Miracle on Voodoo Mountain is the inspirational memoir of an accomplished and driven 24-year old who quit her job, sold everything, and moved to Haiti, by herself—all without a clear plan of action. Megan Boudreaux had visited Haiti on a few humanitarian trips but each trip multiplied the sense that someone needed to address the devastation—especially with the children, many of whom were kept as household slaves on the poverty-stricken and earthquake-devastated Caribbean island.
God guided her every step as she moved blindly to a foreign land without knowing the language, the people, or the future. From becoming the adoptive mother of former child slaves, to receiving the divine gift of the Haitian Creole language, to starting, building, and running a school for more than 500 children, "the amazingness of what God did after I made the choice to be obedient is incredible," said Megan.
Three years later, six acres on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier is the home of the nonprofit Respire Haiti at the former site of voodoo worship, and in the area that many still come to make animal sacrifices, Megan and her staff of nearly 200 are transforming this community as they educate, feed, and address the needs.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Miracle on Voodoo Mountain
A Young Woman's Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti
By Megan Boudreaux
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Megan Boudreaux
All rights reserved.
Okay, God, I'm Here
Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.
Exhausted and as clean as I could get with a bucket of cold water, I untangled my mosquito net, draped it over the bed, tucked the ends underneath the mattress, and crawled in. It was pitch-black, but I looked up anyway toward the mosquitoes buzzing around. Slowly, the frenzied whine of their tiny wings was drowned out by a different sound.
Thump, thump, thump.
Thump, thump, thump.
Voodoo drums. My ears vibrated with the sound as my heart began to beat inside my chest to the rhythm. I wrestled the mosquito net away and got up to lock my bedroom door. Then I reached for my Bible and my little flashlight. I began praying over my bed, actually praying over everything, trying to calm my beating heart as my first day as a resident of Gressier, Haiti, came to an end.
When I'd stepped off the plane in Port-au-Prince that morning—January 9, 2011—the only information I had was the name of my driver, along with a small piece of paper with my new address scribbled on it. The driver was a polite local man who led me to a beat-up Nissan Patrol. I watched anxiously as he threw my bags in the bed of the truck, covered them with a tarp, and tied everything down tightly with ropes. I felt as though I could barely breathe. What am I doing here? kept running through my mind like an endless repeating chorus.
I had no idea how long it would take to get to my new home in Gressier, just twenty miles from the airport. As we drove, I saw clusters of tents, piles of trash, and chaos everywhere. The humid air was heavy on my skin, and I smelled sewage through the open window. I'd already been to Haiti twice, but this time things seemed worse than on my previous visits. The sweat began to bead up on my lip as we dodged motorcycles, trucks, cars, and children. The ride was silent, except for the thousands of people we passed who were screaming at me with their eyes.
Two hours later we stopped next to a large, bent, black wire gate. I looked at my driver and smiled timidly; he looked back at me with his eyebrows scrunched up and mouth tense. Is he worried about something?
After he handed me my bags, I thanked him, paid him in American dollars, and turned around. Behind me, I heard his gentle voice say in his lilting accent, "Call me if you need a ride back to the airport." He handed me a business card. It read "Moliere. Private Taxi Driver." I took it and tried to smile, but I'm not sure I succeeded.
I stood in front of the gate. I can't believe I'm finally here.
Although I wasn't certain of much, I was sure God had been calling me to move to Gressier, a suburb of Port-au-Prince and the town I had visited five months earlier. On that trip I'd met a Haitian friend named Bernard, who acted as my translator. Bernard searched for months to find a house I could rent, but houses were hard to find because almost one year before—January 12, 2010—most of the buildings in Gressier had crumbled to the ground in the giant earthquake that destroyed much of the country. The epicenter was just west of where I stood.
The earthquake had measured 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. This was not as strong as some of the most destructive earthquakes in other places, but the Haiti earthquake occurred very close to the surface. Because of poor building-construction practices and other problems, more than 250,000 people were killed and 1.5 million people displaced. Nearly every person in Haiti lost a family member or friend, and while most of the bodies had been removed, the destroyed houses were still there, sad piles of gray rubble. Ninety percent of the rubble had yet to be cleared, and some 800,000 people were still living in a thousand camps around the capital.
Bernard kept sending me e-mail updates on the fruitless search for a rental. No luck. Sorry.
Finally Bernard called, distress in his voice. "I just visited the last place I know of in Gressier," he said. "Nothing."
I didn't understand. "I'm sure God wants me in Gressier," I said slowly. I thought of the tree from my dream and the tugging on my heart. "Maybe you can try the next town over?"
Bernard agreed to continue the search, and we hung up. I dropped to my knees, scared and unsure. I was twenty-four years old, I'd just quit my job and sold almost everything, and I felt I'd been listening to God's voice as I never had before. I was being obedient. So why isn't there a place for me to live?
God's gentle reminder came, a whisper deep in my heart. Trust. Just one word. Trust. I took a deep breath and let it out in a deep sigh. A few minutes later my phone rang again, Bernard's name flashing on the screen. I hit Talk, and his voice burst out of the phone, excited.
"Hey, Megan. The same lady I just visited called back and said you can stay at her house. She's not using the inside of her house." He explained that the woman and her family camped out in the front yard. So many people died in the earthquake that, like many others, they were afraid to sleep inside and felt safer in a makeshift tent, often just a plastic tarp or a sheet of rusty tin held up by sticks.
As Moliere drove away, I pushed open the black metal gate to my new front yard and whispered to myself, "This is my new home," although I couldn't quite believe it yet. I was greeted by a few chickens wandering around pecking at the dirt, a boiling pot of something over a little charcoal fire, and many kisses on my cheek from a mother and her two grown children who lived in the front yard. Bernard had told me that a nineteen-year-old boy named David lived upstairs on the flat roof, but the inside of the house was empty. Before I arrived, the tent family had asked if they should leave, but I told Bernard to tell them it was okay to stay. I didn't want them not to have anywhere to go.
My new house was made out of rough, gray concrete blocks, the walls painted a sickly green inside. As the family led me through the heavy metal front door, I got a few instructions in broken English and many hand gestures. I put my bags down in my bedroom while they motioned for me to come into the bathroom. I followed and, out of habit, flipped on the light switch. Nothing. My new friends chuckled. I get it. No electricity.
One of the women, named Say Say, motioned to an empty paint bucket and then took my hand, pulling me gently outside to a private cistern where I would have to fetch water. Okay, no electricity and no running water. I smiled a bit. This is going to be interesting.
"Mesi!" I thanked them with one of the few Haitian Creole words I knew. They smiled and left me inside, alone.
It was getting dark, so I figured I should take a shower before I had no light at all. I grabbed the five-gallon paint bucket from the bathroom and carried it outside. Next to the cistern was a smaller bucket tied to a rope. I threw it in, dragged it sideways to let it sink and fill with water, then pulled it up and dumped the water in my paint bucket. I hauled the little bucket up several times until mine was full, then picked it up. Who knew water could be so heavy? I listened to the precious water slosh around inside the bucket as I awkwardly carried my bathwater back inside, stopping several times from the weight.
Inside the bathroom I propped up the tiny flashlight I'd brought, and as I splashed the first plastic cup of water on my skin, the freezing cold shock of it took my breath away. I let out a small yelp. I'm actually going to have a heart attack from this water, and someone will find me naked and dead from cold water shock in this bathroom.
As I shivered, I laughed, and after splashing a second cup full, I prayed out loud. "God, thanks for not bringing me to Gressier just to die of shock during a freezing cold bath." This began the first of many freezing flashlight showers. I remembered how heavy the bucket was and tried to use as few cups as possible.
Exhausted, I gobbled down an energy bar and finally fell asleep, my Bible on my chest inside the mosquito net. Every so often a rooster crowed, and in the background the voodoo drums vibrated through the night in the thick, heavy darkness.
It seemed as if it were just a few minutes later when I heard goats bleating, chickens cackling, pigs grunting, and people talking. I looked at my watch: 4:57 a.m. Ridiculously early. I turned over and tried to ignore the noise outside, but it didn't work. I was going to have to face the day. I gave up on sleep and climbed out of bed. I wanted to see where the noise was coming from, so I climbed the stairs to the roof.
The roof was flat, gray concrete with rusted metal bars sticking up randomly throughout. Right outside the door to the stairs was David's red-and-gray camping tent where he slept every night. I walked to the middle of the roof. Behind me was a hill covered with bushes and vines. Right next to the house, overhanging part of the roof, was a beautiful green mango tree with big, luxurious leaves. On the other side was a smaller tree full of big bunches of curvy green bananas, all growing upward. I knew they were actually plantains; on a previous trip I had eaten some tasty little cakes made with the starchy fruit. The lush green vegetation all around me contrasted sharply with the gray concrete blockhouses and the dusty brown dirt road in front of the house that slouched down toward the highway below.
I stood and watched as the neighborhood woke up. A line of small children filled their buckets at a community water pump right outside my new front gate. Women worked on their houses or swept around their tents. A man across the street chopped at some bushes with a big machete. A small corner store was selling what looked like soap, oil, and rice. I didn't have a plan, and since I was unsure what to do next, I went downstairs to the front-yard tent and smiled at my new, and only, friends.
"Bonjou," I offered.
They smiled back. Realizing I couldn't say a word of Haitian Creole or understand a word other than hello or thank you, I waved and went back inside.
I need to do something. I have never been good at relaxing or sitting still, so I unpacked my things, organized my bedroom, and went back up to the roof. The air was fresher up there. I gazed beyond the houses to the right, to the mysterious dark-green mountains behind. I saw threads of gray smoke curling upward from dozens of cooking fires where people lived, tucked away in the valleys and hollows. Is that where the drumming came from?
My eyes wandered back, following a ridge down to a flat green mountain above the neighborhood and directly across from the spot where I was standing. Is that Bellevue Mountain? I heard a rustling sound and looked down. A little girl was sorting through some dry beans next to a small charcoal stove in the yard next door; I smiled and waved and she waved back. I felt restless and had nothing else to do, so I walked downstairs again and prayed.
"Okay, God, I'm here. What do I do?" Crickets. I got nothing.
Okay, God. But I can't just sit here and eat energy bars forever. I know I'm here for a reason, right? Please show me why.CHAPTER 2
Throwing Rocks at Birds
Deye mon gen mon. Behind the mountain, there are mountains.
—A Haitian proverb
The next day, whenever I was quiet, my fear rose up again as it had during the previous night when I'd heard the voodoo drums in the dark. So I tried to stay busy: I prayed and wrote in my journal, and I kept watching the neighborhood from the roof. I felt as though I was waiting, but for what?
As I sat on the roof and watched the sun go down on my second day in Haiti, I ate another energy bar for dinner. I felt so very alone. Am I crazy? My friends are right. I must be crazy to leave such a great life in the States for a place like this. I don't even know why I'm here. Oh Lord. Did I make a mistake? Should I just go back home?
I needed to hear a familiar voice that night, so I made a quick decision to splurge on an expensive two-minute cell phone call to my mom. As soon as I heard her voice, the tears began to well up in my eyes.
"I'm fine, Mom." I tried hard to keep my voice steady and to sound sure of myself even though I wasn't. "It's beautiful here." As I got off the phone I repeated the same routine as the night before, except this time my sobs and sniffles drowned out the beating drums in the distance as I cried myself to sleep.
I awoke the next day to the same goat-chicken-pig-people sounds and knew if I stayed around the house again all day, I would implode with fear and anxiety. I ate my breakfast energy bar, dried up my tears, and looked at David, the roof boy. We traded smiles, and I asked, "Bellevue Mountain?"
He said something in Creole and looked at me, eyes wide. Okay, he doesn't understand.
I pointed to myself, then moved two fingers like legs walking uphill and pointed toward the front of the house to show him I wanted to walk to Bellevue Mountain. It was the only place I had a name for in Gressier, and since I had holed myself up in the house for two days, I thought it would be refreshing to get out.
"Okay," David said with a smile. He got it! I smiled, too, with a little jolt of happiness at having a plan, if only a small one. I ran down the stairs ahead of David and waved at Say Say and her family on the way out. David wrenched open the gate, and we pushed through a herd of goats nibbling on weeds by the side of the road.
Tons of children waited for their turn at the community water pump right outside of my gate. I looked at my feet as we walked, avoiding the gaze of dozens of dark brown eyes on me. As we strolled down the street, people yelled at me in Creole, and children ran up and grabbed my hands and clothes. David answered them back, his voice firm. Whatever he said made them laugh and stop touching me.
I followed close behind as he led me down the uneven brown road. We stepped onto a narrow footpath with clumps of weeds and bushes dotting the sides. We walked through a group of long-horned cows with tiny ropes around their necks, grazing peacefully. The path wound between a few decrepit houses and down into a small valley through a leafy green mango grove where the soil was rich and dark. As the path began to curve upward, we climbed a steep hill and came through some bushes to the top. It was flat and green, and my eyes followed the path that cut through the grass until I saw it. There, just as I remembered, stood the tamarind tree. It was a rich dark green, about twenty feet tall, with a single sturdy trunk and strong, supple branches that curved gracefully down at the ends.
I waved toward the tree and the land around it and asked, "Bellevue Mountain?"
I had chills. It was the same tree I'd stood under five months ago, the tree that kept appearing in my dreams. I was actually here, standing in the same place where I'd first heard the sweet whisper of my Father.
The top of Bellevue Mountain is a beautiful place. A cow relaxed nearby on the lush green grass, and I could see beyond the edge of the mountain all the way out to the turquoise sea. I smiled and took a deep breath, staring off into the distance.
A movement caught my eye, and that's when I first saw her—a little girl, maybe six or seven years old. She was wearing a raggedy, soiled, yellow tank top that was too big, hanging off one shoulder down to her thin elbow. It must have been a woman's shirt, and she wore it as a dress.
She was barefoot with matted orange hair, and her bony figure screamed of malnutrition. I watched as she threw a rock at a blackbird.
I felt drawn to her. She was so little. What is she doing out here all alone? I remembered the girls I'd seen earlier that morning, walking to school. They each wore a uniform with their hair neatly braided and tied with bright ribbons. Why isn't she in school?
The bird jumped up and flew a few feet away, and the little girl followed. She threw another rock.
I got close enough to call out, "What are you doing?" I was sure she didn't understand me, so I glanced at David, and he repeated my question in Creole. His English wasn't great, and I hoped he could figure out what I was saying.
Excerpted from Miracle on Voodoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux. Copyright © 2015 Megan Boudreaux. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue: The Dream Tree xv
1 Okay, God, I'm Here 1
2 Throwing Rocks at Birds 9
3 Prom Queen Meets Roaches 17
4 Rice, Beans, and Salami 25
5 A Restavek 33
6 The Orphanage 39
7 Respire: Breathe 49
8 The Boy in the Pink Shirt 59
9 A Dream Born Under the Tree 69
10 Two Thousand Dollars 79
11 They Don't Want Me 87
12 The Sting 95
13 The Start of Everything 103
14 Deux Enfants 111
15 Be Bold 119
16 A Warning from the First Lady 127
17 School's In! 137
18 The Binder from Hell 143
19 Demons in the Trees 151
20 Josh Has Something to Say 159
21 The House of the Devil 167
22 The Woman at the Gate 175
23 Freedom House 181
24 Theodore's Dream 189
Epilogue: A Day in the Life 195
About the Author 203