It started as an adventure…

Off on an adventure

Off on an adventure

It started as a Sunday afternoon adventure to Baraderes…

Greetings from Haiti – many of you have commented that you’re waiting for our next blog update. We might give all kinds of excuses – so busy, no Internet, no power, off solving our total lack of water, etc. While all these excuses may be reasonable and accurate, we have longed to write and share some news. Even more, we long for and appreciate your prayers.

Today’s story is about an amazing journey. It started as a Sunday afternoon adventure to the historic colonial town of Baraderes. It ended with an opportunity and the blessing of walking in the footsteps of our Lord and His disciples!

We had heard many comments about this town and have been looking for the opportunity and time to make the trip. Geographically, Baraderes is due north of Bonne Fin on 2 hours of very rugged road. At times, the road was nearly impassable and took us up the side of one mountain and down the next, mountain after mountain. The town is a very old merchant town on the north coast of the south Haitian peninsula – beyond Baraderes to the north is the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the homes in

Very rugged country

Very rugged country

Baraderes were built in prior centuries with an architecture that was unique to a French colony at the time, and are still as lovely today as when they were built.

Plans for our journey came together on a recent Sunday after worship services. Many of our missionary families were away on furlough; we had our grandson, Josh visiting; Heather Steiner from Winthrop, MN had been at the hospital as an accounting intern and Stu Kilgus from Remington, IN is our summer facility intern. So the five of us loaded up the Gator with boxes of rice for families along the way, granola bars and candy for the kids and plenty of water for ourselves. It was a beautiful day and we were all very excited about our plans.

As we headed north through the rugged mountains, we marveled at the agriculture ingenuity and tenacity of the local folks. They were growing corn literally out of the rocks and wherever they could dig up a bit of topsoil; they were turning the soil to provide one more miniscule patch to grow some beans or corn. We came upon one very old man (or maybe he just looked old from hard work) that had obviously labored throughout the day to till the side of a very steep hill. He was resting under a tree

He worked all day to till the mountainside

He worked all day to till the mountainside

near the top so we stopped, approached the hillside and offered him a few bags of dried soup mix – packaged rice, protein and herbs. With the language barrier, he hesitated for a few moments and when he understood, he inched his way down the mountain to accept our offering. Their gratitude is expressed in their eyes.

Eventually, we approached Baraderes from the southwest. The town is made up of many very quaint streets, lined with neighborhoods of families – kids on bikes, grandmothers with canes, mom’s and dad’s having Sunday afternoon visits, old men clustered in the shade over a game of cards. The streets were busy with activity. What was obvious to us was their surprised expressions and astonishment when 5 “blan’s” (white people) rode into town on a green and yellow John Deere Gator. We wondered just what they must have been thinking. What was even more gratifying was their enthusiastic welcome, abundant smiles, shouts of bonswa. The town was immaculate! Much of Haiti is littered and eventually we become accustomed to that – but when you come into a town like Baraderes, you know immediately that these people take pride in their homes and their town.

We offered him rice to feed his family

We offered him rice to feed his family

We were amazed at the architectural beauty of the town center. Perhaps most astonishing was that the houses were constructed out of wood! In nearly all of Haiti and certainly at Hospital Lumiere, buildings including walls and the roofs are made out of cement or the houses in remote villages are made out of mud and stones. Here, we found ancient houses still standing constructed with lumber and painted with a variety of amazing Haitian colors.

So we circled around town a bit and eventually came to where the main road crossed a river. This is the town’s main access to the ocean. The river seemed shallow enough and the locals all encouraged us to continue. They assured us that the road on the other side continued through the town. A crowd was quickly gathering – a green gator being the big attraction – and there was a bit of adventure in crossing the road through the river. So we gunned it and… almost made it!! But almost was not enough and for sure, we were stuck. The more Stu spun the wheels, the deeper in the sand we sank. And knowing only a handful of words (Heather is by far the most fluent) we called in desperation for help. And the crowd continued to grow. Heather was able to convince a young kid to go get help and in no time, we had a crowd of men push us backwards, then on a different track, forward up the far bank.

Coming into Baraderes

Coming into Baraderes

We thought it was time for celebration so Norma took out the bag of candy and granola bars – and you can only imagine what happened. This is where we say – and the crowd went wild!! There was plenty of jostling and grabbing but clearly, we made some very happy kids (and grown-ups) that day. After a bit, we explored that side of town and then we headed back through the river (without incident) and back into town center.

We made a decision to head out of town to the east – just to explore where the road led to but what we had in mind was to get a bit out of town into neighborhoods where the folks could benefit from the dried soup packets. It seemed backwards at first knowing we had to leave to the southwest but we felt compelled to go and hand out the rice. Initially, we drove out of town a ways and then turned around and headed back stopping often.

The folks in this part of town or maybe we should say just beyond the town lived in much more primitive homes. Many of them were high above the road on rocky cliffs and again, we noticed the clustered homes that make up family neighborhoods. We stopped and visited almost every home and

Some amazing homes in town

Some amazing homes in town

met some very grateful and humble people. The love of God was exchanged over and over. Bondye beni ou (God bless you) was repeated again and again. We had some Creole Bible storybooks that got into the hands of the kids and we made sure that every family got a portion for their next meal. We are not sharing this in any way to bring credit to ourselves but it’s important to understand this experience as we share the events that follow – the events that changed this Sunday afternoon adventure into an experience close to walking in the footsteps of the disciples.

Our reference here is the numerous Biblical accounts of when Christ and His disciples were surrounded with crowds of people including those who brought their loved ones to be healed. In our day and time, we can’t imagine what it is like to have an injury or illness and not be able to get help. We call an ambulance, we know there will be medical professionals waiting to treat us and we simple know, in most cases, that the cost will be covered in one way or another. But on this Sunday afternoon, we encountered quite a different circumstance.

As we made our way back into town, we noticed a rather large crowd just ahead on the right shoulder of

The town center

The town center

the road. There was an excitement in the crowd but also, we heard the wailing of a child in serious trouble. As we approached, a young father carried his 3-year-old daughter towards us – child screaming, father with a pleading for help in his eyes. With a our limited understanding of the language here’s what we figured out: the child had fallen into a burning fire and had severely burned her leg and feet – 3 days prior. The leg had a pronounced backward stricture and was charred so deep that it could not be recognized as human tissue. The family had no money, they were unable to take the child to a doctor or hospital and they were in despair. They pleaded for help. We had a monumental decision to make – our hearts were deeply touched but the logistics seemed overwhelming. As hard as it was, we pulled away and drove down the road for about a half-mile, pulled over and stopped the engine so we could talk.

We had a number of problems. There were 5 of us with limited Creole and no idea where there was a

More of the town

More of the town

hospital or doctor. We had a Gator that started to show some sort of operational problem – we were guessing that the fuel was either dirty or the fuel filter was plugged. We could drive for a bit and then we’d lose power and perhaps even quit altogether. In 5-10 minutes we’d be up and running again. Bottom line, we were driving a vehicle that we were not even sure would get us back home. We had no idea what to do next.

As we each spoke our heart and talked through various options, we felt and acknowledge a collective lack of wisdom. We agreed that we needed to plead with God to lead us through a decision as we reviewed the situation and the challenges that each option presented. When Jesus walked with His disciples, they could ask him what to do and he would be there to tell them step-by-step. “Go into the town, you will find there a man with a donkey…” Today we have the avenue of fervent prayer to achieve the same outcome. And so we prayed – and then we talked again. There was a very clear difference in our discussion this time. Earlier, we did not know what to do; now, it was ever so clear that we had to do something for this family.

The river that runs through Baraderes

The river that runs through Baraderes

First we made the trip back into town to find a hospital. The gator quit in a family neighborhood about a mile from the hospital so while Heather and Stu walked the rest of the way, Norma, Josh and I stayed with the gator. Within a very short time, the women of the neighborhood escorted us under a tree, gave us water to cool our faces and be refreshed. The children entertained us and the old men tried to understand our very weak Creole. Meanwhile, Heather and Stu found out that the hospital was essentially closed, only 1 person there to guard the door and no doctors anywhere nearby. When we reconnected, we had to make a second decision – can we get this child and a parent back to the Bonne Fin hospital, 2 hours away with a vehicle that couldn’t go a quarter mile without stopping. Our discussions led us to hire a motorcycle taxi, very common in Haiti, to bring the child to our own hospital 2 hours away. How thankful we were that Hospital Lumiere was available for this little child. We called the hospital to be sure someone was on duty and pre-arrange for all services to be paid in advance at no cost to the family. We drove back to the neighborhood and presented our offer. With some choppy Creole, a lot of hand signals, and surrounded by the entire neighborhood, this overwhelmed family

I think we're stuck...

I think we’re stuck…

dressed up their little girl in a pretty white dress, Dad put on his white Sunday shirt and the two of them were off to Bonne Fin.

We limped along with our stubborn gator and eventually got home to discover that our little 3-year-old angel was already in surgery. Over the next few days, we provided food and water for this family. The Mom also came the next day and a full recovery is expected. We are very humbled by what happened. We don’t see this in a heroic way. Perhaps it’s more bewilderment, much as the disciples must have felt when Jesus lovingly and patiently addressed the needs of each one that was brought to the roadside as He passed by.

Sending our love,

Norma and Daryl

...and we clearly need help

…and we clearly need help

 

...please someone, we need help

…please someone, we need help

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safely out of the river

Safely out of the river

 

 

 

Time to celebrate

Time to celebrate

 

 

 

 

 

The people were so thankful

The people were so thankful

 

 

Touching each other's hearts

Touching each other’s hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving town to the east

Leaving town to the east

 

 

Gratitude

Gratitude

 

Our little burn child - and a family in great need

Our little burn child – and a family in great need

She made it to the hospital

She made it to the hospital

Enough for everyone

Enough for everyone

A grateful youngster

A grateful youngster

Handing out rice

Handing out rice

The houses are different here

The houses are different here

Categories: Updates

Home Sweet Home

After much planning, waiting for our household belongings to arrive, and a prolonged reconstruction project, our house has become our home!! The sea container has arrived and we have moved into Garden Grove Cottage. We wish that you could allIMG_5784 copy come for a visit. This is where we will live now for the duration of our missionary journey. IMG_0764 copyIt’s great to be sleeping in our own bed again and Norma has done a wonderful job of making this our home. It may be hard to imagine what it’s like to live in a house that is built entirely out of cement – floors, walls, roof – all made out of cement block covered with cement stucco. This is how all the houses and the hospital itself are constructed. Thank goodness for paint to cheer things up. We’re including a few pictures that will help you visualize our home.

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Our yard and gardens are a lower priority but work has begun there also. A few weeks ago, we planted a pineapple garden. IMG_0706 copyWho would have ever thought we would be growing pineapples in our back yard? But even P1000563 copymore amazing is what we added last Saturday – with a generous gift and some help of some Haitian friends we put in 20 coffee trees, 10 chocolate trees, some sugarcane and some tea bushes!! We’re wondering if they will yield a harvest while we’re here but it’s lots of fun to give it a try. Our rooftop garden is next.

We had an adventure last Saturday. One of my construction employees had been in the hospital and was discharged – we decided to visit him at home. This man walks to work so we figured we could make the effort to go on foot, bearing some food and clothes for his family. Ilrick and his wife have 3 kids, a couple young teens and a 4 year old. P1000541 copyHis wife’s mother also lives with them. So Rudy and Polly (friends visiting from Ohio), Norma and I and 2 young Haitian guides took the gator to the top of hospital mountain – that’s as far as the road goes – and then started our hike to the top of the next mountain. Because we didn’t know where he lived, we had no idea what to expect. It was impossible to capture a photograph of the steep footpath to Ilrick’s home. We climbed hundreds of feet almost straight up, and then back down. There were moments that P1000566 copywe needed to hang on to each other to keep from falling. The path was slick and scattered with small rocks. As we climbed, we realized that the view out over the Caribbean was becoming more magnificent. Ilrick and his family live on the top of the mountain in a one-room mud house with a rusty tin roof. The floor is dirt; the walls are made of mud and stones. The yard has chickens running amongst the bean plants. There is no running water and no electricity. They have no nearby neighbors. What was so heart touching was this family’s warmth and appreciation for our visit. They brought us chairs that we could sit and visit in their yard and they were so thankful for the food and clothes. Their life is simple and they are a happy people. On our way home, we stopped at numerous homes and gave out as many clothes and shoes as we had. The Haitians are a beautiful people, they live a simple life and they have a deep love of God. Their poverty is clear but even more evident is their happiness. They also can say – Home Sweet Home!P1000551 copy

Sending our love,
Norma and Daryl

Categories: Updates

Our Daily Bread

It’s coconut season here in Haiti. We were astounded when we saw our first coconut harvest. It was very late one afternoon, still light enough to see but definitely moving towards dusk. We were thinking about fixing dinner when we heard a repeated whacking and a thumping noise. Our windows are always open here; Imagethe air is fresh and the evenings, cool. Whack! Thump. Whack! Thump. Given that just about every experience is new these days, we went to investigate. Soon, we encountered a young Haitian man with our neighbor – they were harvesting the neighbor’s coconuts. It was astounding – using the grip of his bare hands and feet, very much as a monkey would climb a tree, with a machete clenched between his teeth, this kid climbed the palm tree, hung on near the top, severed the coconuts one by one and let them drop. Whack! Thump. His climb happened so fast that I had all I could do to get my camera out of my pocket in time. We counted over 20 coconuts from one tree.

It is no surprise that we are experiencing food here in a very different way. In the states, families tend to have certain patterns of buying and preparing their meals, at least that was true in our family. A handful of recipes, a certain few things that make it to mealtime in a repeating pattern. Many have asked if we will be eating rice and beans, goat and bananas. Of course, that’s readily available but we’re discovering a whole new way of thinking about our food.

Market day – that was yesterday – is perhaps the most challenging. Norma has to think really hard about what she wants to buy based on her growing knowledge of what’s available. ImageVegetables are abundant, bread is almost always stale, meat is unusual. Staples – flour, sugar, spices – all different. Going to market is an all-day affair. The missionary ladies make an adventure out of it. They set a date, make their lists, and drive for an hour down the mountainside into the city. Norma is beginning to learn which stores and open markets carry quality food and which to avoid. The open market is intimidating at best, but occasionally you can find some very nice produce. She can’t even begin to think about going into the section where they sell meat! Here’s 6 small potatoes for 800 gourdes – good deal or a rip off? A small basket of vegetables – 4500 gourdes! It’s really hard to know if this is smart shopping. She’s so thankful that she has the others, with more experience, to guide her choices.

About once a week, the local butcher slaughters a cow just outside the hospital compound. This is a roadside spectacle – if you have a weak stomach, you might want to skip this section. The entire process is done with a machete. The cow’s head is roasted on a small fire in the gutter so the head-meat can be sold. (I have a picture of this but decided not to include it.) The carcass is parsed out to the locals in exchange for hands-full of Haitian coins. I bought about 5 pounds of what I thought was lean meat but I have no idea what part of the cow it came from. When I got home, it seemed best to carefully trim the meat and save what was useable, pass it through a bleach bath (gotta kill those germs), rinse and package in ziploc bags. For good measure, I added some rum to each bag and got them into the freezer. For our first “beef” meal, Norma invented a whole new type of stroganoff – frankly, it was delicious even though it was difficult to detect even the slightest trace of beef flavor.

Speaking of bleach, Norma has to soak every vegetable in a bleach solution. Even the lettuce, or should I say especially the lettuce, gets a soak. Everything gets rinsed so the bleach flavor doesn’t linger but at least we’re getting rid of the bad bugs that could do us in. 

Ok, this all sounds a bit crude and certainly different. But there’s also this – Norma has made some wonderful wecka bread, some amazing sweet roles, spaghetti, pizza, kielbasa, bratwurst, eggs and bacon, farina – all things that remind us of home. It’s not all rice and beans and we’re thankful that we’ve been able to stay healthy and well. Each meal is an exciting and pleasant adventure.

We’re getting closer to moving into our own home – the container with our possessions is due here in about a week and the house is nearly ready to move in. We’re looking forward to that and finally feeling settled. Thanks to all for your encouraging messages, it’s just great to get a bit of news from home.

 Love to all,

Norma and Daryl

Categories: Updates

Greetings to family and friends from our home in Bonne Fin, Haiti

Greetings to family and friends from our home in Bonne Fin, Haiti.

Following a few weeks (or was it a few months) of rigorous planning, packing and moving, we have arrived at the hospital campus, ready to become residents. It’s a beautiful campus (more about that later) and we’re happy to be here. We just completed our first 2 weeks, a week with a work team from the states along with some of our Haitian friends doing a renovation project – the next steps in the renovation of the house that will soon become our home – and then a week of planning and preparation for the next team.

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As you can see, we’ve named our home “Garden Grove Cottage” – the garden that will become Norma’s pastime, the grove in which our home sets; almonds, mangos, coconuts, oranges, grapefruit, bananas and, get this, coffee!! IMG_0452And the cottage because that’s exactly what it is, thinking of the lyrics of one of our songs “In the cottage there is joy, when there’s love at home…”

This house has not been occupied for many years and was severely damaged by termites (and other bugs and creatures) along with some water damage. The good news is that most of the house is cement (all walls, roof, etc.) so it was relatively easy to rip out the wooden cabinets, closets and doors, repair the cracks and get it ready for paint. We also were able to remove two cement walls to enlarge our kitchen and our bedroom. So what was a house with 4 tiny bedrooms and a 10×10 kitchen ended up with a comfortable working kitchen, a large bedroom and of course, that spare bedroom for when you visit. We added a new walk-in closet and a linen closet to the big bedroom and we started to build the kitchen cabinets. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll finish the kitchen cabinets, install the ceiling fans and get that floor clean and polished. Our furnishing should arrive in a matter of weeks and Garden Grove Cottage will become our home.

IMG_8500We have only one annoyance – it’s a rooster that spends the night just outside our bedroom window. Chickens, roosters, dogs, goats, pigs, sheep – they all run free on campus. Well anyway, this rooster may be as handsome as any you’ll ever find but he’s soon to become rooster stew. Somehow, he got the idea that he can start his “noise” at 1:30 every morning. And that continues until sunrise!! I think he got confused when we switched from daylight savings time. Adam is sending earplugs but what I really need is a BB-gun with night vision.

Regarding our blog, feel free to share with others. At the bottom right of this page there’s a little button that says “Follow” and it looks like this:

follow

Click on that and you can enter your email address, and you’ll get a short email every time we post a new update.  We promise not to flood your inbox!  We expect to post about every two to three weeks.

And most of all, it would be so very much appreciated to get emails from you now and then. It will keep us up to date on the news at home (short, sweet and often is best) and will serve as a constant reminder that you are praying for us here in Haiti.

Much love to all,

Norma and Daryl

Categories: Updates

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