Sunday, September 25, 2011

Haitian Diary, Day 2: I Am Beginning To Understand.

Day 2 is a bit of a blur. It started at sunrise, which is 5 a.m. because Haiti is in the central time zone even though it is some 170 miles west of Miami. As arbitrary as this seems and as disorienting as it might be, Haitian roosters have solved the dilemma by crowing on the hour, every hour. All. Night. Long. Tap taps, buses and motorbikes are already having a spirited conversation up the hill as I wait for the water to boil. The volume and tone of the horn is directly proportional to the size of the vehicle. Haiti has no street signs. But one would suffice. Respect the horn.

5:15 a.m. Water's hot, Starbucks VIA and some time with the the king's cup-bearer. Obvious as it is, Nehemiah's passion to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem stayed with me the rest of the week, the earthquake's devastation ever-present. The responsibility of believers to rebuild heavy on my conscience.

Above, Cody Miller's visual interpretation of Nehemiah. This picture is so incredibly Haitian somehow. Below a horse inspects a house crushing itself in the town of Santos, Gressier's western twin sister.

Following a slow walk to the sea punctuated by 20 or 30 "bonjous" I make it back to the house. There is a constant stream of new faces, introductions are animated and warm. Friendship is a gift given freely in Gressier. I receive many such gifts today. Bernard, who is from the city of Carrefour (pronounced kafu) would fit in any city-scape in the western hemisphere. His New Era New York cap worn slightly askew and his self-effacing charm disarms everyone he meets. Whether he is a wall-builder I do not know but he is a bridge-builder for sure. Arlen is from Gressier, he is soft-spoken, introspective to the point of brooding. He has a tender heart but it makes him feel vulnerable. He is a protector yet confrontation gives him pause. He has the sleepy eyes of a dreamer and in his dreams he may very well be a wall-builder, but in Gressier anyway, it seems he is still searching for himself. Then there is Pastor Benito, business owner, husband and father. His gentleness offers instant forgiveness and his strength the will to extend it. He is vibrant and tireless and a wall builder for sure. But God knows Haiti may need more than one.

After a day of acclimation and agenda setting and such, there is a glorious rice and bean dinner following which I make myself busy with the girls. We play the gambit of games that childhood offers and innocence prefers. Like the rest of the Haitian kids they struggle to call the white people by their first names, preferring the more ubiquitous and gently goading, "blan", from the French for white. Tachi our house mum adds the word "fou" (crazy or fool). All the white people are "blan fou". Except for me. I am sexy "garcon" (boy). I wear the name with pride, even if it is more than a bit overstated.

That night Kyle and Megan budget the cash John brought, make payroll and negotiate more raw materiel for the school. Megan can see the walls already built, Kyle, the meticulous technician, will make sure the school's walls anyway, don't fall. John gets started balancing the books I walk to the mountain to pray. Alone with my thoughts.

After Nehemiah's incredible prayer for favor he states matter-of-factly: "I was cup-bearer to the king". That's like Lincoln giving the Emancipation Proclamation and then saying "I am a pool boy for the Hollywood set." Nonetheless, that is exactly what Nehemiah was, King Artaxerxes' cup-bearer. In essence, he tasted the king's drink before the king did, to determine if it were poisoned. This was a man who had long since come to terms with the price of his own mortality and willingly spent himself on behalf of his people. He had the favor of the King, a life of ease and security, and yet he left it all for the sake of a city in ruins. I can't help but think, as I look across the moonlit Caribbean, of Megan. A 24 year-old ex-cheerleader from Tulane University, gives up her dream job, sells all her possessions and moves to earthquake ravaged Haiti.

I am beginning to understand. Though giving up a life of ease might be second nature to me, I would not make a very good cup-bearer. I would be the defiant one. Railing against the establishment, the occupier, the usurper. I would be the one fomenting out "taste it your own damn self!" But then God used Nehemiah's humility to foster deep respect and favor with the king. And the king not only gave Nehemiah the permission to go, but guaranteed safe passage through hostile territory, even gave timber for the rebuilding.

What a picture of Christ. Who in the garden had a cup before him. A cup of such terminal poison that it meant the death of everyone who ever lived, a cup that if He drank it meant death for Himself, but also life, eternal life, for all who would believe!

We all have a cup at our lips. It is a cup of remembrance, a cup of suffering. Let us pray for the grace to drink. For it is in the Gethsemanes of our own lives, in these moments of crushing solitude and foreboding, where we submit our will to His, that God's character is formed in us. It is in this wine-press of the soul where we as sojourners in a foreign land busy about these seemingly ignoble tasks, learn to be wall-builders as the Creator builds back what is broken in us.

I am blan fou, I want to be cup-bearer to the King. I want to be a wall-builder.


  1. I am definitely a night person by nature, but I have learned to respect the 5am. It's God's the time (and I think you reaffirmed it :)favorite hour, he wakes me up to tell me all

    I love the stories of Naaman and Nehemiah...coming from a place where they over-apply and misuse scripture like they do make-up, I think you have shown us how God intended us to weave these historical stories throughout our lives and relate to the people.

    With that said, I am loving reading makes my heart feel that pull for Haiti even more.

  2. Some how my words came out completely out of order. I really hope the computer did that and not my brain! Anyways, if you can't make sense of it, God wakes me up at 5am all the time (especially on trips).

  3. Ha. I understood everything Rebecca, so either both our brains are jumbled or your words were just right.

    And I have to agree with all you said and I am so glad you are enjoying these. I really hope you can get to Haiti soon!