Post-Haiti: From My Wife’s Point of View

March 3rd, 2010 § 0

My wife, Christina, posted some great thoughts on her experience with my Haiti re-entry as well as some really helpful tips on processing through life-changing trips when you’re not the one going.

What’s Not To Like About This?

March 2nd, 2010 § 0

I am fascinated by Rube Goldberg devices.  And I am completely amazed by the device created for the latest OK Go music video, “This Too Shall Pass”.

They seriously take it to a whole other level, going so far as to time hits and reactions within the device to beats and notes within the song (the recorded song even disappears at one point to be replaced by musical elements within the device).  Watch and enjoy.

Post-Haiti Re-Entry

February 25th, 2010 § 0

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a week now; and I’ve been working on this post in my head as I processed through my return from Haiti for nearly that same amount of time.

Coming home was both easy and hard.  Easy, because I missed my wife and it was wonderful to see and be with her.  Hard, because I hit culture shock head on, fairly early and fairly abruptly.  Within an hour of being home, I was looking around my downstairs room, realizing that this one room in my house was easily ten times the size of the tents that families were living in down in Haiti.  As I looked through our pantry and saw how we have more food than we are going to eat in a day or even a week, I felt blessed and disoriented and wrestled to make sense of my life in light of the incredible need we saw in Port-au-Prince.

Of course, the fact that Christina and I had a trip to go join my family up in a rented cabin in Big Bear planned for the day after my return didn’t help much either.  I struggled with being fully present to my family as we built a snowman, ate from a wide spread of guilty pleasure junk food, and played in the falling snow.  My thoughts kept returning to the people I’d been with 48 hours earlier.

Having done other short-term missions trips, I know that these feelings that accompany re-entry are normal; but this time, I feel like I’m wrestling a little harder because I’m not sure I want them to go away.  I know intuitively that I need to process through what I experienced, reach some conclusions, and then connect my experience there with my life here.  But I fear tying too nice a bow on it.  It’s hard enough answering the question, “How was Haiti?” in less than 10 paragraphs.  In fact, at one point this last weekend, my dad asked a simple question about whether we knew if aid was actually reaching people, and I took 15 minutes of non-stop talking and story-telling to answer.   I guess what I’m feeling and trying to say is that I don’t want my experience to become a sound bite or a quick story that I file away for future anecdotes.

At the same time I’m working on coming to grips with what I’ve been given (in terms of where I live, what I own, the food I eat, etc.) vs. the need I saw.  I’m not saying I’ve fully concluded the matter (because I know I’m still processing), but one of the early conclusions I came to is that I need to use what I have: video footage, the technology to edit and tell stories with that footage, and the opportunity to spread those stories online; to help others.  Everyone we met might not have the resources to tell their story to people outside their country, but I do; and I need to be faithful with that.  So, over the next couple of weeks, you’ll be seeing several videos coming from me featuring our time in Haiti.  I’m currently wading through 8 hours of footage to pull together some short vignettes of our experiences and put them online.

If you’re wondering what you can do, there are two very simple, not always easy, answers: Give and Go.  The group I went with, Adventures In Missions is offering ways to do both.  If you’re interested, click here.  I’d encourage you to at least check it out and pray about it.  And while you’re at it pray for the people in Haiti who need food, water, and shelter, pray for the Haitian pastors as they lead and shepherd their local communities, and pray for the relief workers on the ground working to bring aid to those in need.

What Not To Do When In Haiti: Fall In A Hole

February 19th, 2010 § 3

On our second day in Haiti, I managed to beat up my leg pretty bad. Here’s how it happened (with visual aids!):

I was walking along a sidewalk, filming…in fact, how about I just show you a clip from my footage:

Did you see that little dip at the end there? That was me stepping in a small unseen dip in the pavement; and in an attempt to regain my balance, stumbled forward into this:

I never saw it coming. All I remember is my foot not hitting the pavement I’d expected; and instead, my shin and leg banged and scraped against the far side of the hole, while my other leg and both arms hit and splay out across the sidewalk pavement. I scrambled out as quickly as I could, feeling nearby eyes watching me as people share what they just witnessed in Creole all around me.

When I fell in the hole, I was off filming on my own; the rest of my team was up ahead. I reconnected with Clint and he quickly produced a small bottle of hand sanitizer (you know, the 100% alcohol kind) for me to douse the open wounds in. As I prepared to hurt myself, he pulled out his phone and decided to film my pain for his own entertainment.

And now for your entetainment, I present that video:

That was last Saturday.  My leg is still hurt, but at least it’s not infected and it does seem to be healing.

And the lesson of this story?  I don’t know.  Maybe something like: when in Haiti, try to avoid falling in holes.

Haiti – Days 1 & 2

February 18th, 2010 § 1

Before we even crossed the Hatian border, while we were still in Santo Domingo, we had our first encounter with the aftermath of the earthquake. We visited a field hospital and talked with a few of the nurses caring for sick and injured Haitian refugees. It was there, in a tent filled with people brought there after Port-au-Prince collapsed, that we met Roody.

Roody had been working in an office the day of the earthquake. When the shaking started, he got out but then as he ran out, a nearby building fell and landed on him. He was pulled out of the rubble within ten minutes but had suffered fractures in his left leg. He told us how he’d learned English by reading English subtitles while watching MTV.

He offered to sing us a song:

On our second day we drove into and through the center of Port-au-Prince and witnessed the city firsthand:

Watching these two videos back to back can give you a glimpse of our experience in Haiti: destruction, loss, pain, and desperation standing side by side and hand in hand with hope, grace, and resilience.

Haiti – Day 4

February 15th, 2010 § 2

Today was an incredible day of seeing God at work in big ways within small communities through the interconnected community of social media. But first, some context.

Yesterday we came across a tent city with this group of people, who had not seen any food, water, or medical help since the earthquake happened one month ago:

And we posted this picture on flickr as well as this tweet on twitter.  As a result, tens of thousands of people saw and passed on the desperate need in this village.

So we showed up this morning expectant, wanting to see God work a miracle in this community.  And a miracle happened, it just wasn’t the one we had expected.  You see, no supply trucks rolled up, the U.N. didn’t march in, and Anderson Cooper didn’t come popping out of one of the tents.  Instead, we arrived to find things pretty much as we’d left them.  But within an hour, things had changed.  A group of doctors from Cuba showed up and were vaccinating and giving medical care to the whole community.

Beyond that, the previous night, when we had sent out the call for help, people had given money that eventually totaled $2000 to bring help.  A few members of our team took that money and found the only real grocery store in the entire city and bought a truck bed’s worth of rice, beans, cooking oil, and baby formula.  During that trip, they also ended up at the airport (where the U.N. and other NGO’s were staging relief efforts) and but by God’s grace, were able to meet with one of the top officials in the relief efforts who then added the two tent cities we had been visiting into their official system for providing relief.

With the food in the bed of the truck, we pulled into the community and saw what God had done in less than 24 hours to bring complete transformation to a community.  And God had done it through us.  And let’s face it, we’re not really all that special.  We’re not the type that regularly meet with the U.N. or influential people within major multi-national relief organizations, but God did an amazing work and brought blessing and life to a community that so desperately needed it.  And we got to be first-hand witnesses and participants in the midst of it.

Haiti: Day 3

February 14th, 2010 § 0

I know, you’re probably wondering where “Day 1” and “Day 2” are.  Well, I may post some short thoughts from each of them over the next few days, but for now I wanted to post on the present.  Besides, if you want some great thoughts on the first few days, take some time to read the updates from the rest of the team: Seth, Marko, Adam, Anne, Rhett, Lars, Tim, Jeremy, and Clint.  They’ve done a wonderful job telling some of the incredible stories we’ve encountered.

For tonight, I’m going to keep it simple and talk about two things I encountered today.

First, today was the third day of a three-day Haiti national prayer and fast, instigated by the local churches here in Haiti.  The theme today was one of celebration.  And we saw celebrations all over the city.  Twice, we drove by what looked like parades of people dancing and singing down the street leading and following trucks.  Loudspeakers blared from the trucks as people led in worship of Jesus and the people on the streets exuberantly sang along.  Then we encountered an entire street blocked off with a large crowd dancing, singing, and jumping in front of a stage and sound system.  On the stage were nearly a dozen pastors leading them in worship.  Rather then me spend more words on the scene, watch it for yourself:

After soaking in the celebration, we went and visited a local community and broke off into groups of two or three (along with a translator) to connect with, listen to, and share the stories of some of the people that lived there.  I was in a group with Seth, Tim, and a pastor from that community who served as our translator.  I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a man from that community who shared a remarkable story with me.  He showed me his house which, while not entirely rubble, was very damaged and collapsed in on itself.  There were a few walls still standing, but not enough to still call it a livable house.  He said that the day of the earthquake, he had been reading the Bible and in the middle of reading, he heard God tell him to “Get out.”  He immediately gathered his family and rushed out of the house.  As they ran out, the earthquake started and he and his entire family survived as their house collapsed.  I am amazed by this story.  Because I believe every word of it. I saw the gratitude and knowing blessedness in his eyes as he showed me his family and told of how God had saved them.

And that’s what was so incredible about today.  It was filled with people expressing gratitude and joy for the life that God had given them, even in the midst of having everything taken from them.

Welcome And Welcome Again

February 14th, 2010 § 0

As I write this post, I’m sitting on an outdoor patio looking at the stars over Port Au Prince, Haiti, a little over one month after it was hit with the most destructive and deadly earthquake in recorded history.  Not all of my posts will be coming from Haiti (in fact, there will likely only be a few more after this one) as I’m only here for another day and a half; but for now, I’m in Haiti.

If this blog seems a bit minimalistic and sparse, it’s because I was more concerned with getting something up and online than I was with filling it with bells and whistles.  That, and also the fact that I created this blog and got it all set up using only my iPhone.  You see AT&T is offering free voice, text, & data in Haiti for the remainder of the month and the local Edge network was faster and more reliable than the nearby wireless signal, so…I used my iPhone to get this all up and running.  Pretty crazy.

So anyway, Haiti.  I’m here with a team assessing ways that youth groups and young adults can be involved in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti after the earthquake.  I’m here to film our journey and the stories of the people we meet.  I’m hoping that by showing these stories we can inspire teenagers and young adults across America to join with the Haitian people and the local Haitian churches in bringing rebirth to this devastated country.  To find out more about this particular trip and the team I’m working with click here.

So if you’ve come just to check out this blog: Welcome.  And if you’ve come to hear more about this trip to Haiti: Welcome as well.  I’m glad you’re here.