“Tonight, we drink rum. Thank you Jesus.”

Note:  This is amazingly unfocused, the result of little sleep and a crazy week.  Also, I talk too much.

I got a chance to briefly catch up with Miracle (you don’t really pronounce the “-le”) at a meeting on Tuesday.   A teacher and community leader in the area around Darbonne, Miracle’s enthusiasm and joy are evident, in both animated Creole and limited English.  I first met him when I traveled to Haiti in May.  I was still working for AidData at the time, and to make a long story short, was visiting Haiti with an eclectic group to explore the work of Haiti Partners (HP) and understand how we could use our unique callings and vocations to come alongside Haitians.  Dave and Travis, two members of our group, got the chance to stay with Miracle and his family for a few days, and his spirit came across in a yet more universal way.   One night, after a festive meal, he stood up to make a very important announcement.

“Tonight, we drink rum.  Thank you Jesus.”

Since then, a whole lot has happened.  I gave my boss two months’ notice, thankful for the great job he had given me when I was fresh out of undergrad, and started thinking long and hard about my next steps.  After a couple of consulting and contracting gigs, things became pretty clear.  The day after Thanksgiving, I packed nearly all my worldly possessions into a 1998 Toyota Corolla with 185,000 miles on it and drove another thousand miles down to Florida to join up with HP and work on fund-raising/partnerships.  While based out of Florida, I travel often in the States, and will be heading to Haiti 7 or 8 times a year to stay connected with our Haitian colleagues and work on different projects.

I know this is probably because I’m a still a naïve young aid worker, but I’m always shocked by the range of experiences and emotions that every day in Haiti brings.  January 12th, 2011, the 1st anniversary the earthquake that devastated this country, was no different.  John (a co-founders of HP) and I spent the early morning working on some video posts for the HP blog and talking about future partnership programs.   We then picked up two extremely accomplished Haitian-Americans interested in working with us early childhood education and drove out for some meetings at our schools in the Leogane/Darbonne area.  On the way, we passed countless services and assemblies commemorating the dead and celebrating life.  After a full slate of productive meetings  (it’s gotta be productive when it’s 3 hours long, all in Creole, and I’ve completely lost track of where we are after 15 minutes), we dropped them off back in Port-au-Prince.  Then we filmed an interview with a charity-rating organization, interrupted by the moment of silence at 4:53 PM.  We stood with heads bowed for 35 seconds, and then got right back to work.

Today while we were out, the electrician who wired John’s house stopped by.   His wife Merline was home and quickly welcomed him in.  As it turns out, he was looking for the carpenter, a man named Joel who had done an incredible job on all the woodwork, tables, and chairs in the house.  They had become great friends while working together.  You see, the electrician was getting married in 3 weeks, and Joel was his best man.  He hadn’t been able to reach him by phone, and since he knew  John and Merline were good friends of Joel, he thought he would stop by and see if they knew what was going on.

Merline didn’t know what to say to the groom-to-be.  Joel, just married in March himself, was killed by a gang 3 days after Christmas.  They dumped his body in the canal, and his friends couldn’t find it ‘til the next morning.  They had targeted him for organizing his community to combat violence and crime in the area.

The truth is it’s not just the dead from the earthquake that we have to commemorate, remember, and mourn.  Every day people are dying from cholera and countless other treatable diseases, from malnutrition, from violence, and from just plain heartache.

On the way back to the house, we stopped at a roadside shop owned by an old friend of John and Kent’s.  A bunch of guys were just chilling inside the tiny two-room building, just large enough for a desk and some shelves sparsely stocked with essentials like powdered milk and whiskey.   We walked in to backslaps and fist-bumps, a bro-out if I ever saw one (and believe me, I’ve been a part of many).  Most of the guys had just returned from memorial services.  John bought some powdered milk to take back home, and a round of shots for everyone in the room.  The lights dimmed and the radio cut off as we experienced one of the brownouts common in the area.  Everybody raised a glass, and when the radio cut back on, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  The radio had reset to a different station, and a song often heard on Christian radio in the States was playing.  Half the time you hear it it’s oversung and overproduced, but tonight, as I sit here trying to process everything that’s happened since 6 AM, only the words matter.

Wonderful, merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and Friend
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men
Oh you rescue the souls of men

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost the way
Oh, we’ve hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

Almighty, infinite Father
Faithfully loving Your own
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne
Oh, we’re falling before Your throne

Tonight, we drank rum.  For those who died, who are dying, who will die.  For the 315,000 who were crushed in their own homes.  For the nearly 4,000 who have died because they had to chose between dying of hunger and thirst or dying of cholera.  For Joel.

Tonight, we drink the cup of celebration, of suffering, of bitterness, of redemption, of your blood (so many drink so much more than me!).  The way you taught us to.  For this country, for the poor, for the suffering, for the oppressed.  For the US, for the greedy, for the comfortable, for the powerful.   For the men who killed Joel.  For ourselves, that we could even imagine forgiving the way you forgive us.

Thank you Jesus.

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