It is 9pm. I am in my room. There is a strong smell of smoke. I am not sure where it is coming from. Just a few minutes ago there was loud music playing from the church here on the mission grounds. Now I hear someone preaching. I am told that a prayer service is taking place and it will end at midnight. The preacher occasionally shouts and repeats a phrase as the people respond to him. Just another night in Haiti.
Today was a great day!! We got a lot accomplished. We began by getting up earlier than usual....well, earlier than usual for me. I am in one of the rooms and not on the roof like the others. The sun comes up between 5 and 5:30 though today the teens seemed to ignore it, but we were all up by 6:30 because today was the day we got to pass out the over 500 pounds of food we bought and packaged up. What an interesting experience.
We had the food up on the balcony and so we had to take it down close to the tent city where we were going to distribute it. Betty said it had to be early because if it was later in the day we would have all sorts of people coming in the missions ground seeking food. As soon as we began to take the bags of food down people understood what was coming. I could see it in their eyes. They just stared at the food standing from a distance, but each was hoping to get some. I can't explain what it was like. I felt almost ashamed carrying so much food down in view of them. "Here comes the rich Americans" is what was going through my mind, but when we started handing out rice, beans, pasta, cornmeal and oil to people in the tent city there was a feeling of genuine relief. People were so grateful for the food we gave them.
When we finished with the tent city we gave some to others who were connected to the mission. A couple of the teachers even said they needed food. While we were still doing this people began to come in off the street. It was amazing how fast word spread. Women, women with children, even a couple of men. All here for food. We gave what we could but Betty knew we needed to end it fast or we would have many, many people here. The whole time we were handing out food we had a security card in the middle of it all to keep order. He and someone else bagged up what was left, stuck it in a truck and drove off so that everyone understood we were finished.
We did not hand it all out. Betty said we could keep some just in case people who really needed it came by. Well, it didn't take long. In the middle of the day Betty got a call. An orphanage that they are starting needed food real bad. So Ken, Melissa and Brandon went with her to take the rest of the food. When they came back all three of them looked stunned!! What they saw really shook them. I am still not completely sure what they saw. The rest of us are supposed to be going there tomorrow.
So that was within the first hour of our day!!! Crazy.
After breakfast and a little time to ourselves we left for a village that was about 15 miles away. The mission had started a school there. We were going to do another VBS. I was apprehensive about this, but we had made adjustments. It was obvious we could not do a VBS like we do in the states. We decided to just do some singing, the puppet skit, craft and snack.
Everyone, except Louie and I, loaded up in a "tap tap." A tap tap is a common mode of transportation around here. If you have a vehicle you can haul people in, you probably will have to modify it a little, you can start your own little business by hauling people. All a person does is wait alongside the road and when a tap tap comes by he asks where it is headed. If the tap tap is headed in the right direction he climbs aboard and pays the driver. Everyone got to experience it except Pastor Louie and I. Why? Because we were the leaders and so we got to ride in the air conditioned truck.
VBS went very well. Better than expected. The children singing was beautiful. It is wonderful to hear familiar Christian songs being sung. Even though they are in a different language it is still something that connects us together. There was not any of the asking (okay, there was an occasional request) for something like a ball or money. These children seemed to really appreciate what we did for them. We also brought gifts of flip flops and toys with us. It was incredible!! As soon as we started pulling stuff out the room went chaotic. The teachers ended up passing stuff out because it was pretty impossible for us to do it. Katiana said she had begun to walk into the middle of a group of kids with flip flops in her arms. The kids began to crowd and push and a Haitian adult reached in and pulled her out. It was crazy.
I noticed that older kids get preference. They got to eat first (they were fed while we were there. A plate of rice with a sauce on it). They got the gifts first. I felt sorry for the younger ones. I also noticed that the bigger ones seemed to get more as well. We wanted each child to get at least one thing (and they did, they got a pack of crayons to color their craft with). What ended up happening was the older and bigger kids got more stuff. I saw one boy walk out with a jump rope, ball, toy and toothbrush and toothpaste.
Now I have to stop and remind myself. It is easy to make a judgement concerning culture based upon one instance. It is wrong though. I write what I see and give my impressions, but I don't know if my impressions are true. Someone once told me that culture is like an onion. When you really think you know a culture you find out that there is another layer underneath, and another underneath that, and another underneath that, and so on. There is no way for any of our team to know the culture that we have stepped into for just a few days, but from my point of view it looks like survival of the fittest.
The area that we went to was a very poor area. It is hard to even describe what we saw. Some of the houses actually resembled thatch huts. Once again, there was poverty every where. But I do have to say that the best part of this VBS was when I was told that the children are going home very happy. It was a very good day indeed.
The rest of the day was spent painting. The mission is going to have a conference soon and so they would like to make things look as good as possible. We are painting the front of the building and tomorrow we are supposed to be painting the clinic (hospital).
Today was a great day. I feel like we really accomplished something. Thank you God.
(By the way, I will be falling asleep to loud music. I'm not sure how they can pray with it blaring, but then again, I'm not Haitian.)
Oh, I almost forgot. Mandy and Kati told everyone tonight that they feel like missions might be the place for them. Praise God, but I also know what it feels like to have an intense desire at the moment and then have it wane over time. We need to be in prayer for them.