In 21 days, Eddie, Lacey and I (#thedreamteam) will fly to La Gonave, where we will work with the House of Hope in Anse a Galets and the CEEM Children’s Home in Mare Sucren. Partway through the week, we hope to return to the mainland to go to the school at the Canaan Christian Community, close to where the Ortlip Ministry Center is located.
It’s safe to say that I am BEYOND excited to go back!
After a rough semester where my own inadequacies and failures like to slap me in the face on a daily basis, I can breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of going home to Haiti. To the heat, the loving people, the proof that I’m doing something to follow God’s plan and to make some sort of difference in this world, AND traveling with two of the people that I adore most in the world – man, how could I not be excited about this?!
But we need YOUR help!
We are looking to meet the needs of the House of Hope and CEEM. Lynzi, one of the founders of the u2u organization that operates the HOH and CEEM, has sent us a wish list that you can see below. We are each taking a suitcase with us, and we’d like to fill them with supplies! If you would like to donate any of the items below, please let Eddie, Lacey or I know!
Stanley is safe in Haiti and seems to be doing well!
None of this would have happened without God's intervention and His using so many people in awesome ways. Thanks to Susie, for without her agreeing to supervise my internship, I wouldn't have gone to Haiti and met Stanley. An ENORMOUS thank you to the Shriners and Dr. Sheridan for providing free care for the rest of Stanley's adolescent life. Thanks to PALS and the Haiti Air Ambulance for transporting Stanley and Clermelie safely from La Gonave to Boston. Thanks to Director Daniel, Doctor Bob, Dr. Junior, Dr. Ferdinand, Marcia, Marty, Larry, Velonde, and Dave for helping me get together Stanley's medical records, signing off on his paperwork, and taking care of him in Haiti. Thank you to my church and so many others who prayed for Stanley and provided extra funds for me so I could pay it forward to Stanley. I'm so beyond thankful for everyone, and I'm grateful that I was able to witness this miracle firsthand!
I have just returned from visiting Stanley and Clermelie in Boston with me mum, and they have great news: They are flying back from Boston to Port-au-Prince on WEDNESDAY! That is T-minus TWO days from now!
Not so great news: Stanley is super upset by this.
Here’s the backstory:
Mum and I drove to Boston on Saturday, expecting to go to either the Shriners Hospital or the hotel, meet up with Clermelie and Stanley, and have a great evening. We went to the hospital first. Stanley and Clermelie hadn’t been there all day. We drove to the hotel. No answer at their door, and the front desk clerk hadn’t seen them since that morning. So we hung around, made some calls, sent some texts, but we couldn’t find them. So we drove back to Burlington, did a little exploring, got some supper, and went to bed.
It turns out that they went to church, Frantz discovered for us. How great is that??
So yesterday morning, we picked them up at their hotel and drove to the New England Aquarium. Stanley seemed to have a really good time, although I don’t know if he was quite as impressed as I was as a child at the sight of starfish, sea urchins, and brightly colored fish. They do live on an island in the Caribbean, after all.
But he LOVED the sting ray touch tank! To hear that child giggling was the greatest thing in the world.
To see him healthy and walking and using an arm that was previously in a brace was also phenomenal. God has done some amazing things in the life of that little boy, and there’s no doubt in my mind that He has saved him with much greater plans in mind than I could ever imagine.
Stanley got a light up sword in the gift shop. As he hammed it up for the camera (photo below), he held the hilt in his palm and rotated his wrist so the sword slashed the air. I recognized the motion. That was a machete. I could see it so plainly. We might as well have been in Haiti. How strange that a single flick of the wrist could remind me so strongly of the place I love.
We ate lunch outside the aquarium, and then we went to a playground that Mum and I found the day before when we were looking for them. Stanley had such a great time on the playground! I don’t know how many he’s seen before, but he slid down the slide and raced across the precarious swinging bridge, and played on the swingset.
We walked along the wharf and sat in the sun. We watched the sailboats and blew bubbles and ate snacks. We found a Haitian flag hanging up, but not an American flag, and we laughed about that. Stanley found a statue, and we had to convince him not to climb all the way up.
Clermelie asked me about going home, and Stanley asked me, “Ki bon ou pral ale Boston?” Approximate translation: “When is it good for you to come back to Boston?” Thus began a difficult conversation where I explained to him that he is returning soon to Haiti, so I probably wouldn’t be coming to Boston again.
He replied, “Haiti pa bon. Boston bon.”
Clermelie added, “Boston bel.”
“Haiti isn’t good. Boston is good. Boston is beautiful.”
I didn’t want to see that little boy cry again. He clearly loves Boston, and the thought of returning to Haiti made the tears well up in his big eyes. Clermelie and I talked about what would happen once they returned to Haiti – well, as best as we could with my very limited Creole. I told her that I didn’t have all of the answers – “Mwen pense” and “Pa konnen” were thrown around a lot.
We ended the day on a bittersweet note, I think. Clermelie is excited to return to Haiti; Stanley is not. Stanley pretended to fall asleep in the car – and with his head on my lap – so that we wouldn’t have to leave. I know he is so much better physically, but he still breaks my heart a little. And I’m trying really hard not to think, “What have I done?” because I know God used me and the people around me to save his life. But the emotional toll…I didn’t even think of that. Now that he has seen what America is like in comparison to Haiti…We are the land of excess, after all. I told them that I love Haiti and I think it’s a beautiful place, but I don’t think Stanley was convinced. So I hope he’ll be okay. I promised to see them in March if I could, and I absolutely intend to.
So please, be praying for this sweet, smart little boy as he prepares to go home. He is out of danger now, health-wise, but I imagine that he will face many challenges for years to come. He is resilient, and I have faith in him. God has been so, so good!
I am not a morning person, and I am not particularly fond of being woken up by anything other than my alarm.
A phone call from Clermelie is an exception.
I left my number with her again last week and told her to call me if there is anything they need. So she and a translator gave me a call this morning to let me know that Stanley is having another operation and should be out around 11:30. I didn't think he would be having another surgery, as the nurses last week indicated that last week's would be the last. How quickly things can change. She told me that they're doing well and are doing fine with traveling back and forth between the hotel and the hospital via a medical shuttle. I was worried about this aspect, but Clermelie assured me that they're doing fine. They'll probably be in the hospital until early next week, just like last week, which works out well because Anthony is going to bring some children to visit!
Clermelie said that they would be returning to Haiti soon (their Care Coordinator thinks toward the end of this month), and she wanted to know if I would be back to visit before they left. I told her I would try! So if anyone else wants to hop on this train with me, this might be your last chance!
This post has nothing to do with Haiti, so I'm sorry if that's what you're expecting. This post is a little less rosy.
Some days I struggle so hard with my demons that I might as well take my bow and arrows with me wherever I go. This week seems like it's going to be a tough one. I don't know why I am sometimes plagued by every single thing I've ever done wrong, while other days I'm fine. The past few days have been a constant war between myself and Satan, and sometimes I'm just so tired of fighting. It is much easier to resign myself to being alone for the rest of my life, to let myself drown in homework rather than trying to swim, to stop caring about my job and skip my shift. But God sent me a very loud & clear message through Pastor Wayne on Sunday:
"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord lives He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.'" – Hebrews 12:4-6
I know my demons. Undiagnosed or not, depression is real. It's not something I make up. I've never been overly vocal about it, but that doesn't make any less real those days when I can almost physically feel my soul dragged down so low that it's a struggle to get dressed, stop crying, and face the rest of the world. This is one of those weeks. I'm not asking for prayers; there are people with more tangible and devastating problems than mine. It feels wrong to ask for prayers when my struggles are internal. But I guess this post is for self encouragement as much as it is for the encouragement of others: Know your demons. Know that, like Job, God allows the devil to pull you apart to try to raze your faith. It takes so much more effort to hold yourself together than it does to fall apart. God doesn't allow you to be tempted beyond what you can survive, and He ALWAYS gives us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).
This update is long overdue, but here is all the recent news I have at my disposal regarding Stanley.
The weekend of July 16, I travelled with my friends Eddie and Lacey to Boston to visit Stanley and Clermelie. It was a Sunday, and Stanley had just had an autograft done two days ago on Friday. He wasn't feeling too great, honestly, and was obviously in a great deal of pain. I asked him about his doule (pain) several different times, and instead of pointing to his chest like I expected he kept pointing to his thigh, where the doctors took the skin for the graft. Stanley got upset when it was time for his medication, but so SO fortunately, Eddie asked Nancy Lanni to give us a call and she chose that precise moment to call. Lace and I stepped outside while the nurses, in Eddie's words, "sat him up, put some [salve] on him, adjusted his chest protector and arm brace, gave him more pain medication, and then we got him into the wheel chair. He was a lot more comfortable."
Eddie took Stanley outside for the first time since he arrived in Boston. Three weeks without fresh air is a looooong time! Eddie said he loved the sunlight and only asked to go inside to get water, and then he wanted to go right back out! They played some drums and Stanley loved that!
While the two of them frolicked outside, Lacey and I drove Clermelie to a nearby Target to do a little shopping. I think we had just as much fun as Eddie and Stanley! We returned to the hospital instead of grabbing some Haitian food because some of their family stopped by to visit – and brought homemade Haitian food! Frantz, a cousin of Loïs (Stanley's dad), operates an organisation called Lakay Dabò (their Facebook page is here) for Haitians to help Haiti, in a nutshell. We left shortly after so the family could spend some time together.
My friend Anthony met us at the hospital and is doing some hardcore arranging of visitors for Stanley. Last week, he wrote that his colleague, who is Haitian, visited and said, "On Friday, they did some redressing of his wounds and she helped with translation which made him happier. "He is definitely a pre-teen – lots of funny back-talk but still very kind 🙂 he really likes to be clean and play but clearly physical play is not an option right now."
And Marty and Larry, bless their beautiful souls, have a pastor contact at a local church, Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, and the church has raised some funds and gotten some food and clothes together for Stanley and Clermelie. God is SO good at bringing people together and connecting His people together for the good of others!
Fast forward a few weeks, 16 days to be exact. I got lucky enough to have 4 days off in a row from work (I'm neglecting school a little), so Mum, Derrick and I drove to Boston. We got a hotel in Kittery, and the weirdest thing happened: Yesterday, every single one of us slept in until exactly 10:15 am. Not a minute later, and we all woke up within a minute of each other. What's especially weird about this is that ever since I returned from Haiti, I have set my alarm for 7 or 8 am. My mother is usually awake around then also. My brother just sleeps. So we hurried to get ready and check out of the hotel, and after getting gas and breakfast, we flew to Boston and arrived on Stanley's floor of the hospital around noon-ish.
Clermelie was not in the room but Stanley was. He was fully dressed, lying on his bed and watching a movie in Creole on a portable DVD player. All of their belongings were packed, and Stanley told me that they would be moving to a hotel at 1 pm! I couldn't believe it! What happened to the little boy that could barely sit up two weeks ago?? He showed me his hands, his legs, his stomach – beautiful, brown, healthy, healing skin! He could sit up on his own (although I think he was just being cute the few times he had me help him up!) and we PLAYED SOCCER IN THE HALLWAY! My mind is BLOWN by the fact that at the beginning of June he was still in Haiti with raw, painful burns – and now we were playing soccer in a hospital in Boston.
If we had slept in any later that day, we would have missed them. As it was, we lent an extra 3 pair of hands to helping the Pierres move out of the hospital and into a nearby hotel in Charlestown. It complicates things a little, as they still have to take a medical shuttle from the hotel to the hospital for meals and appointments, and they're not quite sure how long they'll be staying. But one of Stanley's nurses, Rich, said that Stanley has one more surgery to fix some minor errors, and then returning home to Haiti would be "getting close" to coming true.
Doesn't that BLOW. YOUR. MIND?!
We are staying tomorrow morning instead of heading back to Maine because Clermelie would like us to accompany her and Stanley from the hotel to the hospital for Stanley's final surgery. We are more than happy to oblige, and I am praying that everything will go unbelievably well. God has taken these beautiful and deserving people into His loving hands so far – with Him standing with them, then what could stand against?
Listen, I'm not telling you what to do – who am I kidding, yes I am. If you feel that in your soul that the Holy Spirit is urging you to do something, DO IT. Don't you dare let another human being stop you. You don't know the things God has planned for you – you may change someone's life.
(This short little post was written on Tuesday while I was in Haiti, but I’m posting it anyway!)
“You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of dust.”
-Gungor, “Beautiful Things”
This is my last day in Haiti. I’m sitting here, in the lobby of the super nice hotel Wes booked us for a fantastic price, and I’m thinking of the past four weeks I’ve spent here. I haven’t updated this blog because I decided about halfway through my stay that some things can’t be reduced to a single blog post. Some things are greater than that, greater than any words I could ever say, so I decided to wait until I get back to share photos and stories.
But for now, there is this filler post that is a list of all the beautiful things I have discovered about Haiti. Some of them are silly, some are serious.
The mountains. Coming from La Gônave to the mainland, the mountains look like a giant crumbled the land in his fist and left it like that. Everything is green and especially beautiful right now, and the sight is overwhelming.
Susie’s teaching. I sat in on every class except for one, and I think the students are learning so much from her. Most of all, the way she illustrates concepts is relevant to the students. For example, in discussing bacteria, she talked about how water needs to be heated to get rid of bacteria. She told them that the water in mud puddles is unsafe to drink, and about how using your wash water for cooking water is not a good idea. As North Americans, we are taught these things from an early age, but it is not that way in Haiti. The students had many questions for Susie, which she always answered, no matter how foolish the students might feel in asking them. So Susie is doing some great work where she is.
Worship music. I have never seen people worship Jesus as completely as the congregation at the Wesleyan Church in Anse-a-Gâlets. Hands in the air, Allelujahs everywhere, dancing…it was such a beautiful thing to be part of that. All worship music hereafter will seem like the shadow of a great symphony in comparison.
Green grass! It is so rare to see a lawn full of green grass! Sarah and I were just sitting here commenting on this very thing and how we just notice this now. Our hotel has a bit of grass on the sides of the building, and there is a spot in Anse-a-Gâlets where we went swimming that has a small lawn of nice grass.
I’ve been a little MIA over the past few weeks. This is partly due to my lack of internet until this week, and partly because I’ve actually been busy.
But seriously, I’ve been busy.
I could even be doing so much more, but I’m just one person. One sweaty, slow-moving, awkward, blanc-ish person.
Men mwen renmen l’isit la nan Ayiti. But I LOVE it here in Haiti. I love the people that I’ve met, the missionaries who have been so graciously hosting my, the spectacular cooks, the sun, the rooster that wakes me up sometimes, my malaria-meds-induced crazy dreams that sometimes leave me wondering, “Why on earth did I use a roll of wrapping paper to maim those seagulls?” I love going to the hospital with Esner, the wonderful man I have hired to be my translator, and visiting with the patients. I’ve held some beautiful babies and talked to some proud mamas. I love going on walks with Marcia, talking with Larry and Dr. Bob at mealtimes, trekking across town with Marty to visit a school founded by her former student. I love talking with Susie and Wes about Haitian culture. I love that I just stood outside in the refreshing rain, the second this week. And I absolutely ADORE Mèt Johnny, as well as the nursing students I spend class time with almost every day. Their wonder at microscopes warms my heart and makes me giggle.
But my heart also breaks a little every day.
I’m having trouble falling asleep at night. I think about the new mother who wants to leave the hospital but can’t because she doesn’t have enough money to pay her hospital bill. I think about the baby who has been in the hospital for a month because he was born premature; his tiny little hand is hardly bigger than my thumbnail. I think about the kids I’ve seen in the streets during school hours because in Ayiti, you need to pay for a uniform and supplies and exams, and so so SO many families simply cannot pay. I think about the woman who runs naked through the streets because she is mentally ill. I think about the thousands upon thousands of pounds of trash in the streets, in the ocean, in the gutters, in the bellies of goats and pigs and cows and chickens that someday end up in the bellies of children and their families. I think of the thousands of people who desire to work but can’t work because there are no jobs to be had. I lie in bed and think of all these things and it all seems so overwhelming.
I’m just one sweaty, slow-moving, awkward, blanc-ish person. How can I possibly make a dent in any of this?
I can’t. And that just adds to the pile of Things I Can’t Fix.
But, I’ve learned in my two weeks in this beautiful country, that none of us Blancs, or foreigners, are here to fix things, or we shouldn’t be. And if we are here with that mindset, we are destined to fail. Haiti does not need to be fixed by outsiders who think they know better. I’ve learned that programs implemented by Blancs almost always fail because Haitians weren’t the ones to start them. They didn’t believe in them, so they failed. Haiti needs to be healed by its people. People who yes, may have picked up a few things from outsiders. But Haitians are very capable people. Something else might need to be the spark, but they are the fire.
I’m not apologizing for the crazy, stream-of-consciousness quality of this post. But now that I’ve spilled what’s been filling my heart, I can tell you how I’ve actually been spending my time here.
I was supposed to be at the airport an hour early. By the time I arrived, I had a half an hour until departure. The Air Canada representative told me I wouldn’t have enough time to go through security and board the plane.
So I missed my flight to Haiti.
Imagine my frustration as I watched my plane sit on the runway for another half hour as I made six phone calls and talked to four different reps. I finally got a flight – next Tuesday 23 May.
I’m trying not to be too upset about this, but I am. It’s a week spent away from my internship. It’s additional funds I have to funnel to paying the difference in tickets and away from funds I could have left behind for people to use in Haiti. It’s more work for Susie and Wes to reconfigure transportation plans. A wasted hotel room, a week without work, an inconvenience that could have been prevented.
But nothing is an inconvenience to God. Everything happens for a reason. I’m going to use this week off to make some inquiries for my senior internship next fall, catch up on post-finals rest, and hopefully spend time with family and friends. This isn’t the end of the world, I’m telling myself, but an opportunity.