Almost

This has been the theme of my life the past few weeks.  We purchased a generator in PAP three weeks ago.  The plan was to put it on a Northwest Haiti Christian Mission Truck that had just cleared customs and drive it to Port-de-Paix.  Jessica and I boarded a plane to fly down to PAP two weeks ago to load the generator on the truck and visit a potential partner organization.

As we were getting on the plane I received a call telling me that while the truck had cleared customs, no small feat, they had not been able to acquire license plates and it would not be ready until tomorrow.  We almost had the truck.  We went to the partner organization in Carrefour, a suburb of PAP, close to the epicenter of the earthquake.  We meet with the organization.  They almost understood what Outside the Bowl does.  They were interested in a kitchen but not a partnership.  They almost had a place for us to stay.  Jessica and I shared a twin bed in a shack with almost a million bedbugs.  There was a huge thunderstorm that night.  We almost got struck by lightning.  Between the bedbugs and the storm we almost slept.  The truck was almost ready the next day.  We flew back to Port-de-Paix empty-handed, less the hitchhiking bedbugs.

Every day following the trip I was told that the truck was almost ready.  Only to be told the same thing the next day.  With no end in sight, I decided to take one of the mission trucks in Port-de-Paix down to PAP and get the generator.  But, the problem with the mission trucks in Port-de-Paix was that they can’t be driven out of the Northwest zone legally without insurance.  That almost worked.  There was one truck with insurance.  The brakes on it almost worked.  I almost risked the venture but decided to rent a truck in PAP.

I flew down to PAP again, this time with the intention of renting a truck.  The company we bought the generator from could ship it to Port-de-Paix for $2,500usd.  If we hired our on truck we could do this for less.  I drove around PAP with Jacques looking for a truck to hire.  He had some contacts that almost worked.  At one point we were parked on the side of the road calling people he though we could hire.  He told me we should go that this was not a safe part of town.  I almost forgot that I was given $2000usd to give to Jacques to clear containers from port.  He told me that a lot of people get robbed in this area.  I gave him the envelope with the money and joked that if we get robbed I’m going to tell the robbers that you have an envelope with $2000 in it and I’m just a poor white missionary.  He almost thought that was funny.

We found a truck that would ship the generator to Port-de-Paix for $750usd.  The driver met us at the generator depot.  The cross-bar welded to the back of the truck was too low.  The generator almost fit in the back.  The driver told us he would cut it off and load the generator in the morning.

The next morning we loaded the generator in the back of the truck with other miscellaneous things.  I road in the truck for the ten-hour drive back to Port-de-Paix.  We broke down one hour out of PAP.  The rear leaf springs were rubbing against the bolts that secure the shackles to the frame.  The problem, we almost had enough lug nuts to secure the rear wheels to the axle.  I inspected the rest of the truck and noticed that all the wheels were missing lug nuts.  No problem, we had extra in the truck.  They just don’t put them all on at the same time.  We used some of the “spare” lug nuts to better secure the rear wheel to he hub.  We were back on the road.  Our conversation consisted of me almost speaking creole and the driver almost speaking English.

It got dark so we turned on the headlights.  They almost worked.  Every time the driver depressed the clutch the lights would go out from an electrical short.  Lights are important at night on a one lane dirt road with a 400 foot drop off to the rive below.  The river ravine was littered with trucks that had driven off the road.  We were almost to Port-de-Paix.  We pulled into the compound a little after nine o’clock.  We were almost done.  We needed to offload the 2500lbs. generator.  The driver wanted to offload that night.  I told him that we needed to do it the following morning when I could borrow the tractor from the school across the street.

Me and the guys that went from PAP to PAX

Little did I know that my contact at the school had flown back to the states for furlough.  I found another guy at the school that was willing to let me use the tractor.  In the meantime the driver wanted the generator out of his truck.  We were almost done.

With out the tractor at the present moment the only thing I could think of was to slide the generator from the back of his truck to the back of the mission truck in the yard.  They were almost the same height.  We drove the mission truck on top the concrete and left the other truck on the dirt.  They were now both 49.5 inches high.

Moving the generator from one truck to the other

After much debate, everything I Haiti is up for debate, I was able to convince the guys that we were going to work from simples to most complex plan.  The simplest being let’s get a bunch of guys to push the generator from one truck to the other.  It worked.  The following morning I was able to get the tractor and off load the generator from the small truck to the generator room.  Now I just need to hook up the wires and get some diesel.  We’re almost done…

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All we need now is Power!

One year of vision, 6 months of fundraising, 4 months of stateside preparation, two months of in country preparation and two weeks implementation all came to together to produce the first OTB super kitchen in Port-de-Paix Haiti:

The pots are in the kitchen

This is what we started with

This is what we ended with!

We have food in the store room

Mopping floors with a tape-measure

I bet you have been wondering why I haven’t posted yet?  Why is Jessica the sole spokesperson for the Stone family?  Most likely you haven’t noticed.  Nevertheless, my lack of posting is for good reason.  I’ve been busy.  Jessica has been frolicking form prison to brothel telling everyone about Jesus and posting tear-jerking stories about the plight of Haitians.  As she walks around sporting her wide brimmed hats, clean skirts and flowing blouses, I’ve been eating dirt on the back of a truck commuting from St. Louis du Nord to Port-de-Paix Haiti on a daily basis.

While my day starts out eating dirt, it is filled with struggling to run a job-site with a 100 word creole vocabulary.  Better still, is the fact that I have 6 Tools.  Literally.  After packing all of Jessica’s nail polish, alo vera, face wash and shampoo there was only room for me to take one pair of wire snips, one pair of line pliers, one pair of  channellocks, one screw driver, duct tape and zip ties.  And at present the plumber is borrowing my channellocks.

I figured that this would be a problem.  I have tools coming on the shipment ( it is still in Port au Prince over due now by 3 weeks).  And I naively assumed that the haitian workers would have tools, they do just no many.  I knew we were in for a problem when the electrician showed up with a palm size multi meter, pair of line pliers and a screwdriver; that was it.  It is not that he is not skilled at what he is doing.  He is an excellent electrician, he works magic with three tools.  But, it takes forever to get a job done.  All the job materials are purchased after looking at the problem and they never account for any overages.  They always end up short and spend the next half a day ”m’ ap ale” or” going”, short for “I don’t when I’ll be back, I probably wont be back today, and no the problem is not fixed.”

All that being said, we (Orial the Plumber, Adrea the Electricial, Francis and the Masonry crew, the iron workers, and Wisly the Head Haitian of NWHCM) have managed to get power to all the building (we are buying it form the americans across the street that run a generator 24 hours a day for a school that they run), water pumped from the cistern to the tank on the roof (for a gravity fed system) blocks laid and gates hung.

Pipes are hung with baling wire.  Trenches are dug with buckets.  Rebar is bent with other pieces of rebar.  Sand is sifted by hand.  Trucks are loaded by hand and cement is mixed by had.  All in 90 degree heat, 100 percent humidity and on one meal a day.

As I said before, Jessica has been absent for most of the remodeling. She is off doing whatever God empowers her to do, which seems to be anything these days.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she walked on water over to Tortuga Island to evangelize to Pirates.  That would be more plausible than to go into the bowels of the brothers of St Loui.  So when we had a minor water problem that flooded the tile floor in the apartment that we are going to live in she surprisingly freaked out.   She wanted me to help her clean it up, but I needed to find the ball valve to shut off the water.  And the water was leaking in 10 other places too.  So I did what any reasonable Haitian would do.  I gave her the only tool I had and expected her to improvise.  I gave he a tape-measure and told her to mop it up.

The story might be funny but at the root of the story and admits my utter frustration to understand how things work here God is teaching me several valuable lessons.

  1. God is reminding me that He is God and that I am not.  He can handle these simple problems.  He doesn’t need fancy tools and elaborate plans he just needs people willing to work.  If God wants to feed people with a food distribution center he will make sure it is done.  That customs will be cleared that all the pieces will fit together.   The pots will cook and the starving will eat.  He made the universe, a small kitchen is just a drop in the bucket.
  2. In America time is money.  Time is the constant constraint that keeps us from making more money.  In Haiti time is free.  Everyone has time, at 90% unemployment there is plenty of time, money is the constraint.  This had been a hard paradigm for me to swallow.  It doesn’t matter if we get it done today, tomorrow or next week.  It doesn’t matter if we leave at 10 or noon.  IT really doesn’t.
  3. I care more about your character than your comfort.