With Sincere Gratitude

I greatly appreciate the prayers that were offered for my brother Bill in response to yesterday’s Journal. What I failed to mention about my brother was his total dedication to caring for his daughter who had Down’s Syndrome. I am also thankful for the first donation to a fund for the construction of the much-needed girl’s dorm, which came from a monthly donor from Michigan.

Yesterday morning I was also grateful to wake up and find we had electrical power and running water, two blessings to which I never gave much thought to before living in Haiti. I used to take for granted things which people living in harsh poverty never experience. To see a young child or an old person struggling to haul buckets of water to their shacks deeply saddens me. I can’t imagine myself lugging a heavy bucket of water in order to flush a toilet or to shave. I want to thank all our faithful monthly donors for making sure our kids have electricity to light up the night and water to wash themselves and to quench their thirst during the heat of the day.

Yesterday morning, just before Mass was to begin, the sisters were all kneeling or sitting in their places on the floor, when suddenly the power went out and the chapel was caste into darkness. Within seconds, someone somehow restored the power. What was interesting was that the sisters never moved. They remained focused on their silent meditation. Just before the consecration, power once again was lost. After a few moments, one of the sisters got up and left the chapel. She quickly did something and power was restored.

During Mass I thought about how the 45 minutes I spend with the sisters early each morning has been a calming influence on me. (After Mass the sisters recite a number of prayers for about 10 minutes before leaving the chapel.) They are like the calm at the center of a hurricane. All around them there is a swirling chaos and unrelenting agony. Yet, they have an inner stillness that comes from their complete dedication to God. Just as it is important to faithfully use the nebulizer and take my medication to help my breathing, it is important for me to care for my inner spiritual health each day at Mass. I need the nourishment that the Eucharist gives to me.

When I got home after Mass, Naïve came running up to me and said, “Good morning, Dad.” She followed me into my office. While I was checking e-mails, she was seated at the table next to me. She pointed to the DVD of Annie. I said OK. Naïve never saw or used a computer before coming to Santa Chiara. She went to school only for a short time when she was young. She can’t read or write. She is struggling in our little school. Yet, after watching me use the computer only a few times, she opened the spare computer and pressed the power button. She then pressed the right button to open the disk tray, and patiently waited for me to insert the Annie DVD. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for Bency, Naïve, Judeline, Tamysha, Peter Francis and all the kids in our care.

Naïve watching Annie

Bency and Naïve
I was happy to see Bency bring Naïve her spaghetti breakfast.

Doctor Visit

Yesterday morning, Billy and brought Peter Francis for his follow-up visit with Dr. Rachel. We also brought Billy’s son, Zachary, who had a fever the night before and kept Billy up most of the night. (Zachary is now ten months old and is eager to walk.) We took two staff members, Josette and Thelicia, with to hold the babies. Naïve came along for the ride.

Billy and Zachary

Billy and Zachary

We arrived at the doctor’s office at 9:30am. We usually like being there before they open at 9:00am. But the doctor did not arrive until 10:20am. There were three other kids ahead of us. The doctor saw us just after 11:00am. Seeing as Dr. Rachel never charges us, we did not mind the long wait. At one point while we were in the waiting area, I feel asleep. Everyone, especially Naïve, thought that was very funning.

Waiting for Dr. Rachel
Waiting for Dr. Rachel
Father and son (notice the ever-smiling Naïve nearest Billy)
Father and son (notice the ever-smiling Naïve nearest Billy)

The doctor said Peter Francis is doing good and is gaining weight. She prescribed some medication for both Peter Francis and Zachary. We told her the highlights of Naïve’s story. She said, “Thank you for helping some of the kids in Haiti. You are doing a wonderful service.” With a crowded waiting room of sick kid, she took her time with our two kids…and treated them for free. We are truly blessing to have such a good doctor willing to help us.

After leaving Dr. Rachel’s we went to the Caribbean Market Pharmacy to pick up the medication and to get a coffee. (OK…we went for the coffee and picked up the medicine.) Josette and Thelicia enjoyed the treat. Naïve picked out a pecan croissant. After taking a nibble, she pushed it away. I asked what was wrong. She said it was too sweet. So, she and I had to get back on the line and order something else. She picked out a cupcake with a ton of icing. She took three small bites then motioned that she wanted to put the rest back in the bag and take it home. When I asked why, she said she wanted to share it with Bency. Naïve is a genuinely good kid, who seems on the surface not to be too badly damaged from the hardships of her youth.

Naïve with cupcake


Bus Is Almost Gone

Billy sent this photo on Wednesday…

Bus engine, wheels and frame

On Thursday, Billy sent this photo…

hoisting bus engine

More Green Card Madness

This Green Card situation is driving me crazy. (I know…it’s a short drive.) My plan for Thursday, was to drive to the Homeland Security Office in West Palm Beach, which is about a 75-minute drive. I thought I could walk in and talk with someone about the situation. To recap, here is the problem: Ecarlatte and I will pick up her letter to travel on March 14th at the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince. On Sunday, March 25th, Ecarlatte will travel to Ft. Lauderdale. She has her second round of lab test scheduled for Monday, March 26th. She has a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday (3/27). She returns to Haiti on Thursday, March 29th, so she can be with the kids on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, she has one day to deal with immigration: Wednesday, March 28th.

When we filled out the form to replace a lost Green Card and paid the $575 fee, they sent us a message indicating they will schedule a biometrics exam and sent us the date and location in a letter that will be sent to our home address. Of course, there will be no one in Florida to receive the letter. Moreover, the immigration agents do not know the date she is traveling to Florida. So, more than likely, the biometrics appointment will be on a day we are in Haiti.

What I had hoped to accomplish on Thursday was to explain all the extenuating circumstances of her travel and make an appointment for March 28th, so they could stamp her Haitian passport with a notice that she is allowed back into the United States to complete the process of replacing her Green Card.

When I went on Map Quest to get directions to the immigration office, I was surprised to see they had an office in Ft. Pierce. I was really happy…no long drive to West Palm Beach. When I arrived at the office, I was told that the office only handed criminal cases that required visitors to be deported. They told me to call the office in West Palm Beach. They gave me a number. I called. It was impossible to speak to a live person. None of the options offered applied. So, I simply drove.

When I arrived, security was extremely tight. I put my phone and wallet and papers in a basket. An officer asked if I had an appointment. I said no. He said I could not enter the building without and appointment. I asked him if he would be so kind as to listen to my problem. I told him about what happened to Ecarlatte’s passport, that we filled out the proper papers at the US Embassy in Haiti. I said my wife missed a medical test. I needed to talk with someone about her scheduling an appointment with immigration at the end of March. He said he would let me in only to speak to a receptionist who would tell me the proper procedure. I waited on a short line and repeated the story to the receptionist. She said I could not see an immigration agent that day. She suggested I leave the secured area and use a kiosk in the outer lobby to schedule an appointment for Ecarlatte. When I got the kiosk, the machine was so complicated I was ready to explode. I kept at it and finally was able to enter Ecarlatte’s name and date of birth and press a bottom indicating “make an appointment.” It only could book appointments for the next two weeks. I felt as if nothing will ever happen. I spotted the guard who let me in, and told him my tale of woe and my mounting frustration. He told me that I had two choices. One, return to the office in West Palm Beach on Friday morning at 6:30am. He said that each day they leave a few appointments open for “walk-ins.” He said they open at 7:00am and I should be able to get in. Second, go on line at exactly 7:00am and try to book an appointment for Friday. Even if I get an early appointment, say

8:00am, it does not matter if I can’t get there by 8:00am. Everyone with an appointment will be seen. My problem with the second option was: what do I do if there are no appoints open. I’m cooked. So, I will leave today at 5:00am and make that drive again, and hope that I will be permitted to speak with someone. If all fails, I could also try on Monday.

It is so maddening. I’m still sick, but feeling a little better. Nor am I getting rest. I missed one of my nebulizer treatments yesterday.

Shannon’s Back

Shannon Mulcahey, who is 22 years old, will graduate nursing school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska this coming May. Shannon and some of her classmates spent a few hours at our Peguyville location in the summer of 2016. She reads the Journal every day. I first met Shannon in 2005 when she was a 9-year-old middle school student in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was in Iowa to give my “poverty & prayer” presentation at Mount Mercy College. I was invited to give the presentation by Shannon’s dad, Bill Mulcahey, who was the director of campus ministry. Two years later, in 2007, I returned to Mount Mercy College with my friend Fr. John Dear, the internationally acclaimed peace activist and author. We did a joint presentation on peace and poverty. Bill invited John and I to have dinner at his home and Shannon had many questions for us. Bill Mulcahey serves on the Pax et Bonum Communications board of directors. Shannon will return to Nebraska on March 11th. I am looking forward to spending a few days with her when I get back to Haiti on March 6th.

Sannon with crowd of kids

Shannon with Peter Francis
Shannon with Peter Francis

Lenten Reflection 10

I love Lent. Lent is a journey to Easter, a journey to resurrection. I need Lent because I get busy and I forget that Christ rose from the dead. And in my fog of forgetfulness, I lose sight of how that unique event needs to have continual meaning for me, that this gift of new life still happens for me. But worse than forgetting, I fail to live the reality of the Resurrection, and in doing so I turn Easter into nothing more than an annual commemoration.

The gift of new life that the Resurrection of Christ gives to each of us should dramatically change the way we view the world and the way we live life. But the reality of the end of death quickly fades into a dream. Yes, we will die, but Christ forever changed the nature of death. It is no longer an ending, but a passage—a Passover—to eternal life. Yet we forget, distracted by a thousand things, 995 of which are trivial. Christ made us partakers of His resurrection; that is the core of the Christian faith. But, sadly, it is not the core of our daily experience.

Living a life of “faith, hope and love” seems virtually impossible because of our inherent weaknesses. God continually asks us to put God first, and seek God at all times and in all things. We want to put God first, but we are busy, engulfed in so many distractions and preoccupations that we forget and we fail to do it. Our forgetfulness makes it easy for sin to sneak back into our lives. Slowly, the new life of Christ recedes back into the old human life. We become shallow and stingy. Joy loses its smile and our faces turn dismal. Life loses its meaning; everything becomes pointless. God has left the building…or so we think. But no, God never leaves. It is us who turn our backs on God, and step by step walk further away. Until Lent rolls around, and prompts us to turn around and begin our journey back to God. The God we found, but lost…and who mercifully gives us an endless number of second chances to find Him again. Lent helps me see and taste the new life in Christ I so easily betray. Lent is a time to repent and return to the Source and Sustainer of life.

I love Lent. Lent helps me find what I have lost. Lent helps me fall in love again.

From Bus to Beds

I hope two days of bus demolition photos weren’t too boring. Removing that bus was a very significant event in the life of Santa Chiara. It had dominated so much space. I wanted to give the kids more room to play.

But there is even a more important reason for spending $800 to have the bus cut up and removed. The first floor of the main house is overcrowded. There are just too many kids. We alleviated some of the crowdedness when we moved the boys into the schoolhouse at night, giving the girls more room to spread out. We have 47 girls and 15 boys. My plan is to use part of the space the bus occupied on which to build a dorm for the girls between the ages of 10 and 15. I hope to put bunk beds in the dorm. When I get back to Florida we will start working on a solid estimate of the cost to undertake this important project.

Girls jumping rope

Kids playing

Trash Burning
I took this photo last week from the balcony from our home. Burning garbage day and night sends a steady stream of toxicity into the air.

Medical Update

On Monday, I had my car repaired. On Tuesday, I went to doctor to check out my lungs. Perhaps I had my priorities wrong. But brakes are important, as are lungs.

When I went to the doctor in connection with my breathing woes, chronic coughing, and almost constant spitting up mucus, he immediately sent me out to a lab for a chest X-ray. For the last week, I had a hard time sleeping because of the coughing, and the diminished lung capacity has left me very tired. The last thing I wanted to do was go to a radiology center. But it was painless and quick. The lab had the results back to the doctor before I got back to the doctor’s office. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my lungs. There is no evidence of any disease or abnormality. The lungs are in good shape. The problem is with the airway, which is extremely constricted, which is why my wheezing so prevalent. The constricted airway is manufacturing excessive amounts of mucus. The problem is directly tied to the toxic air in Haiti.

The doctor then gave me a breathing test. The last reading, from the beginning of February, indicated I was using only about 57% of my lung capacity, which meant I was effectively handicapped. The number improved slightly, and is now 64% of capacity. The reason the constricted airway did not improve while I was in Haiti was that I was not following the medication protocol as faithfully as I should have. I also was supposed to take one of the two medications through the nebulizer more than the other. I somehow did the opposite. I had to buy additional medication and get a second nebulizer as I left the one I had in Haiti. The need to take the two medications more frequently than originally instructed. I was also give a medication in a pill form which should help. The doctor believes that if I take the medication as instructed, which is twice as much as originally instructed, for one week, I should see a dramatic improvement. After a week, when I am back in Haiti, I can cut the amount of medication in half. So, with the fresh Florida air and rest, I should be in good shape to return to Haiti next Tuesday.

Remains of bus
Billy sent this photo of the remains of the bus on Tuesday.
Pile of Rubble
All the was left was a pile of rubble…
Rubble in truck
Which was carted away in this truck
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