The Funeral Which May Never Happen

I have a friend I met in Ravine Seche last summer.  His name is Noah and he is 20 years old.  He has a “wife” who is 18 years old.  Her name is Berlin, and together they have a child who is 2 years old.

Last summer when I met them both in the village, he and his wife weren’t seeing eye to eye and were separated.  For several weeks Noah even lived in my home.  I remember oftentimes walking across the stream to where his wife and baby were to visit.  Berlin, for her part, wouldn’t make eye contact or acknowledge Noah’s presence, but would allow him to spend a few minutes with their child.

On many occasions I encouraged Noah to be reconciled with his wife, even later after I left the village and he would come visit me in Port-au Prince.  I especially pressed he take the lead in reconciling because I knew he was the primary person at fault in their separating, as I had gathered both from his personal acknowledgment of guilt as well as other people having exuberantly retold me of past altercations (or one in particular). 

Eventually the two of them did reconcile, and once again began living together.  In fact, Berlin was now pregnant with their second.

Two weeks ago I heard the news Berlin had suddenly died.  “Wow, that is crazy,” I thought.  Just recently I had seen her and the baby when driving Noah back home, and she had seemed healthy.  In fact, Berlin apparently showed no signs of illness right up until the day before she died  She became sick on a Monday and died on Tuesday, along with her unborn baby. 

I asked many questions trying to determine cause of death.  Her symptoms were: 1) a stabbing pain in the middle of her chest that went through to her back – as if a knife were being plunged in, as it was described to me 2) pain in one of her legs 3) complaint of being cold and they put blankets on her. 

Berlin herself ascribed the sudden illness to voodoo, claiming she had been bitten by a zombie.  Her last words to Noah before passing were, “Why did Jeanette do this to me?”  Jeanette being a previously close friend of hers whom she recently had a falling out with.  I was told their last interactions took the form of a public shouting match interlaced with profanity.  The topic of controversy being unknown to Noah, or perhaps he was unwilling to tell me.  Jeanette’s husband is a known voodoo practitioner, and Jeanette herself was also known to dabble in the black arts, or so I was told.

Another anecdote was relayed to me as an omen of import:

On Sunday night, the day before she fell ill, Noah and her were lying in bed preparing to sleep when they smelled a foul odor.  Getting up to investigate, they found a dead and decomposing dog at their front door.  The two of them decided to go out in the dark and dig a shallow hole to bury said dog.  As they were digging the grave, Berlin felt something pass in front of her, like a cold wind, and became frightened.  She told Noah what she had felt, and how she was scared, and he in turn told her it was nothing and she was merely frightened of the dark.  The next day she fell ill, and the following day she passed.

Did she die of complications with the baby?  Did she die of an appendicitis?  Did she die of a blood clot in her leg that caused a pulmonary embolism?  As there was no autopsy done, we will never know what natural causes may have been at work.  What about the supernatural?  Could she have died of a zombie bite?  Did Jeannette have a voodoo doll she was poking pins into?  What was with the dead dog and the cold “spirit” Berlin felt in the night?  Nothing?  Or something?  I defer judgment to the reader.

The mysterious aside, Noah is now left with the challenge of arranging funeral expenses.  Here in Haiti, funerals are expensive events.  Berlin wasn’t dead 24 hours before Noah was down in Port-au Prince looking for money from myself and other relatives to help cover the costs. 

He has not yet been able to raise the money he needs to satisfy the morgue, so….. they in turn are not releasing the body until he does.  Today is the 14th day since she died, and still there is no scheduled day for the funeral. 

I offered a few dollars towards the cost, more of a token gift than anything.  Berlin’s family was apparently upset by my stinginess, and asked Noah, “What is wrong with your Blan, that he’s not paying up?”  Referring to me.

Yes, if Noah didn’t know me, or more importantly, if the morgue and everyone else didn’t know that Noah knew me, I think the funeral would have long been over by now.  But since they know he has an “in” with a white man, they are holding out for the bucks.

Ahh, such is life in Haiti, a complicated and enigmatic place to be sure.

If you think of it, please pray for Noah, and especially for his young son, that arrangements will be made for the toddler to be taken care of. Noah is unable to care for the child himself.

Work Injury

We have a machine called a dough sheeter.  It has two big rollers that spin and the dough is passed between them to flatten it out.  It’s a heavy duty contraption ran by a 13hp diesel engine. 

Our model was built here in Haiti and didn’t come with many (any) safety features. 


Last Thursday morning, one of my guys (Blan) was putting the dough through (like in the picture above) and accidentally put his hand down into the rollers.  The machine kept going until someone could shut off the engine.  His hand was pulled in up to his palm.

His hand has abrasions, swelling, and his thumb is broken.  He’s in the hospital now, and I feel quite bad about it. 


Here in Haiti they are big on overnight hospitalizations.  So today is the 6th day he is in the hospital.  In the States I’m thinking this would have been an out-patient deal.  The hospital is really nice though (Médecins Sans Frontières) and they give all service for free (including the food) so I figure the R&R is probably good for him.  It’s the nicest hospital I’ve seen in Haiti.

Visiting “Blan” in the hospital has been difficult because the hours for visitors is limited.  I’ve been turned away a couple times.  Though one of those times time I managed to sweet-talk my way in anyways. 

The funny thing was, since it wasn’t visiting hours, once I was inside they thought I was a patient and didn’t want me to leave without seeing a doctor and signing out.  I kept explaining I was healthy and there weren’t nothing wrong with me and I was just a visitor and please let me out.


I Visit an Orphanage

I visited an orphanage today.  This orphanage has thirty-three kids ages 3-11.  Here are some pictures.  The poverty really affected me.   

This is the entrance. 


Walking into gate there is a little path you can see below.  The orphanage is the building in the picture.  It is one-story. 

There are 3 rooms inside.  Two rooms for sleeping (one for boys / one for girls) and one large room (that has the ceiling missing from the earthquake) which is used for cooking/playing/eating.


Walking up to the entrance:


The main all-purpose room with no ceiling:  





Girls bunk room:


One outdoor, non-private toilet for all 33 kids and staff:


Well for cleaning and bathing (but not for drinking):   


Earthquake damage:


The place is ran by one man with the hired help of a daytime lady and a nighttime lady.  The orphanage is his home and (as you can see) badly damaged in the earthquake. 

He told me that after the earthquake he began taking in orphaned kids from his neighborhood whose parents had died.  He says people want him to still accept more, but he can’t, he is maxed out.

He told me he has no regular support, but gifts come throughout the month from individuals and sometimes a church fundraiser.  He also visits supermarkets in town and they sometimes give him food nearly expired. 

He said that he and the kids pray often for provision, and God provides. 

Today God provided them with some extra bread from our bakery.  We had bread leftover from yesterday I didn’t want to sell and, after asking around to see if anyone knew of a needy orphanage, one person said he knew of one that was supposedly needy, but he had never visited it personally.

My opinion after seeing it was that they are very needy!

But, how do you help?  They are living on faith.  As desperate as the situation is, this man is experiencing provisions of God in a real and tangible way (that is what it appears at face value, anyways). 

This short video clip by Steve Saint brings home the point about the difficulty in knowing how to help-up, and not hand-out:

Partially paralyzed Steve Saint falls on stage and proves a point about dependency

The Current State of the Discipleship and Bakery Programs (from my perspective)

A you may (or may not know) I am working within Heartline’s bakery/discipleship program.  The first discipleship class finished on May 10th.  We had a big graduation event and the guys were pretty excited!

Looking back at how the first class went, we were a bit frustrated with how much time the guys spent working in the bakery.  Running a full-fledge bakery took much more time and effort than I think anyone anticipated.  Not to mention since we were starting it from the ground up no-one really knew what we were doing!

Now that the first program is finished, we have hired a number of the young men from that first program to come work in the bakery.  They accepted, and now the bakery is running autonomously and providing jobs for 9 people. 

Currently we are in the process of gearing up for our second discipleship class, which I am personally pretty excited about!  We will have a smaller number of guys (just 6, versus 10 in the first program) and they will spend most their time in spiritual formation activities.  Two hours each morning they will spend working (sometimes in the bakery, sometimes other work like cooking, yard work, or whatever needs to be done).

In the first program we also offered 3 months of English classes and helped each guy obtain his Driver’s License.  For this next program, we have decided to cut both these out and keep the “main thing the main thing.”  The title of the program is, “Discipleship,” and that’s what we want to focus on.

Nevertheless, I could see the benefit of a follow-up program that focuses on vocational training following the successful completion of the first 6-month discipleship program.  Helping provide means for men to find employment is vitally important here, where so many guys sit around for lack of opportunity to work.

Here is a picture of the six guys selected for the next program:

Group Shot

Please be in prayer as we prepare the logistics for getting everything ready for these guys to start the 6-month program.

Our goal is to provide space for God to work in the lives of these men.  They will have daily times of prayer, worship, Bible study, meditation, and honest work.  We hope they will be challenged to grow in their walk with the Lord, to learn to hear his voice better, and to have their faith strengthened. 

Chikungunya & Air Conditioning

A new virus has swung into town.  It is spread by mosquitoes, so you have to get bit to contract it. (full story on Fox)

People who come down with chikungunya get a fever, rash, terrible body aches, etc. for about a week, though the symptoms can linger for months and in some cases even years.  Rarely is it fatal, though I heard of a child dying of it a few days ago.

Chikungunya made news in Haiti last Tuesday (May 6th) when the health department said there were 14 confirmed cases.  Now they are saying there are 1,529 confirmed cases, but in all likely-hood I suspect many tens of thousands here in the capital have it.

I base that on anecdotal evidence that every ministry I know here across town has employees/staff down with it.  Here at the bakery, at least two of my guys have gotten it already. 

I’ve never seen an epidemic spread like this first-hand.  It reminds me of the plagues I’ve read about back in England hundreds of years ago, where so many people would suddenly come down sick when a new virus swept through the area.  The Black Death, they called it.

I’ve been trying to wear more Off and do a better job at killing ‘dem mosquitoes.

Right now is rainy season so they are out.  I purchased an electric mosquito zapper that looks like a tennis racquet.  It works superbly, blasting them out of the air when they fly through the mesh screen.

However, the zapper has added a bit of stress to my life.  Now whenever I see a mosquito in my apartment, I quick run to get the zapper and hunt it down.  Sometimes they hide so I can’t find them, which is frustrating because then I know there’s a live mosquito somewhere waiting to pounce. 

I think the mosquitoes around here have learned that whenever I have the zapper in my hands it’s time for them to hide.

So it’s been getting hotter here, as we approach the summer months.

I’ve been thinking more about air conditioning.  My apartment is only 260 square feet, so maybe it wouldn’t be too hard to cool?

Power is the problem.  We don’t have much power here.  Recently are city power has only been on about 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period (usually during the night). 

I have 4 deep cycle batteries that store current when power comes on at night.  I also have 220 watts of solar panels on the roof to charge my batteries during the day.  Additionally, there is an 11k generator we sometimes run, but usually when it’s running it’s not hooked up to my place, but charging somewhere else on the compound.

It’s difficult to even keep my refrigerator cold, much less run an air conditioner.

But I’ve been thinking…. What if I could air condition just the area of my bed?  What if I put a Styrofoam roof and Styrofoam walls around my bed, and hooked a window unit into it?  That way I could use a super tiny window unit.

My other idea is to buy an aftermarket automotive air conditioner system and hook the compressor up by belt to a wind turbine mounted on the roof.

I’ll keep you posted.