Monday, May 31, 2010

Haiti--Day 3

Hello from Haiti! A few folks at the guest house got really sick last night. I asked one person what she thought it was and she said "it's the Haiti hello." My hello from Haiti is just a greeting. I'm not sick. Praise the Lord.

Below are some notes from my iPhone, but first here's a quick summary of what's been happening. First, Brian, Caryn and I traveled here with Brent Gambrell Ministries of Nashville. They brought a team of about 45 people from all over the States to do orphan care and work projects. Trip leaders were Mike and Missy Wilson. Great folks. By the way, their son Dillon is a pretty amazing singer/actor/entertainer... don't be surprised if you see his name all over the place one day. GREAT kid too. We all stayed with BGM's primary Haitian ministry partner, Dr. Jacob Bernard and his wife, at their home, the Bethel Guest House in Thomassin. Really nice place. Very kind hosts. The Bernards are the kind of people who have done SO incredibly much with their lives for the kingdom that you kind of feel like a schmuck, if you know what I mean. He has 3 masters degrees from a seminary in TX and 2 PhDs. They run 2 orphanages and have adopted 17 children. Pastors a church. Teaches at a seminary. Blah, blah, blah. Now do you know what I mean about feeling like a schmuck? :)

Had a great time with BGM and the Bernards...

This morning we left the guest house and drove to Titanyen, about 30 miles from Thomassin. Drove straight thru Port au Prince. Can't begin to describe the scene there... devastation... and we're 5 months out from the quake. We will be here until Wed. Our hosts are Chris and Cheryl Brumley, who are with Global Outreach Int'l. Wonderful people. Fed us lunch. Talked about potential partnerships for Fellowship. Toured the church they attend with Cheryl and Pastor Kelley, their pastor.

That's about it for now. I'll post as I'm able and as we have WiFi...

Pray for us. God has definitely gone before us and shaped the trip by guiding conversations and setting the schedule. Really cool to see that happen. Very thankful.

FYI, I would post pics but I can't transfer them to Brian's laptop and I can't pick up the WiFi signal on my iPhone... :(  



Left Bethel Guest House about 30 min ago. Our driver is Nazer Olivier. Gets $100 a day. Has 3 sisters and 2 brothers in West Palm. He went to H.S. in Miami. Moved back home to work for his father, Nadier, also a driver. Mother died when he was 6.

Nazer's house was leveled in the quake. All 7 people inside got out safely. Lost "a lot" of friends and had many who lost arms and legs. Said he spent the 3 days after the quake helping people. No sleep. No food. Said wks following the quake we awful, very bad... especially the smell of dead bodies.

Driving into downtown PaP on our way to Titanyen. People everywhere. Quite a seen. Totally calm (except for the traffic) but bustling with activity. LONG lines at banks and Western Unions... 100+ people waiting? Lots and lots of debris and rubble remains. Much of it has been moved to the sides of streets so traffic can get thru. Some of it has been moved into "fields" that have been leveled off for future building projects. Majority of rubble has been broken up and moved by hand. Just drove by The Palace, where Pres. Prevail was when the quake hit. Nazer said no one knew if Prevail was alive b/c as they found out later he got out of the city to safety. Didn't even hold a press conference to let the people know what was going on.

Just switched vehicles. Went from a Toyota Tercel to a Nissan Pathfinder. The Tercel just wasn't working for the 3 of us and all our luggage. Did I mention that the traffic is nuts here? Just drove by a tent city with upwards of 16,000 people according to Nazer.

One sign of malnutrition is a reddish/yellowish hue in the hair. Seeing LOTS of reddish/yellowish hair and it's not dye.

Eating lunch with the Chris and Cheryl Brumley (of Global Outreach Int'l) and Pastor Kelley Balde (of Titanyen Baptist Church). Pastor Kelley oversees 18 churches and pastors 2 of them full time. Sunday service times: 4:30-6AM and 7-9AM; Sunday School is 6-7AM. Why so early? B/c of the heat. Said that for 2 months after the quake the Haitians would not go inside a building with a concrete roof b/c they were afraid of another quake hitting.

Touring Titanyen Baptist Church with Pastor Kelley and Cheryl. The church suffered some damage but not much. Outside of a $1000 gift from a US church, they have done all the repairs by themselves. Amazing considering the poverty here.

Waiting for dinner. In honor of Memorial Day, Chris and Cheryl got American beef and we're having burgers on the grill tonight. Very nice people.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Haiti--Day 1

[ From my iPhone notepad. ]


Landed at 10:45AM, got thru immigration, then on to baggage, which was absolute chaos. Somewhere between the plane and baggage claim someone swiped an Aquafina water bottle off my backpack. Oh well. Exited the "terminal" (the old AA hangar; main airport is closed b/c of earthquake) only to enter more chaos. Lots of guys wanting to "help" us with our bags and carts. Let me just say that what pavement is there is riddled with potholes the size of TX and that's the good parts of the street, so pushing a 3 wheeled luggage cart with 6 bags was... challenging. We are now waiting in a gravel/mud lot waiting for our ride. Sweating like mad. Good times.

Still waiting for our ride. If the environmentalists are concerned about carbon footprints in the US, they ought to come here. I've breathed in more diesel fumes in the past hour than I do in a month in Franklin. :) Good times.

My first ride in a "tap tap". And what is a "tap tap"? I guess you could say it's Haiti's version of a cab, except it's a truck, you sit in the back on benches, and when you want to get out, you "tap tap" on the roof. If you thought a taxi ride in New York, Boston, or Chicago was interesting, you ought to see try these things. Good times.

We landed at 10:45AM. Now leaving airport. 3 hours and 15 minutes to get off airport grounds. No big deal... I've waited for a couple hours at O'Hare.

The tap tap driver behind us shuts his truck off while sitting in traffic... I'm assuming to save fuel... I assumed wrong... it's overheating. We are driving thru "market". All kinds of produce, merchandise, and chickens. I like to call them "stickens" b/c they are skinny as a stick.

Just arrived at Bethel Guest House... Missy says it's the worst traffic they've ever seen. 25 miles. 2 hours. This place is NICE. Beautiful. Not at all what I was expecting.

Dinner was great. Rice and beans. Shepherds pie. Bread. A Coke... and a smile. Team meeting at 7:30.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday, May 29--12:00PM
Just landed, got thru immigration, then on to baggage, which was absolute chaos, but we made it. Somewhere between the plane and baggage claim someone swiped an Aquafina water bottle off my backpack. Oh well. Exited the "terminal" (the old AA hangar; main airport is closed b/c of earthquake) only to enter more chaos. Lots of guys wanting to "help" (for a fee, of course) with our bags and carts. Let me just say that what pavement there is is riddled with potholes the size of TX and that's the good parts of the street, so pushing a 3 wheeled luggage cart with 6 bags was... challenging. We are currently waiting in a gravel/mud lot waiting for our ride (estimated wait time: 1 hour, but why do I get the feeling it will be longer; be flexible, right? :)) Sweating like mad. And someone is cooking something somewhere and it smells amazing. Good times.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Heading to Haiti

It all started on Wednesday with a v-mail from a friend and it went like this...

"Gregory, hey it's Petak. Let me float this idea by you. It's wild and it's crazy. I know that a lot of things would have to fall into place for this to happen, but here it is. The first contingency is this. Are you free May 29th to June 5th? If you are, do you have any interest in going to Haiti with me on a reconnaissance mission to land the plane with what Fellowship is doing by way of a partnership with Haiti? I know the 27th is the anniversary of Luke's death. I know that's going to be very, very hard, so I'm mindful of that, and maybe a May 29th departure is too close to that. Totally understand, but wanted to see if this is a possibility. Call me. See ya. Bye."

A little history...

Who's Petak? -- Brian Petak is the Global Outreach and Equipping Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church (FBC) in Brentwood, the church we've been attending since moving to Nashville. He's also our community group leader, a really good guy and a valued friend. 

What's the reconnaissance mission? -- In the two months following the massive earthquake that struck Haiti last January, FBC received more than $100,000 in funds designated for relief efforts. Brian and the leadership team have been actively pursuing strategic partnerships in Haiti to determine the best use of those funds. This trip, in part, will be focused on solidifying those partnerships. We will also be joining a Fellowship Student Ministries (FSM) team, which will be serving in orphanages, helping with various construction projects, and ministering in local schools, churches and villages.   

What things would have to fall into place? -- Two immediate things: (1) I had to find my passport, which was somewhere in our storage unit (emphasis on the 'somewhere' part). No passport, no travel. Here's the cool thing: Brian had a hold on an airline ticket for me, but it was set to expire at around 3pm on Thursday. I literally pulled my passport out of a file cabinet at about 2:57 and immediately texted Brian with the news (I think I typed 'Score!!!'). He called me a couple minutes later to confirm. Total answer to prayer. (2) I had to get my immunizations and malaria meds and was able to get both on Friday. A big thanks to Nicol for making some phone calls and to Jenny (???) at Passport Health in Brentwood who stayed at the office 2 hours late to help me out. Another answer to prayer. 

May 27th -- If not for the awful reality, it would be impossible to believe that this Thursday will be the second anniversary of Luke's passing. As I type, I'm looking up at his photo... the one where he's sticking his tongue out. It's still just so hard to believe he's not with us. Those eyes. That hair. His sweet spirit. What a beautiful boy. Thursday will be hard, this whole week is going to be hard. My first thoughts about going to Haiti were that the timing is bad and that it wouldn't be a good idea to leave Nicol right now. But she is ALL for it and I'm so thankful for that... but it is going to be hard to be away from her and Summer.

So there you go. Lord willing, I'll be in Port-au-Prince one week from today. I'll get details out as I have them (as quickly as this has come together, I've yet to look at all the info regarding itinerary, packing, what to take, what not to take, etc.) and as I have time (there's a lot to get done!). In the meantime, maybe you could be praying... I'll give specific requests in the next several days, but for now just pray in whatever way you may think of.