Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Many Waters

It felt so good to see them all again.  
One of the guys at the airport, named Big, had permission from all of the security guards to walk right up to the final security check.   Peeking into the baggage claim, the first things I saw was my daughter’s bobbing pony-tail.  Next was my son, a little stockier than I remembered, then Todd Boote, looking both frazzled and excited at the same time, and finally my wife, relieved, with a huge smile on her face.  We grabbed all of the bags and made our way to Cloudel, the man waiting with the passenger van.  

We began zipping across Haiti at break-neck speeds.
It’s like Nascar with commercial vehicles.   I always feel like there should be a commentator calling the plays.  

“Ooooh!  Boy I tell ya, Jim!  Juuuuuuusst narrowly missed the old Haitian man with the wheelbarrow!  Cloudel sure knows how to drive!  Another inch at these miles per hour, and that man would have been smeared all over the road.  This hairpin moment, brought to you by Digicell.  You need to talk in Haiti...well, well, well.....you need Digicell.....
Back after these messages...”

Ok. Even I don’t know where I just drifted off to there, but you get the idea.   I’ve learned to just turn it over to God and enjoy the ride. If He intended us to come all the way to Haiti to just get smeared on the side of the road, well, ok, you died in the line of duty.  But if He’s got something more planned, you may as well enjoy doing 80 up and down the mountains and around the hairpin turns, as if we’re somehow fleeing for our lives from a killer volcano!  Today’s best video games are not as exciting as real life Haiti.  Not even close!

Wham! He hits the brakes.  Slam, he’s on the gas.  Bam, you’re sliding off your seat to the left.  Whoooooo-eeeeee! 
For all that gusto, you’d think nothing in the world would stop Cloudel, right?  I mean, this guy’s a die-hard. 
That is until we popped out into the floodplains of Cayes.

Suddenly there’s water in the ditches.  Water on the roads.  Water running down the hillsides.  Water pelting the windshield... 
Cloudel looks nervously at Patchouko. Patchouko looks at me...the jig is up.
“Dan,” He says.  “Are you going to call ahead and see about the water?”
I flash a crazed look at Patchouko.  He gives me a surprised look back, and none of my eyebrow language is working, because Patchouko just smiles at me....Cloudel is looking at me in the rear view mirror.....
As if scripted, I say, “Surrrreee, Patchouko.... and then I mutter to him, “That was not the plan, brother. The plan was NOT to tell our driver about all the water.”  
That’s your plan?” Kari says. “And then what?”
“Then we hope the water has gone down.” I said.  

Cloudel raises one eyebrow....
I start dialing, and Adrien is on the phone,
“It’s only raining in Cayes.  You should be able to make it.”
“Great!” I say loud as I can, “No problem? Should be easy, you say?  Good news! Thanks!”    I’m smiling big as I can. 
Cloudel isn’t buying it for a second.  
Everyone in the car is noticing there’s more, and more, and more water piling up.  The fields are lakes.  The roads are rivers.


And then we came to it.  The second largest river in Haiti, gushing over the road!  Hundreds of Haitians had gathered to watch the excitement.  The river was now over 5 miles wide, washing away the rice fields and pouring 3-4 feet over the blacktop.  It was a scene that resembled some nightly news flash, like one of those shows where you see the capsized cars and buses floating on your TV and you say, “That’ll never be me....Who in their right mind would try to cross something like that??!”

Yet there I stood, trying to convince our driver that his carburetor was certainly higher than that current of water, if we just took it slow.  “C’mon man.... this is possible.  It’s do-able, right? I mean, that truck just made it across!”
Granted that truck looks like a monster truck, and it’s tires come half way up the side of our doors, but....
He just kept shaking his head.
“Ou pa kapab?” (You can’t?”)
“NO! Mwen pa kapab!” He shouted, shrugging his shoulders, with his hands up in the air.  

But then there was my friend Adrien, with his perfect timing, coming down the road just behind us.  He was bringing the Mission Haiti missionaries home to our village...and he was going for it! But they were already loaded down with people and supplies. There wasn’t enough room for us all.

We made a split-second decision.  
“OK! Kari, you and the kids, leave everything, hop in with Adrien.  Todd, you go ahead with them.  I’ll stay back with all of the luggage and gear.  Patchouko, you can fit with them and go home to your family!”  (He’d been with me all through the night, and all through the morning).
And it was at that moment my brother was most like the Light of Christ.  He turned to me, his face stern and his eyebrows furled, 
“No!  I am with you.  I stay with you.”
There was no changing his mind, and the way he said it, I knew better than to even try. 

Adrien’s car, loaded with missionaries, loved one’s and supplies, began settling into the waters.  The river flowed all around them.   I prayed quick breath prayers until I couldn’t see them anymore. 
“Get them home, Lord.”
“Please protect them. Please don’t let me watch this car get swept away God!”
“Keep that car on the road?”
“Watch over them, Jesus.” 

Patchouko loaded into the passenger van with me and Cloudel turned us around.  We went back to Cayes and then to the driver’s house, and began our wait. 
The rain fell. Hours passed.  We bought some patte from the madame on the street.  Patchouko laughed at me for nodding off while I was sitting up.  We played my guitar (part of the luggage). We waited some more. 
“This has happened to me many times.” Patchouko said.
Finally Adrien called me,
“Dan.  I’m sorry. I can’t come back for you.  The roads are too bad.  The water is just too high.  We made it to Ti Rivier,  your family is here, but I can’t make it back, sorry.”

Ok...I thought.  Guess we need to shack up in Cayes tonight?”   There’s only 1 person I know in this town.
Mr. Shane Shaw.  Missionary extrordinaire, mentor, brother. 
I called his number, thinking I really need to call this guy, just once, and only be calling to bless him. 
“I guess we’re staying in Cayes tonight.” I told him.
“You can’t get home?”  Shane asked.
“Nope.  Adrien can’t do it.” 
“Then I guess I’m coming to pick you up and give you a ride to Ti Rivier tonight, so you can be with your family.” He said to me.   

All the way through the miles of river, Shane was relaxed.  
“I’ve seen it as bad as this before.  Maybe not so many miles, but I’ve had the water higher than this before.  Once it even came up over the windshield and splashed the guys riding in the bed of the truck.” Please don’t let the water go any higher, Lord. 
“God woke me up at 2 am.”  Shane said. “Been praying and trying to reach you ever since.”

We made it through the waters.  We made it through the washed out mudslide.  We made it through 3 more rivers to our home in Ti Rivier, and we made it to my family, because of these brothers in Christ.   

From a brother who felt God telling him to escort my family, to a brother who felt it was his duty to help me get to Cayes, to a brother who decided he was going to go with me all the way to Port-au-Prince, to a brother who carried my family through the water, to a brother who picked us up when all seemed lost and brought me and Pachouko safely home to our families.
Todd Boote.  Frantz (Patchouko) Antenor.  Adrien Alexandre.  Shane Shaw.    
These are names I’ll never forget.  Men who know how to humble themselves.  Men who know how to give everything they’ve got.  Men who know how to lay it all on the line for another..... Men who know how to imitate Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 43 meant something more to us all that night.’
‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.’

(all photos courtesy of my son: Logan Elliott.  I admire his work more and more every day.)

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! What a wild ride that must have been! Thanking God for Shane, Patchuoku, Adrien, Todd & even Cloudel!!! Brothers all.. And I am VERY impressed with Logan's photography skills ~ great job Logan! Love you - Mom