Hard to say goodbye

Tim and I have been in Haiti nearly five years, yet today we are witness to something that ranks in the top five (top three?) events on the sadness scale.

It may surprise some of you, especially with so much poverty, corruption, and death, but my heart is breaking as I type this.

You see, one of our technicians is leaving to start a new life in Chile. Most people might think this is a good thing – to get out of Haiti. Those with wanderlust might even be a bit jealous. But we know that K doesn’t want to go. We know that he is scared to go. If I had a dollar for every time he came to the house just so we could sit and talk about the possibility of him going, and then the reality of him going, I could buy a ticket and go with him.

You see, K’s family decided for him that he needs to go. Normally, the oldest son would bear the responsibility of providing support to the family, but this family knows that the oldest son doesn’t have a good track record. If he went, they would likely never hear from him again.

K is a family man. As is expected in the culture, the money he earns at work benefits everyone in his family. If he is lucky enough to find a decent job in Chili, he is honorable and trustworthy enough to send money back to family in Haiti.

His leaving has been a lengthy process. I can no longer remember when he first mentioned the possibility of going, but it’s probably been close to a year. The passport took a while to secure, and when it arrived, it had a typo. Fixing it cost more time and money. Truth-be-told, I relished every obstacle because it meant him staying here longer, but his family accused him of dragging his feet and wasting valuable resources. He was kicked out of his house for a while until everything was resolved.

Eventually, everything was resolved, and now travel day is here. When this blog posts online, Tim and I will be driving him to Port-au-Prince, along with the rest of our staff.

Yes, I’m sad that K is leaving because we are losing a kind, conscientious, hard-working employee. More than that, I’m sad because I know that he doesn’t want to go. I’m sad because he is scared. I’m sad because I know that he will miss his nephew, who he treats as a son, like crazy. I’m sad that his family put him in such an undesirable position. I’m sad because he has no choice. Better said, he has no good choice. He can choose to do what his family wants or he can do what he wants. Either way, he winds up separated from his family – by distance if he chooses to put family first, or he will be ostracized for putting his own desires first. I’m sad because I know that K will have to learn some very hard life lessons as he navigates a new world. I’m sad because the chances of us ever seeing him again are slim to none.

I’m sad because so many people here think that other countries are the promised land. We can explain all day long about unemployment rates and cost of living indexes in other countries, but they mean nothing. From what we’ve heard, jobs in Chile are scarce, especially for 24-year old men who don’t speak Spanish and have no college degree.

(People won’t try a new fertilizer on their crops because the risk is too great, but they’ll spend thousands of dollars to send someone off to another country. Desperation makes people do funny things.)

I’m sad because we are seeing our other technicians say goodbye to a friend… again. We went through this last year when Jucado emigrated to Brooklyn, though that goodbye was a lot more celebratory.

I’m sad because this country seems to be OK with superficial relationships. In reality, I know it’s a survival technique. After all, goodbyes are inevitable and frequent. Why would you want to get close to someone who is just going to leave? We can handle the pain of separation from time to time, but when separation happens as often as it does here – either by travel or death – you have to find a way to cope in order to survive.

I realize that this post is kind of a downer. Normally, I would be excited for someone who gets to try something new, but this goodbye is tougher than usual because the circumstances surrounding it are tough.

In a few hours, Tim and I will accompany K to the ticket counter at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, help him get checked in, and go as far as we can with him. We will hug goodbye one last time before returning to our truck for what I suspect will be a very quiet ride home with the rest of our staff.

We know that as much as we love K, God loves him even more. Just this past Monday, K and I sat in the living room discussing the various challenges and obstacles that life had brought and will continue to bring. We spent some time reading Ephesians 6:10-18 together. After all, it’s hard to do battle without the proper equipment. Thankfully, we have the instructions and tools, even in our sadness and uncertainty.

Those of you who believe in the power of prayer, please join us in praying for this young man. He’s going to need it.


K and me during one of our “about life” chats.


We took our guys to the beach for the day – combination celebration of the past year and farewell party


Friends and colleagues


Special treat – we rented a jet ski for 1/2 hour


Best $40 we’ve spent in a long time


The night before traveling


I asked for a picture with this suitcase. I bought it in 1998 to use to travel back and forth to AL when my brother was sick. It’s been to a lot of places and is loaded with memories. Now, it is going to Chile.



Smiling while holding back the tears

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It’s official. I need therapy.

As I was working at my computer the other day, I could not escape the sound of a crying chick. The thing is, crying chicks are nothing out of the ordinary here. After all, it’s common knowledge in the Borel chicken community that if you show up at Madame Tim’s house, you will get fed. New moms show up with their brood on a pretty regular basis.

The thing is, this little chick showed up (seemingly) out of nowhere. It wasn’t with a mama or siblings, nor had I seen any new mamas with babies about the same size. And it wasn’t sickly, so it hadn’t been abandoned by its family. There’s normal chicken behavior and patterns and this little guy/gal wasn’t following the norm.

The crying was incessant; I couldn’t concentrate on my work because of it. This little chick was too young to be on its own! I even went for a walk around the compound to confirm what I already suspected to be true… the family wasn’t here. But where was it?

And then I remembered that a few days earlier, I’d seen a new hen show up for food. I had chastised her for coming because I could hear babies crying on the other side of a wall. What kind of mom leaves her babies for a few grains of rice? (One who is trying to feed her babies; that’s who.)

I hopped up on a concrete partition to peak over the wall, and sure enough, the same mama hen was there, laying in some grass close to the wall. When she saw me, she got up and two little chicks appeared from under her belly. Lo and behold, they were the size of the little one running around outside of our house. Mystery solved.

I followed the chick around the yard trying to catch it, and we circled the house more the once, all to no avail. Anyone watching me would have thought I was nuts. The only thing I succeeded at was making all of the other moms and babies very nervous. After some serious persuasion (and a bit of pleading), Tim came outside to help me. When one of the Haitian boys showed up for water, we enlisted his help. And then Charity stopped by to see what was going on, so we put her to work too.

Finally, little chick got tired enough that I was able to scoop it up. I reached into a hole in the wall where some PVC pipe comes through and deposited baby on the other side. Tim tossed some rice to the ground to draw Mom closer to the cries – it worked like a charm. Mom, baby, and sibs found each other.

The experience was kind of a silly way to spend the morning, but I found that as I went throughout the day, there was little that brought me down because I was just so happy for this chicken family! Crazy, right???? I KNOW.

A short while ago, as I was breaking up pieces of bread for the usual crew, new mom stood atop the wall – able to see babies to her left and me to her right. I tossed a piece of bread her way, and she flew out of sight with it in her beak. Once again, I hopped on top of the concrete partition to peer over the wall; she was dutifully tending to all three chicks.

I have no idea why it was so important for me to see this family reunited or why it brings me so much joy to see them together. They are CHICKENS.

In my attempt to make this story relevant, I’m reminded of Matthew 6:25-27:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

God uses different circumstances and people to help us deal with trials in our life. That day, he used me to help reunite a family of chickens. If He cares that much for them, how much more does He care about you?

Keep the faith, friends. Just as God used me that day, stay obedient to how He wants to use you, even when it seems crazy.

Keep the faith, friends. Just as Mama Hen waited on the other side of the wall because she knew her baby was close, God waits for us. He hears our cries and stays close.


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That’s a Negative

Oh my goodness, I feel like my heart could explode right out of my chest right now.

A few months ago, a dear, sweet Haitian friend asked me to pray for her because she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The diagnosis was a huge shock, and the thought of this beautiful young mother of three having to deal with the disease just tore me up inside. As I prayed aloud with and for her, I prayed for the will of God to be done, but inside, my prayer was “Please, God, not her. Not anyone, but especially not her!”

A few weeks ago, I saw her on the campus and asked about her health. Though the diagnosis weighed heavily on her, she continued to put her faith in God. At that same time, I told her about a cancer center in Port-au-Prince that would treat patients for free. I had only recently learned of the Center’s existence; it was when I was trying to find help for another woman in town who was dying of breast cancer (There is Mercy).

A few minutes ago, I saw this beautiful friend. She told me about all the people who were praying for her; people who prayed from 6am to 6pm. She told me about a dream she had on May 20th where many of her friends came to her house to pray for her. She told me that after that dream, she felt like she could eat again because she sensed a change in her body, a body that has been giving her problems since last year. She told me that she visited the cancer center in Port on May 28; the one that I told her about. She went with her piece of paper from another medical center that said “Cancer – positive.”

The only thing is, after they examined her extensively, she got a new piece of paper; a piece of paper that said “Cancer – NEGATIVE.”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! I am bursting with joy on behalf of this friend!!!!

I know that there are many of you who do not believe in the healing power of prayer, but this testimony was pretty darn powerful. There are people who will explain it away as a false positive the first time through, but that combined with the physical difficulties she had over the past year make that argument weak. What a coincidence it was that I had only recently learned about a hospital that had specialized care for those who have cancer. It overwhelms me.

With all the poop that is going on in the world, it was so very wonderful to be the recipient of such GOOD news. I told her how very much her testimony encouraged me to keep the faith, especially in difficult times.

I realize that not everyone’s story turns out the same way. We’ve seen a lot of death here, and I lost my mother and my brother to the ugly C. For today, however, my heart is full, full, full of joy and happiness for my friend. I hope that her good news also gives you reason to smile this evening.

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