Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Relief Efforts

First, a disclaimer: I don't claim to know everything going on in Haiti. All I can testify to is what I saw and what I heard from the people who live there.

One thing for sure and that is, we don't see much about Haiti on the news anymore. It's almost like we have forgotten about them.

The Haitians I spoke with on the ground there also think we have forgotten about them.

The earthquake was in January. Organizations came flooding into the country to help. Make shift homes were set up for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. Some of these homes have been a stick in the ground with a sheet draped over the stick. Many of these homes have been built with tarps.

On some of these tarps, I saw the words, "US AID" or "Samaritan's Purse" or "UN" or "Unicef". This is just a sample of the organizations who helped the Haitians get into temporary housing until they could rebuild again. I also saw a large tent Doctors Without Boarders set up as a makeshift hospital.

We spent our week in a suburb of Port au Prince, called Carrfour. We learned that Carrfour is the most densely populated city in Haiti. Many homes, orphanages, schools, churches were destroyed or damaged by the quake. Most buildings still standing lost their second stories and higher. It was a rare thing to see a second story building and when we did, the second story looked unsafe and had many visible large cracks.

 Looking around, I could not identify one rebuilding project. I confirmed this with our translators as well. People are conducting school in makeshift schools and running orphanages with roof tops missing. For example, the orphanage we visited did not have a roof over their kitchen. I saw many tents that were built for temporary homes, weather worn and tattered. Some 1 million people still remain homeless.

I asked a lot of questions to our English speaking Haitian translators. What they told me is that the money pouring into the country is not getting to the people who need it the most. I was disappointed to also hear from them that some large organizations who mean well have the wrong priorities. Our translators' perspective is that these organization representatives are drive expensive vehicles, eat at the high end restaurants and stay at the 5 star hotels, all while many are starving and homeless.

I emailed one of these organizations expressing my concerns and sharing the perspective of some Haitians and will share their response in another post.

When we arrived at the airport in Port au Prince, we saw this:

This is freight that, from what I understand, has been seized by the Haitian government. The freight includes much needed supplies and food for victims of the earthquake.

There is an election coming up the end of November. There has already been rioting in the capital city. The Haitians are growing tired and weary of waiting. They feel forgotten. They think nobody cares that they are homeless, starving, disease stricken and dieing. When we asked about the elections, the Haitians didn't seem to be hopeful for any candidate. In fact, I did not talk to one person who plans to vote. They don't have any hope in their government.

I left Haiti with a judging heart. Judging the organizations who didn't carry through with their promises; judging the US government for not spending one dime on the relief efforts (check out this link). It seems like we have forgotten them.
Then God told me to look at myself. He asked me what have you done Tammy to help the Haitians? I have done nothing! And I drive an expensive vehicle and I live in a mansion. But now I have seen and God knows my heart, so I cannot pretend that I don't know. God will hold me accountable. I know I can't solve all of Haiti's problems. Any work I do will be insignificant to the overall picture but I still want to do something, even if it makes a difference for one person.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Uncomfortable in Haiti

God definitely brought me outside my comfort zone in many situations during our time in Haiti. I know God caused me to be uncomfortable so that I could have a taste of the injustice that many are facing in our world today.

Some of us slept in tents in the small backyard of our host home. The first night we arrived, the men set up our tents right next to the outdoor restroom. One thing we saw that night as our tents were being assembled were cock roaches (very large ones I might add!!) on the toilet seat. It was already dark by the time we reached our host home the first night. It was hot. We were all sweating. And that night I went to bed in a tent with my very good friend Lisa, her daughter and my daughter Lauren. We each had a thin mattress for our bed and we didn't need anything to cover us because it was so hot.

About 2 hours into our sleepless night, it began to storm. The wind blew hard and it rained hard. There was loud thunder and lightening. It rained so hard in a short amount of time that our tent began to fill up with water. Our personal belongings were getting wet. The four of us made the decision to grab our mattresses and make a mad dash to the house. Inside, most everyone was awake. There was a lot of commotion but eventually we all settled down with a new sleeping arrangement.

The next morning, after a sleepless night for myself, some of my belongings wet from the storm, I just wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. Our family does not camp, so this was not fun for me.

The second night was a repeat of the first except the water didn't leak into our tent near as much. Lisa and I both woke up at the same time startled. Along with the rain, there was loud music playing nearby. On the other side of us, there was a mixture of animal noises all at once. It sounded like ducks quaking and pigs squealing but we couldn't tell for sure. The louder the music, the louder the animal sounds.

Lisa and I both felt like our tent was surrounded by evil spirits. We were frightened, so once again, we woke up our girls, grabbed our mattresses and headed into the house. And once again, I wanted to go home.

The next morning our team visited a nearby Tent City. We split up into 3 teams. One team went around doing tent repairs, one team walked around and prayed for people and our team handed out shoes and clothing.

We visited with a grandma who lost her home in the earthquake. She was so grateful that God gave her another home - a small tent. She was taking care of her granddaughter. She expressed hope and thankfulness to the Lord.

Her request to us was that we would not forget her. She asked us to pray that God will not take her until His work through her is complete. I believe she asked that she be here on earth when Jesus returns.

We took turns praying over each person we connected with. This time, Lauren prayed over this elderly woman. That was my first breaking moment of the trip.

In the Tent City, we saw dirty water running outside the tents. Most likely water ran into each tent during each rainstorm. We saw very small, sick babies. We saw lice eggs on heads as thick and as big as the beads in tapioca pudding.

We heard stories of people losing loved ones in the earthquake. One woman we prayed over lost her husband in the quake. She was pregnant with their second child at the time. Now she is alone, raising two young children under horrific conditions.

After returning to our host home that afternoon, our team had a debriefing. We were all broken. The tent repair team shared that they built a home for a family that did not have a home. It took them just 30 minutes to assemble a tarp tent. Just under 10 months since the earthquake and this family was without a home up until this point. And to think that it took only 30 minutes to build.

That night I went to bed with a greater appreciation for shelter. Rainstorm or not, Lisa and I decided that we were going to stick it out all night. I was reminded that no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone somewhere in the world that has it much worst.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back from Haiti!

Lauren and I arrived home with our team last night. I have so many stories to share about our adventure but for now, I want to share this story of giving and receiving.

The picture above is of Pastor Amos and his sweet wife Ellie Anna, our hosts during our week long stay in Carrfour, Haiti - a suburb of Port Au Prince. After the earthquake, this couple took in 3 other pastors and their families who lost their homes. Altogether around 30 people live in their compound.

Ellie Anna was up each morning by 4:00 a.m. to begin preparations for the day's meals. She selflessly spent the greater portion of each day preparing 2 meals a day for our team. Each day, she served our team with a very sweet, humble and joyful servant heart.

Later in the week, I learned that the dinners that she prepared for us each evening are meals that are only prepared for VIPs. We ate like Kings and Queens during our stay. The rest of the families living in the compound I'm sure did not eat near as good.

We were blessed beyond words!

Prior to leaving for our trip, I packed clothes that I purchased at the local thrift store and some of my own. I had only found 1 skirt at the thrift store that would work for my trip so decided to pack one I already owned, about the only skirt I own.

One day, Ellie Anna came and greeted me outside my tent. She did not speak English and I of course did not speak Creole. So, we communicated through hand gestures. She appeared to be asking if she could have my tent when we were done with it. We had planned on leaving our tents in Haiti anyway, so I told her I would be happy to leave my tent with her. She asked me something else, which I didn't quite understand but I assumed she was asking about the tent again, just to confirm that we understood each other. I said 'yes' to her again.

The second to the last morning of our stay in Haiti, I gathered up all the clothes I was going to leave behind in one bag and gave the bag to our female translator. She was grateful to receive these clothes and was going to give them to a sister who was in need of them.

That evening, as we were packing to leave, Ellie Anna and her husband approached me and asked for my clothes. Her husband, who knew very little English informed me that I had offered to leave my clothes with Ellie Anna. Whether I did or not doesn't matter. This is what Ellie Anna understood and I did not want to let her down.

While in Haiti, we heard over and over that groups will come into an orphanage, church, school or wherever, make promises and not deliver on their promises.

Ellie Anna and her husband were staring at me waiting for a reply. I stumbled with my words, which caused them to look confused. I knew I had to act quick.

I had packed up all the clothes that I wanted to bring home with me, which included a skirt that I did not want to give up and a shirt that I also wanted to keep. Without waiting a moment longer, I dug for the skirt and the shirt, found them rolled up in my carry on and presented them to Ellie Anna. I have to admit, I felt my stomach lurch as I handed over my favorite skirt and one of my favorite shirts. But I would have felt worse leaving her with nothing. She kindly smiled and accepted my offering.

Then something unexpected happened. No more than 5 minutes after I handed these pieces of clothing over to Ellie Anna, someone from our group came in the house with a bag full of clothes and wanted to know whose they were. It was the bag of clothes I had given to the translator that morning. Our transltor must have forgotten to take it with her when we saw her for the last time.

I feel extremely guilty about this now, but at first I could not help think about how I would still have my skirt and top that were difficult to give away if I knew about my bag of clothes that was so easy for me to give away. I'm especially ashamed of my feelings despite all that Ellie Anna had sacraficed for our team.

I can't help but think about God's perfect timing in this situation. He had planned all along that I would give my best skirt and shirt to Ellie Anna.

To be honest, if I would have known about my bag being left behind, I would have handed this bag over to Ellie Anna instead. God knew this too. Thus, his perfect timing caused me to be obedient.

God does not want us to give only when it is easy.

Earlier in the week a few of us girls from our group volunteered to sing 'Blessed Be Your Name' up front during a church service. This was not a coincidence.

Now I know truly what it means when we sing the lyrics 'I give and take away' and 'There is pain in the offering'.

God wants us to know and feel the sacrifice of giving. If it's too easy to give, it's not a sacrifice.

The morning we boarded our bus for the airport, I looked out the window of the bus one last time before we departed and standing there in the early morning hours, waving good-bye, was Ellie Anna, wearing my shirt.

I am so grateful that God has taught me the lesson of giving until there is pain in the offering. Seeing someone in much greater need than I wearing my 'valued' pocession brought great joy to my heart.

This is just the start of God breaking me down. He tested my obedience. And this was just a small item - a piece of clothing. It now seems ridiculous to even allow pain through this kind of offering. Because no doubt God will test me on much bigger things to come.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A 21st Century Version of Mathew 25

"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved."
By Richard E. Stearns, President of World Vision.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Just a teaser!

There is something new coming to the Drawn From Water Store! Can you guess what it is??!!!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Day of School

This morning when Samson came downstairs, all the girls started hooting and hollering at him - they were just as excited as he was for his first day of preschool. Samson played right into their screams of excitement and showed us some dance moves, shaking his booty and proclaiming, "Yay! I'm going to preschool!" He is an amazing dancer and fun to watch!

I held back tears this morning when I was preparing him for his first day of preschool.

He was so excited and I was so excited for him that I didn't actually cry when I dropped my baby off.

 What a blessing his two teachers are. It's yellow day today!

He went right to work cutting up straws!

Seeing his beautiful smile at the end of the day was a good sign all went well. I got a little teary eyed watching my big boy come out of his first day of school.

 He couldn't wait to show us and his friends the project he created - a yellow star!
 There's my boy!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Preparing for Haiti

My daughter Lauren and I will be in Haiti on October 16th. We will be going with 14 other adults and teenagers from our community and serving along side Adventures In Missions (AIM).

We will be bringing our own tents and other sleeping devices. Our facilities include one cold shower and one bucket shower available to us for the week. We also have one toilet. The average temperature will be 90 degrees.

Our assignment includes, prayer walking, tent repair, rubble clean up, sports ministry and helping in an orphanage. Serving in an orphanage would be my dream but I'm not setting any expectations because they tell us to remain flexible since our assignment can change daily. I will serve in what ever capacity God leads me to serve.

Two close friends of mine will be making this trip with me and two of Lauren's close friends are also going. I am very excited to travel this journey, serving those in need with my friends. But I'm most looking forward to the mother-daughter time Lauren and I will have together.

When we first signed up to go, Lauren insisted on paying her own way, which we did not want to argue with her about. So, she sold pizzas to raise funds and she also sent out support letters. The main purpose for the support letter is to 1. ask friends and family to cover her in prayer and 2. ask for financial assistance.

God is good because just before we had to turn in our support money, she reached her goal. Thank you to all who are lifting her in prayer and supporting her financially! Thank you for believing in her! You are all a huge blessing!

We just started our malaria meds yesterday. The doctor recommended taking them 2 weeks prior to departing. Shots wise, we didn't have to do anything because we were already immunized from our Ethiopian trip.

Oh yeah, we have already had team bonding times. We have gathered as a team for several training sessions and we held a pancake breakfast fundraiser:

The team worked hard to keep the pancakes replenished in the serving line:

God will use us when we are available - Rick Warren

God's willing servants:

Lauren was our sausage maker.
She stood over the hot stove for 5 hours and did not complain once:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm Back!!!

I'm Back to the blogging world. Sorry for the dry spell on my blog. I have too much to share and not enough time to share everything.

The first news I need to share is that Samson starts school on ... Tuesday! Yes - that's right! He is going to preschool. I registered him for school way back in the Spring but he was put on a waiting list because of his age, even though he did make the age cut off. This was a very sore subject for me because I believe we were treated unfairly but those details will probably not make it any further than an UNpublished post. But believe me when I say that I suffered a lot of agony over this whole preschool ordeal.

Anyway, he was on a waiting list and just last week, 1 month after school started, the teacher calls and says that a child dropped out of preschool and Samson is next in line. If we wanted to send him, he could start next week.

After much prayer and discussion, we decided to enroll him.

I promise a blog post on Tuesday with pictures. As excited I am for him and as much as I think he needs this, I can't believe that I will be sending my youngest off to preschool - my last first day of preschool =(

Since the girls started school this fall, Samson and I have had a lot of bonding time together. We go for bike rides, walks, jump on the trampoline, play at the park, play t-ball. During these special times together, he has opened up to me more and more. He asks to look at his special photo album more often and now that he can speak better English, he has many more questions about his past.

It's interesting to watch him piece it all together from the questions that he asks. He has been asking a lot about death. He has been asking some very simple but intelligent questions for his age about economics, like "Why don't we just give poor people money mommy?" He is so smart!

One assumption that he is having a hard time letting go of is the idea that all children come from the care center in Ethiopia. We talk about the care center a lot. He looks at his pictures from his social report of himself and all his care center friends. I have had many conversations with him and told him that he came from his Ethiopian mommy's tummy his sisters came from my tummy.

I can see the confusion and pain in his eyes when he hears about how his story is different. There is no question that some of the truth about his story hurts him.

He continues to ask to see Avery's pictures from when "she was in the care center". He has even searched through her room looking for her photo album. He also thinks that Avery came out of his Ethiopian mommy's tummy. One day he insisted on being the one who came out of my tummy.

We have so much more to share with him about his story - some even harder stuff that we will share when he is older. I have read other's stories about sharing the hard stuff with their adopted child but now that I am sharing with my own son, I have a really difficult time knowing how to word things the way he would understand it at his age. It's like peeling one layer of the onion back at a time, crying more and more each layer.

A few weeks ago, the girls came across their baby pictures. Again, he is so smart because he asked for his baby pictures. I showed him his referral pictures and tried to explain to him that that is how old he was when he joined our family. He still said, "That is not a baby mommy." "Where are my baby pictures?"

We embrace his rich birth culture, his skin tone and differences positively. But he doesn't like being the different family member. So, we work hard at pointing out similarities, such as you look just like your father when you wear your shirt tucked in with your belt or you have the same colored eyes as Olivia and Lauren.

He knows he has different colored skin than us but right now this difference doesn't seem to bother him. I tell him that I am going to nibble on some milk chocolate ears and he tells me that he is going to nibble on some white chocolate ears and we each pretend to munch on each other's ears.

The other day, just out of the blue, he was admiring his legs and said, "Mommy! T____'s legs look like mine!" He was proud of that! T____ is one of his care center friends who we have visited a couple times since we have been home.

But in public places, I have seen other kids stop and stare at him. Some day he will notice this too.

Speaking of public places, isn't it amazing what questions acquaintances or strangers will ask in front of your kids?

Yesterday at a football games, I had a woman tap me on the shoulder, pointed right down at Samson and asked, "Where did you get him?"

On another subject, Lauren and I leave for Haiti in less than 2 weeks. I will post more details about our trip soon but what I have just learned is that part of our trip includes serving in an orphanage. Kind of dangerous, huh?!