Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, TouchGlobal swiftly responded and has continued to send crisis responders to serve in Haiti ever since. We have established a presence and plan on staying here for a long time, so we thought it wise to set up a blog that family, friends, supporters, and teams can check to find first-hand information about life and ministry at the Haitian Queen (the TouchGlobal Crisis Response headquarters in Gressier, Haiti).

This blog will be updated regularly by various team members and staff.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Operation Love the Children of Haiti

Please keep Aaron in your prayers. He is a partner, who we are building the orphanage, The Shepherds House, for. He has malaria and is in the Hospital.

Jasmine and Greg decided to come down to Haiti to start an orphanage a few years ago. They now have 40+ kids who are all adoptable. Walking into their orphanage is different than most in Haiti. There is life and joy there. Since the earthquake, Jasmine and Greg lost almost everything. They are staying on a piece of land and all of the children are in tents. We are helping to build them a few shelters, especially with huricane season right around the corner. Right now, we are building them an all purpose room where they will have school, church and shelter if it storms. Touch Global teams will also go over every tuesday and thursday to play with the children at the orphanage.

Jasmine and Greg are in the back on the far left.

Brian Wetmiller with some of the children.

Donna Tente with some of the children

Christine Washington, sitting on some MRE's, with the oprhans.

This is where they live. There are probably 6 or 7 rows of these tents.

This will be the all purpose room. They started last week.

This is at the end of the second day.

This is it by the end of the fourth day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pastor Resner's New Home

*Please keep Kevin Watterson in your prayers...he is in the hospital for a ruptured appendix.

We got the news we would be building a home for a pastor in Leogane and were all very excited. Pastor Resner's new home is on a beautiful peace of land with mountains behind it. The church, where he pastors is down the road from his house. He is excited about living in the community where his church is. He is getting married on the 26th of June and cannot wait start a family with his new wife, in his new home.

Pastor Resner standing on the foundation of his home.

When we arrived in the morning, all that was here was the foundation.

At lunch, the men were very inventive with shade. It was about 110 degrees that day.

At lunch, we had a crowd of kids surrounding us. They were singing to us and counting for us in English. They were so sweet.

Some of the wood was so thick, it took this awesome stance to be able to nail it through.

This is a Haitan's feet. He was there helping us. I love his feet because they are the kind that tell a million stories and have traveled many different places.

Pastor Resner brought us sugar cane because he was so grateful. He showed us how to eat it. He taste like a sweet stick.

After the first day, we had all the walls up and a huge crowd helping us.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hi guys!  My name is Jon Lahr, and I'm down in Haiti as short-term staff for a total of 18 days.  I was asked to post to the blog so you may see a couple more in the coming week or so.  Some of the details or explanations of people and places may be old news to you all.   

On Monday, May 31st, our day began with Miguel driving Kevin, Jim Esson (he and his wife Karen have been here several times since the earthquake) and myself (Jon Lahr) to the airport in Port-au-Prince in order to catch a flight to Cap Haitien. Cap Haitien is a port about 170 miles above PaP on the northern shoreline of Haiti where EFCA has been getting their large shipments of equipment such as vehicles and generators. We were going there to attempt to drive a vehicle for the ministry that had already previously died in the mountains along the journey from Cap Haitien back to PaP.
Our flight there was great as we flew just above the mountains and landed quickly and safely in Cap Haitien just 25 minutes after take-off. After we landed, we met up with Charles who has become what I like to call EFCA’s guardian angel in Haiti. Charles is a high-ranking Haitian police officer who also happens to be a believer and loves the Lord! (He previously helped protect some of the ministry’s leaders when their truck full of supplies broke down in the middle of PaP.) Charles drove a day or so ahead of us in order to take 3 mechanics from PaP up to Cap in order to fix our truck. One was an older gentleman and the other 2, Junior and Orlando, were both 22.
By late Monday afternoon we finally had the orange truck full of supplies and we were on our way to stay overnight at a local pastor’s house because you’re not supposed to drive in Haiti after dark and we had an 8 hour drive over the mountains ahead of us. The next morning Charles went to pick up the mechanics that had been staying in another house nearby. Kevin, Jim, and I ate breakfast while we waited for them to return. As we were eating, Jim turned and said to me, “We’re about to go over a treacherous mountain with crappy vehicles and crappy roads. You better make peace with your maker!” Then he proceeded to ask Kevin in reference to our journey ahead, “Do we have a BIG hammer because we may need to fix stuff.” Little did I know how true those words would turn out to be.
Charles returned with the mechanics and we drove into the city to pick up a pull-behind generator that had just made it through customs. By mid morning we finally had everything packed and the generator hitched up to the truck. We were on our way! But, as we soon found out, we wouldn’t make it too far.
About 10 miles into our trip across the rugged roads, our transmission died and left a trail of transmission oil over 100 feet long on the road. The pic below shows the trail of transmission oil.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cooking in Haiti

The Haitian Queen is beyond blessed to have Rosita cooking dinner for the entire house. She is insanely talented in the kitchen and can turn the smallest package of meat into enough to feed dozens--she really hast the gift of multiplying the loaves and fishes. Her pasta with meat sauce is deelish.

Not to mention the flavor she packs into everything she makes. Her banana bread is ridiculously addictive. I had planned on dropping a few pounds and certainly not gaining any in Haiti--and I'm getting concerned. Her fresh rolls rival even my mother in law's.

Rosita has four children, all girls: 17, 13, 6.5 (adopted) and 2.5 (surprise)! Her husband is a pastor, which as all Pastor's wives know can be really challenging, but Rosita says she does her best to be a good sport about it. Before coming to work for the Queen after the quake, she cooked for 200 people a day over at Christianville, a large school / mission just down the road. I think she's pretty happy to be cooking for a more manageable number as it allows her to show off the skills she honed in culinary school.

I love cooking and entertaining and wanted to pick up some recipes and tips from her! The first thing she taught me was how to cut up a mango. The mangoes here are TO DIE FOR. You've definitely never had anything this sweet or delicious in the states. Mango here is the perfect, stand alone desert. The basic technique is to peel one side at a time and then to carve a crash hatch grid into the cut side. Then she slices that grid off--it works because mango pits are really flat cylinders. And it works best when mangoes are just ripe.

I used some of the mangoes that had over-ripened in a white cake mix for dessert one night and it was really quite good. The only thing I would do differently is add the fruit half way through the baking so it doesn't sink to the bottom.

The land here seems exceptionally fertile and all of the produce is fantastic.
The tomatoes are really awesome. We buy produce at the local markets and then simply rinse it in water with a few drops of bleach to kill anything that might make us Americans sick... so far since we got here no one has gotten sick which is pretty surprising.

Much of Rosita's cooking is based on garlic and green onions mashed together. Rosita has one helper Miglan. I love the large wooden mortar and pestle they use.

I've told Mark that if Rosita ever needs a vacation I'd be happy to come back and fill in--hanging out in the Queen's kitchen was a real highlight for me.

Volunteers are on their own for the most part for breakfast, lunch, and snacks... for those times "missionary caviar" (aka peanut butter) is a must.

Building in Haiti

Before my husband Nick and I landed in Haiti on Tuesday we had no idea there was even such a thing as construction missionaries and now we know four of them. It makes sense when you think of it--someone has to build the spaces for all of this good work to happen in. We are also both completely helpless when it comes to fixing or building anything in the States (he's an investor and I do marketing for a start-up) so I had absolutely no idea how difficult it is to build in a country like Haiti--everything moves like molasses here where delays are the rule not the exception. Bribes are par for the course and moving anything takes forever on these roads. It's rare when you're on a paved road and it's even rarer that it's not littered with cracks and debris. Sometimes there are even shanty tent villages set up in the median.

The leaders of the teams we're with (see earlier posts) were stuck on the road for over eight hours with a broken transmission trying to bring back things from a container that was dropped up in Port Haitian.

Some interesting facts I've learned from building Superintendent Jim while here in Haiti... my apologies if everyone already knows this. Haitians build everything with cement blocks because the wood here comes from South America and isn't treated for termites. Termites thrive in this tropical weather and will destroy anything you build. Sometimes people try to treat the wood by dousing it with diesel fuel, but that of course makes it extremely flammable, probably not a great idea in this heat. Wood here is also very expensive and of a much harder variety than what you normally buy in the US.

To save money, Haitians try to make their blocks with as little cement as possible.
As a result, some of them are so loosely held together that they crumble in your fist... so that's why you see piles of crushed rubble everywhere here. The blocks are internally held together by rebar: Rebar is been bent by the crake into the craziest statues everywhere here.
The Haitian Queen is also made out of concrete blocks, but likely of a better cement ratio as only the second story collapsed. Volunteers have been hard at work rebuilding the second floor--yesterday Nick, Brian and others tackled the roof.

Nick and I are actually staying outside in the outdoor bunk houses that volunteers put up when people were still too afraid to sleep indoors. I love the bright colors of the bunk houses and they're extremely well built... but somehow the mosquitoes seem to get through the nets we carefully drape over ourselves each night and I'm a little afraid of the recently sighted tarantula, which terrifies me. I make Nick do diligent flashlight sheet checks every night.
Yesterday we went out to buy chicken wire because engineers that visited recently suggested reinforcing the house by wrapping this wire mesh around the entire exterior structure. The thinking being that in the event of an earthquake, this extra support will give you a few extra seconds to get out before the house collapses. Nick's French (and mine a little, too) came in handy when negotiating to order more rolls as we went to two hardware stores where they each only had in stock.

Superintendent Jim and his lovely wife Karen Esson are with Side by Side and have been here many times and will come many more until the orphanage is finished. They come alongside other organization to help them build projects to free them up to do what they do best. They've built orphanages, like the one we're working on just down the road, hospitals (they've done one in Congo, Sudan, Chad), clinics (including one near Nairobi) and even a bomb shelter in Israel. Jim is a construction genius and has excellent relationships with the Haitians. Karen is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. It is amazing to just listen to her life stories! They've recruited Lori and Brian from outside of Atlanta to be here as house parents at the Queen for the next two months.
I'm convinced Lori is meant to be my best friend because mosquitoes seem to love us equally, we're both 25, and we have almost the exact same wedding bands. We feel very blessed to have arrived the same day as a nice couple our age. Brian will be in charge here while Jim and others work to get the needed supplies in. Right now the team is working on one of six planned buildings for the orphanage--they're starting first with the administrative house, which is the smallest. The orphanage effort is being headed up by Aaron Nelson and his group Shepherd's House. Aaron is originally from Port-Au-Prince and was adopted by two missionaries, Terry and Cary Nelson who have been working there since early 80s. We're still working on leveling ground for the first site and this morning the men marked out the building's outline. Jim is working on getting a cement mixer into Haiti so as to insure that our bricks are of the highest quality possible should another big one hit.

It's quite humbling for us to be around people who know so much about building--what an incredibly useful skill, especially in a place like Haiti! I'm resolved now to pick up a few more useful life skills! And I'm also just impressed that so many people are willing to do this much physical labor in a climate this hot and sticky. They really have a lot of love for the Haitian people.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kevin's Latest Adventure in Haiti Customs

Written by Kevin W. in regards to his recent experience in Cap Haitien:

Tuesday morning we awoke full of hope that we would finally be able to get our last truck out of customs and get on the road back to Port-Au-Prince earlier this time than the last time. We drove into the city, and arrived around the 9 a.m. time we were told to be there, and gave a wad of cash to Poala to work her magic and get the truck released.

She promptly took the money, headed out the door towards the bank where she needed to make the payment, and said “m’ap vini”- literally translated meaning “I’m coming,” which means “I’m coming back.” Whenever I hear that, I get nervous, because, although it means I’m coming back, I never know if it will be 10 minutes or 10 days.

Cap Haitien or New Orleans?

We did what we always do in these situations… Wait. Only this time the waiting was broken up by various runs to the bathroom. When I went in to the “bathroom” at the office, I realized that it doubled as a storage closet, and also noticed that the shower had not worked for quite sometime, if ever. I also noticed the 5 gallon buckets of water on the floor, which I assumed meant that the toilet required manual flushing. My assumption proved correct in that when I pushed the handle down, no water flowed from the tank to the bowl. I grabbed the small plastic container, dipped it in the big bucket, and proceeded to dump the small container’s contents into the bowl. Now THAT’S a real water saving toilet design!

I alternated between various stages of consciousness for the next several hours, until Charles told me I needed to eat… Yeah, right. I told him no way, so he offered to go to the Pharmacy to get me something. I wrote down what would work best for me and what I had forgotten to bring on this trip to help keep my digestive tract regulated -- acidophilus. On all of the other recent trips I had taken it daily, and I had not gotten sick.

So, off he went in search of my “good bacteria.” He returned about an hour later with something that said “enzemas” on the package, so I figured it must be the closest thing he could find in consulting with the pharmacist. I should have told him to get me something more along the lines of valium, if I had known what the rest of this trip was going to be like! Charles insisted that I eat something with it -- that’s what the pharmacists said. Ok, fine… get me some crackers out of the truck.

Finally about 2 p.m., Rico came into the office and told us to go to the APN office, and Poala would meet us there with the paperwork. I knew what to expect having done this before. Charles and I traded our ID’s for the “parking passes” once again, and wandered over to where the truck was parked. A quick look told me all was well, just like we had seen it a month ago. After an hour or so, Paola came with the paperwork, and haggled with the head hauncho in the on-site police station.

At about 4 p.m., we were given access to the keys and the truck, but a larger truck behind ours had to be moved before we could get ours out. The designated driver for our truck jumped in, turned the key, and nothing happened -- I mean absolutely nothing. Rico swears they leave the ignition on just so they can “help” us when we come to get the vehicles. We went through the same routine as the last time, having the workers run around looking for a good battery and trying to jump the truck. Even though we had installed new batteries in the truck before it left Florida, the batteries were so dead that we ended up taking a good battery from our truck and putting it in the orange one to get it started.

We completed all of the remaining paperwork and drove both trucks to Rico’s warehouse to off-load as much weight as we could and to put it in the white truck for the trip across the mountains.

Unload as much as you can!

Knowing that we would not leave before dark, I contacted Caleb to see if we could stay at his house for the night, and finish the trip to Port-au-Prince from there the next morning. When I reached him, he was not in Pignon, but he said that he would call and make arrangements for us to stay in the camp near his house.

We left Cap Haitien about 5 p.m. and headed for our final stop at Henoc’s house for some supper, and to drop off several cases of water that had been on a pallet in the back of the truck. After, eating and jumping the truck again, we headed off into the night to start the grueling trip across the mountains…

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was a typical day in Haiti...

Daily update from a volunteer from Westshore Free Church:

Today was a typical day in Haiti.

We completed our devotions at about 7:30. Plans were all made for the day, and we were ready to head out in our separate directions to accomplish our tasks. Work on the toilet foundation, pick up wood and start cutting materials, pick up sand, go to meetings, or teach a class. Loaded up, ready to go, and the cell phone rings.

Miguel, the Haitian driver, was taking Charles to the airport and the jeep broke down. The only suitable vehicle to go help them was the black pickup that was full of tools to take up to the toilet job site (pictured). So, we moved the tools to the van. Bill and Wesley headed in to help Miguel and Charles. Mark was to take us to the job site in the van, than go pick up wood.

At the job site we looked at the sand. No, we didn’t have enough... hardly enough to even get started. But of course the van was not able to make the trip to the new sand pit; we needed a four wheel drive for that (but it was now on it’s way to Port au Prince on the rescue mission). We would do what we could do, then wait.
Mark got into the van to head out to the lumber yard. The van wouldn’t start. I don’t know what they did but it only took about 15 minutes to get it started. And, we began our 45 minutes of work, knowing we would have a few hours to hang out with our Haitian friends.
I won’t continue with the blow-by-blow, but I must say, by the end of the day, at least to my surprise, we had accomplished quite a lot. The foundation is done, Bill and Gary cut all the wood for the toilets, meetings were attended, etc…

I previously sent pictures of getting sand from the river. But better then that, the locals showed us where to get free sand. A drive of a mile or so, through fields, across back yards, and we finally came to a mud hole. Literally – a mud hole. Scooping away the mud on top revealed some pretty nice sand below (better then the rivers) .
A couple of things happened at the sand pit that are worthy of note. First, one of our helpers picked up some mangos at a nearby tree. He washed them in the mud hole, right next to the cows and chickens, the mud hole with the mosquitoes hatching, then he ate the mangos. In some ways, they seem very aware of water quality; but obviously, in others they don’t.

The other thing has to do with litter – it’s everywhere. Not just earthquake rubble, but trash thrown down wherever you are, whenever you have it. So, at the sand pit, one of the Haitians wanted to get into the front passenger seat. As he did, he started throwing out some trash that was on the floor of the truck cab. I said, “No, we will take care of it later.” As I jumped in the bed of the truck and we were heading out – I saw the trash flying out the window.
[Oh, and YES, Charles was able to catch a later flight back to California.]

...a typical day in Haiti!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Quick update on supplies and shipping - May 2, 2010

NOTE: Pictures added May 5, 2010. Post written by Kevin Watterson.

Hey everyone!

I wanted to share some pictures and updates from the field. Charles and I arrived in Cap Haitian on Sunday night, where we have one truck left to retrieve from customs. We didn't know if how long it would take, and if it would even be released, after a "problem" with the title. I have found that the best way to deal with these issues is to show up and start asking questions (what do you need to keep things moving?), and get the answers that the brokers and customs need to process the paperwork. People respond better when you are there in front of them. (Being 6'5" 270 helps a bit, too, I think.)

I have found the Broker firm we are using to be very helpful and responsive. Rico (pictured below with Charles) and Poalo (pictured at left with Kevin) from Services Courtage Rapide (see the previous blogs by Kevin) have gone out of their way to get our stuff through customs quickly, as well as to keep it safe and untouched while it has been in customs. We will be getting the final truck out of customs tomorrow and making the 7 hour, 170 mile drive to Gressier probably in about 10 hours. We will have to go slow (CHARLES!!) because of the glass windows and french doors that are on the truck. (I can't wait to see how this turns out- It could be VERY ugly!)

I was in Ft Lauderdale last week "helping" ( not much help as my back was not in the best of shape) with Ken Freia from 1st Baptist Church of Deerfeild, FL, and Jim and Karen Esson of Side by Side Ministries in Pensacola, to load a 40 ft. container. Our buddy Antonio from Wheeler Flooring ran the forklift for us, and we were able to load 20,000 pounds of cargo into the container. Anything from vegetable seeds, to a welder, to tools, building supplies, and a 25 KW generator, for which we still need donations to cover the costs of shipping and customs ($4,000 for the container, and about $4000 for customs).


Here in Haiti, we just had our generator shut off, so I only have a short amount of time to post this before battery back-up runs out.

Highlights of the day:
  • Having lunch with Rico, Poalo and Charles, feasting on goat while over-looking the Beautiful Cap Haitian bay (if you can look beyond the trash at the shoreline).
  • Hearing Rico tell me that he is doing an online course for Bible and one on Biblical leadership through, of all places, Trinty University!
  • Then, meeting Pastor Codo (pictured below with Rico & me), the friend who turned Rico on to the online course and is himself currently in the MDiv application process for acceptance into Trinity.

Low light -- not sure what I ate or drank, but i'm "running" to the bathroom frequently.

Look for upcoming posts about our solar panels and the tent distribution that is in the midst of taking place.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Truck # 3 and the Gressier Delivery

Truck #3 and the Gressier Delivery Part II of the vehicle saga from April 1-7, 2010

On the "Road"Again

Happy as clams in remote bay, we left the dock driving our long- awaited vehicles, with the knowledge that we would be returning the next day to pick up the white truck full of wheel barrows, shovels, rakes, picks, sledgehammers and other clean up tools, as well as boxes of blankets, garbage bags, first aid items, peanut butter, and our now infamous green shirts which make a fashion statement wherever we go.

We were told as we left, that the VIN number problem with the paperwork should be cleared up by 11am on Wednesday, which would allow us to start our trip by noon and get to Gressier around nightfall. We began the 8 mile trek back to Henoc’s house with jeep and the van to spend the night and prepare for our journey the next day.

Cap Haitien has seen a huge influx of people since the earthquake, and has grown by about 250,000 -300,000 people to over 1,000,000 people, all estimated of course. The net result of this influx is people everywhere, and traffic gridlock; the fact that the main road through town is closed and being re-paved only compounds the congestion.

As we sat in traffic, blowing our horn and listening to the kids call out “Blanc, Blanc” ( guess what that means for two white guys with a noticeable absence of color and straight hair), I couldn’t help noticing the architecture of the old city. It struck me as very reminiscent of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where we spend quite a bit of time now since our family has relocated to that area from Pa. Take away the cars trucks, and blowing horns and remove the tvs and radios that were for sale on the sidewalk stands, and you have a picture of what the city of New Orleans may have looked like in the late 1800’s. Narrow, almost one way streets, tight sidewalks between the street, and the tall, narrow buildings with overhanging balconies, operational wooden shutters that are rounded to fit the arched window and door openings, and people milling around in no particular rush to get where they are going.

Having time to observe isn’t a bad thing, it’s just overly uncomfortable when you are stuck in traffic, and the overheating indicator light starts to blink forcing you too turn off the A/C because there’s limited airflow over the coil and engine radiator.

The 8 mile trek took us about an hour, even after getting out of the city, because the blacktop only runs for a couple miles before ending abruptly in a 6 inch drop off to the pothole pocked gravel roadbed.

After arriving at Henoc’s house, we walked next door to check on the progress of the Orphanage that has been under construction since before the earthquake. The first floor was in the process of being primed, and waiting for doors to be installed and the kids should be able to move in a week or 2 from now.

We ate supper, and were escorted to our quarters a mile or 2 down the road; a house that was leased by a missionary family for a year, and they only lasted about 6 months before returning to the comforts of their home nation. As night fell, we lit candles, kerosene lamps, and showered by flashlight because the power had gone off shortly after our arrival, and no generator was on the premises for us to utilize. The air conditioner that was poking out of the wall mocked us as we settled into our beds soaking the sheets with sweat. Charles and I slept in the one bedroom, while Arnold sawed several cords of wood in the neighboring room. I asked Charles if he was over his fear of sleeping inside, and he pointed to the ceiling and said “ twakay bwa” – wood roof. Less likely to die if the wood roof collapses on you in an earthquake I suppose.

Charles prayed for a good 15 minutes before rolling over and drifting off to sleep, while I read John Gresham by lamp light thinking this is what it must have been like in “little house on the prairie”.

Not long after the others fell asleep, welcome relief came to the muggy, humid night air as the rains came. Lightly at first, but soon reaching torrential proportions, the rains fell. I kept reading as there was now no way to get to sleep with all of the commotion. Charles rolled over and saw the light on and asked why I wasn’t sleeping, “Twakay bwa” I responded pointing to the ceiling. He laughed and rolled back over drifting off again.

The rains continued hard for a couple of hours, and I pondered what this might mean for our drive the next day, and how much spinning and sliding it may cause us. I “outened the lamp” as they say back in my home area of Amish country, Pa, and was sleeping blissfully in the cool night air after the rains ceased.

Truck #3 on the dock in Miami prior to shipping To Cap Hatien

We awoke with the sun the next morning; drove back to Henoc’s and had breakfast, then piddled around until 10 am when we left once again for Cap Haitien. The potholes were now puddles and the dusty road was now slicker than scum off a Louisiana swamp. We all had piled in the jeep, and I had given Charles the keys, and climbed into the back seat, leaving Arnold wondering why he was blessed with a front seat as I crammed myself in the back sharing the space with Gerline, Henocs wife, who was joining us for a ride into town. Arnold soon found out why he was seated in the front. Ever been to an amusement park, and ridden a ride so scary that there were permanent fingernail notches in the foam safety bar? That’s kind of what the dashboard of the Jeep looked like after the ride into the city. Arnold commented that based on how Charles was driving; he thought I was negligent in my spared use of the horn yesterday on the way from Cap to Henoc’s house.

We dropped Gerline off where she needed to be and went searching for a gas station. We were on “E” and the engine sputtered a few times after hard acceleration, so we knew it wouldn’t be long till we might be taking advantage of the guys on the street that sell Gas by the gallon jug, if we didn’t find a gas station soon. We finally found a station down by the dock, and pulled in relieved… until the attendant said,” nou pa genyen” we don’t have any. What is a gas station without gas??? Just a station I guess. We drove carefully around the city saving gas as much as possible, more like a normal ride in a car, and finally at the fourth gas station, We found gas. Charles immediately drove up to the front of the line, bypassing the 5 or 6 motorcyclists waiting patiently for their turn to fill up. There was only a short period of heated exchanges with those in line, after which the attendants filled the tank, but not to the satisfaction of Charles. He got out and ”topped it off” himself, before asking me for the 3500 gourdes to pay them.( I’m still not sure how much that is in US dollars) I told him to also get brake fluid for the van, since the rear wheel cylinders had started leaking fluid, and we needed to replenish the reservoir. “Yo pa genyen” I heard again, They don’t have any; Ok- it’ not a service station either.

After leaving the..uh…station, we found a roadside stand that offered our choice of oil, power steering fluid and brake fluid. We bought 2 bottles of brake fluid, just to be safe. We went back to the office to meet Rico, and were informed that he wasn’t there but was working on the clearing up the VIN number problem. It was 11AM. We chatted with Charles, the secretary and another older gentleman that I think was Rico’s aged relative. We did what we have become accustom to doing when we need official approval for something… We waited… and talked…and learned some more Creole… taught some English. ..and waited some more. At 12:30 we were informed that we could go to the dock and meet Rico, or his associate Rodney there, and we could get the truck. Not bad, only 30 minutes late. We are still in good shape to make the150 mile, 7 hr trip to Port au Prince.

After grabbing something to drink, we waited…and waited… Oh good! Here comes Rodney! He informed us that he needed one more authorization stamp. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes as he strode purposefully toward the office that contained the last hurdle to be cleared.

The sun was hot, so we sought shade under the canopy of the first gas station where we had stopped at earlier in the morning, and told those seeking gas-Yo pa genyen. At 1:15 Rodney finally returned and we went and sat in the same customs office with the same customs security guard as the day before, only today he didn’t have his TV phone. After another half hour, I saw the hood pop up on the white pick up truck. As I stood up and craned my neck to see what they were doing, the guard noticed what I was looking at and offered the “parking” pass to so I could go check it out. I woke Arnold up from his nap, and we both went to see what the problem was, both happy to just see some progress being made toward getting us and the truck out of customs.

We walked over to see about 5 Haitians gathered around the truck with Rico, trying to get the truck to start. Someone had apparently left the ignition turned on when they parked the truck. A couple of Haitians left to get a battery to jump the truck. When they returned, I noticed that they had not acquired any jumper cables. I was surprised to see one of them lift the battery they brought, flip it upside down and place the terminals directly on top of the truck battery as a means of jumping the dead one. DO NOT try this at home! I was pleasantly surprised, though, when Arnold turned the key to hear the truck turn over, after several attempts, the engine finally roared to life, and we were on our way out of the dock for the second time in 2 days, with more of the things we had come for. Only one more to
It was well after 2:30 when we drove back to Henoc’s house for the final time to retrieve the van and FINALLY begin the return trip to Port au Prince. As we started down the road, I began to calculate…leave at 3pm, 7hr trip if nothing goes wrong, arrive at 10 pm, gets dark at 6-7, at least half the trip in the dark… This will be an experience; and we aren’t supposed to travel after dark.

"Fording" the river
As we started up the mountain trail on the first part of the trip, it started to lightly drizzle, then the higher we went the more it started to rain. Knowing what’s ahead, this is not good if it continues to rain like this. We threaded our way up the side of the mountain, avoiding the gullies, potholes and rocks as best we could. When we reached the plateau, the rain mercifully stopped. (Whose been praying??) We spent the rest of the trip, avoiding the same obstacles but add in the occasional goat, chicken, cow and horse. We climbed steep grades, straddled ruts, and forded rivers, all before dark… not much changed after dark though either.
At one point about 2/3’s of the way through the trip, Charles stopped the van, and popped the hood on the van- Oh no here we go I thought. Are we going to have to fix a vehicle with few tools in the dark in the middle of nowhere? Nope- Charles just needed to add some brake fluid- glad we bought 2 bottles!

Just as we were completing the fill, a vehicle traveling towards us in the opposite direction, pulled up and stopped, with the window rolled down; “Kevin!” I heard the driver call out. Now who in the world would be out after dark, on the road, in the middle of nowhere, deep in the heart of a foreign country, calling my name? Of course, It’s Caleb Lucien- everywhere just when you need him.

He asked if everything was OK, and we reported to him that it was. He cautioned us about driving after dark, and then left us on his way home…driving in the dark. We reached the outskirts of Port au Prince at about 10:30, and Charles stopped the van once again and informed us to stay very close to him as we drove through the city.

We raced through the deserted streets of town faster than I even thought possible, bouncing across the potholes at 50 MPH, not stopping for anything, doing our best to see through the misty darkness. We arrived safely back to the Haitian Queen around 11:15pm ate supper and turned for the night, exhausted but content. God had provided all that we needed and I’m sure some that we didn’t know we needed or in ways we still aren’t even aware.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Preparing for Haiti

Thoughts from a team as they make last minute preparations to fly to Haiti for a short-term mission trip with Crisis Response:

Within a few short hours we will be gathering at the church to begin our walk with the Lord. Have you wondered, "why are we so blessed?" The only answer to that question is because we are loved by the King and He has work for us to do. He knew we would be leaving tomorrow for Haiti, and He knows the plans He has for us when we arrive.
Jesus knows our hearts and our minds better than we do... and the amazing beauty is that He loves us anyway. He loves our uniqueness... that's how He designed us! He loves our tears and He knows that our hearts will be broken many times on this journey. He is our rock and our salvation, our strength and our guide. Our awesome Brother who joins in our laughter and helps move the mountains that will need to be moved. Our cup overflows with the joy of serving by Jesus' side, doing whatever He asks, knowing that He will lift us high on eagle's wings and protect us from the evil one.
Please pray for all of our missionaries who have served, will serve, or are currently serving at the Haitian Queen!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Education & Water - Priorities in Haiti

A ReachGlobal staff member shares about the importance of clean water in Haiti and the high priority Haitians place on the education of their children:

Clean water is one of the bigger needs here in Haiti. On Friday, Wes was trouble-shooting a system our teams installed for a school of 500+ kids that re-opened this past Monday in tent shelters. It is interesting and encouraging to hear fairly consistently that Haitians see schools re-opening as one of their higher priorities. Just outside a sheltered area stand two tanks. Using a small diesel generator, water is pumped from a well to a large tank, through the filter from one tank to the second one. It's simple, it is easily maintained, and it is sustainable... all criteria for projects we undertake. And such a simple thing makes the education of hundreds of kids viable once again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Serving God in Several Ways

Jon and his team arrived in Haiti this past weekend to serve for the week. As they quickly discovered, there are a variety of ministry and service opportunities. Read the following (re-posted from his blog) which he wrote after the first full day of work.

Well...we did it. We all survived our first real day of work here in Haiti. A quick rundown of the day (as it was best recounted to me by various team members).

1. All were up around 6am and ready to depart to our various work locations by 6:45am.

2. Joe and John M stayed here at the house and worked on the roof of the house where we are staying (we're currently using the first floor of the house and the second floor is being finished). We most likely won't have the metal that will finish the roof off before we go, so they're going to focus on the framing and let a following group complete the project. Maybe another day on this project.

3. Tyler and Ken joined with Wesley (a TG team member) and headed a short distance "up the hill" where they worked on some final assembly of a composting latrine that a previous group had started. This latrine is one of five that will eventually be built as a service to the local community. (If you aren't able to read between the lines, the majority of the community members live in the poorest of conditions and have no functional bathrooms of any kind.) It sounds like there are a few things to be completed here in the next day or so.

4. Amy, Dustin and Suzanne joined up with medical care facility that TG has just formed a new relationship. Turns out it's a clinic/ER/pharmacy/etc. that was established by University of Notre Dame and is staffed almost exclusively by ND grads and staff. Sounds like our team had some fun conversations about our home area. I know that each of our med team had the chance to use their specific training and will continue to be an asset through the week. This team could have possibly been the busiest of all of us today. Dustin shared that he treated over 50 patients in the ER today. And he and one other EMT will be the sole staff on duty there tomorrow!

5. Matt, Greg and Jon had the chance to join with another new partner ministry site. This site is a church/school affiliated with the American Baptist's and Cooperative Baptist's. The school sustained enough damage from the quake that it needed to be leveled and will be entirely rebuilt. The three of us jumped in with eight Haitian nationals and worked to dig out for the foundation of the soon to be rebuilt school. This group was easily the dirtiest at the end of the day.

Now we're waiting for dinner (which smells delicious!). The weather today was beautiful... low to mid 90s, a nice breeze and low humidity. We're all feeling very good about the day! I'm sure we'll all be in bed pretty early tonight, as the day's work catches up with us.

Friday, April 2, 2010

God's Timing

GOD’S TIMING and PLANNING April 1, 2010

I had the trip planned in my head for a week or so, just waiting to hear when the vehicles were released from customs so I could pull the trigger. As soon as Caleb called me last Friday, and told me that 3 of the vehicles were processed, I started making phone calls. The plan was to get a chartered flight into Haiti with any number of the guys we used to fly in during the early days after the earthquake. We could carry some time-sensitive large packages that were waiting to go in, and stuff that the airlines won’t carry- like termite control chemicals. After a few phone calls and waiting for confirmation from another pilot, it was obvious that things were not going to go as smoothly as I had planned them in my head.

I had several “sorry- not available” and a “let me see what we can do”. After pestering the pilots most of the weekend, and knowing that we had limited time to get into and out of Haiti, and still get the vehicles, I started alternative plans. I was able to book flights for Arnold and me into Fort Lauderdale for Monday, and we would have to go from there. This was going to be a one step at a time trip.

On my way to the airport Monday morning, I called a couple of people in Florida to see about availability for picking us up at the airport. One call produced a voicemail message, the other, the happy voice of Ken Friea, a member of the 1st Baptist Church of Deerfield Fl. He “just happened” to have the day off and would be willing to cart us around.

After a fairly turbulent flight into Fort Lauderdale, Arnold and I found each other at the airport, and were met there by Ken. We checked a small commercial carrier that we have used before for flights into Cap Haitien, and were told nothing was flying that day due to weather. We asked them and a couple of other small carriers if they had seats for Tuesday, but no dice. We still had some slight hope that the private pilots would come through, but after a phone call to them, nothing there either.

I fielded a call from Caleb, our contact in Haiti working to get the vehicles out of customs, which delivered bad news. Our 4th truck had arrived in Haiti, but no one could find the title for it. I called our shipper who assured us it was sent and was on the boat that was due to arrive that day in Cap. We had some business to attend to in Fort Lauderdale, in the meantime, and checked in with our warehouse and inspected our latest arrivals of tools and office supplies. We will do 1 more shipment from Florida, and then channel everything else through Rockford.

Ken willingly carted us around for the rest of the day, and we stayed the night with him and his family. We were able to find seats on small commercial airline for a very reasonable price to leave early the next morning from Miami to get into Port au Prince.

We awoke early the next morning for the hour trip to Miami, breezed through check in and security, and boarded the 3rd world airline bound for Port au Prince. But how were we going to get to Cap Haitien? I had not heard back from the booking agent for MAF, a missionary flight service that flies all around Haiti. Both of us being the adaptable flexible types said” Let’s just get in the country and we can figure it out from there.”

Our flight in to Haiti was actually quite enjoyable…. once we were able to get to our seats. Apparently many of the Haitians that were on board thought they were on Southwest, and chose to use the open seating policy. The stewardess’ on this particular carrier were not at all pleased, because once the people found out they were being moved, they insisted that their carry on bags move too.

We had exit row seats and were able to stretch out a bit as there were many empty seats, and for breakfast, we got a fresh croissant and a honey bun. Unexpected service! It’s not a dead concept as some airlines would lead you to believe.

Blue tarps, and a tent city visible on the way into Port Au Prince

We landed and breezed through customs, since we only had carry ons. As we exited customs, there waiting for us in passenger waiting area was a green shirt worn by Charles! No surprise there now that I think about it. He, with his police credentials, is able to access areas not normally accessible by the general public, so he was able to meet us inside the gate rather than in the crazy pushing and shoving of the clamoring crowd outside the gate, all ready to provide portage of your baggage, sell you yet another ugly wooden trinket or just flat out ask you for a dollar.

After exchanging bear hugs- (it seems we always try to see just who can squeeze the hardest) we walked the mile or so to the MAF hanger to see what we could wrangle up for seats to Cap Haitien. We were told that no seats were available, but that the “local” airline would be able to accommodate us with 4 flights per day, and one was soon to leave. I decided to call Caleb and see if he was near the airport, since he said he would be in Port au Prince all day. My thought was to get a ride with him depending on his departure time ( although I must admit the long, winding, extremely bumpy drive at the end of the day was not sounding very appealing).

I called Caleb and he “just happened “to be at the service station across the street from the airport getting tires put on his truck. (How many pairs a month???) Before he came to meet us, the MAF guy came and said, ”Hey-we have a plane coming in and could give you a ride up in an hour!”-Go God!

Caleb and I were able to discuss some details for getting the vehicles off the dock, and I was able to reimburse him the $5400 he paid for getting them out of customs. THAT was a real blessing! We had heard horror stories of other ministries with donated vehicles that had all the supplies and packages inside the vehicles stolen, and the charges for releasing 4 vehicles set at $28000. We consider ourselves blessed, and thank you to all of you who were praying for protection of and the release of those vehicles.

We boarded the 7 seat Kodiak with 3 of us in seats, and several packages along for the ride. Before we took off, Arnold and I noticed Charles fidgeting and rubbing his hands together. Arnold asked him about it, and he said his hands were sweating. I asked him which he was more afraid of, earthquakes or airplane flights, he smiled coyly and said, airplanes.
Don't sweat it Charles!

We had a short, uneventful ½ hour flight to Cap, dodging mountains and big puffy clouds. I still can’t comprehend how a ½ hour flight translates into a 7 hour drive. Henoc met us at the airport and we threaded our way through town to the receiving agent’s office. We sat for a few minutes talking with the husband and wife team, Rico and Parolla. He had worked in both Canada and the states, while she stayed in Haiti building the shipping and receiving company. Rico told me that as a Christian husband, he knew his wife wouldn’t leave Haiti, and he needed to sacrifice the job and money abroad to return to be with her. So now they work together in the business, and have a focus on helping pastors and Christian organizations to get things shipped in at reasonable prices to help their country and at the same time help spread the Gospel.

He also talked of how difficult it is to deal with the government employees at the dock and in customs, because they “don’t really do anything if they don’t feel like it”. He also talked about trying to deliver good customer service, knowing that if the customer is treated right, they will return.” I want repeat business” he said, “not to gouge you one time.” It was very refreshing to hear a business person say that, because that attitude is so different from the majority of the retailers and vendors.

Charles, Arnold and I went to the dock with Rico and he started to walk us through the system. We found out that there was a small “hitch” with one of the vehicles’ VIN numbers that needed to be verified, and that the truck would need to stay one more day, but we could retrieve it about 11AM the next morning.

We went to the customs receiving office and sat in dilapidated metal folding chairs sweating even though the oscillating fan on the ceiling was on high speed. The security guard seated across the small room watched a tv show on his tv/.cell phone. Rico leaned over to me and whispered, “See, that’s what I’m talking about”.

We waited and continued to talk for about an hour before I spotted our parked vehicles still sitting in the fenced area. We were able to pick out the 3 we came to pick up, but saw no sign of the 4th truck with all of our really expensive items loaded on it ; the one that was still waiting on the paperwork to come. I questioned Rico as to where they keep the vehicles when they are shipped in. he said that they are all kept in that same lot. I told him that I didn’t see the other truck. Sensing my concern, he asked if we would like to go and look for it. “Of course!” I said. After trading our IDs for “parking lot” passes, we set off to search for the orange truck with the blue tarp.

Our first stop was at the “on site” police department situated directly in front of the gated entrance to the parking lot, where we exchanged pleasantries with the woman behind the desk who took our names and wrote them on her clipboard. As we walked toward the fenced lot, Arnold spotted the blue tarp, tattered, but still covering most of the cargo. With a strong sense of relief, and an additional spring in our step, we approached the truck to inspect it for any missing items. Everything was just as we packed it. Praise God!

An answered prayer with" blue angels"

Still waiting for the other 2 vehicles to be released, we had nothing but time, so we meandered around the lot looking at the various vehicles, some obviously having been there for extended periods of time. Flat tires, layers of dirt and grime, and flakes of rust surrounded some of the vehicles. Rico pointed out to us that these were the result of customs prices too high to pay and a system that was obviously broken. When the lot gets too full to accommodate any more parked vehicles, the broken down, rusty heaps are auctioned off, so the process can repeat itself.

Finally we saw our vehicles parked in front of the police outpost, and after getting final stamps placed on the documents, and shooting pictures, we FINALLY took possession of our long awaited, much prayed for vehicles!...well, at least 2 of them.

Arnold and Rico in front of the police station at the dock, with Charles "guarding" the vehicles

Praise God for answering our prayers, and thank-you for praying. Please continue to pray for the release of our last truck, that the missing paperwork would be found. Look for the next installment of the continuing saga of the vehicles soon… Truck #3 and the Gressier Delivery.

Kevin Watterson