Sunday, November 13, 2011

25 Things I Learned in Haiti

I learned several things about myself and life while I was in Haiti.  In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts.

1.  I CAN get up early.  I have 20-some witnesses that I was up every day for eight days either before the sun or with the sun rise.  This is most definitely a record-breaking event for me and I think it deserves a medal of some kind.

Haitian Sunrise
2.  Ice is a beautiful thing.  I know I drink more water than a camel.  But drinking camel-like quantities of water served room-temperature in Haiti made me realize the great value in ice.  Ice water is one of my new favorite things.

3.  Haitians know how to do coffee.  YUMMY!  I looked forward to my multiple cups of coffee each morning at 5 a.m.  It was rich and delicious straight-up black without any cream or sugar.

This lady was roasting coffee and it smelled so good!
4.  I have bad eating habits.  Haitians don't do dessert.  I do cookies/brownies/chocolate at lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast.  Who knew going a week without baked goods and chocolate would be so rough?  I'm SO glad I threw a pack of Famous Amos cookies for each day in my suitcase.  I need them.

5.  Sweating perpetually 24 hours a day, even in your sleep, makes for some really raunchy body odor.  I had no idea I could smell so bad.
I loved this lady - nice pit stains on me though.  
 6.  Too much noise overwhelms me.  I thought I had a high tolerance for noise and chaos.  I have four of the loudest, most fun kids on the planet.  But the first 24 hours in Haiti, I was totally overwhelmed.  It is NEVER quiet.  My friend Ashley describes it as the "Haitian hum."  A cacophony of continual noise - roosters crowing, chickens cawing, packs of dogs barking at each other and anything that moves at all hours of the day and night, horns honking, people partying...  I remember laying on my cot on the roof of the hospital under the brightest stars imaginable listening to a Haitian house church party well into the night.  I was tempted to be irritated that sleep was evading me when I felt God whisper, "Soak it in.  Soak in the sights.  The smells.  The sounds.  THIS is Haiti.  These are my people.  Embrace this experience."  So I spent that night (and many others) drifting in and out of sleep.  Waking to roosters and dogs and people singing, soaking it in and falling back to sleep.  I love the Haitian hum, but I also love silence.
one of my favorite photos of street life in Haiti

7.  Only Haitians drive in Haiti.  I never understood why foreigners had drivers when they visited Haiti.  Within two seconds on a Haitian road, I understood.  There are no traffic signs or lights, no marked lanes of traffic, no rules of the road.  Buses play chicken with mac trucks, mopeds weave in and out of vehicle and human traffic, and all vehicles avoid the car-swallowing-sized holes in the middle of the roads.  Drivers communicate through an unwritten language of honking.  Our bus driver deserved a medal of honor maneuvering a full sized school bus down roads the width of a driveway.  I will never complain about parallel parking again (or at least not until I have to do it again).

road construction, and yes that's our bus on the far right driving past it.
8.  Sugar cane is not all it's cracked up to be.  Something about the spitting it out was a little underwhelming for me.  Watching Diane Comer launch a piece of sugar cane across the hospital meeting room was however very rewarding.  Way to come over to the dark side Diane!
I don't have a picture of Diane trying sugar cane, but this is me with it.

9.  The fried bread/chicken/spices treat we saw in the village looked amazing.  I'm jealous that Jeff Hartley gets to eat those every day.

10.  I'm not the only one who thinks Curt (my husband) is hilarious.  The Haitians all knew exactly who he was and remembered what a riot he is.

11.  My husband and kids (Sarah, Grant, Katie, Alli and Paige) are God's greatest gifts to me (aside from my salvation of course).  Spending 8 days apart from them made me fall in love with them all over again.

I LOVE my family.
12.  Bugs of all kinds don't like me.  Not that I'm complaining.  My poor teammates slathered themselves in bug cream and still got eaten alive, while I used bug cream once on the first day and never even saw a bug the entire time.  Maybe it was my body odor that was a deterrent.

13.  Working out in Haiti makes you feel like one Tough Cookie.  The rivers of sweat give you the appearance of working REALLY hard.  I recommend it.

14.  If I tried to carry stuff on my head like the Haitian woman, it would end up on the sidewalk.  You Haitian ladies rock!
my attempt to be Haitian.  It didn't work.

15.  I don't buy Jeff Hartley's philosophy of keeping cool in Haiti.  His theory?  "Endure the first 20 minutes of vicious sweating and once you sweat through your entire shirt the dampness keeps you cool."  I was just wet, hot, smelly and still sweating.  Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough?

16.  My washing machine is my new favorite appliance.  Seeing these women and children sitting in the dirt with a bucket of water scrubbing their clothes by hand made me realize just how good I have it.
laundry waiting to be cleaned
17.  Did I mention how much I love ice?

18.  The Haitians are even more beautiful than I imagined.  In body and spirit, they are exquisite.
some of the village residents
Isn't she beautiful?

19.  I would not like being famous.  Our team was surrounded by a security team at all times.  While I always felt safe, I also felt really exposed.  I value privacy and not having my every move be known.  Can you imagine being the President?  UGH.

20.  We need each other.  We saw this on our team and with the women we ministered to.  When one of us was weak, the others were strong.  There is power in unity and community.  I saw this over and over and over again.  This is a discipline I will be more intentional about practicing now that I'm home.
our team celebrate Melanie's friend, David, who lost his life in the earthquake.

21.  Sharing one toilet and shower - both with no curtain or door - with eight women makes you cross friendship boundaries REALLY fast.

22.  God doesn't need me.  The first day we were in Haiti was the toughest for me.  I was exhausted physically.  My senses - all five of them - were completely overloaded.  It was like my body and brain were locked up from overload.  I need to "force quit" and take a time out.  I told God, "I can't do this.  This is too much for me."  In that moment I felt God remind me that I don't have to do anything.  He is already at work.  He is already advancing His kingdom.  He will continue to do this with or without my help.  But in His great love, God invites me to join Him in His work.  How generous.  On my own, I offer nothing.  But in my inadequacies and weakness, God is my strength.  He alone is enough and He chooses to use me.  He takes the little I can offer and multiplies it because He loves me.  
more art work on the wall at the boys home

23.  I love me a good nickname.  Everyone in my family has a nickname.  It's how we show affection.  The Haitians love names/titles too.

  • They called us missionaries
  • The conference was seminary.  
  • Diane was Pastor Diane Carol Comer.  
  • To the Haitians I was Madam Curt and to Ann I was Jodiata.  
  • Kathleen became my Getter Doner-er
  • Kay is hands down the best Clothes Nazi ever.

24.  God loves names too.  It's this concept that we brought to the conference - His Name in Haiti.

  • El Roi - the God who sees - called Whitney a Worshipper before she knew she was one.
  • Light of the World led me through dark times, out of darkness and into abundant life in the light.
  • Emmanuel - God with us to the mother in my small group.  When the earth shook, she was standing on the roof of her house as it pancaked onto 12 of her 13 children, burying them alive.  As she screamed, "Jesus - Jesus - save my children" they cried out from the rubble, "Mommy, Mommy.  Jesus saved us.  It's okay. We will live and see what God will do for us."
  • Physician to the woman whose young daughter had just been miraculously healed.  Doctors told her, "She will die from this hole in her heart.  We can't close it up," and at the next appointment, the hole was sealed up.
  • Prince of Peace to the weeping woman finally grieving her son's death after two years of holding it in.  I watched her sorrow turn to peace as we prayed this name of God over her.
  • Solid Rock to the women who felt the earth crumble below them.  Many of them lost loved ones and all their earthly possessions yet they sang with passion, "On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand."
  • Provider to the thousands of displaced families receiving daily meals from the Lord's Kitchen.
  • Abba - Daddy to a crowd of women desperate to raise godly children who will lead Haitians to follow and trust Jesus.
On the wall at the boys home
25.  Pray.  Pray first.  Pray often.  It moves the hands of God.  We have not because we ask not.  Pray, pray, pray.

26.  I understand why Survivor contestants love their buffs. You can do a lot of things with a Buff, or "boof" as the Clothes Nazi called it.  The primary function in Haiti was a sweat rag, but I also demonstrated how it could be a mini-skirt.
Demonstrating the mini-skirt capability of the Buff
27.  Laugher is medicine for the soul.  We sure laughed a lot.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Stay tuned for more of His Name in Haiti.


  1. Thanks for such a great list of 'learnings'--- and a reminder of one of the best weeks I have had in years! AND thank you for all your pictures, work and more work to make them happen! They are tremendous!
    Love, Beth

  2. I love it, Jodi! What an amazing experience!! Am I the only one who doesn't like ice? :)

  3. Wow. Thanks for this, Jodi. You have a beautiful gift of bringing life to simple words. I may just have to steal the names of God diddy that is attached to stories. I didn't hear all the women's stories that were recorded and would love to! Thank you for this! I love ice. And deodorant -and hot water - and my dog Bob. Love, Julie

  4. Jodi, Loved #22. I learned that lesson when I backpacked around Europe, but recently have been struggling to learn it again. And this was a great summary of what you learned in Haiti - I'm sure if we sat down you could expound upon each of these 27 points for hours and hours - praise God for what He taught you and for how He moved during the week there! Love you! - Faith