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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend of prayer and repentance in Haiti

This was starting the day I left Haiti on February 12th.

Haiti - "A Call To Fasting & Prayer" from anthony gehin on Vimeo.



It was in the place of the Carnival. I left Haiti last year during Fat Tuesday. It was crazy then. It was a different kind of crazy, a holy crazy this year. I hope God continues the revival of this land.

The earthquake in Chile is crazy to me. I've been to Santiago, Chile. It was my first trip to another continent. It was 1993 and my first flight in a Boeing 787, but we landed at such a small airport, but in the country's capital city. Now another country I've been to, where I saw God at work, has been hit by a huge earthquake. There was also one in Japan and one off the coast of Argentina yesterday. I pray these countries also, though more prepared for such acts of nature and not facing as much loss of lives, will, like Haiti, turn to Jesus.

Here is a short video of Jesus time in a tent hospital, courtesy of the Livesay blog. These people lack so much materially, but they have something so much richer spiritually. Being so close to death, they understand life so much better because they know Jesus.



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Saturday, February 27, 2010

emergency shelter for Haiti

There are many ideas on how to provide shelter in Haiti. This group, Shelter2Home wants to provide temporary shelters that can be incorporated into permanent structures. I'm sure that means the upfront costs are higher. Here is their 8 minute presentation.



The permanent solution is being done in partnership with REACH at a Catholic orphanage in Haiti called Pwoje Espwa, whose blog I've been following before the earthquake, because they built an earthbag house, which survived the quake. The technology REACH is using comes from Virginia based Stucc on Steel. It's a revival of stucco but on metal lathes. Because they use galvanized steel, they bury their walls into the ground and foundation to provide earthquake and hurricane strength.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

cinema review - The Train (1964)

John Frankenheimer had the privilege of directing the last great black and white action film, The Train, starring Burt Lancaster in 1964. I have to agree that it is a great film. It is greatly filmed and asks great philosophical questions, typical of the era's existential angst.

The TrainImage via Wikipedia


The struggle in the film is the struggle by the French resistance to prevent a trainload of great art from being sent to Germany before the Allies arrive. The protagonist is Burt Lancaster, who doesn't even attempt a French accent. The antagonist is a German colonel played by Paul Scofield who cares more for art than for humans, even fellow German soldiers. The poster for the movie captures that pretty well.

It was filmed big which fit well with it's love for trains. The massiveness of those vehicles are felt throughout the film. I don't think I have witnessed multiple train collisions and derailments in a movie before. He used real, full-sized trains to crash into each other and destroyed a real train yard in an Allied bombing scene. He filmed it in France. Lancaster did his own stunts. An off camera sprain from a golf game was incorporated into the character's struggle. I thought Lancaster was acting so well as he hobbled up and down a mountain. In fact, he really was hobbled.

But the philosophical question Lancaster's character asks in the beginning and his female rescuer asks in the middle, is, how many lives are worth the price of priceless art? Is a crate of van Gogh's worth one life? Is a crate of can Gogh's and a crate of Gaugin's worth two lives? Are the crates just oil on canvas or are they a nation's heritage? How many lives is a nation's heritage worth? Would someone die to preserve the Magna Carta? Would someone die to preserve an original copy of the Declaration of Independence? What are they worth? Are originals worth more than copies?

At the end, Frankenheimer poses the question visually. Lancaster successfully derails the train one last time and the Germans abandon it. But before they do, they turn their machine gun on the French hostages they had used to deter Lancaster from blowing up their train. In the end, Lancaster stands between the boxes with the names of all the famous artists whose works they contain and the dead bodies of his fellow citizens. Throughout the movie, his accomplices are killed off by the Nazis, until almost all the minor French characters are gone. He alone is left with art he has never seen nor cares about and the bodies of friends and neighbors.

Is art or heritage worth more than one human life? Would Frankenheimer want his films preserved in exchange of a fellow humans life? No. I don't think most of the rational artists represented in the film would disagree. I did have to qualify that with "rational." Art represents life, it cannot replace life. Art itself is a copy, a representation of the real. Every life is sacred in its essence. There is sacred art, but it's the reality it represents that makes it sacred. But art can outlive a generation. But a generation can lose interest in the art. That is why the same movies are made year after year. We forget.

I'm glad Frankenheimer doesn't answer the question for his audience. The movie ends with Lancaster walking down the road, away from the bodies and the boxed art, as if the art had coffins, dignity, but not the humans. How do you argue?

The art could not be appreciated by the dead, and the living one did not care. Humans are the unique art of a single artist, God, made in his image. That's why they matter most. That's why, as a follower of Jesus, I oppose the destruction of humans, especially the most vulnerable, in the womb and in weakened states, aged or infirm. If one truly does love art, then one cannot value any pieces by the lessers more than by the greatest.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

one video from my Haiti trip, Feb 2010

This footage was taken by Pastor George Small of Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, Mass. He took a lot of footage. I'm impressed by how he was able to distill the essentials down to 10 minutes.




If you can sponsor a Haitian child for $30 a month through Mission E4, please contact them at MissionE4@yahoo.com

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Degaje - Make it work

Degaje is the Haitian Creole phrase meaning, "make it work." In a country that is so dependent on foreign assistance and without any substantial manufacturing, when a piece of higher technology breaks down, there are no replacement parts and either it is made to work or left to decay. When I was in Port-au-Prince last year I was impressed with the welder at the Calvary Christian Fellowship Orphanage.
From Haiti, Port-au-Prince

His personal protection for welding consisted of flip flops for his feet and dark sunglasses for his eyes. That was not out of ordinary for some people in the US, but his power source for this arc welder was an example of "degaje."
From Haiti, Port-au-Prince

It looks to me like a battery with lots of metal wire coated around it. In principle, perfect, but nothing I've seen stateside.

On this most recent trip, I had to live out "degaje" in small ways. After the earthquake, the American style toilets in the Leogane orphanage of Mission E4 were in the unstable and unsafe orphanage building. So mission director Scott Long began the construction of a new shower and bath house. When we arrived, the toilets needed to be removed from the damaged house and placed in the new facility. This is the bathroom stall, waiting for cement finish work, a wall, and, most importantly, a toilet.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

The Haitians, hired for $10 a day, a very good wage, took care of the cement, but we Americans had to frame the wall and install the toilet. I got the toilet job because my brother is a plumber for Ceil Plumbing and Heating of Stonington, CT and I've watched him install one or two. This is a picture of the cracks in the walls over the bathroom.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

I headed into the cracked building and began to wrestle with the rusted nuts and bolts of the toilet. Normally, my brother cuts the bolts, but toilet bolts aren't as easy to come by in Haiti, 25 miles from the capital, after a major earthquake, nor is WD-40. With much perseverance, I got one off, but the second one, closest to the dim corner and hardest to access, and on my weaker left hand, was not willing to separate. My rocking and wrestling with the bowl did liberate spiders and very large cockroaches. I couldn't believe the quantity of chicken tender size roaches could live under a bolted down toilet. It was like the clowns coming out of the circus car. By lunch, I only had one bolt off and the toilet needed to be installed by dinner.

Scott drove me into the Leogane city to a standing hardware store. They didn't have the bolts, so I needed to finish the job. One the other problems was the PVC pipe to the sewer was too high off the floor. I slid the toilet bowl attachment plate on it, but it did not slide down at all so I could cut off the excess. Nor could I pull it off to cut it down. In the country of abundant cement, I built a form and asked the Haitians to pour enough to raise the level up to the plate. I went back to the bolt, and got fed up and rocked the bowl back and forth until the bolt and bowl popped right off with no breaks!

When it came time to install the toilet in the new place, after the cement set and the wall was installed, the bolts proved to be of no use anyway. I set the wax ring down, dropped the toilet on, and tried very hard to align the bolts with the holes in the plate. The toilet set down correctly, no leaks, but only one bolt seemed to catch, but I was unable to tighten it back through the rust. I made it work, though not up to any code. My brother now tells me, caulking around it will help it stay in place as well as the bolts.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

One thing that kept this job simpler was the fact that no water lines were running into it. This toilet would be a bucket flusher. A big barrel of water stood outside the door that the user would dip into to make sure everything flows to the septic system.

But this was the simple job. The harder job, came a couple days later.

Build a bridge.

Scott bought property across the street to build a campground for the homeless. He had three dump truck loads of crushed limestone delivered next to the property. The only difficulty was the eight foot deep, 24 foot wide drainage ditch. The Haitian work crew would prepare a concrete bridge over the week for dump trucks to use, but in the meanwhile, we had tents and stone and property ready for a few people, if a foot bridge could be made. So Scott assigned me and Jimn Kyles and Kenny Ortiz to the engineering task. We had no clue how to "degaje" this task, but one of the contractors on our team sketched us a truss bridge on a 2x4, which became our blueprint. This is Kenny holding up our skeleton of a bridge.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

We did a little digging to widen the landing on the land side. None of our diagonal beams are of equal length because I wanted to avoid cutting. The Haitians and American contractors in the orphanage were using the power tools and the generator, which left me with a hand saw. I didn't have time for a hand saw, so I found scrap pieces of lumber left by the other guys and made them work for our purposes. I'm not a very good hammer and nail guy either. We were using 4 inch nails that needed several good hammer whacks. I missed the nail twice and hit my thumb with force instead. My hammering time ended. This is my thumb and the bridge I sacrificed it for.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

By lunch time, Kenny and Jimn had cross pieces in and we were ready for decking.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

We planned on cutting the plywood to fit around the pieces sticking up, but Scott saved us by bringing over the generator and a Sawsall. He cut off the non-flush parts, we laid the plywood down, nailed it in, and our contractor teammate Bradley took the circular saw to the overhang. We ended up with a beautiful foot bridge. We "made it work." That's Bradley on the left.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

We then moved all this sand to the property. Six inches of sand will drain when the rain comes and keep the mud off the tents.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

Jimn and Kenny pushed all the sand around to make a level base for the tents.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

Here is Jimn in front of a few newly erected tents, which became homes that night along with 4 other tents for a few displaced, fatherless families. A day earlier, this was a property covered with banana trees, but cleared by a crew of Haitians with machetes. Now a campsite for multiple tents and a sewage pit dug by other Haitians. A few days later, while we were doing other things, the Haitian crew had expanded the campsite pad, so I helped Pastors George Small and Dick Stark set up a few more tents. Kenny the city boy from Philly also set up the first tents of his life as well. "Degaje"
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

When we left, the Haitians had made substantial progress on the real bridge. They "made it work" with pick axes and shovels, 2x4's and nails, large stones, rebar and cement, and a crew of a dozen guys who worked hard all day in the heat and high humidity on one meal a day. They know how to "degaje."
From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Haiti needs assistance to "degaje" through the rainy season, starting next week, and rebuild their homes and their lives. Their government couldn't get much worse than it was before the quake. They need charitable investment by individuals from wealthier places like the US. Even citizens of the Dominican Republic are raising funds for Haiti. We need to join them to make it work. Please donate. I can only speak of what I know. I saw Samaritan's Purse at work down there. I worked with Mission E4. And I know Calvary Chapel Port-au-Prince has made it's own displaced persons camp in PaP. Haiti needs help over the long term. Please invest.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

getting stuff done in Haiti

Who is getting things done in Haiti?
We were impressed with the Canadian military. I saw Samaritan's Purse tarps in use and trucks on the road. I saw Doctors without Borders and Gynecologists without Borders. We were frustrated with the U.N. One U.N. rep told our team leader, Scott, that they would give us 5000 emergency shelter kits to distribute. Our team was then formed with the intention of distributing all these over a few days. When Scott returned to Haiti with us, the UN could offer us no more than 1000 kits. They also changed the timelines and distribution points on us at a late hour. They held a 2 hour coordinating meeting that concluded nothing. Haitians are fed up with their own government as well as the UN.
The UN did deliver to us 1000 shelter kits.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

But they went to the wrong location and refused to listen to the Sri Lankan officers with them who knew where we were and would not move until Scott drove back with the Sri Lankans to prove he really was located somewhere else. The aid we received from the UN was US AID packages.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

So thank you, US government.

We also met some US marines on patrol in Fauche, where they have a base set up on the beach.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

They were happy to not be in the Asian theater for a while. Unfortunately, we heard there has been some fraternization with the local young ladies occurring in Fauche.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

That's the last complication Haitians need in their lives.

But the Canadian army is doing so much where we were. They distribute food and aid and befriend Haitians. Fluency in French sure helps them connect with the Haitians.

I helped distribute the aid in two remote towns. The site in this picture received 300 kits. At another we passed out 150. The UN is learning what the local pastors and missionaries already know. Aid gets to the people in need if those people have tickets. Tickets also prevent chaos at the distribution.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

Scott brought rolls of tickets from the US down in his luggage. He gave local pastors the rolls and asked them to make sure the people most in need in their areas got them so they could get aid. This allowed the aid to get directly in the hands of those most in need instead of the strongest who could fight their way to the front of the lines.

But the big aid bureaucracies are victims of their size. I advise you to read the rant of this Catholic priest and his experience with aid officials at his orphanage in Haiti.

I helped build a temporary bridge across a ditch to a piece of property that we started to turn into a campground for the rainy season.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

We then used this bridge to bring across 3 dump truck loads of crushed limestone to make a drainable 6 inch think base to set real tents on.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

All of this material needed to be brought across with 5 wheelbarrows and 10 guys. It was the hardest day I have worked in my entire life. But when the sun set, a few families that had been living in the orphanage cpd with us were able to move into their own little area that will keep the rain off them.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

As the week went on, more stone was brought in and I had the privilege of setting up more tents for more families. This campground could eventually hold 120 tents. It will cost altogether $12,000.
In contrast, the UN set up a similar sized campground in Port-au-Prince to very high standards. Their campground cost $2 million. Perhaps half of that went to the 20 or 30 brand new UN labeled SUV's parked around the campground.
So if you can give, give to the smaller organizations. If you can give long term, please support a child in Haiti. Look at Mission E4's page for one avenue of sponsorship.

One other source of shelters I saw in Leogane was ShelterBox, the emergency relief arm of Rotary clubs.
From Haiti trip Feb 2010

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Walking through Leogane, Haiti February 2010

Leogane was only a few miles from the Haitian earthquake of January 12th. Hence, it was the most destroyed of Haitian cities, over 80%. Here is what I saw.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


From Haiti trip Feb 2010


From Haiti trip Feb 2010


The corners of this building were reinforced to keep it standing but the walls just fell and the cement roof collapsed.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


The neighbor's place, a pile of rubble that used to be something much bigger.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Like an avalanche of cement rubble, but actually a home or a business destroyed by the 50 seconds violent shaking.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


A primary school no longer teaching.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Some of the better temporary shelters we saw.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


I can't tell how many levels this used to be.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Only the gate and a corner left.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Some children were crushed and killed in this school at an afterschool program.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


This car was parked outside the 1st floor front door. Now it's next to the 2nd floor door.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Front porches were not designed to carry such loads in an earthquake.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


This is actually the 2nd floor of this house. The first floor was turned into dust. I don't know if anyone was in there during the quake.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Even if the front wall looked fine, behind them was nothing but destruction.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


From Haiti trip Feb 2010


It almost looks like a cinder block store, but these used to be parts of walls.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


In the more rural area of L'acul we visited a pastor who lived next door to a voodoo priest's house. This wall showing his religious occupation survived but two other walls collapsed and killed him.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


There were many more churches, but they suffered as well. This one only had its back wall standing.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Some houses look like they stood strong and unscathed, but most people don't trust their homes anymore. They are living outside in their yards or in fields, forming impromptu displacement camps. All they have for shelter are sticks and blankets. This one formed the week I was there across the street from us. When the rainy season starts in March, these shelters will be useless.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


We formed a bucket brigade one evening as some of the little trash fires they set were caught by the wind and started blowing toward these highly flammable structures. By the grace of God, it was stopped before it started the encampment aflame which would have destroyed everything and certainly have killed some people. They posted this sign at the entrance to their camp. "SOS. We need help."

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Fault line cracks in the road.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


There are children that need to be cared for. They are exploitable and exploited in Haiti both since and before the quake. Keeping them in school is one way to help. Mission E4 is committed to caring for 800 children. So far, 300 are sponsored. Can you help out? For $30 a month, less than my bare bones cell phone bill, kids can be fed and taught and looked after medically in this area of Haiti. Please go to Mission E4 to sponsor a child. You might help some of these kids in Fauche.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


Or you might help these kids in Leogane.

From Haiti trip Feb 2010


You can't help all of them. But can you help at least one of them?