MONDAY – WORKING WITH ENTREPRENURS
Our day began at 8 AM—already sunny and hot. We met for a morning devotional, preparing our minds and hearts for the full day ahead. One by one, the entrepreneurs and translators arrived at our hotel. Irlaine, my entrepreneur, greeted Emily and I with a wide smile and a kiss. She was humble and shy-natured, but I could sense her joyful spirit instantly. Conversation was awkward at first—the language barrier made it disjunct and slow. But as Emily and I asked question after question, she began to warm up to us. With each answer, my respect and amazement for Irlaine grew. She spends her days selling goods around town to provide for her seven children (SEVEN!!). Her husband does not come around the house often, so the responsibility of feeding seven mouths is hers to bear alone. After about an hour and a half, she kissed us goodbye and left. That morning, the fear that I wouldn’t be able to connect with her weighed heavy on my heart. While I still sensed a little bit of distance, my fears were dissolved by her kindness.
We then met with the eight women who worked at the brothel. They were beautiful! Neile was teaching them how to make necklaces and key chains from the beads they made. It was a difficult process but Neile was incredibly patient. She kept reminding the women that they are artists. I could see the pride on their faces as they strung each bead. It was incredible to see the fruit of their labor. They poured so many hours and so much effort into these beads and here they were making tangible, beautiful things! The women also developed such a sense of community within the group. They were laughing and smiling with each other. This experience has bonded them so evidently. I loved watching them interact.
We then hopped on mopeds and caravanned down to the church. The ride was, as always, so much fun. We passed what must have been a marching band on the way down. Rows and rows of children in uniforms crowded the streets. Kyla—who the Haitians called “Blanc Super”—and I received many air kisses from the schoolboys as we rode past. They were happily reciprocated. Once we got to the church, we got straight to work unpacking, folding, tagging, and pricing the clothes we brought. The air was hot and thick in those tiny rooms. Children crowded around the doors and called for us as we worked. They learned my name quickly and loved to shout it—it was so cute. We got in a nice groove and emptied all of the suitcases. By the end, we were all drenched in a thick layer of sweat. It was fun though and we had a nice fan club of Haitian children to cheer us on.
We then headed back to the hotel for a dinner with our entrepreneurs and their families. For some reason, conversation with Irlaine was very difficult this time. She brought her oldest and youngest daughter, both very polite but painfully shy. It was difficult to find topics to talk about and when we did, their answers were short. After a few failed conversation starters and nervous glances between Emily and me, Irlaine pulled out a little Bible. She opened the book of John and pointed to the title, asking me to say it in English. We then went through every book, pronouncing each name in Creole and in English. She and her daughters would laugh at the weird way we pronounce things. She told us that she wants to learn English one day and the Bible would be a great place to start. We then shared our favorite verses with each other and she grabbed each of our hands. It warmed my heart beyond compare. I just wanted to give her a thousand hugs.
Dinner was served after a couple of hours. It’s interesting to see how our sense of urgency slowly fades as the days go on. We had a feast of chicken, goat, fish, rice, plantain, and noodles. After a couple days of Cliff bars, tortillas, and cheez-its, my tummy was very happy. Irlaine’s daughters were happy too; they cleaned their plates. As we looked out over the water, the evening sun was painting the sky with rich colors. Haiti is a beautiful place. I saw God so evidently in His Creation here.
After a short debrief, we had the rest of the night off. We talked and played games, but by 8 PM, I was exhausted. I went to bed at a record-setting time of 8:15 PM. It was a really good day. The Lord taught me so much. As we waited hours for a meal, He chipped away at my sense of expectancy and gave me patience. As we sat in a humid, dark room and folded clothes, He tore down my sense of entitlement and built up my work ethic. As we dined with Irlaine and her daughters, He reminded me of my blessedness and of the joy I should have daily. He’s doing great things here in Haiti and in me. I can’t wait for the rest of the week!
Monday was a productive day in Haiti. We woke up and met as a group at 8 am. In Bible study, our class talked about fear. Some of us said what we are most afraid of in Haiti, and we talked about letting go of our fears and just trusting in God. What I was afraid of was not having a purpose in Haiti and I feared not making an impact. It is also my first time in Haiti so I was still getting used to being somewhere new and different. When we prayed as a group I decided to let my fears go and give them up to God, trusting that he will take care of us and that He’ll work through us.
An hour later, our class met with our translators and entrepreneurs that we will be working with this week. Ellie and I are working with Edna, a young mother who courageously decided to start her own general food store. We also met our translator, Wilson, who was from the Bahamas and who used to live in the U.S. Since there is a language barrier between Edna and us as she speaks Creole and we know maybe two words in Creole, Wilson was very helpful to us. Through our translator we were able to find out how special Edna is. She was very determined to start her store and she was confident and excited with the new business she was about to start. We asked her lots of personal questions and got to know her really well. After about an hour Edna and Wilson left.
Some of the women decided to stay at the hotel and help Neile with the beads. A group of seven women have been making beads for necklaces, key chains, and coffee sleeves. A few of the women in the class and I checked the beads to make sure that they are of good quality, and they all were with the exception of a few. The beads are beautiful and I am really excited to see how they will sell in America.
At 3pm the entrepreneurs and translators came back to the hotel for an early dinner and to celebrate that the next day they will be signing their contracts for a loan so that they can launch their businesses. We all talked and got to now each other better at dinner. It can be difficult at times with the language barrier and having to talk through a translator, especially when the translators think that you are talking to them. Sometimes they answer the questions rather than translating what you say to the entrepreneur. But I soon learned that you just have to politely ask them to translate.
Ellie and I also got to meet Edna’s husband. He was very kind and interested in getting to know us. The sun was in my face so he offered to switch spots with me and would not take no for an answer. He also said that this was one of the best days of his life. He looked so proud of his wife and it was an honor to be a part of this special milestone.
After they left I played cards and “get to know each other” games with my classmates. It has been so fun bonding with everyone and experiencing the Haitian culture. I am excited to see what God is going to do in Haiti the rest of the week!