital they're at, which car and driver are transporting them, their specialties, what supplies they brought, and airport arrivals/departures.

This missionary community is now tighter than ever- and it was already a close-knit bunch. Lots of ladies are mothering us and taking good care of us. Several families who live up-mountain have offered to let us stay with them overnight any time we'd like. One new Haiti mama, Jodie Ackerman, brought us little baby bananas called ti malice. The perspective is a little off in this shot, but this entire banana is about 4 inches long. They're from the Dominican. First fruit/produce I've had since coming to Haiti!

  This is Ben getting geared up to go on his Humedica airport scavenger hunt. This is the German group of doctors here, and they sent him to get a truck of med supplies.... Read his post (immediately preceding this one) for the full adventure:)

  I liked this shot because it shows three major parts of our current operation here at Quisqueya- the US Army humvees in the background (parked on our playground, no less!), the doctors camping in tents, and the boxes of medical aid we're distributing through our medical teams to area hospitals. I've been impressed with the Army guys so far. They're asking all of our staff for local intel such as what offends Haitians, and they're all learning how to say "hello", "how are you", and "I'm sorry for your losses" in Creole. They've also requested little items to give neighborhood Haitian kids for goodwill purposes like candy or maybe Crayons.

Each night now we're having a meeting including the leaders of each medical team and our campus leaders. We pray, discuss logistical issues (Our hospital needs OB! Our hospital needs morphine! Our hospital has empty operating rooms and needs more surgeons!), and share news (makeshift shower being built with some pipe!). The man sitting in the chair in the blue shirt, third from right, shared an incredible story last night. At his hospital they had no OB facilities or doctors whatsoever. A woman was brought in a truckbed, already far into labor, and left at the hospital. She badly needed a C-section, but no one could perform one or had the right supplies. She delivered, and the baby was not breathing and had no heartbeat. They had a bag, but no oxygen. They bagged the baby and began pumping air, and after a little while the baby gasped for breath and had a heartbeat. Praise God.


Another story: Miquette, our school nurse, developed a relationship with a patient at the hospital in bad shape after severe complications from childbirth (different birth). Miquette shared Christ with her, and the woman came to know the Lord. A few hours later the woman died as a result of her complications.

 Our little United Nations: Here are the leaders of the teams from the Dominican Republic, Korea, Germany, and the US at our leaders' meeting last night (along with our director Steve Hersey).

Sebastian, Kinberline, Fabiola, and Franceska are four of the Haitian children living on our campus for now. Their families are now homeless, but someone in each of their families is a staff member of Quisqueya. Today we made name badges for each person on campus to wear so the gate guards know who to admit. These precious little ones play all day. One of them has found a kitten, so they're dragging it around, too:) Steve Hersey, our director, mentioned to Ben and I yesterday that he would like to begin teaching these Haitian kids some English vocabulary, basic math, and maybe some reading/Bible stories. We'll start working on that soon. Speaking of our Haitian kids on campus, the little boy with the broken femur who I've written about so much is named Quincy, we finally discovered. He still has both legs in traction and a catheter. Today I saw him playing with the kitten... that can't be sanitary! Let's all pray for his continued recovery. His little eyes are no longer black, but the whites of his eyes have areas that are bloody... still not out of the woods.

  This poor, precious one is in for a tough time. I'm not sure how, but somehow he got to our campus today. His family was all killed in the earthquake, and he was at a hospital being treated for an injured foot (can't see the type of injury under his large wrap). Some aid worker women here were caring for him today at Quisqueya. Who will be his family now?

  We're starting chaplaincy here as well, beginning with this prayer request board (haha, can you tell we're working out of an elementary school?). Two Haitian pastors are here, so they're ministering to the Haitians, and at least one Canadian pastor is here just full-time providing chaplaincy to the mission teams, doctors, and Quisqueya staff. The plan is to have our first all-campus worship service tonight, for Haitians, staff, and aid workers alike. Not sure how we'll handle the language issue, and I don't think we even have a guitar, much less a projector with lyrics, but we'll manage.

I can't wait:)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Airport Scavenger Hunt

Things happen so fast here. Katie and I have such a heart to blog that often we don't get to spend the time I would like reflecting on what all of this means. I suppose the time for that will come later.

I got home today and Katie gave me a very big hug, then told me I was in trouble. I went out today and neither of us expected me to be gone as long as I was. Apparently Katie is fond of me and does not want me playing cowboy all over the city.

At 2:30 I was asked if I thought that I could drive to the airport and pick up some supplies. Much like the DR trip I was working with far less information that I would've liked. "Ben, do you think you can drive to the Airport where MINUSTAH is and pick up a truck of supplies? It is a white truck, 40ft long, and they will be looking for someone wearing this red vest. The driver doesn't have a cell phone." Tosses me a red vest. Kate cringed, but I jumped at the chance because it's an adventure, a chance to get out into the city, and also a chance to drive. Something, may I add, I have not done in Haiti. Ever.

Wade, A CRI team member with a walkie-talkie, joins me and we go off on this wild goose chase.

Every time I leave the school I am just blown away by the devastation on the streets. I have seen so much of it that it is hard to not become numb. Every time I see a downed building I try and put a face to it. I try to remember that it is someone's home, business, livelihood. Not just brick and mortar but someone's savings, passion, or refuge. Being out today really reminded me that this place is destroyed and functioning by the grace of God and the presence of Foreign Aid. (And Troops)

Getting to the airport was pretty easy- light traffic but heavy smog. The pollution in this city is a problem that will need to be addressed eventually. Ya know, once people are done dying of infection and hunger.

We were actually allowed into the airport compound with our truck- a nice US Airman waved me in. But once we were in there finding a white truck was like looking for a needle in a pile of needles. The airport was controlled chaos. Transport planes take off and land every 7 minutes. Blackhawk helicopters move around like flies. Pallets of supplies are everywhere. Troops from nearly every country imaginable are camping 50 yards from the runway. No one seems to know where anything is, a problem that would plague us the whole day.

We made our way to the civilian air strip and talked with people from Samaritan's Purse, MFI, MAF and a whole alphabet soup of aid organizations. No one has seen our truck and no one knows who we should ask.

We keep on driving. Eventually we are in the heart of the UN compound. Blue helments and white trucks are everywhere. It suddenly dawns on me that I am not sure if I am in a secured area. There are troops from two dozen countries here, plenty of different languages spoken, and lots of guns. Just what kind of misunderstanding could a language barrier create that might cause me to get shot at? I really don't want to find out.

We drive around aimlessly for about an hour and ask everyone if the've seen my truck. It goes like this: "Hey, I am with [Aid Org], have you seen a 40-foot white truck with our logo on it?" Every time the response is no. I ask Peruvians, Americans, French and Germans. In 4 different languages, no.

We finally got directed to a UN office who might help us- apparently they track all their shipping. I ask the guy behind the desk about my truck. He is clueless. But I notice that he has a UT Longhorns shirt hanging behind him. I ask if he is from Texas and we bond immediately. This salty-tongued man clues me in that if the truck came in a UN convoy, then it went to a different logistics center. He also lets me know that he has a very nice beverage collection and would really like some ice. He is willing to barter for ice. I do know that the school has freezer that is running on generator power. I plan on visiting him soon.

It starts to get dark and we head out for a UN compound next to the US Embassy. The log yard, as this place is called, is not manned by nice salty-tongued Texans. They are Haitian and for some reason cannot speak English. It becomes clear that our truck, which we have now been searching for for the better part of 4 hours, is not around. We have a terse radio conversation with our home base and let them know we are coming back to school. Quickly. Night time in Port with no street lights is an unfriendly place for two blan who do not speak Creole

We pulled in after dark after almost involuntarily becoming a tap-tap, possibly committing a hit and run, and fleeing the scene of an accident... only to find out the truck driver had called our HQ after we made the decision to come home to let our organization know that he was now at the airport and wanted to meet up with us.(Where did he get a cell phone?) We are going to try and find him again tomorrow.

All in all it is just another sunny day in Port-au-Prince.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Aftershock City

Just another day here in Aftershock City! Two almost-5-pointers this morning before noon. The Army guys who now live in our high school building came pouring out the door of their meeting room, while Ben slept right through it and I sat cool as a cat in my chair - they aren't earthquake veterans like us:)

Ben got home from his overnight mission to the Dominican Republic at about 7 this morning - praise God he got back safe and sound.

It's a veritable United Nations over here! Medical mission teams arrived from Korea, more Germans, World Vision of the DR, some water purification people, and Mississippi (should count as another country :) Also, a team arrived from the church I attended at Baylor - Antioch Church from Waco! Slight problem - we have no showers to offer anyone. So they're all trooping over to our new apartment (formerly the "single girl teacher apartment" on campus) to shower. My job for now is to serve the "command center" that is Quisqueya Christian School's new role, so these medical teams can serve Haitians. This morning I went around stripping white boards from classrooms, cleaning them with rubbing alcohol, and finding dry erase markers to create our communication hub. We've now got ten-plus big teams sleeping here, plus about twelve different cars, going to ten-plus locations each day, each with a Haitian/longtime missionary driver attached (necessary because there are no street signs or even street names here- gotta know the hoods). All of this info is recorded on a series of giant white boards so everyone can be ferried to the place they're needed. We're now communicating with the hospitals to know what specialties and supplies they lack for max aid efficiency. We're also keeping a running list of random needs, so if we hear of anything we can meet them.

Dear old friends: Remember how I used to say I love summer camp, and secretly wished I could live on a commune, or at least a cul-de-sac, where we all live together all the time? My wish is granted:)

Another project today: re-organizing the medical supplies we've received. Lots of teams just bring trashbags or boxes full of random items - Ace bandages, bottles of ibuprofin, amoxicillin, IV sets, random OTC meds (often in Spanish- lots donated from DR churches!). Med teams need to be able to grab what they need fast on their way to the clinics, so I made it more user-friendly.

B and I also had a meeting with our school director Steve today. He told us about a few "next steps" in the educational future of Quisqueya (oh, this used to be a school, remember?! back in the BE days - before earthquake). We're having a parent meeting on Monday to see who's planning to return / still in the country. We're also going to begin a little Haitian school for the many children of our now-homeless Haitian workers who are camping out here. Very, very rudimentary- some basic English vocabulary, a little math perhaps, a little Bible. I'm really excited about that opportunity. Even giving a Haitian child a little English skills on which to build could transform their future career options, and their future families then as well. A third part of our meeting with Steve was that I'll now be taking over the school's website updating. The site is built on the same kind of blog engine I used at Buckner, so I'm excited to help communicate to the students and families who I'm sure are in a world of confusion and big decisions right now as they figure out how to get their kids learning again.

Another long-awaited development today: Finally, FINALLY, a HELICOPTER LANDED ON OUR SOCCER FIELD!! I've been waiting for this to happen since the first day I saw a soldier in uniform touring this campus. A teeny helicopter dropped to the middle of the field and was barely on the ground fifteen seconds- one man carrying two black duffel bags jumped out, and the thing shot straight up and was gone in no time. Of course, I ran out there to watch and was immediately transformed into a dust-covered tumbleweed.

Speaking of firsts: we also had a visitor in our new bedroom. Nope, not a looter. Well, not the kind you see on CNN anyway. It was.... a mouse. A big, fat, long-tailed, non-cute mouse. It was eating our bag of rice, and when I startled it it shot around the perimeter of our room, including leaping on our bed frame and climbing up the wicker bookshelf. We're investigating rat poison and sticky traps.

Today, the World Vision Dominican Republic team was out checking on this boy in a hospital that they've been concerned about for several days. Like the little boy I've been writing about on this blog (who is doing great, by the way! Still in traction, still playing with action figures.), the World Vision group treated a boy with a broken femur, but that boy had also been discovered to have a cerebral bleed requiring brain surgery. The hospital where he was was completely unprepared for that, but the Vision Mundial peeps wouldn't let up. They wound up putting the boy in their car and driving down toward the airport to see what care could be found for him. Long story short, they ran into some Haitian police who lent them their SUV and provided a police

Oh hell. Another aftershock. Hang on.

Ok, we're good. So the Haitian police give the team their SUV and escorted the boy to the UN hospital. The UN hospital will only great UN staff - the are not treating the Haitians (let's suspend our outrage at this shockingly immoral policy for just long enough to finish this story). Just then, the World Vision team saw Sanjay Gupta from CNN walking by. Dr. Gupta is, as you fellow CNN junkies know, a neurosurgeon. He immediately snapped to action, and within a few minutes the boy was on a chopper bound for the USS Comfort, the hospital ship. Praise God!

Katie

Motto


The director of Quisqueya Christian School and I were discussing our need for a flag or a motto. I gave serious consideration to this. Initially I thought a pirate flag would be great, but seeing as Captain Mike Leech has been removed from service (tragedy) I thought I might need a new look. So I have decided on the image above. It was a emblem and motto of unity during the American Revolutionary War. So I am unofficially making it the motto of BKNH (benandkatieinhaiti) and QCS. Does anyone know where I can get this image on a flag? Carry on.

I hear the DR is lovely this time of year.

Yesterday was a busy day. Katie did a good job of chronicling it; for anyone who saw the picture of me with our little Haitian friend I hope you had the same thought as me. "He looks terrible!" When I saw the pictures I immediately shaved and ran a comb through my hair. Sometimes in the middle of all this chaos you forget to make sure you don't look like you are in the middle of chaos.

Haitians won't leave the house if they are not dressed as best as they can be. Two weeks ago I would have said that seems ridiculous in the midst of all their poverty. However, now think it is admirable that they don't want to look as bad off as they are. Kind of a "don't let em see you bleed" mentality.

I was asked to take my awesome Spanish skills and go help navigate on a mission to the DR border. A truck with supplies and volunteers had blown out its transmission in Carbral. I eagerly volunteered, but was really unaware of what I was jumping into. I was in the truck for 13 hours with two very interesting characters. "Very interesting characters" on this blog means "might be crazy".

Let me be clear how we were doing this. We had 1 truck, 20 g of diesel, my US cell phone, and the name of a town. We were not sure if/when the border was open, exactly where the truck and team was, or how far it was in the DR.

"Truck" is generous. It was a typical Haitian Box truck- the head lamps were dim, there was only 1 working side mirror (which was cracked), and it had "A Vende" (Creole: For Sale?) spray painted on the side. It probably wouldn't be street legal in any other place, but... degaje.

Our main contact's cell phone died so we couldn't ask him exactly where he was or what it looked like. We didn't have a map, so we were not sure where this town was. We also didn't have the most conversationally fluent Spanish speaker.

We managed to locate them around 1 am (we left PAP at 5 pm). We split the load between the two trucks. We towed the brokedown deuce and a half (Big Truck) with a 4 cylinder diesel truck (small truck).

I wasn't staring at the speedometer the whole time (someone had to watch the 1 side mirror), but I think we averaged 15 mph. We didn't break anything, but we did torque some metal severely. We pulled back into campus as 7 am.

I would say the trip was a success. We got the team and the supplies here (Cooking Gas!) and we only got in 1 wreck. Don't worry, it was a Haitian fender bender- meaning we are not sure who scraped against who, and we just yelled at each other in Creole.

Ben

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shake, rattle, and roll

At 6 am this morning we had a 6.0 magnitude aftershock. Over the last 8 days, there have been over 30 aftershocks measuring 4.0 or greater, and even more small ones. This morning's shock was the largest so far, and even though it seemed big, the Big One last Tuesdsay was FORTY times more powerful. I know disaster is disaster and pain is pain, but there's something incredibly creepy and psychologically upsetting about earthquakes, and aftershocks.... the GROUND is MOVING. I feel them all the time, even when they're not happening.

Many have asked where in Haiti we are. The best map I've seen is here, from CNN. If you look to the bottom right of this map, we're very near the red square titled "Supermarket Rescue". That's the Caribbean Market, where most missionaries shopped.
So one of the groups living on our campus are the Haitian staff members of Quisqueya Christian School whose homes were all destroyed. There are lots of kids with them, with nothing to do. We found them some crayons, etc, and today Ben made a new best friend. First she was curious about his measuring device (we were measuring furniture before moving it).

We found her a Tootsie Pop
They made fishy faces back and forth:)

Ben tried to steal the Tootsie Pop:)
She's victorious!

What a cutie.

Our lives here on campus are beginning (I say this cautiously) to have a routine. There are 4 of us "young teachers" left on campus. We're serving the school, so we can serve the doctors and US Army Southern Command (whose advance team is now here, preparing for a hundred or so soldiers to sleep here while serving in the relief effort), who are here to serve Haiti. We work all day, mostly moving, clearing, and organizing. Today I boxed up our guidance counselor, registrar, and school director's offices, then moved the boxes up some stairs, across campus, and into their new offices (in the elementary area), then re-set up the offices again. We also cleared all the elementary classrooms to make way for teams to sleep. Medical mission teams are arriving, meeting with our campus' leaders and CRI (Crisis Relief International - they're doing the logistics). The teams send their doctors' specialties, our leaders figure out where they're needed, get them there, and provide a place to sleep.

The school is prepping one meal a day, around 1 or 2. Our meal today:

Beans, rice, a bit of turkey, and a cup of Gatorade. NOBODY feel sorry for us- we're getting a hot meal with meat every day in a nation of starving.
Here's my handsome husband unloading a truck full of medical aid from the German group Humedica who are staying here- another team of 25 doctors arrived today on top of their first team that arrived just a day or so after the quake. Now over 10 locations being served by doctors sleeping at Quisqueya.

I keep having these reality-checks, especially in the visual contrasts of using our elementary classrooms for this massive relief effort. For instance:

Used to be a school. Now an aid center. Eight days ago sixth graders were learning from this Word Wall. Now, we're stacking portable cots and sterile IV saline drip bags there. You just never, EVER know what's coming - our comfort from five-year-plans, our feelings of being in control - an illusion. Not one of us would ever have predicted when we wrote "Tuesday, January 12th Homework Assignments" on our whiteboards eight days ago that those words would stay for weeks, ghosts of a past that is gone- those assignments rendered completely meaningless, our students fled from the country, our lesson plans thrown in a storage box in the basement of what is now an Army base?! It's a strange reality.

It's a "new normal". I was a professional fundraiser. Then I was a high school teacher. Now I am a laborer at a relief camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The transitions in my life in the last twenty months seem dizzying: First I was carefree, a college student playing in Waco. Then I was a professional, commuting on the train to corporate downtown Dallas. Then I was a married person, joined a new church. Then I nested into an apartment with a husband, acquired, searched for a home to buy. Then we whispered to God that we'd move overseas, anywhere He wanted. Then we sold everything we had, quit our jobs, moved in with my parents. Then I lived in Haiti, set up a new apartment, learned how to be a high school teacher. Then there was the largest natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere's memory- my apartment, job, and planned ministry gone again. Now we're living in an evacuated girl's bedroom, moving boxes, no idea what the next twenty four hours will bring, much less next week, month, or, heaven help us, the next year.

There is grief in the letting go of my plans, time and again, that is true. But. We are smack in the middle of God's will. We're really ok :) 
The contrasts - a few weeks ago Mrs. Etienne lovingly prepared nametags for her classroom and students. Now, her posters are covered up by signs telling which Germans are sleeping on her classroom floor.

  One task today was to tuck the elementary textbooks safely into a storage closet. After setting down one load of books, I noticed the ironic theme - natural disasters!
At the end of our work day Ben was called to join a group of men on a special mission tonight. They're driving to the Dominican Republic to find a group of Quisqueya people whose truck broke down while fetching supplies. Here he is loading up to depart.
In the midst of it all, we're together:) There are two choices in a time of stress and disaster- cleave together, or be torn apart. We're fighting for the former.


Katie

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