Guest Blogger CoraLyn Turentine writes about her experience in Haiti this past September. Read her last blog post about Haiti here.
Also: A lot of work has been done, but there is still work to do. Support the current project in Haiti by donating a few dollars.
What happened on the September 2013 water trip to Grand Goave, Haiti? How can I put it into words?
I think we all have an inner desire to be relevant. We all want to contribute something meaningful to this world, and we all want to be able to say that the world is a better place because we are in it.
How can we live our lives in such a way that our world will mourn the loss of our presence? I don’t know the full answer to this question, but I find clues in documentation of the life that Jesus led. Here is a man who, from childhood until his death, lived a pretty ordinary life. He was raised in an ordinary family. He went to an ordinary synagogue. He got an education, and had an ordinary career as an ordinary carpenter. He volunteered and did community service when opportunities presented themselves. He was an ordinary citizen and activist for human rights. Yet more than 2000 years after his death, the world still hasn’t shaken off the impact that his life had. What was so different about Jesus, that we are still so fascinated by him?
I think what allowed Jesus to make such an impact was that he focused his attention and his love on individuals. This is true even in the context of large groups. There is a document that describes a time in which Jesus was at a speaking engagement with more than 5000 people. Dinner wasn’t provided at this event, but when it ended, Jesus made sure that every single individual ate before they left. He didn’t just order pizzas and hope that everyone got a piece; he made sure that every individual ate. People knew that they mattered to Jesus, because he always remembered the individuals. He didn’t always make people happy, and he definitely had his enemies (crucifixion, anyone?), but he never overlooked the individual.
So I have tried to model my life after Jesus. I’ve lived an ordinary life, but in recent years, I have made an intentional effort to always remember the individual. One individual in particular is a guy my age that I met last year while we were doing water work in Grand Goave, Haiti. His name is Tiga, and he was our translator. He was quite ordinary. He took us to all of the local places to get materials so we wouldn’t have to drive out of town. He identified two nursing students who were interested in water purification, and brought them to help put a water system together. He showed us how to eat mangoes “like a Haitian,” (my attempt at this looked a lot like a one-year-old feeding herself mashed fruit for the first time. Can we say ‘messy’?). He taught us about local politics, and thought it was funny that the roosters in Grand Goave kept me up at night (Grand Goave has A LOT of roosters, and they all like to crow. All. Night. Long.) He was also a learner. He helped put the system together, and was trained in water purification. Before we left, ordinary Tiga and I traded contact information. We stayed in touch over the next year, primarily through Facebook and Skype. I introduced him to my husband and sister, and he introduced me to one of his sisters.
About 8 months ago, I got an email from Tiga that he had left his job as a translator and was starting a job as a consultant for two orphanages in Grand Goave. Both orphanages lacked safe water, and he wanted us to return with equipment and train them in water purification. He already had a safe place for us to stay, and food arrangements. He had already done a site assessment, and sent pictures and measurements of where the system should go. He had identified the individuals who would be trained. He was ready for us.
On September 30, 2013, we returned to Grand Goave to Heart 2 Heart campus. Sure enough, Tiga had everything in place; and just like last year, Tiga took us to the shops to get materials and coordinated with the orphanage leader. He took us to do a site assessment at the other orphanage, Servants of All (stay tuned for future updates about that orphanage!). He translated. But what was particularly incredible to watch (and I had noticed this last year, too) was how everyone in Grand Goave responded to him. Not only did everyone know him, but everyone clearly adored him. Everywhere we went people waved and called out “Tiga! Hi Tiga!” Even when we went outside of the main town about 20 minutes away, people were still going up to him and shaking hands “Hi Tiga!” I jokingly pointed out that he is a famous celebrity, and that he should run for mayor. He waved off my comments, but eventually told me that he knows each person because they are all people he has helped at one time or another. He had given his dinner to that man on the beach, or had bought some bottled water for that girl by the road. People come to him with ordinary needs all of the time, and what can he do? He has to help them. He and his fiancée are building an ordinary home with an ordinary well, so that everyone in the area can come and get water. When he was a kid, his grandmother used to wake him up in the wee hours of the morning to walk 6 miles and get a bucket of water for the family every single day. He had to be back before it was time for school. He hated it. He doesn’t want the kids in his area to go through that. He has an ordinary American visa, and has had opportunities to come to the States, make good money, take care of his new family. But he turns them down, because he can’t leave Haiti when that kid up the street doesn’t have money for school or safe water to drink. Tiga sees every individual.
Because of ordinary Tiga’s heart, 5 young men at Heart 2 Heart orphanage were trained in water purification, and about 100 students and administrators were trained in health and hygiene. The orphanage houses 300 orphans from toddlers to young adults, and provides schooling for an additional 200 Grand Goave youth during the school year. That’s a minimum of 500 people who now have access to safe water for the rest of their lives. Tiga sent me some photos this week of the water system. They built a fence around the system to keep the kids from playing with it and damaging it, and ran some additional piping to a wash basin about 50 feet away. They created 2 faucets, so everyone can get their drinking water, and have a designated space for washing hands, cleaning dishes etc…This may not seem like such a big deal to most people. The significance of this effort is that they have taken ownership of the system. They have adapted it to accommodate their needs and improve sanitation. They have taken steps to protect and take care of it. It’s not just something the foreigners brought in; it is theirs and they are using it.
Someday, ordinary Tiga will pass on from this world (probably in a very ordinary way), and there will be a great deal of mourning (That’s not an exaggeration. He swears he and his wife are going to have 10,000 children, to go with singer Matt Redman’s “10,000 reasons for my heart to find”). Adults who grew up at Heart 2 Heart will revisit the school and show their children the seat they used to sit in when Tiga led Bible study. A mother will show her children the exact spot where the original safe water system that Tiga brought in was installed (I have no doubt that their system will continue to expand and become more sophisticated as the orphanage prospers). 5 old men will remember the day Tiga asked them to help build the system and get trained in water purification…
…oh, the lives we live when we choose to be ordinary.