January 23, 2010

Listening In Haiti

 In my previous post on Haiti, I said that I would be blogging about my experiences in Haiti twelve years ago when I spent my summer helping a missionary friend.  This is what I emailed back home on August 5, 1998.

08/05/98.  This week was definitely my favorite week! We had VBS under "The Big Tree."  A man offered his front yard as the place where VBS meetings could be held. In the middle of the yard was a big grapefruit tree, so we set up under this tree. 

We had been told to expect about 40 children, but we had over 80 every day.  I didn't know it was possible for so many children to crowd on each of  those narrow, wobbly, wooden benches.  But, somehow, there was always room for one more! And did you know that if you set a chair over on its side, you can seat six children on it instead of only two? All those children sat nicely every morning, eagerly singing Bible songs and quietly listening to the Bible Lesson.

The "Big Tree" stands at a central crossroad. This is where the community well is located.   The Bible has stories about water wells, and I can envision those situations a lot better now.  A well really is the center of activity.  It's a social place. Everyone has to come to the water supply . . . for a drink of water, to take a bath, to do their day's laundry, or to just fill their water jugs to carry back to their houses.

While we were having VBS, there was a steady flow of people coming to the well.  They'd be curious and stop to listen to what was going on.  Women carrying oversized loads on their heads and babies in their arms  would come closer to listen.  Men who were leading their goats or donkeys down the path would stop and listen. 

I remember glancing over and seeing a young boy nudging his donkey over to the side of the path and then stopping to listen.  Other young boys, too old (in their opinions) to be counted as VBS children, still gathered behind the cacti hedge to listen.

And whenever a crowd of "extra" people (not only VBS kids) were gathered, then the Haitian workers would take the opportunity to invite the listening crowd to the first church service they were planning to have at the "Big Tree" on Sunday.

January 18, 2010

July 13,1998 in Haiti

In my previous post on Haiti, I said that I would be blogging about my experiences in Haiti twelve years ago when I spent my summer helping a missionary friend.  This is what I emailed back home on July 13, 1998.

July 13, 1998   Flannelgraph items, crayons, coloring pictures, attendance sheets, yarn, name tags, prizes, Bibles, prepared lesson, songbook, thermos and cups . . . one by one, Joetta crossed off the items on her VBS checklist--and we were on our way.  Today was one of our first day of VBS at one of the churches in Caphaitian.

The church was only about 15 miles away, but it took over an hour to get there.  The roads are so bad--pothole after pothole--you hardly know where to drive.  It's certain that you will have to drive right over potholes, the challenge is to find the smaller, less deep ones!

As we drove up to the church, a group of waiting children came swarming to the car, running, shouting, and smiling.  My, what a welcome!  And the children kept coming until there were over 100--the benches were already filled and overflowing.  Joetta says the attendance increases every day, and we can expect 200 by Friday.

Those children sang and clapped with gusto and a good rhythmical beat.  They emphatically recited their verse for the day; "loudness" seems to really count here!

The church was just a roof with four corner poles, wobbly wooden benches, no backs.  Instead of seeing walls, you could look out and see cocoa trees, banana trees, mango trees. Mother hens were scurrying around clucking with their chicks, scratching in the dirt.  Pigs were grunting and digging; goats were roaming in and out.  Cows were grazing.  Very picturesque; I couldn't stop looking because I wanted to implant all of it in my mind so I'd never forget it!

January 16, 2010

Do Your Shopping For Haiti

I spent my summer of 1998 in CapHatian, Haiti.  I had gone there to help a missionary friend of mine, Joetta, who was and is currently serving with OMS International.   It was a rich and satisfying summer largely due to the wonderfully gracious people of Haiti.    Since that summer, Haiti undoubtedly has a special place in my heart.

Also, within the next ten days I would  like to blog about some of my experiences while in Haiti.  I'm going to do this by sharing with you copies of the emails I sent back home to my church, who had helped finance my trip.

07/05/98. I'm happy to be in Haiti!  Joetta says she's never seen anyone enjoy the fresh pineapples, mangos, and papayas quite as much as I am.  I think that's just her polite way of commenting on the fact that I sure am eating alot of them!

The heat and humidity are oppressive, and by noon I'm wilted.  Evenings often bring welcomed breezes.

Some of my first projects have been counting Haitian money in the office, sewing hems and shortening sleeves for Joetta, and unpacking boxes of things people have sent Joetta to use in her various children's ministries.  This unpacking should have been a simple, quick job.  However, one church had neatly packed toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, crayons, small toys, pencils, tablets, etc, in shoe boxes and then sprinkled hard candy (for Haitian children) over the top.  In the extreme heat, the candy melted all over everything! So this simple, quick job suddenly became challenging as I undertook wiping/washing the "sticky" off the items when possible.  Some things just had to be thrown away.  Another group of people had put candy in plastic bags (and that was good), but they packed it in the same boxes as bars of soap.  So all that candy tasted like soap.  However, the children enjoyed it anyway!

On Friday I started helping Rose practice English.  She is a 6-year old girl whose mother recently died.  She has now been adopted by her uncle who wants her to go to the English-speaking school this September.  But she must first pass an English test.  I will be working with her about 1-1/2 hours a day.  I want to use this time effectively, and Rose needs to gain confidence in speaking English.

We are starting VBS next week.  Joetta is letting me teach!  So this week I am getting materials ready. I've already met Joiny, a young boy who is going to translate as I teach. Joetta has several other Haitian ministry workers who will be in charge of the VBS programs.    During the summers, they do VBS for eight weeks, five days a week at a different Haitian church each week.  (Do you remember how tired you are at the end of just one week of VBS?)

January 5, 2010

Grandma Would Approve Of This Substitution

I have never bought buttermilk. The reason is that I would never use the whole container. I would just end up pouring the unused portion down the drain after it had set in my refrigerator a few months and looked repulsive!
Instead, I use vinegar and milk as ingredient substitutions for buttermilk. (kitty photos by Caroline Henri,  Dreamstime.com)

Add milk to 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar until    both ingredients measure 1 cup.
Let stand about 5 minutes. Then measure the amount needed for the recipe.

Try this buttermilk substitution and make my Grandma Heisey's easy, moist Old Fashioned Crumb Cake Recipe.  It's a special cake, but you do not need any special ingredients to make it as you probably already have everything on hand.  Grandma would make several of these cakes at a time for Grandpa. It was one of his favorites, so his tummy would be happy for weeks!

Grandma Heisey's Old Fashioned Crumb Cake
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup buttermilk
(No buttermilk?  Substitute by following the directions above.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Crumb flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Take out one cup of crumbs for topping. Add the baking soda to the milk and stir. Add to the remaining crumb mixture.
Pour the mixture into a 10-inch pie plate and sprinkle crumbs on top.
Bake about 30 minutes in 350 degrees oven.

January 1, 2010

I'm Traditionally Correct Today!

(photo by Limages, Dreamstime.com)
Today I am a "traditionally correct" German/Pennsylvania Dutch descendant.   I am eating pork and sauerkraut for dinner.  I put the pork in the crock pot along with lots and lots of sauerkraut, and the smell in the house is reminding me how impatiently hungry I am.  (The cats smell it, too!)   Now all I have to do is peel some potatoes and mash them.  And so my first meal of the New Year promises me good luck and prosperity during 2010!

At least that's what Pennsylvania Dutch tradition says.  I don't believe in luck, and I certainly don't believe that prosperity is dependent on what I eat one day of the year.  But since one of my favorite meals is pork and sauerkraut,  I am always happy to follow this tradition. 

Why pork? Some people say it is because it is difficult for a pig to look back as it has to turn around to see behind itself .  So the pig is thought to be an animal that looks forward.  We may all want to look forward on New Year's Day! 

Is there anything we should not eat on New Year's Day?  If you believe in luck (or the lack of it), you don't want to eat chicken.  It is said that because a chicken scratches backwards, that signifies dwelling on the past and living with regret.  Another chicken theory says that because a chicken has wings, your good luck could fly away.

So what are you eating this New Year's Day?  Are you following a tradition common to where you live?