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A Wedding in Haiti

June 2nd, 2015

Someone told me that since now I’m a married man I need to change the title of my blog from simplefollower to complicatedfollower.  He especially noted there was nothing simple about two weddings.  I agree.

All festivities are now over.  May has passed, June is here.  The past month was full of both highs and stress. 

Since Anachemy is not from Kansas, our relationship involves travel.  This comes with stresses, but overall makes for great memories.

The travels began last month with a trip from Haiti to Kansas where all of our immediate families came together for the marriage in my home church.  I thought it was a beautiful wedding and so many people pulled together to make it possible.  Afterwards, the two of us drove to Colorado for a fun week of honeymooning in the mountains.  Then it was on to New Jersey, where we spent several days connecting with her friends and family.  Finally, back to Haiti, where we had a week to pull off another wedding.

As I look back over the last ten years of my life, I see so many changes in who I am as a person.  I’ve been molded by so many experiences, people, and situations.  I think one way I’ve changed is a greater willingness to spend money on experiences versus things.  A lot of money has gone through my fingers in the last few years, but when I look around there is not too many physical things to show for it (I’m still in a studio apartment!).  However, my memory is full of unforgettable experiences.

This past weekend was one such unforgettable experience. 

It’s one thing to visit Haiti for a week long missions trip.  It’s another to have your wedding in Haiti!  Yet that is what happened for Anachemy and I.  Guess what?  About 250 people showed up!  Even the president of the country witnessed our wedding.  (I don’t know why, but president Martelly came by the beach that day and watched a bit of our wedding)

Like any wedding (including ours in Wichita), making it happen was a team effort.  For one thing, we couldn’t afford the beach rental from Wahoo Bay Resort, but a generous donor (Mitch Albom) footed that.  Heartline stepped up to provide food and help with transportation.  John McHoul officiated.  A team of ladies came early to decorate.  Our friend Hope did the official pictures, and two other ladies (Beth & Tara) came with their super duper cameras for more pictures.  Wahoo Bay reserved about ten staff for helping with the reception.  Another friend (Yonel) loaned us his car and then it got creamed by a motorcycle while we were driving it.  My friend Troy wore many hats, from musician to Best Man to general-run-around-getting-stuff-done-guy.  My security guard even donated time to help us make cupcakes the day before.  Of course Patty helped deliver decorations from our Wichita wedding back to Haiti.  Did I mention two cooks volunteered about a week of their lives to food preparation?!

Yes, our wedding in Haiti was an act of love by so many people.

Now for the pictures.  I know Haiti is known for poverty more than Caribbean paradise. However, the beach we were married on was stunning:

Beach Wedding

Here are my guys.  John McHoul officiated.  Troy Livesay was the Best Man and Enochson was my other groomsmen.  I met Enochson in Ravine Seche and he’s become like a little brother to me.

The Guys

And the stunningly gorgeous and classy bride….

Bride Walking Down Bride

Anachemy’s uncle walked her down the aisle.  Her Dad couldn’t make it to the wedding in Haiti, but her Mom, sister, and brother were there.

Coming Down the Stairs

The children’s choir from Have Faith Haiti Mission led us in the song, Bless the Lord oh My Soul.  Anachemy’s sister Chrisline and friend Andrema were the bridesmaids.

Have Faith Choir

We said our vows.  Pierre (on the left) was a translator for John and he is really good.  Sometimes, for the fun of it, John spoke in Creole and let Pierre translate him back to English. 

Vows

After the wedding we were happy! 

Recessional

And they lived Happily Ever After?

Dipping Kiss 

Well, it would be presumptuous for me to predict everything will be happily ever after. Nonetheless, we have committed our lives to each other and I feel incredibly blessed to have Anachemy by my side, regardless of what life throws our way. 

We are enjoying married life so far!

Getting Married Soon!

March 25th, 2015

I’ve been intending to write a stupendous blog post about how I met Anachemy, what all she means to me, and how much I’m in love with her. I didn’t want to write just “any old thing” though. It needed to be special. So special, in fact, that I didn’t feel up to the task of writing it.

Upon reflection, it seemed fitting the two of us write something together. So… together we wrote, “Our Story.” And we put it on a more visually aesthetic webpage to give it justice.

You can see it here!

http://simplefollower.com/ourwedding

TheTwoOfUs

Protests Over Gas Prices

February 2nd, 2015

Update From This Morning:

Today Port-au Prince is protesting the high gas prices.

While the global price of crude has dropped by 30% since last June (source) and in good old Kansas gasoline can be had for as little as $1.75 per gallon, here in good old Port-au Prince the price were $4.62 up until last week. 

This past Fall, President Martelly got the bright idea to increase the government fixed fuel prices.  The plan was to raise gas prices from $4.38 to $5.23 per gallon by February (source).  They have backed off on this plan, and last Friday in an effort to appease, lowered the price to $4.30 per gallon. However, people are still angry about it.

Particularly, the public transportation sector is upset. This is a populous city with no metro or trains.  People mainly move about on privately owned tap-taps and busses.  As gas prices go up, profits go down.  Today, to show their displeasure, tap-taps are boycotting driving, and putting barricades up around town to stop other people from driving too. Consequently, the streets are mostly empty, except for moto-taxis, and they are price gauging for their services. 

Since my employees couldn’t get to work very well today, I decided to close the bakery.

Like I said, barricades and burning tires are being setup at major intersections to enforce the boycott.  In fact, there are tires in the street burning right outside our gate, though it seems peaceable enough.  Additionally, there are lots of reports of rocks being thrown at cars brave enough to venture out.  I stood outside our gate awhile and in that time only saw two private cars pass and no one threw rocks at them.  They drove around the burning tires.

Anyways, the city has essentially shut down for the day.  I walked to our corner market and it was closed, but a couple employees were standing outside.  They know me and said the market was closed.  I acted surprised, “What!  You guys are closed?”  One of them asked if the bakery was closed?  I admitted we closed down as well because my workers couldn’t get here.  They laughed.

The lady who cooks daily lunches for the bakery & discipleship class just walked into the office.  She doesn’t live far away, and walked here.  She said the Fleurio intersection was barricaded and she saw people throwing rocks, presumably at cars.  I told her there wasn’t much cooking needed today, except for my lunch.

Just as I was telling her this, one of my bakery workers, Gergens, walked in.  We hadn’t been able to call him because he didn’t have his phone on him for some reason.  He looked sweaty. 

“I’m sorry, but the bakery is closed today and I don’t have work for you.”  He didn’t seem surprised.  I asked what time he had left his house this morning for work.  He said 5am…  it was now 10am!  Wow, that’s dedication to his job.  He opted to go back home instead of waiting for a free lunch.

Evening Update:

The protests tapered off in the late afternoon.  I went out this evening and didn’t see anything going on.  Apparently though, at the height of things this morning some people were shot, a lot of rocks were thrown, a vehicle or two overturned, some people roughed up, etc.  Looks like it will be the same thing again tomorrow!

That is the excitement here for today.

News Articles

The Scoop From Reuters
The Scoop From Bellingham Herald – With Pictures

In Which I Meet a Self-Proclaimed Liar

January 31st, 2015

I met a man here who runs an orphanage from his home.  He currently has 13 kids, though since I’ve known him that number has fluctuated to almost 30.  He considers himself a pastor.  His English is good, he lived in Canada several years, and apparently his Ex-wife still lives there.

There are rumors.  That he is crooked.  That he is trying to get support for his own personal gain. 

This much I know: Sometimes he lies.  Little lies?

For instance, he told me he started the orphanage after the earthquake.  Then I found out he started the orphanage a good many years before the earthquake.   

Or again, he told me the kids were all homeless from his neighborhood that he took in.  Turns out the kids aren’t from his neighborhood, and most weren’t homeless.  In fact, most came from villages in the countryside, where family or relatives apparently gave them up in promise of a better life in Port-au Prince.

Meanwhile, his house/orphanage is in very bad shape.  Sanitation is deplorable.  There is a hole in the roof.  The children use the bathroom by going in a hole in the ground outside.  The girls put a square piece of plywood on their lap for privacy while they do their business.  Sickness is present every time I visit.  The two bunk rooms smell thick of urine.  Chickens roam through the house dropping feces where the children play.  The place should be condemned.

The man in charge, let’s call him Jean, keeps asking me why us white people aren’t supporting him?  I’ve brought several teams to see his plight.  They’ve donated sandals.  They’ve taken pictures.  Some have offered to help in the future. 

Why don’t the “blans” who came to visit do more?  Surely we all see the need?  After deflecting these questions over a period of time, I decided to be honest.

“Yes,” I said, “People see your need, but they don’t trust you, we think you’re shady.  That’s why you’re not getting support.”

“What?! Why would anyone not trust me?”

“Well, for starters, because you lie.”

“I lie?  How do I lie?”

I gave him several examples.  He took these accusations in stride and admitted, “Yes, I do lie, but I’ll tell you, I only lie to help the kids.”

“How so?” I asked.  It seemed to me he lies out of habit.

“Well, for instance, I say the children are younger than I know they are.  That way people will be more sympathetic for helping.  I will even get legal papers made to give the children a younger age.  That’s easy to do here, you know?  But I’m lying for the kids, to help them.  Like when I ask for rice from an organization, I tell them I have a big orphanage with lots of kids so they’ll give me many bags of rice.  That’s how I lie for the kids.”

“You may justify your lying,” I said, “but your lying is one reason people don’t trust you, and why they are reluctant to support what you’re doing here.”  I then add, “Don’t you know lying is wrong?”

“Well, everyone lies in Haiti, this is a corrupt country!  You can’t be straight here”

“That’s not true, not everyone lies in Haiti.  And even if it were true, don’t you call yourself a pastor?  What does the Bible say about lying?”

“The Bible is full of liars!  Every big man in the Bible lied.  Abraham.  He lied about his wife being his sister.  He did that twice.  Jacob: big liar.  David, oh, big, big liar.  All the big men of God lied, it’s what they did.”

“When these people lied, it wasn’t necessarily their finest moment,” I countered.  “And what about Jesus?  Did he lie?”

Long pause.  Then emphatically, with a finger raised, “He is the only one who didn’t lie.” 

“Yes, and the word Christian means Little Christ,” I pressed. “Jesus is our example.  If you can promise you won’t lie to me anymore, I’ll see what I can do to help support you.” 

There was a lengthy pause, and then a load groan, “Uggh, I can’t promise that!  But I’ll promise to pray that God helps me say the truth more.”

“No go,” I responded firmly.  “I want you to promise to tell me the truth from now on.  About everything.  That is, if you want help.”

This dialogue was condensed from a number of conversations over several months.  This last week I saw him again (we donate bread to his orphanage twice a week and he comes to pick it up) and he said he’ll be honest with me.  He told me how some of the children do have parents, how he only has 13 kids because 4 of them sleep somewhere else, he told me he’ll answer my questions.

So I asked him if he lives at the orphanage?  This is something I’ve wondered about: Did he have a nicer place elsewhere?  He assured me he lives at the orphanage, though sometimes he sleeps at a friends house, whatever that means. 

At least he is trying to make an effort at honesty now, which I appreciate.  We still have a ways to go.  I feel like Frodo trying to cut a deal with Gollum.  He swears dishonesty is the only way to get ahead. I tell him the opposite is true: being honest is the only way to get ahead in the long run.

One thing is that my relationship with “Jean” has improved markedly after I began speaking to him candidly about my concerns.  Things are better now that I’ve come out and told him I think he is a crook.

What does he really want?  What is his angle?  It’s not until I have a satisfactory explanation to that question that I can begin feeling good about supporting him.  Jean, like all of us, is a mixture of good and bad.  I truly believe there is an element deep inside him that wants to help hurting children.  But I suspect there is a larger element that wants to personally profit off said children. 

He is patient.  He just needs to find the “blans” who will change his life.  He told me how another orphanage in the neighborhood started looking for blans 18 years ago.  Now they have many sponsors from America.  Sponsors who have built a beautiful house (for the kids of course, but the director gets the benefit of it too, yes?) with electricity, a generator, even refrigeration. 

I think that is what Jean is holding out for.  Here in Haiti, orphans have the potential to generate a hefty income for the shrewd and patient man who plays his cards right.

My Poor Truck & Motorbike

November 7th, 2014

Poor Vehicles

The rainy season is upon us.  Haiti has two rainy seasons: April-June and October-November. 

The rain nearly always comes at dusk or night. 

My truck was in the shop last weekend getting the clutch replaced so I had to drive my motorcycle around in the rain.  Consequently, I got soaked on two separate evenings.  Being on a bike in a tropical deluge weaving between bumper to bumper slow-moving traffic is an adventure.  The streets can quickly turn to rivers.  And the rain is cold.

The hardest part about being in a torrential rainstorm is not being able to see so well.  I have to move my helmet face-shield up and take my glasses off because water gets on them and I can’t see through.  They should invent motorcycle helmets with windshield wipers.

On one of the evenings traffic was light and I was bee-bopping along at about 30mph through knee deep flooding.  This made two jetstreams of water shoot out from the sides of my front tire and it was quite sensational.  It felt like I was water-skiing.  I was so happy I wanted to shout and I remember thinking how grateful I am for the opportunity to live adventures like these while going about my daily business.

Another evening last week I was in my truck and the street flooding was beginning (this was before the clutch had gone out all the way).  At one point I went through a low section of the road and my front end submerged…  I kid you not, it felt like I was in a submarine as the front headlights shot two beams of light underwater through the murk.  Miraculously, after a few seconds I drove up the other side and the car didn’t die, though it did start glug-glugging and wouldn’t move for awhile.

This reminds me of another time earlier this year when Anachemy and I accidently entered deep water on a bad road and my truck died (same truck).  In this case the water wasn’t moving, just deep.  I felt water at my feet and realized it was coming in the door!  I opened up the door got out and the water was nearly up to my waist!  Fortunately, it was still underneath the level of my intake and exhaust manifolds (barely, I checked).  A group of Haitians appeared and pushed us out.  Unbelievably, the truck fired right back up again and we were off.

Yes, my (t)Rusty Toyota Pickup does get abused.  For instance, I routinely carry 2,500+ lbs in the back when the rated capacity is only 1,110 pounds. 

But you know, those ratings are low.  Like the carrying rack on the back of my bike.  It has a sticker saying don’t load it over 22 lbs.  Why, the other day I put a 110 lbs of flour on it and it still drove ok!  Not great, but ok.  In fact, I may have had to sit up on the gas tank to make the steering work…

My dirt-bike is only 125cc so not the most powerful.  There is not enough power to do a wheely, for instance.  Unless, as I found out one time, the rack is loaded with more than 22 lbs (like a couple 5-gallon Culligan water bottles as the case may have been).  With this load I gave it a little too much gas starting and the bike flipped over backwards on me!  Like a bucking horse.  That was funny.  Neither I nor the bike was hurt, only embarrassed, though I couldn’t stop laughing.

The only bad thing about my poor truck and bike is that they frequently break down, and I don’t know why.