The Love Is In the Details

I’ve been itching to write about this for a week now, but knowing Haiti and life and all the things, I knew it was probably better to hold off until the end. Things have a habit of falling apart here or not panning out or being incredibly complicated and hard, falling flat and not being what they were hoped to be. Just wanted to keep things real and see if it actually happened.

And it did.

Today, today we are feeling cared for and loved by our God. And are reminded of how he does that with the details. The details of our lives. The things that might not get spoken outside of our doors or even our own hearts. And that in those moments he can not just provide, but provide the exact thing. At the exact moment it is needed. Before we even realize that exact moment has arrived.

Back up Leslie…

Last week I got an email from a guy I know from during my youth ministry days, pre-Haiti. I was on staff with his mom at the church for a little while when she was the head of the children’s ministry department. His brother was one of our leaders in our student ministries for several years, and I met Sean through our young adult stuff and because he was friends with a bunch of people that were our volunteers. He was just sort of “around”. I didn’t ever get to know him well, more of a “Hey! How’s it going?” kind of thing.

Fast forward to being in Haiti. Periodically over the years I’ve gotten emails from Sean where he would let me know that he was interested in what we were doing, to say hi, to ask questions etc. It’s always nice to connect with people from “home”, so I always appreciated them. In every case his hopes of coming for a visit someday to see what we were doing got pushed down the list of life.

Last week he wrote again because he had some free time. He works in the construction industry, and the specific nature of what he does means he is a slave to temperature, so he has to take winters off in the area that he lives because of it. During that time over the past 6-7 years he’s traveled to all sorts of places and wanted to see if he could finally come see us, and whether we needed help with anything. He wanted to do something where he could help out rather than just travel, if possible.

Chris and I don’t usually do this. Because of our development strategies, we try to use our local staff for as much of the labor on any mission projects, or hire locally because it provides employment and we get people who are used to working in the conditions here with local materials. And, because we choose to focus on one thing and do it as well as we can, we don’t have a lot of side projects that need attention or outside help. When we have volunteers come in, we have them come for a year so they can truly fit into our program and be an effective help to the mission.

But, here we are with a filter program running, a swimming pool sized hole in our yard that is becoming a new septic tank, and a project going on at the new land.

And there it is – the new land development.

We’ve been doing things slowly and for as little cost as possible. Our filter funding has been down in the past few months, so as we went into this year we decided to work on some things out at the new property that weren’t expensive, but needed to be done. The biggest of which is our driveway.

Now, we wouldn’t normally put in any kind of paved driveway. We don’t have one at the current site, and see it as more of an aesthetic thing than necessity. Until the rainy season started last year and our trucks kept getting stuck at the new property. See, it was irrigated farm land before we bought it. The dirt is soft from being turned over repeatedly and when it rains it becomes a river running through. We wouldn’t be able to get in and out without some other plan of action. Thus, the driveway. Not aesthetics – necessity.

When Chris priced out putting in paving stones, they were going to cost about $0.65 each. We needed over 8000 of them. Yeah, not something we could justify spending mission funds on, even for something that would be needed. Then we visited some friends in Gonaives and saw a pile of about 600 pavers sitting in their yard and asked where they got them. Turns out the road company responsible for the major construction of the national highway and repairs on streets in Goaniaves was pulling up all the old paving stones. They told people living on the streets they were going to start on that if they did the work of pulling up the pavers they could keep them. All through town houses and businesses had piles of pavers out front. You just had to go and ask if they were for sale, make a deal and then often someone else came along to tell you they had a pile too. And the price? 3 for 10 Goudes, or the equivalent of $0.08 each.

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The love is in the details.

God provides.

We started sending our truck and over a period of about a month or so we bought up over 8000 pavers. We saved a ton of money to do something that needed to be done, and we get to recycle in the process, something that is hard to do here.

In the past month Thony, one of our workers, has led a team of guys to build curbing around the driveway perimeter. That was the easy part. Once that was finished we needed to rent a tamper machine, from somewhere (because we don’t have a ton of options for equipment rental…) and level and tamp the dirt base. Then there was gravel to bring in, and then a layer of sand. None of us have ever done this before. Chris was stressing out about not only knowing how to do it, but about having to be in two places at once. How would he manage things here, and also oversee a project that needed to be done a certain way with supervision? We’ve literally been talking about the logistics for months.

When we got Sean’s email we realized that it might be a great opportunity. The supervision needed was for things like making sure stuff was level and straight, and to see problems and give them attention as they arose rather than having to go back and rip up half of the driveway if we realized something was done wrong. Even someone with a general construction background could help with that. Sean had traveled, mostly to third world situations, and was familiar with having to fumble through language issues. Maybe it was worth asking him to help? So we did.

The next morning I got an email that said something like this…

This is amazing! I worked for a company as an operations manager doing “hardscaping”. I’ve laid THOUSANDS of these pavers. I couldn’t be there for more than a few weeks, but in that time we can pound out a bunch of work and I can be teaching your guys how to finish up after I leave. I could be there as early as next week if that works for you.”

The love is in the details.

God provides.

Not only would Sean be helpful, he had skills. Very specific skills. We got excited, but it was controlled excitement because, as I said, things tend to fall through here. We didn’t want to get our expectations up, then feel defeated because it didn’t work out.

We started talking travel arrangements and details. Everything was set in motion. Sean was able to fly to the Dominican Republic for almost free, so that was the plan. From there he would need to get on a bus to Port au Prince. I’ve done that trip, so was able to walk him through which company to use etc. It was all loose, with lots of opportunity to fall apart. Again, not getting our hopes up, we said we would believe it when it started happening and fully expected to get an email saying that something had happened or come up making it not possible.

Instead, when I checked in on Friday Sean wrote back that his flight was booked and he was leaving that evening, weather permitting. Weather permitted.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

We checked in with each other after he got to the Domincan Republic. He still had to bus from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo to catch the bus to Haiti. The bus company would only let you book online with a minimum of three days in advance of your trip. They don’t take reservations over the phone. That meant Sean would have to show up at the terminal and hopefully get on the first bus out yesterday morning. Not getting on the first bus would mean waiting for the second bus, putting him in Port au Prince too late in the day for us to pick him up and us scrambling to make arrangements for a guest house, etc, while having limited contact.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

Not only did everything come together, Sean’s trip over the border was fast and he was in Port au Prince earlier than we expected. Chris and a friend of ours had planned a day of errands, and estimated that Sean would arrive between 3 and 4 pm, but by 3:30 they had already picked him up and done a few other things, and were headed out of town. This put everyone home before dark and with plenty of time to relax and settle in before dinner.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

I love our staff too. I have to acknowledge that they very well could have chosen to be offended by the fact that once we started the project we chose to bring someone in. But, they didn’t. In fact, when we told them that Sean was probably coming the first thing our foreman said to me was, “And he’s going to teach us?” Yes. I loved that his first thought was about learning. About seeing an opportunity to be more. And they’re all like this. As our friend is here helping with the septic tank he’s teaching Jimmy about laying block in a way that produces stronger and more level results. About doing it with quality. And Jimmy is soaking it up like a sponge and the other guys are teasing him about being a boss mason now, someone who could do this professionally. The teasing is in a way of respect, indicating that they can see he’s learning something valuable. I love that they are willing learners, and I love that people have the heart to teach. To fumble through language and culture and try to pass on something they know that can be useful here. While we might not need anyone to lay paving stones for us, that’s something they can hire themselves out for on weekends or times when the mission is closed for holidays. It provides more income for their families. It has long term effects.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

I need to back track a bit here too.

So all the work going on out at the new land… In a situation like this, where you have someone coming in to focus on a specific project, you tend to want to use their skills to the max, which means making sure that as many things are in place as possible to get the most work done. Haiti is notorious for ruining any best laid plans. If it can break, it will. If you need something specific, you won’t find it. Vehicles will break down when you need them most. You get the idea.

The guys were working on finishing the curbing on the driveway last week. They finished it the day after we got the first email from Sean. That meant we could move on to preparing the base. The dirt needed to be moved and leveled – something we thought would take days. It didn’t. It took two days, and was much less work than we all expected. We thought we would have to truck in load after load of fill. We had to truck in less than half a dozen, which was way less than we thought was needed.

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The beginning of the curbs.

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The next step was getting a tamper to start packing down the dirt base. We knew we could rent one in Port au Prince, and would if we had to, but it would get pricey and complicated with having to get it back at a certain time. Chris mentioned the need to someone out here and they suggested a guy who might have one – in St. Marc. Chris went to see him, and he did and Chris left with the machine. The guys have made great headway on getting the base done, and following each section up with a layer of gravel.

We are further ahead than we expected. It meant that this morning rather than having to direct prep work, Sean is able to start working the first sections of pavers with the guys, while others keep advancing on the base layers. And none of it was pushed. None of it was rushed.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

But, this is Haiti, and as I shared, things break.

Yesterday the tamper broke down. When Evens went to town to get some stuff he took it with him, back to the guy. Because things were busy yesterday afternoon with Chris being gone and people going in several different directions, I forgot to ask Evens what the status was on when we would be able to get the tamper again, and so did Chris. Last night Chris phoned the man we rent it from and asked how long it would take his guys to fix it. He told Chris that they had already fixed it and it was sent back with Evens. It was already waiting to go this morning. This doesn’t usually happen here.

The love is in the details.

God provides.

This past week has been so encouraging to us. The new property has been something that has been in process for about three years. It has been slow and calculated. We’ve taken the time to pray and check ourselves. To wait for things to be right and be done right. To not rush or push anything. We knew that if this what was was the next step for Clean Water for Haiti it had to be because God wanted it, no matter how much we could see the benefit of it all.

It’s easy to doubt yourself in situations like this. Are things working out because we’re working really hard to make them work? Are things happening because we’re failing to see the warning signs that we should stop? We didn’t think so. We’ve gone slow intentionally so that we have space to see those things and stop if needed. But we never felt led to do that. We did feel led to keep moving forward, always asking if this was the right next step. When we were looking for land we had checks and balances that we weren’t willing to compromise on, and we saw how God took us from one piece of land that was good, to something so much better because we were willing to say no, we won’t compromise. 

Paperwork on property purchases can be a nightmare. We were so blessed to have good people who know what to do come alongside us to help navigate that. The seller did his part and everyone that needed to, which was no less than 15 family members, signed off on things. The t’s were crossed, the i’s were dotted. Every stage of work that we’ve done there has been provided for and done well.

Sean being here is such an affirmation to us of God’s plan for the mission. I know, it’s a driveway, but we can’t help but think about his specific provision. The materials, something that seemed out of reach, became within reach and saved the mission thousands of dollars. Chris and I believe we are called to be good stewards of what we are given, so we take these things very seriously and are always looking at how we can be doing things the most cost effectively, while doing it with quality. It was like God was saying this is the way you need to go. We didn’t got seeking it out, the supplies presented themselves when we weren’t looking for them.

This whole project has been on Chris’ mind a lot. Everything we do at the new site we want to be done with the long term in mind. That means making solid decisions about construction that mean things will stand up over time, or will account for growth in the coming years. We don’t want to get a few years down the road and be rebuilding things or having to fix things because we didn’t do a solid job the first time. To us that doesn’t feel like good stewardship, or responsible. We would rather the project take longer if it means more time and funding to do things right, from the start.

That process means lots of thought and leg work. It means research and taking stock of things. It means knowing your own limits and knowing when to call in someone who might know more. Except in this specific case, we didn’t know who to call. I literally have an email from Chris in my inbox, that’s been sitting there for months, with a construction supervisor job description in it. It hasn’t gotten posted anywhere because we didn’t have the funding in place to start any major construction. We weren’t actively looking for anyone to help out yet. But we knew the need was there. We talk about it regularly. It’s been a source of stress. And rather than us having to put the need out there and run after it, God chose to bring the solution to us without us being any part of the process other than saying yes. 

The love is in the details.

God provides.

And he can do it so specifically, speaking into the very yearnings of our hearts. Into the places where sometimes only we know the need has been acknowledged. Where sometimes it’s nothing more than a fleeting thought of I feel. I need. I wish… 

This journey is amazing. This whole thing, this God thing, has been such a blessed reminder of how God cares. Of how he loves. Of how, as a parent, he wants to take the heavy things from his children and do what he can to help shoulder the burden. We feel loved and cared for and me, I feel hope in a way that I haven’t in a while. The past few years have carried a lot of heaviness and a lot of questions about how we lead and our chosen path. But, God knows, and he’s telling us to move forward, even when we have no earthly idea how all of it is possible.

For a while I’ve felt that this year is a year of turning, of heading into the “new” for the mission. The last few years have been about building a stronger foundation. Of readying ourselves, both here in Haiti and at a board level. We’ve done a lot of important work behind the scenes, and other pieces are coming together so that we can all do this better. I am so excited to see how this whole thing plays out. It’s a privilege to be in the middle of all of this. To see how God cares for his people,  the least of these. His plans for Clean Water for Haiti are greater than ours. He knows the intimate details of the process. He simply plants the yearnings and ideas and dreams in us, then helps make it happen.

Do you get how huge that is?

We get to be part of this. To be active participants in God caring for his people. To watch it play out every. single. day. Yes, sometimes the road is hard, but then he takes us into seasons of rest and rejuvenation and hope. Of building and pouring into us. Gosh, I’m so grateful for all of this and that we get front row seats. It’s so humbling.

~Leslie

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