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!
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...
Wait...is 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!