Things don't have to be shattered to be deeply broken.
During the night (Wednesday night), the rains came. The pastor's house we're staying in started to leak at multiple points, including waterfalls gushing into a bedroom and stairwell. From a distance the home looks fine but, up close, you see the cracks running deeply at the ceiling line throughout the whole structure. Under foot, the tiles shift and rock on the second level, evidence of a floor that had buckled just enough to separate ceramic facade from concrete plane. Sure, the house is fine under normal circumstances but, when tested by the storm, it gives way to penetrating outside forces.
Countless thousands of people in Port-Au-Prince now reside in squatter cities constructed of tents, tarps, and blankets. We were told today that many of these structures have sprung up in the low clearings where buildings had not previously existed. These clearings were devoid of construction for a reason: they're prone to flooding during the rainy season that brings torrential downpours and high winds.
The tented and tarped frames will likely not withstand the 40 to 50 mph winds that can gust during such a time. And the water, as it permeates down layers of rubble filled with decomposing bodies, will not just bring damage and discomfort. It will bring disease and death.
Whether it's a disabled home or a flimsy one set in an undesirable place, the instability and potential for harm is gravely apparent.
Just as homes are broken or lack capacity to truly function as intended, bodies are also. Crushed limbs were amputated to prevent gangrene. Appendages were hacked off to remove people from beneath heavy concrete slabs. A visiting ministry met with us today and said that there are thousands of children in Haiti who now have the double burden of being orphans and amputees.
Today we met one of them.
Rood is thirteen years old. On January 12th, around 4:40 pm, he had just returned from running an errand for the family. He sat down to watch the TV as his mother nursed his baby sister. During the twenty-five seconds that changed the course of Haiti, he remembers three strong waves. As the TV fell down he ran, but stumbled. He got up to run again but fell a second time. On one last attempt he dashed for the door, but was caught by falling concrete that killed his parents, grandparents, siblings, and a visiting aunt, uncle and cousins. Eleven family members in total perished in the home.
Rood was pinned down, falling in and out of consciousness. The same chunk of concrete that held him captive had killed his mother. He described that her stomach was split open and that she eventually "became big." He further recounted that, for the next three days, he was stuck with her "head to head" and he motioned to clarify that their foreheads were touching the whole time.
The team was aghast as they heard these words. Everybody was brought to silence and tears at the thought of this slight teenager entombed alive and in constant physical contact with the bloated body of his dead mother. Gruesome, macabre, and heartbreaking are just a few of the words that came to mind but, quite frankly, nothing can adequately describe the collective thoughts that ran through our heads.
Rood's cries for help were eventually heard by neighbors. After they reached him they determined that the only way to free him was to cut off his arm, somewhere between the shoulder and elbow. His arm and body were parted as he and his mom were parted.
His body isn't shattered but it's deeply broken.
Rood is now in an orphan home run by a pastor. He is in remarkably good spirits, considering all he's been through. He wears a smile so huge that it more than makes up for his missing appendage. He buries his head into the arms of a visiting caregiver when expressing embarrassment (in recounting how somebody initially had to help him go to the bathroom), sadness or joy. All emotions draw him into the arms of another. He's sad today because his best friend, Jonny, is being adopted by an American family. Jonny leaves as we leave.
Today we also met with the Haiti Director of the Global Aid Network, a ministry of Campus Crusade that's part of our Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT.) He told us that "All the signs of physical hope are gone. That's why I put my hope in God."
Rood has placed his hope there also. Although he'll most likely struggle with survivor's guilt for a very long time he acknowledges that God saved him for a reason and he wants to testify to that. He hopes to be a doctor and a pastor when he grows up. Fitting, as he'll be able to use such a bi-vocational role to heal his country physically and spiritually.
There are many shattered things in this struggling country. But the broken things are dealing with much instability and pain also. God uses brokenness. He'll use it to draw Haiti closer to Him.
A couple of days ago we met the Country Director of World Relief who is introducing our HORT group to many of the churches they're working with. He told us. "I have a man here who is picking plaster out of the cracks and then re-plastering the walls. But we don't need to just repair Haiti, we need to build a new one!"
Haiti will be rebuilt – one broken home at a time, one broken Rood at a time.
Paul can be found on Twitter @paulmyhill