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a190: Our experience with the coup d'itat (fwd)


     Monday, December 17th, 2001

     Re: Coup d'état in Haiti

     Dear Family and Friends,

     Today's carefully laid plans did not materialize. I was planning on
     taking Debbie, Lois, and Jenny to the airport, leaving here at 5:30
     a.m., so they could fly to PAP to renew their residence permits. This
     is the annual event that I went last week to do. We split them up
     because it is easier logistically to get about half of the people
     there one week and the rest there the next. Then I was going to pick
     up boxes from the wharf, go to the lumber yard and order lumber for my
     shop addition, pick up paint for Lois' tables, etc. Most of that never
     happened except I did take the ladies to the airport and I did go to
     the wharf. However, they never left Port de Paix.

     A missionary from another mission came in a little bit after we
     arrived and asked us if we had hear that there had been a coup d'état.
     It was first reported that a group of former military leaders who had
     been in exile in the Dominican Republic, just across the border, had
     attempted to depose the president. After listening to the radio for a
     while, the airline decided that they didn't want to fly to PAP today.
     There was no traffic moving and no government offices would be open
     anyway in Port au Prince so there was no use for the ladies to go. So
     we retrieved all the baggage and decided that we would go to the wharf
     to pick up the packages there. When we got close, we saw a great plume
     of black smoke ascending into the air from a stack of three burning
     tires in the intersection where we were intending to turn. This is how
     Haitians demonstrate that they don't like something. We didn't (and
     still don't) know if they were demonstrating for or against the coup.
     We sat about a half block away trying to decide what to do. We didn't
     see anyone demonstrating, only the tires burning, so we decided to
     drive around them to go to the wharf. As we drove by, we could feel
     the heat from the burning tires.

     We were able to get to the wharf and pick up the items we were looking
     for, even though everyone was pretty much just standing around
     talking, listening to the radio, and trying to figure out what was
     happening. Then we left. As we drove we saw the residue from burned
     tires at various places on the streets and it wasn't long before we
     came on some which were still smoldering. This was the same road we
     had traveled but an hour and a half earlier and it was clean and bare
     then. On the far side of town on the only road between Port de Paix
     and our town of La Pointe, we came upon some tires about to be
     torched. They had them laid across the road and were pouring kerosene
     or gasoline on them. They were nice enough to wave us through before
     torching them. Not more than 1/8 mile later, we came upon some that
     were in a full blaze. We pulled over and parked. We were in between
     two fires. There wasn't any violence and no one threatened us or
     yelled at us or anything. Jenny and Lois had been through this at
     various times in the past and they weren't worried, nor was I,
     although none of us were too thrilled about it. After we had sat there
     for a while a policeman arrived and told us a fire truck would  be
     there soon to extinguish the blaze. And shortly after that, it did,
     arriving with the local SWAT team. After it was out, we followed them
     for another ˝ mile or so and we all came upon another one. And then
     two more after that. We were glad for the police escort and even more
     glad for the guardian angels whom God sent to protect us. It was
     interesting to observe that the people were not being violent and were
     not even trying to hold us up particularly. They just wanted to make a
     point and there are precious few ways of doing it in Haiti.

     We arrived back to the campus safely and with no other disturbances.
     The children were being let out of school early but other than that,
     life appeared to be pretty much normal. Upon listening to the radio,
     several theories were being postulated. One was that the military had
     done it. One was that the Americans were involved. Another was that
     Aristide had done it so that people could demonstrate in support of
     him. So we really don't know what happened. All that we really know is
     that it loused up our plans (but not God's) and now we don't know what
     the next few days will bring. Tomorrow morning we will have radio
     contact with the missionaries in PAP, where they say the air was thick
     with smoke today, and they will tell us when they think it will be safe
     to travel there.

     Thanks to those of you who think of us and pray during these
     situations and at other times as well. We truly appreciate the part
     you play in making it possible for us to be in Haiti, serving this
     nation which so desperately needs the Savoir.

     By Grace Alone,

     Ken and Debbie Wills