House TalkN is a fun lookiloo at houses, houses, houses. It will answer pressing questions like, "When folks build a McMansion on a small lot, what are they compensating for?" or "Was the real estate agent drunk when they staged this house?" or "Why don't the Smiths' ever leave their drapes open when I am on a harmless walk-by?"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Haiti Surprise


I have been struggling to find words to adequately describe our trip to Haiti. When words fail me, my camera lens saves me. 
There were moments that putting my camera in front of my face was the only thing keeping me from weeping. 
Who am I to weep? I was only there as a witness, a messenger. I got to come home to a warm home, an abundance of food, water, shelter, safety. My children have access to medical care, education, and all that American society offers. My family was born into the lottery of life. So...how could I weep? 
I had braced for the poverty. I had braced to see great sorrow. You know what I was not prepared for? 
Joy. 
Joy was the surprise. 
I was stunned by the great joy and love that these people shared with us. We received so much more from them than we could ever return. Armed with our token gifts, our paint brushes, our tools and our soccer balls, we were greeted with overwhelming love. 
It was the land of opposites. 
While on a beautiful beach with palm trees, the beach was filled with children begging and selling goods. 
While the mountains were breathtaking, we would watch a child run barefoot through a field littered with garbage.
While serving too little food to hungry children who ate with their hands on the floor of a crowded room, the children sang and laughed and asked to have their photo taken.
We met this little boy in an orphanage. He had us all wrapped around his little finger. 
Joy.
One of the greatest joys of this trip was watching Emma interact with the children. I was Emma's teacher 15 years ago. (You might recognize her as "Intern Emma.") Even though I made her hold my hand through the marketplace, it occurred to me that she is a grown woman. She has grown up to be a loving and compassionate and giving woman.
Joy.
I had dutifully researched Haiti orphanages online. The photos I found did not reflect this orphanage. There were no bright walls, no paintings displayed on the walls, no jungle gyms. A pastor and his wife, with five children of their own, are dedicating their lives to these children with the only space they have. While I battled anger in my belly and the need to weep, these children sang for us. This boy was a hambone and snagged all of our hearts.
Joy.


While walking through the city, we stumbled upon this man. In the middle of such poverty, he found music. I was awestruck. He was beautiful. The music was beautiful. 
Joy.
The friendships between the women were so intense. They laughed, they teased and they sang. They held each other's babies. They were just like me. Just like my friends. They found joy and comfort and support in one another. The universal sisterhood.
Joy.
When we arrived for the second time to see these children and bring a tarp for their home, they jumped up and down and cheered. Joy.
Their mother had one leg. She is raising her family in a tent. She was gracious and proud and welcoming.
Joy.
When we arrived at this home, the family greeted our guides, Pastor and Mrs. Kessa with open arms and kisses. Their friendship was clear and deep and true. The children were so excited over the gift of a soccer ball. Images of my own children's 87 balls strewn throughout my house ran through my mind. 
Joy.

While a roof was being built for this home, screeching singing ensued.
Joy.
These men were our constant escorts. They were our security, in every sense of the word. 
Joy.
We played games together. We sang together. We learned new languages together. (Ok, others learned and I butchered their beautiful Creole!) 
Joy.
The constant singing was overwhelming and I could feel it in my chest. 
Joy.
Books are magical. Reading with a child is magical. Sharing that magic is...
Joy.
This series of photos makes me laugh so hard. This little boy was romping through the church during a VBS story.
He and his counterpart stopped to listen. "And Jesus reached down and took his hand..."
Did someone say "hold hands?" The little girl took matters into her own hands.
And...the race is on!
Joy!

On our final day, we went to the beach. The ocean has always brought me peace. I was grateful for the sound of the waves. 
I collected shells for my children who were worlds away, playing soccer or making smoothies or bickering over whose turn it was to take out the garbage. 
I bought gifts from children selling on the beach for my dear friends, who were worlds away, at their jobs or snuggling with their children or yukking it up with each other.
When my pockets were empty and the children continued to ask "3 dola? 2 dola? Please, I am hungry," I, again, battled the urge to weep. I distracted them with games and cartwheel competitions. I offered the only thing that I could. 
Joy.

(I am not sure who to give photo credits to...someone picked up my camera and gave me the gift of these shots. Thank you.)
Now that I am home and struggling with all that I saw and heard in Haiti, I will hold fast to their images. I will remember them. I will pray for them. 
But mostly, I will remember their joy.

*Update: I am going back to Haiti with That's What She Said.


46 comments:

  1. Wow- this is incredible! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I loved reading this, Kerry. You did some important and selfless work

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    1. I certainly received more than I gave. Thank you, Lori.

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  3. I loved this so much. Brings back wonderful memories of my trip to Africa. The joy is universal and so beautiful. Your photos truly tell a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing them!

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    1. I would love to hear more about your trip to Africa! Thank you, Ashley!

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  4. Hey sweet lady, I am so excited for you. I'm so glad that you were able to see their joy and receive it. It has always surprised me and humbled me, when I've traveled to places less financially well off than we are, how much I'm given. Don't they understand, I'm here to help them!;) And we do. But they have helped me to further realize what joy and giving and sharing and community and hospitality mean. Helped me see anew how much we have and how little we really need. I'm so excited for this new experience you've had. I'll pray it continues to infect your life with joy;)

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I would love to hear about your travels! Also, we are going to be reaching out to other church's to share our experience if yours would like to hear.

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  5. Your photos remind me of this quote from American photojournalist Eve Arnold, "If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument."

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  6. Thank you for sharing! I too am weeping. Love the adorable faces of the children....such joy in their smiles.

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    1. Oh, Gina. They were so beautiful and joyful. Thank you.

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  7. Wonderful story! Your life is now forever changed. How you perceive troubles is now forever changed. How you see your blessings is forever changed. Christ makes forever changes!

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    1. Indeed. I feel like everything looks different. Thank you, Lorraine.

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  8. What beautiful photos and a beautiful way to describe the opposites. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us along with the photos, the joy, and the love. The smiles on those adorable kid's faces make me smile too. Tears in my eyes that they are hungry, but I feel the joy.

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  9. It was such a struggle to see the opposites, everywhere I looked. I couldn't make sense of any of it. I am giving up on rational thinking and holding to their joy and love. Thank you, Kristi.

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  10. Wow thank you for sharing this story. It's amazing the things we take for granted or find to complain about. I am moved by the joy that you found in Haiti.

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  11. This is amazing Kerry. How fortunate that you were able to make this trip. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, simply wonderful. Like you.

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  12. Kerry thank you so much for sharing this, it's rendered me speechless. I'm overcome with Joy at these pictures. Sadness and Joy. And amazement that you can stand on one hand! ;) Those pics are fantastic, as is the story behind them.

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for all of your support, Teri!

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  13. this is the best thing i have seen all day. i LOVE it. i love that you had the courage and strength and passion and love and faith to go there for these kids. i love that you helped them. i love that you love them. i am amazed. keep this up and maybe we can change the world. :)

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    1. I received much more than I gave, fo' shizzle. Thank you, Alana!

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  14. What an amazing and eye opening experience! My cousin has been as part of a team sent by the treasury dept, so her experience is very different, but she too has talked about the amazing spirit. Thank you for sharing your story!

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    1. Thank you, Meredith. In the face of great struggle, they have somehow maintained a joyful spirit. It was beautiful to witness.

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  15. You brought back some feelings I had from my trip to the DR to visit the island where my sister spent two years of her life and her husband (at the time) was born. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to cross over into Haiti, but that island will always be with me.

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    1. I would love to hear more about your experience! I understand, Haiti will forever hold my heart. Thank you, Linda!

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  16. You brought back some feelings I had from my trip to the DR to visit the island where my sister spent two years of her life and her husband (at the time) was born. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to cross over into Haiti, but that island will always be with me.

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  17. And now, I'm crying. What a beautiful story, beautifully told. Thanks for sharing what you saw, what you heard, and what you learned. We're all better for it.

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    1. Thank you, Robyn. It was a beautiful experience. It was so overwhelming that I am having trouble finding the words to describe it.

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  18. So beautiful, inspiring and humbling. Thank you for sharing your experinece with us- oh, and I think the words you found were a perfect compliment to your beautiful photos.
    Vicky
    www.thepursuitofnormal.blogspot.com

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  19. Beautiful, Kerry.... God is so wonderful! We usually minister to others hoping to bless them, they usually bless us more than we can handle. Beautiful! Joy!
    Blessings,
    Lori

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    1. You took the words right out of my mouth! Thank you, Lori!

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  20. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down memory lane with you. I know that right now it doesn't feel like a memory yet...that looking at those pictures takes you right back to Haiti. So much so that you could reach down and pick up that precious little boy in the orphanage. The transition after coming home can be quite emotional. I remember being struck by the very same thing when I went on a mission trip to Mexico: joy. At the time I was a materialist 20 something year old, hoping to marry rich. That trip changed me. Thankfully, because I did not marry rich ;)

    I will be thinking of you and praying for you as you transition back to this life. I remember what that was like, too. xo

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    1. Thank you so much, Sharon. Getting back into a groove has been really difficult. Wow, you went at 20? I was in awe of the young women on this trip- so grounded, so young!

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  21. Kerry, I'm completely gobsmacked at the power of your words and pictures. I'm crying. We must remember to find joy in more simple things through the day and learn those life lessons from these people. Thank you.

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    1. I hope you cried AFTER your big TV debut! Thanks, Frugie. It was truly amazing in Haiti. I came home with a new perspective.

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  22. love this! Happy Easter Blessings, sweet girl!

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    1. Thank you, Darlene! All of these faces were in my mind at Easter service.

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  23. Your words and your pictures sre something I feel lucky to have shared with me. How great are those final pictures you didn't even know were being taken? Just wow to it all. Ellen

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    1. I am still in a state of "wow." Have you read Anne Lamott's "Help, Thanks, Wow"- the three basic prayers? I started it in Haiti and finished it at home. It was the perfect fit with my experience. Help, thanks, wow.
      Thank you!

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing the JOY of the Haitian people with the world. I'm so glad you talk in positive way as well because so many people went to Haiti and go back to their countries and shares only bad images and messages about the country. It is a beauty country as you describe it. The mountains, the beaches are breath taking. A native from Haiti.

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