A few Septembers ago, I had the honor of sitting down with Betty Wiseman and interviewing her for a third-year writing profile. She had retired the year before I attended Belmont but her name continued to be mentioned frequently throughout the athletic department. She had taught, led, served, coached, and administered at Belmont for 47 years before retiring, and she continues to invest in and take Belmont’s student athletes all over the world on sports ministry/evangelism trips. I knew I just had to meet her and I finally had a reason to!
What started as a single interview has grown into a life-long friendship with Betty, and I carry her wisdom and teachings with me every day. She talks of divine appointments, seizing each day, looking for God’s fingerprints daily, and focusing on WHO is next instead of WHAT is next. But it is the idea of God weaving the tapestry of our lives with different threads that I have been reminded of the most as of late. It is rare to get a glimpse of the greater work of art in the making of the tapestry, but we must be faithful in following as God is faithful in weaving each thread even when we don’t see how it will fit to make something lovely.
September has been filled with many threads, both figuratively and literally, and while I don’t always understand each of their purposes at the time, I hope for the day when they fit together to reveal something labored over and truly beautiful because of it. This month I began attending an embroidery class taught locally, and I’m seeing how threads come in different colors and can be made into many different stitches. Some stitches are more challenging than others and some come more naturally. Some build on past stitches while others are completely new. Sometimes you mess up the stitch and must start all over again or cut part of the thread out. But most importantly, you can have the best thread and fabric and needles and picture of what you want to create in your head, but you must have someone to teach you to use those things and to correct your work along the way. Sewing has so many life lessons and applications attached to it!
Here’s a look at a few threads being woven together in the past month:
This past year and especially this past month have been a ‘sea change’ of sorts, as discussed by Shauna Niequist in her book “Present Over Perfect,” where she says, “The word sea-change is from Shakespeare, from The Tempest: a man is thrown into the sea, and under the water he is transformed from what he was into something entirely new, something ‘rich and strange.’”
There’s no hiding that at times I feel like I’ve thrown myself into the waters of Haiti, struggling to swim and propel myself forward more often that not. I’m forever learning to shed the weights of what I thought would work for microfinance in our partnering communities, realizing I had no clue or a good, practical framework all along. The steps towards my end goal were always a little blurry, but these new waters are providing some much needed clarity.
Small strokes. Culture. Language. Relationships. Questions. Trust. Pray. Forgive and be forgiven. Do life with people. How can I ever know what people truly want to better their lives if I haven’t walked a day in their shoes?
I’ve also had to pick off a few dead scales of what made me successful in the past to make room for new skin for this challenging work. This has not been easy or pleasant, and there are plenty more that need to be removed. I’m seeing how my task-oriented, ‘planner’ way of living just isn’t going to work here no matter how hard I try. My desire for independence isn’t going to fly either—I need the people around me for daily life more than I ever knew could be possible. Cars break down, water and chicken feed are heavy, and in the heat of difficult situations my Kreyol just doesn’t work sometimes. Men anpil, chay pa lou...a lot of hands make the load light.
And with this sea change, a new type of boat has become necessary to traverse the waters. In reading “One Thousand Wells” this past month, I came across the motor boat verses sailboat analogy. Motor boats are great if you want to go fast and you want to go alone. You are in complete control of the boat’s direction and can keep putting gas in the engine. They are results driven. Sailboats, however, are at the mercy of the wind to set the pace and often require a team of people working as one to get the job done. Sometimes the boat doesn’t move at all no matter how hard you will for the wind to come, and other times you need to change direction or make adjustments to find the wind that catches the sail. Sailboats are more process driven. Both have the same end goal of the shore in mind, they just have drastically different methods of getting there.
I pulled off the dock to Haiti with a motor boat mentality, and it didn’t take long for me to sink in the Caribbean waters. I’m learning to love manning a sailboat and enjoying the journey and company along the way. It requires a different skill set and mind set than what I set sail with, but when I dock at the port I will know all along it was always more about the journey than the destination.
“In other words, before you try to conquer something as big as a mountain, you have to change (Jena Lee Nardella).” You must learn to acclimate to the climate, build the right muscle, and recruit the right traveling partners before making it to wherever you’re going. And change we must, and I’m really starting to like these new waters.
Here I Raise My Ebenezer
In the midst of reading stories of engaging local communities for global change, I had the honor of meeting with the president of Eben Ezer Mission, Pastor Michel, a few days ago. In the last 50 years he has built many things in his community from the desolate ground up—including the first well, private university, and secondary school in his area—but what caught my attention was his community led model of credit unions and co-ops, purposed to completely engage the community members to invest their own money into local businesses while providing access to financial services that are available to few people in Haiti. It almost seems too good to be true. I’ve only just begun to learn about this model, but I look forward to visiting some of their credit unions in person in the next few weeks and seeing if this is something we can make happen in our partnering communities. This could be the answer to cleanly establishing micro finance as separate from Disciples’ Village’s foreign mission status…an effective way to engage communities to jumpstart economic change from the inside out.
This month I read that when making a friend, it is often not the person themselves that we are drawn to but some thread(s) that we have in common. For instance, I became fast friends with my teammates in college because we had softball in common, or now I’m drawn to people who have similar interests in economic development and global entrepreneurship. This gave me much peace when analyzing why I’ve lost the ‘spark’ of friendship with some people who I was close to in college and why others have stayed the same. Some of our common threads have disappeared while others have remained unchanged.
This has also proven to be invaluable in forming bonds with people I work with in Haiti. Once they see we have the common thread of Kreyol, we dive into conversations about our families, what work we do, what we like to eat, and so on. This has helped to bridge the divide that my skin color can often create, and I’ve been able to identify and pull on many common threads this past month, whether that be learning to sew or learning to cook traditional Haitian meals. The sweetest of times and conversations in September have come over cutting up vegetables with old friends or sitting attentively while my new friends show me how to correct incorrect stitches.
Business Leader Meetings
Our first meeting included breaking bread—or legume and sous pwa nwa—together and was a happy time for all! I got a look into the daily lives of Haitian women and learned to make another dish with the lovely Madame Pastor from Trouforban, the leaders enjoyed the food, and we got to chat about business and God’s faithfulness in our lives with full bellies and joy-filled hearts. We are still working together to think through ideas of what business markets need in each of our villages. Is it micro loans? Better business practices? Better management? Wholesale or retailer? Each village is beautifully different.
This past month I began attending a sewing class down the road at Bettie’s with some young gals from the Kaliko area. It has been a joy to learn and laugh and be corrected by them. Sewing is teaching me lots about patience and focus while working quickly with giggling girls all around. My mother’s age old “haste makes waste” has proven true time and time again! I look forward to continuing to embroider and have the chance to invest in the little lives of some local kiddos. We have started doing brief business and English lessons to go along with the embroidery! I have also begun looking around for treadle machines and sewing ‘bosses’ to teach sewing lessons as a job creation project. “Sew” exciting!
ZiZi Ze Poulaye, Sassy Egg Chicken Coop
Our coop experienced a little trouble selling eggs in the middle of the month, so we spent some time trouble-shooting with our seller and came up with some ideas that were slow moving to sell the eggs but got the job done. On the upside, now that school is back in session, we have started selling eggs to the Trouforban kitchen to boil for the kiddos every Friday with their spaghetti! Smiles all around for good nutrition and steady egg sales!
“Make and Take” Day
Before our Alex’s House kiddos headed to school this month, a few of the house parents and I took our older gals to Gonaïves to participate in a “make and take” lesson at 2nd Story Goods—the supplier of our journals and a few other beautiful items at the souvenir store! Our gals, house mamas, and Frantz chose between learning to sew, make jewelry, paint, or craft metal art! They all created beautiful pieces and enjoyed learning new skills. This day has sparked a desire in several ladies to continue working on their trade or to start on another one day. I look forward to finding more opportunities for our AH kiddos to learn new skills and discover their gifts, as we have some wonderfully creative and talented future leaders!!
Lately Haiti is redefining a few words that I grew up numb to, such as grace, faithfulness, goodness, and mercy. September has been an extraordinary month of learning and growing for all of us here, and I look forward to see what threads will be sewn in October!