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Update Jan 4

If all goes well, this will be my second blog post in 1 week.  I’m pretty sure all the others have come years or months apart, so this may become a new personal record.  It’s about a quarter past eight though, and I’m hot and bored, and feeling a bit reflective.

The power has been out for a couple of days.  The locals like to set small brush fires this time of year.  They call it “weeding”, but I haven’t yet ascertained its purpose.  In any event, a neighboring village accidentally burned down a couple of power line poles.  At least way out here in the sticks, the government and/or power company will not be coming to our rescue.  Allegedly, the power company will fix the lines only if Makango acquires one or two new poles.  It’s up to Makango because the neighboring village, who is actually responsible for setting fire to the poles, is even smaller and more remote and does not care if their lights work or not.  The people in Makango are quite upset about their lights, but aren’t yet motivated enough to buy new poles.  The cost is minimal, only about $400 USD.  They have begun taking a collection, but it is slow going.  Since we are part of the community, we are going to contribute.  Actually, we’re going to pitch in substantially more than our “fair share”, but we don’t want to shoulder the entire financial burden.  That seems like a bad precedent to establish this early on.

In fact, we’re lucky there are even poles available to purchase.  Rumor has it, poles are lost to fires every year.  Last year there were no poles available to purchase close by.  The power company told Makango to go and take a pole from a near-by village.  However, the power company had given this pole to the near-by village sometime back along with promises of improving that village’s infrastructure.  Of course, the power company hadn’t yet followed through with their promises.  This village chased away the Makango people with stones and machetes, seriously – at least that’s how the story goes.

I’ve asked many Ghanaians about the fires and mostly they respond by shrugging their shoulders.  Our Ghanaian friend Alice told us today that young boys set the fires to drive out small animals for hunting.  I don’t think this is entirely true – or false.  It’s probably one of many reasons.  It seems odd to me though that most people just go along with the fires, even though they burn down power line poles and occasionally homes, without even knowing why they are set in the first place.  I guess it’s just a tradition of sorts.  I spoke with an American missionary two weeks ago and asked him about the fires.  He’s lived here for 5 years and still hasn’t figured out the reasoning.  With a few “obrunis” pressuring the counsel and power company, I’m hopeful we will have power again within 2 or 3 more days.  Last year, it took several weeks.  Again, that’s the rumor.  There are plenty of stories and rumors in Ghana.  It’s part of the culture.  Mostly, we take them with a grain of salt.

Our life here is both interesting and dull.  Like in Haiti, progress comes slowly.  I anticipated this though, so it isn’t a shock; but it is still sometimes discouraging.  The second “rescue” will happen in about 2 weeks.  There are more than 20 trafficked children who will soon be headed to rehab, then home, then back to school.  Most of the groundwork for this operation was laid well before my family arrived in Ghana.  I’m feeling absolutely ecstatic for these children, but my work has had very little to do with their release.  What I’m trying to articulate is that life here feels an awful lot like life at home.  We’re simply living and muddling through the details.  Sure, we have goals, a plan and ambitions.  But we still live day to day just like everyone else.  We are here because we believe God gives Christians explicit instructions to love (AND DO) justice.  However, living in the 3rd world and doing justice work does not necessarily bring you a sense of fulfillment, not every day.  We’re definitely not any more spiritual or better Christians than our friends at home.  We’re exactly the same people as we were in Utah, just doing a different job in a different location.  Sometimes the praise and compliments we receive (though I know they are simply meant to encourage) makes me feel uncomfortable.  My job title with Mercy Project is “missionary.”  I’m still not sure that this term is well suited in our instance.  Missionaries are supposed to be better Christians.  They pray and read their bibles every day.  They go to church on Sundays.  They struggle less with sin.  Besides caring for the poor and downtrodden, they convert the lost and baptize new believers.  If that’s the definition of a true missionary, I’ll never measure up.  Besides, we came here to fish : )

As we were considering this move, several of our pastors advised us not to take the leap into “ministry” if our motivation was merely a desire to feel fulfilled or wishing to know that we are living “God’s will.”  I understood them then, but totally get it now.  Still, even though some of our struggles have not changed, our family is on mission together – for the first time ever.  That’s pretty cool.  We do get to live for a cause that’s bigger than us.  And that’s pretty cool too.  I love what Mercy Project is about and I’m looking forward to feeling useful in the future.

The power loss and heat ushered in some culture shock, which has put me on edge the last day or so.  I’m not going to let that dampen my outlook.  Things are in fact going extremely well.  We found a new hatchery to buy better quality fingerlings.  The manager is traveling to Sabonjeda with us on January 7th.  The villagers in Sabonjeda are excited for us to bring in a cage fishing expert.  This guy’s name is Blackie.  Blackie is going to help us measure the water quality.  He will also make some operational recommendations aimed at improving our success with the cages.  During the Christmas break, we learned lots about stocking densities, fingerling size and transport, grading, acclimation, dissolved oxygen, pH, ammonia and carbon dioxide.  No doubt, we are working hard to become cage culture experts.  I like having a very specific job description.  Being given the specific task of making the cage fishing successful is one of several big reasons why this opportunity with Mercy Project is such a good fit for me and my personality.  There are other extremely competent missionaries and staff (American and Ghanaian) who can focus on other areas of responsibility.

We love Clint and Hailey.  They’re super easy to live with.  Literally, there has been zero conflict between our two families.  Also, they spend a ton of time with our kids.  Whether it’s crafts or games, our kids are having a fun time.  This means the world to us, and we’re so thankful they are putting forth the effort.  The Ghanaian staff is great too.  We’ve spent a lot of time with John Patrick (JP or John P. or Patrick) and Sam.  These guys are kind, patient, trustworthy, talented and intelligent.  We’re their partners, not bosses.  Prior to arriving in Ghana, I thought the dynamics between our family, the Askin’s and Ghanaian staff might be tricky.  But so far, my concerns are unfounded.  Really, relational dynamics couldn’t be much better.

Right now, there is a baby lizard on the wall.  He’s busy at work lapping up gnats, which – right now – makes him my best friend.  I do miss our closest friends from home, especially Maverick (my dog), the Draper’s, Summer’s, Normandeau’s (sp?), McLaughlin’s, Bardolph’s, Rollinson’s, Bird’s and Nance’s (lol!).  Drinking buddies are hard to come by, as are good drinks – especially beer.  I’d kill for a Uintah Brewing Company Golden Spike Hefeweizen.  Did I mention how much I miss my dog?  Holy crap, I could have never guessed how hard leaving him behind was going to be. We are making friends in Makango.  It’s not exactly the same though.  There is a group of boys that come to our home each day.  Sometimes we arm wrestle.  Sometimes we bowl with water bottles and trash.  Sometimes we shoot slingshots.  The Ghanaian kids call slingshots “catapults.”  Liv always confuses the word “catapult” with “parachute.”  It’s hilarious because each day when the boys come over, Liv says “Dad, the parachute guys are here.”  These boys also enjoy boxing and Kung Fu.  Here’s a pic of us all watching UFC together.  Thank you James Rollinson for bringing the UFC to Ghana : )  We all had a blast watching Anderson Silva pummel Chael Sonnen. He’s such a punk.

Parachute boys

It’s late.  I’m getting tired and have taken to rambling.  Good night.

And good morning.  It’s about 11:30AM in Ghana.  Early this morning Mr. Mumuni came to my home looking for money and a ride to the job site.  I was happy to give him our contribution and a ride.  I’m optimistic that we may have power later today.  At the job site, there were 15 or so men from Makango with pick-axes digging up remnants of the old pole.  It looked like back breaking work.  There are no power tools or machines.  Three workers from the VRA (Volta River Authority) were also present.  The pole, some hand tools (a screwdriver and pliers), and extra power line was in the back of their small Nissan pick-up.  I did get the impression that the VRA men may be expecting a “dash” (tip) from the “obrunis” once the power has been “onned.”  In Ghana, you don’t “turn on the light” or “turn off the light”.  Rather, you “on the light” or “off the light.”  So, if it’s already been turned on or off it’s referred to as “onned” or “offed.”  My English is going to be totally screwed up by the time I return to the States!  At least I’m not saying “y’all” any longer…

I feel a bit guilty this morning.  Our friend Alice keeps asking us to attend church with her on Saturday.  She goes to the “Church of God.”  After a bit of questioning, she was able to confirm that her church was started by a Seventh Day Adventist pastor from America.  We haven’t gone with her yet.  Saturday is our first day of the week without homeschooling.  On Friday, going to church Saturday morning sounds like a good idea.  By early Saturday morning, not so much.  African church services are looong, hot, uncomfortable and not in English.  Yet, we want to go to church so that we can worship God corporately.  That’s important, plus we are trying to assimilate into the community.  Once the other Mercy Project building is complete, maybe we can start a small house church or something.  Unless you’re Muslim, there are few choices in Makango.

We live in Makango, but work in smaller, more remote villages around the lake.  For some reason, the people in Makango were under the impression that we were coming here to build schools or clinics and invest in their community, rather than work on the lake.  We’ve heard rumors that there is some disappointment due to the lack of community projects by Mercy Project in Makango.  Though there aren’t any trafficked children in Makango, there are still plenty of needs.  The town’s people are poor and unemployment is high.  Though the cost is only about $7/year, some families cannot afford government health insurance for their children.  This means that something relatively common and simple to treat like Malaria could have dire consequences.  Some kids appear malnourished (my guess is not lack of food but rather disease, lack of nutritious foods and/or food variety, or parasites) and some do not attend school.  Women do not have equal rights with men, and typically work much harder.  All of this presents our family with some unique opportunities to assist and serve.  Over the last couple of days, we’ve had some wonderful conversations regarding microloans, microbusinesses, and savings clubs.  Within the next 1 to 2 months, we would like to start a savings club for some women Makango.  Ideally, we’ll be able to include the most disadvantaged women, maybe the elderly or widows.  Given a chance to “get ahead”, most women in Makango will work studiously.  As quickly as the cage fishing is back on track, we’d like begin this other work.  We have lots of ideas, and so do the women in Makango!  Pray that we can get the cage fishing working soon.

Last night the kids and I were playing “spoons.”  Madelynn jumped up quickly knocking over Liv’s box of Nerds, so I thought.  Like you do when a box of Nerds gets knocked over, I quickly grabbed several for myself and popped them in my mouth.  I guess I’m just plain dumb because I took 3 or 4 hard bites before realizing that something was wrong with these Nerds.  Here’s what really happened…  Madelynn jumped up and knocked over an empty box of Nerds.  She also snagged her bead bracelet on the plastic table.  Rather than Nerds, it was her beads that fell on the table.  Because we didn’t have power, we were playing the game with a rechargeable lamp, so the light was dim.  I mistook the beads for Nerds and nearly broke my tooth!  My mouth is still sore this morning.  It would have been funnier if our friends were here to witness my stupid mistake and then harass me mercilessly.  Clint and Hailey were having a “date night”, so they weren’t even here to see.  Their date night involved cooking together and a backpacking or mining headlamp.  Hmmmm.  Date nights are always at home as there is nowhere to go in Makango.

I addition to a Uintah Brewing Company Golden Spike Hefeweizen, I’d kill for a date in America with Ruth.  Lately, we’ve taken to reminiscing about our last date night in Las Vegas.  We stayed at the Palazzo and ate at Lava.  We drank just enough for two err responsible and consenting adults.  Good times –  maybe even the best date night of our entire lives.  Hailing from Africa with a small baby, I’m afraid it will be some time before we get the chance to take that sort of trip again.  Ah, and we will never forget Fiji.  Or steaks and boneless buffalo chicken sandwiches…  But I digress.  We’re starting to plan a Ghana staycation.  I think it will be good for us to take a short break at 3 months or 6 months.  There are beaches in Accra and several hotels with swimming pools in Accra and Kumasi.  There are several lakes and nature preserves, some with small amounts of African wildlife (monkeys and birds mostly I think), to visit.  It should be fun and, when we go, I’ll post pics.

Adios!

Afternoon update:  The lights have been “onned.”  Woo-hoo!

Though it’s only been 4 months since we left “home” (Utah), it’s hard to imagine us anywhere else but here.  Mostly, the time has flown by; especially the last 30 days or so spent in Ghana.  Makango will never be anything like home, but it is starting to feel something like it.  Does that make any sense at all?  Clint and I travelled twice during the last couple of weeks, once to Accra and once to Kumasi.  Both times, I was relieved when we arrived back in Yeji.  The people and scenery in this part of the country are beginning to seem familiar.  That’s all I mean, I guess.  But overall, we like it here.  We’ve begun work and homeschooling, and settled into some routines.  I’ve have lots to write about Ghana and our journey getting here.  I haven’t been able to group my thoughts well.  So, this is going to sound a lot like rambling, probably because it is.  Disappointing as it may be to my 7th grade English teacher, there will be no 5 paragraph essay today.

I’ll tackle the major gripes first.  They’re easy and I just want to get them out-of-the-way.  Really, I have only two:  1) Bugs, 2) Lack of cell/internet coverage at or near our house.  Ghana is pretty rad, but our home was built in the middle of the jungle forest.  This jungle forest is alive and, if you look closely, it moves.  During the day, the bugs don’t bother us, but we can’t go outside at night, period.  Despite the netting, windows and curtains, some bugs manage to get inside.  Mosquitos haven’t been successful, thank God!  But there are these teeny tiny biting gnats, and they do get inside, no matter what precautions we take.  It’s the dry season right now, so there is some reprieve, but not too much.  Because of the gnats, we have to keep most of the lights turned off at night.  Sitting around in relative darkness at night is wearing thin. It’s not unbearable though and definitely sounds like a “first world problem” when compared to the average Makangonian’s living conditions.  Same thing I guess with the cell phone networks.  MTN and Vodafone must have not seen the building permits for our home; therefore, they were not able to build towers closer by.  And there aren’t too many existing towers in this jungle forest.  In order to use the phone or internet, we have to drive our SUV down by the lake.  It’s only a 7 or 8 minutes drive, but it’s become a nuisance.  I would like to spend more time speaking with friends, sending email, surfing the internet, and playing with Facebook.  At home, these things are sometimes a time suck.  But here, access would help us feel more connected.  Boom!  That’s it.  I really do like Ghana.

I won’t say anything broad and silly like “all the people in Ghana are sooo beautiful.”  I’ll also try hard not to make stupid assumptions such as the people here must be more spiritual or closer to God because they are African, live simpler lives, are materially poor, or worship in different ways.  That being said, I really do like, and am beginning to appreciate, the Ghanaian people and their culture.  I especially like the people and culture in the particular region of Ghana where we live and do most of our work.  It’s rural, away from the big cities like Accra and Kumasi.  People here generally are laid back and friendly.  Everywhere we go there are lots of smiles, waves and “hellos.” Nearly every day, people from town drop by our home to visit.  Because this part of the country is remote and under-served, it has not been saturated with NGOs and westerners.  That’s good for us because the culture has not changed to worship or take advantage of outsiders.  We don’t get the best seat on the boat or pay more for a bottle of Coke because we’re Caucasian.  Most of us are Caucasian anyways, except for Ruth.  I guess half the kids, but they look Caucasian.  The Ghanaians don’t know what to make of Ruth.   White people are uncommon, but most of them have probably never seen a Hispanic person before.  In any event, they treat all of us well, but not like bosses or royalty.  That’s great, because we don’t want to be treated like bosses, or really anybody special.  As best we can, we want to be part of the community, definitely not above it.

So far, the culture shock has not been as difficult as I anticipated.  Either it’s a cyclical thing based on the expected length of time spent in country and we haven’t yet reached the worst part of the cycle OR, Haiti set the bar really, really high and we came here better prepared.  It hasn’t been a cake walk, but life here has been much smoother than our time in Haiti.  Of course, Ruth and I bicker some.  And the kids whine and fight with each other on occasion. But it hasn’t been any worse here than at home or in Texas.  Our family was beginning to come unraveled in Haiti.  The 3 months we spent in Jacmel were some of the hardest of our lives.  I’m so grateful that it hasn’t been like that here.  I’m also grateful and indebted to our friends and family at home that pray specifically for our marriage and family dynamics.  My opinion is that, if our marriage and family succeed in Ghana, so too will our mission- likely.

Our first foray into cage fishing was an epic fail.  To put things bluntly, the fingerlings (baby fish) died.  This sucks but, for several reasons, isn’t the end of the world.  First, now that we’re here, we can get new fish and try again soon.  In times past, it could take months for Chris (who lives and works stateside) to assess the situation, plan a trip and procure new fingerlings.  Secondly, we have some good ideas as to what caused the fish to die.  It’s mostly likely a problem with dissolved oxygen, pH levels or a blood/water salinity imbalance.  These are things we can fix.  It won’t be long before we make some minor changes and try again.  In fact, we should have more fingerlings in the lake by mid-January.  Also, we’ve met some local aquaculture and cage culture experts who are willing to offer us their time and expertise.  Several would like to do so for free because we’re an NGO and they are sympathetic to our cause.  Clint and I aren’t (yet!) cage culture fishing experts, and I truly believe that God directed us in establishing these crucial relationships.  Lastly, the villagers are patient.  They want to partner with Mercy Project.  They want to learn cage fishing.  They’re impressed that we keep coming back to their villages.  This level of investment by an NGO is uncommon.  And I believe that God has impressed on them that it is indeed important to choose freedom.

Then there is Twi.  Ah, yes – language learning.  I’ve read many missionary blogs and believe what they have to say regarding learning the native tongue.  The thing is, there are roughly 45 different languages in Ghana.  Many days we can get by with English.  In fact, most writing is in English.  Road signs, business names, billboards, menus, etc. are all in English.  Some days though, we cannot.  But you never know if the person you are speaking with speaks Twi either.  In our region, Fanti, Gonja and Hausa are popular.  There is no way we are going to learn 4 new languages, at least not in a few years!  We aren’t here to proselytize or train pastors in theology either.  To do that properly, we’d have to understand much more about the culture than just its language.  We’re picking it up slowly though.  I imagine we’ll have a pretty good grasp of it sometime before we head home.

Now, for the brief and/or mundane, I’ve reserved bullet points:

  • We drive a Tata Safari.  Since my visit to India in 2009, I’ve wanted a Tata or Mahindra.  While it isn’t a Toyota or Nissan in terms of quality, this car is going to have character.  I can tell.  Plus, it’s half the price (or less) than a Japanese vehicle of similar proportions.
  • I killed a snake with my machete last week.  I was going to post a pic but realized the snake was tiny and that my friends would make fun of me.  One of the locals though told me that it was an extremely poisonous snake.  I found it by the fire pit.
  • We burn our trash.  I wish we could employ some sort of sustainable or environmentally friendly practice.  Really, I do.  But there are zero options here.  The best thing we can do is try not to bring too much trash home.  I still have no idea what we’re going to do with glass, metal or other items that will not burn.
  • The house is pretty fantastic.  The electricity works 95% of the time.  We have wall mounted A/C units in each bedroom and the main living area.  The “Latex Foam” bed is large and comfy.  We have a well, running water and septic tank.  We live towards the end of a long dirt road.  The home is set back from the road and the nights are quiet and peaceful.  There are Acacia and Mango trees on our land.
  • We accidentally pumped the well dry last week.  This resulted in lots of dirty water and mud in our reservoir.  I found out late in the day after arriving home from a long trip to Kumasi.  I was tired and nearly out of patience.  I did experience some culture shock that night.  Luckily, the water has already cleared up and the well is replenished after a 5 day or so break.  There is plenty of safe drinking water available for purchase nearby, so this was merely an inconvenience.
  • Aside from the insects, there isn’t much alive in the bush around here.  We hear lots of birds in the mornings, but rarely see them.  There are no monkeys, lions, tigers, giraffes, hippos, zebras, crocodiles, gazelles, cheetahs, elephants or any other animal featured in the Lion King or National Geographic special.  We do have lizards and bats.  Both live in our attic space in between the ceiling and roof.  Since they both eat insects, I’m cool with them.
  • A friend from Makango built us a chicken coop.  We were going to buy chickens this week but said friend’s wife told us that all the chickens in Ghana are dying right now. She said that this happens every year.  I have no idea.  However, I’m not going to pretend to be smarter than the locals.  We’re going to buy the chickens next month or buy guinea fowl instead.
  • Right now, and for the past couple of weeks, the sky has been hazy and filled with ash.  The villagers like to burn the brush during the dry season.  Apparently thought, the fires are not the sole cause of the hazy sky.   Trade winds are currently blowing silt and dust from the Sahara desert through this region.
  • The kids like homeschool.  Ruth teaches them everything except math.  She actually teaches them that too when I’m not home.  However, the days that I am home and not working, I teach them math.  I really like spending that time with the kids.  They asked Ruth to do homeschool even after we return home.  Haha, the answer is no for now.
  • Dang it!  The power just went out.  I also have to figure out what to do with the frozen, but never gutted, salmon that’s sitting on the counter thawing for dinner.  [edit:  see below.  the winners of the “catapult” contest took home the frozen, but never gutted, salmon.  they said it’s great and were very surprised that we didn’t know what to do with it.]

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again:  we’re blessed to be here.  We’re grateful for the opportunity to live life differently, even if it’s just for a season.  We’re here to learn and serve and give.  No doubt we’ll also experience life that is rich and full and different, and sometimes stressful and difficult.  Hopefully, as a result of our time here, trafficked children around this lake will return to their homes, live with their biological parents or next of kin, and go to school.   As adults, these children will probably not remember our names or faces.  That’s okay – I prefer it that way.  My hope is that they see love.  Not our love, but God’s love.  I hope that God is glorified by our work and their lives.   Ruth and I continue to covet your friendship, prayers, thoughts and readership.

Time to go.  There is no time for proofreading.  I’m sorry for leaving so many spelling and other grammatical errors unfixed. No doubt there are plenty needing attention. My buddies with catapults (slingshots) just came over for target practice and arm wrestling.

And the pic…  Old?  Yes.  Used once before here?  Yes.  From Ghana?  Nope.  Haiti?  Yes.  Why?  It’s my most popular pic ever and, in my ever so humble opinion, adds some much-needed sexiness to this blog post.  I mean, look at those well-groomed armpits.

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Good-bye Bryan (and a plea)

I grossly underestimated how difficult transition was going to be for the kids.  When I was a kid, my family moved from Mississippi to Wyoming to Utah.  And honestly, I can’t remember caring much.  For some unknown reason, I just figured my kids would be the same.  I know, I know…dumb (rookie?) mistake.  Obviously,  the kind of uprooting and change we signed up for is going to be a catalyst for all sorts of powerful and mixed emotions, especially for Maddie and Liv.  They’ve had to say all sorts of “good-byes” lately.  Good-bye to friends.  Good-bye to grandparents.  Good-bye to extended family.  Good-bye to school and teachers.  Good-bye to church.  Good-bye to neighbors.  Good-bye to toys.  Good-bye to pink bedrooms.  Good-bye to Maverick.  They’ve said “good-bye” to just about everything familiar, except for immediate family.  Ya’ll probably knew this already, but that’s tough for a 6 and almost 9 year old.  Ruth and I said most of the same “good-byes.”  But we’re grown-ups.  We are mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with loss, stress, and change.  Plus, we better understand why we had to say “good-bye” in the first place.  In any event, the kids sadness kind of blindsided me, and that sucks.

Now, we’re getting ready to say “good-bye” again.  This time to Bryan, Texas.  No offense Bryan, but this isn’t a real big deal for Ruth and I.  We love Bryan and all, but – for crying out loud – we’re ready to be in Ghana already!  Again, it’s a little different for the kiddos.  They’ve only made a few friends since we left Utah.  And there are really only 2 little girls whom they play with regularly.

Enter the Faulkners.  We’re thankful that Matt and Amy let us live in their garage apartment.  It’s been great, really.  We even found time to enjoy a few drinks together.  What’s been better than the real estate and beer though are their daughters, Lily and Emma.  During this period of transition, they’ve been my girls’ friends.  In fact, right now the four of them are playing together and having a blast.  The thing is, we’re loading up the U-Haul and driving to Houston tomorrow.  This is probably the last time Maddy and Liv will get to play with Lily and Emma.  And I don’t really have the heart to tell them.  Like with the gecko and cockroach, I need to “dad up.”  But I don’t think I can.

I’m so excited about where we’re going.  I’m stinking excited that we get to be part of Mercy Project’s work in Ghana.  I don’t even mind the sacrifices Ruth and I made along the way.  I mean, I knew about them.   I planned to make them.  I would go as far as to say that we thought it would be wrong not to make them.  There are more to come.  However, our decision is solid.  No regrets, none.

I just wish that my kids could be happy all the time.  I wish I could take away their sad feelings.  I wish that I could lift the weight of a pending cross-cultural move off of their shoulders and bear their burdens.  I wish they could go to bed in a familiar place.  And, oh yeah, I really, really wish that I could get their (mine) dog back and bring him with us to Ghana.  But none of those things are possible.  And, as I say often, it is what it is.

It’s not all doom and gloom : )  In 3 1/2 weeks, we’ll be on a plane to Ghana.  Whatever it ends up being, it will no doubt be the biggest adventure of our lives.  Our family gets to experience life together in a way that most families on this planet never ever will.   That’s huge, and we intend on making the most of it.  Pray that we remember to be intentional about that.

[edit – We’re leaving November 18, woo-hoo.]

On an entirely different note, would you consider making a monetary donation to Mercy Project?  Because there was no housing available in Makongo, Mercy Project built a missionary home.  Well, Africa happened; and so did poor bidding and some bad luck.  As a result, the home costs are 2x over budget!  We need an additional $30K to wrap it up.  A generous donor has already stepped up with $15K in matching funds.  Please consider being part of the other $15K.  You can give online here:

http://mercyproject.net/projects/house-complete/

[edit – Sorry, for the lame transition from feel sorry for us to we want some money.  I’ll try and be smoother next time.]

As always, thanks for reading.

Good-bye Faulkners.  Thank you for letting us use your bunk bed, and being our friends.

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The Easy Way Out

My blog is struggling.  I think it’s actually just my OCD or perfectionist tendencies getting in the way.  I’ve started writing on several occasions during the past couple of weeks, but I keep stopping because I’m unhappy with my work.  I want to tell our story – the one about how we got from not going to Haiti, to Texas, and on our way to Ghana.  I also have some thoughts about the Church and a church, culture, politics, right and wrong (and gray areas) and the Gospel.  But I can’t seem to get these thoughts out of my head and onto the internets in a reasonably articulate manner, and I do not wish to ramble.  Plus, I’m not even sure that I have an audience who cares about my opinions (I have so many of them!) or this story.

So, today I copped out – sort of…  Rather than push through and write more of our story, I indulged in my OCD’ness by tweaking and updating the “Learn Twi” page.  You can see it here:  http://wannabehumanitarian.com/learn-twi/  Don’t misunderstand.  This wasn’t a waste of time.  Tweaking and updating this page involves tweaking, updating, reviewing and refining my language class notes.  Through each iteration, I learn a little more Twi.  Nonetheless, it was the easy route for today.

And though there are some uncertainties in my mind regarding what you all (ya’ll, you guys, all ya’ll, ya’ll guys) want to see, I am fairly confident that most everybody would like to learn more about Mercy Project.   I keep running into friends or acquaintances who have no idea what it is that we’re actually, really up to – and that’s no good.  My bad!

And here is the big cop out:  I’m not going to write about Mercy Project today.  Rather, I am going to ask you to take 30 minutes and watch this video, “Journey to Freedeom.”  It’s worth your time, I promise.

Enjoy.  Adios friends!

Catching up

Dang it, I just lost my train of thought!  I had some great ideas, I promise.  They’re all gone now though.  I spilled a glass of Wit beer on both of our laptops.  Oh well, one beer couldn’t hurt Windows 8.  The touch screen does seem to be a little more responsive now.

Even though all of my great ideas are gone, the blog still has some catching up to do.  Those of you who are family, friends or even just Facebook friends, probably know a lot has changed since 2011.  Here is my attempt at a super brief recap.

For reasons only fully comprehensible to our Haiti friends, we are not moving to Haiti.  Although I hope to make it back to Jacmel for a visit someday, our family will not be living there – at least not until the girls are grown up and out on their own.  Coming to this realization was a huge disappointment.  We also feel terrible (still…) for letting down our Haiti peeps.  I guess this feeling could be presumptuous on my part. They may not have actually wanted us to come back.  In any event (I say this a lot), we now realize that WE  have absolutely nothing to offer Haiti, or Ghana for that matter.  Wherever we go, we’re simply vessels.  And sometimes not even sturdy vessels.

Where did we go?  Well, right now we’re in Bryan, Texas.  Go Aggies!  Haha, or something.  Several months ago we decided to join Mercy Project’s team.  Mercy Project is a Christian based NGO headquartered in the BCS area.  We moved here to train and prepare for our pending move to Ghana.  Mercy Project partners with rural fishing villages in the Lake Volta region of Ghana.  In exchange for economic development projects, these villages agree to give up their longstanding practices of child trafficking and slavery.  Right now, Mercy Project is investing in aquaculture projects in three different villages.  Twenty four trafficked child slaves have already been freed.  Hopefully, by God’s grace, many more children in this part of the world will come to know freedom.   My family, along with Clint and Hailey Askins, will be moving to Ghana soon – the Askins in October and the Webers in November.  This has been a real incredible journey for my family.  I’ll save the details for another day.

Oh yeah, we had another baby.  Scarlet Quinn was born on May 9th.  She’ll be six months old when we arrive in Ghana.  She is beautiful and healthy.  She’s also a bit grumpier than her older sisters, seriously!  So this is funny…  Several minutes ago she was screaming, and I was  singing (in my head of course) “Grumpy Cold Medina.”  I thought to myself “What a good blog post!”.  I sat her down for a pic (still screaming) and this is what I got:

photo

She immediately quit screaming and smiled for the camera.  No kidding!  Ya’ll won’t believe me now about the grumpy attitude.  You can’t tell from the pic, but she has a bit of red in her hair and blue-ish eyes.

By the way, we just started learning how to speak Twi.  Wanna learn Twi?  Go here:  http://wannabehumanitarian.com/learn-twi/  There isn’t much now, but I’m going to add more content as time allows.

If you get a chance, check out Mercy Project’s website:  http://mercyproject.net/.  Also, go read and follow our partners’ blog: http://askinsinghana.wordpress.com/.

Thanks for reading.

Si Bondye vle

Woo-hoo, my blog is more popular than mosquito bites!  Let me explain.  The 5 of us have been in Jacmel, Haiti now for 72 days.  After much frank discussion, we have come to the conclusion that, on average, each of us gets bitten by mosquitos 4 times each (and every stinkin’) day.  72 X 5 X 4 = 1,440 mosquito bites!  Those of you who are really smart have already figured out that Madelynn and Olivia have been subjected to almost 300 insect bites a piece this summer.  However, knock on wood, they did not contract Malaria.  And, for this reason alone, Ruth and I should be eligible for some sort of parenting award, right?  There have been approximately 2,600 visits to the Wannabe Humanitarian site this summer, thus making it more popular than mosquito bites.  That’s pretty cool, especially in Haiti.

This may very well be my last post before heading back home to Utah (si Bondye vle).  It’s been my pleasure sharing our adventures with each of you.  My family and I have felt both supported and loved by those of you who have kept in touch with us via email, Facebook and the blog.  Even after today’s post, there will be many stories, thoughts, and emotions left for us to share.  Haiti is too big for any blog.  Upon returning home though, I’ll do my best to squeeze bits and pieces of it into ours.  So, without further ado, here we go.

First, I want to report back on the Saint Michel’s Hospital Feeding Program.  As promised, through a Lifeline Community and Joy In Hope partnership, meals were provided to the patients of Saint Michel’s for 3 consecutive days.  Your $1,800 USD, was used to provide approximately 600 hearty and tasty (not UN oatmeal style, gross) meals to some of the neediest people on the planet.  Perhaps one of the coolest aspects of this program was being able to step back and watch Haitians serve other Haitians.  You see, Georgette Rigel purchased local food and hired local labor to make this whole thing happen.  In addition to the meals, we were able to pay for much needed medical care – including antibiotic medicines and a surgery – for 5 patients who could not afford their treatments.  In Haiti, there is no government safety net that provides healthcare for those without any means.  No means equals no care.  Without assistance, the patients we fed and helped get treatment, would more than likely have gone hungry and untreated.  One example is Theodore, an 11 year old little boy who was brought into Saint Michel’s on a stretcher during the last few minutes of our feeding program.  He was playing with a friend when he fell on a long piece of rebar, which impaled his leg!  Theodore’s family could not afford to pay for his surgery.  Paying the hospital for the surgery to remove the rebar from Theodore’s leg brought great joy to both his family and my own.  Here are pics of Theodore and his pre-surgery x-ray.

I’m also happy to report back that the sewing classes for the orphan girls of the New Life Children’s Home are in full swing.  Jeff and Tammi Brown are “overseeing” this program.  It is their ambition to see the girls use their newly learned skills to do useful things such as mending their own clothes.  Before the program ends, the Browns intend to provide me with some additional feedback and updates.  I will post it to the blog as received.  I’m going to deliver the “extra” funds ($250 USD) to the Browns today.  This money will be used to purchase a “Finger.”  The “Finger” is a Chinese knock-off (think “Singer), pedal powered sewing machine available for sale in Port au Prince.

Mikey Rigel and company continue to make good progress building Yvelt’s home.  Again, though the project has been funded by US donors, Haitian materials and laborers are being utilized wherever and whenever possible.  What a boon for Yvelt’s family, neighbors and community!  Tropical Storm Emily derailed the initial timeline estimate, so the construction will not be completed prior to our departure.  I do suspect that Yvelt’s family will be able to move in sometime next month.  Here are some pics taken earlier this week.

Scott Christensen arrived safely in Haiti on Tuesday.  Scott is a Christian brother from my home church, Lifeline Community.  He is going to spend 6 weeks serving in Haiti.  Scott is a gifted handy-man and photographer who plans on using his skills to bless organizations such as the Community Coalition for Haiti and Restore Haiti.  This very moment Scott is sitting across the table from me at the Isaiah 61 House working on his own blog, www.reclaimingmyheart.blogspot.com.  I’m certain that Scott would both appreciate and benefit from the type of support that each of you have given to me and my family.  Please visit his blog, leave comments, and say “hi” to him often on Facebook.  Here is a pic of Scott riding in the back of CCH’s pick-up during a rain storm in Port au Prince.  I’m still not sure why he elected to remain in the back once the rain started.  The driver and other Haitian passenger now believe that Scott is crazy.  I’m not sure that I disagree with their assessment : )

Now, here’s some big news.  I found at last week that my employer, Direct Mortgage, Corp., is exiting the business.  The CEO of DMC has graciously invited me back to work for approximately 30 days in order to assist with the winding down of wholesale operations.  However, once this wind down is complete, I may find myself unemployed.  This will be a new experience for me and my family.  I have never been laid off or fired, and I’ve maintained constant employment since the age of 15.  At some point earlier this summer, I proclaimed to a friend that in order for God to make it clear to me that I should relocate my family to Haiti, I would have to “lose my job or something huge like that.”  Really, I said this.  Well, it happened, and now I’m just plain disoriented.  I’m not ready to say yet that this is OR isn’t a “closed door.”  God’s timing certainly is suspect though.  I literally have no idea what’s on the horizon for Jacmel, Lifeline Community and/or my family.  Pray for us – and offer us advice – as we carefully navigate this remarkable time in our lives.

My desire was to write this blog post last night; though I lacked the energy and focus to do so.  Haiti has taken from me every ounce of energy in my entire being.  In every way possible (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually), I am fully exhausted.  For this reason, I am very much looking forward to returning home.  I miss everything about home, even my dog.  But please don’t misconstrue my exhaustion and longing for home as disdain for or a lack of commitment to Haiti.  I’m certain that we are not done with Haiti.  In one way or another, God is calling my church and family to love and care for Haiti and its people.  My utmost hope is that we respond appropriately.  Right now, we need rest and clarity.  Going forward, we need focus and strength.

We’re leaving Jacmel at 5:00AM Saturday morning and arrive in SLC (si Bondye vle) around 10:00PM the same day.  This will be a long and challenging day, especially for the kiddos.  Wish us well.  Unless I have extra time tomorrow, or we get stranded in our travels, this will be the Wannabe Humanitarian’s last word from Haiti (at least this time).

Good bye and God bless.  Utah friends, I will see you soon, si Bondye vle (if God wants).

I mentioned in an earlier post that Lifeline Community (http://www.lifelinecommunity.com/), in partnership with Joy In Hope (http://www.joyinhope.org/) and Hungry For Life (http://www.hungryforlife.org/), is “building” a house for a Haitian man named Yvelt and his family.  The reason the word “building” is in quotation marks is because Lifeline Community is providing the funds, but not the labor, for this project.  I’ve been to the job site on several different occasions during the past week and I’m excited to report back that Yvelt, his family, friends, and neighbors, as well as  local laborers are being employed to build this house.  This is so much healthier – for EVERYONE involved – than simply having the “blancs” do all of the work while the locals sit around and watch.  When this project is complete, in addition to having a roof over his head, Yvelt will have a sense of pride, achievement and ownership.  Below are some pics from the job  site.  But first, take a look at this tarantula.  Scary!  It was in our friends’ backyard last night.  It almost ate Liv.

So far, this is the only wildlife I’ve seen in Haiti!

Yvelt’s plot of land.

Yvelt & Joy In Hope’s Construction Director, Mikey Rigel

Some of Yvelt’s family who showed up to help.

Haitian workers digging for the foundation.

Rocks for the foundation.

More supplies.

Getting this far is HARD work!

Additional pic of the foundation.

Additional pic of the foundation.

By the way, I’m still in need of more subscribers.  If you read the blog regularly, PLEASE subscribe.  I won’t send you any spam, I promise – just new blog posts.

It’s not THAT bad, really.

The State Department provided me with a quick and easy blog post.  You know, the copy/paste kind.  Anyways, here’s what they have to say about Haiti.  Dear Mom, it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds : (

August 08, 2011

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Haiti about the security situation in Haiti. This replaces the Travel Warning dated January 20, 2011 to consolidate and update information regarding the critical crime level, renewed cholera outbreak, lack of adequate infrastructure – particularly in medical facilities, seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection.

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consider carefully all travel to Haiti. Travel fully supported by organizations with solid infrastructure, evacuation options, and medical support systems in place is recommended and preferable to travel in country without such support structures in place. U.S. citizens traveling to Haiti without such support have found themselves in danger in the past.

U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnapping victims have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot, and even killed. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In a number of cases this past year, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in such incidents. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators.

The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from UN Police (UN Pol), are responsible for keeping peace in Haiti and rendering assistance during times of civil unrest. However, given the possibility and unpredictability of violent protests, the ability of HNP and UN Pol to come to the aid of U.S. citizens in distress during disturbances is very limited. The U.S. Embassy does not have the capacity or infrastructure to evacuate U.S. citizens and relies on the HNP to provide assistance. U.S. citizens in Haiti must therefore have well-prepared security plans, including a location to shelter in place stocked with provisions, and a private evacuation strategy given the possibility that violent disruptions could, as in the recent past, make it impossible for them to circulate freely.

The January 12, 2010 earthquake significantly damaged key infrastructure and greatly reduced the capacity of Haiti’s medical facilities. Despite the passage of time, Haiti’s infrastructure remains in very poor condition, unable to support normal activity, much less crisis situations. Medical facilities are particularly weak. Last year’s cholera outbreak – exacerbated by inadequate public sanitation – killed thousands of Haitians, further straining the capacity of medical facilities and personnel and undermining their ability to attend to emergencies. While no longer at peak levels, cholera persists in many areas of Haiti and the risk of contracting it remains. Some U.S. citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the United States. The cost of these evacuations exceeds $15,000 USD, on average, and the U.S. Embassy does not have the assets to evacuate U.S. citizens or to pay for their evacuation.

Travel within Haiti can be hazardous; even U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew and must remain home or in U.S. government facilities during curfew hours. Some areas are off-limits to Embassy staff after dark, including downtown Port-au-Prince. The Embassy restricts travel by its staff to some areas outside of Port-au-Prince because of the prevailing road, weather, or security conditions. Complete information about restricted/dangerous areas is available in the Country Specific Information for Haiti. Transportation in Haiti is not reliable and poses a safety risk. Crowded vans and “tap taps” should be avoided because they are often overloaded, mechanically unsound, and driven unsafely. Erratic driving, poor road conditions, and frequent accidents exacerbate the safety situation. In addition, May through November is the hurricane season in Haiti, which increases the danger of traveling in the country. Thunderstorms, torrential downpours, and heavy winds routinely cause flash flooding, making travel on the poor road conditions even more hazardous. These conditions, as well as incidents of violence and demonstrations, significantly limit the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s criminal-justice system poses serious challenges to the well-being of U.S. citizens, who must remember that once they enter Haiti they become subject to Haitian law. Allegations of bribery of judicial officials, intimidation by court officers, and/or abuse of power by law enforcement authorities pervade across all arrest cases involving U.S. citizens. Oftentimes, once arrested, U.S. citizens find themselves stuck inside the Haitian judicial system indefinitely before their case goes to trial. Prisoners have been known to spend years incarcerated before appearing in court.

The Haitian Constitution does not currently acknowledge dual citizenship. Haitian-Americans are therefore treated as Haitian citizens, and the U.S. Embassy is not normally notified of issues affecting them, nor are consular officials guaranteed access to such individuals.

U.S. citizens wishing to assist in Haiti relief efforts should be aware that – in addition to the aforementioned safety and health risks, and despite good intentions – their travel to Haiti will increase the burden on a system already struggling to support those in need. Cash donations are the most effective way to help the relief effort in Haiti, support the country’s local economy, and ensure the assistance is both culturally and environmentally appropriate. The following website has information on how to assist in the Haiti earthquake relief effort: http://www.whitehouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Haiti despite this Travel Warning are urged to confirm before traveling to Haiti that the organization they will be working with has the capability to provide food, water, medical care, transportation, and shelter for its employees and volunteers, including during extended periods of time when they may be forced to shelter in place. All relief organizations should have a security plan in place to protect and evacuate their personnel to the United States or other safe haven. U.S. citizens in Haiti should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, stay current on media coverage of local events, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, and maintain a low profile. Prior to travel, U.S. citizens should also obtain information about cholera and other health related issues by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov.

U.S. citizens are also urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP – https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information. While the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency consular services is extremely limited, travel enrollment will enable receipt of warden messages via email. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States; callers outside the United States and Canada can receive the information by calling a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except U.S. federal holidays. The Embassy of the United States of America is located in Port-au-Prince at Boulevard du 15 October, Tabarre 41, Tabarre, Haiti, telephone: (509) (2) 229-8000, facsimile: (509) (2) 229-8027, email: acspap@state.gov American Citizens Services Unit office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and local holidays. After hours, on weekends and on holidays, please call (509) (2) 229-8000. The Marine guard will connect you with the Embassy Duty Officer.

U.S. citizens can also stay informed about conditions in Haiti by following the Embassy on Twitter and Facebook.

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Ugh…Empty Bed

I’m having a tough time getting this blog post off the ground.  There are too many stories to tell, images to portray, and emotions to describe for a simple blog.  If I was a good writer, which I’m not, I would write a book, just about the last week.  Under the circumstances, the best I can offer is frankness and sincerity.  The management team at work uses the word “candid”; however, candidness tends to equal brutality, and I’m going to avoid being brutal, though certain emotions pertaining to the events of this week invoke feelings towards a few individuals that are less than kind.

This summer was supposed to be a “spiritual” experience.  I expected to be drawn closer to God.  The thing is – Haiti kicks the crap out of you.  When I’m beat down and worn out I look inward.  I’m not saying this is right, but I’m a strong person, right?  So, in an effort to be tough and His hands and feet, I’ve turned away from God.  Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  I’m not angry with God or questioning my faith or anything of that nature.  It’s just that I don’t feel close to my Creator.  It’s my fault.  Embarrassing as it is to admit, I can count the number of times I’ve prayed this summer on one hand.  I know, I know…  I’m on a “Missions Trip.”  This is one of the reasons that I’m still just a “Wannabe.”  I can’t call myself a missionary, or even a humanitarian.

Turning inward while living in Haiti – a country clearly too harsh for me to handle by myself – has reminded me of an important fact.  Though I may sometimes turn my back on God, He is always waiting patiently to pick up where we left off.  Let me try and explain.  After being in Haiti for approximately 60 days, we were finally able to visit Saint Michel’s hospital.  Georgette Rigel escorted Ruth and me to the hospital Wednesday.  While there we spoke briefly with many of the patients (I use the term “patients” loosely).  Our goal was to find a handful of patients who needed medicine, food, advocacy, etc.  It didn’t take long (Duh!).  We decided to begin the hospital ministry by helping 4 individuals.  And this is when things began to get difficult.  So, in a particular order (not chronological order), I will attempt to briefly tell their stories and make my point.  I give you my apologies, in advance, for rambling.

Guerlande Pierre is a 5 year old little girl.  The day before we arrived she was badly burned on her arms and much or her torso by boiling water.  Though her physical condition was better than many of the other patients’, Ruth and I couldn’t help but pay her special attention.  It’s hard for me to see children, especially little girls, suffering.  Nothing against boys, but I can’t help but see my own 2 girls when I look at Guerlande.  She was crying because of the pain.  And, even though she wasn’t alone, her mother and father were not present.  She was kind of shy and scared of the “blancs”, so it was hard to interact with her.  We ended up filling her prescription which, according to her aunt, they could not afford to purchase.  I also spent 100 Gourdes (about $ 2.50 USD) on a worn out second hand stuffed animal.  It’s the best I could do;  there are no toy stores in Jacmel.  I was hoping the stuffed animal would trick her into liking us.  It didn’t work.  Nevertheless,  it did make her smile.

Loubens Toadsaint (Loubens, if you’re out there, sorry for messing up your last name) is a 22 year old man with two lazy eyes.  Looking back, I’m not sure how he got our attention.  We were looking for patients in dire straits.  He was very animated while telling Georgette that his heart was causing him pain.  After getting ahold of his prescription papers, it appears as if Loubens was diagnosed with heartburn.  He needed Pepticagel and Ranitidine.  In a hospital full of patients suffering from TB and HIV, we helped a guy with heartburn.  I know, but that’s just how it goes.  His story does get a bit more interesting.  The doctors at Saint Michel’s often take a shotgun approach when prescribing medicine.  So, in addition to the Pepto and antacid, Loubens had been prescribed Furosemide, a medicine used to treat congestive heart failure and edema (thank you Google).  Besides appearing fairly healthy (minus the lazy eyes), Loubens had checked out the next morning by the time we came back with his medicine.  So I’m left with a bag full of meds to treat heartburn and congestive heart failure but no patient.  The Sisters of Charity are literally across the street from Saint Michel’s and it occurred to me that they may be able to use these medicines.  My hunch was correct.  Sister Lumiere, despite not being a doctor or nurse, quickly identified all of the medicines and their uses.  She was certain that they would soon be put to good use.  The Sisters never ask for things.  They’re very discrete when making their needs known, which often makes it difficult to know where/how to help.  I’m thankful for Loubens because he gave us the opportunity to finally meet one of their needs.

Getting tougher…  Mirliene is a 28 year old woman.  She had been orphaned as a girl and was at Saint Michel’s, more or less, alone.  Mirliene appeared to be suffering from tuberculosis and, quite possibly, aids.  A skeleton of a woman, Mirliene is the most  malnourished individual I have ever met face to face.  She lacked the energy to speak and even to swat the flies off of her body.  Her situation was hopeless.  Being alone, poor and on the brink  of death, the doctors and nurses simply  overlooked her.  I thought we could help.  We filled her prescription and brought her some Ensure.  I realize that Ensure doesn’t treat TB or aids.  My real hope was that we could be her advocates, that we could make the doctors quit overlooking her, and that we could get her to the TB clinic.  The Ensure was necessary only to provide her with some energy and nutrition so that she could hang on while we “saved the day.”  Anyways, we were wrong.  We couldn’t help.  Did I mention her situation was hopeless?  Being naïve allowed me to think that we could make a difference for Mirliene.  The next morning, a girl at the door, who knew I was there to  see  Mirliene, made a gesture – you know, the one where you drag your finger across your throat to indicate being killed?  For some reason, her gesture didn’t register with me.  I thought she was trying  to tell me that I couldn’t go inside;  maybe because I was visiting outside of visitation hours or something like that.  Undeterred, I walked inside the ward only to be presented with an empty bed.  The lady in the bed next to Mirliene’s kept speaking to me loudly in Creole.  The only thing I could make out was “morgue.”  Evidently, it wasn’t God’s plan to heal Mirliene’s body.  It wasn’t His plan for us to be her Good News.  I don’t pretend to understand why.  My only solace is that we were kind to her during her last hours.  God allowed me to show her just a little bit of humanity by holding her hand and looking into her eyes for several minutes.  When she died, at least she knew someone cared about her.  I’m angry with the hospital, the doctors, and with this stinking corrupt and inhumane society for not valuing Mirliene’s life.  Honestly, I don’t know what kind of a person Mirliene was or what kind  of a life she lived and beliefs she held, but I’m hopeful that our paths will cross again someday.

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters:  Has not God chosen those who  are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”  James 2:5 (NIV)

I have more to write about, but I’m exhausted.  In the next day or so, I’ll give you some updates regarding the Sewing Classes for Orphans, Yvelt’s home, and Helene.  At this point, Helene’s story is promising.   Her condition is improving.  God may yet use us, our faith, our prayers, and our church to make a difference in her  life.  Here are some pictures of Helene and her family – minus some siblings.  You can still see hope and joy in her eyes.  She is a very pretty young woman and has a wonderful family.  Her mother wants Ruth and I to take her little  brother home back with us to the States, seriously.

So stuff never really gets clean here, at least not by North American standards.  It’s not for lack of trying, at least not on our part.  But how can anything get really clean if you’re washing it with/in poo-water?  Oh yes, poo-water, of which we were blissfully unaware until our friends the Mangines recently filled us in.  Here’s the deal.  Some time ago CCH (or JIH – not sure which) hired an inspector to test the water at Rue Petion (our house).  Apparently, the city water source is illegal or unpermitted (like anything in Haiti has permits…) and contains an abnormally high amount (even for Haiti…) of fecal matter.  Gross!  We don’t use this water for drinking or cooking, though -however unfortunate- our neighbors probably do.  On the other hand, we do use the poo-water for showers and laundry.  Yep, right now I’m wearing clothes washed in poo-water.  So, even though they have been washed in poo-water, hung to dry in the hot sun, neatly folded and returned to my room, my clothes are not clean.  This presents us with a problem.  When discussing our clothing, how do we differentiate between dirty clothes and “clean” clothes?  Easy; we came up with a new term, “Haiti Clean.”  Well, I guess we really didn’t coin the term.  When I told Gwenn about my catchy new phrase, she said something like “yeah, blogged about that last year.”  Her post on Haiti Clean is probably much betters.  Whatever…  Here’s the bone I’ve got a bone to pick with Gwenn.  I can’t have an original blog in the same country with her.  One of two scenarios always plays out:  1) I come up with a catchy, original topic only to find out that Gwenn has already been there, done that.  2)  I come up with a catchy, original topic, but I make the mistake of sharing it with Gwenn and it gets blogged about the next day, before I even get to typing.  Oh well, if I was a goddess, I guess I’d be okay with being her muse.  Hmmm, did that just get awkward?  Time to change topics.

Several years ago I was influenced by some close and moderately metro-sexual, friends (listed in order of their metro-sexualness – W. Benjamin Draper, Derwood Summers, & the Golf Nutz) to begin man-grooming.  Yes, you read that correctly, I trim my body hair.  I know that this comes as a huge blow and disappointment to my Father and Father-In-law.  But – Phew! – it certainly does feel good to get this off of my chest and out in the open.  What’s even more ridiculous is that this practice followed me all the way to Haiti.  Out of all the things I couldn’t have given up for the summer…man-grooming.  So, the other day, Ruth made a comment regarding how clumpy and gross my deodorant was due to the length of my armpit hair.  Easy fix, right?  You would think.  The problem is that I accidentally set the length on my Norelco (in case you’re interested, http://www.amazon.com/Philips-Norelco-BG2030-Professional-BodyGrooming/dp/B001E0C9LI/ref=sr_1_4?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1312223377&sr=1-4) to “1” instead of the usual “3” or “4” resulting in, basically, shaved armpits.  That’s a little too metro-sexual even for me, but probably not for W. Benjamin Draper.  Most of the Haitian women don’t even shave their armpits.  I’m going to be a real anomaly at the beach this weekend.  Maybe I can play soccer on the “shirts” team?  I told Gwenn about this post too (I figured she wouldn’t steal it), and she said to do it I would have to post a pic.  Sorry.  Time to change topics, again.

On to the – would be – great debate.  The other day, in a previous blog post, I hinted at wanting to change the name of my blog.  “Wannabe Humanitarian” just doesn’t quite cut it anymore.  Yes, I’m still a “Wannabe.”  However, a humanitarian isn’t what I necessarily want to be.  Look around Haiti.  Alright, you probably can’t do that.  But I can, so you’ll have to trust me.  A trillion dollars spent over a decade and Haiti is still an absolute wreck of a country.  Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that humanitarian aid isn’t ABSOLUTELY necessary.  It is!  What I am saying is that humanitarian aid isn’t THE answer to Haiti’s problems.  Living in this country for just a couple of months has convinced me of this stark reality.  Haiti needs a new world view, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  What do you call a person who provides aid, performs relief and community development work, IS the Good News, evangelizes and disciples a people, all with compassion fueled by God’s vision (not the right word, I know) for the Church?  I don’t know the answer, but probably not a humanitarian.  Also, I’m hesitant to adopt the term missionary.  For me, this word comes with a lot of baggage, and not because of our Mormon friends.  Look at the tract I found in our guest house.  It was left by a missionary.  Really, KJV?  For crying out loud, these people speak Kreyol!  Not to mention they are sick, homeless, hungry, etc.  They need – as Rich Stearns would put it – “the whole Gospel”, not this lame tract.  Please chime in.  No offense meant to those of you who call yourselves humanitarians or missionaries, unless you are the one who left behind this tract.  Remember, I’m just a “Wannabe”, so real humanitarians and missionaries are two steps ahead of me.

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