The more I learn the less I know.
The reality of this phrase is becoming more evident with each passing day, leaving no realm of life untouched. With language, culture, faith, economics/finance, business, relationships, life, emotions, health, myself, and on and on, it is beautifully frustrating to get a glimpse of all the knowledge, wisdom, and information roaming around in the world but knowing that it is unlikely I’ll ever obtain even a small fraction of it all. I’m learning a higher level of learning and thinking, of living and loving and leading, and it is revealing in abundance how little I actually know about myself, my faith, my host country and it’s culture and language, of leadership, microfinance/economic development, and life in general. And it’s awesome.
It appears the more Haitian Creole I learn, the more aware I become in real life conversation just how far I have to go to become fluent and to truly understand what is being said beyond picking up singular words. Learning a higher level of a foreign language is tough but oh so rewarding to get around a tad more on my own. I have even come across my new favorite Kreyol expression equivalent to “I’m chilling like a coffee cover” while learning the slang of everyday conversation. Absolutely incredible. Why don’t we say things like this in English?
In knowledge and understanding of business/financial management in a third world country, just when I think I’ve communicated something clearly, I often find that my words were likely taken out of context and heard as they wanted to be heard. While not a completely foreign concept, talking and asking about savings and loans in a deeply impoverished nation proves to be tricky. I’m learning to think on a higher level to recognize how my words might be taken before I say them and to make the appropriate adjustments.
The more I inquire about and observe Haitian culture, communication, and interaction in a collectivist context, the further I realize I must go in learning to communicate effectively and efficiently in a style far different from my own. This higher level of communicating extends into my culture of origin too, as I learn to recognize and respect where people come from and how that effects every aspect of life.
The larger the amount of leaders I observe becomes and the more leaderships scenarios I find myself in, the more I cringe at how I have led people in the past but I’m ever more grateful for the incredible number of examples of great leadership I grew up with and am surrounded by now. Leading at a higher level is grueling work, and forever I will be thankful for the many who have gone before me and taken the time to smooth the way that we might achieve more than they ever dreamed possible.
The deeper my friendships become with those I’m doing life with and the many people I’m meeting on a regular basis, the more I see my shortcomings in relationships, communication, and thoughtfulness and I appreciate unconditional love and grace all the more because it. is. hard. to put others before myself and to be aware of their needs when I’m still figuring out my own.
The more aware I become of my intentions, thoughts, and actions and the Holy Spirit reveals piece by piece my many shortcomings, the more I learn of my utter dependence on the sovereign Grace of God and the less I understand how a righteous God could ever use a sinner like me. Mèsi Jezi pou gras ou.
However, in the midst of frustrations stemming from my many shortcomings both internal and external due to taking steps towards living on a higher level, there have been so many glorious moments in October shining a light on what I have learned. With each passing day, I am continually more in awe of the lessons and experiences being had here in Haiti. The learning curve is steep when immersed in a foreign culture, country, language, academic disciplines, and a new stage of post grad life, but I would not want to spend these precious days any other way. I’m being stretched beyond what I could have previously imagined and experiencing feelings I have never felt or recognized before. My cup is being drained faster than ever but now simultaneously being filled at a rate impossible by human standards. Coming to the end of my knowledge and understanding of the world around and within me is a beautiful (yet painful) thing, and I am eager to continue plowing through new territories while striving for higher levels.
Here are some abbreviated versions of October’s many lessons, difficulties, adventures, new norms, simple joys and small victories, and progress in microfinance/economic development/job creation in Haiti:
- God did not give me the gift of skillful hands—I have struggled to create a wooden frame for a painting, build box for chicken food, mini chicken coop for sick chickens and am oh so thankful for the MANY people who have helped me and taught me things like how to use a skill saw and drill along the way
- Striving to obtain peace with craziness of post grad life in general, let alone trying to figure it out in a third world country. Grace upon grace upon grace from God and for myself as His plan is revealed
- 1 Peter 4:10 NASB “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I need to be a steward of God’s grace—something I have not been doing in exhaustion.
- Regretfully I found the end of my own strength and mistakenly I didn’t cry out to Jesus for help nearly as quickly as I should have. It was ugly, and I pray it will turn out differently next time.
- The abundance of scattered and semi burnt trash in Vielo that I didn’t notice until today is kind of like my sin. It is ugly, unclean, impure, not supposed to be there, bad for the environment and our health, and I often get used to seeing it all over Haiti and not cleaning it up until one day it stops me in my tracks after building up for so long.
- The joy of the Lord must be my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that must be cultivated in the good and the bad.
- Communication on my end must improve with people back in the United States—family and friends that pour into me and keep me going here in Haiti. The times I felt drained this past month is when I had isolated myself from those who know me best.
- Grace upon grace upon grace, given by God alone, is my sustainer and source of hope
- Continuation of ‘manifestations’, demonstrations, protests, and strikes at the beginning of October, making it difficult to get out and about around Haiti
- Letting my spirit run on empty—not good for me or the people I was doing business with
- Miscommunications and continually being reminded of gaps in my knowledge of Haitian culture and how to properly be assertive while being culturally sensitive
- “My mom doesn’t have a house either”… there will always be a need. I struggle to keep a laser focus on the tasks I have been called to do.
- Some days I don’t know if I can say ‘no’ one more time to the endless requests for money, food, and water from kiddos—sometimes it makes me wish I didn’t know the Creole to understand what they are saying. No matter how hard I try to explain that a dollar won’t help or that I don’t have enough crackers or water for all of the kiddos who will come out of the woodwork if I begin passing them out, I understand that their circumstances and meager upbringings make it difficult to look beyond the immediate and see the bigger picture.
- More grossly swollen mosquito bites on my arm, wrist, and face…for some reason nothing breaks my spirit faster than a deformity on my face.
- Letting my spirit be depleted and suffering from a physical manifestation of what was happening within.
- Note to self–parasites might be hiding in the yummy street food. But who knows that you acquired it there unless you try it again??
Zizi Ze (Sassy Eggs- my temporary name for DV’s chicken coop)
- Disciples’ Village first economic development project came to fruition halfway through October!
- I thoroughly enjoyed the process of researching the current egg market in Trouforban, forecasting revenue and expenses, pricing to keep other sellers in the market, measuring land, pricing and purchasing supplies for coop, etc.
- Language of coop—it is DV’s coop and we are hiring an employee to ensure they don’t say “It’s my coop and I can give the eggs away, sell/kill the chickens…” with the possibility of having her purchase it in increments in the future , etc.
- Working with fixed salary while training and will shift into percentage of egg sales once we get more layers. Other revenues will go towards savings for employee(s), reserves for future chicken purchases, food, repairs, etc.
- Interviewing and briefly training employee for coop—I learned to stop assuming that everyone can read and write, searched for the proper questions to ask to learn the information you desire and to make it clear who is the best option to hire
- Endless frustration trying to find layers to be purchased by Friday, communicating in another language, difficulties picking up b/c manifestation
- Joy of meeting chickens and seeing them lay their first eggs!! Mesi Jezi!
- Excitement from first egg sales!
- Interesting process of writing up contract in simple but sufficient terms, translating and proofing Creole, etc., walking through pricing and sales, learning of first sales!
- Realizing things needed for the coop—a box for eggs and food, isolation coop, etc.—and trying to build them with the help of SO MANY PEOPLE. It has and will continue ‘to take a village’ to get this coop up and running and to keep it going. I’m so thankful for the many people who have helped construct boxes, patiently teach me to use a saw and drill and how to best stabilize things, and transport things back and forth from the coop.
New Norms- Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
- Uncertainty is uncomfortable—it doesn’t matter what I want but what God wills—this is becoming the mantra of my work and life
- “Who’s in more danger…the persecuted or the comfortable?” KB’s “Crowns & Thorns (Oceans) Ouch. Where am I letting my desired comforts get in the way of seeing the needs of those around me?
- 4:45 am wake up, 5:30 breakfast, 6:00 departure for church or meetings at Vielo is by no means abnormal anymore, and I love life that way.
- Walking through a very active market and then on up the mountain via aqueducts and dirt paths is totally normal to visit one of our partnering communities. There is such beauty to behold past ‘normal’
- Aimlessly roaming around the side of a mountain looking for a boss farmer lady that stood out during the census, not having a clue where I was going but equipped with the determination to find her. And upon finding this sweet soul, sitting down with her on her front porch without a translator and trying to communicate back and forth about her current farming methods, equipment, seeds, irrigation, etc. and how they can be improved upon…a previously extremely uncomfortable situation but now a semi-regular occurrence.
- While a traumatic event for some, standing on the side of a very busy road after our truck broke down one morning is something that I didn’t even think twice about or remember by mid afternoon—as it is not the first time I have stood/walked on the side of that road nor do I think it will be the last.
- Never did I think that I would be managing a chicken coop or researching chickens. The good Lord has a sense of humor.
Simple Joys and Small Victories
- During the wedding of two friends this summer I decided that it would be neat for my future wedding ceremony to be spoken in both English and Haitian Creole—and even better yet that I desire to have two ceremonies, one in the United States and one in Haiti, so all of the people I so dearly love can be in attendance. It is with great joy that I report that I have found the church that I will have my Haitian wedding ceremony in one day. It features crisp, yellow concrete walls, plenty of room for the many people who have become family here, a short walk from Alex’s House/Disciples’ Village, electricity and operating fans… what more could one want??
- Observance of a ‘legal’, peaceful protest with police walking along the street with the protesters; street signs and road improvements; fixing a river/path destroyed by hurricane Matthew a year ago—progress is progress!
- The pleasure of being in the presence of great leaders and having them ask challenging questions
- A visit to a bakery centered around job creation to meet a fellow expat doing the economic development/job creation thing in Haiti and learning about the “GrowBook: 25 Essential Drivers of Small Business Success in the Developing World” that can be found in both English and Haitian Creole!! I look forward to reading in my spare time
- Small victory: two trips and many outgoing, incoming, and missed phone calls later, we were able to retrieve the small amount of money overcharged for the layers and supplies
- Meeting with leaders in partnering village to start discussing various methods of economic development/job creation
- Brought ‘ti manje’ of bread from bakery, moringa bread I had made, and eggs from the coop to showcase various job creation possibilities
- Markets for sewing, a bakery, broiler chicken coop, water purification, etc.
- Joy of sleeping in long sleeved shirt for over a week! Mesi Jezi for showers, electricity throughout the night, fans, cooler weather, and a homey room! The sponsor of the house I stay in came in October to finish our rooms. While I am oh so thankful for a space to myself with a bed and fans no matter what it looks like, she painted the walls a beautiful light shade of yellow, made a daybed, hung some paintings and curtains, placed some rugs on the floor and made an oasis away from the unpredictability and madness of life in Haiti. Sound sleep has made me realize the importance of creating space to breath and retreat to, and for that I am ever thankful for the kind soul who is turning our house into a home.
- Disciples’ Village’s PR director came in October and brought the GrowBook and chocolate—I almost teared up out of thankfulness. Mesi Jezi
- Started running again—I didn’t realize how much I needed that time to myself to zone out (while still being aware of surroundings), jam to hype music, and enjoy the beauty around me
- A MAN IN VIELO GAVE ME A GIFT OF 7 AVOCADOS!! MY CUP OVERFLOWS!!
- Seeing the good record kept of eggs sold after being uncertain that our coop employee and I were on the same page. It wasn’t exact but we can work with it!
- Not being able to purchase eggs from our own coop due to demand from the community and so few chickens currently.
October has been a dream filled with quite the spectrum of high and low points, and I enter into November more equipped than before and ready to take on the next higher level I am to achieve.