Haiti | Help One Now | Part 1

Thursday, July 10, 2014

 
Well hello there friends! I am home, for the moment! First let me say how much I love you and all your sweet texts, emails and messages telling me to hurry up and post from Haiti. To know you follow along means so much more than you ever know because you see, I believe in connecting and sharing and storytelling. I believe that together with our experiences we can do so much good in this world. Together with all of our pieces of God's incredible puzzle we connect and do mighty things this side of heaven. That is one of my biggest "whys" in this world. I want to live as a bridge. I want to be a place that connects, a place that allows people's lives to intersect and their stories to pass and merge together.
 
I still don't know what direction these posts will go but I do know that God laid some really specific things on my heart. He taught me some incredible lessons and reignited some things in my soul through my time in Haiti. He also encouraged me. Through every pastors story I found a message of courage and obedience. This was so affirming to me being that one of the verses I depend on daily is Joshua 1:9 which reads,

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
 
Being in the center of God's will is not for the faint of heart. Being a Christ follower isn't for those who want things done neatly and without consequence. Living YOUR purpose isn't a cakewalk, ever. Giving God Your Yes is a daily sacrifice of self and status quo. It's hard, but there is joy in obedience to him and there is strength in unity with the Father and His people.
 
"L'Union Fait La Force" is a phrase on the Haitian flag that means Unity is Strength.
 
Thank you Chandler, of Fait La Force, for another amazing affirmation of God's message to me in this season of my life. I'll tell you more about her later, but if we look for God we will find Him everywhere. He will guide and affirm us, He will challenge and teach us. I am so thankful for these messages of hope and as the Spirit leads I will share them with you. Thank you for following. Thank you for loving me well and supporting me immensely. I believe in the intersecting of our stories and I am so humbled that you are a part of mine!
 
 
 
Meet Tiffany.
Help One Now Traveling Partner and New/Instant Soul Sista
 
I swear the girl could be my little sister. In fact, people in Haiti all week assumed we were. She is one beautiful reflection of Christ and one amazing story of grace. She also gets my humor and can take the bigness of my personality. SCORE for me!  Please, if you are local to us, walk right up to her and hug her neck. Tell her she's beautiful and amazing because y'all, she has so much to give us all. Her story, like so much of mine is one woven with seasons of deep brokenness and then in the next breath such unprecedented redemption. She is my kind of  people. Investing in so many girls and doing truly doing amazing things and I am so glad that I now get to call her my real life friend! God orchestrated every detail of our meeting, the time, the way we met, the conversations, and so incredibly, the people who we our bridge, the ones who connected us to enter into this season together.
 
 
 
This would be home for part of the week.
 
Pastor opens his own home to the Help One Now teams and I can not say enough about their family's hospitality. The share their personal bathroom with like 6 girls, this is serious generosity people. The bathroom for said girls is also next to their bedroom. Bless 'em. The reason my soul feels so at home in Haiti is because of how they live in community all the time. Those who know me know that our home has a revolving door. We love nothing more than to have it full of the people we love and do life with. There are always other people's kids here, there is usually a friends car in the driveway and neighbors know how to get in when we aren't here. 
 
Imagine for a moment our Western stigma of big Italian Family Gatherings. Go there in your head; loud laughter, people talking over one another, a heated argument, your 5th cousins and then someone who is a cousin twice removed and then the neighbor next door. Imagine that conversation that begins as funny then builds into shouting across the table and meshes into heated and later ends in a huge embrace. Now multiply that by like 100 and you have Haitians, or at least the ones I know.  Pastors house at dinner was so loud sometimes that we couldn't hear ourselves talk. So we just laughed and wished like heck we could understand the creole that was flooding our ears.
 
And if you look closely on the bottom left of the photo above, you will see the Rottweiler who tried to eat me one night at said home. NOT even kidding. I am used to armed guards with very large guns and machetes in Haiti, Rottweilers however  were new and far less comforting. I am pretty sure there wasn't a lot of discrimination between who were visitors and who were intruders, we all seemed to fall into the latter category.
 
 
My Space and Our Porch
 
Me, top bunk to the left and then my favorite spot in the house. Right beside my bed was a big metal door. I opened it to find the sweetest thing, an outside space free of Rottweilers who were there to eat protect you. My week was complete & nothing else mattered. I love a good porch to sit on and it became my unwind spot and a sweet spot to exchange precious waves and giggles with the little kids who lived next door. Over stone fences and through sounds of chickens and dogs, we laughed and danced and sang. It was truly a little blessing to have a spot to just be at the end of our long days.



 
If there is one thing I want everyone to know about Haiti.... it is a truly beautiful place.
 
The news doesn't really give an accurate description of the beauty this land holds. The mountains are green and tropical and over them roll rows and rows of terrace farms and small villages of the most hardworking and humble people you have ever met. Mountains roll into valleys, much like parts of Kenskoff or Petionville where we were and the temperatures are mild and often cool at night. There are vibrant street markets sporadically placed along the main road as you enter in and leave each community and people are always out and about doing business, selling things at market or walking to and from school. The montains also give way to beautiful beaches and coastlines that I have only been able to view from a distance. I have had the opportunity to take a boat ride across the crystal clear dark blue waters, but I have yet to set my feet on a sandy beach. There will be time for that though. God has birthed in me a deep feeling of home when I am in Haiti. I can't explain it and at this point I think I have decided I'd rather not try. I simply accept that part of me will always be there. Part of me finds solace on this beautiful little island with all her resilience and redemption. Haiti is truly a remarkable place and is so much more than her devastated parts. More on that later as well.
 
 

Pastor Jean St. Cyr inside Eglise Baptiste

Jean St. Cyr is a leader no doubt. He's a pastor, headmaster, humanitarian, connector, visionary, entrepreneur, builder, husband, father and friend to many... many people over many nations and so much more. His current church and school were birthed out of JP1, a tent city that erected itself on a golf course that at one time held over 60,000 displaced, wounded, homeless Haitians after the Earthquake. Stop and take that in 60,000 hungry, broken devastated people.
 
That flag he's holing above is something he said he'd fight to the death over. It's the last piece of tent city, the last reminder of where they came from and who they are: Survivors, Overcomers, Restorers, Redeemers and Followers, followers of a Christ they somehow found a way to see to spite all the rubble and chaos and death and destruction, to spite themselves.
 
As soon as we left the airport we went to his church. To say we jumped right in is an understatement. These were my kind of people. I didn't shed a lot of tears in Haiti, (gasp, yes you read that correctly. I obviously still do have a pulse. Again, another post) but this mans words were powerful and made a few tears slide down my cheeks. His was the first of many messages of obedience and trusting God on absolute blind faith. When the Earthquake hit he went out to find a man who was working for him. On the way he found hundreds of broken bodies and broken buildings. He started piling them in his truck to get them to the hospital. One after the other, he collected as many as he could and tried to make his way to the hospital. He couldn't. As he tried to make his way back home, he ran out of gas. So he did all he could do and put the bodies of people he had picked up along the side of the road and set up a make shift hospital. He used what he had and he prayed to God for the next breath and the next step.
 
As the days of devastation unfolded, he told us the only thing he knew to do was preach the word of God. His business happens to include building large speaker boxes. Yes, isn't God meticulous with the things He chooses for us to do. So, he set up giant speakers and for 7 MONTHS, every single night he preached the word of God where the masses of people in tent city could hear. I have tears flowing down my face right this very moment. 7 months, every night God gave him words of love and encouragement and peace to speak over people who had lost every single thing they had in the world except their life. Many lost all family members, children were missing, neighbors were buried alive in the rubble. identities were lost in government buildings, money was buried in collapsed banks. Imagine the terror and then imagine the Holy Spirits movement through one man's obedience to use all he had left to be a bridge.
 
Not only did he preach to the Haitians, but he drew the attention of world wide media, the aid workers from all over the world, UN soldiers and the soldiers of other countries who were sent to help with the rebuilding and restoration. Insert moment I lost it. He told us stories of US soldiers that were sent straight to Port Au Prince from Afghanistan and Iraq. They hadn't even been debriefed from their tours, many on the front lines, their families didn't even know they had been relocated. They were sent to Haiti to help maintain order and peace and yet they had not even had the opportunity to process their own devastation from the war they had been fighting in the Middle East. He said they would come and prop up under his tent and just sit for hours with hot tears streaming down their faces and onto the brushed metal of their weapons and the threads that spelled out their last names and the lives they didn't even recognize anymore. He spoke of US Generals and officers by name and talked of how much admiration and gratitude he had for the US military and soldiers who were on the ground.
 
Broken people finding healing among the broken.
 
Borders crossed, lines erased, humanity caring for humanity without hierarchy, people form all nations coming together to grieve and find hope and healing. For 7 months he spoke to the world about the love of Christ! One day he was a business man and the next he was being interviewed by journalist around the globe on major networks as the overseer of sorts of this new tent city. He began working with many celebrity NGO's like Sean Penn's to offer aid and food and medical care to those who were affected by the massive destruction. All because he said YES to God and in turn to his people, to those in need, to those who both loved his God and those who mocked it. He used what he had where he was out of a reckless, blind faith and belief in something he could not see over the countless faces and bodies and pressures of insurmountable devastation all around him. He kept his face tilted to heaven and his knees firmly on the broken ground.
 
He told us stories of giving everyone in tent city a different colored token at one point and using that as a system for feeding the people. They would feed one color each day of the week because there was not enough food to feed them all. Imagine for a moment choosing one group of children to feed a day while THOUSANDS were standing around you begging and wailing and weeping because they were starving. Imagine them also too sick to cry, to sick to even beg and imagine having an empty hand for so many who were carrying broken bodies. Yet, because he trusted God, he didn't let it overwhelm him, he stayed focused to the call and he kept moving forward with what he had. It would have been easier to quit, to be angry, to be numb to be self sufficient and a lot easier to just take care of "his own family" but that's not what people who are obedient to the Holy Spirit do. People who are obedient to the call on their lives by Christ can't think of living life outside the parameters of what God has given them to do. They can't sleep if they are not following the steps laid out for them, they can't breath knowing there is someone depending on their bridge to get to the next place God has for them. People who are led by Christ don't stop giving Him their yes, just because live gets hard, they don't give excuses or bow out, they dig in and they pray and they trust and they go and they do just like Pastor St. Cyr. 
 
I had intended to tell you about his son, my modern day Nehemiah, but the Spirit says to rest here. I hope you'll come back for that. And I hope you will think about what God is asking you to give him right where you are. What gift do you posses that you can use a bridge of hope, of healing, of promise and provision? Who needs to be fed by you? What cultural lines and boundaries do you need to erase to link arms with another fragmented soul? What keeps you up at night? What breaks your heart. If you know, reach out there, if you aren't broken pray for it. The absence of brokenness over your fellow man is the absence of Christ. Christ came to be broken, he came to die to himself to be a bridge for our eternity. Who will you be a bridge for?
 
Love and Blessings,
 
Manda
 
 
                        Disclaimer:
None of us had a real camera I don't think. I have a love/hate relationship with that. It was beautiful to be present, but it's also really crappy to not have vivid photos to tell stories with to you. Photos are kinda my thing. So, these are all good old iphone images from members of the team and myself. Bear with it and let God paint beautiful images in your mind of Haiti! His are better anyway.

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