yesterday, our team in haiti did some initial contact and assessment work in two tent villages that are side by side (late addition: when we crossed the border into haiti, one of the first stories we heard was from a mother who talked of her twin boys dying in her arms during the quake; tonite, we learned that the name of these two tent villages — marassa — means, or at least implies, “twins” in creole. and interesting bookend to trip). i blogged an aspect of that experience here.
last night, as our group was debriefing the day, we felt compelled to do something more tangible for these two villages. the village committee at one of them had asked we return this morning and lead a time of prayer for healing; so we knew we were headed back anyhow. we cooked up a little social media experiment that actually manifested as a missional prayer. adam mclane had twitpic’d a photo of the people we were filming from his iphone, and it had the gps coordinates on it. it got retweeted about 600 times within an hour or two. so, we got the “please help us” video edited and uploaded, and the twitterers among us simul-tweeted the photo and video link, along with a message to anderson cooper, asking him to show up at 9am and bring help. that tweet went viral like a prayer through social networks, being retweeted thousands of times. our hope was that anderson cooper’s people would see this (which, surely, they did), and do something.
but god had another designs on how to answer our prayers.
after starting the healing prayer service in the one community, a few of us pulled off to go find a way to get some immediate physical help. we were told that one of the only open grocery stores was near the airport — about 2 miles from where we were.
but when we got near the airport, we started praying that somehow god would give us access to the massive conglomeration of armys, ngo’s, and the u.n., operating out of the airport grounds. sure enough, we pulled up to the guard gate, explained what we were doing, and were waived in. a second barricade produced the same results. inside, we said ‘hello’ to an american dude walking past, who just may have been an angel. he walked us around to various tents, trying to champion our cause. as we met with u.s. military, canadian military, and several ngo’s, we began to get discouraged that nothing would come of this, with all the red-tape. but we’d also been told, over and over, that giovanni cavanni, at the i.o.n. tent, was the person we needed to see, as he was coordinating which idp’s (we were learning vernacular for these tent villages) would get help. by the time we approached the group of tents where the fabled giovanni was to be found, we were picturing him as some kind of godfather, and assumed we’d never even get an audience. but we were ushered past guards and workers, right into giovanni’s tent. he was a young, hip, northern italian guy who clearly had power, but deeply wanted to help. they had not yet identified the tent villages we were seeking help for, and we got them into the database, plus got email addresses and lots of other stuff to follow up on that will lead to getting long-term help for these people.
but we still knew we needed some immediate food supplies for today. so off we went to the grocery story (which was a nice one, heavily guarded, with only haitians with some money and military shopping in it). we bought almost all the rice and beans they had, some oil, and most of their baby formula. we had $2000 of donations that had come in over the last couple days; and when our final bill was tallied, it was $1983.
we drove back to the two communities, met with their “village council” (they call it the committee), and talked about the help we hoped would come from our time at the airport, as well as adventures in missions groups we hope will come in the months to come. we re-confirmed their desire to help their people, and particular commitment to the widows and orphans in their midst. then we formed long human chains, and unloaded the truck.
it was somewhere in the midst of unloading the truck that it struck me how our collective act of prayer last night, carried out by our team and thousands of others who joined with us from countries far away, were being answered in that very moment. in fact, god had been answering them all day long.
at the end of the day, i was about to get into the truck to leave, and i noticed a teenager staring at me. and i saw his feet. he might as well have been barefoot — he had rubber flip-flops that were falling apart and smaller than his feet. in that moment, a story i’d heard 20 years ago came back to me, of a kid on an urban missions trip who saw a homeless guy and jumped out of the church van to give the homeless man his shoes. i knew what god was prompting me to do. i walked over to him, smiled, put my hand on his shoulder (to steady my tired fat body!). i leaned over and slipped off my tennis shoes, picked them up and held them to his chest. there wasn’t a translator around, but i said: “these are god’s provision for you.” maybe i was just saying it to myself; and that would have been enough.