Sunday, June 29, 2008

things i'm learning (haiti, part three)

providence ministries blog entry from port au prince, haiti:

October 26, 2007

When you enter the supply room of the Missionaries of Charity, it’s easy to miss the little things. There’s a table pushed against a wall with metal trays of random supplies including bandages, alcohol swabs, and half-used vials of IV meds. There are notebooks and ledgers containing each child’s name and treatments, xrays stuffed in files, and a clear glass paperweight. Hidden away behind all this chaos is a little index card box. The box is decorated with magic marker: a tiny rainbow and delicate script carefully spelling out, “Things I’m Learning.” I wanted so badly to open this box and discover the secrets written there. But in a way I have my own box, and I’m adding treasures to it each moment I’m here. Here is what is written on my heart today:

Jen and I spent about an hour and a half with a little girl this afternoon. Her name is Jennifer. Sister Rose Martha asked Jen to start an IV because she was dehydrated and listless. Jennifer is 9 months old and weighs 13 ½ pounds. Her lips are covered with weeping wounds from malnutrition and her skin hangs on her tiny frame in loose folds. Jen tried to find a suitable vein as I held her, but each time the needle pierced her skin the vein would disappear like smoke. We tried so many sites with the same frustrating results. And all this time Jennifer’s eyes burned right through me. She lay almost perfectly still.

This is Haiti.

You see a problem and the solution seems deceptively simple. You come to offer help and find that the solutions pour through your hands like water. I’m thinking of Jen and so many others in Haiti who fight so hard to make a difference. I’m playing the picture of days upon days with no discernible movement forward. I can’t describe the sensation of falling, of slowly sinking into something dark and terrible. But something pulls you on because the alternative is unthinkable. If you do nothing there is no hope at all. So you keep searching for the vein.

We never did get an IV started for Jennifer. Jen decided to insert a nasogastric tube to get her the fluids and meds she needed. Slowly, her little body animated. We handed her to the room mother, gathered our things, and left for the day. It would have to be enough. This is what I learned today. This is what is written on my heart.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

little sister haiti (haiti, part two)

my little sister is looking at me with those eyes
she is poking at me
annoying me
she is asking a million questions i can’t answer

(she is good to me that way)

my little sister is holding up her pain
like a gift
asking me to unwrap it carefully
without tearing the paper

she is leading me to places i would rather not go
tugging at my arm

i try to ditch her to play with my friends
i want to shake free of her
but she always finds me
and my father asks me to take her along with me everywhere
can you believe that?

(he is good to me that way)

my little sister is teaching me
in little whispers
if i’ll listen

my little sister is not well
her fever is rising
her skin is hot and dry
her bones are showing

still, she is teaching me
in her beautiful little whispers
if i’ll listen

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

haiti, part one

Some of you know that I serve on the board of a non-profit ministry. A group of my friends helped establish a small children's home in southern Haiti, and that has become a really important part of my life. It's really just a Haitian family that agreed to take in some girls and raise them as their own. From there we also partner with other ministries and do some education work. It's completely Haitian-run on the Haiti side and we just build on those relationships and provide needed resources. It's called Providence Ministries, and if you're interested you can read more about us here.

Anyway, I thought that since I seem to be short on time and words, I would reprint some essays about my time in Haiti that I've written over the years. Today will be the first of a yet-to-be-determined number of installments. (You know how I hate to hem myself in.)

Haiti Behind My Eyes

This happens all the time. I might be answering emails or working on a lesson or even just walking from one room to the next and suddenly I'm in Haiti. I feel the rush of heat that smothers me and anchors me to the world. I hear the singing cadence of Kreyol, only comprehending a small portion of what I'm hearing, but enjoying the music anyway. I see Francianne's face, a curious map of grief and gratitude and longing and joy. It lasts for only a moment and then I return to where I am. I like it when I return, but I'm never really comfortable. I haven't really been comfortable since I first set foot in Haiti over ten years ago.

I both love and hate Haiti. I have seen some of the most awe-inspiring beauty and some of the most soul-killing ugliness there. Most of the time this beauty and ugliness are woven together like conjoined twins. It breaks your heart wide open and prompts the kinds of questions that you will wrestle with for the rest of your life. The biggest question is this: how is it that I was born in this plush little cradle in the world and Francianne and everyone else I love there were born in the fear-drenched regions of poverty and despair?

I don't think there's an answer to this question, but it binds me to Haiti in peculiar ways. I drift there in my mind periodically to wrestle with demons and to remember how lucky I am.