Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pressed Upon the Hallowed Ground

I don't know His every reason for bringing me there, 
but I trust His wisdom.
That place of solitude, of quiet simplicity.  
I can hear my heartbeat there.
I can hear the birds.
I can whisper with Him and nobody hears.
I can cry.
I can give thanks.
I can question...and never really expect to understand the answers.

Mostly there aren't words.  Only a strong knowing in my deep that He is there with me.
There doesn't have to be understanding.
I know He watches me.  
I know He knows.
I reach my hands down into that cool blackness and scoop it up between my fingers.
I smell it, and I know I'm where I'm supposed to be.
This is my pulpit, my altar, my stained-glass, my sanctuary.

The grit between my toes reminds me, always, to never get too big for my britches.
I reach for the vessel and dip it into the cold water.  I bring the refreshment to a weary soul.
I pull tender on the root of one planted to close to another.  I stand up one who's fallen down from the storm.

I rid the shady places of the cheap imitations and picture the sin in my life as I strain to get all of the root.
What sin is acceptable?
What sin is there that I just can't see?
What sin will I yet defend and protect, even nurse?
What sin is drawing the sweet nectar of blessing, because I will not yield to the rival of my self?
I always feel the softness in my eyes and the smile at the corner of my mouth as I see how much he tries to look like fruit, and yet he will never ever be...
I remember my childhood, these same smells.  
This same Sun warming the back of my neck.
These same lessons, so elementary then, and now built upon not by years of university, but by ages of living.
This curiosity of purpose.  This careful shaping of my being.

I'm familiar with the drops of sweat falling from my forehead, watering this dust. 
The work will never be finished...but it's not supposed to be.
There is always a season.
Some seem so quick, and some I wonder if they will ever end.
Some, even in the rains, are so very dry.
Some, even in the desert, are flourished with tears.
My back hurts, the same way it did then.  

His Word always weaves in and out of the furrows of my brow.  
His experienced timing I find to be impeccable, perfect and planned.
There is always this conversation of serenity, where I know my Spirit speaks on my behalf.
Sincerity is at the source of everything.
In this coming down into the ground I find He lifts me up.

When I've done all that I know to do,
I think about the fruit.  
I wonder if I'll even see it.
I pray that it will bless richly. 
He gives me just enough to bear, just enough to hold for today.  
But one day the doors to the storehouses will bust loose at the hinges because of the overflow, and His blessing will not be contained. 

I do the numbers on a scratch of paper...
124 tomato plants
23 stalks of corn
66 peppers
22 cucumbers
32 Moringa trees
1 head of lettuce

We've had quite a dialog this season...The Maker of Everything and I, and like David I wonder, who am I that He is even mindful of me?  I am no more than the dirt under my nails. And yet, He'll be there tomorrow, waiting.  He loves to walk with me, in the cool of the day, and I look forward to more unspoken conversations as we leave our footprints pressed upon the hallowed ground.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Give Me the Odds

Last year in Haiti my daughter's tooth began to seriously ache, and there just so happened to be an oral surgeon visiting on a mission trip the next day.  She was seen by a top doc in his field.

Last Spring when I crashed my motorcycle (very badly I might add) I landed a few inches away from a concrete block that would have taken my head clean off. That concrete block was the driveway of a nurse that happened to be home, who came running outside to give me medical attention. I saw her again just yesterday, and she remembered how lucky I was to have survived.  She said when I got up with blood running everywhere that I was looking around for my hat.  

Then, last week Kari's eczema (which was partially under control) really flared up and exploded all over her hands when she tried to help me plant in the garden. Her fingers cracked and bled and oozed, and the Haitians made a special paste from crushed leaves to try to ease her pain. Her thyroid had also been giving her alot of problems, and then we're pretty sure she stepped on a scorpion. The grand total of everything combined equalled one very out-of-commission Mom. But then, there just so happened to be an endocrinologist visiting on a mission trip this week, that is, a doctor who specializes in the thyroid, and he also just so happens to study skin disorders as well, so he knows all about eczema. He saw Kari as well as a woman from our village with a skin rash all over her body. Both came home with prescriptions and medicine, in the middle of Haiti...

What are the odds?  Can some math whiz crunch the numbers for me, just tell me how in rural Haiti I can crash exactly in front of the home of a nurse who, during working hours, happened to be home.  Or tell me how many oral surgeons have ever visited within 15 minutes of my village.   Better yet,  tell me how many endocrinologists also study skin disorders, like eczema, and then how many of them actually come, again, to within 15 minutes of my front door in Haiti?

Try to tell me again that there is no God....then try to tell me that He doesn't just completely pamper us....go ahead...try. :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

I got a call from a friend of mine whose little girl is very sick.   I'd just seen her a few days before at a wedding as she was dancing and twirling in the aisle during the ceremony.  Four days later she was in the Les Cayes hospital, and now they were telling her father there was nothing more they could do.  She'd have to go to the pediatric hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Her father's voice was shaking and rushed when he called me.   "I have to take her to Port and I can't find a ride.  Can you take us?" 

Going would mean leaving my wife and daughter alone.  Something I would never choose under the circumstances of our current living situation.  And then, I've never been to Port in my car. She isn't exactly a well-oiled machine these days.  In fact, I'm absolutely positive that God is holding our vehicle together.  By all rights, with the places I've taken that car, she should be piled up on the side of the national road in pieces.   

Fear rushed in the window along with a gentle breeze, and for a moment I hesitated, just long enough to put myself in his shoes, and then the answer came back resoundingly clear. 

"I'm coming."

I quickly called my brother Patchouko, who'd just returned from visiting his family in Port the day before.

"Are you home?"  I asked.
"Yes, I'm here." He said.
"Ready to go back?"  I said. 
"Uhhhh....What did you say?"
"Antoine's baby is sick and has to go to Port.  Can you come?"
There was another familiar hesitation, and then that clear response.

"I'm coming."  

Within half an hour we were picking up the family and the little girl, and before we knew it we were barreling down the road to Port.   It was late in the day already.   There was loud praying and shouts to Jezi as the little girl Melonitha lay limp in her momma's arms.  I was looking at her in my rear view mirror and hit a speed bump at about 30 mph.   The car leapt over with a crash, and we all left our seats for a split second.   All praying had stopped. All eyes were upon me.   I could feel Mom's stark eyes burrowing into the back of my head, and I'm pretty sure someone asked Patchouko in Creole if I was fit to drive.   My friend cast his vote of confidence in my favor, and the car became much quieter. 

We were flying down the road, praying for God's safety.  My son was in the very back of the car.  He was certain that Kari would kill me if she knew how fast we were driving.

We did finally arrive at Port as darkness began to fall, and eventually we worked our way through the catacomb of back streets and alleys until we came to the hospital.   Little Melonitha was delivered safely and checked in, and we began our wait outside for any news.  Time ticked on, and eventually the security guards with shotguns started to buzz around the car.  Then, when my son opened up the back hatch to rearrange his blanket and bags, they assumed we were camping out for the night, and told us in no uncertain terms that it was time to go.  Their shotguns proved to be an intimidating factor as we all piled into the car.  

It was 10:30 at night.  We were in the street under a single light.  The Haitians with me thought it would give security.  I thought it would act more like a spotlight, advertising to everyone passing by that there's a Blanc here.  They thought maybe the hospital security would come to our assistance should we have trouble.  I was pretty sure the hotel security would probably just keep the gates locked up tight and take bets on who would be the last man standing. 
So, we started the car and began to drive.  At first we thought we'd stay at the home of an in-law to the baby girl, but when that didn't work out, we began our trek across the capital of Haiti to find a place to stay.   We'd entered one plush hotel right next to the airport to ask for a room, but when they opened the gate, a guard inside literally saluted me....
"Yeah. I can tell you right now we can't afford this place..."
Sure enough, the price was ridiculously high, so we left in high hopes of finding another room.    

11 o'clock swept by, and miles of driving.   Then midnight came, and the streets were even darker.  The people on the streets had more and more attitude.  Some were looking for trouble, and some were worse...they were desperate. 

The car was almost out of gas, and we were all getting jumpy about driving so deep into the back alleys that we wouldn't have enough gas to get back in the morning.   We had no idea where we were, and we hadn't seen another hotel for over an hour.   A verse came into my mind that we'd just read as a family, "The Lord watches over the sojourners."
Lord, If ever there was a foreigner in the land...
That's when we came to a place that looked like maybe 20 years ago it was a hotel.   We took our chances and Patchouko came back with the price,  
"1000 gourdes."  He said.
"Ok." I said, half asleep as I got out of the car and started to grab bags.
The men running the place saw me, and they began to talk with Patchouko, who looked at me helplessly,
"Now it's 2000 gourdes." He said with a frown.
In my spirit I growled, maybe even a little out loud.   Really, the moment they see the color of my skin the price doubles?  
We walked into the lobby and waited while they 'cleaned a room'.   
Music was blaring so loud we couldn't even talk.   People were staring at us.  My son was falling asleep in his chair.  That's when it dawned on me that it wasn't really a hotel anymore, at all.   
It was a nightclub.
1 a.m. came, and we finally were allowed to go to our room.  There was no lock on the door, and so I whipped out my knife and whacked off the strap to my backpack.   I quickly tied the door closed, and fell onto the bed exhausted.  Their idea of cleaning the room was to blanket everything in a very, very potent perfume.    Tonight, even fresh air is going to come at a price.  
I placed my machete right next to my hand, even practiced grabbing it a few times, and then I closed my eyes.   My son was sitting next to me, absorbing everything like a sponge, watching my every move.  Did his Dad really just check them into a nightclub in a very bad part of town, in the middle of the night, in a city that's just issued travel warnings to all Americans....Yes, son...I'm sorry.  I did, and your Mother would be soooooo mad.
He laid something on my chest and I opened my eyes.  It was my Bible.
"Here, Dad.  In case you need your double-edged sword in the night."  He smiled.
I thanked God for that boy.

Throughout the night we were bit by mosquitos, and once it sounded like someone tried to open our door, but couldn't.   Patchouko reached quickly for his phone and dropped it onto the tile floor with a loud crash.  All fiddling with the door ceased, and after that there were no other noises....just the night club raging below us.   

We greeted the dawn and all of us were up and ready to go before daylight ever hit the window.  Only a few moments after they'd opened the gate we were pulling out.   I waved to one of the locals as we were driving away.  Goodbye..Thanks God.

We stopped quickly at the embassy in hopes of renewing my son's expiring passport, but it was Saturday, and they'd only let me enter in the event of an emergency.
"How do you define an emergency?" I asked.
"You know, if someone is attacking you."  I was told.
"OK.......Patchouko, brother, hit me!"   He laughed. 

The hospital allowed us to see Melonitha before we left.  We prayed for her, sang for her, and read the Bible to her, then I drove home while everyone nodded off in the car.  Heads bobbed left and right, forward and backward as I bounced along the road.   

After awhile Melonitha's Dad woke and began to chat with Patchouko.  I watched him, as a Dad, from the mirror.  He was smiling and even laughed a few times.  
How can you possibly smile, or have any peace whatsoever in this time?!   My heart would be ripping out.  I'd be throwing up.  But then I was reminded... "

'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

We hopped over the mountains and settled down into our little valley of Cayes, and then there came the church next door to the nightclub, the welder on the corner making a gate, the momma selling snacks, the water flowing from the well...we were back to our little village.  Tikilene had food waiting, the girls were safe, and we all breathed easier.

I called a missionary friend a few days later and told him about our experience. 
"Nobody goes out in the capital after 4 pm, especially with all of the kidnappings and violence there right now. 
OK.  Well, moving on.  Let's put that behind you now."  He said. "Just don't ever do that again."

Visions of driving the alleys and the side roads swept through my mind.  The many, many faces in the night.  
Prayers are still needed for Melonitha.  She's 1.5 years old. 
There hasn't been much change.  She isn't very responsive, and she's currently being treated for meningitis.   

We are all sojourners.  Even this little one.  None of us are home yet.   The verse came again, softer with the confidence of tested and tried experience, "The Lord watches over the sojourners" and then that still, small voice, "... I keep My promises."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daddy's Girl

Remind me again....why do Daddy's love their little girls???

She took my hat and my sunglasses during Bible class, and then improvised with a flower in her hair.

Bèl Kado

I told a pastor on Tuesday that we had alot of mice at my house. I casually mentioned that I might try to look for a cat to take care of them, but that I would keep my eye out for a kitten so we could teach it love. This morning he showed up with a rice sack, and inside was this little surprise...

What do you think?  Do you think she'll make a good mouser?

The kids already can't stay focused on school, and the topic of breakfast was deciding first, if she is in fact a girl, and second, what we should call her. I like Ti Kado. It means Little Gift.
The kids and Kari all love Bèl.  Tikilene just gave the deciding vote, Bèl Kado.  Her name is Beautiful Gift. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Last Stars of 2012

We lost power last night, and I walked up onto the roof 
to watch all of the commotion and partying and shrieking 
in the street.  Even with the moon as bright as it was, 
the last stars of 2012 were beautiful.  
I've only seen them shine like this while laying on the ground at the top of the mountains in Wyoming, 
in the middle of the night and miles away 
from a single artificial light.
We get the same effect here in Haiti, among a sea of millions, when the power everywhere just blinks off, and the only light is coming from the charcoal of the cooking fires. 

Can you make out Orion, on his final hunt of 2012?  
The dogs were on his heels, just out of sight 
beyond the palm trees of a restless night in Haiti.

There is a touch of what looks like motion blur in the image, but it's actually just the movement of the earth.   The shutter stays open for about 30 seconds, just enough time to remind us that the world is, in fact, still spinning round.