Friday, January 6, 2017

A Tapestry Woven: part 2 (aka All Justin's Fault)

{First things first: If you haven't read part 1, you can find it HERE.}

Like I said before, it was all Justin's fault.

He had volunteered me to teach women to sew, but after my first trip, I was much less apprehensive about going. I gathered a team of wonderful seamstresses and we had worked hard raising money, collecting donations, and preparing to help set up this program. Little did we know how things would pan out.

It had been unclear what was going to happen before we arrived, but all of my expectations started unraveling:

I thought there were going to be six women; there were three.

I thought we were going to be making garments, but ended up focusing on making small bags.

I thought we had a Haitian sewing manager that was going to be there, but she was in the US when we arrived in Haiti.

I thought there was a plan for the program after we left, but it had gotten waylaid.

Things were not lining up the way we assumed they would.

The thing about going on a trip--really any trip--is that things often go differently than planned. Flexibility is the key. In addition to teaching the three women who had come, we decided to invite some girls from another orphanage down the road to learn to sew. It was perfectly chaotic and amazing.

I can't tell you the emotional exhaustion that comes from teaching sewing to women, especially in a foreign language. I tried to twist the same Creole phrase in order to communicate a multitude of things. I think I sounded like an idiot. But I tried.

Then came a pivotal moment for my life, although I didn't know it at the time. 

The president of Chances for Children, Kathi, broke the news to me: the Director of the Women's Empowerment Program had resigned and there was no one to oversee it. It would not go on after we left. She said, "It's great that you taught these women to sew, but I don't have time to oversee it."

I thought about University Fellowship who had supported our team, donated a ton of money and supplies to help make this happen. I thought about how this wasn't even my idea in the first place! We were there because it was what the Director of the program wanted to do! I thought about the money and time sacrificed by the team of six women who had come to teach sewing. I thought about the women who were counting on having a job to support their families.

No, the program had to go on. "We will oversee it," I told Kathi.

In my mind, the "we" in that statement was a multitude of people somehow. A village. A church. The "we" was certainly not a "me." After all, I did not think I was coming back, or was I? Details about the "we" in my promise was all starting to get a little fuzzy.

to be continued . . .

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A tapestry woven: part 1

Here's the story in a nutshell:
It's all Justin's fault.

He made me do it.

I have witnesses.

It was August 2014 and I got a call from Justin, who was in line for US Customs in Miami. (Isn't that illegal?) He told me that he had volunteered me to teach women in Haiti to sew. 

Thanks a lot. I've always wanted to go to Haiti. Except not really at all. 

Justin had already been on multiple trips to what I (and others) sort-of think as a godforsaken place. Ravaged by poverty, hunger, and natural disasters, Haiti wasn't on my top 150 countries to visit. Ever. 

I half-heartedly agreed to go. 

But the trip kept getting cancelled. 

Cancelled? You know, things like elections. Riots. Everyday Haiti crazy stuff.

February 2015--text from my friend Renee, "Do you want to go to Haiti with Krista and I in 2 weeks?"

And that was it. It was the trip I was destined for. There were only 5 American girls and we were there to go to three feeding programs. Our jobs were to take pictures of the kids and weigh them, which seems simple enough except that it was Haiti--and if you ever get there you will know what I mean. Utter chaos. Plus, I was seeing what I had never seen before: starving children.

Here's a little trip inside my head while I was there:
Breathe. Take a deep breath. Do not cry. These kids should not see me cry. Oh my goodness! That kid over there is sharing his food with another. He's hungry I'm sure, but for whatever reason still shares his food with another. {I have to turn my head and hold back tears at this point. This is not survival of the fittest; this is serving one another in love. Wow.}

I knew that there were starving children in the world, but to see them was appalling. Another girl, Krista, was walking around the church building where the feeding program was held in Massikot. Looking around, I was in true amazement. If they are so hungry, how is anyone here even alive at all? I asked Krista, "What do they eat?"

"They make cookies out of the clay dirt, mixed with water. They dry them in the sun and eat them to fill their bellies." she answered. It was and still is unfathomable to me. 

The other thing I knew about Haiti was that there was an orphan crisis. What I didn't realize was that 80% of children living in Haitian orphanages had at least 1 living parent. Why? In most cases, because they can't afford to provide for them. Doesn't this seem preventable to anyone else? Chances for Children was fighting against this crisis, first--providing an essential need: food. In their own villages. But they were also going a step further, offering jobs to empower parents to provide for their families. I would soon understand so much more . . .

I went home and had a lot on my mind. At the time, I had no idea what God had in store for me, for Chances for Children, for what I would come to know as Zel (translated "Wings" in English).

Then it finally happened.

You know, the trip.

The one that Justin volunteered me to go on--teaching women to sew.

The one that turned into more than just a week of volunteering.

And it's all Justin's fault.

to be continued . . .