Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lessons from Mellier

Elise (far left), one of our interpretors, Caz, Deanna (our amazing chef!), Molly, Claudie (another amazing chef) and Ace singing some Creole hymns together.
This morning constituted a tearful goodbye for us in Mellier. We had just enjoyed a lively last community dinner and night of singing and dancing with our new Mellier Methodist Church friends the night before. It was such a joyful event. Everyone noted that we rarely see this side of Haitian life in the US media. Even though 43 students are no longer able to attend the Mellier Methodist school after last year's earthquake, the teachers get paid only $60 per month and go for months sometimes without any pay at all and a number of skinny children and adults in the community are consistently malnourished, we still saw a clear picture of Haiti. It has great beauty, strength and wisdom to share with us. The Mellier Methodist Church community taught us what it means to share, to rejoice in music, to appreciate even the small things that one has. We bring these many lessons back to DC tonight and will continue to process and work together towards greater understanding and action in the days and months to come. Here are a few team insights for the road, though, in the words of our team members.

Doug: "It’s been bittersweet. I’ve made a lot of friends that I now have to leave. I’ve learned about capacity to give, including figuring out how much capacity I personally have…and what I don’t have."

Doug (far right) offering a gift of workers gloves to Mellier Foreman, Boss Wech

 Susan: "I learned to love with a broken heart." 

Susan, taking a picture in the back of our "Tap Tap" as we cross over bumpy Leogane roads on our way to buy papayas (which Nicole is holding.)

Laurie: "I learned to manage expectations…both my expectations and other people’s expectations. For being such a broken country in many ways, Haiti is still such an incredibly beautiful one. I wish that more people would take time to learn the history of the Haitian people."

Laurie helping Joseph, a 17 year old previous student who can no longer afford to attend school, review English lessons.

Molly: "I learned more about what it truly means to accompany people and really be present to them…that it is a long, but satisfying journey."

Molly (on far right) with Nicole, Elise, Jana, our interpretor Jean Claude and Mark...moving some dirt for the church!

Ace: "I learned that there are limitations in power to physically change things, but there is enormous power in love and community."

Ace with some of his new Mellier friends, Harold on the left and Jean Claude on the right.

Margaret:  "I learned how to be prayerful and trust in God."

Margaret, 4th from the left, was an amazing addition to this small group meeting with women from Mellier Methodist Church. She had a special rapport with the women, especially being the only person with children on our team!

Mark: I learned that life is most fully lived on the challenging edges.
Mark helping Mellier 5th and 6th graders write letters to some of his students in Baltimore.

As we have a 3 year long commitment to Haiti mission, volunteer and advocacy work, we will continue to partner with the Methodist Church of Haiti in identifying the areas where we might be of greatest service. We're hoping to maintain and continue to grow this special relationship with the Mellier Methodist community in the middle of this work. And hopefully, God willing, we'll be able to come back in October so that we can learn and share at an even deeper level.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Haiti First Impressions

Our Foundry United Methodist Church volunteer group just arrived yesterday in Port-au-Prince. As we jostled along the bumpy streets , sweating out the DC rat race and in the Haiti heat, it was wonderful to hear the team's reaction to experiencing Haiti for the first time. Here are a few of the observations:

Mark: Haiti is full of life: barking dogs, crowing roosters, car alarms at 3 in the morning, sellers peddling goods in the market, artists showcasing their colorful paintings. I hope to listen this next week and be a part of the wonderful community of this church and of Mellier.

Margaret: For me, the main thing is community. My first impression is that there is an importance of community here. I know that at least a dozen of the children in Mellier have lost their parents after the earthquake. From what we have heard, the community their has really embraced those children and is helping to raise them. I'm looking forward to witnessing this first hand. Second, for our own Foundry group...I feel like we are part of a larger system.

Doug: The American and Haitian methodists we've met so far have been incredibly friendly. I'm really looking forward to seeing the other parts of Port-au-Prince, especially where the center of the earthquake destruction has happened. And, I'm eager to arrive in Mellier, and see what rural life in Haiti is like compared to the city. From what I've heard, it seems like there's big divide. Fresh air sounds good as well.

Laurie: I was impressed with Petionville. Restaurants are running, some people are working. People are kind and friendly and seem to really be helping one another. At least some good things are happening. To each person whom I said "Bonswa," everyone responded with a smile on their face. I came across a few people selling art on the street. My impression of them was that they were extremely kind, very educated (tri-lingual!), very friendly. After talking for a while, I was able to ask them where they were the day of the earthquake. They were thankfully outside, getting some sun and laying up against a building. The ground started shaking right before their eyes and they ran for safety. Thankfully, they were alright. I look forward to getting to know people better throughout the week and just listening to their stories.

More to come!