Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Bashful Renter

The picture on the right was taken in Haiti. Jim is probably telling me the error of my ways again....or could it be words of endearment?

Sooooooo....We have this old house built in 1960, blue and white frame with patchy grass, a repo we bought for about $40,000 years ago. The meager rent supplements our support when and if a renter feels obliged to pay it. In the hurricane of 2004 a tree fell on the roof demolishing it and rain soaked most of the house. Jim let some people he found living under the bay bridge, a family of six from Oklahoma live in it and fix the roof in exchange for free rent. Needless to say they stayed quite awhile.

The history of renters in the house has been colorful, most of which I cannot relate to you and remain a godly person. The family currently renting it is three months behind so Jim thinks… “I’ll give him a little work.” Jim is swamped with paperwork on some Haiti projects so it makes sense. “Win Win” right? The man’s a “tree cutter downer” so Jim hires him to cut down some brush on the hill behind our house.

Meanwhile Stan, a genteel man at our church gives us some winter clothes…nice stuff; said we could use our own judgment about how to disburse it. Thinking of the heat in Haiti, I call the renter’s cell and ask if they need winter clothes. “Oh Yes,” he says….”Me and my tree crew sure could use those shirts.” I hear buzz saws in the background and think… “He’s working! Maybe some rent!” Hope springs eternal. Jubilantly I ask, “Could you call your wife and let her know I will drop off the clothes?”

I wait a reasonable length of time, in case the wife wants to spruce the place up a bit. The clothes are on hangers and in boxes and my car is sagging from the load. My kids even throw in some clothes of theirs in case there are girls in the house who are needy.

I pull into the drive…count three cars and a pickup truck. I’m wondering…how many people live here? There is an old washer and dryer stacked out in the carport, trash everywhere. The new blinds I bought at Wal-Mart are gone and a faded United State flag blanket is pulled over one window and varied and sundry things drape the others.

I knock at the door which used to be white and is now blotched with mildew and filth. A squirrely dog and a pit bully type dog growl and go into a frenzy of barking and clawing at the window sill Jim had so carefully painted months before. Didn’t the lease say” No PETS?” I’m seething inside at this point.

I hear the woman inside shout “Shad UP” to the now hysterical dogs. I wait expectantly at the door. After 10 minutes, I decide she is not going to open the door, so I stalk back to my car and pull open both car doors. A pile of long sleeved shirts spill onto the driveway.

I hope she’s watching as I pick them up carefully and struggle pitifully under my load up the driveway to the porch. It’s 30 degrees and the wind is whipping my hair backwards into my glowering face.

I remind myself…what good is it to help the poor in Haiti if I can’t even help here? I will invite this lady and all the other people who are apparently living with her here in this little 912 sq ft house to our church. I’m at the bottom of the driveway due to all the junk cars parked haphazardly ahead, so I trudge back and forth, stacking the clothes in neat piles on the chairs on the porch and on top of a log, no doubt a leftover from one of the tree cutter’s cuts.

The love of Christ is not really flooding my heart and the freezing wind does not help. I want to tell the woman that no matter how poor you are…you could clean up your yard….that I would starve before I would “not pay the rent,” how I had lived in tiny little trailers and a small apartment with the girls in an 8 x 8 room with Whitney on the floor, how I’d slept in hovels in Africa but managed to sweep and have some pride in my abode.

I didn’t say any of those things, however. I meekly leave everything, go home, complain big time to Jim, ask God to forgive me for my bad attitude which is still creeping up even now.

Truth is…I would like to evict them and all those folks living with them…but I have


Perhaps God will honor that and they will pay the rent once in awhile.


Karen-Missionary Meany

PS Our tickets are booked back to Haiti to work on two projects at opposite ends of the island. You are welcome to join us!

"Two Projects, Two Places, One Month"

I have a bad attitude the whole week. It’s Sunday October 24, 2010. Church at 6 AM. Showers and transportation have been sporadic. I smooth my rumpled skirt, a sad gesture and fear the odor which permeates the air may emanate from me. My longing for cleanliness is reaching desperation.

I puncture the plastic bag of water with a pen, spill it into my lap, pour quickly into the plastic glass, sprinkle Taster’s Choice into the cold water and gulp. No way to heat water where we are sleeping. A few granules stick to my teeth. My personal hygiene leaves much to be desired at this point. I turn, hoping Jim isn’t watching.

Our Second Arrival in Port Au Prince en route to Cap Haitien.

A haze of brown dust hovers over Port Au Prince, a cloud that clogs our eyes and nostrils, and coats our teeth as we drive to Tortug Air to take a flight north to Cap Haitian. Pastor Henoc transports us and our luggage to another hangar. Four of us squeeze into the back seat, jammed tightly together.

Desperation and filth stretch before us, the odor nearly overpowering, the sidewalk lined with garbage. Pigs and goats squabble over raw garbage and sewage. A woman steps into the alleyway with 4 crates of eggs balanced expertly on her head. Colorfully dressed matrons glare from rickety makeshift dwellings made with packing cases, tin and cardboard. Children fight in a puddle over a seemingly priceless treasure.

Stepping expertly over excrement, a dirty faced street urchin rubs his stomach and stretches his hand to us in one practiced motion. An old woman huddles in a doorway and scowls when I take her picture though the glass. I don’t blame her.

Our clothes stick to us as we tumble from the dirty beige Toyota Land Cruiser. Inside the hangar our luggage is checked as we hand in our passports. I glance nervously towards the door. Jim has my passport and is coming in another load. I have a fear of being separated from my luggage. The luggage handler assaults me with a disoriented verbal bombardment in Creole. I see Jim’s rugged face smiling as he appears in a sea of faces in the third car load. I relax.

Week 4 in the north of Haiti, second group.

We board a small prop plane. Porters heave part of our luggage into the tail of the plane. The pilot looks like a kid. Dirt in the aisle crunches under my feet. I lower myself heavily into a battered beige seat; the only air is warm air. Paint peels around the grimy oval windows that have no shades. We bump down the runway and wobble in the air making it look like we are waving with the wings. Circling the airport at Cap Haitien 30 minutes later, I spy a plane just like ours resting on its stomach with each blade of the propellers bent at right angles….both sides. Wheels didn’t come down. Hmmmmm. Glad I wasn’t on that flight.

Back to Sunday Morning

I pull on a slip under my wrap around skirt (last minute thought); grab my camera bag and sunhat. Jim and I walk down the dirt road to the church which is just ½ mile away past the 25 acres we will build on.

I pray out loud as we walk, thanking God for our supporters, His goodness and mercy and the many blessings we have. A peace settles on me. We greet smutty faced snotty-nosed children lining the streets with “Bonjour.” My bad attitude evaporates. I’m happy.

We sit in wood pews and I feel vibrations from the rumbling generator that powers the big speakers and mike. The sound of old hymns in Creole echoes through the rafters and out the bars of massive windows that frame palm fronds swaying in the breeze. Children are decked out in their best with bows and crisp shirts.

Pastor Henoc, a mountain of a man with sad eyes dominates the platform as he delivers the message in his granite voice. Thin bodies lean forward with eager faces to hear words of exhortation from God’s Word.

Tears cloud my vision as I feel like I’m 9 years old sitting in Kenya, listening to the Kikuyu sing, watching my Dad smile before he preaches in his quiet style In Swahili.

My blood sugar drops suddenly (no breakfast) and I have an overwhelming desire to lay down on the pew and sleep. I fight it, as I know there is a can of tuna in my camera bag. I take solace knowing it will only take 15 minutes to open it with the rusty can opener at the place we take our meals. After the service as we stroll along the road, I’m suddenly aware that my wraparound skirt is not wrapped around, a semi-National Geographic moment averted by the somewhat inappropriately aforementioned slip.

We are traveling with a design team including 13 surveyors, architects, civil engineers, electrical engineers, and structural engineers from Engineering Ministries International, EMI. Also, present during planning of the university in Cap Haitien are Greg Schuenke, president of VOHM, Michael Cooper, a professor from Trinity University and Pastor Henoc, the visionary who is preaching as I write this.

This Christian University is hoping to offer an alternative in a smaller city to replace the many universities in Port Au Prince destroyed by the earthquake.

To be continued next month………...

Another use for duct tape. Jim splints a little boy's arm who is injured playing soccer. There was no way to x-ray his arm.