Dust in the wind…
Inside the church had a simple layout, one main hall, a dividing wall with a “pastors” chamber to the rear. The inner walls were constructed with standard grade two by fours sheeted with (4×8) plywood; the entire ceiling was also covered with plywood, painted and set with a ½ inch trim plate. I had brought one of my spare tool belts for just such an occasion. Laden with a single jack, hammer, crows foot and pry bar, I quickly set to peeling trim while John G, took to making a purchase point for the ceilings plywood. Our entire group looked like a WWF wrestling cage match, all circling the ring waiting for someone to “tap” them into the fight! Two days of travel and unspent energy were waiting to wreak havoc upon this old building. John G and I were able to clear an entire span of trim work allowing us the advantage of exposing corners of the plywood for prying. Together with an inch gap on either end of our first board we gave it the old heave ho on the count of three. (Now is that 1, 2, 3 or 1 and 2 and 3, or do we just go on 3?) This Lethal Weapon quote/play on words would haunt us for the duration of the trip.
The board came down unexpectedly easy, along with 62 years of dirt! Within seconds it was black as night inside the building and everyone was scrambling for fresh air. John and I both simply placed shirts over our mouths, braced for the tornado then stood still until the room cleared. Laying eyes upon each other we both started laughing. Covered from head to toe with an easy inch of dirt, we both resembled “Pig pen” from the peanuts. The dirt fueled our fire and after acquiring a few dust masks the ceiling started coming down rather quickly. We formed two teams on either side of the room taking down plywood, framing and roof supports all while other members cleared debris. Everything that came out of the building was placed into neat piles for recycling later. Nothing goes to waste here, if it can be reused somewhere else it’s either put to use immediately or hauled off to someplace else for distribution.
A work day on the job site consisted of working from 0800-1500 with an hour off for lunch. When informed of this my inner, self-centered workaholic, could not believe it! How will we get any work done in six hours I asked myself? I would learn in time there was a reason for this modified work schedule and it had absolutely nothing to do with how much work one could accomplish. (i’ll discuss this revalation later)
We had arrived late on Friday afternoon starting work around 1300 and by quitting time (1500) the entire inside of the structure was stripped bare! Nothing left but four walls, steel trusses and a tin roof overhead. It was exciting to say the least, everyone was pumped! It was our first moment working together as a team, and we succeeded! Everyone was feeling a sense of accomplishment, which was a great moral boost after the last 24-30 hours.
Mason had pulled out his Nikon camera and started taking pictures right away. At first I was a little bothered by this action since there was work to be done. But after 15-20 minutes of watching this young lad with his camera, I realized it was selfish of me to think this way. Mason held an obvious passion for taking pictures, this proved to be invaluable during our trip. Someone once told me everyone has a “purpose” that purpose may not be immediately evident, and it may not be what you wish it to be, but if you pay close attention in time it will reveal itself.
Mason’s purpose ended up being two-fold, one he became our official recorder with his outstanding photographic skills and the second part was his uncanny ability to relate one on one with all the children.
While most of us traveled up to our second story perch, figuring out how tomorrow would unfold while trying to knock dirt from our clothes; Mason was already introducing himself to the local children. His camera was an instant tool of acceptance. He would take their pictures, showing them afterwards; this of course tickled the children greatly! This action became his personal bliss, these children where his muse; that was until a soccer ball appeared. Futbol’ or soccer as we refer to the game is the nation’s favorite sport. Our team was quite prepared for this fact with Mason and Paul’s church donating quite a few sporting goods for the trip. Of course that meant soccer balls. The minute a soccer ball hit the dirt children from all over came running to play. This would end up becoming a nightly routine. Work ended, soccer began, and Mason would play the game of his life every night to gleeful smiles of many a child, and Caz as well….
Paul also held a disarming charm that resonated within the community! He would walk where he wanted when he wanted introducing himself to everyone. A personality trait I actually envied. At one point Paul hauled out some toys to share with the children. Two bubble blowing guns appeared and within minutes, from the second story balcony bubbles rained down upon the children like snowflakes. This of course was accompanied by Paul yelling at the top of his lungs “BUBBLESSSSSSS”. The children laughed, danced and chased the little soapy spheres, all while screaming “BUBBLESSSSS” in return. Paul had an immense amount of positive spirit and energy! We teased him for this, but it was all in good fun. In reality some of us secretly wished we could harness some of his incredible power to use for ourselves. Paul actually made a statement that nothing could deplete his endless bounty of energy and enthusiasm. (Not his exact words) This would be tested during the week.
Maggie as Mason also had a way with children. She wandered downstairs and was quick to fall in love with the small children; it appeared the feelings were mutual. There was something about Maggie’s name that led to children saying it over and over again. It became quite humorous. Every night after the first night you could hear off in the distance some small child sweetly, quietly, saying “Maagggiiiieeee”.
As we sat in our chairs overlooking the work site a combination of sweat and dirt pooled at our feet. (Have I mentioned yet that it is really hot here?) The word came a shower area was arranged for us on the second story of the adjoining building. John, John, Cody and I strolled over with our solar showers to set them up and prepare the room for a barrage of dirty people. The room was an intended shower room with tiled basin and drain. Next to the basin sat a 50 gallon drum filled with water and a small container to draw water from the barrel. We filled one of the solar showers and the three of us with Cody standing on Johns shoulders set to hanging the bag for use; once accomplished we also hung a curtain across the open doorway, a veil attempt at privacy from the house directly behind the structure. It was a perfect set-up! A little home away from home, except for one thing; the shower never really worked with the mass amounts of dirt and sweat stuck to our bodies. Nothing short of a pressure washer was removing that gunk! All gave it a try, and everyone (including yours truly) came back regaling the therapeutic values of just dumping a half-gallon, cool bucket of water over your body after a hot, hard day’s work.
After all had showered we were called to dinner by Madame Lulu. Circling the table like hungry vultures, John C. settled us down by having us hold hands while he led us in prayer. Madame Lulu spread out her arms, welcoming us to our dining experience with a warm Bon Apatite! Having never tasted Haitian cuisine previous to this trip, I was pleasantly surprised by the fare we had dined upon at the guest house. But I am here to say very proudly that; Rachel Ray, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay have nothing, and I mean NOTHING on Madame Lulu! The woman is a goddess in the kitchen! To make things even more impressive she does it all with nothing more than some simple canned good, seasonings, frozen meat and a propane converted oven/stove that we carried up two flights of stairs and placed inside our temporary dining room. No million dollar kitchen, no stainless counters, no kitchen aid cooking utensils. Just some simple utensils, a table, a few bowls and one stove! It was fantastic, it was heavenly, and for eight days her cooking was the center of many discussions. What is she going to be cooking tonight? There is no way she can top last night? But she did, she would, and we all loved her for it!
The night ended with some light conversation about the upcoming day along with some devotional time. During devotional time, John C. asked us to recount three things. What we liked about today? What we didn’t like about today? And where we had seen God today?
There were a number of wonderful responses. I remember feeling at ease with the people who surrounded us; blessed by the souls sitting in this circle of trust. Cody was quiet; I believe he’s trying to figure out his place on this strange adventure. Thank goodness he’s formed a bond with Miss Maggie, Heather, Anne and Jan. They keep him laughing and he returns the favor on a consistent basis.
It had become my turn to answer these three little questions.
- What did I like about today? We were finally here after months of planning. All the anticipation of traveling to this land far away and I couldn’t wait to see what unfolded over the next several days.
- What didn’t I like about today? Emotions; overwhelmed by all we had seen up to this point. I thought I was prepared; I studied online and read until my eyes crossed. Some nights I felt as though Television static was all that buzzed through my brain.
- Where had I seen God? I had seen God in the faces of all who came together today. 10 individuals who never worked on a project together, combined with 5 Haitians who didn’t know what to expect from us Americans and yet somehow, language barrier and all, we gelled together for one combined purpose. Destroy an unsafe building furthering the town of Leveque towards building a new safe temple devoted to worship. Really quite moving when you sit back and think about it?
As the night grew thin, we all sat on the balcony talking, texting, writing, reading and playing games on our phones. It was nice, very family like when you think about it. No one could run off and hide like back at home. No television to dull your senses and turn off your ability to interact with others; Just our twelve (Caz & Marcanie included) all sitting in a line, on a balcony, with our feet up, laughing, joking and regaling each other with our own little triumphs during the day.
Heaven is truly where you find it.