Roseline's Tarp Party!
A reporter asked me last night where God was in Haiti. I responded that he is in the compassion and love shown by people, one to another. I talked about ministering to the Haitians, and about receiving ministry from the Haitians. In particular, I described what I think of as Roseline’s Tarp Party.
It was Saturday night of our last weekend there. I had one tarp I had stashed away to give to a local family before I left town. We had gotten a tent to the Senterras, so they didn’t need one. The next family on my list was that of Roseline, a five-year-old girl from the Ravine (in the photos, she is wearing the pink bandana). Roseline is another child I had gotten to know at the weekend of fasting and praying, and she is one of the most genuinely sweet kids I know. She never asks for anything, except for me to come to her house – which consists of bed sheets strung between sticks. Roseline has a button nose and a front tooth that needs to be replaced. She’s quiet. When she does talk, it is usually in low, whispery tones. One thing I like about her is that when I pick her up, she lays her head into the crook of my neck. I get the feeling that she is really soaking up that fatherly affection.
Roseline’s mother is also very sweet. You can see it in her face. When we all worshiped at the Ravine, Susan, Butch Constable, and I had the privilege of praying over Roseline’s family. It was such a joy! Roseline’s mother was openly appreciative.
Also that day, after we prayed, I checked out the situation with Roseline’s “house” – which consisted of bed sheets for walls and a roof, and a tarp that covered about a third of the roof area. I knew that if it rained, this family would be miserable. They had less tarp coverage than most families in that small tent city.
So I had a tarp to give away, and a beloved family who needed it. Now please understand, a tarp is a hot commodity in Haiti right now. The vast majority of Haitians are still sleeping outside every night because they are afraid to sleep in a building. Actually, the government told people to sleep outside. I don’t see how that helps the populace, but what do I know?
It was Saturday early evening – about 5:30 – and I was determined to give this tarp away. But here’s the catch. If you are a white person and are seen on the street with one tarp, you run the risk of being mobbed for more tarps. I had to take that risk, and I was pretty sure I knew by then how to handle it.
As the skies darkened with dusk and threatening clouds, I grabbed Pastor Chris, Neal Drinkward, Mike Griffith, and Steve Cole from the King’s Harbor team, asking if they wanted to come along. We walked the three blocks to the Ravine pretty quickly, not wanting to be out after dark and starting to feel some rain drops. Before we got to the Ravine village, we were met with a handful of children smiling and calling, “Pastor David!” They signaled our arrival to the rest of the community.
When we walked between the trees to enter the community, a crowd was already beginning to form. I was met by Pastor Gabriel. I said in Creole, “I have a tarp for Roseline’s family.” He nodded, and immediately two kids started running up the hill toward Roseline’s shelter yelling, “Roseline! Roseline!”
I was bracing myself for an onslaught of “Do you have another tarp for me?”, but it never came. Instead, a crowd of about 20 people, buzzing with excitement, accompanied us as we wound our way between shelters to Roseline’s place. When we got there, Roseline’s family was inside. I asked whether we could come in. Half a dozen kids ran inside, waving me in and pulling the sheet aside so I could enter. One child grabbed my hand and pulled. Then I was met by Roseline and her brother, sister, and parents. We exchanged pleasantries, and then I told them in Creole, “I have a tarp for you.” The mother and father both started praising Jesus. The father had tears in his eyes. All around us, kids were running in and out excitedly. I summoned the rest of the King’s Harbor guys, and in a minute we were all crammed in this little space about 8’ by 10’.
Neal Drinkward then said, “Hey, let’s put this thing up!” What an idea! I hadn’t even thought of that. As it continued to sprinkle, our team, helped by Roseline’s father, attached the tarp to the top of the structure. We now had almost all the top of the shelter covered in plastic.
Inside the party continued. Children wanted their pictures taken. Everyone was laughing. Mama and papa were continuing to say thank you to me and to Jesus. At one point, one boy appeared and asked if I had more tarps. I replied, “I have one tarp. I don’t have more tarps.” He calmly said, “Okay,” and then he was gone. When I emerged out of the shelter, there were still about 20 other people outside looking on. They seemed to enjoy seeing one of their families get blessed in this way.
This was Roseline’s Tarp Party. It was one of the most joyous occasions of my stay in Haiti.
That night it rained in earnest for about two hours. I sat on the back porch of the guest house, preparing to preach the next morning and thinking about my friends who were sleeping in those tarp-and-bedsheet shelters. It was tough. My heart went out to them. I wondered how they were doing. Were they cold? Wet? Miserable? I was thankful to have given one family a little gift just in time, but I also thought about how much more is left to be done for those poor people sleeping outside as the rainy season starts.