March 4, 2010

Picture This

Hello, everyone! Guest Blogger Dan here once again, holding down the digital fort while Kelli and the Foundation for Peace team work in Haiti this week. Evidently, my first pinch-hitting attempt did not completely destroy what Kelli has toiled so carefully to build in this little corner of cyberspace over the past few years. From this, I can only conclude that I'm not trying hard enough. So, without further ado, here is Dispatch #2. Enjoy...and hear what God's people are doing this week!

Picture this.

Your entire world quite literally collapses in a matter of thirty-five utterly terrifying seconds. Your home; rubble. Family and friends; missing. What few possessions you had; destroyed. Heirlooms, photographs and mementos; vanished. Your body; broken. Your future; indeterminate. Picture your entire life reduced to the few necessities you and what remained of your family could scrounge from the disaster zone, now fitting within the confines of a blue 10' x 14' nylon tent that you will now live in until...well, until as long as it takes.

If you can see that in your mind's eye, you have some idea of what life looks and feels like in the hundreds of refugee camps scattered throughout the nation of Haiti, housing hundreds of thousands of people whose yesterdays are gone. Today is merely a struggle. Tomorrow is entirely uncertain.

Now, picture this.

Old lady who smiled ear-to-ear...

What's that you say...a smile? Here? In the middle of a disaster? Doesn't make sense.

Families with newborn babies. The Captain of the camp with his new baby and family. Me, holding a newborn... that a glimpse of a future I see? What else is there? What could be causing this? Show me more!

Workers digging. Families. Classes of schoolkids. Sooooooo many of us with the kids!

While Kelli was packing for her trip late last week, we had our friend Carrie from church over for lunch. Carrie is a nurse, and truly one of God's own angels, who went to the DR and Haiti the week before me to help mend patients in the de facto field hospital that the town of Jimani had become in the weeks following the "terramoto." Carrie brought with her stories. She brought much-needed encouragement and prayers for Kelli. She brought advice.

Then, later - mostly as an afterthought - she brought a digital camera. One with a small, portable printer. Today, the FFP team brought it to Fond Parisien and began snapping away, showing and giving away photographs. And, with that simple gesture, they began bringing something that has been sorely missing to the people living in that camp.

As Kelli reported to me this afternoon, the camera...and the 4"x6" color prints it produced...created a palpable excitement everywhere it/they went. "At first," she said, "People were curious. In time, they became obsessed...even insistent that we take their pictures. The best was Jude."

Jude is a young Haitian boy (I'd judge him to be maybe 13 or 14) who I worked with during my trip. He and I spent a day repairing sagging and damaged tents. Jude was smart, motivated, attentive and VERY industrious. After I'd shown him just a few things (how to properly orient a fly, carve a stake, move a tent, etc.), he quickly became my right-hand man. This week, I was thrilled to learn that (a) Kelli was matched up with him for similar work and (b) he had evidently promoted himself to "tent foreman."

"Jude does NOT like having his picture taken," Kelli told me, "I basically had to beg him to take one with me at first. But, after he saw it - and how much other people liked seeing theirs - he got interested. By the end of the day, he had declared himself the official photographer! By then, the camera had created a minor mob scene. People were DEMANDING we take their photos - following us around and even grabbing at us until we did."

At first, I was just amused at Kelli's stories. Taking digital pictures and then showing the subjects their images on the camera on past DR mission trips has always been a popular pastime....but, never an exercise in crowd control. Then, it hit home. It's one thing to lose your possessions. Still another to lose a home. But, those things are ultimately replaceable.

There are two things, however, that are irreplaceable. First, there are loved ones. Fortunately, the incredible strength of the Haitians' faith assures them that their lost families and friends are safe in the arms of a loving God, and will be seen again. The second thing you can't replace is your history. Think about it - what is the one thing people consistently say they would run back into a burning building to save? It's not the plasma screen. It's the family photo album, scrapbooks, great grandmother's heirloom necklace from the old country and other such memories.

For nearly two months, the residents of Camp Hope have been living nearly dreamlike, temporary lives defined by cardboard boxes of possessions, plastic tarp latrines, plain-brown-wrapper military MREs and the four walls of a donated tent. Their histories - and thus a part of themselves - were taken from them without warning. Today, their lives became real again. Something permanent came into focus. And, they have the photos to hang on their tent walls to prove it.

Picture hope. Picture joy. Picture smiles. Picture babies. Picture people rebuilding a brand-new past and thus, seeing the future. Picture Kelli, Christine, Doug and Bob making it all happen. Picture the image of Christ's love for us.

That's what mission work is all about folks. Well done, good and faithful servants!


Sue J. said...

Looking at this photo of Christine, prayers for God to keep this team strengthened and encouraged surely have been answered!

As much as I'd like to think I can visualize what it might be like, I know I'm not even close. Clamoring over having my picture taken--just can't imagine it. It's "priorities check" time!

There is so much hope in what you report here, Dan, and that is encouraging to read. I've been quoting Romans 5 all week, it seems, about how we must go through suffering and perseverance before we can know hope. The Haitians are definitely teaching us about that with how they are living.

In a week in which the "natural disasters" continue throughout the world, we need to turn to the same Hope as the Haitians, and thank God for His sovereignty, His presence, His hope!

And if you ruin this blog any more than you already have, it's going to make it difficult for Kelli to step back in ;-)

Tell her we're still praying for her and the team, in their last working days, and for a safe trip home!

Runner Mom said...

Oh, Dan! Thank you for this incredible update. They continue to be in my prayers. As I look at my camera and all of the photos around the house, I know where they are coming from. In this, I can relate. Give Kelli my love! You're doing great with the blog--how about the kids and the house??? Just kidding!

Carmen said...

Hi Dan,
I've been reading Sue's comment and had to laugh at what she told you. I'm pretty sure she was kidding about you ruining the blog! ;)
As for my comment...well...I am 51 and my memory is good, but short--so here's a new one. =D

People truly are resilient, especially when they maintain a hope in the future and don't give up. I love the comment about the old lady who smiled. Pictures of those we love remind us of what's truly important in this life--and that's each other--and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. In their current scenario, photos are a great way to find people as well, or just to know who survived the disaster. It's probably an encouragement to them. Anyway, hope my comment isn't longer than your post! Enjoying your updates! If you see this, Hi Kelli!!!

JerryLyn said...

Dan: What a great post! The hope of Jesus that is shining through all those I speak to on their Haiti experiences and the spirit of the people is just so powerful and moving. Thanks for sharing! Love you Kelli!

Cheryl Barker said...

What a privilege for Kelli and her team to be able to bless these folks with something as simple yet as treasured as a photo. May God continue to work through them!

Saleslady371 said...

Thanks so much for the update, Dan. Thank you and Kelli for bringing Jesus' love to Haiti.

Susan S said...

Fantastic job, Dan! Our team had the same experience with taking photos of the refugees. Interesting note: people wanted not just their faces photographed, but their whole bodies, injuries and all! Not only have they lost family and possessions, but also any control over their day-to-day life. They are completely at God's mercy. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised to see the old woman scrubbing the floor of her tent, or the families managing to stay clean and well-groomed; they are clinging to a tiny bit of order and dignity. I can't wait to see Kelli!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Beautiful parallel, Dan, with picturing hope after a complete visual history lost! Thanks for giving us an "eye" into Kelli's whereabouts over the past few days. You've done a good thing by venturing into her "writing" world and loving her so tangibly through your willingness to give of your pen as well.

You both do it well.