Written on July 2, 2018
The roosters wake me and a snoring orchestra throughout the bunkhouse keeps me from falling back to sleep. I lay in bed and think back on church yesterday. I’m also pondering what Kristen told us about Haitians valuing food more than we do in America. I have this mini-revelation in connecting that, in the same way food means more to the Haitians than to us, God means more to them than to us. Food is life here. When Haitians are presented with food, they eat all of it. There’s no not eating something because they’re too full. There is no “getting full”. They don’t know when the next meal is coming so they eat all that they can every time. That’s how they appear to treat God. He is also life to them; He is their living water and their daily bread, after all. They took in every last bit of that service. They never got full.
What am I doing here God? What could I possibly have to offer these people? Surely they have more to teach me than I could teach them. How am I supposed to be ok returning to America after seeing the intense gratitude they have for You?
When everyone else gets up, it’s a mad house. We all rush around trying to figure out what the day is actually supposed to look like. Coffee is a must, but the power doesn’t switch on until 7am. I skip sitting down to eat breakfast so I can walk over to the church early and set up the puppet curtain. I suck down the coffee someone eventually brings me, and eat a granola bar I packed from home.
The kids start arriving, a few at a time, and they gravitate to the back of the building. They all seem cautious towards us. That makes me nervous around them.
It’s hard to focus on the little ones, since we still don’t have a secure game plan for our evangelism time yet…which should’ve started ten minutes ago. I’m trying to make sure this guy named Franzi knows what our song lineup is. The church on campus has a decent setup with a computer and speakers. I’ve got my phone plugged into the aux cord, ready to go as soon as I’m given the OK. My team is still trying to decide if we’re going to sing live versions of certain songs or play recordings. Luckily, I don’t think any of the kids or interns can see how disorganized and dysfunctional we are.
We teach a dance to this song called “My God” that I do with my Wednesday night church kids back home. It’s surreal hearing the words “My God is so big and so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!” in this tiny cement walled church. The kids start jumping and singing along by the third chorus, whether they know what the words really mean or not. I get tearful when we finish. Practicing the dance in the days leading up to our departure, I hadn’t once pictured the scene I’m in right now.
“10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman is the song we’ve chosen to do for worship. One of the translators approaches a microphone and begins singing the lyrics in Creole so the kids can follow along. Singing the English words on top of the Creole words feels awe-inspiring. To think that God can hear and understand both of our languages at the same time, worshipping Him, brings more tears to my eyes. To think that God created every language that has ever been spoken on earth and is fluent in each of them is ungraspable.
Being involved in evangelism time helps me understand why it might be inappropriate to take pictures in this setting. It would be a complete distraction and I would feel disrespectful to those trying to worship and learn the word of God. I’m glad I can say I was present for this experience.
During the Daniel and the Lion’s Den skit, Head Intern Kate asks me to run to the intern house and grab some supplies she forgot. I take her literally, and run down the dirt path from the school, into the gate of our living spaces, past the bunkhouses and common area, and up the porch steps of their house. I dig through a supply shelf to find the ruled notebook paper Kate needs, and start back towards the school. I am in my element running down these dusty, rocky trails. I’ve never felt so satisfied to be completing such a small task. I feel a thick later of dust caking onto my legs, so I reach down to brush it off. But when I see it, I can’t describe how much I love looking at the Haitian land on my body. I let it stay.
Between the area where the teams and interns stay and where the school and church are, there’s this makeshift building formed by a couple shipping containers. Women from the village cook meals for the school children inside of it. Several of my team members start making trips to and from this building and the school to begin dishing out breakfast for the kids.
What’s on the menu for this morning is a cinnamon and clove smelling porridge. We are told to portion bowls with a little bit more than a cup measurement for students of all ages.
For today, I’m in the English Practice classroom. This is where the kids get to put to use some of their English lesson from the day. Except, it’s the first day of the first week at camp, so there’s not much for them to do besides introduce themselves. In part of Paige The Intern’s introduction and lesson plan, she plays the music video of “Colors” by Jason Derulo for them. “Colors” is the official Word Cup 2018 song. Jason Derulo is of Haitian decent and the music video was partially filmed in Haiti. She has the translator get the kids hyped about the fact that this video, that millions of people watch before each World Cup game, is sung by a man who is from the same place they are and that the video was made in the same country we’re all in right now. I get goosebumps watching them jump up and down with excitement while chanting, “Aiti! Aiti!”.
Our second group of kids for the day come from the crafting class. They’ve made bracelets that spell “Grace” and “Courage” which go together with our camp theme “No Fear”. A scrawny little boy walks up to me with his wrists in the air, and proudly announces, “Grays an Cooraj!”. I couldn’t have wished for a better reaction back when we were picking out crafts and ordering supplies, months ago.
Paige The Intern does a great job keeping the kids’ attention by being animated and dancing. She’s perfect for this position. So perfect that she really doesn’t need an assistant. I spend most of the four classes observing while standing against a wall, hugging an occasional sweet face every now and then.
When the kids are released for lunch, I think I’m supposed to help serve, like we did with breakfast, but I can’t stay on my feet any longer. I sneak to the pavilion behind the bunkhouses, and climb into a hammock. Seconds after I get comfortable, I hear Martha climbing into the hammock perpendicular to mine. At least I’m not the only person who’s exhausted by 2pm. I don’t fall asleep, because I have to pee. But I am far too relaxed to get up and walk all the way to the bathroom. Around 2:45pm, the rest of the team finds us and someone opens with the line, “Well, here you guys are! We thought you disappeared!” Ugh.
I surrender my hammock to somone who actually stayed the full duration of our workday. I leave to take a walk. My camera is the only companion I take with me.
The biggest stressor of the trip for me, so far, after my initial shock from arriving Saturday, has been being in a nearly inescapable group of people. The people I’ve come here with are all interesting and useful to the team in their own ways, but I need my space to think and process after every major interaction I have, end of story.
So when we gather for devotionals each night, and everyone thinks they need to have the chance to give their entire debriefing of the day, I’m kind of thinking they should all be turning to their journals and letting me leave to find mine. I feel held hostage listening to everyone’s stories when my own brain is full of stories I’m trying to file away. I reach a mental breaking point, and announce that I’m going to the bathroom.
And I don’t return. I do go to the bathroom, but I also hop in the shower and wash some of my clothes. I wasn’t technically lying…I did go to the bathroom…
Then I go to my bed and hide under the sheets. I’m finding it impossible to decompress here. And gosh, I’m just so tired. Martha is the first to return from devotional time. I take the sheet off my face and stare at her, not sure what I’m expecting. She catches my gaze and says, “Hey…you are wired differently than the other people here, and you require different things than the other people here. That, is ok. You, are ok. I’m going to play cards in the common area, you wanna join?” I decline her offer, and thank her for validating me. All that my negative emotions need sometimes is validation, and then they go away.
While everyone is busy playing cards, I retreat to a hammock with a pack of Oreos from home and the intent to talk to constellations. A girl from the church we’ve partnered with finds me and says, “So just to be honest, I’m pretty introverted, and after a day with the kids, I don’t have the capacity to spend any more time talking to people playing games. I promise I won’t bother you out here. I just wanted a quiet place to think. I brought some Oreos, do you want one?”
It’s a funny thing when two introverts become friends. The leading conversation is almost always about a mutual exasperation in a social situation. Then the two withdrawal from the crowd to recover in the company of one another. It’s amusing to me that she and I live in the same tiny town, yet it’s taken us traveling to Haiti to discover that each other exists. I’m grateful to have found commonality with another person on the team, even if we’re only sitting together in silence.
Liv – Authentically