Language Barriers, More Construction & Kids

This is part of my series of posts recapping our construction mission trip to Haiti. Click here to read them all.

This is Simone with Pastor Garnell Joseph. She is the owner of the house we were building. She will live there with her dad & brother.

Day 2 of Construction

On the 2nd day of construction, we did not finish the walls of the house like we had hoped. We could have finished it for sure, but everything runs on Haitian time – much slower than we might like. It was definitely a lesson in patience. The head boss, Mulanje*, wanted to stretch everything out to make sure he got paid for more days. It was disappointing, because we could have gotten so much more done. The next day we would go to the next house site. Mulanje & his apprentice would finish the walls, windows, & doors, and a team from Mississippi would come in to do the roof. There were many times that we’d have to wait on the Haitian bosses to do the corners or something before we could continue our part. The work there was could only be done by a limited number of people. We did a lot of waiting & sitting.

A picture of the guys up on the make-shift scaffolding, getting work done. That is Mulanje (the Haitian boss) with them.

When there was some work to be done the guys did most of it and us ladies hung around, helping when we could. However, it did give us opportunities to hang out with the kids & neighbors that were around. It was good for building relationships. Hopefully we were helping to build bridges that could reap fruit in the long run – for the church and for relationships with Christ. Maybe, just maybe, by us being there, caring about them, working hard, and being warm & friendly, and by them hopefully getting the message that we were Christians & working with the church, it could possibly open doors to future American teams to come in an share about Christ with them. Maybe this is the first time some of them have seen Americans working hard to help in their community and it softens them to the next team that may come. Or it could open up opportunities for that local church we were partnering with. We never know the long term impact that we can have, even by small actions.

These are the neighbor girls who hung out on the front porch most of the days, watching us and interacting with us.

The Language Barrier & the Children

Throughout the week we learned bits & pieces of words & phrases in Creole, but the language barrier obviously hindered our ability to communicate with the Haitians. The kids would come up to us and just start rattling off stuff and we couldn’t understand what they were trying to say. I wished we could communicate better, with the kids and the adults too. That got a bit frustrating. We couldn’t really share about Christ or explain why we were all there. (We did learn how to say “We work for Jesus”, among other things.) We mostly had to communicate with smiles, waves, & a few very simple words. But a smile & a wave can go a long way. It was amazing how you could pass a very stern, serious looking person, but with a simple wave & a smile, & maybe a ‘bon jour’ they would just light up. Their demeanor would instantly change. That was really neat to see. Every day, riding in the tap-tap, it was like we were in a parade. Again, we were obviously quite a spectacle. So everyone would turn and look at us as we drove by. So we’d smile & wave at everyone we could, offering up a friendly bon jour.

We passed these kids in the tap-tap a couple times a day, to & from the hotel. Most of the time they'd be hanging around, seeing us coming, and run out to wave at us.

And with the kids, it almost didn’t matter that we couldn’t speak the same language. We’d do the best we could with gestures. It didn’t hurt that we generally always had little candies & stickers to hand out. Lisa & Jason Welch also had handmade dolls with them that they would give out to the girls. We learned that most kids are attention starved at home, so when you show them the slightest attention, they cling. They just want to be loved and touched. One boy on the first day of construction kept hugging me & talking about how we were all his friends (a word we did learn in Creole). Throughout the day he would take my concrete-covered hands and either brush or scrape them off. He even scraped some out from under my fingernails. It was a very sweet gesture.

This was my buddy - the one who kept cleaning off my hands. He had a good time hanging around with us & vice versa.

On this 2nd day, there was a little crowd of kids across the street. They were so adorable. We enjoyed being with them & their grandma. She brought out a photo album & in Creole showed us each member of her family (including the child’s parents who we figured out were in Miami). She even brought out the little boy’s report card! The smallest boy (maybe 1-year-old) fell down at one point & started crying, so I picked him up (no pants & all) & held him for a couple minutes. He stopped crying immediately. He was precious.

These are the cute boys across the street. Jeveson* & probably his little brother.

So we enjoyed all of those times with the children & with the neighbors, even if we weren’t making great progress on the construction.

God has a plan for all things, even if it doesn’t seem like we’re accomplishing what we think we should be.

*Disclaimer: I really don’t know how to spell the names of most of the people we met, so I’m trying to guess. 🙂

Here are some more great pictures:

A precious girl across the street.

I love this picture!

A girl with one of the dolls the Welches were handing out.

Most of these photos were taken by Jason Welch. Check out his photography blog here.


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