Monday, October 14, 2013

Transitioning Thoughts

The past nearly three weeks have been a struggle. A struggle to understand, accept, and come to terms with what happened and why. I don't want to think of myself as God's puppet. As if He plays with us at his every whim, but sometimes I'm angry that that's the way it feels. I felt God calling to do mission, to spread the Gospel not through critical words and harsh judgment but with acts of love and understanding. But with everything that happened, God scooped me back up and took me home. Calling me home.

I sit here now in my room, my comfortable room, with my familiar surroundings and amenities. I remember one of the first nights back I ran into my parent's room exclaiming, "I have electricity, I have electricity!" and becoming emotional that I will not have a apprehension that the power will go out just because. And while I live on a busy road, the silence of the night echoed inside me as the fan noise was no longer there.

Sometimes when I'm alone with my thoughts I think of her, Haiti. I reason that I can go back and I'm going to call up the Mission Office and say I want to go back. But alas, that is not the happen. It can't happen. I have already begun to look ahead towards employment and graduate school, I'm so eager to undertake.

I would like to share a poem I wrote soon after I came back. Much of it came from my raw emotion at the time, so it may be a bit harsh but it's from the heart.



Unfinished Business

It didn’t work out

I need to be there

I didn’t like the food

I didn’t like the heat

But I need to be there

I never liked the Caribbean

But I need to be there.

My boss and I weren’t a good match

My students didn’t like me?

But I have unfinished business

I miss the place

This place that gave me grief

Maybe I let it give me grief?

Maybe if I took a stand!

But the school

Those kids, that culture

And the church!

So hot

The pews were hard

No fellowship

Peace: Just handshakes

No peace said

Why do I want to go back?

I left a friend

I left a project

I left unfinished business

Haiti,

My unfinished business


Haiti will always have a special and dear place in my heart. Perhaps one day I will return. But until, then the memories will keep me company, good and bad. The good ones will keep me happy and the bad ones will remind me of my mistakes.

-Zach-

Monday, September 30, 2013

What Happened

Hello everyone,

This post will come as a surprise for many of you. Due to cultural and personality conflicts between the placement and I it had been decided that I return home. I returned home Wednesday September 25th. As many of you might know I was struggling at the beginning due to my grandfather’s passing, however as soon as I moved on from that, new issues arose. I will forever to grateful for my time there and indebted to Pere Kenser Ajax and the people at BTI and indeed the people of Haiti for their open doors and showing me their lifestyle and culture. I have been forever changed. 

I also had to say goodbye my housemate Robert and the other young adult Americans who I got know. Luckily though, I’m sure I will see them again eventually, especially Adrianne who lives 45 minutes north me! See you in the winter, Adrianne!

I learned so much within one month. One is to be happy to with what I have and not jealous or needy to what I don't have. Some people don't have that luxury; they live within their means and use every resource available to them because they can't go out and buy new. A second thing I learned is to be joyful that we are even alive. That God created us represents that we are all uniquely special in His eyes and until he calls us back, we must continue to seek Him and His will for us. Another thing is that motorcycles/scooters are awesome. 

Thank you to all who supported me and know that I will be in touch with everyone soon. I just need a period of transition and re-adjustment.


Your fellow servant of Christ,
Zach

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Photo time!

Cinq Cent Ans (500 years). A monument when you enter/leave Les Cayes.

Down time at the beach. I'm drinking from a coconut!

A crab on the beach.

I was told this was an old French plantation house and then a presidential summer house. I am NOT Ansel Adams, don't complain about my photo taking abilities!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday, Monday...

BAH-DAH BA-DA-DA-DA
BAH-DAH BA-DA-DA-DA
BA-DABA-DA-DA-DA

Monday, Monday (ba-da ba-da-da-da)
So good to me (ba-daba-da-da-da)
Monday mornin, it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Monday mornin, Monday mornin' couldn't guarantee (ba-da ba-da-da-da)
That Monday evenin' you would still be here with me

~The Mommas and the Papa, 1966

Well it's been a little over a week since my last post. This past week has been full of classes, work, and adventures as well!

I am teaching, for the record, English 2 and English 4. Teaching, while fun, hasn't been that interesting because I've been going over grammar and in English 4 I was teaching them the history of the English language and why it's a funny language. (Grammar is very Germanic, but alot of the vocab we use is French and then we have a lot of "I don't know why we do that, we just do, just accept it.").

This past Saturday, I went to Children of Israel orphanage in Torbeck, about 20 minutes to the west of Les Cayes. Adrianne lives there and helps out when she is not teaching. Her family's church supports the orphanage as well. It was decided to take the little ones to the beach! About a half-mile walk down through a farm and BAM the ocean. I didn't take my camera. I'M SORRY! I know, I feel bad but Haiti, while there has been many photo-ops, isn't exactly a touristy nation so I would stand out greatly. Anyways, the waves were larger which made for a better second time in the ocean, but I still can't get over the salt. The little ones were very happy because even though they live so close, they can't go all the time.

A pi ta!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Children's Class

Today was the first day of the children's English class. Alongside Robert and Sara, another American teacher from Connecticut, we drew pictures of what he had done this summer and showed them to the class.

Afterwords it was playtime. Jump rope goes a long way. I even partook, which was a mistake because once I do something physically demanding, I start to sweat. In the States, sitting down and drinking a cold glass of water does the trick. But no, here once I start I can't stop. I'm a hemophiliac, but with sweating. But all is well now. Even fixing up the mosquito net while I'm trying to go to sleep and with the fan on me, I break a sweat.

Robert decided to teach the boys and I a new game in English called Ninja, but they didn't understand that so he called in Karate instead. It really is a boys game. We also did tug of war.

Also we have a tarantula on our property which is not at all a bad thing, even though I strongly dislike them, but I strongly dislike cockroaches even more. And that's what they eat.

I also briefly met Adrianne. Who is from where? Oxford, Michigan. 40 minutes north of me. And what school did she go to. OAKLAND UNIVERSITY!!!! I swear we probably passed  each other many times on campus.

This is Gretchen.

Robert teaching the boys Ninja Karate

One of the boys in the class is reading LOTR...in French. He is at least 10, maybe 12.

My drawing of New York City.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two White Guys and BET

While the title of this post is funny, in my opinion, I must start out with some somber news.

Yesterday I received word that my grandfather had passed away. It wasn't a surprise, he's been sick off and on ever since my grandma died two and half years ago. And though I said my goodbyes, being away is still hard.

Upon learning of this, Robert my housemate, decided we need to go out and we took taxis to the Hot Spot, which is most likely the only Western-esque restaurant in Les Cayes. We feasted on cheesburgers! It was delightful. The dining room we were in was air conditioned and had a TV. BET was the channel that was on. And it was in English. It was a good way to get my mind off of my grandpa's passing.

Anyways, school has started and classed are underway. Being a student most of life, teaching is something foreign to me so it has been an awkward first week but progress will happen and by the end of the semester I will better equipped for next semester.

Last night, on my walk to my room last night I spotted a tarantula! They rarely move, so I wasn't concerned but it was still a sight to see! Robert took a picture, my camera is buried in my bag.

I will be more diligent about taking pics.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

An End Cap

A little over a week since I've been here. The sights, the sounds, the people, and the food. It's all been a roller coaster of sensory overload. How are you? That's the question you want to ask me. Don't worry, I am fed, I have people around me, a bed to sleep, and a shelter to keep me dry. I am still, psychologically speaking, adjusting myself. It's hard. It's very hard. For this Westerner to come here, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, and experience this. And it's only been a week. Haiti is lush and green and full of life in nature and amongst her people, but it is nothing like one has ever seen before and nothing one could imagine. I am currently typing from my school and I believe I am going soon, so I will leave you all with this: I have taken a step into the unknown that is Haiti and in one week I have been forever changed more than anything else has before.

Good night.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let's Go to the Beach, Beach...

For those of you who get the reference to my post's name, I salute you and yes, I totally did just name it that!

Anyways, on Sunday Pere Ajax was a visiting priest at this small parish on the hills north of Les Cayes. Scratch, the mountains north of Les Cayes. The trip only last about 50 minutes but it seemed to take forever. Roads here are rocky, literally. And to get up the mountains it takes all one's got. Spectacular views but gosh was it bumpy. The service was in form an Episcopal service, but it was also much more. Songs. They love to sing and after the final blessing, three different groups, a girl's choir, a boy's choir, and the main choir all sang their own songs in Kreyol (All of the songs used in the liturgy were French). 

After the service and some lunch, Pere Ajax, took Robert (another American from Memphis and recent grad from Suwanee who arrived Saturday) and I to the beach for some much needed downtime. I know I haven't started my actual work (besides some light work on Friday), but the total onslaught of smells, sights, and sounds was overwhelming. If you can believe it was my first time in the ocean. I didn't care for the salt. I dove right in, came up, and that's all I could taste. But it was relaxing.

Mission St. Augustin in Maniche, Haiti

Plage de Port-Salut

A boat!




School starts next week on Monday, so no Labor Day for me! Not that I need it. I'm finally getting settled and accept the fact that I won't be home this weekend or next month, much to the chagrin of some. But the school year is going to fly by, as it always does. Even if the pace of things is slower here, life still beats on. And I'm just going to ride with the currents.

A pi ta!
(See you later!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Here I Am!

I have arrived! Yesterday was a whirlwind of a day. After an emotional goodbye to my sister and my parents, I left Detroit at 6:30 and arrived in Port Au Prince around 2. The car ride to Les Cayes was something. In Miami, I met Paul and his Nathou (an awesome nickname for Nathanial). They knew my boss, Pere Kesner Ajax, and live near Les Cayes so he gave them a ride back as well. In the States, along a freeway, the trip could probably take an hour and a half or so. It took nearly 4 hours. But that is to be expected. It was amazing to see the stunning coast views of Baie de Port-Au-Prince and the inland villages and her people. Unfortunately, the culture shock got to me and didn't think to take pictures. And here are some pictures because everyone wants them!



The top one is a view of my room. And the bottom one is the crest of the Bishop Tharp Institute (BTI) on the front gate.

And now for the address!

Rev. Kesner Ajax
c/o Agape Flights Acct. #2519
100 Airport Ave.
Venice, FL 34285

It is very important to address it to Kesner Ajax and include your return address. Do not address it to me.

Peace!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One Last Word in America...

One year. One year. That's it. I can do it. I know I can because God will be there. And the community from which I come and the community to which I go, they will all be there as well. Thank you all who made this possible, my friends and my family and strangers alike who saw in this mission something great. I leave tomorrow at 6:30 AM with a layover in Miami. I will arrive in Port-Au-Prince at 2:05 in the afternoon (same time zone!) See you all soon! And Haiti, I am ready! Bye, USA and Bonjou, Ayiti!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Home Stretch to Haiti

Well, here I am. In four days time, I will be in Haiti. Today, my church, St. Luke's Episcopal in Ferndale, Michigan, gave me a send-off service centered around service and mission work. Juan Perez, a fellow parishioner and seminary student, preached the sermon and reminded us all of our duty to mission in the way God calls us. He gave me a special shout-out right after, that was simply beautiful and unexpected. Thanks again, Juan! I was then blessed by our rector, Clare, and by my fellow Christians with their arms stretched out, and sent me off. Coffee hour was then spent talking and saying my goodbyes to my family at St. Luke's. I am so happy and blessed to be a part of such a loving and supportive community there. Bye, St. Luke's!



St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Ferndale, Mich. Ain't she purrty?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Last Cottage Weekend

I spent this weekend with my dear friends I've known since grade school. Like the summer weekends before, we spent it out at "the Cottage" in, my so-called named regio, the Brightons. To make a long story short, it is a place of character, charm, friendship, and fun. I am so honored and blessed to have the friends I do, they threw me a fabulous goodbye party-weekend that included a visit to Hell...Michigan! I said goodbye to Veronica, the daughter of the owner of the Cottage, she lives up north. I will be saying a final goodbye to other friends within the next week. But I know we will be at the Cottage again late next summer when I return. And isn't that the best part of saying goodbye? Counting down until seeing each other again.

I read a great quote at breakfast in the Coffee News newsletter,

"One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve" ~Albert Schweitzer

It was a great end of a great weekend.

Peace,
Zach

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sunday

I would like to thank everyone I saw on Sunday. It was a jam-packed day full of friends and family and encouragement and inspiration.

It all started at Christ Church Cranbrook where I gave a presentation before church to some adults about YASC and the mission. After church, I met with some members of Christ Church. A special thank you to Beth Taylor for that morning!

Then it was off to the annual St. Luke's Church picnic. It was a bit cooler than it should be for August, so I didn't bother to bring swim trunks, which I should because, while going on the boat was fun, going on the inner tube would have been more fun. Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to Sandy, the choir director at St. Luke's who I sing under, and Chuck Tuffley and Ann Merry, a couple who have given me many words of advice and encouragement throughout this process. See you three next year!

Then it was a sprint to downtown Detroit where my aunt and uncle threw me a fundraiser at their friend's restaurant, WaLa (the corner of WAshington and LAfayette, get it? I didn't, I thought it was a corruption of Voila). Anyways, they invited many of their friends, my family, and some of my friends. The food was Haitian, with some cheese and crackers and other fruit. It also featured a local urban winery, by my uncle's niece and her husband. It was a huge success! My thanks and appreciation to Angela, WaLa's owner, and Lisa and Ken, the winery owners, it beyond words! And thank you to everyone who came out and supported me.

Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the day, but it was great. Thank you everyone!

Paix,
Zach

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fundraising Update

I was doing an update on my donation list and I can't believe how much I've received. Money is something I don't do well with and very scared of, so when we first began this journey down at discernment weekend in Florida, I initially balked at the idea of raising $10,000. But when things starting to get underway and up to now, I've been astounded on how everything moves so smoothly with the fundraising part.

With the responses I've received, I've gotten to really know that I'm truly blessed with a community behind me that support me and pray for me when I am down in Haiti. The generosity of the people who I've gotten to speak to and even those who I do not know but have heard about this is simply overwhelming. To say, "thank you" would be the understatement of the century. My appreciation and gratitude of the support, both in financial and in vocal support and prayer, is great. Words of encouragement given to me will be with me when I'm in Haiti and will be needed on days I might feel down or discouraged.

So there's the updated thermometer, we're almost there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Departing...or Arriving?

It depends on how you look it at. I am departing this world and arriving to another. Above is my departing...or is arriving...itinerary. August 22. So much to do still and so little time! I had a tetanus shot today and will be going to a travel clinic tomorrow for my Hep A/B, typhoid, and malaria.

There's still time to give! Remember checks written out to St. Luke's Episcopal Church and memo'd as "Zach Baker-YASC". Mail to: 540 W. Lewiston Ave. Ferndale, MI 48220.

Paix!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Two Videos

I would also like to share with you all two videos.

The first is a viral video that has been making the rounds. It was shown to us at orientation and it captures perfectly what my fellow YASCers and I are going out to do. Listen to the lyrics and enjoy watching it!



The second video is one made by my fellow YASCer, Ashley Cameron, who is going to the Philippines. It is an introductory video of us YASC members for this year. These are the people I spent two weeks with and who I am honored and blessed to call my friends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-NBnHLUpNI

Unfortunately, my blog won't recognize the Youtube URL so I can only paste the link to it.

Enjoy!

Paix,
Zach

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hallelujah Anyhow

Please take a moment and read this beautiful reflection by Paul Daniels, II, a fellow YASCer who will be serving in Grahamstown, South Africa.

http://episcoglobal.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/hallelujah-anyhow/

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"We're meant to be on the road."

On June 18th, I was blessed and honored to met Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. She said something, one of many things that effected me over the two weeks. She was talking to the YASC group, therefore a group of Christians who are about to embark on adventures the world over. "We're meant to be on the road," she said. As Christians sitting down and being complacent with our personal faith is not enough. Though at times that is perfectly acceptable. The apostles and first disciples did not do this. Albeit they needed a kick from the Holy Spirit, but they eventually got to work in spreading The Gospel across the 1st century world. Today missionary work has changed. We are not going to evangelize and proselytize to the masses, like some certain groups do when you're trying to sleep in on Saturdays. Instead we are going abroad to integrate ourselves into a different Anglican community to change ourselves and do the work we have been assigned to effect change, no matter how small it may seem to us at first.






For the past two weeks I have been at Stony Point Retreat Center in an grey area of Metro New York City and Upstate New York. I had the opportunity to grow and build relationships with about 26 other YASCers and adult missionaries. We ate together, had a roommate, took trips into the city, did lectures and training together. And through all of these things we learned that to be a missionary today one does not go around with tracts and Bibles but through work, love, and understanding. We should not talk but we need to listen. We should not do, do, do, but always be in present. It was hard leaving them yesterday. My eyes watering as the two early groups left. Most of whom I will not see again until later next year. But we all will be together in spirit and our love for one another with be taken with each of us to our mission fields.



Photos above:
1) My fellow YASCers conversing on the main lawn of the Stony Point Retreat Center
2) Welcome sign at St. Paul's Chapel -Downtown Manhatten
3) Stained glass window at Eldridge Street Synagogue-Lower East Side, Manhattan
4) "The Cross is the World's Medicine", Holy Cross Monestary, West Park, NY

Saturday, June 15, 2013

New York, New York!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I am leaving for Stony Point, NY a small city on the Hudson River about an hour drive north from the City. This is, as someone described it to me this week, boot camp. A nicer word would be "training and orientation". I will be re-convening with my YASCers (and meet some new ones who couldn't make it down to Florida for discernment weekend in February). This will take place over a period of about two weeks, until June 29. It is then we shall goodbye and bon voyage and on our way, more or less, to our respective placements. Some will be leaving as soon as a couple weeks after, others like me won't have to leave until the end of summer. I am excited to see my fellow YASCers and eager to build stronger relationships and friendships with them. Through God's grace and blessings we are going to learn what is to come and help us better understand each other and the world.


Bye! A bientot!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

So I realized I haven't been posting diligently posting on where and what I'll be doing.

I will be placed in the Haitian port city of Les Cayes, Haiti. Les Cayes (luh KAI) is located on the southern peninsula of Haiti about 3 hours west of the capital, Port au Prince. Even though it's a port city, it's still small with a population of around 70,000. It wasn't immune to the 2010 earthquake, and like the rest of Haiti reliable infrastructure is still needed.

I will be primarily teaching English at the Bishop Tharp Institute of Business and Technology. It is set up like an American community college, so I'm very excited to teach students are my age or younger. Below is the website.


Haiti, as most of know, is a poor county. Unlike its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, it truly never gained a tourism industry (though that is changing) therefore many average Westerners have had little concern for Haiti. Sugarcane, mangoes, and coffee are the big commodities that the economy in Haiti relies on.

However, Haitians are rebuilding. The amount of western support that poured out after the earthquake and the rebuilding efforts have been slowly but surely coming along. Haitian will need a new generation of business and technology leaders that will take Haiti into the 21st century hopefully becoming a competitive Caribbean nation. What is the international language of business? English. They need English skills so they can go into the international business world and seek ideas, support, and input for their projects home and abroad.

Won't you join me on this mission?
Well today is my birthday. I am now 24 years old. I was finally back home at St. Luke's today, my home parish. And it truly was home, felt so present and knew I was where I should be. Unfortunately it was a bit of a layover as I'll be leaving for Stony Point, NY next Sunday for two weeks. This is for orientation and training for the 2013-2014 YASC class. I have no idea what to expect but I'm excited to see all of my YASC friends.

Fundraising is going great! I scoffed when we were told that it adds up fast but it truly does. The thermometer is current to what I have been collecting and told. Remember all the funds are being handled by St. Luke's as I can have little contact with the account. However I do receive information on who has given and how much has been raised.

It is never too late to support the mission. Any amount is appreciated. If you know me personally (and not from St. Luke's) you can give money or checks to me. If you don't know me personally or we have little day-to-day interaction and would like to give, you can mail checks to:

St. Luke's Episcopal Church
540 W. Lewiston Ave.
Ferndale, MI 48220

Checks to be made out to "St. Luke's Episcopal Church" and memo'd as "Zachary Baker-YASC Fund". 

I can also give you forms that you can send to the mission office New York as they also have an account for me (that one will eventually be the "official" one).

As you might have guessed now, on-line fundraising is not much a possibility. A personal PayPal account is considered "personal income" and therefore taxable. St. Luke's does not have a PayPal account either. But this is all good because with the way I'm going I don't think it's much needed anymore.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I have been told that I shall be the first native Michigander going on mission through the Young Adult Service Corps. There have been 2 previous YASCers out of our diocese but both were not native Michiganders. Where I am come, Metro Detroit and Michigan, there is an odd paradox and being proud being from here and disdain sometimes in being from here. I cannot say I don't hold this paradox. Sometimes the breathtaking scenery of Up North, the waterfront of the Detroit River, and excitement of our sports teams (GO TIGERS!) makes me immensely proud. And other times the complete ignorance of some of my fellow Metro Detroiters makes me dumbfounded as to why God placed me here. But here we are. I will be the first native Michigander serving in YASC and I shall proudly wear that badge upon my chest.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hello all!

Well, WOW! These past two Sundays have truly been a blessing. Today I visited the great folks at All Saints East Lansing, by far the largest congregation I have visited yet. Nervous, was I? Yes. As usual. But they were very warm and welcoming, and I got a great response from all the people. Thank you to Kit, Andrew, and Sarah (whose sermon hit close to what I'm about to do) for welcoming and offering me great words of encouragement and advice. And thank you to all the people there for the same. I can't wait to come back again and share with you what we did in Haiti.

For those of you who don't know, All Saints already does medical mission work in Haiti in Mirebalais. Correct me if I'm wrong All Saints. But now they have an education missioner!

Thanks again St. Paul's Brighton and All Saints East Lansing!

Next stop: back home at St. Luke's in time to celebrate my birthday! But the week after that on June 16th, I will be flying to New York for the two weeks of orientation and training and get to see all my YASCer friends! Every time I think about I get overly excited and unfocused. But the next two weeks are sure to fly by fast.

Your fellow servant in Christ,
Zach Baker