Today was our last day of work for 2011. In Haiti, as an employer, we’re obligated to give everyone two weeks paid vacation, which actually works out well for us because it means we can close the mission down over the Christmas holidays and take a vacation while our staff get a good rest and time with their families. As an added bonus, we’re also obligated to pay a bonus each year that equals 4 weeks salary, so our workers finish off the year well with their regular pay, vacation pay, and their bonus. They like this because it means they can do things for their family, and make major purchases or build onto their homes.
We start each day with a staff meeting to delegate tasks for the day. At the beginning of this time Fritzner leads everyone in prayer. This was something the workers started on their own. I remember the day that they told us they were going to start doing this. One of them said, “We’ve decided we want to start the day with prayer. You can come if you want to.” :) We believe in sharing our lives with people here and our faith when opportunities arise. We don’t make it a prerequisite for our staff to share the same beliefs we do, to be Christians, but many of them are. It’s very exciting for us to see these growth steps in their lives that are not forced our led by us.
This morning after our prayer time several of the workers decided to take a moment to share a few things. This was a surprise to us because it’s not normal. As we listened their words were full of gratitude that we were here, that we’ve stuck it out through the hard things, that we’ve had the courage to keep going. They thanked us for that. And they spoke words of encouragement to us. They committed to pray for us as directors, for our family, for the board and for the mission in general. I was fighting tears.
We’ve been through a lot of challenges in the past few years. There have been clashes with our staff. Some cultural. Some leadership issues. Some of us just learning and doing a lousy job. Some because people aren’t being responsible. Lots of reasons. There have been times of tension and anger and frustration. In recent months though, we have been amazed at the spirit of peace, love and gentleness that we have been experiencing. It feels as though we are going into a new season. We are seeing more of who we all are. We are a team. I would even venture to say we’re a family of sorts.
The words from our staff this morning were so significant to us. On the surface they were exactly what was intended – a time of encouragement for us. But for Chris and I, it meant so much more. This was the first time they had ever done this, and it was heartfelt. It showed us that there is more going on under the surface, that what we had been feeling was true. I’m so grateful for those five minutes this morning because they showed me that all those times in the last few years where we questioned if we were where God wanted us to be, and then continued to be obedient when we knew he was saying “yes” have come full circle and God used our staff to bless us this morning in a way that to them probably felt small, but to us felt HUGE.
The day was spent cleaning and preparing for a new year of ministry. We all like to leave things in good shape so we can hit the ground running after our break. The guys are wonderful at getting things squared away. The last couple days have been noisy in the work yard, which I love. I can always tell when the guys are excited about something because they get LOUD! Lots of laughter, lots of joking around. They were very much looking forward to the last day and our staff party.
We quit at noon, and everyone came up to our house for lunch. I decided to shake things up a bit and made hotdogs, hamburgers and french fries. Yonese and Esperanta made fried plantains, piklis (spicy pickled onions), and potato and beet salad. I was a bit worried that maybe they would be sad we weren’t having a full Haitian meal, but I wanted to do something different, something that they normally wouldn’t get to have. When I asked Yonese about it she thought for a moment, then said, “Whenever Haitians have a party it’s always rice, rice, rice!” :) I knew I had chosen well when the guys eagerly got in line to get their food.
We played some games, which were also a big hit. I’ve learned that because of the cultural differences our tastes in things may mean that activities are either a complete failure, or a complete success. There isn’t much middle ground. Sheena put together a Christmas BINGO game with pictures, since some of our staff can’t read and write. I was worried they would think it was lame, but once they got the idea down, they were so into it. When I say into it, I mean that Yonese could have just been told that she won a multi-million dollar lottery when she got the first BINGO, she was that excited. Or, that they were all on the edge of their seats to see who was going to win the black out. It was a huge hit! HUGE!
We followed that with the present stealing game. I bought enough presents for everyone, then wrapped them up and we had a ball! It’s a big deal for Haitians to get a wrapped gift. They had so much fun with it that Thony was literally laughing so hard he couldn’t stand up when it was his turn to steal. I love how animated people here can get. It makes me realize how reserved we tend to be back home. I think it’s a good lesson. Sometimes we need to just have belly aching fun.
Chris wanted to share a few things with everyone before we handed out their bonuses. I thought for sure everyone would be eager to leave, but as he opened the floor for questions I was amazed at the things they wanted to talk about. I kept looking at the clock and was worried they felt like they had to stay, but then realized they were the ones leading the conversation. When things finally did wrap up it was almost an hour after what we thought would be the end of the party. Everyone left in high spirits with well wishes for the holidays and requests for us to greet our families from them.
The party was a HUGE success, and most of all we loved that everyone was so happy. It was a wonderful way to end the year. In fact, it was a wonderful way to end 10 YEARS! Yes, there’s a small fact for you. Clean Water for Haiti was founded in December of 2001. We’ve been working here, helping to change thousands of lives each year, for TEN YEARS. We have weathered storms, but we are feeling that God is taking us into a new season here, and we’re so excited to see what that looks like.
Here’s to another 10 years of ministry!
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! We’ll see you in 2012.
~Leslie, on behalf of the entire Clean Water for Haiti family.