Moments from today…
Steve Tipps’s comment about teeth swinging in and out as an elderly patient breathed in and out.
Dr. Drew Fowler’s touch of respect after he removed a thread which seemed to be stuck to a baby’s head. After it was explained to him that it was a Haitian remedy for hiccups, he simply asked the interpreter to apologize for him.
Steve Frost, a corporate executive, removing a tooth–coached well by our dentist, Tom Blockley.
Steve and Tom letting the translator remove a tooth and perhaps inspiring him to strive for dental school.
Prayer with patients.
One way of framing the difference between our culture and this one is in terms of a conflict of values, generally speaking. The values of the survivor and the values of the achiever.
Survivor vs. Achiever…
A survivor lives more in the moment. The up side is a high value for people, family, and relationships in general. The down side is having less perspective on what may be needed next week or next year. I remember a story of an inner city family who had enough money in the bank for rent the next week. But when their oldest son was locked up in jail for disturbing the peace, they spent the money on bail. That’s how survivors roll.
An achiever lives more in the future. The up side is a measure of control and readiness for opportunities that come along. It requires delayed gratification. One downside is a failure to recognize the ways that people may be neglected or mistreated around you. The extreme case is the workaholic who, at the end of his life did not look back wishing he’d spent more tile at the office.
Our interpreters tend to be the latter. Today, James, interpreting to Dr. Drew Fowler explained how, at thirty years old, he did not have time yet for a girlfriend.
Everyone is pushing hard each day and getting a little weary–but the motivation to push is all around us.
Here are some “snapshots” from the day:
– dozens of waif-like disparate people awaiting the arrival of a garbage truck and spending most of the morning pawing through their town dump for anything of value.
– children bounding up to our sweaty bunch of guys at our project sight just for the novelty of talking to some Americans.
– a fresh-water stream with kids playing and washing.
– a market of sorts, with produce strewn everywhere and women “minding their stores,” sitting as silent as statues.
– a schoolroom full of eager learners.
– reports of an orphanage where children are rescued from human trafficking.
It appears that we have settled into a productive routine, with reports from both sites similar to yesterday.
It’s certainly a challenge to capture moments which convey the intense poverty here. To describe the smells, sounds and sights would quickly seem like a negative laundry list. Suffice it to say that surviving here can be brutal.
One funny moment from the day came during our ride to the worksite. By the way, our transportation to and fro is called a “tap-tap.” Picture a pick-up truck with a kind of camper enclosure over the flat bed, with two benches running down each side. Anyway, during our ride this morning I saw what appeared to be a church coming up on our right. Written on the front of the establishment were the the following statements one after another:
God is great…
Bar and entertainment.
So, we are thinking it wasn’t a church–unless they’re modeling after the “no-no’s” of the first century Corinthians?
Back safe and sound for the day with hope that the rooster who crowed at 2:30AM and 4AM might be invited to a dinner party tonight.
Off and running early. Half of our group worked construction and the other half provided medical care in the clinic–a partnership between our host and Samaritan’s Purse. Stories from our medical group involve a lot of relief from painful infections, but most patients were younger. The dentists treated patients who clearly had never had access to dental care.
Our team altogether saw nearly 150 patients today.
The construction crew put a roof on the house of the caretaker out at property still being restored from earthquake damage. While here, we are also employing a great number of Haitians. Day laborers, cooks, translators, drivers, and the staff who has been planning for our arrival– all are actively making our time productive.
Haiti continues to attract a lot of response. A fair amount of it is negative from people who have grown jaded about the idea that Haiti can turn around. But it’s like any change when “unlearning” is required: five miles into the “woods” five miles back out.
Day Two: Sunday, Touring mission campuses At 5:20 AM this morning, we were roused by the sound of the church choir and band warming up for a 5:30 service inside our compound. They get started early because it’s hot by mid-morning…and they do linger a while. We attended a different service—an open-air church drawing a crowd of nearly 1500 welcomed us into their midst and even sang to us. It lasted nearly 2.5 hours. The church is located near what used to be the most violent place in the Western Hemisphere, Citi de Solei. Now, compared to some of the urban areas, it is far more peaceful. The music on the three campuses we visited today has been nearly constant. It is infectious. On the other hand, some of the smells in the downtown area are unbearable. The clutter, mass of humanity and chaos are overwhelming. Yet, again the bright spots stand out here: places where parents are making plans for their children and grandchildren; places where, within a much more stable and gracious environment, they are learning about the One who made them and loves them; places like this community of faith.
Day one Although many you read this blog expecting finished articles, this week I will be using the front page for updates from Haiti. We are safely arrived in the season that is much cooler than we experienced in the past. Tomorrow we will have a tour of the medical clinic where many of our doctors will be working, and see the site where the rest of us will be plugged in. We will help start construction on a secondary school at the location of the church plant. The dogs and chickens and roosters may not let us sleep tonight. But we received a warm reception here from the doctor who is our host this week. It promises to be productive and rewarding trip. I hope to send a couple of pictures posting them to the site tomorrow. We had little trouble getting through customs, after all my warnings about how difficult it would be! We have a great team of outstanding task oriented, get it done Professionals. My hope is that this team will come together, surprised by stronger Connection to one another, the people we serve, and to the presence of God in our midst. Wifi will be limited this week. But I will probably be able to post updates once per evening. Cheers from the Haiti mission team, 2013, Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church.