Sunday, December 19, 2010

Home Again, but Something has Changed

After a long day of travel, I arrived back home in Lubbock, TX yesterday evening.  What a different world.  Shiny airport terminals, all sorts of food and shopping in the airports, trash cans that people actually use!  Not that I don't like any of it all, but it makes me think of all those people living in deplorable conditions in Haiti, including the 36 teenagers and 15 or so staff at the orphanage.  People who I may never see again, but have grown so close to my heart.  For whom death and suffering are all too real in their lives, yet somehow, joy and gratitude are much more present too.  I have learned so much from the Haitians, and I can only hope that I enriched their lives as much as they did mine.  It was with a broken heart that I had to respond to the question I was asked over and over that I did not know when I would be back.

My friends in Haiti took such good care of me, and I am so thankful for the time we had to spend together. We laughed, joked, and enjoyed each other.  We argued and got angry.  We were protected from a hurricane.  We weathered political unrest and the fear of violence.  We washed our hands with soap constantly to prevent Cholera.  And as I sit on my comfortable couch, I know they are still enduring all these things.

And sometimes I wonder how they do it.  Many people in the US live in comfort that if they run out of food, they can go to the grocery store and buy more.  If they get sick, they have health insurance to go to the hospital.  If there is violence in the neighborhood, the police will most likely do something about it.  (This is certainly not the case for everyone in the US.  There are people who go hungry here too.  There are people without proper medical care.  There are some really violent neighborhoods.  But it is certainly not as widespread as in countries like Haiti.)  I wonder how the Haitians survive, how they find the will to survive.  But the answer is not too complicated.  I discovered, first, how little materially I needed.  Some clothes and food.  And maybe some books.  And when you don't have all those other things fighting for your attention, its much easier to see the things that really will give lasting comfort.  The people around them.  And their faith and the hope that only God can give.  Through this hope they find the strength to go on.  There were times for myself during the past five months that I was only able to continue what I was doing through the strength given to me by God.

Today in church, we were singing "O come, O come Emmanuel".  I've always thought it was a really pretty advent song, but it struck me differently today, so much so that tears began to fill my eyes.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh,
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


I hadn't ever really thought much about it, but I always operated under the assumption that this was an Advent song, anticipating the birth of Christ, which has already happened.  Which it is.  But as I sang "and death's dark shadows put to flight," I thought of the shadow of death that still hangs over Haiti, the fear that lives there.  This is also a prayer of petition, asking for the world to be made right.  Because it most certainly is not.  But the refrain is the confident assurance that someday, all that is promised will be given.  "Rejoice!"  God is coming!  It is both remembrance that Christ has come and a declaration that he will come again.  He will come again, and all the things that are wrong in the world will be made right.  And that is great hope for us all.

I'm home again, and something is different.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Haitian Elections

So if you've been following Haitian news, you know that Haiti just had a big round of elections on the 28th of November, including new presidential elections. Its been a big deal, and its really important who wins. The current president, Rene Preval, is widely disliked. A lot of the foreign aid that was promised to Haiti after the earthquake has yet to be distributed because of the distrust of the current government. His son-in-law, Jude Celestin, is running for president. He is also fairly widely disliked, although he has his supporters. Corruption runs rampant through the government, and though a new president won't change all of that, it should help.

The results of this election were announced on Tuesday evening. Mirlande Manigat, the leading opposition candidate, got about 32% of the vote. Jude Celestin, who had been in third place, suddenly moved into second place the day the results were announced, with about 22% of the vote, Michel "Mickey" Martelly, the other opposition candidate and Haitian pop star, coming in third, 6,800 votes behind Celestin. The way Haiti's elections work, if no one has an outright majority after the first election (which is likely, given that there are somewhere around 20 candidates) there is a run-off election between the top two candidates.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The day after the election, 12 of the 19 candidates got together and said that they wanted the election thrown out because of election fraud. There were accusations of stuffing the ballot boxes, people showing up and not being on the list of eligible voters, intimidation, and the like, including one guy who showed up to vote and he wasn't on the list, but his dead brother was. After the results were announced, Martelly's supporters took to the streets protesting, claiming the results were tampered with and Martelly should be in the run-off instead of Celestin. Celestin's campaign manager then said he was going to protest the results too, claiming Celestin should have gotten 52% of the vote, winning the election outright. (A pretty outrageous claim if you ask me.)

Since Wednesday, we haven't had school becasue of the protests. They haven't been too violent; its more of a volume thing. Wednesday, the whole city basically shut down becasue there were so many people in the streets that no one could get to work. The protesters have set fire to a lot of Jude Celestin's campaign banners across the city, as well as setting fire to his party headquarters. It has gotten a bit quieter, but people are still blocking the streets and a smoky/foggy haze hangs over the city. Its been pretty quiet up around us, as most of the protests have been more downtown and in Petionville. (If you're worried about our saftey, you shouldn't worry too much. There's been no protest activity in our area.)

Today (or possibly last night), election officials announced they would recount all the votes in the presence of the three leading candidates, Mirlande Manigat, Jude Celestin and Michel Martelly, and international observers. Which, I think, is a great move. The could have hardly done otherwise though. There are so many eyes on Haiti right now, and such popular discontent with the current government that it would have been difficult for the election comission to have ignored these protests. We'll wait and see what happens, but its good news for democracy in Haiti.

I don't have any pictures cause we're too far away from the action, but check out news sites for some photos. I know BBC and the New York Times have articles and pictures. is where I found info about the recount.