Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Haiti...and The Hard Walk, Part II

What: Hike up Tikoma (which translates to "The Hard Walk") and visit LGs family plantation in the mountains.
When: 12/1/13
Distance: 10.3 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 2,350 feet of elevation gain
Time: 5 hours
 This is more of a trip report...
We started our hike at 7:15 a.m. at LG's mom's home right near the Grand Goave River. The Grand Goave River is a wide river basin where many of the locals do their laundry...the basin is almost a .25 mile wide at its widest point.
As we started our hike, the river was littered with trash...but as you continue further up stream, Haiti started to look a lot different for the first time.
The trail upstream is a road for the villagers up the mountain to get down to town...much of the countries crops are grown in the mountains. The the mountain villagers transport the goods down these channels...
Since it was a Sunday, we saw many Haitians heading to church in the morning. Haitians take pride in their Sunday's best. Many of them only have one "good" outfit and they make sure they look their best. We briefly hiked with a young man that hiked miles in barefeet so he would not get his Sunday shoes dusty. He carried them the entire way...Very humbling. Another interesting thing I learned is that if a Haitian does not have a nice set of clothes...they do not go to church. This is troubling and very sad for me on different levels...I understand it's cultural, so we'll leave it at that.
We continued down the river basin...and continued for over 2 miles before we started gaining any real elevation. After about 45 minutes of hiking, we finally arrived to the base of the "Hard Walk"...a steady, steep slope up to the mountain villages.
 This is a look back at the river basin...the Town of Grand Goave is at the end of the river basin. Because of the severe deforestation of the mountains, the soil no longer retains water in the mountains. It all runs off into the basin and mudslides frequently occur. In extreme cases, the river basin completely floods...this is happening in every basin in Haiti. It is an epidemic.
  
As we headed North and upward up the mountain on a series of several switchbacks, we looked over across the gully and saw a large cascading waterfall. I could not find the name of this waterfall...
 However...the most scenic point on the trail is when you crest over the saddle and you get your first views of the mountains to the North. It is spectacular. You have 360 views...to the South is the Caribbean...and in every other direction are mountains beyond mountains, as the Haitians say. 
There is a huge difference between life down below in the cities and life in the villages up above in the mountains. It's amazing...the air quality is better, the smells are enjoyable, the air is obviously cooler...In my opinion, Haiti is no different than here at home. That is, the mountains seem to call my name...regardless of where I am.
Farming is the way of life in the mountains. And it's easy to see why...fruits and vegetables trees thrive in this environment. Every tree you walk by is a tree that is bearing fruit. The ground you walk on is fertile...the soil is rich...the land is ripe. In many ways, I felt like I was experiencing a mini Garden of Eden. This place is truly a blessing.
video
As we were making our way up to LG's father's home, we came across a church...in the middle of worship. Absolutely beautiful...

 
After hiking 5.15 miles and hiking up 2,350'...we reached our destination. LG's father's home. Unfortunately, his father was not at home and was gone for church...but a sweet lady (somehow related to LG) served us Haitian Coffee, some bread, coconut, and sugar cane. We were all in a happy place...we spent half an hour up there. We enjoyed everything about this experience...the weather, the sounds, the smells, the sights, the food...it was truly a beautiful, but most importantly, a peaceful place.
However, it was time to get going...our families were ready for us to come home...because that afternoon, we were going to relax at the beach, again!
Once again, I want to thank the Weimer's and Moore's for making this an experience we will never forget. Haiti is a very unique, but special place. There is obviously the bad and the ugly...but there also exists the wonder and beauty. This place needs more people like Jen and Sean on the ground. It's not easy...unlike the pictures you see above, they rarely get to enjoy recreation. This was Sean's first hike since moving to Haiti...He doesn't have time or the resources to take time off like the rest of us. Both Jen and Sean love what they do...are honoring the Lord with their commitment...and walking a hard walk by faith on a daily basis. 

They are directing Education Impact on the ground from Petit Goave, Haiti...they are supporting LG and Samuel in their education and housing them and Samuel's daughter Medjine in their home. They live by faith...trusting in the Lord's provision for their organization and their family in Haiti.

I ask that you pray with me for their strength, protection, and guidance as they navigate through this time in Haiti. I also ask that you take the time to visit their organization at: http://eihaiti.org/. Look around, see what they are about. Read their story at: http://almostmissionaries.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html . Believe me when I tell you that they are no ordinary missionaries...and what makes them so unique is what will make you fall in love with them, their story, and their mission in Haiti.

And if your heart leads you...help them out in any way. Doesn't matter if its prayer...words of encouragement on their blog...or financial support (PLEASE DONATE YOUR WEEKLY STARBUCKS STIPEND HERE: https://educationimpact.webconnex.com/SupportMHF .) 

I have seen what just a little bit of support can do in their new hometown.

In Christ...


Haiti...and The Hard Walk Part I


"Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."  Habakkuk 2:2-3

My family and I traveled to Petit Goave, Haiti for the Thanksgiving Holiday to visit our dear friends the Moore's. They are Jen and Sean, and kiddos Major (8), Addy (3), and Beckett (3) (they've appeared in previous posts). They are now missionaries in Haiti and have been residing there since their departure in early August of this year.

Before we left for Haiti, I was looking ahead in anticipation...to the sights, the sounds, the colors, the people, the culture, the beach, the mountains, and so on. I was also very anxious to see the conditions of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over the last three years, Sean has told me about the state of affairs in Haiti, and I was finally going to experience what he has seen. But above all else, what excited me most...was going down there and spending time with our people. I just wanted to be in their presence...share meals...let our kids run around together...laugh...and share life again. Essentially, what I desired most, was to be in fellowship with our best friends.
Another goal of mine, was to see their life through their eyes...to see their mission and calling in a tangible way. I wanted to see Jen and Sean's heart...and their love for this country. My prayer through all of this was for the Lord to reveal their new lives to me. I wanted to experience their daily living...the good, the bad, and the ugly...and to know and understand all of their joys and frustrations.

Before I move forward with my post, I wanted to share this video...please watch. It's an insight to Jen and Sean's mission in Haiti. Their organization, Education Impact ( http://eihaiti.org/ ), finds exceptional Haitian students, and provide them education and mentorship, so they in turn can become leaders in their communities...
Currently, the two young men you see in the video above...are the men that are being currently discipled in Education Impact. We met both LG and Samuel on this trip...and God willing, these two exceptional young men will become leaders in their Haitian communities. Jen and Sean, with their kids, are doing life with these two young men...but more on this later...

Back to trying to grasp my friends new reality...I had the opportunity to have a first person view of Sean's world. And my first thoughts are: Nothing comes easy. Simple errands do not exist for the Moore's. Really, simple errands do not exist for Haitians. Anything and everything you do takes longer...I mean everything.
We would go to the market to by produce, and every thing you try to purchase is negotiable. It took us 10 minutes to buy bananas, simply because vendors were outbidding each other until they could not go any lower on price. We simply stood there until they were done haggling each other for a bundle of bananas...

Then there is Sean's moto that broke down on us because the shaft was not properly bolted on...mind you, the moto was bought brand new a month before...and when we took it in to get it fixed, it almost took half an hour for the shop to agree to fix it, even though it was under warranty.
Then the street's electricity was turned off...turns out no one paid their electricity in months...It took us several trips to the electric company to settle the problem...
...this is what that chore looked like. We would just sit outside of the electric company...waiting for an answer. Only to get the runaround from them...It's like banging your head on the wall. Sean, chuckles out of frustration...really, there's nothing else you can do. He puts it best, "It's groundhog day." It's the same story, everyday in Haiti...For an American, this place can be extremely frustrating. Nothing seems to get done...People do the same thing everyday. You go to bed, wake up...and do it all over again.
Haiti is polluted, the air quality is terrible, it smells, the infrastructure is non-existent, there is no sanitation, there is no escape. Nothing is easy...and really, it shouldn't be. It's a third world country. The Moore's know this and they have accepted their new reality. However, there have been many days they wished it wasn't (read here: http://almostmissionaries.blogspot.com/2013/10/this-sucks.html ). They have both good and bad days...and as expected, they struggle with doubt. As I spent a few more days there, I continued to follow him around...watched him moving along...tired and frustrated...managing the household, the finances, the family, the young men, the organization, and so on...then there's marriage, parenthood, family back home...there's confusion, frustration, sadness, loneliness, isolation and judgement. It's a daily juggling act for the Moore's.
As I attempted to imagine the emotional and spiritual roller coaster of their lives, I simply asked Sean how he was holding up...After 4 months, how did he feel about Education Impact and their vision for Haiti. He replied candidly, "I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing. What am I doing to Jen and the kids? Major? I feel like we are getting nothing done. Look around, you've seen me, you see this...this is what it's like. I just don't know." Doubt crept in...
...now, it didn't help that I caught Sean on a day where literally everything was falling apart. His Montero's transmission was laid out on the ground, his Moto was in the shop, the electricity was turned off, and so on and so forth. But I was catching his drift...

...but I was also catching on to so much more. As Sean was struggling to see the big picture and the plans for EI, I decided to change it up and asked how the little things were coming along. If he was taking time to recognize the small victories of everyday living. And in this moment...I could see my friend defeated. So this is what Jesus revealed to me...this is what our King wanted me to share with you guys:
So to my dear, dear friends...let me begin to count the ways of your success! First know, your goals and mission with EI are simply awaiting its time. Right now, you are disciplining two extraordinary, wonderful young men of Christ who will be leaders of men. Just know, though it seems slow...to just wait for it...because as it is promised by Him, it will surely come! Until then...I want you to know what I have seen; what you have surely done:
You have opened your home to your community. Everyday, people are in and out of your property. They come in contact with you guys...They see goodness and they run to it. They see light from their dark place. They engage with your kids, form trusting relationships with your family, and they know where they can find refuge. The neighborhood put a bench outside of your gates...as you know, this is no accident. You are the cornerstone of your block...as you are called to be.
You are warmth. The family unit looks differently in Haiti. Affection is not the norm. But you give yourselves to them. You touch them...you hug them...you kiss them...you hold their hands...you embrace them...you simply love them. For many of those people, you guys are the only ones they receive this from...you lay your hands on them freely...a touch we take for granted.
You greet every person you come into contact with...you both have the sweetest "bonjou" and "bonswa"(good morning/afternoon) in Haiti. Regardless of who they are, you greet them...child, man, elderly...doesn't matter. You reveal yourself to them, let them know who you are and why you're there, and are willing to assimilate to better serve them. You are the friendliest neighbors in town. No one there does what you guys do...you are an open door.
I have seen you graciously serve with food and water. Sean, on the trail down the mountain...you saw a hot boy on a donkey and you graciously gave him water. Though it seems like a small gesture...people there do not do this. You guys feed your neighborhood...Sean, you say you haven't been eating much, that you are not hungry. Maybe so...but I also noticed that you wait until everyone is served. You don't eat until everyone has had their fill...then you take a small portion for yourself and leave leftovers to be able to feed someone outside of your gate.
You are an employer. Your relationship with LaPaix is unique. You are extremely kind, very trusting, and above all else, very loving. How many Haitians can say this about their employer? In return, LaPaix is fiercely loyal to you. She cares for you and sees what a business relationship can be like...LaPaix is a workhorse. A school teacher in the morning, an incredible cook in the evenings, and a caretaker at home at night. She is extremely talented and driven...I can't help but think that her relationship with you will result in something extremely positive for the people of Petit Goave.
You bring joy to your neighbors...sometimes in the form of a soccer ball. Sometimes in the form of a game of cards, sometimes in the form of letting a neighbor run an extension cord from your property to theirs so they can finish a paint job. You serve your neighbors out of joy...
You have given LG, Samuel, and Samuel's daughter, Medjine a home. And not just any home...but a home filled with much more than the basic needs (which majority of Haitians do not have)...you have given them a home filled with love. A home where they can see what a family unit looks like. A home where they can see what a marriage looks like. A home, a family! Not a shelter, not a place to lay their heads...but a family they can call home.

 And then there's your family...I know you guys worry for them on a daily basis. Doubting if the choice you made for them will effect their development...Well, of course it will! Their development is forever changed...especially their spiritual development. But this is a blessing...never a curse! The gift you have given your kids will have an eternal impact. They see everyday what most of us in America will never even know about. The lessons they will learn, the experiences they will have, the sights they will see...they are real. They will know what it's like to live in a world where the greatest has to be the least...in a world where the family's daily goal is to serve someone else. You are teaching them to live out Matthew 25:37-40,:

"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Friends...know that you too are living out this scripture on a daily basis. I want you to know that I recognize the good work you are doing everyday. I encourage you to simply delight yourself in the Lord, because He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4). Take the time to look around...look at all the small things...know that you are doing exactly what God has called you to do in Haiti. If you don't see it...know this, you are called to be "imitators of God...to walk in love...and to give yourself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). What do you think you've been doing? This is exactly who you are! This is exactly what is happening! Doubts may creep in...but hold on to the Truth! Brother Sean and Madame Jennifer, your vision awaits you!

I love you my brother and sister...

Nan Jezikri!
Here are some more sights of Haiti...I know I mentioned previously some of the ugly of Haiti. But for all of it's cons, Haiti also is has its beauty. This place is truly wonderful...the people are kind, the colors are vibrant, the food is delicious, many beaches are pristine, and the mountains are vast. Haiti is a very rich country in culture and geography. It just needs to be taken care of by its people...
Also...a very big thanks to the Weimer family. Much hugs and kisses to Heather and Wendel for making this happen for my family. Without them, we would not have been able to visit our dear friends as a family. They felt led to send us to Haiti...so the Moore's could spend time with us in their new home. They felt by doing so, they would be serving Jen and Sean...Well, you served us as well friends. We will always remember this experience. Thank you.

 We spent Thanksgiving in Haiti with the Moore's...we brought a little bit of home to them in the form of casseroles and stuffing. It was Samuel's first time eating Thanksgiving food...and dure did enjoy it.

Here are some of the scenes that made this place/visit an incredible experience:

Mangoes from their neighborhood...

Bacon, their dog. Turns out Haitians don't eat dog...but they consider cat a delicacy. Go figure.

Laundry...

View from their rooftop...

Haitians running errands and loving their sugar cane...

Typical Haitian Tap Tap (a mode of transportation)


How people get around...
 

The Market...
  

The Beach...
  

How Sean gets around...

Brothers and Sisters in Christ! I am more handsome than Sean...for sure.


Up Next...Part II, Mountains and Beaches.