Monday, June 10, 2013

Haitian Hair Handiwork

Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese)
The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.

I think I need to teach my girls this term Cafuné  as "tenderly" seems to be lost on them.  In fact, they were taking great delight in putting my removed hair follicles on their own heads and laughing at the color and texture difference.  When they play with my hair, I end up with 50-100 less hairs due to their aggressive pulling.  I am constantly saying in Creole, "Gentle please!" but of course, that lasts about ten seconds before it is forgotten.  

Some of you with healthy heads of hair might not recognize the extreme cost  this is for a thinning fine-haired middle-aged woman.  Most remarkable is when you understand my hair was "my thing" growing up.  I didn't care about a beautiful body or face nearly as much as  I coveted a beautiful head of hair.  I was constantly desiring the long straight locks of my Latino and Asian friends.  My nightmares as a child were that someone snuck into my room in the middle of the night and cut off my hair.   I woke up crying more than once due to this recurring dream.  

A few years ago I was shocked when looking at my high school yearbook and I noticed how incredibly long my hair was.  You see, if you had asked me in high school if I had long hair, I would have responded, "No, but I'm trying to grow it out."  Yet those yearbook photos aren't lying.  Remember, these were before the days of Photoshop and hair extensions.  And they most certainly reveal my hair almost reached my waist.

So why do I let these girls abscond with my precious and few remaining hair strands?  Simply because these girls are worth so much more than the hairs on my head.  I have no desire to hinder their love and joy - so when they want to run their fingers through my hair in attempts to make me into a Haitian beauty, I'm not going to stop them.    Most of you know the previous trauma of their lives, so I love letting them "be girls," even at the expense of my scalp.

Thought you might enjoy a few photos of their most recent handiwork- and I do mean HAND-iwork.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Hearing, Beating, Praising, Passionate Heart in Haiti

Before I even emerged out of the airport, the sweat was dripping down my back.  Actually, the more accurate description would be that it was rushing in waterfall fashion down every nook, cranny, crevice and curve of my backside and frontside. 
But here is a snippet why neither heat or humidity will deter me.  And why a salad-loving  woman will put up with rice and potato crisps two times a day, six days in a row:

Interviewed 18 people on Saturday for micro-loans and tomorrow a full day ahead with 30 slotted in. The little I can say at this hour of the morning with an early wakeup time soon to follow is this:

 God is at work in Haiti. 

Amazed and discipled by the people here who give testimonies that many Americans would place in the category of hardships. 

One woman shared about losing her baby in the womb, but she still had reason to praise God because He spared her life. Another summed up the sentiments of many with: "If I am living, I can thank God." 

Reminds me of hearing a Haitian pastor declare shortly after the January 2010 quake: "No famine, hurricane, earthquake or disaster can keep me from praising God. Even when I sleep, my heart will beat out its praises to God."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Heaven or Hell? Homeward bound to Haiti.

 Heaven or Hell? Homeward bound to Haiti.

After a 2 day delay due to a plane going off the runway in Port au Prince, we expect to be landing in our hot humid other home.  As I was anticipating and reflecting upon this- the phrase "Heaven or Hell" popped up in my mind.  It reminded me that Haiti is a place of extreme contrasts, and to some it reflects hell, to others, slices of heaven.  It is truly a matter of perspective.

Sure, you can notice the obvious poverty and the violence and desperation that sometimes goes with it, but you can also be aware of the beautiful beaches and a people who value relationships.  I think about my friend Manno- and how his life is wrapped up in the contrast of this country.

I first met Manno twenty-five years ago- on my very first trip to Haiti.  He was assigned to my team as a translator, and I wasn't the only one who noticed the intelligence, kindness and wisdom of this then young man.  In fact, some of you who have known me from that ancient time ago might remember me sharing the story of visiting a poor family and discovering there was one orange for them to eat for the entire day.  But when my team of three came a'visiting, that ENTIRE orange was given to us.  I call that "Generosity Defined."   In fact, "REMARKABLE Generosity Defined," as Manno knew that my three member team was staying at a ministry center where we were served food three times a day.  Nonetheless, Manno gave us ALL he had that day when he sliced the orange into 3 separate servings and handed it to each one of us.

Honestly I didn't want to eat that orange as the sacrifice it represented was so great, yet I also knew it was a gift I must accept.  Though Manno and his family had little to give, they wanted to give it all.  They knew what Christ had done for them, and they wanted to love in as deep a sacrificial manner.  Some would say, "Ah, it's easy for him to give all as he has so little."  Clearly a sentiment belonging to someone who has never been on the brink of starvation.

So fast-forward to 2013, and you would find that the 'investment' I and some friends made in helping Manno further his education has paid off in ways none of us could imagine.  It took ten years, but due to his persistence and hard work, Manno became a doctor.  And when cholera hit his nation for the first time, and as of now, 7000 people died, Dr Manno kept his clinic doors open while others shut theirs.  After all, cholera is not a pretty disease, so many doctors simply refused to treat such patients.  But not Dr Manno.  Though most of his patients could not pay, Dr Manno refused no one.  Yes, the same man who decades earlier had given all - was still doing the same thing as he still knew the same Christ.  In fact, during the height of the infection, he was working almost 20 hour shifts- for he knew the battle was for life or death.

So Manno is a man  I believe represents the best of God in his country.  Though he could live in the USA, Canada or the Dominican Republic, he has chosen to stay in a poor remote area of Haiti, servicing people with health care needs- whether they can pay or not.

Do you remember I mentioned earlier that Manno's life represented to me an intersection between that Haitian tension of life and death, heaven and hell in a country of contrasts?  Here's why.   You see, earlier this year, jealous co-workers decided that even though Dr Manno lives in a modest home no bigger than most American bathrooms, they decided since he knew Americans and Canadians, he must be hiding suitcases full of cash.  So, they plotted to steal his medical clinic and car (used to get to even more remote villages where he conducted medical clinics)- and to kidnap him as well.  The first plan succeeded, the second one failed.

Dr. Manno continued to serve the people out of his front door, and the medical clinic he had labored over for so many years deteriorated in the hands of the greedy ones.  Eventually though, Manno could no longer take care of his own needs since hardly any of the sick ones who ended up on his doorsteps had the means to pay him for his expertise and care.

Why do I recount this story?  Simply because it represents both the best and worst in Haiti- and I for one want to encourage and invest in the best.  Would you join me in encouraging Dr Manno?  If he doesn't get some help (and he has not asked for it), he will be forced to move to America or Canada so he can support himself.  Haiti suffers one of the worst "brain drains" in the world with many of its finest educated citizens living outside its confines.  But Dr Manno is different.  He believes his mission is to help those who can't help themselves, and he has sacrificed his life, in a manner of speaking, by doing so.  Most people with his talent and education leave for "greener pastures" in North America,  but Dr Manno has stayed and suffered with his people- at great personal cost.

David and I arrive in Haiti later today, and one of the many "assignments" we feel God has given us is to bring Manno some seed money for his future in Haiti.  As I mentioned, Dr Manno does NOT want to move to America.  He wants to stay in Haiti and serve the poor- so I am asking, "Will you help me keep this servant of God where most needed?"

First off, if you want to help, pray for Dr Manno and his family. One of the reasons he feels he might have to move is because he has a wife and two children to support- otherwise, he wouldn't even be considering leaving the country.

Second, if you are able to make a donation of any size, please let me know.  You can contribute by making a contribution to my Paypal account ( and making a notation it is for Dr Manno.  If you want a tax receipt though, you can write a cheque out to R U Rede Ministries, Inc and make a notation that it is to be given to Dr Manno.  You can send encouraging notes and prayers and /or contributions to:  Melinda Nelson, 13866 Dow Lane, Beulah, MI  49617.

As always, I could never to this ministry of caring without you, for as I've said many a time:

"I can't do what you do, and you can't do what I do.  But together, you and I can do something beautiful for God." (Mother Teresa)