Category Archives: Haiti

“She has chosen that good part”

I’ve been putting writing off this blog post for a few weeks while I gathered my thoughts. I knew what I wanted to do, but sometimes I have to wait for the right day and mood to write it. Today is that day. The days when I feel weighed down with worries and burdens of those around me are¬†the perfect times to write stories [that I secretly hope people actually read]. You can skip to the bottom bolded section if you want the short version of what’s about to happen in our neck of the woods….I won’t hold a grudge. ūüėČ

“[Rebecca, Rebecca], you are worried and troubled about many things.”

Isn’t it so much more personal when you put your own name in there? (Just in case you aren’t familiar, it’s the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.)

He’s been calling my name for a while now. To be a little more precise, since around the time we were preparing to live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 6 months (summer of 2015). I knew it would be unlikely that I’d be able to attend births as a doula or birth photographer while I was there because of childcare situation/not knowing anyone. So I thought maybe I’d get the chance to work on some behind-the-scenes stuff for Hope for a Village. What really ended up happening is that my 30-year-old husband had to live in a dorm with a bunch of 18-to-20-year-olds because someone in the National Guard office here wouldn’t “let” him live in an apartment 15 minutes away from the base with his wife and two kids. And I drove them every evening when he was done with (You want to talk about stress? LOL! It was literally off the charts.) Needless to say, nothing much got done for the Hope for a Village website or anything else I wanted to do. (Like, oh I don’t know, maybe finish blogging an actual part 3, 4, and 5 from my last Haiti trip?!)

“But one thing is needed…”

This fall I quietly changed any portrait photography commissions I received to be a fundraiser for HFAV. I never shared it on Facebook, but told some people in person about it. I was afraid people would think I was crazy. It’s not your typical business model. I thought it would help fulfill that feeling of “what God wants me to do with this part of my life.” But something still wasn’t sitting right. I thought it would be an easy way to help fund a few small HFAV projects. And it has, and I’m SO grateful for that. But something still felt “off.”

Matt, meanwhile, kept asking me what I wanted to do in my life. I kept thinking, “Are you seriously asking me this? Haven’t we hashed this out a dozen times? I am 32, God has blessed my¬†doula business to be so much busier than I ever imagined, I still get to have fun on the side with my art, I’m actively working on my IBCLC goal, and you’re asking what I want to do with my life?!

I think he might have heard what I wasn’t saying. Sometimes I’d sigh and say, “I wish I didn’t have to work so much. I really want to do ~blahblahblah~ for Hope for a Village.” He told me multiple times I didn’t have to work so much anymore if I didn’t really want to. We were at a place now financially where I could actually do that (but I was having trouble accepting that since this was a new thing to us. Since he kept saying things like this and he has a knack for seeing things I can’t, I took some time to think about it. What did I really want to do with my life? What was most important to me at this phase in my life?

Eventually I had two lists in my head of personal and professional goals. What I wanted:

  • Finish my IBCLC certification
  • to use the business skills I’ve gained the past 9 years to help improve Hope for a Village behind the scenes
  • to use my training and experience as a lactation consultant and doula to help change families’ health & lives (…ultimately, in Haiti)
  • to live somewhere with better academic choices/opportunities for my boys
  • to spend more time outdoors (I was missing it – and my garden – because of too much work.)
  • to live simply, not surrounded by electronics and busy things that were slowly creeping their way into my home
  • to not be so busy that I can’t make art for the pure enjoyment of making it (not just when someone wants to pay me for it)
  • to spend more time with my¬†family and friends
  • to spend more time in the presence of God

…and what I didn’t want:

  • to be stuck inside at a computer all day (which I do a lot of for business purposes)
  • to lose track of what is most important in life because I’m always working
  • to lose the time and effort (and a $900 scholarship) I had already put into completing my 90-hour lactation course that would count towards the IBCLC exam
  • to choose a place to live based on job opportunities but lacking in outdoor recreation and large-scale gardening opportunities (we want to grow fruit trees and berries and have bees)
  • to get caught up in the busyness¬†of a big city that I forget I wanted all of the things on List 1

I had to swallow some pride to accept that the first two things were what I truly wanted to do right now as far as career goals went. And that I needed to lay down some others that were keeping me too busy for the other things on that first list. Especially the last one….because just One thing is needed…..and being so busy with other things made it easy to put off THAT thing. (Yet that is the thing that keeps me sane during my workdays!)

“…and [she] has chosen that good part…”

Y’all¬†this is the best line! (That’s why I used it as the blog title.) ūüėČ The good part is Him! He is the honored guest in Mary and Martha’s home. He is the one for whom Martha was trying so hard to prepare a wonderful meal. I don’t blame Martha too much…I think she truly had a heart to serve those she loved (as well as strangers in her home!). But¬†it’s so easy to get distracted from the most important things when you’re always looking after other people. It doesn’t mean she loved Jesus any less. She just needed a reminder.

Mary realized something Martha hadn’t yet. She recognized the need to stop serving and took the opportunity to feed her soul. She gave up the busyness of her life to be with Him. She sat down to rest and listen, learn, and rejoice with Him.¬†Jesus¬†was her choice.

I love doula work, but I feel like right now I need to slow down on that so I can refocus on Him. Slowing down will also enable me to accomplish those first two goals¬†(and some of those lifestyle changes). I believe God has big plans for ministering to the Cotes-de-fer area, both physically and spiritually. When I’m caught up in the busyness of running a business, it’s hard to do that. And it’s hard for me to sit at the feet of Jesus and really listen and learn. And He’s been calling my name…

The funny part is…when I do work on things for HFAV, I feel¬†closer to God. It makes me think about His ways, His words, His truth. It makes me feel so much smaller and makes Him feel¬†so much bigger and real than any type of ministry I’ve done here. I know Christianity is¬†not supposed to be all about our own feelings, but the fact is that we are made in His image, and emotions are going to be a part of our walk with God. And it’s partly unexplainable for me….but some of you know what I mean. You just know that’s what you’re supposed to do.¬†It’s a peace that passes all [human] understanding.

So this is what this all looks in a practical sense:

  • I’ll be scaling back on how many births I do. (Actually I’ve already started this.) Right now I am aiming for lower-stress situations for me….that probably sounds really selfish to people who aren’t birth workers but that’s what I need to do right now to accomplish these other things. So I’ll still greatly appreciate your referrals, but I may not take on every family that asks. I’ll just refer them on to other good doulas that I know and trust.
  • I’ll be looking for a mentorship or place(s) to get my 500-1,000 hours. I need about 10 consistent hours at a clinic every week over the next 2-3¬†years to complete either pathway.
  • I’ll be dedicating certain hours as a routine each week to working on Hope for a Village. This means finding childcare for my over-the-top, energetic, can’t-turn-my-back-on-him preschooler. Momma needs a break every now and then. ūüėČ
  • I’ll take on commissioned portraits of mommas and babies if they happen to come my way,¬†and for the time being they will continue to be as a fundraiser for HFAV. Eventually those might also be a personal funding source for my trips there, but for now this will help with some HFAV projects. I don’t plan on putting in very much effort to this right now so I can focus on HFAV and doing my hours each week. Eventually I’d love to find a way to sell art online, but that’s a later goal…
  • I’ll be doing less posting on my business Facebook pages (but possibly blog¬†more birth stories, art, and personal photos). In general, less time on Facebook (I hope). I get a lot of business through FB and I feel like I’m constantly on there replying to messages and creating posts. It makes me feel extra-busy and I need a break from it.
  • I’ll be trying to see more people face-to-face over coffee or park playdates with our kids, or on the Marco Polo app. (It’s a video chat app on both Android¬†and iPhone¬†that makes it a lot easier to see someone’s face when you talk than some other popular apps out there.¬†I LOVE seeing the beautiful faces of friends whom I don’t get to see very often because of time or distance! I’ve already had so many good, real conversations with friends on there this spring. It’s so much better than seeing their posts on Facebook as a way to keep up! Please let me know if you download it and want to add me. (I think we each have to plug¬†each other’s phone numbers in our phones to get each other to show up.)
  • We will eventually be selling our house and finding a place with more land. This is correlated to the timing of some additional training my husband has to do for the National Guard. In the next few years we will have to spend¬†time in Texas and St. Louis before finding our land. No, we don’t have dates yet. It’s the military. We continue to wait…So right now I’m purging the house of a lot of things we don’t need!

Ultimately I would like to use my experience as a lactation consultant, doula, and business owner in Haiti to help improve maternal-infant outcomes there, just like I do here. But God calls people to work in different locations for different reasons….Human borders are nothing to the way God works. Thankfully my many imperfections and inabilities don’t matter; He can work around those (ever read about Moses¬†and how bad of a public speaker he thought he was?) These are all just little steps along the way to that vision. When I’m done with these I’ll move on to¬†more intensive language-learning of Creole and French. But one thing at a time. ūüėČ

haiti-portraits

Missy

I am so happy for you Rebecca. Thank you for sharing your heart. This blog is written from a place of peace. I can totally feel that. It’s amazing how God is revealing Himself to you and through you. Its amazing how life with God works. It’s amazing how God sometimes uses the simplest of situations to stear us towards the directions He wants us to go and how He helps us to realize that the things that used to matter suddenly have less meaning and still able to have a sense of peace about it all. God is just amazing!

Art for Purchase: “Behold, I make all things new”

behold I make all things new

This image is copyrighted by International Copyright laws. Please support the artist and do not screen shot, print, or otherwise copy this image to any device. BUT, feel free to share the link to this page with your friends!

Buy a print to support missions work in Haiti

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These little guys surprised me one day in the bushes at the back of my yard. Something about the simple, pure white eggs intrigued me as I watched the sunlight dance through the honeysuckle leaves across their smooth surface. When the sun hit them just right from slightly behind the nest, I could see how translucent they were. ¬†I waited til the next day when the puffy clouds filtered the sun a bit so I could photograph them without blowing out the highlights. I tried to get some of the mother bird (a soft gray morning dove) before she fluttered off for a bit, but it was a bit difficult with a toddler in my left arm who wanted to see the bird and eggs, and a camera in the other. I’ll have to try that again when my little guy is wandering around the yard and doesn’t realize what I’m doing!

There were a number of words and themes that this image reminded me of. Pure….hope….newness….. Ultimately I decided on this verse from Revelation 21¬†because it fits the theme of my life. (And it is almost Mother’s Day!) I have some exciting changes happening this year, and while I haven’t quite gotten to that blog post yet, this is just a hint of what’s to come. And yes, I am gearing up for another trip to C√ītes-de-fer, so the proceeds from any purchases of this image will go towards that trip. (I volunteer with www.HopeforaVillage.org)

If you’d like to purchase a digital copy and/or a commercial license for this image for your church or business, please contact me with the details of your request to get a quote. The Paypal button above will allow you to purchase a variety of square ratio sizes in printed format. The paper will be deep matte photographic paper & come without a mat. Please email me for a quote if you’d like to include a mat.

Eliesha Hagemann

That is gorgeous!!! love!!

Sara Newton

This is so beautiful! ūüôā Well done friend! ūüôā

Proceeds from Portraits go to Vocational Scholarships in Haiti

(I apologize for the lack of photos in this post; my website is having issues uploading them at the moment. But you can check out photos from my last trip to Haiti in Haiti РPart One and Haiti РPart Two. I never quite got around to blogging the other parts I had in mind, so this is what it is for now!)

A few months ago, I made a quiet little change to my portrait business…you may have noticed it if you poked around last fall. All proceeds from portrait sessions will now benefit vocational scholarships for young people through Hope for a Village in southern rural Haiti. (When a scholarship is completed it may be sent towards paying for Haitian doctors and nurses at our community pop-up clinics.) This area was hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, but is an area that I have been to a few years ago and will travel to again in the future.

In Cotes-de-fer, Haiti, young adults make plans for their city. They do things like create their own¬†trash removal system to keep the streets of their town clean. That was the story that partly inspired this change in my business. It was the answer to my asking God, “How can I use my skills to help in a tangible way?” For several months I pondered the idea of doing a family portrait event where the proceeds went to HFAV, but He had something BIGGER in store.

The first scholarship will be to send a local woman to a skilled birth worker training program that’s already in place, Midwives for Haiti. I’ve been told by my friend Missy, the Hope for a Village¬†founder who is originally from Cotes-de-fer, that many of the school teachers in the area are actually trained as nurses! Medical school is paid by the government as long as students agree to live in Haiti (and not leave for other Caribbean islands or the US, taking their medical skills with them). However, there aren’t enough jobs to go around to all the students when they graduate medical school.¬†On my last trip, I met a tiny lay¬†midwife, her sun baked by the sun and her bones tired from traveling many miles to get to all the births in the area. At that time, she said she was the only midwife still working births. It’s possible there was a “lost in translation” moment, but our translator said she was doing 8 births a week. A WEEK!!!

The¬†need for more midwifery skills in the area is great. The options for families were either use the one local midwife, go to the small clinic in town, or go 2 hours to the closest [just okay-quality] hospital. It is 4.5+ hours to the best hospital in the country if you have a major issue. (And even then, it doesn’t mean you’ll get care….AND you’ll have to purchase all your medications and supplies at the random street vendor/pharmacy next door before they’ll treat you…) Recently there was a hospital built by a ministry, which opened at the beginning of December.¬†The cost to deliver a baby is highest at hospitals, followed by a clinic, followed by a community midwife. If you have absolutely no money, you’re looking at giving birth with maybe your mother (if she’s still alive) or your sister. And that poses some major risks if something goes downhill (not to mention some risky old wives’ tales surrounding birth and breastfeeding practices). A trained birth attendant can save lives¬†in this country!!

That’s one less baby without a mama…one less heartache for a family….

I knew with the circles I run in that I would be able to connect her and other interested women with educational opportunities. I just didn’t know what that would look like until now. (On that note, if you are a midwife who would like to come with us on a trip to that area to teach continuing education classes for nurses, PLEASE message me!)

To be honest, I am booked quickly as a doula/birth photographer and my calendar stays as full as I want it at this point. Not to overuse the phrase, but I’m really, truly blessed to be¬†going to births and helping families or documenting their incredible birth stories! I felt like this was the direction God wanted me to take the portrait side of my business for the time being. So what does this look like in a practical sense? After cost of the product and a percentage of basic business expenses, the rest will be sent to Hope for a Village, earmarked for a particular scholarship or medical missions trip (to pay our Haitian doctor & nurse friends for helping at the free clinics we do for the most needy in the area). My model of creating art for your walls stays the same. Just because this is essentially a fundraiser for a non-profit doesn’t mean I’m going to cheapskate what I believe is an important thing – a physical, tangible, high-quality, printed piece of artwork that you will enjoy seeing in your home. It also means that I’m sticking with what I love to shoot: anything babies, maternity, & family. Just because the proceeds are¬†for charity doesn’t mean I’m going to shoot an event or your dogs. Sorry, but it’s true…I used to do little stuff like that & enjoyed it at the time, but I don’t anymore. I really want to focus on creating this type of art involving families. It also means it will remain an investment to hire me. I am making you custom artwork. Yes, my prices may be higher than everyone and their sister’s husband’s cousin’s friend, but they are worth it. The quality products I’ve located through some special companies are amazing and the ART that is¬†on them is created for your family to enjoy for generations.

If you’d like to book your own session, please visit the packages¬†page for more information.

 

This. Is. Haiti. Part Two – A Heart Full of Love

Real Stories of Faith, Hope, & Love in Haiti

Part Two: A Heart Full of Love

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

Ephesians 2:4-5

I had been to Haiti once before with another organization that our church supports.¬† Both Matt & I had gone on the same trip (in 2007) and we both knew God was going to have us come back.¬† We were 100% prepared to move there after we got married, although we didn’t really have a solid idea of what we’d be doing.¬† We stepped out in faith & did the things that God asked us to do….but things just didn’t work out & doors were closed.¬† We were so confused because we thought we had been doing what God asked…yet it all seemed like a test.¬† A few months later, we found out we had a baby on the way, and during the course of my pregnancy/birth, I became passionate about sharing healthy birth with moms (particularly new moms).¬† Two years later I became a doula.

mother-with-baby-in-haiti-ayiti

Momma with her 10-month-old baby at the clinic in LaSous, a rural area outside of Cotes-de-fer, Haiti. Haitian babies are FAT! (And I mean that in a good way – babies are supposed to be fat!)

Lots of life changes had happened since that first trip!¬† With that, I finally knew more of what God’s plan for me in Haiti was: Change birth to glorify Him and to share with the moms that they are loved by the most magnificent Father.¬† The details are still being revealed to me along the way, but I dream of this happening all over Haiti.¬†¬† (If you aren’t aware, Haiti has the worst maternal death rate in the Western Hemisphere; it is a 1 in 11 chance of dying from childbirth during your lifetime.¬† Eleven.)¬† [Sorry, I cannot remember where I found that statistic a few months ago, but will update it with a reference if I can find it.]

Then I met Missy a few years ago when my father-in-law (a pastor) told me she was holding Haitian Creole lessons for people in the area who were interested in traveling to Haiti. Missy is originally from Cotes-de-fer and moved to the states when she was a teenager.¬† She eventually got married & moved to Branson, where she became an nurse.¬† At that time, I told her I’d thought about opening a birth center in Haiti where women could have a safe, clean place to give birth, attended by a loving & well-trained midwife.¬† She also mentioned that she wanted to open up a clinic and a birth center in her hometown area.¬† But we didn’t really talk much else about it at the time, other than the possibility of working together on that in the future.

Fast forward a few years and Missy told me she was planning a second medical mission trip to her hometown.¬† The idea with these is to see people who may otherwise not seek out care, and to get de-worming pills to as many people as possible….but Missy told me she had also been thinking a lot about the birth center lately.¬† And I had been, too!¬† God was really laying this on our hearts at the same time…so after some prayer & talking with my husband, I decided to step out in faith and go on this trip.¬† Even though we were the most tight financially than we ever had been before & I had absolutely no extra funds at the time, nearly all of my travel costs were donated by supporters who felt the tug on their hearts. (Thank you all again!)¬† I loved that I would be getting the real experience of this country by going with someone who was born and raised there.¬† It seemed like I’d get the inside scoop on life in Haiti & more easily be able to find out information that I really wanted to know, but lack the language skills to ask (like about midwifery care in Haiti).

doctor-and-nurse-at-haiti-health-clinic

Dr. Freed and Missy attending to a patient at the LaSous clinic.

While I was on the trip, I realized how unique of a position God had put me in…a photographer, with her camera, in the middle of the Haiti that HE knows….living with a Haitian family for a week; getting to chat in part-English/part-Kreyol with new acquaintances; hanging out with them in the evenings; learning some really detailed stuff about Haitian culture & everyday life; seeing beautiful sights in this area…..none of that is portrayed in the media.¬† So I am ever so grateful that God crossed my path with Missy so that I could share these photographs of the land He created and the people He loves.

photograph-sunset-over-cotes-de-fer-haiti

Beautiful sunset from the hill above Cotes-de-fer.  Image is for sale (print & digital) Рplease email for more info.  Proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Haiti.

Missy has been ever-so-patient with me asking so many [weird] questions about Haitian culture & language.¬† I tend to think on these rabbit trails but she graciously went along those trails with me!¬† And I started to see more & more of her heart as I got to know her on this trip.¬† While walking through the downtown area of Cotes-de-fer one day (and yes, it is PERFECTLY safe to do so in this town), Missy pointed out the church where she had accepted Christ as her Savior.¬† When we got back home, I asked to hear more of her testimony.¬† When she was a teenager (13-ish), a friend invited her to go to this church.¬† Near the end of the service, the pastor invited anyone who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior to come down to the alter to pray.¬† Missy felt a warm sensation in her heart, like she was being tugged to the front to respond to the message….so she went & prayed and accepted Christ as her Savior.

nurse-with-patient-on-haiti-mission-trip

Missy attending to a young neighbor during a housecall in the home of our hosts, Missy’s parents.

What follows is a story full of God’s grace, love, and leading in Missy’s life.¬† And I could see how that was reflected again in this trip.¬† For example….We were very late in getting to the airport the morning we had left.¬† I’m talking 5:25-am-flight-well-over-the-speed-limit-praying-desperately-to-God-something-would-be-delayed-running-to-the-gate type of story here!¬† Unknown to us, a plane had come in late the night before and the flight crew had to have a mandated rest period, making them arrive at the airport a little while after we did.¬† After running to the gate, we had a few minutes to breathe when we realized God’s little arrangement had already taken place & they hadn’t even boarded yet!¬† Because of that delay, Missy ended up being on the same flight as me to Port-au-Prince.¬† (Previously, we would have split up at the Dallas airport; then her flight was going to be an hour ahead of mine into PAP).¬† While I thought I would have been fine by myself, it did make things easier & more enjoyable to have a travel buddy through the rest of the airports and into the PAP airport.¬† (The new airport is really nice & more organized, compared to before the earthquake.¬† They have a wonderful little band playing music for you when you get off the plane!¬† It was very festive & welcoming!)

nurse-with-patient-at-haiti-clinic

Missy attending to a young patient at the clinic in LaSous.

It was little things like this (more of which will be sprinkled throughout the upcoming stories on this blog) that gave us the confidence that God’s hand was on this trip.¬† I saw the grace of God that Missy reflected onto the people around her, no matter what their circumstances were….I saw His love in her heart as she conversed with her patients during checkups at the clinics & housecalls….I saw how He led her through some sticky decisions that had to be made during the trip…I saw her heart for children poured out upon them.¬† And I saw all of that grace, love, and leading reflected in the legacy of faith she instilled in one of her four beautiful children, Stephanie, who also came on the trip.¬† Steph just finished her first year of college & is also going into nursing – this was her first time in her mother’s homeland.¬† I really enjoyed getting to spend time with her and see the never-ending smiles and the absolute LOVE for children that shone from her heart.¬† (When I asked her back in the States what her favorite part of the trip was, it was not really a surprise to hear: “Hanging out with the kids!”)

wading-in-water-at-beach

Missy & Steph wading in the water at the beach in Cotes-de-fer, Haiti

After a few days and a few very interesting conversations with the locals, I started to sense the big picture of why our group was there (and why we will continue to do these clinic/de-worming trips). I know without a doubt that God loves me.¬† He doesn’t love me because of anything “good” I have done.¬† It is through my faith in Jesus as my Savior.¬† It is one thing that is extremely hard for many of us to grasp sometimes.¬† It defies society and many cultural beliefs (as it did at the time it was written), yet it is so simple: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”¬† (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But not everybody knows how great God’s love for them is!¬† He showed me on this trip that this is the case with many of the people in this area of Haiti.¬† It’s the case in my city, yes, but this is just another place where God wants me to be & wants me to share that fact with the people I meet.¬† God has many different means of ministering to people….a quick flip through the Bible can prove that.¬† I’ve noticed He mostly works through me by giving me chances to form personal relationships with people, forming trusting bonds with them, and simply sharing His truth or what He is doing in my life.¬† Yes, it is a type of ministry that takes time, and it may not be one of these impressive numbers-oriented things you see in a missionary statistic sheet or something.¬† But it works for the other people in this world whose hearts God created to also work in relational ways.

Haitian girl hugging woman

Micheline, a neighbor girl whose incredible smile absolutely lit up her face every time she saw us, especially Stephanie!

And I love that providing a much-needed clinic gets that opportunity to build a repertoire with one-on-one contact.¬† We had over 600 opportunities during the course of this trip to show God’s love to people in various ways, including towards Haitian doctors, nurses, and community leaders who also may not know the love of God or need to be encouraged in the ministry that God has called them to.¬† I look forward to hearing of lives that are changed not just physically but also spiritually as we start forming deeper bonds with people on successive trips.¬† Eventually my husband & I hope to take longer & longer trips, maybe even moving there after retiring.¬† I could definitely see us living in the Cotes-de-fer area!

photo-of-doctor-and-nurse-at-clinic-in-haiti-ayiti

Some team members setting up the pharmacy for the health clinic the next day.  Left to right: Rebecca (me), Steph, Dr. George, and Nurse Nadya. (George & Nadya are residents of Cotes-de-fer and run the clinic. They just married each other this summer!)

God wants the whole world to know how much He loves His people and what He has done to reconcile this world to him through Christ.  Christians are called to reflect the light of Christ and be the body of Christ to everyone, everywhere.  I love that our backyards stretch beyond our comfortable houses with 24/7 electricity and running water, and that our God cannot be confined to a box as small as our hometown!

This. Is. Haiti. Part One – Welcome to Cotes-de-fer

Real Stories of Faith, Hope, & Love in Haiti

Part One: Welcome to Cotes-de-fer

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Psalm 45:1

sunset-near-beach-with-village-in-background

From the beach of Cotes-de-fer, Haiti.  This image is for sale (digital & print formats).  All proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Cotes-de-fer.  Email rebecca@purecaptures.com for details.

The plane from Miami to Port-au-Prince was probably the most cheerful bunch of passengers I have ever been with.¬† They clapped when the plane touched down.¬† ūüôā¬† A few waved their hands in the air to say, “Thank you, God!” [for the safe landing].¬† I tried my best not to start bawling like a baby when I looked out the window, but I was so happy to be back that I did let a few tears out.¬† Seven years is too long to leave part of your heart without saying “bonjou.”

We were driven from the airport in Haiti by Missy’s cousin, Renauld.¬† (Missy is our trip coordinator, was born & raised in this town, and is now a nurse living in Branson, Missouri.)¬† It was evening when we drove through the main city & its suburbs.¬† I was so glad to get out of the city and breathe fresh air again.¬† Like any major city in America, there is a lot of smog.¬† The acrid smell of charcoal lingers throughout certain parts of the city at certain times of the day, and this was one of them.

I did not take any pictures in Port-au-Prince or its suburbs.¬† I just didn’t feel a need to take them….plus I knew from that previous trip that pictures from inside a moving vehicle rarely turn out well!¬† But I sat there smiling like an idiot, taking it all in.¬† It was definitely more shocking the first time around…this time, I felt very comfortable.¬† There were still things that made me laugh, like two people and three huge bags of charcoal all on the same motorcycle.¬† There were still things I don’t see too often (if ever) here, like a huge sow & her piglets rummaging through a trash heap.¬† There were still things that made me cringe, like a kid with only flip flops jumping over an open sewage canal.

But this blog series is not going to be about all the horrible things there are in Haiti. You will not see pictures of dirty, starving children with huge tear-filled eyes.¬† You will not see pictures of trash heaps or houses that [we think] are run-down just because they’re made of sticks and corrugated metal.¬† Too many people in this world want to talk about how wretched & poor this country is.¬† If you pay close attention, some of them even get some kind of sick joy from talking about those things.¬† God tells us over and over again in Scripture to take extra care of the poor.¬† But while extreme hunger DOES exist (just as it does in America), not everybody in Haiti is starving.¬† While healthcare needs ARE great, many of them are being met by local doctors & nurses (“dokte & enfimye”) at local clinics like the one in Cotes-de-fer.¬† While education is NOT easily available to everyone, more and more schools are being built – even some “free” public schools in the works.¬† It does little benefit to Haitians and to ourselves if we talk about Haiti in a way that assumes we are superior just because we have more things.¬† It breeds pride, and pride has shown itself to be our downfall over and over again throughout history.¬† (To clarify: Pride is the downfall of ALL of us, no matter what culture or religion).¬† Instead, if we humble ourselves and turn to the wisdom of the ages, Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy‚ÄĒmeditate on these things.”¬† It IS possible to think upon the good things of Haiti in order to address the problems….not for, but alongside its people.

 

Haiti-Ayiti-Cotes-de-fer-Streets-at-dusk

Looking West at dusk down the main road of Cotes-de-fer, Haiti.  This image is for sale (digital & print formats).  All proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Cotes-de-fer.  Email rebecca@purecaptures.com for details.


When we first drove into Cotes, it was dark & very late at night, and I had no idea how beautiful the scenery was surrounding the town and within the town itself.¬† All we could see were millions of stars and a stretch of the Milky Way Galaxy, so much brighter without any light pollution.¬† It wasn’t until the next day (and on the morning that we left to go back to the airport) that we saw the true majesty of this area.¬† At first you start driving through mountains, then past a lovely lake & salt flats (all of which look amazing paired with a sky that is ALWAYS beautiful & colorful).¬† You come into the Cotes-de-fer area from the west.¬† (The town is in the South-East section, right down on the “arm” of Haiti.)¬† There is a long stretch of the road where you are driving at sea level, and the ocean is clearly visible to the south.¬† On the other side, a flat plain & then some gentle mountains.¬† Everywhere there are banana and coconut trees (“cocoye”).¬† When you get close to town, you cross a new bridge over the river where people are often washing clothes, bathing, or taking their cows & donkeys to drink.¬† The road is then lined with banana trees on either side, making for a nice shady walk to the downtown area.¬† Almost all the roads to Cotes-de-fer have been worked on so that it is a much faster drive than two years ago.¬† Much of the downtown area is also paved, and they have a new town square.

 

Haiti-Ayiti-Cotes-de-fer-town-square

The new & colorful town square of Cotes-de-fer, Haiti, at dusk.  This image is for sale (digital & print formats).  All proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Cotes-de-fer.  Email rebecca@purecaptures.com for details.


In the evenings, when people are finished with work and the sun has started to cool off, they have dinner and then hang out on their front porches, visiting & enjoying each other’s company.¬† Around the square, there are light poles with solar panels on top, which lights up the playground & soccer area until 10 or 11 at night.¬† (One evening we attended a church service at the pavillion & benches, led by Haitian missionaries from Port-au-Prince.)¬† There is a new police station right here across from the square (which we toured one day), making it easy to keep an eye on the activities.¬† Not that there is much crime here….I always felt very safe no matter the time of day.

The town is close to the beach.  It is a little rocky here, with rounded stones in many shades of gray.  A little ways down the road (if you drive) there is a majestic place to enjoy the day on the beach, along with several hotels & resorts in progress.  (Saving that for a future post.)  My second-to-last evening, I just HAD to go down to the beach to get my beach-at-sunset pictures because the light had been amazing all week in the evenings.  We took the kids who lived next door to LouLou & had a lot of fun collecting shells & taking pictures in the water.

 

Haiti-Ayiti-Cotes-de-fer-beach

Waves, rocks, & driftwood on the beach at Cotes-de-fer, Haiti.  This image is for sale (digital & print formats).  All proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Cotes-de-fer.  Email rebecca@purecaptures.com for details.

Several people I talked to this week just couldn’t believe I thought this place was so pretty.¬† But it truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been (the other being Grand Teton National Park in the US).¬† Like anywhere, I suppose if you live somewhere you just get used to the way it looks.¬† You just have to get to the right places to find the pretty views!¬† (And this wasn’t even half of them….)

Haiti-Ayiti-beach-at-sunset

Looking south towards the beach in Cotes-de-fer, Haiti.  This image is for sale (digital & print formats).  All proceeds benefit Hope for a Village projects in Cotes-de-fer.  Email rebecca@purecaptures.com for details.

Come back next week to see more pictures & read more stories in Part Two.  In the meantime, please share the real beauty of Haiti with your friends using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.