Friday, November 18, 2011

A Walk Through Grace Village

On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti.  Almost 300,000 people died.  Millions were displaced, losing everything.  Bishop and Madam Jeune own a ministry compound in the middle of a busy neighborhood in Carrefour, a suburb of Port au Prince.  When the earthquake struck one of the exterior walls of the compound fell down.  Haitians, knowing Bishop and Madam’s reputation of kindness, flooded the property.  Within days, 25,000 people were squatting on 12 acres and Grace Village was formed.

Grace Village
Bishop and Madam rose to the challenge of making even these primitive conditions feel structured and welcoming.  They brought in water and basic sanitation.  They arranged the tents and tarp structures into twelve city blocks and appointed Haitian leaders over each block.  With the help of Solid Rock, they launched the Lord’s Kitchen and started providing a daily meal for the residents.  It’s amazing what God has done with their willingness to serve and love their afflicted countrymen.

I stood on the roof of the hospital where we stayed and took these pictures

Two years ago I watched the devastation unfold on TV in the comfort of my warm home.  Months later, I listened to my husband recount stories of the oppressive heat, the primitive living conditions, the constant noise, and the delightful people.  I lingered over the pictures his team photographer took.

His teammate was so moved by these people's plight, that he dropped to his knees in prayer.

Curt when he went to Haiti in June 2010
But the reality of life for thousands of Haitians didn’t sink in until I saw it with my own eyes.

Doing laundry by hand outside their home

Families live in camping tents or homes constructed of donated tarps and scraps of woods.  They sleep on the rocky, hard, dusty earth.  The camp is on a slope.  When it rains, the dirt transforms into a muddy river that flows through the camp.  Mothers sit awake all night, holding sleeping children in their arms so they won’t drown in the muddy waters.  Can you even imagine?

This precious baby, playing with a box, was one of three kids we saw who lived in this home.

When we toured the village, children sat outside their homes in the dirt playing with garbage as toys. 

These guys were playing with sticks

These boys were playing with trash

A few lucky kids had real, well-worn toys. 

This guy had a soccer ball
Most of the younger children wore only tops with nothing on the bottom.

the kids loved the bubbles
The atmosphere in the camp has changed over time.   The “US AID – a gift from the American people” logo is stamped on tarps draping buildings and homes all over Haiti.  I found it ironic that we live in extreme wealth every day, but proudly stamp tarps to give to Haitians living in abject poverty.  The irony isn’t lost on the Haitians either. 

They are beginning to feel exploited and on display.  Wealthy Americans tour their neighborhoods and their homes, taking video and photos of their destitute living conditions, and offer help in small waves.  But the reality remains that each night as Haitian mommies kiss their babies and sing them to sleep on their bed of dusty earth, they pray it doesn’t rain.

This little one, Isabella, is youngest of six in her family

God has a special place in His heart for the poor and afflicted.  I read Psalm 72 yesterday and was touched by God’s fierce protection of His most vulnerable loved ones. 

“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; …He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.  He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”

The first night I was home, I relished putting my four kids to bed.  We prayed, sang, talked, cuddled.  As I kissed them and tucked them into their warm, soft, cozy beds, I thanked God for His many blessings.
Clearly this is not at bedtime, but it's recent of me with the kids

The next morning, my girls – who know better – were having a little gymnastics party on their beds.  It sounded like a herd of elephants was about to come busting through the ceiling, something they didn’t consider as a dead giveaway when they chose to disobey.

I marched up the stairs, stormed their bedroom, and said, “Raise your hand if you were jumping on your bed.”  Two timid hands drifted slowly above two very guilty faces.  I lectured, “If you can’t take care of your things, you won’t have the privilege of using them.  I’m taking your beds.” 

They stared in disbelief, jaws on the floor, as I grabbed bedding, pillows, and mattresses and drug it out the door of their room and dumped it unceremoniously on the loft.  One daughter sassed, “I’ll just sleep on this thing than” and sat down on her box spring.  I took it too, leaving only her metal bed frame.  It was so satisfying!

They questioned, “What are we supposed to sleep on?” To which I replied, “You figure it out.  The Haitian kids sleep on the rocky ground with no blankets.  I bet they wouldn’t jump on their beds if they had one.”

My girls rummaged through the house and made beds out of sleeping bags and pillows inside the metal frame where their bed was supposed to be.  They thought they were roughing it.  But I knew better.

I invite you to take a walk through Grace Village.

And tonight, when you tuck your children or yourself into bed, thank God for His many blessings.  Sweet dreams.

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