$20,000 for a generator? Really? We understand this question that we have asked ourselves and tried to get around several ways without success the past year since moving to our neighborhood in St. Marc. Our first year in Haiti we lived on a compound that had its own generators. Our second year in Haiti we lived on another compound with many power sources for a few months before moving to St. Marc where we were able to live on the school property using that generator for another four months until we were able to secure our own housing. We have struggled to live as simply as possible while meeting many needs without sufficient electricity to our home the past year. Though it is very hard at times, living among our Haitian neighbors has been the very best way for us to build relationships with them. In many ways it has been a blessing in disguise to live like our neighbors who mostly do not have sufficient power.
These have been trying but wonderful learning experiences that God allowed us to have so that we could understand the people and culture we came to serve a little better. We better understand why things are the way they are and why people behave the way they do. We know they watch us and have seen us struggle alongside them. We feel the same joy and cheer from the porch along with our neighbors on the rare occasions the lights come on. We also know they think we are crazy for choosing this life. The poor do not like living in poverty. It is not fun and there is no romanticizing it away even with cherished memories of joyful cheers. Our choosing to live in a poor Haitian neighborhood is a world of difference away from the abject involuntary poverty that surrounds us. However, we did not choose to move and serve in Haiti so that we could live like the poor around us but to help them improve their lives spiritually, emotionally, and physically through a variety of ways. The district we live in only rarely receives even scant electricity that accompanies an imbalanced voltage problem. This voltage issue (which we have tried to remedy with regulators in the past) causes severe brownout and our appliances have already suffered its blows. Due to the scarcity of even the low voltage electricity received and location of our house, the option to install a transformer (not a cheap option either) has been ruled out. Solar panels are always suggested. We would love to be able to purchase and install large solar panels instead of a generator. While purchasing enough solar panels to store electricity would most likely cost as much as a generator, they would definitely save on expensive fuel required to run the generator. Unfortunately we cannot at this time figure out a way to install solar panels without a very high risk that those expensive panels will be stolen. Our neighbors can walk on to our house from their roof. If we were away from the house for only a few hours (not to mention a few days or months) we know we would face the sad experience other missionaries who have lived in this area have coming home to stolen solar panels. The generator must be delivered by a crane into our back yard. It weighs half a ton. It would be extremely difficult for someone to steal. Even when we lived on a secure compound with two 24 hr. armed security guards on patrol, we had all our batteries that store the electricity from the generator walk away from our house. We have not had this issue with our batteries at our new house because they are locked up securely inside our caged front porch. However, due to having very limited funds to purchase long lasting batteries (still were not cheap at a couple thousand dollars) when we arrived in St. Marc, our past battery investment bit the dust after only one year of use. We have maintained our $2,000 inverter which inverts the stored power from the batteries that are charged by the power source (city power, generator, or solar panels). Due to the severity of damage done to appliances (mostly our computers as we kept everything else unplugged) from the limited city power that does come in, we need to be able to get off the grid completely and only use our own source of electricity. Since solar panels are out for the time being, our only option is a generator and better batteries.
Several people have asked why we cannot simply purchase the same generator for $5,000 less in the states and ship it to Haiti? Well, we could. But…by the time we purchase, pay for shipping, processing, customs, and wait (possibly months) and then figure out how to somehow get the 1,000 pound generator off the boat with most likely a lot of fuss and hassle and more monies demanded, we will have spent close to or more than the $13,000 the generator costs to purchase in Haiti.
Others have asked why we need this particular expensive generator? If we were to purchase a different brand that may be cheaper we would have major issues on a regular basis and spend more time and money on parts and labor. We say this based on the testimonies of many others we have watched go through this who have advised and encouraged us what would give us the best output for the money without us continually having to put more money, time, and energy into it. Some have suggested purchasing a good brand but maybe a smaller generator that we would have to run more often. We have a large house in Haiti. We have had an average of 9-20 people living/staying in this house consistently. All of these people have needs in order to keep them fed, rested, clean and healthy. It is not possible to provide refrigeration to keep foods fresh, fans to combat the extreme heat and mosquitos we live with year round, or running water without electricity. The only way to provide sufficient electricity to such a large household that will allow us to run all of our appliances and charge the batteries at the same time (therefore saving expensive gas and time spent facilitating the running of all these things) is to purchase a large generator that can handle that load. It will blow the breaker if we run it on a smaller generator.
We hope this answers any questions and concerns about why we are budgeting so much for this need. We have researched what will work best to run the household and be most cost effective in the long run. After checking on current pricing we have budgeted $13,000 to purchase the generator in Haiti, $5,000 for 12 good batteries costing $400 each, and are estimating that it may cost up to another $2,000 for delivery of the generator from Port au Prince to St. Marc, purchasing cords and attachments and installation. This is where we are getting the $20,000 budget.
Elisabeth and the kids are scheduled to return to Haiti in less than a month. Eric needs to book his ticket to arrive in Haiti even earlier in the next three weeks in order to be able to get personal affairs (such as repairs and Lord willing the purchase and installation of a generator) completed at the house before teacher workshops, trainings, and the start of school commences in early September and our family and five others preparing to come live and serve with us arrive on the scene. We honestly do not know how this is going to happen but we are trusting that God will provide a way, one way or another. While the HOW? is our biggest unknown, our knowns are much bigger this time around. Perhaps that is the problem. It is easier not to know. When we first left for Haiti we didn’t know what we were getting into exactly and it was exciting. We didn’t much know what to expect so we didn’t expect much. Gone is the exhilarating enchantment of venturing into unknown adventure.
Dogs are one thing. People are another. We won’t go into what we personally have experienced in the way of scares here. Perhaps that will be for a later book at a much later time when our mothers are no longer with us. When friends and family voiced their fears of Eric going to Israel in the midst of a war this past month, we were thinking, “do you have any idea what where we live?” Israel executes self defense forces and has bomb shelters everywhere. Have you ever seen Israel ranking in the top 10-15 most dangerous countries in the world? Haiti tops the charts in several Google searches over recent years at numbers 4, 9, and 13. A bit unnerving if one focuses on this. We don’t…most of the time. It isn’t machete man but Chikungunya which “has been merciless in Haiti” that is our most fearful concern with returning in the next few weeks. While nearly everyone on the island has suffered the Chikungunya epidemic in the months we have been away and it is said to be declining, we know there is still a high risk our family could be added to the victim list. We have sought wisdom from other missionaries/medically knowledgeable friends in Haiti who have been battling and researching this personally. We are going to do everything we can to up our immune systems and prevent getting bitten by mosquitos carrying this debilitating virus when we return. We are moving ahead with plans to return as scheduled because Haiti is our home where God has us and we need to be back there as soon as possible. While it is difficult not to fear the ramifications and lingering damage from this new physical threat that will be very difficult to avoid, it is not having the means to deal with the sickness should we get it that we will not be able to handle well under our current situation. It is that knowing thing again. It is one thing for unforeseeable sickness to come upon you. It is another thing to walk into it knowing what it will be like. We imagine what it will be like if (and likely, but Lord please no, when) we have 6 members of our family unable to move from bone crushing pain, covered in fever and rash, along with the 5 others coming to live with us down with this sickness…WITH NO FANS TO COOL US OFF, NO RUNNING WATER TO CLEAN US OFF, ETC. ETC. ETC. While we know that a generator will not necessarily prevent us getting sick from mosquito born illnesses (though it could lessen our chances if we are able to keep mosquitos at bay with fans), we know that in the event we get sick we will be able to survive it with much better if we have a generator at our home.
We have never before been afraid to visit or live in Haiti. But we are there now. God always finds new ways to stretch us doesn’t He? We know we can camp in heat and mosquitos. We have done it before and we can do it again (though by God’s grace we have never yet done it sick). We are still planning to head back to our Haiti home in the next month. We are really hoping we can head back knowing that we can purchase a generator and batteries for our home. We know it will take a small miracle for that to happen. We have been busy speaking at churches, to individuals and groups all summer and fundraising for our return to Haiti. We have raised $6,516.44 that has been designated specifically for the generator and batteries. We still have places to go and people to visit in the upcoming weeks. We are pretty travel weary to say the least after just returning to Texas last night. We know that our meager efforts to come up with another $13,483.56 in the next 3 weeks is not going to happen without a miracle. We are praying for that and asking you to join us please! We would like to ask you to share with your friends, family, Sunday school classes, clubs and groups about any possible fundraising projects to help us reach our goal of purchasing a generator and batteries before September. Click THIS LINK for more information on how to give a tax deductible donation in whatever way is best for you. Please continue to pray for us and that we would have a peace that surpasses our understanding (fears and known threats) even if this funding is not fully met before we need to return to Haiti.
“Hold us in quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?”
***All photos in this post were taken by us in our Haiti neighborhood.