What are we doing here? | Part 1
You never know what a country is fully like until you go.
We often turn to the news, or some sort of journalism to inform us of new places, but in reality you only get a portion of the story. There are always more layers than presented in the media. I have learned a lot and have been to fair amount of places--remote places all over the world, but I didn’t expect what we encountered in an island that I cannot name publicly…
The average person who lives on this this island makes between $10.00 and $20.00 per month. These are doctors, teachers, all types of professionals and workers.
This baffled me
How do you stay alive when the cost of living and buying things are still the same as what we experience?
Thats when I learned very quickly about the black market, which they use to stay afloat.
Granted, the government gives them food, shelter, basic necessities (not clean water), which seems nice…
But just as an example, the bread is as hard, I mean really hard.
I tried it
I could barely bite into it
You could chuck it at someone and they would easily mistake it for a rock.
As result of this kind of lifestyle (oppression) the people of this island adopt a feeling of defeat, hopelessness because of the system they are trapped within.
It is so sad walking back through the shambles watching a place where time has stood still.
Horses and buggies serve as transportation and the only people who have cars are those whose parents or grandparents had them before fascism began. And these are shells of cars, 1957 Chevy’s and classic cars you would see in historic car shows in the U.S. that are still around from the islands democracy days, mickey-moused together with parts that don’t even belong to that car.
But there is a slight increase of enjoyment in life… if you sell your soul to the government, you are granted a better lifestyle, but most people don’t want that…
Most live in opposition which in turn leaves them defeated because they have no voice and are barely able to live.
Which leads me to share about buckets
In order to provide filtration to families who need access to clean water, we have to attach them to something that holds water. A plastic container, cistern or anything really… but usually 5 gallon buckets work best.
When we showed up in country, our filters were there (which is another field note, stay tuned for that one) but there were no buckets. We asked Lazarus, our in-country leader and contact for One ATTA Time,
“Where are the buckets? The buckets to attach to the filters?” - I asked Lazarus
Lazarus replied “We don’t have any buckets. There are no buckets here. There is no plastic on this island.”
Lazarus is a warm, kind, generous soul who lives a very humble life. I discovered some interesting facts about him as we got to know each other. For example, he had never been inside of a hotel before. Seriously, never been inside of a hotel. He is not allowed to go inside the hotel because the government is afraid he will see how people live and revolt. Plus even if he were to force his way inside of a hotel, there is no way he could pay for it because he lives off of basically nothing. There’s no way he could afford a hotel. There are countless other things he’s not allowed to do because the government is afraid of them creating some kind of coup or revolution. Years of this kind of oppression brings about a “can’t do” mentality within the people of the island, even Lazarus.
“What do you mean there are no buckets? How do you know that there are no buckets on the entire island?” - I asked Lazarus.
“No Buckets.” - He replied.
“How do you know?” - I asked Him
Lazarus is one who is passionate. Which means he loves to raise his voice, not because he is angry, but because he is passionate. So imagine our voices a little louder and more passionate than normal.
“Here’s what we do,” - I said. “We will go to *that capitol of the island* and find some buckets.”
Lazarus clearly doubted me and my idea.
I told him that if we don’t have anything to attach the filters to then we can’t give out clean water to the families who are coming tomorrow to receive them.
He agreed to go to the capitol city but only to prove his point, that there were no buckets.
Fast forward to being in the capitol city
We were walking down the street…
Mind you there was no Home Depot, there were no grocery stores. We were trying to find a hardware store, surely there had to be one.
We finally found a hardware store (if thats what you would call it) and they had
But what they did have were 3 trash cans. We came to provide water for people, and we had 80 people coming to get filters the next day, so these trash cans would have to suffice, for now. I asked how much the trash cans were.
“They are not for sale.” - Said the shop merchant.
“I will pay double.” - I said.
“No, they are not for sale.” - Persisted the shop merchant.
“They are so precious to them that they won’t sell them, even though they need the money desperately.” - Explained Lazarus. “There are no buckets on this island.”
“There have to be buckets here somewhere.” - I said. “We will find them.”
“There is no plastic on the island, no buckets.” - Said Lazarus, seeming defeated.
I knew there had to be something. We continued searching and began to ask people on the streets and the answer was always
Lazarus and I continued bantering back and forth about “No buckets” walking up and down side streets. I told Lazarus we had to trust that we would find some.
But to be honest I was even beginning to think that maybe Lazarus is right
But then a stranger who was listening to us spoke up…
“Are you looking for buckets?” - He asked.
“Yes, do you know of somewhere we can find them?” - We replied.
He directed us to a shop that we had passed numerous times before on this three-hour hunt for buckets.
“I believe there are some buckets right over there” - The stranger pointed
We walked inside and sure enough they had 40 buckets.
“Can we buy all 40 buckets?” - I asked.
One person on the trip suggested we should leave a few for someone who might need them, but we had come to provide water and if we left two buckets there, that would be two families who would not have access to clean water. So we bought all 40 of the buckets and as we were walking out, I saw two more in the display and went back in and bought those as well.
We had 42 buckets.
From no buckets to 42.
As we were walking back, Lazarus and I were talking.
I could tell that he was so surprised that we found buckets. It was a huge moment for him.
“This is a good lesson that I need to trust more.” He said. “You from the United States have a different mentality… I admire that about you and its helped me a lot.”
It was a beautiful moment for all of us, especially for Lazarus.
That day he went from, “We can’t” to “I didn’t know we could”
Which is a huge shift.
Even for me…
Often I can get in a slump and feel like… we can’t do that, we can’t do this… there’s no way
But who’s to say there is no way?
Have I looked? Have I tried?
Yet when we take that step of faith and go for it, we learn so much, and often what we can take away is…
I didn’t know I could
I didn’t know it was possible
You see before we take that step of faith, there can be so many obstacles holding us back
What if I fail?
What if I fall?
Listen to the words of Erin Hanson as she shares in her poetry about this all to common human experience,
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson
Lazarus encountered a sense of freedom within as he saw what seemed impossible, possible.
The same for me that day
The same for many of us as we take steps of faith whether small or large
Freedom is what we are after
May we take the risk, and be embraced by the unknown, freeing us from our can’t do’s, freeing us from our dogmatic viewpoints into the wondrous, mysterious, beautiful life this world has to offer
What if I fall?
Oh my darling…
What if you fly?
Another Side note:
Remember earlier I said that Lazarus had never been in a hotel in his home country?
That stuck with me.
While he thought he would never be able to, or couldn’t… I wanted to change that reality for him…
So on the next Saturday afternoon, when Lazarus was planning to preach on Sunday morning, I told him to have someone else do that because we were going back to *the capitol of the island* on Sunday.
“We got a room for you and your wife.” - I said
Lazarus said “They won’t allow us in.”
I replied “You are with us Gringos, you’ll be o.k.”
Having never been inside a hotel, Lazarus and his wife didn’t know that they didn’t have to bring their own toilet paper, so that had brought some. Lazarus had also never been in a pool before (seriously). Our team was in the pool waiting for Lazarus to come down from getting situated in his hotel room. This was the best, Lazarus came down from his room and approached the pool. Lazarus looked at the pool, ran, and did a huge cannonball into the water (right next to some people who were in the pool keeping cool with drinks who got splashed). He made a big splash. The joy in his face was unforgettable. It was so cool to see him be free and launch in the air, like a kid, and make a huge splash in the pool.
Oh the joy of being free