Friday, May 25, 2012

My Accidental Garden

                At first look, the space at the front of the mission looks like any vacant lot. A gravel surface with rebar columns at equal intervals on the perimeter, it stands “empty”, a reminder of the effects of the earthquake 2 ½ years ago.  Upon closer inspection, one will notice that the gravel has laid untouched long enough that has become dirt that is capable of sustaining the growth of a plethora of “green things”.

There is moderate foot traffic across the lost, as the cistern is in the center, and it is in close proximity to the kitchen, showers, and laundry “room”, which all require a steady amount of water throughout the day.  It also serves as the “dumping ground” for leftover cooking ingredients not needed to complete meals, thus lending itself to the regrowth of “recycled” fruits and vegetables. But it also hosts a whole lot of other vegetation that may or may not be edible or useful in any capacity. As I intentionally started tending the few identifiable plants (tomatoes), I got to thinking about the parallel between the accidental garden and our own lives, particularly as it relates to the parable of the seeds in Matthew 13:3.  Here are a few things I have observed:

1.       Seed thrown on the foot path: The seed of Truth has to take root in order to grow. If it falls on the foot path, with it’s steady flow of traffic (i.e. entertaining everyone else’s thoughts, opinions, philosophies without forming your own), it will get lost in all constant movement and will not have a relevant impact. Nothing will grow in those areas.

2.       Seed thrown on shallow soil: It looks like a good place, it even produces growth. The seed may even produce a few leaves, and look green and healthy. But if the seed only stays close to the surface and never develops a strong root system, growth becomes stunted and never produces fruit.

3.       Seed thrown among thorns (weeds): Good plants can grow among weeds, but eventually it will either be overtaken by the weeds and die, or become so hidden that nobody can even see it's there.
4.       Seed put on good soil: Good seed + good soil doesn’t always = good fruit. It takes time and effort to nurture the seed as it grows, to the keep the weeds out and provide support to bear the weight of fruit. If it’s just left on its own it will grow, and even look good, but the fruit it produces will not ripen fully in a reasonable time frame.

5.       Sometimes things start growing, and we don’t even know what they are or how they got there, much less if they will produce good fruit. Sometimes we need other people to tell us if it’s good or not, and help us pull out up the bad stuff.

I’ve been pondering all these things over the past few weeks, as I endeavor to change the vacant lot, and my own life, from an accidental garden into an intentional garden that flourishes and produces all kinds of good fruit (and veggies!)…

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Mis-adventures Of Baking In Haiti

So, it's Friday and I decided to be especially domestic today. I thought baking cookies would be a nice treat for the girls, and it would give me something to bring along to "missionary hang-out night" at Pastor John & Jocie's house this evening. I searched the web for an oatmeal cookie recipe, and this is what I came up with:

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
raisins or nuts (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, cream together white sugar, butter, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda,and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. If you are using nuts or raisins, mix into dough, combining well. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into balls, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approx. 36-60 cookies, depending on how large or small you make them
Seems easy enough, right? Except that you always have to add one extra ingredient to anything here, it's called "the Haiti factor". Nothing in Haiti is easy, and this was no exception.


Butter: I discovered as I set out gathering all the ingredients needed, that there was only one partially used stick of butter in the mostly-empty refrigerator. So, I went to the depot in search of Ti-Malice, which is more or less margarine/vegetable shortening. I found a small tub. I also checked for salt while I was there, but failed to find any. I grabbed 2 eggs on my way back to the kitchen.

Sugar: There is no white or brown sugar here (except at the expensive grocery stores...maybe), there is only cane sugar, which thankfully we have plenty of.

Salt: I didn't really substitute anything for it, but when I asked Edelyn where the salt was, she handed me an uncovered plastic cup full of rock salt.

Utensils: We don't have an electic mixer, so I "creamed" the sugar and margarine by hand with a rubber mixing spatula. The mortar & pestle were still dirty from lunch, so I used the handle end of an ice pick to crush the salt. Good thing I only needed 1 tsp worth!

Preparation Time

After I creamed the butter & sugar, I made the mistake of cracking the first egg directly into the bowl. It was rotten! Ewwww. There is no trash can in the kitchen, nor is there running water in the sink, so after I hand carried the rotten egg out to the garbage. Again, EWWW!!! I dumped the contaminated ingredients and filled the mixing bowl up with water from the cistern, took it back to the OTHER kitchen and asked where the dish soap was. I was given a can of powdered Tide laundry detergent. ??? In case you are wondering, there was nothing lost in translation about the request, or the answer... So, I washed the bowl with Tide, went BACK to the cistern to rinse it, and returned to the kitchen to start all over again. This time, I was much more careful in my egg selection. And I cracked them in a separate cup, BEFORE adding them to rest of the mixture. The rest of the prep went off without a hitch. TWO HOURS after I started, the dough was ready to be chilled in the fridge.

We have two ovens here, one in the kitchen, and one in my bedroom. It comes time to pre-heat the oven and, guess what?? Neither of them work. Here's to hoping Pastor John & Jocie have an oven that works...and that my cookies don't taste like laundry detergent!!

The joys of baking in be continued...