Most of our group woke up and prepared to go to Port-Au-Prince. Kerry and Joy’s oldest son Logan lives in the United States and was returning after a long Christmas holiday, so the entire Reeve’s family was loading up to take him to the airport and the majority of the group decided to go along for the ride.
While in Port-Au-Prince they were all planning to buy supplies for a woman to start a new business. One of the ways New Vision Ministries is serving the community is by connecting relationships for others (Americans) to sponsor individuals to start new businesses. From my understanding, a couple of the men in our group decided to finance a woman to start a small shop selling food, so they were going to buy all the necessary items to start her off.
I, on the other hand, decided to stay behind. My understanding is that New Vision Ministries does not actively minister to Port-Au-Prince on a regular basis and I was much more interested in the opportunity to see their ministry on a more personal level.
Morning of Prayer
I reported to the rest of our group that I intended to stay behind and get to know all of the interpreters by hanging out with them at the orphanage. Several others decided they also wanted to stay behind and they asked if I would spend the morning in prayer with them before going to the orphanage.
(Les and Carla Burrus had been ministering to a man named Junior whom served us at the resort and had asked them to meet him at a specific time so he could ask more questions, and hopefully accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.)
So a group of us spent a couple hours praying, largely over Junior, then I took off to spend the day with all of the guys in their environment.
Day at the Orphanage
By the time I got to the orphanage it was almost time for lunch, so we all ate together before the rest of the group took off back to the resort to meet Junior. I stayed behind. It was a very slow, inactive day, but I think I got to experience what is a little closer to a typical day with the ministry.
Simeon and I played basketball, and then he went his own way for a while, so I thought I would try to talk with some of the girls. They were sitting under a tree doing each other’s hair, so I went and sat near them and tried starting communication. I failed terribly. Not much to talk about when neither of you knows what the other is saying. Shortly after Simeon and Robbins rejoined me.
Robbins asked if I was ready to go back to the resort and was slightly taken aback when I told him I would rather hang out with them if I wasn’t in the way. (He had a desire to entertain us most of the trip and couldn’t understand why I would rather sit at the orphanage with them over going to the luxurious resort. After all, his job on the weekends was to entertain guests at the resort)
We just sat and talked for a long time and I got an understanding of their culture that I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. Both of them expressed a desire to one day get to go to an American University. Robbins was less enthusiastic about it because he was nearly 30 years old and knew it would never happen for him, but Simeon was very passionate. He told me that all his life he had wanted to be a doctor, but that he wanted to be a doctor that actually knew something, so he needed to go to school in America.
Simeon also told me that a man in Nebraska had sponsored him all the way through school and had come to Haiti to meet him twice. That man had promised to financially sponsor him to get a higher education if he graduated high school. I had the idea that I could possibly connect some dots and get the ball rolling at Texas Tech, so he got me the man’s contact information. I plan to contact him, but was very discouraged when I brought the idea up to Kerry. He told me that it was the dream of every Haitian, but that it was nearly impossible. Even his guys don’t have a good enough knowledge of the English language to pass the entrance exams, and if they did pass, they would have to have around a $30,000 guarantee before anyone would consider accepting them. Then they would still have to get an educational visa. It is probably a long shot even if the sponsor is good for his word, but I will keep my end of the bargain and see if I can get the ball rolling.
I asked about their faith and how they had become Christians and they both said that their parents were Christians. Simeon was more willing to expound and explained that his grandparents had not been Christians, but that his parents were very strong Christians and raised he and all of his siblings (there were a bunch of them) to be Christians. Simeon probably came from a wealthier family because he said they all lived together in a compound that had multiple little houses.
A conversation that I will always remember is when we were talking about me having a pregnant wife and son. They said,
“You are married, right?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Do you have a house?”
“Did you build it yourself?”
That one was hard to explain, because in their culture a man goes and buys land, builds his own house out of CMU blocks, then marries his fiancé and moves her in with him. (Or they move in with family) But I explained that I bought a house that was built by a builder in a neighborhood that was developed and they nodded that they understood.
Then they asked the hard question.
“How many rooms does it have?” I immediately got uncomfortable, because I knew that answering that question would tell them how rich I am compared to the vast majority of people they know. In my discomfort, I didn’t think straight so I paused to count them. They exchanged looks that said, “He has to count them.” Finally I responded,
“I have three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen.”
The conversation was over. The line was drawn in the sand. I came from a world that they could only dream about and would never see. Shortly after that conversation Robbins left and I didn’t see him again until late that night. Simeon stayed and hung out with me, but it was different after that conversation.
We went and joined some of the other guys where I found out that the new baby Joy had just picked up screamed the entire night. Paul stayed up all night rocking her trying to get her to go to sleep. I enjoyed hearing that. It confirmed that they viewed themselves as the “men of the house.”
The guys tried to relate to me through soccer, but I don’t know anything about professional soccer, so again we were from different worlds. The rest of the time I was at the orphanage we watched highlight reels of some soccer star named Kaka and I listened to conversations in Creole.
One of the translators told me that the best thing for Haiti would be if another country came in and completely took over. I heard that another said the best thing for Haiti would be if all the Haitians got on boats, leaving everything behind them, and started over somewhere else. At one point another was telling me about their culture, paused, and said, “I hate this country.”
These men were the future leaders of their country; God-fearing men. To me, those were all very telling statements about the hardships they face.
Women in Haiti are of the opinion that the best way to promote themselves is to find a man that they think is capable of providing for them, seduce him, have his baby, and then he will provide for her and the baby. When the man doesn’t provide for them, then the woman just has another mouth to feed and still no provision.
The culture is based on respect/honor/reverence without honesty or trust. That means people will lie to your face to tell you what you want to hear, typically with the hope that they will get something out of you. When a family member dies the rest of the family is expected to sell everything they have in order to bribe the witch-doctor to keep them from being cursed. If one member of the family does not comply, then the entire family is cursed, so they terrorize each other to keep the system going. Voodoo still has a major hold on a lot of the people.
One of the lowliest jobs is gathering rocks and breaking them into smaller rocks that can be sold to make concrete. It is a very dangerous job for two reasons, swinging a large mallet at a small rock you are holding with your fingers will eventually bite, and shards of the rocks fly at uncovered eyes. I learned that a full pile of the rocks will sell for around $60, but it takes an eternity to get a full pile. That being said, everywhere I looked in Haiti I could see partial piles of broken rocks.