Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friend in Haiti

Our friends, Rex and Sherry Holt, pastor a church in Southern CA. In past years they were SBC missionaries to Togo West Africa, where they speak French. Rex was asked to go with a medical team to Haiti. The team left last Saturday morning. Yesterday, Tuesday, Rex called Sherry from Haiti and Sherry wrote about it in their daily church letter to members, to which I subscribe. It's an excellent recounting of what Rex is experiencing in Haiti.

January 26, 2010

About 6:30 p.m., I got a call from Rex. Joe Hall was standing in the kitchen with me so I put the phone on speaker. I wish so much that I had a recording of it. He talked fast to try to tell everything he could since he had borrowed the phone from his tent-mate. A Haitian by birth, his tent-mate Julio moved to Florida a number of years ago and has been pastoring a church there. Since this terrible disaster in his homeland, he has returned home to Haiti to stay, leaving behind the church he pastored in Florida and everything that he had accumulated materially. His wife Suzette will join him this weekend and they will begin life again in Haiti.

Rex loves him and said they both agree that the Lord meant for them to spend these days together. Most of the tents are large enough to accommodate 4 or 5 persons, but Rex and Julio got the smallest tent and there is only room for the two of them. They pray together--sometimes in English and sometimes in French or they sing together--sometimes in English, sometimes in French. Rex says that he feels so at home in Haiti, because there are so many similarities to living in West Africa.

He spoke of the devastation being hard to conceive, walking in a city, block after block where buildings are leveled on both sides of the street. As he walks around, he engages practically everyone he passes in conversation and they all speak of having lost loved ones. Their only requests are for water and food. He told of two examples of children asking for food at the orphanage where their tent is set up. The volunteers have been instructed not to give away food or water but to respond that they came with medical supplies. This is a tough thing to do, but necessary to keep a riot from breaking out because so many people are thirsty and hungry.

He told about a young man who came up to him and said, "I am hungry.” So Rex gave the pat response, “We came with medical supplies.” The boy turned away but another boy came up to Rex and asked, “Did you see him, did you really see him?” He assured this second young boy that certainly he had seen the boy and heard his request. But then the young boy challenged him again, “but didn't you see in his eyes…he is starving.”

Hidden in Rex's pocket was a protein bar that he had brought in his week's supply of food and he wanted to give the child food. However, there were many people around and he knew that it would be chaotic. People would stampede toward him to get food, and he only had that one protein bar. Later, he was happy to see the boy alone who had challenged him about seeing the boy who was starving, and he quietly gave him the protein bar and told him to divide it 2 ways and give that boy the other half. The young boy said, “No, I will give him all of it.” Rex was skeptical that would happen, but a short time later the starving boy approached Rex with the entire bar and humbly thanked him.

That wasn't the only time he saw the children act in this unselfish way. There was a young girl standing nearby when he started eating from his meal supply, a package of peanut butter and crackers. He took out one of the crackers and gave to the little girl. As soon as she had taken it, she called the name of a young boy. He came to her and she divided the peanut butter cracker in half and shared with him. At that point, Rex gave the little girl the entire package, knowing that she would share it.

He would interject from time to time that he was so glad that he was there or that it was just great being there, so I finally got a chance to talk and asked if he was even going to come home. To that he started telling a little about how difficult the living situation is. But, he didn't dwell on that long. There was so much to share. For instance, there was a team member in their group who prayed for a blind first he saw a bright light, they prayed again, he saw the shadows of people, they prayed again, he counted fingers of the man who held them up in front of him. Then Rex prayed for a deaf man. After the prayer he walked some distance behind the man so that he could not see him. He instructed the man to clap each time he heard a clap. He responded perfectly because the formerly deaf man HEARD Rex clapping his hands.

Finally he slowed down a little and explained that he had used too many of Julio's phone minutes and had to get off the phone. At that point I got the chance to say, “Happy Birthday Honey, or had you forgotten that it is your birthday?”

Well, he was quiet for a few seconds and he said with astonishment, “Is today the 26th?” And I assured him that it was. He had forgotten that today was his birthday. He closed out his conversation by saying with deep conviction, “We have to come back!!! Others from among us have to come and help.”

I wish everyone of you could have heard him...but you will soon. He won't be back at church on Sunday morning but should arrive back in S. California sometime later in the day on Sunday. Rex kept saying how he could feel so strongly the Lord's presence even amid the devastation and human suffering. Somehow, hearing about hungry children sharing, a blind man seeing, a deaf man hearing...affirmed why Rex feels so strongly the Lord's presence in Port au Prince and why even under such terrible conditions that he could be so joyful..."IN HIS PRESENCE IS FULLNESS OF JOY!!!"



Christiane said...

The story of the little Haitian girl sharing her crackers and peanut butter makes sense to me.

I have worked in 'the best' schools in my district, and also in the inner-city schools of the same district.

At Christmas time, the inner-city school children were so much more generous bringing cans of food to fill baskets for the neighborhood poor.

I understand now that it was THESE children from the 'projects' who knew what it was like to have very little. For these children, the giving of food to hungry people had real meaning.
I'm glad I learned the truth of this from the children. I honor their generosity to those worse off, in the midst of their own poverty.

Mary Burleson said...

That's an interesting comment and one to think about that your experience has been that children who have little give generously. That sounds like the opposite of reality, but not so. Illustrates nicely what Rex experienced in Haiti. Thanks for commenting.