“So, what do you do?”
I’d probably have the funding for several micro loans if I received a dollar or two every time I’ve been asked this question over the past few years.
I, too, am guilty of peppering people with these words and forming an opinion of someone’s “worth” based upon their response and the level of confidence from which it is said. It is all too easy to narrow in on what people do and the value they create and miss the bigger picture and importance of WHO people are and their inherent value and worth as human beings with breath in their lungs, blood flowing through their veins, and a purpose written on their heart.
This month I have been prompted to ask a different question that elicits an often over looked response, one that dives deep under the skin and into my soul:
“Who am I?”
And in turn, “Whose am I?” and what characteristics am I called to reflect?
I see these responses as roles and qualities that will last far longer than positions I will hold and projects I will complete, things determined before the creation of time and many that will endure for all eternity.
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teammate, and a follower of Christ. I am a student of the Haitian people and a fellow laborer in the fight to reveal unrealized potential hidden under corruption, poverty, and human suffering. This past month I gained the role of “marenn” or godmother for a local soccer team and a co-worker’s son’s graduation from English school, but more on those fun adventures later.
By God’s fullness and grace alone I am to exude the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And I am to reflect His holiness, justice, grace, mercy, truth, and wisdom in whatever I do. My goodness I fall so short every day.
In thinking through the paradigm shift of focusing on who I am rather than what I do, I was prompted to reconsider what I’m working towards in Haiti and how I view her beautiful people. Am I interacting with a hot dog seller or a passionate mother working hard to feed her two daughters, a tailor and agricultural technician or a kind father and husband hustling to lead and provide for his family?
While I do not want to lose sight of how what we do is part of who we are, I must be careful to not prioritize the what over the who but rather let the who influence and overflow into the what.
Am I training up leaders, thinkers, lovers, and fighters who participate in business? Or am I settling for facilitating the teaching of job skills and helping people put a few extra dollars in their pockets?
Am I focusing on who I am working with or the project I’m trying to complete?
While I have much more to think through and adjust in the months to come, I am thankful for a fresh and convicting perspective on my who, why, what, and how. Haiti and the grace of God are refining and molding me more with each passing day, and I hope a handful of this month’s thoughts, lessons, and cherished memories shine through in my summary of June below.
At the beginning of the month, we started business training with a few ladies from our partnering communities but had some issues with attendance and timeliness due to uncertainty on the roads and a lack of public transportation. After a few meetings delayed, they will be putting business plans and micro credit applications together in the first few weeks of July and we will move forward as wise counsel and sound business principles lead!
So much did not go ‘excellently’ during this first go around of business training, and I greatly look forward to stepping up our game as we hope to offer this training and access to micro loans in more partnering communities. Every day I’m learning how to be a better leader and communicator, and I’m so thankful for our staff and participant’s patience and grace with me as we work together—especially through my broken business Kreyol.
Our sewing projects continued with our Alex’s House and Kaliko gals finishing up their skirts and our ladies from Dhal continually improving on their production of potholders. Our older guys house momma, Rose, has also started helping me with the potholders and in teaching budgeting, saving, and investing to our ladies. What an impact I foresee her lessons and time investments making in the lives of these women!! Many of which do not have a steady source of income and are the primary providers for their households.
Our sewers have also transitioned into buying materials for their potholders so they have some skin in the game and we don’t lose money if good quality is not produced. My relationships with these women are also opening up, and we are able to have more in depth conversations about why I hold them and their work to the standards that I do—for their ultimate good and advancement far past the time that we will work together.
Regarding future Haiti endeavors, I spent some time in June visiting local professional schools to inquire about their course offerings and cost to think through opportunities for job trainings in the months to come. We also received the order from 2nd Story Goods for aluminum cuffs that can be stamped and sold to help some women with another income source!
This month has been packed with cultural experiences such as the wedding of dear friends; soccer tournament games at the field next to the local beach; lots of life conversations with our older Alex’s House kiddos about working hard when tired, controlling our attitudes when others are being difficult, and healthy interactions with peers; simply getting to experience everyday life with local women; and spending one on one time with former acquaintances who have become dear friends and catching up with others who are visiting this breathtaking island.
A local organization sponsored a wedding for nine couples, one of which have grown to be dear friends. It was an honor to witness their union and celebrate with many new friends! This was a more Americanized version of a wedding compared to others I have attended in Haiti, but it was sweet none the less to see people all dressed up and enjoying the celebration!
A coworker and I were asked to be the ‘marenn’ and ‘parenn’ for a local futbòl/soccer team (godparents/sponsors) who is competing in a league throughout the summer. It has been a blast to get to know the guys and spend time with our local community during the games. While I don’t fully understand the logistics of futbòl, I sure do enjoy the energy and excitement the coaches, players, and fans bring every time they compete. The league staff has impressed me with their professionalism and organization, even if there is some Haitian flare (late starts and questionable timekeeping) added in.
A long time ago I vowed to never be a ‘soccer mom’, but I have enjoyed passing along some of the life lessons and sportsmanship principles that shaped me throughout my years in athletics.
In addition to being the marenn and parenn for a soccer team, my coworker and I have the honor of being the godparents for one of our cook’s son’s graduation from English school here in a few days. It has been fun to meet our godchild and challenging to figure out our responsibilities amongst the cultural communication courtesies of indirect speech and unspoken expectations.
While the roads were blocked quite a few days this past month, it allowed for time to sit and hand wash clothes with a dear friend, carry water via buckets on our heads from the source to a home, and I began learning how to clean and cook fish Haitian style.
June was also a little more relaxed and adventurous for Disciples’ Village because we have our summer interns here with no teams to take care of (several canceled after the February issues). We spent a lot of evenings enjoying the company of local expats and trying out restaurants and the weekends hiking or at the beach swimming, learning tennis, or scraping my knees up with sand volleyball. I’m thankful they allowed me to tag along as work responsibilities allowed! At various times throughout the month, I was also able to spend quality time with some other young female expats who have become cherished friends.
And last but not least, throughout June we were able to combine our love of friendship, business, and good food while spending time talking with local women who sell fried Haitian food at a local crossroad.
June brought story after story of men leaving women with their children to fend for themselves with no home, no job, and no money. This past month I have spent much time…
...feeling the burden of a friend who has cared for her niece since she was 14 or 15 years old and the little lady was 1.
...learning the story of a good friend who had to leave her home in February when the mountain men came to claim the land where she was living. Now she lives with her parents and 3-4 other families and has no money for food, hospital visits/meds, or a business. Yet she is joyful, protective, and loyal. My heart bleeds for her.
...listening to another dear friend share about the father of her children leaving her for another woman and now she sells hotdogs for very little profit to try to provide for her girls.
...sitting with a local woman who suffered a head injury after a weak concrete roof collapsed a few months back. This was the first I heard of this woman, and more of her story has unfolded over the past few months. She has 6 kiddos (one in an orphanage) and a week old baby makes 7. Her husband passed away a few years ago and she has no family to take care of her. A few weeks ago the owner of the house she was squatting in came and kicked her out, she was very pregnant and how without a home in addition to having no income to feed her family. I do not know where the father of her newest child is, but I’m at a loss as to how to care for this woman and her family.
...hearing a local young man share about how his parents have either passed away or left him in the care of his uncle. His unstable living situation lends to scarce resources to live and attend school.
All in all, bearing one another’s burdens is wearing me down. I’m forever in awe of the Haitian people, their shear strength and resiliency. They know no other way. They choose to smile, crack jokes, and care for each other anyways.
Other lowlights include...
...a bridge dropping and becoming impassible via car on Route National #1—the only good, paved road from Port au Prince to the northern half of the country—the day before we were to have a team fly out and another one come in. What a time of transportation coordination and walking blans plus luggage across the bridge! It has been “fixed” for now but I foresee it will sustain further damage after another good rain or two.
...struggling with being gracious with men who like to ‘hit on’ white women. I want to be as kind and cordial as safety allows but the grace runs out quickly. It is not okay for them to treat me or other women with disrespect, and I have found myself thinking that I will make sure men have learned to respect women before I leave Haiti—this will likely require a massive undertaking but at least I can begin with the men around me. I do recognize that this is a global issue, but we must start somewhere.
...a local home with 4+ families living is having an issue with all of the kiddos and a few adults having scabie-like sores pop up all over heads and hands and a few other places.
In the middle of the highs and lows there were many lessons to be learned, including but not limited to...
...Delegating: how it is so easy for me to save 10 minutes by not teaching someone to do something when I could take the extra 10 minutes and save SO MUCH TIME in the long run not having to do it. A small vs. big picture mindset. This will HAVE TO BE something I do more of as I continue to work in Haiti.
...The self-sacrifice required for unity and love. If I say I am willing to lay down my life for my brothers and sisters, then why am I so hesitant to lay down my time, my resources, and my selfish desires and plans? Yet another internal tension as I seek to live and love here and participate in the community.
What a month of learning and experiencing and beginning to see WHO over what. Wow. As my last month with Lumos begins, I am humbled and in awe of the glorious time I have been graced with living through here in Haiti. Until August, zanmi’m yo.
P.S. No pictures of the Tracker this month, mesi Jezi, so here is a snap shot of a three hour ordeal to find propane before the northern half of the country ran out while the bridge was not passable for fuel tanks.