Sunday, March 28, 2010


Filthy, soaked and exhausted I arrived back at the shop to find my license plate missing from my motorbike. Immediately I suspected theft but I hoped it only fell off bouncing over these busted roads. It took a week to get the plate in Port au Prince so I retraced my path back through town in case it only fell off. But it was nowhere to be found.

On the way I was stopped by Johnny, a new mechanic at Haiti Outreach and asked to give him a ride home. So we bounced our way to the far side of town to his house, four mud walls and a tin roof. He insisted I stay for dinner. At the offer flashes of nights spent sitting on the toilet or vomiting passed through my mind. I decided to accept the offer despite the risks.

Under candlelight we shared a meal, me choking down as much as I could of the charred rice tasting much like it was burnt then scraped off the bottom of the pot. His family was amazing and superbly polite. Then as we neared the end of our meal perhaps the purpose for his hospitality surfaced. Johnny said his father-in-law was a pastor. I said there are a lot of churches in Pignon, he agreed, many, many. He said churches are a business and pastors the businessmen who run them. Then he asked if I would connect his father-in-law’s church with one in the States that would support them.

I explained that I believed in Christ and that the first priority of churches should be rooted in faith. I said money given to the church should largely be used to support the poor and not to build new houses and buy vehicles for pastors. I further said that my father taught me that money is the fruit of labor and should be worked for and not begged for. I tried to be respectful in my rejection of his request all the while aware of the crushing damage charity has done to Haitian mentality.

Pignon is a “ruined” community. It is on the receiving end of buckets of cash charity pouring in from the Sates every week. Whatever the intent of the money was I believe a bulk of it goes to support the lifestyles of an upper class wholly supported by charity.

Most of the residents of Pignon are hard-working lower class citizens. They don’t see hardly any of this charity. But their children watch it pour into the castles of the pastors and hospital staff. They learn that wealth is achieved through begging from white people.

The children in rural villages of Haiti are usually very polite, hard-working and fun to play with. But the children of Pignon, the ruined ones at least, are of the nastiest, most disrespectable variety I’ve ever encountered.

Today they tried to scam me, I called their bluff and they made me pay for it like a swarm of killer bees. Today we poured concrete in the base of a water tank, to replace a floor that had eroded away. Yesterday I had Haitian staff of Haiti Outreach with me to negotiate with people to help us buy and haul sand and gravel. But today was Saturday and it was just me and my three local plumbers.

As I drove up with a small pile of gravel and 4 sacks of cement in my truck I was met by 4 teenagers who offered to haul it down the hill for me. I said how much? They said 700 gourdes ($US 22). I said no way man, you hauled twice that much gravel for us yesterday for only 300 gourdes.

Then I proceeded to haul it down myself. It was a wet, rocky and muddy slope down to our worksite. I recruited Edris and another Haitian to help me. The guy I recruited hauls 5-gallon buckets of water up the hill all day for less than 2 gourdes a bucket. I offered him 100 gourdes to haul 8 buckets, more money that he would make in a whole day of work and still a fraction of what the other guys wanted. But when he arrived at the water tank with his first bucket of sand and told the other guys of his deal there was an uproar. The group of teenagers are of the “ruined” variety. They don’t see money as a reward for work but rather as something to be swindled from dumb white guys.

The three of us hauled the sand and I hauled the 95 pound sacks of cement myself. Then the group of 4 “ruined” guys proceeded to make the rest of my day a living nightmare. They assembled 20 of their buddies and stood right on top of our work all day pretending to help but all the while heckling me and making a big mess.

I’m generally a tough person to make mad but today they drove me to my breaking point. After 7 hours of exhausting labor, no lunch and incessant heckling I had a meltdown. Luckily it was only in front of Temelon and one leach of a kid when we were driving in the pickup to get a trowel. I told Temelon that I’ve had it with the disrespectful attitudes of his fellow residents. I told him I’m done working with Pignon. I’ll go to other communities that are willing to work for their water instead of belittling me with constant cries of “I’ll help you if you pay me, give me a gift, give me your gloves, give me your backpack, give me, give me!” I took Temelon back to the work site, made sure they knew what to do to finish the job that was nearly complete and retreated to my house. I spent the next hour eating and holding my head between my hands. I felt terrible that I’d lost my cool, exactly what the jerks wanted.

There have been so many good, hard-working citizens who have given me so much encouragement in the past weeks that it’s hard to turn my back just because of a few jerks. I wonder what Temelon is thinking tonight, my good friend. It’s hard to know exactly how I’ll resolve my feelings for the community of Pignon, a community ruined, not initially by Haitians, but by Americans who think they’re helping.

I think I know how I’ll resolve to continue, I’ll see one more incident of an old woman carrying water with all her might or a child malnurished and full of worms that he got from a contaminated glass of water. I’ll walk by the polluted, nasty, trash filled river where everyone goes to bathe every day and it will remind me why I came here. I’ll have to drive the memory of the hecklers to the back of my mind and put the needs of those hard-working Haitians front and center.

Thanks everyone for your prayers. Please pray that next time I’ll keep my cool and smile in the face of the hecklers knowing that I’m not working just for them but for a much more deserving kind of people.


  1. Hi Dave,
    I found your blog through our communication's team when popped up in one of your posts. Everyone loses their cool at one time or another. After reading this post and your previous entry regarding the water tank, I think you're more patient than most!
    Take care,

  2. Dave,
    You do have to focus on the majority that are helpful and gracious... and then PRAY FOR the ones on the hill heckling ;-). They do need it -and God loves them and wants their hearts and helpful work. By example, you are touching their lives). We are all falible... just need to keep at it... Would love to take back words or actions- but can't. Need to apologize to those we need to and keep working at being the best we can.

    You ask how do I continue... Your response - to look at and see those that are in need and gracious and benefit from your work -definately the motivation! But also, "working for the Lord", He is your ultimate supervisor vs the immediate around you- particularly helpful to focus on if you happen to be under negative people or circumstances!

    Also, focus on the words of God and the songs heard and learned over the years... and on the countless stories of lives that have been changed by watching "integrity and perseverence in action. Mother Theresa. Another one that comes to mind: A man was robbed and beat up by some young teenage hoolums. When caught and going through the trial; at the point of sentencing - he kind of struggled w/ just sending off to jail time- not really perhaps changing a life. The idea was to drop the charges [not his he said]. With the defendents in the room, he told the judge that he would take their sentences. Personally, he thought it would get himself off the roads and out of danger... The judge, being caught off guard, asked him to explain. He explained that he realized something... said "that's what Jesus did for me". The judge denied that motion and the boys got 3-6 mos terms. Later 3 of the 5 kids, came back to him astonished at his attempt to take their "time" and ultimately turned their lives around... and are working in gang ministries.

    It didn't take away the "injuries"... or his fear of working on the streets... but God used what was a negative situation and brought something positive out of it.

    There are LOTS of people praying for you! Good Friday - the oxymoron... bitter sweet - but hind sight is 20/20! Good Easter! Sue Loose

  3. Dave, stop short of becoming fed up with and taking the pump and throwing rocks in the wells so nobody could get water... because some people are not taking care of things, or taking ownership or wanting to pitch in; though you kind of get insight on one of the last well owners. :) Sue Loose

    Patience and perserverence!