thoughts from haiti

well, i guess its about time i wrote this …. i’ve only been back for close to a month now 🙂

the first word i use to describe this trip is intense.  the second word i use is first. (oh the humanity.)   it was my first overseas trip … and i consider it my first missions trip.  first time i had to use my passport, and the first time i had to get a shot to go anywhere other than school.  might as well start off with a bang, right?  the third word i use to describe the trip is alot.  as in, we saw alot.  we did alot.  we traveled alot.  we ate alot.  we bonded alot.  we experienced god’s hand at work alot. we drank alot of coke. the overwhelming impression of the trip is good.  i went with an amazing team of 23- 21 men and 2 women.  the other woman on the trip was married …. does she really count?!? but the lord gave us an amazing spirit of unity, and he did it quickly!  what a blessing that was …. i now have 21 brothers, and i dearly love each of them.  they are brothers, comrades, friends, sometimes pests, occasionally bodyguards, and always make me smile.  and having a sister on that trip was another huge blessing- i work with all men, so living with them for a week wasn’t too much of a stretch, but it was nice to have another brain that worked the same as mine 🙂

we flew from DC to port-au-prince, then took a canoe with wings (aka a death trap) to pignon.  canoe with wings

yes, we flew in that. twice.  the pilots were great, and did an amazing job …. but the plane? the navigational system was a garmin.  yeah, like the ones we use in our cars.  niiiice.  and we landed on a dirt airstrip in pignon …. that was exciting.  we exited the flying death trap only to board a rolling one.  the bus driver was worse than any cab driver i’ve seen in any movie.  narrow dirt rutted roads and sharp corners at speeds i didn’t know a school bus could reach …. i prayed just as much on the bus as i did in the plane.  sweet merciful jesus … the fact that we even made it to camp was a miracle 🙂  but its all about the experience, right?

we arrived at college de la grace, deposited our stuff in the rooms we were bunking in, and immediately started wandering around camp.  the kids were all over us as soon as we were out the door- lots of hand holding, soccer playing, picture taking, and learning creole phrases.  i found several of the little ones- preschool aged- and we started playing with a cardboard box.  about an hour and half later, the second installment of our group arrived … i remember hearing the plane, looking up and seeing it come over the trees- and saying a relieved prayer of thanksgiving that the plane survived the second trip!  only to send up a second prayer for safety in the bus.  the excitement doubled with the arrival of the rest of the team- the kids were going nuts and loving every minute! and so were we.

sunday morning we were able to attend the protestant church there in pignon- quite an experience!  the singing and service were in creole, so we didn’t understand anything- although some of the hymns were familiar enough that once we caught the tune, we could sing along in english.  and the passion with which the pastor prayed for his people left little doubt about the content of his prayer.  it was such a sweet thing to worship with other believers there!  just another way that we were reminded of the magnitude of the god we were there to represent.  steve had this inexplicable obsession with singing ‘glory to god’ in that church building, so brandon pulled out the guitar and we sang it in the middle of the building after the service was over.  some of the kids who spoke a little english gathered around and picked up on the chorus.  how awesome that we were all singing “glory to god, glory to god! glory to god forever!” together!  we sang it more on the bus on the way back to camp and they picked up on even more of the song.

monday morning the guys got right to work, cutting boards to build the trusses for the construction we were there to do.  matina and i worked all morning on organizing a storage shed- hot, dusty work!  but several of the girls jumped in when they figured out what we were trying to do and they were a huge help.  they had these awesome brooms that they made themselves … wish i could have brought one of those home!  we finished the shed in time to clean up for lunch.  after spraying all the guys down with bug spray and sunscreen, they went back out to work, only to come right back in when the monsoon started.  it rained for several hours and formed a veritable lake outside our door!  what had once been the ‘driveway’/soccer area turned into a free-for-all.  crazy haitian kids ran naked through the puddle, and a couple of our guys decided to go out and run with them, and see if they could get the kids to mudslide.  (thankfully our guys didn’t go hatian style!)

the rest of the week was pretty sporadic, as far as organized work went- we used up all the lumber they had ordered by tuesday at lunch, so they guys started building random things with scrap wood.  they built a bench to sit on so people could sit while they watched basketball, some small portable soccer goals, and some other stuff.  and they played alot of basketball!  wednesday got interesting in a hurry- that was the day ryan mason woke up not feeling well, and the morning the other ryan sprained his ankle pretty badly when he landed on it playing basketball.  i got to play nurse that day … and let’s just say that while i didn’t kill either of them, nursing is not my life calling!  there was a sort of routine by this point- spray the guys down with bug spray and sunscreen, straighten up the common areas after breakfast, do my devotions, make water run #1 … rinse and repeat.

thursday a group of the guys went on a hike (the mountain we were near looked like it was straight out of LOST!  and the terrain was jungle-ish in some areas, and rocky in others …. it was JUST like the island.  kinda freaked me out, but it was awesome.).  the rest of us headed to caleb’s house (he’s the guy who ran the ministry we were working with) to do some painting for him.  matina, joseph, pelle, rick and i also got to take all the school supplies we brought over to the school so we could stock their cabinets. thursday was also the day that we set aside to baptize nate and joel.  we told the people at camp what was going on and asked them to join us at the river that evening. the guys shared parts of their stories with us, and thn we got to watch them be ‘buried with him in the likeness of his death, and raised to walk in the newness of life’.  something about that never gets old.  and to top it off, we got to baptize three haitian believers as well!  god’s good … no other way to say it.

there were two other groups who were there for part of the week- a group from san diego spent a few hours with us thursday afternoon before heading back to the school where they were staying; and a group of men from a church in minnesota worked with us all day friday.  since we had finished our construction project, we did some painting for their project.  we ran into the san diego group at the airport on saturday morning- both our groups were headed back to port au prince.  in conversation with one of the girls in that group, we realized that we have mutual friends! how completely random … only not, because god doesn’t do chance!  it was cool to connect through that while standing on a dirt airstrip a thousand miles from home.  the trip home was long and exhausting, but it was the very best kind of tired- the kind that comes from hard work that was done through the church being jesus to another group of believers; the kind that comes after emotional and solid encounters with jesus; the kind that comes from leaving part of your heart in the hands of some kids in haiti.  while we were able to give away alot of what we brought with us, we left more than stuff behind.  there are people in that place who saw jesus in us, and then there’s us- who saw jesus in haiti.

my take-aways from this trip: (more than a month later!)

  • i now have 21 brothers and a sister from this trip. so thankful for them, and love them so much! the bond on this team was a gift from the lord.
  • i am lower maintenance than i thought. i rotated two shirts the whole week, didn’t wear a stitch of makeup, and wore bandanas all week.  and while it wasn’t a pretty sight, i didn’t care!
  • god is bigger than i give him credit for, even on my best days.  he’s alive and kicking in haiti, and up to some big things.  i hope i get to go back at some point and get in on that action.
  • i realized i’d love to adopt from haiti.  or anywhere for that matter!
  • the church, while far from perfect, is working to be the church in haiti.  its a beautiful thing, both to see and to be part of.
  • singing with those children is one of my best memories ever.  i love ‘watching’ that memory like a video in my head.it
  • and … the cliche thing everyone says when they come back from a third world country: we’re wealthy beyond our wildest imaginations.  we’ve been blessed to bless, and have much more to offer than we think.  even if all we can give is our time, and lots of hugs … those are steps toward positive change.  not that ghandi is the ‘end-all’ source on this topic, but he was right: we must be the change we want to see.

so there you have it … the late night ramblings of a girl who went to haiti over a month ago.

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