Here's are a few random things I'll remember as I take leave of CapHaitian tomorrow morning...
- Getting a chance to meet Rick Hutchison, who does a lot of water ministry down in these parts. He's the guy who woke me up as I slept on the floor of Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport with "You look like you need a cup of coffee." A really nice guy with a big heart for the poor.
- Multiple conversations with Meg and Wilburt Merzilus, the founding missionaries of Living Hope Mission. It was good to get a chance to sit down with these two wonderful people and get to know them. Wilburt, the conservative republican Haitian-American, and Meg, the more liberal democrat American-Haitian. In so many ways they are different, but their differences compliment one another. Wilburt, as a Haitian, is the main contact between the mission and the community. Today when we traveled to a small village where a roof is going on a church, it was fun to watch him interact with the locals, under a tree, eating peanuts and (I'm assuming, cause I don't speak creole) check up on the latest gossip and news in that village. Everywhere we went the man had to stop and visit somebody, explaining "If (this person) finds out I was here, and I didn't stop to visit, I'll be in big trouble." While educated in the states, Wilburt gave me a glimpse of what it is to be a Haitian. A truly amazing man, with a serious love for Jesus, entrepreneurial pastors, and the people of Haiti.
Meg, on the other hand grew up in Ohio and after so many years living in Haiti, and being married to a Haitian, I kind of get this sense that she could pretty much go anywhere in the world and blend into the culture. She's the closest thing to an international citizen as I've ever met. Not that she doesn't love America (she peppered me with questions about the election), but I've a sense that now her identity is formed outside of the American bubble... so she has a different take on things. A devoted mother who loves to laugh, Meg keeps the place running by making sure schedules are followed, reports are filed, and contacts are followed up on.
They are an awesome team. I've been privileged to get to know them.
- Sipping on a bottle of cold Coke, on the side of a mountain, out on a veranda of a $96-per-night hotel, looking out over hundreds of thousands of Haitians struggling to make 96$ in three months.
- Sitting today on a behind that rode up and back yesterday on some some of the worst roads imaginable yesterday on the edge of the bed of a Mazda Truck.
Wait, let me shift. OUCH. Man is this uncomfortable.
- Glancing in the pediatric room at Grand River hospital only to see a very little girl (not older than 2) lay sleeping on a small bed while it appeared her mother and grandmother looked on with much worry.
- Getting hit up by the mayor of a little town I visited with the group from ICC for two dollars. All hail the chief!
- Getting eaten by mosquitoes the first night sleeping here at the mission, killing fourteen of them at first light the next morning, and then hearing Meg describe what an awful experience having malaria was.
- Getting eaten by mosquitoes as I write this post before the power goes off, out on the second floor balcony outside of the locked office door where the internet transmitter is located, thinking about that last sentence.
- Having a little Haitian girl, wearing nothing but a long ratty boy's T-shirt as a makeshift dress, hold my hand as we walked down a road to go see a school, refusing to let it go.
- Eating dinner with Patrick, a driver for Ryder Rentals here in CapHaitian, as I watched him to come to life when I asked if he liked any American movies. "I'll Be Back" he said in his best Haitian accented imitation of Austrian accented Governor Arnold. Then he rattled off all the 80's A and B movie action stars who were his idols. Jean Claude VanDamm might be a has-been in Hollywood, but he's a bona fide star here in Haiti. Somebody call his agent.
- Riding in the back of truck traveling down a dirt gravel road at 55 mph, wondering why I haven't made out a will yet.
- Watching Wilburt, who had just picked up an injured baby bird laying in grass to put it on a branch so a dog wouldn't kill it, get dive-bombed by the mother. Wilburt started waving a stick to protect himself, and even threw it at the bird as he ran for cover. Let's just say that if they scheduled a pay-per-view match, the bird v. Wilburt with a stick.... I'm taking the bird.
- Listening to the members of the group from ICC in the back of the truck who had never been to Haiti before ask questions like "What do you think they're (the Haitians) saying about us?", "Do you think they are happy or angry that we're here?", and other sorted questions I, myself, can remember asking fourteen years ago.
- Hearing the story of Evans, a translator from the ICC group, whose father took him to Naples, Florida as a toddler. Two months before he was to graduate from High School (lettering in three sports, and about to graduate with honors), his father left his step-mother, leaving him behind. Had he been in the states two more months he would have become a naturalized citizen at the age of 18, but his step-mother, not having legally married the man and knowing what to do, called the Embassy. They told her to send him back to Haiti, which she did just shy of graduation. Now, he sits on his rooftop at night, occasionally hearing from friends who are in their first or second year of college, and wonders what might have been. "I wanted to be an engineer who built bridges and roads", he exclaimed. Needless to say I'll be calling Bluffton University to see if they need a 20 year old, former all-county running back from Haiti when I get home.
- Sharing my room with a two-inch long gecko I've named "Wally" (cause, you know, he stays up on the wall.... I hope).
- Asking Wilburt what his favorite food was, and hearing him say "McDonalds".
- Listening to Meg talk about her children, high school students now living in Pennsylvania, wistfully, while Wilburt brags about the full-ride their soon-to-graduate daughter has won from the University of Pittsburgh.
- And finally, coming to the realization that somehow, someway, in the end, the New Jerusalem, despite much turmoil and chaos, will one day exist on this renewed earth. Such is the hope for Haiti as we strive to continue to attempt to alleviate suffering, create opportunity, while teaching others that God calls us live lives of grace, mercy, justice, and love...
even as we try to live it out ourselves.
See you back in the states, where I will eat a Big Mac in Wilburt's honor.