Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meeting Haiti's Disabled Children, Part 1

Two days ago I joined the Quiqueya 10th grade for a service day at Village Espoir. There are dozens of kids there, including 25 who are severely disabled. It was an eye-opening day, and one of the most special experiences I've ever had with my students.
Gabby, Melinda, and V help to feed the kids breakfast
A little attention and love went a long way
The disabled children at Village Espoir ("espoir" means hope) were not able to speak, walk, or control their bodies for the most part. One teenage girl had Down Syndrome.

Can you imagine being one of Haiti's poorest people, trying to care for a child with those needs?

This is a good orphanage, as orphanages go. But there are 25 disabled kids and maybe six or so house moms. They have very fancy wheelchairs; the kids with motor skills are given motorized ones. But their diapers are changed just twice a day. They are fed three meals a day, but some are bone-skinny because they are extremely challenging to feed, and nobody has the time to coax tiny nibbles of rice into mouths with protruding tongues.

Of the nineteen sophomores in attendance, quite a few had never been to an orphanage before (after a lifetime living in Haiti!?). Hardly any had ever worked with disabled kids.
The non-disabled children checking out the "blan" (foreigners).
They started singing and dancing to Dekole, and thought it was hysterical that I could sing along.
We wheeled the kids over to the playground.
Loving the merry-go-round
Look. at. that. face.
I mean, seriously. Look at my students. I was beaming with pride.  These are fifteen-year-olds, people. I love them.

Oh God, give my students eyes to see the pain in the world, and know what they can do to make it stop.

Oh God, give these orphans a family. Every one. Please- a family to adopt them.

Katie

Charity Gift Market

Friends, I just discovered Charity Gift Market. Some of my favorite items:
Amani ya Juu wristlet in tropical aqua....
... or peony.
Hostess full aprons
They also have music, books, clothes, and items for both children and men. Check it.

Katie

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Already! Not Yet.

I have an awesome friend, JT, that eloquently explained to me the tension in Christian life: "already and not yet". We as Christians believe certain things will happen and are happening, yet at the same time we know that they are not yet perfect.

For example, we are new creations in Christ. We believe this; we claim this on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and hideous wall art that is hanging in someone's home in Plano. But while we know that we are becoming a new creation, we also know we still suck. That we have the same struggles and problems.

Already, not yet.

This post is difficult to write because I am in the middle of one of those Already/Not Yet situations.

In the last month we have had three students withdraw from school in one grade, and I struggle with letting go and accepting that they will be fine without me. I know that it is God who saves, not me. I know that I am not as instrumental as I think I am. But I worry about what will happen when they do not have the awesomeness of Quisqueya to guide them.

There is the tension. I know that God saves. I know that His will is sovereign, but they are not saved yet.

 They have all left for different reasons. One left because her mom got a promotion (albeit to a remote South American country). Her year was rough. Being bourgeoisie in Port-au-Prince is more like living in a small country town and less like living in a city of 3 million plus. There are very few strangers, and everyone knows your business.  Now she will have to make it in the jungles of South America.

One young man left, and he was the person I had spent the most hours praying for. He was here in February, we were laughing and joking and he was making remarkable progress in his academics. I think he was just on the precipice of making a decision about Christ. Now he is gone. I honestly struggle with the lack of closure here. I put hours and  hours into praying and I feel like I have little to nothing to show for it.

The most recent student to leave is very sick. The medication for her condition is not helping and the situation is becoming very serious. Specialists are rare in Haiti. It breaks K's and my heart to see her year be interrupted like this, though we know it is for the best.

Many of our kids are not Christian. In fact for most QCS is the only spiritual influence in their life. This is where my over-inflated view  of my role in their salvation comes from. I know what their home lives are like. I know what their friends are like; I know the pressures they are under. If not us, then who to guide them? I already know they are in the sovereign care of God. I have not yet learned how to let go of the feeling that I am (or should be) in control.

I have been praying for trust. To trust in the sovereign plan of God. To trust that He saves. I have been asking that I can remember my place in all of the work that is being done here. I already trust and know that He saves. I have not yet learned how to practically live like it.

I have also thought seriously since I have faced the fact that I am not guaranteed any time with my students. I think I have several years with them, broken into nice, neat, August - June chunks. However, the reality is that my time with them could be up at any moment.  Nothing is a given. So I have been asking myself, who do I need to talk to? Who do I need to have a hard conversation with? Who needs to be encouraged, who needs to talk about their home life? Who needs to wrestle with who Christ says he is?

B

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seguin Again

The senior class hiked to Seguin this past weekend. I (Ben) hiked with them. Some parts of the hike were so tough that I was giving myself a pep talk. "You can do this! You can do this!" I decided to write about the hike in  2nd person, as though it was the voice in my head. It is different, but I hope you like it.
The trucks stopped and you cinched in the straps on your back pack tighter and talked trash to the 5 boys on the basketball team. Encouraging them to keep pace with you, all the while knowing that with their long legs and conditioning from Coach McMahon's sprints they would leave you behind eventually. You wanted them motivated to pound the trail.
Rocks and sand crunched beneath your sneakers as you stared down and made your way up the trail. You passed lottery stands, shacks, and businesses that were standing precariously close to the slope down the mountain. You wondered about what the Haitians must think seeing backpackers walk past seeking adventure while they scratched out a life. Robbie fell in beside you and you two made small talk to pass the time. Occasionally you looked up to take in the panoramic view from the top of the mountain you happened to be on. However, when you stopped with your camera and took pictures, Robbie put more and more distance between you. Eventually you saw him skipping down the trail leading the way like a descendant of Merriwether Lewis. How could a man seven years older than you make you look like such a weak-legged fool?!
You hiked by yourself for an hour. Breathing deeply. Keenly aware that you were only smelling air. Not diesel exhaust, urine, or burning trash. Just pure mountain air. And horse manure.

One of the big ascents was head of you. You sweated and swore under your breath, but you made it up and saw Robbie and the basketball team you had been provoking earlier. Robbie was doctoring blisters and you were thankful: first, that you had caught up to the lead group of hikers, and second, that they were taking a rest. You desperately needed one. But, you fool, at that stop you drank nearly all of your water.

You continued to hike and your legs could not keep up with the 6 foot 3 frame of the forwards and post players. They left you behind. The sun scorched you. The thin mountain air made it easier for the sun to redden your cheeks and nose. As the day wore on you became hotter. You sweated more. You rationed your water. You asked the occasional mountain marchan if they had and dlo. They shook their heads and said, "Pa gen!" You wondered how anyone up here stayed hydrated.

You hiked on. You finished your water. You knew the big ascent was coming. A long and straight and steep and rocky climb to the top of the plateau and the mountain forest. You were not sure how to do it with out water. You prayed for any kind of water, even a little mountain shower.
You began working your way up the ascent called Seven, and just over the first rise was Robbie. Pack off and hands on his hips, grinning. He had found a natural spring in the rocks by the trail. He was waiting to fill everyone's water bottles. He healed blisters and scrounged up water. If he had called down cheeseburgers from heaven, you might have considered him a prophet.

You sat down, shrugged off your pack, and waited for the water to purify. You hung your head and took deep breaths, filling your lungs with fresh mountain air. You checked your watch while Robbie filled up more plastic water bottles, Nalgenes, and canteens. 1:30 in the afternoon. You had been hiking for 3 hours and knew it would take 2 more to ascend the plateau, plus 30 minutes of flat walking in the pine forest to get to the mountain lodge. As you were resting and drinking cold mountain water you noticed the clouds rolling in. Thick, dark mountain clouds. You asked Robbie if he thought it looked like it would rain. Now that you had a full bottle of water, you hated the idea of getting wet. Your wife hiked this in the rain last year and she said it was miserable. Robbie said he thought it would hold off for a few hours.

The rain started before your break was done. Five of you had stopped to rest at Robbie's mountain water fountain. When the rains came you all quickly shrugged on your packs and began walking. The rain was fresh off the Seguin plateau and it was cold. It did not fall hard, but it fell steady. You adjusted the contents of your back to keep your camera and phone dry, wrapping them in the spare pairs of socks you brought. They would be the only things that would stay dry.

Soon you were soaked. Amber had been walking with you, but the rain did not slow her down. It sped her up. When the rain did not stop after 10 minutes, she dug down deep and walked faster than you or anyone else could match, leaving you with three high school boys, a rain storm, and soggy feet. The senior boys behind you complained, but they never stopped walking. You never looked back at them. You never looked ahead at the top of the ascent. You just looked straight down to plan your next steps and encouraged them to do the same. "One step and a time. We are all wet and miserable. The sooner we get there, the sooner we get dry."

It took over two hours in a driving rain storm but you made it to the top of the Seguin plateau. The basketball team and Amber were crowded under a wooden moto stand with nearly a dozen drivers fighting off the cold and the rain. You were not at Seguin, but the hardest parts were behind you.

-B

Monday, March 19, 2012

President Martelly's Crazy Press Conference

A week or so ago, all the marchans (street vendors) started to pack up their stands and leave the streets early.
Our friendly neighborhood grocery store
This is most definitely not a good sign. Ben was at the grocery store, and his friend who works there said, "Go home now."

Haitian President Michel Martelly was holding a press conference, scheduled to begin in the early afternoon (which of course meant it didn't happen until the evening). There were rumors- had the investigation into his true citizenship status revealed that he was, in fact, American? If he were an American, he would have had to resign as ineligible to hold the office. This all came just days after the Haitian prime minister (who it had taken over half a year to select and confirm) himself resigned. Was more political chaos coming?

As he walked home from the store, Ben heard and saw the mood on the street. He thought the results of the press conference would be:

something 
like
December 
2010.  

(Each of these four links was a different protest incident, or "manifestation" as they're called here.)

My next door neighbors were huddled in the gate guard's hut. Funny enough, our gate guard has a tv in his hut while none of us have it in our apartments. The press conference was beginning.

I had my laptop and was following along on Twitter while Martelly spoke in Kreyol. Ben has discovered several excellent English-language reporters here, and they were, as always, right there in the big press conference.

In a highly dramatic move, he pulled out what he says are all the passports he's ever owned. His wife displayed them out on the table, and all the reporters rush up to take photographs. 
Martelly and Haitian religious leaders
Journalists crowd the table for images
Martelly further said that he had shown them to religious leaders (shown next to him in the middle picture above), and they would "vouch for him", so to speak.

Wha?! 

I just could not believe this whole circus. It was more like reality tv than a presidential press conference.

According to one article, Martelly's enemies offered huge sums of money to various Haitian politicians to say Martelly wasn't a Haitian citizen. According to another theory, Martelly's passports are doctored. They claim he has stamps in his passports for flights on which he is not listed on the passenger manifest.

Egads.

Does this need to be the main focus of Haiti's politicians, journalists, and citizens right now? Really? Really?!?

Katie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Haps This Week

Jefe assisting our house guest, Luke, in filling out his March Madness bracket
On Friday night I had a sleepover with the girls in my discipleship group. We joined together with my friend Brittany's group for a night of pizza, journaling, Mexican Train dominoes, cookie dough, and playing with Brittany's two babies. It was highly educational for the girls- they had to make their own pizzas, learn to dip dishes in bleach water, and survive a night with no power or water. A bucket bath? Alas!

Saturday morning we had a friend come to stay for the weekend- Luke Lamar is a Baylor grad whose brother married my friend Aubrie. He is here in Haiti for a month working outside of Port-au-Prince, and he's staying with Ben and I to see this area. Yesterday we visited TeacHaiti and cheered on Quisqueya high school boys at a basketball game (another victory- undefeated!).

Today we tramped to our little house church with no name. A great sermon by Dallas Willard (we watch videos). Ben and I testified to the greatness of the Ackermans on camera for a little video that is being made about them to assist in fundraising for John's clinic and other ministries.

Next weekend Ben will be hiking up to the Haitian pine forests of Seguin with the senior class.

In three weeks we will be rangling up a group of 13 teenagers and jetting off for Washington, DC for a history trip. Last year I was quaking in my boots about taking a dozen-plus children to a foreign country for a week, but this year? De ninguna manera. No sweat.

Don't get me wrong- I'm still obsessively printing out Google Maps of every site we'll visit (noting all La Madeleines, of course!) and highlighting Metro timetables, but it's with an entirely different spirit that I prepare.

And all along, of course, there's Jefe :) He braved the evil that is bathtime for the first time tonight, with only a minimal amount of attempting to leap out of the sink. I took him outside in a towel, shaking mightily, and sat with him in the sun until he dried. He's ten weeks old now, and getting closer to making it through the night.

This week: begin Our Town with 11th grade, continue My Name is Asher Lev with 10th, and start Russia with World Cultures class.

Love,

Katie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Delivering Nadine's Baby

It finally happened! A life dream fulfilled! Yesterday I helped with a birth.


I blogged a few days back about the women's ministry at Heartline. At their maternity center, I served as doula for Nadine, a young woman who, interestingly, was born the same month and year as me. Slight difference: this was either her fifth or sixth pregnancy.

Nadine's labor was induced, which was only the second time Heartline had ever induced a labor. She had dangerously high blood pressure and was around 39 weeks.

There were several people. Three Heartline staff: Beth, Tara, and Winnie work with the maternity program and regularly help deliver babies. Shelly is an experienced American nurse midwife who is visiting to assist Heartline for a few weeks.

"Doula" means servant, and my job was to be servant to Nadine. This involved getting her water, fanning her, giving her a wet washcloth, helping her go to the bathroom, and grabbing the bowl whenever she said, "map vomi" (I'm going to vomit).
 It also involved several hours of backrubbing. I am notoriously bad at that. But when a woman is working that hard, and is that uncomfortable, you put on your backrub game face.

Beth, Tara, Winnie, and Shelly took Nadine's blood pressure very frequently and listened to fetal heart tones often as well. The blood pressure remained high.
 This is the birthing suite. There is a birthing stool, and in purple at the top of the picture you can see part of the swing-like cloth harness they have as an option while laboring. It helps support your body weight if you are laboring in a standing or semi-squatting position.
 Poor Nadine, working hard. I had to very quickly brush up on my encouraging Kreyol phrases:
  • Ou ka fe sa! (You can do it!)
  • Bon travay, bon bagay (Good job)
  • Respire (Breathe)
  • Eske, ou vle anyen? Ou vle ed? (Do you need anything? Do you want help?)
  • Preske fini (Almost done)
 At one point her IV had wiggled loose, so she wasn't getting any pitocin (the drug that induces labor). Labor practically stopped for an hour or more. Then they fixed the IV and labor became very intense.

At one point Nadine and I were walking to the bathroom when a big contraction started. She lay right down on the tile bathroom floor, IV lines and all. It was the second time I have lain on a bathroom floor with a near stranger in an intimate moment.

There was only maybe 15 or so minutes of pushing, and out came a healthy little girl. I was standing, holding Nadine's hand, and watching the baby come out into Beth's hands. I got to cut the cord! There was a sterile set of scissors that are in a plastic packaging and are only opened right before the birth. It took me a few tries.
 The baby was a little too cold at first. Shelly and I rubbed her hard for a few moments. She warmed up, breathed well, and started breastfeeding well right away. Praise God.

I wondered what I would think about the delivery, and how I would react to seeing the birth. I didn't cry- I just smiled and watched. It all looked like I imagined.

It's just as miraculous as I thought; I mean, a PERSON comes out of another PERSON. There was a sweet, special feeling in the room. We all petted and congratulated Nadine, and she smiled for the first time that day.
Yon ti fi! Job well done, Shelly.
 Shelly helped the mom get settled with breastfeeding right away.






(Ok, fair warning. The next picture is a bit graphic. I made it small, so just skip it if you're not into body parts.)






One part of birth that I was completely unable to imagine is the delivery of the placenta. To be honest, I didn't really even know placentas existed until I worked at a pregnancy clinic in college. I just thought babies came out, and then the labor was over. But no!

Beth is very fascinated by placentas and gave me a guided tour of the two sides.... and then I held it. It was heavy! It looks like the surface of a heart, but the shape of a liver. Beth also showed me what the inside of an umbilical cord looks like. It's all very fascinating. 

So there it is!

This group of women was calm, loving, and knowledgeable. I was so grateful for the way Shelly took time, unnecessarily, to explain things to me such as what the normal fetal heart rate is, or why certain laboring positions are advantageous for controlling blood pressure. It was so generous of her.

I also loved the way Nadine was treated with such dignity and respect. When it was time for internal exams, Beth would explain the whole process to Nadine and ask permission. When Nadine seemed uncomfortable to have a crowd in the room, everyone left. I've heard horror stories of delivering in Haitian hospitals, and the contempt with which patients are sometimes treated, so I was overjoyed that Nadine was able to receive this tenderness and deference.

Nadine's 26 years have been very difficult, and will continue to be. But for this day, at least, she was well cared for.

What a day! I felt high on life and could hardly sleep afterward. 

Oh God, your design is beautiful.

Katie

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