We are home from our vision trip to Haiti. I find myself short on words to describe the experience. When someone asks "how was it?" I don't know where to begin or if I get started, I don't know where to end.
For now, I will start by saying, this was a different experience than my last trip to Haiti. Last time, we traveled with a group of 16 of us. Everywhere we went, we had at least 4 translators and a AIM team leader with our group. I had no fear. Other than a couple rainy nights in a wet tent, I hardly ever felt uncomfortable.
This time, we traveled as a team of six. We had our fearless leader, Pastor Dan with us most of the time and part of the time one translator. This time, I felt like little mice running around Haiti, feeling a bit more fearful and more uncomfortable. This time we immersed ourselves slightly more into the culture.
We went with an itinerary. Our days were all mapped out. However, after the second full day, God took our itinerary away - He had other plans.
We were scheduled to take the tap tap up in the mountains to visit Pastor F's church Sunday morning. This was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and an important excursion because we are looking at helping Pastor F build a church and rebuild his orphanage - pretty much the focus of our trip. Him and his family were looking forward to our presence at the Sunday morning service.
But God had other plans. The tap tap would not start that morning. After prayer and discussion, we decided to walk to our interpreter, Pierre's church. Once there, we were able to catch the last half hour of his service. Usually a worship service in Haiti lasts about 3 - 4 hours, so we were very late. Despite being late, Pierre was thrilled and surprised to see our team. After the service, we walked Pierre home, met his wife and child and prayed over them in their home. We were blessed! It was the right thing for our team to be doing Sunday morning. From that point on, Pierre and his family will always have a special place in each of our hearts.
The pastor and his family were so disappointed that we did not make it to their church that morning. However, in Haiti, there are always several opportunities to attend church throughout the week, so we decided we would rent a tap tap and go Monday evening.
Now being out in the mountains in the evening hours gave me slight hesitation but I thought well, the pastor would discourage us if he thought there was any danger.
So our team set off up the mountain side in a tap tap. Our security was the pastor's 10 year old daughter and 12 year old son. The tap tap was able to bring us only as far as to a bridge that crossed over a river.
10 year only "L" took Steve's hand and gave him a reassuring smile as she led us all across the rickety bridge and up the mountainside through what appeared to be the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Walking a narrow path, past tarp roofed homes and many many stares, was probably one of the most uncomfortable moments of our trip.
After about a 5 minute walk, we arrived to the temporary church structure. There was no electricity in sight anywhere around us as the sun was setting. But the church had a generator, which produced light and sound, so it was like a little "city on a hill" or a light in much darkness.
Outside the church, we saw poverty at it's worst in Haiti. Also, I'm quite sure many of the people we saw had never seen a white person.
The service we attended was a prayer service. They prayed for our team. We sang worship songs. We were blessed and felt welcomed.
During the entire 2 hour service, I had the pleasure of holding the youngest member of the orphanage, little "B", who snuggled into my shoulder and napped. "B" stole our hearts. She is a gorgeous 10 month baby girl with a beautiful personality. As I was holding her close and snuggling her tight, "L", grabbed by elbow to get my attention, pointed to a woman in the next row over and said, "B's mommy!" At the same time, B's mommy was looking right at us!
This was B's birth mom looking at the white woman snuggling with her baby. It was the most awkward moment for me of our trip so far. The rest of the service, my heart broke for a mother who could not provide for her child and made the ultimate sacrifice to give her a better life. I had heard her story already... 5 other kids at home, not knowing where their next meal will come from, all suffering greatly from malnutrition. I wondered what was going through her mind.
When I wasn't thinking about B's birth mom, I was praying that somehow that tap tap would be parked right outside the church so that we didn't have to walk that crazy and scary strip back over the bridge at night.
Well, God answered my prayers. The tap tap was backed up to the church. I found out later that evening that I wasn't the only one praying for that to happen.
Outside in the tap tap as little B was passed around, her birth mother approached our team. Pastor F's wife, introduced us to her. She greeted us each with a gentle hand shake and a warm smile. She also got to hold B, hug her and snuggle with her. It truly was an interesting moment to watch this interaction. Life seemed so unfair at that moment but yet she was happy for her daughter's life.
Once our team was all settled in the tap tap, our driver began heading down the mountain the other direction, crossing over a huge rock pile first. Our trip down the mountain was an adventure. Let's just say, we were literally on the edge of a cliff and the road had so many pot holes and was so uneven that I'm quite sure it would not even meet the standards of a low maintenance road in the U.S.
But we survived to tell the story and joke about it later. The entire trip was full of adventure. This is just one story of many.
Some of what we experienced and learned while in Haiti is so terribly heartbreaking. There are children who need to be rescued from bondage. Slavery and trafficking of children is alive and thriving in Haiti. Being aware of this is one thing but actually being a witness to this injustice, has rocked my world.
The culture there is one that's difficult to understand. If a child is late for school, they get a beating. Physical punishment of children is quickly handed out and widely accepted. I stood by a Haitian woman who was shouting at a 12 year old girl with a strong hold on her chin and arm. I asked her what she was saying to the girl and in her broken English to me, she said, "I told her she is nothing but trouble, that she is a bad bad girl!" This was as a result of the 12 year old girl refusing to stay with her because she wanted to come with me. She was treated horribly. But God is good and this 12 year old is now in a safe haven. I'll share more about her story in another post.
I could go on and on because there are so many more stories. I guess that means many more blog posts on the horizon.
I can't wait to tell you about the orphanage where we spent most of our time, building relationships and making forever friends. Another blog post coming soon!