It is hard to write on this subject for many reasons,
but today I need to,
so I'll try my best.
It's not that we try to hide the "scary" or "dangerous" aspects of Haiti, I mean we came here after a HORRIFIC earthquake, in the midst of a cholera epidemic, tragedy here is no surprise.... Mainly I want our time here to be portrayed acurately.
Haiti IS a beautiful, warm, friendly, chaotic, colorful, impoverished, hard working, laughter & music-filled place most of the time to us...and then there are those odd moments where it is suddenly senseless, dangerous, head-spinning, tragic & fatal.
We don't LIVE in those moments daily, yet they sprinkle our existence here and there, leave memories, gaps, holes in hearts & fragments in our minds...of what could be, what should have been different...in a less than fallen world.
Last week was one of those "moments" for us here in Haiti...
Friday, June 20th started in an average way. I (Rebecca) had been up doing our midnight laundry loads while power was on the night before. Ted was up early & heading out the door. I popped my head up to say good morning before he left & he mentioned going to the bank to get part of our new housing funds. For some reason my heart flip flopped at that moment & I called him back. I had a really bad feeling about the bank & asked him not to go...we argued over it briefly & I pleaded for him to find another way to get the funds transferred. He said, "don't worry, I'll be fine, I'll take a couple of security guys with me..." and left.
between 9 & 10 am we chatteded sporadically about our upcoming move across the street into the house of our friends' who were moving back to Australia...about Syndie's breakfast & medicines...
Ted at 10:20 am: looks like your brother is coming in around 1:30p. I don't have to go to the bank, someone else is doing that for me.
and then a little under an hour later this gut wrenching message came:
unfortunately we have a huge problem. One of our employees was just shot and killed this morning. Gerritt, you may have met him at Pizza...
he was followed home from the bank this morning and shot and killed in front of his house. Martial the driver just came back from the bank with $3000 of our housing cash and was held up at gunpoint on his way back. Fortunately they didn't hurt him. I don't know what to do. Please pray for me right now.
And for Gerritt's wife and 10 year old son.
and a half hour later:
I feel really bad, especially about Gerritt's death. But I also feel like I just got punched in the gut about Martial. Not sure what I would do if he had gotten hurt or killed (on our errand).
Gerrit was a very big hearted Dutch man that Ted liked the instant he met him at Operation Blessing.
Exactly one week before, I sat at the other end of the table from him and watched him take a slice of pizza offered to him and then give it to his stepson instead. I remember how his son looked up at him & smiled, how calm natured he was & thinking to myself that he was a good father. I barely knew him.
He lived very simply in Haiti, as a local. He had been out doing his own banking and stopped also at Western Union to send finances out. His bag that was stolen had not more than $200 in it. He went to his home, they followed, he tried to defend himself & his stepson that was in another room. They shot him, twice. He died in seconds.
The minute the call came in, Ted called Martial and told him to be careful. He told him about Gerrit. Martial was doing OUR banking and a few other bank errands too. He said he had just finished and would come straight back. Instead, he got caught in traffic at an intersection minutes later...and again, several guys on motorcycles had followed. Before he knew it there was a gun at his temple & they were asking for the money he had, OUR money that had put him at risk...they knew exactly where it was in the bag. Thankfully Martial and another employee that was with him, knew to hand it over straight away & not make eye contact. They survived...
Ted was safe in the office, neither of us sure how to take it all in.
It's not that this kind of thing is just happening all of the time here...I've never even witnessed it personally, but it's something you know could occur on a rare occasion, that I've thought through once or twice in order to be prepared if it did.
And as it often does in Haiti...life went on for us at that moment, while others were left suffering.
My brother arrived a few hours later on business and to visit his new neice. Ted picked him up.
The director that Ted is replacing had left the country the day before, so he found himself and the deputy director suddenly in charge of everything...immersed in Gerrit's funeral arrangements. He stood over the body of a new friend and co-worker who he was at the beach with less than two weeks before & thought of the passion Gerrit had for his work, how it had lit up his eyes that day.
THIS is not the norm, but it IS the nasty, crummy, ugly side of life for us here the past week.
Grief, guilt, duty, being propelled forward by the daily tasks at hand...and all of it swirling together to be absorbed and doled out differently in various moments of time.
Please continue to pray over us...over Ted, as he processes this. It always seems to take longer here to deal with emotions or reactions to an experience or an unexpected event.
Syndie & I leave for the north in a couple of days as well. I have the blessing of two helpers for the next week as I embark on this short-term opportunity to help prevent the tragedy of maternal death.
Each day is so much more filled with "stuff" here, silly little "seems like a waste of time", 10-steps-to-get-one-thing-accomplished type of daily duties...where even when life is recognized as such a precious commodity and not to be taken for granted...we STILL struggle to grasp, fully appreciate and hang on to the many OTHER absolutely amazing, priceless, and treasured moments! PRAY that we will!!
Having had family here this past month has been part of that. We NEED them, we NEED you... being grounded in and anchored to the familiar and sharing our hearts and lives here with others from a different place than this seems more important than ever right at present. The stark polar-opposite realities that we have delighted in, cherished & suffered through the past few weeks will all ENRICH us over time through our faith and with the nurturing and companionship of others that walk alongside.
Posting "happy moments" is SO much easier...this was just not one of them
and yet it seemed inauthentic not to at least try to share,
not to scare,
not to gain pity,
not to blight Haiti in any way,
...but to be "real" with the yucky bits of our life here too.
Gerrit's memory has been SEARED into the tapestry of our lives here now,
we wish it wasn't so and that there had been more pizza nights and beach days to share...
and his legacy at Zanmi Beni