Oh sure, I’m no dummy. I know that sounds either crazy or presumptuous: “God woke me up and spoke to me.”
I get that. Seriously, I do.
But, just as I decided to listen to the fierce urge I felt to go to Haiti, despite that seeming plenty wacky, I’m choosing to risk you thinking I’m nuts to share the thought that was resonating clear in my head when I woke up at 2:30:
“Nothing you have is yours. It’s mine. Give. When you see need – give.”
The woman we met as we were leaving a second pizza restaurant this week popped into my mind. She had rushed forward as we left the safe confines of an oasis that seemed impossibly nice in Haiti – they even had a wine list – toward our waiting van and driver.
It was clear what she wanted as she hopefully extended a basket of socks to each of us. She wanted to sell us something.
She wanted our money.
One by one, we assured her that we needed none and pressed on into our van.
She faded back to the side of the filthy road, her basket still full – and the contents of our pockets and bellies also full – as we pulled away.
Our money that we had brought along in case we saw need was safe.
We didn’t need any socks.
I’m sure we could’ve bought her entire supply for 20 bucks. Or 10.
Had my heart been open, I would have recognized she wasn’t going to use my money to buy drugs. She wouldn’t tuck it triumphantly in her bra and walk around the corner to her Mercedes.
She needs to feed her family.
When I say there are moments that will long haunt me from our time in Haiti, some of them are my own failure to listen to God’s nudge in time.
Tonight, we sat, relaxed in our camp after a particularly eventful day and camp-cooked meal of beans and rice, and chatted with our hostess, Mirdrede. She began to open up about the conditions in her country.
“It is hard,” she said, in sometimes halting English. “I do not understand those who lay around all day, saying ‘I cannot give, because I do not have money.’ I do not have money, but I give. I work every day, every hour, since the earthquake.
“I live here,” she said, gesturing over her shoulder toward a tent. “It is not my job. I do not get paid. How would they pay me? No one has anything. But people think if you are giving, it means you have something. I have nothing. I lost my house. I lost my car. I lost my computer. But I am alive. And so I give. My husband is at another hospital in Carrefour. He is an adventist preacher, but this is how he is needed right now.
“When someone gives me three boxes of formula for the hospital, I keep one and I give two away. Because there is great need.”
Our conversation meandered, and I showed her a few of the photos shot during the day.
“These were taken by Roselaure,” I said, beaming. I was especially proud of the young girl’s first attempts at photography. She had a natural eye for composition and I felt like a spontaneous mentor to the girl also living at the Quisqueya University encampment.
“That is her mother who does the washing,” said Mirdrede, nodding. “She has nine children and she lost a daughter who was 9 in the earthquake. We also watch her twins during the day. They are 1 year old.”
The images of the twins show beautiful babies perhaps half that age. There is a new infant laying on the cot beside them in the photos.
“Her mother was killed in the earthquake,” said Mirdrede. “But she has aunts. One is the mother of Roselaure’s mother.”
Each day, those women show no signs that they know such loss. They walk in the shadows of the fallen university each morning and it is easy for the rest of us to assume they were “merely” homeless. But everyone here has lost someone.
“There were 13 professors killed here,” said Midrede, as we sat in our camp, mere feet from what is now a mountain of rubble. “And 25 students. Only three survived. One is my sister and she was trapped for three days.
“Come with me and I will show you something,” she said. We walked down the hill and into a nearby tent, where Beverly Lense, the doctor on our team sat in a roundtable discussion. She was educating the university’s remaining medical students through an interpreter about the wisdom of immunizations.
On a stage, there was a table with teeny clay figures sitting in colorful array.
“Every Friday, there are about 100 children who come here,” she said. “They have no school and nothing to do all day so, about two weeks ago, we started bringing them here. Some of them are being abused by their grandparents. This gives them a place to be secure.
“This time, the students used the clay to make pictures of what they saw in the earthquake. It is important for them to express it.”
There, in figures designed by children ages 5 to 10, lay sprawling and broken limbs of clay, myriad flattened buildings and tents with no sides or doors. One child fashioned a park with a few animals – but no people.
All throughout the day, our team had spent time issuing medicine to children and adults in another tent community. They had been quick to laugh, despite deplorable conditions, and yet, when given the opportunity to release the haunting images inside them, chaos spills into the clay.
Throughout the morning, the other members of our team and I had looked at each other a bit anxiously as the line of patients lengthened and supply of medicines slimmed. When we ran out of zip sleeves for each set of prescribed pills, a search for alternatives began. Could we put pills in latex gloves, write instructions on them and tie the fingers? Was there enough paper to create envelopes?
Finally, we began to spoon each batch of counted pills into sip-sized cups, writing instructions on tape and then affixing it to the side. To keep the medicine from tumbling out, we stacked each set of cups, handed them to the patient and hoped for the best.
Beverly, when she discovered there was no inhaler attachment for a prescribed dose of Albuterol, fashioned a mouthpiece by slicing the lid off one of our plastic water bottles and taping its edge with medical tape, then affixed it to the dispenser. After a few whiffs, the child breathed easier.
Finally, there was no more we could give and the medical students said, “We are finished.”
I was especially anxious as we began to pack our box, since the driver of our van had not been seen in hours. As I eyed the close quarters where we were crammed, with the many homeless Haitians surrounding us, I even felt a tinge of fear.
Things could go south real fast, it seemed. Already the people were disgruntled, because a UN truck had arrived only half an hour before, swung wide its doors for a shipment of food and elated the people. When only a few packs of cookies were distributed before the truck swiftly closed its doors of promise and left, a murmur rose from the crowd who thought they would finally be fed.
“He may not come soon,” said one of the medical students of our driver. My volley of emails to the pastor leading our group seemed to lend no quick solution.
When will I learn that all God needs to show His face is a heart willing to see Him?
When our table was packed and chairs folded, a few children playfully nudged their way into our midst.
Beverly scooped up a girl into her arms and the child quickly took the ends of the stethoscope and placed them in her own ears, then touched the metal scope to her own chest. When Dana cuddled Jefferson, a little boy, he did the same.
John and JP kept a watchful eye for our van to arrive, even as they joined Brad in keeping a watchful eye upon us.
Beverly began to dance with some of the children and then – I swear I am not making this up – “We Are The World” began playing on someone’s radio nearby.
Captivated by their smiles, I began to snap some shots of the kids surrounding us and show them the results. Soon, some of the adults nodded when I indicated I’d like to make pictures of them, too.
They were delighted by the images of their children and friends, especially when I swapped to let Christine, one of the young girls in the camp, become the photographer. Her images were composed beautifully, despite total inexperience. She hugged me, asking for my nombre and gushing, “Je t’aime.”
I love her, too.
God spoke to me then, too, by the way.
He said, “Trust me when I tell you I have a Plan. All you need to do is show up – and give.”