Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Fire in Barranca

Dear Friends:
I felt compelled to write. This is part of the story of my life, from last week. Some things just happen, and they change us. Thanks for reading. There are photos on my facebook page.
love,  Debbie

Feb. 2, 2015 Barranca
I am visiting a community called Barranca where nine homes burned. Is is hard to imagine living in such a tiny room.   Yolanda lost her home, but I found her on a borrowed bed, with her pots and pans all over the floor, clothes soaking in soap in a black plastic basin, her dishes in a similar one. Clothes were hanging on nails around the walls, there was a clothesline with baby girl clothes. She told me she had recently had a baby. Where was she? In the hospital still, in an incubator, because she only weighed two and a half pounds at birth. She took public transportation into La Vega every day, which is about 30 minutes from Barranca, to breastfeed the baby.
I had brought 3 bags of clothes, a blanket, sheets, towels, washcloths, little shampoos and soaps. I was happy to leave it all with Yolanda, for her other 5 children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, and her dad, a pastor. But before we left, they asked Pastor Alex from the Rails church, who had led me here, to distribute the donations to the community, so that they wouldn’t be blamed for taking too much. That was after we prayed with them all and preached to them, thanking God for sparing their lives from the midnight holocaust. Surely God has a purpose in all this?
I posted a photo that night of the fire’s damage. I didn’t sleep very well. Then I remembered we had some clothes left over from the garage sale at school. I would find that in the morning…
Next day my dear friend Irene Serrano called. She is a missionary in San Francisco de Macoris, about 45 minutes from us. She had shoes, and clothes, and new socks and panties for little girls, and could she come today? Yes! It was Thursday the 29th, the day Liberty Ministries went home. At breakfast I showed them the photos I had taken the day before. (They had been out souvenir shopping with Mitch all day.) Their hearts went out to the fire victims and right away Jeanette Porter gave me the money to buy every family a bed, and the group took up another offering. On the way there I asked Nicolas from school to go to the bed factory and negotiate a price for 9 beds. He got back to me on time. We prayed for all the families involved, then went to see the new university ministry location and prayed there. I said good-bye to those precious 9 ladies, and set off for school. Even though it was past noon, the factory hadn’t closed for lunch, so I put in my order for the beds. They promised to have them made by Saturday.
Around 2:30 Irene and Sam came over, and after we caught up with our lives, we started sorting clothes. I had a list Alex and Charley made, so we had a bag for each boy and girl, and the women. We decided to just sort out the men’s clothing when we got there, and fit the children for the shoes. They had some groceries, so we quickly arranged them into two separate bags, and Irene bagged the rice on the way to the Rails to pick up Alex. We stopped for some viveres, and decided on plantanos to take to the families. The man at the roadside stand was happy to sell all he had.  When he said 120 we quickly rounded up the money, but we were wrong; there were 120 plantains, at 5.5 pesos each, added up to $660 RD, or $15 US. At the end of the day, Pastor Alex got a bag of rice and the yuca that Irene and Sam had brought. He has to eat, too.
We gave a bag of groceries to Yolanda for her big family, and to a pregnant mom with 2 small children. Irene got right to work with her first aid kit, bandaging up burns, infectious sores, handing out pain medication, laughing and talking and even singing in Creole. That is after she made a video with her husband filming. What a pair of missionaries! I love how we could all work together: the Haitian pastor, the teacher at his school, the Serranos, me, the clothes who
had been sent by diverse churches in Pennsylvania, Florida and who knows where. It was the body of Christ working together. Alex started them singing and preached to them, I preached some more, the children sang songs they had learned in Alex’s school, and we had an altar call. Several children, two moms and a young man raised their hands, but more were praying. Irene kept right on healing, Sam was filming, and God was working. Everybody was happy with their new clothes, shoes, towels, bags and groceries. At the end they thanked us heartily. A job well done.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I had held little Emanuela, not quite 3 pounds yet, newly home from the hospital. It was like holding a wisp of blanket. How would she survive in that hovel? At least her mom had some groceries now. When would someone come and rebuild their homes? What about the water tank? Do they even have jobs? I know some of the children there are studying, but what about the rest of them? Does anyone care? How much does it cost to care?

Saturday morning early I heard from the bed factory. They would be ready for me by noon. I changed the dollars to pesos, and stopped by a new Chinese store called Lucky to see about sheets. The manager gave me a discount, so I bought 9 sets of full size sheets for $10 US each. I knew the Haitians would love the bright colors and patterns. I taped up some posters for United for Him, then carried the heavy bags back to the van. Thankfully, after I paid for the beds, I had a chance to visit Alex at the Bible Institute that meets at school on Saturdays, and to visit my own grandson. He is over 8 pounds, born Jan. 19, the same day as Emanuela. He almost died, but here he is, all golden and precious. Thankful is how I was feeling. His mom let me walk him around the school so he could get some sunshine on his arms and legs. Another chance to show him off and give thanks to God for what he has done.

I told the delivery guys that we would walk down a corridor, and then, voilĂ , with no passport, we would be in Haiti. And that’s how it was. They just stood and stared, then got out their phones and took photos of the burned out homes and the poverty. Meanwhile Alex started calling out the names on the list and we tried to decide how to give away the beds. It seemed the sensible thing to have each man go down the narrow passageway and bring back his own bed. Pastor Odima stood with me while I gave them their choice of sheet sets. Then we took pictures. I can’t get them out of my head.

A picture gives a one-dimensional view. It doesn’t really let you appreciate how small the space is that is supposed to accommodate two adults, a teenage girl, 4 little kids and a premature baby. And only one bed, even if it is new. It doesn’t take into account the pungent odor drifting over from the communal shower and latrine, just 20 feet away. I almost slip several times, as mud is everywhere. People are wearing the clothes we gave away Wednesday and Thursday. One young man complains that he didn’t get anything. He lost all he had, and had been at his girlfriend’s all week. I took his picture. Maybe we can find something. The pastor needs size 44 shoes and pants and a decent shirt to go to church. Another young man thinks he needs better clothes because he also wants to start going to church. The young mother can’t afford 100 pesos a day to send her kids to school, and anyway, they don’t have shoes. The young man who badly burned his shoulder putting out the fire has nothing in his house, except for the new bed. Nothing. It’s time to go.

I am thinking about my husband, he must be hungry. I am hungry.  I need lunch. I’m tired. I tip the drivers, and then the pastors who worked with me. They are buying themselves chips and sodas for their noon meal. I am remembering I have to make beds for the guests coming for United for Him. I think I’m getting a cold. I need rest, lots of it. My emotions are frayed.  
I'll come back another day.

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