Friday, December 16, 2011

Noises in the Night

(I am behind on getting my blog posts uploaded through the internet, but this and the next few entries will be thoughts I wrote earlier, but are still relevant and supply a taste of Haitian life.)

I live on a 2nd floor with a balcony. Right below me is a small courtyard that separates me by about 20' from the school this pastor runs. This building also has a balcony, so though there is air between us, I can practically "reach out and touch someone" on this neighboring second floor balcony. What this all means, in practical terms, is that I am effectively a zoo animal.

Yup, whether I am in my room or on the balcony, there are usually many sets of eyes staring at me. In the beginning, it was unnerving, but eventually I stopped noticing (unless it is coupled with 20 voices calling my name at the same time!).

Since I live 20' from a school with 600 students, let's just say "quietness is not a virtue here," or at least it's a hidden unexperienced one. And since loud blaring music does seem to be a virtue in developing nations, particularly at late night/early morning hours, I've been wondering how I will adjust to the week I am back at our cabin in the woods home base in Michigan.

After all, it is a place where our neighbors are only occasional weekend warriors and the most prominent sounds are those of woodpeckers, songbirds and cheeky chipmunks.
cheeky chipmunk

Will I be able to sleep without the dragging scraping metal noises of 2 a.m. furniture rearranging of our gatekeeper? How will I handle the absence of 3 a.m. U.N. heavy equipment sounds? And what about the 4:15 a.m. blaring U.N. loudspeakers? Will I miss the boomboxes of the night hours (I don't think so!) and how will I wake without the sounds of 80 rambunctious orphans coming to life every morning at 5 a.m.??

Will the sounds of silence deafen me?

Life is definitely lived out loud here!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

They're Watching You!

Developing world children have a fascination with trash. Trash is equated with treasure. When you own nothing, there may be something of value in someone else's garbage. Innovation excels here.

In fact, I failed to mention in my recent blog entry about the pedicure the girls gave me (, that they used a piece of asphalt to wear down my callouses. That was their tool of the trade, for it's what was available to them. It was remarkably effective, considering.

The creativity of the poor always impresses me. I remember being in Mozambique after the devastating floods, and before long the homeless and poor were offering car washes with the excess water that had pooled in the road's potholes. (Mozambique has vehicle-sized potholes and I'm not joking!)

But here in Haiti, the most recent trash innovation took the shape of vitamin bottles. Yup, I had taken a plastic bag full of trash down to the bin, and I did so during the night, hoping to go unnoticed. Well, when you're living with 80 children, little goes unnoticed- there is always a set of eyes watching you, and usually 20 or 30 sets at any one time!

So even though there was no electricity and I 'casually' dropped it in the bin as I kept moving so as to attract less attention, my careful plans were for naught. Within 15 minutes, every single one of the empty vitamin bottles I had placed in that plastic bag were in the hands of one of the children. I have no idea what they plan on doing with them, but no doubt, they have lots of ideas. Perhaps they'll become their own personal water bottle or something to roll down the sloped driveway or a place to put some rocks that they find. I found 2 year old Guerlande sitting on the ground one day with a plastic bag full of pebbles she was collecting. There was nothing else for her to play with, so she was entertaining herself with plastic and pebbles.

I cringe that these children instinctively go through the trash, even when instructed otherwise, but I do understand why they do it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"I love you sooo much, Jesus, I love you so much...!"

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of they who bring Good News, who publish peace, who bring Good News of happiness. Isaiah 52:7

Tonight I was ambushed by the older girls- in a good way. In fact, in a holy memorable unforgettable God-glorifying way.

You see, they've been asking me if they could paint my toenails before I returned to David. So I finally agreed, but this was WAY more than a teen toe-painting party. They filled two basins with water: one for feet and one for hands. Then four girls went to work at once in washing and massaging my hands and feet. I was floored. They were incredibly thorough.

Honestly, no one has ever spent time like that on my feet before. I don't give a lot of time to beautifying my body. In fact, I remember living in a Mexican dump in my 20's and my cousin came to visit and remarked that my feet looked old. The thick callouses they sported from a decade of long-distance running made sure they'd never be nominated for a magazine shoot, that was for sure. But I was surprised by his comment, even though I hadn't paid much attention to them. That's because I'd never compared them to anyone elses. They were just my feet. If you asked me if they were young or old, I would have looked at you funny, and just told you they were the feet of someone my age- because they were.

Well, my aged feet took on a beauty of their own tonight, thanks to some teens whose histories are ones of abuse and abandonment. They have traded their sorrows for beauty, their fears for strength, their mourning for gladness and potential bitterness for kindness- and I was blessed to be the recipient of it all in a stunning display of God's grace.

Besides washing and cleaning my feet, they filed the nails, pushed back the cuticles and massaged them thoroughly before finally painting them. It wasn't an efficient operation by any means, but it was a slow deliberate act of love. I was lavished by their love. Singing, talking, laughing...I will never forget tonight. By the time they got to the toenail painting, darkness had spread its blanket across the land, so it was all done by flashlight.

And then they began to sing, "I love you sooo much, Jesus, I love you so much...." Over and over they sang this line. Maybe because they didn't know the rest of the song, or maybe, simply because they were overcome by its Truth.

I have so much emotion welling up inside me, I want to say more, but their thorough act of love has left me speechless. I am undone by their love. And I am reminded of the man who defined love for us with His life:

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17

Friday, December 2, 2011

One of those days...that God gives us more opportunities to love Him

To love another person is to help them love God. Soren Kierkegaard

Some days you wake up and just want to go back to bed. Today was kind of like that. I've been fighting something and for the first time in weeks, I truly felt drained of all energy. But today was not a day for resting. The worst health attacks on the children since being here all seemed to coalesce into one non-perfect storm. Fevers, coughs, stomach aches, staph infections marked by huge underarm boils, children with suspected AIDS/TB being passed on from clinic to clinic for inconclusive tests...and then Ericsson.

I posted earlier ( about how I had 'missed it' in loving this lone boy and God surely gave me opportunity to make up for it today. The poor guy was in so much pain today that he was crying for 4 hours. It all began with a slight fever and stomachache which I treated with prayer and children's acetaminophen. Eventually that slowed his crying down to a whimper, but two hours later he appeared with a swollen left eyelid and hives all over his body.

The crying began in earnest once again.
I rushed upstairs to find we had no benadryl, but thankfully I had a few personal tablets in my computer case. As I returned down the stairs, I ended up falling/slipping past the last four onto the concrete below due to the darkness (no electricity). I sat on the hard floor holding my ankle for a while and praying, and then got up and continued on with my mission of healing.

Ericcson was trying to scratch his skin off, so I doused him with calamine lotion. The tears continued for 2 more hours while the benadryl ever so slowly did its work. I gathered all the children around him and everyone prayed for him as well as surrounded him with songs of praise to our King. The pastor came and prayed authoritative healing prayers. All the while, Ericcson had his head in my lamp while he cried and whimpered and I stroked his head and body trying to comfort him with love.

Eventually I had to attend to other kids and as I heard him continue to cry, my heart was breaking. Honestly, partly it is because the sound of crying and pain is not a pleasant sound (I don't like suffering!)- and I just wanted it to stop. Partly because I was frustrated that my efforts in prayer and medical methods didn't seem to be helping a whole lot.

But most importantly, because God was reminding me what an 8 yr old boy in an ocean of girls must feel like when he needs comfort but has no mommy and daddy. I did my best and ached as it didn't feel like enough, but I suspect all mommy's experience that at times.

Yup, some days in Haiti you wanna go to bed as soon as the day begins, but God has other plans.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who's keeping who?

The first pages of Holy Scripture contain a dreadful saying which people use an excuse for themselves: Am I my brother’s keeper?” This question, with its implication of irresponsibility permeates the whole history of humankind and the life of each of us. Each of us has to take issue with such reasoning : ‘My horizon is limited. So-and-so is no concern of mine. I can take no responsibility for him.’ How cleverly we try to pass this off as logic, but in our heart, faithfulness says: That is not true. We are obligated to do everything we can for others, for friends and strangers alike. Jesus impressed this upon us, in his moving way when He said that everyone who needs us is our neighbor. Everything we do for anyone is also done for Jesus and will receive it’s blessing from Him. Albert Schweitzer

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dancing with our Hearts

Last night as about thirty of us danced in the dark once again, no one seemed to miss the electricity. Perhaps it’s because the Light of God was shining brightly as we loudly, passionately and whole-heartily sang Him notice of our thanks, love and worship. I suppose if there had been electricity it wouldn’t have changed anything, but somehow, as it was, it felt primitively pure and pleasing to Him.

And when I saw 6 year old Lovely (yes, that really is her name) raising her arms and closing her eyes, unprompted by anyone else, I knew without a doubt I was surrounded by holiness. These orphans are dirty, worm-infested, scabies-afflicted, in mismatched clothes and to worldly eyes, nothing to look at. But oh what a different perspective our Daddy has. He was visiting us with His presence, pleasure and favor.

The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them.
People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving is not a holiday here in Haiti, but it is a way of life.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday here in Haiti, but it is a way of life.
I wrote the following entry on turkey day and am importing it here for those of you who didn't get a chance to see it.
Tonight I sat on some concrete in the dark (no electricity) with at least 20 orphans surrounding me, pushing in for the privilege of touch and presence, and I marveled at the fact they were singing worship songs at the top of their lungs. I only had 1 meal today because food is running out, and the kids are constantly telling me they're hungry, but in the midst of lack, there is still laughter and joy and thanksgiving. One little girl kept saying, "Merci Jesus" to everything I said and she meant it.

Then there's little Ketia. Less than 2 months ago this 7 year old weighed less than 25 pounds! Most American children are minimally twice her weight at that age. My fingers easily circle Ketia's upper arms. This summer, Ketia had mumps from head to toe and a month later she was in a body cast covering her from waist to feet. Now I get the privilege of washing Ketia and applying cream to treat her scabies, and after the tears finish, we laugh and play and I can scarcely comprehend that this vibrant gentle kind little girl who grabs my hand any chance she gets- well- to think she was near death so recently- I tell you, my thanksgiving will not be about food, but it will be about God's love for orphans like Ketia.

"I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. But in any case, it was kind of you to help me in my present difficulty." Philippians 4: 11-14

The children here walk a precariously fine line between life and death every single day. If any of you want to help these orphans out of their distress/hunger/difficulty, please do! (Fastest method is Paypal using or you can send to: Melinda Nelson, 13866 Dow Lane, Beulah, MI 49617. If you need a tax-deductible receipt, please make cheque out to: The Life Church.)

These children are worthy of our sacrifice - James 1:27 is crying out for attention and adherence- let's show God our thankfulness with more than a cooked turkey.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Achy Breaky Heart

My heart was really achy today when I figured out that the obnoxious 8 year old boy who has been bothering me by grabbing my skin, pulling on me, yelling my name (all the time)…that though he is unrelated to the 37 SOG girls, he was brought here at the same time they were rescued.

Wow, what must that feel like to just be ‘thrown into’ an orphanage and be the only boy and no one really knows you? No wonder he was being obnoxious. Thank God he was, and not huddled in some corner in a fetal position. God, forgive me for not noticing anything other than that he was a bother. Here I am to love orphans and I wasn’t really paying him the attention he is so desperate for.

Because this is a girl’s orphanage, he will have to be moved again and I’m told they will probably take him to the place where the 9 boys who were rescued from SOG were taken. That is a work-camp type of setting where the director stated, ‘emotion is not allowed.’ I can’t picture this hungry for attention child of God doing well amongst 200 other boys, being a nameless faceless entity in a sea of abandoned children. Will you pray for Ericsson Louis please? I know God has better plans for him than what he’s experienced so far.

I’ve prayed that Bob Pierce prayer about ‘God break my heart with the things that break your heart,and I’m pretty positive the history of this young boy is reason enough for another ‘Jesus wept’ incident. So God, please hear my prayer and just as these girls have been rescued, rescue this one too. Please intervene or show us how one of us is to intervene and bring hope and transformation into this chosen child’s future.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Thoughts from a Haitian orphanage

Whooooweee! Have some coffee with your sugar! The kindness of the people I'm staying with is very evident, yet sometimes that sweetness is a little too strong as when it makes it into the coffee they serve me. In fact, truth is, I am assuming it's coffee as its appearance resembles it, but I taste no evidence of anything but sugar in this liquid.

PS I wrote that on my first day here, and since then, they've not served me coffee anymore. I know they didn't see me writing this - so maybe God thinks I'm sweet enough already, eh?! (Okay, cut me some slack as it is 4 a.m. and the electricity just came on so I am quickly posting this comment through the fog of sleepiness!)