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  • Tom Stein

New Friends and Old Bones

Yesterday we had a series of interesting meetings, starting with an invitation extended to the gentlemen at Reno Cafe to join our table. My kids have always been a bit embarrassed by my habit of starting up conversations with strangers, just about anywhere. Jason Good, our new tablemate, is a Mennonite missionary who coordinates teams throughout Haiti. After a nice chat, card exchange, and a prayer for our respective ministries, we parted ways.

The afternoon was a drive, too short, up the coast to Titayen for an appointment with Achemetre Jean Felix. He coordinates a transition program to prepare students for the International Baccalaureate Exam and entering university. As we spoke, he gave us a bit of his story. The program's first graduate was accepted into the Notre Dame Universities of Haiti Nursing School in Hinche but was unable to attend because the tuition -- about $1000 a year. Jean Felix himself could not attend university for similar reasons, but he taught himself and continues learning. It was inspiring as most conversations are in Haiti.

As the meeting broke, we entertained visiting a local beach, but quickly discovered there was a $15-$25 fee, per person, just to dip our toes in the bay. So instead, we headed to Croix-des-Bouquets and the nationally renown metal art center. This is an entire neighborhood where rhythmic tapping of hammers on nails to tin or steel is the background music of industry. Tap-tap-tapping echoes for blocks as each house is a small factory turning out small, medium, and large metal art. The Tree of Life is particularly popular item, but each is different. Each piece is intricately chiseled from a single piece of metal. 55 gallon drums are opened and pounded flat with a hammer. It's painstaking work just to create the canvas. The lids are the perfect size for a tree of life. A can might be used for a single large piece or smaller pieces might be chiseled off to make bowls, cups, and various design elements. Each house has a pattern maker and chiselers of all sizes. Children hold steel plates down with their toes as adults work the larger steel. It's quite impressive to watch, and of course, everyone wants to show you their work.

After selecting a few pieces for our grandson's preschool auction, we were on our way home. 6 kilometers, the last 6, only 3.7 miles, but 90 minutes in traffic, even with a detour ( or shortcut) through the river. We were glad there's been no rain this week and the water was relatively low. We dropped 40 feet down the banks of the river and backtracked, only once, to avoid the garbage fires that take up the riverbed in the dry season. When we finally made it home for the night we were beyond tired, at least this grandpa was. The constant bouncing, swaying, jostling, and banging off of ceilings and windows has taken its toll on the old bones. Sleep is not what it was a few days ago.

That is part of the adventure -- meeting new people, sharing stories, visions, dream, hopes, and desires. It is also the challenge of taking the road which is literally less traveled. We often want to bail out, like few days ago, when the road looks impassable and impossible. But we must have faith in our call, faith in our mission, and most importantly, faith in our God, who can do anything, anytime, anywhere, and any which way He wants. It's just fun to be along for the road.

More to come.

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