|Haiti: December 2007
This was the eighth time I've been to Haiti and perhaps my favorite trip of them all. It was also the strangest to prepare for. We actually left during finals week, which meant that no students were able to go this time. It also meant we still had Chi Alpha activities within a week of leaving. It was more difficult to get ready in the practical things like shopping and packing as well as preparing mentally and spiritually. Pastor Winston challenged us not to take the trip lightly, though, so we all made efforts to be ready in spite of the distractions.
This was the first time only veterans have gone on a trip. I love seeing new people experience the country, the people and life at the orphanage, but there was something special about the atmosphere when everyone was reconnecting with old friends. This was probably the most low-key Haiti missions trip I've experienced. We spent a lot of time in our group devotions sharing and praying for each other. At the onset, the tone quickly became to encourage and build up the body of Christ.
An Early Healing
The day we arrived, we found out that Poppy had been having stomach problems and wasn't able to eat. The next morning after our group devotion, we all laid hands on him and prayed. In the evening, he said he was feeling better and the next morning he ate breakfast with us. This was a great start to the trip. Poppy does a lot to make sure our time at the orphanage goes well. More than that, though, he's a friend so we were thrilled when he was healed.
There are a few people we always make a point to visit whenever we're in Haiti. One person I've mentioned several times before is a woman named Nicole. Our first day in Haiti, we always unpack and organize all the supplies we've brought and then fellowship with everyone at the orphanage. The second day of this trip, we had to leave for an early service in the middle of the afternoon. On the third day, we finally had an opportunity to visit people. We walked the 10 or 15 minutes down the road to Nicole's house and found her sitting in the shade in her front yard. One of her older daughters was fixing Nicole's hair and her youngest son was playing nearby. Pastor Winston talked to her through our translator for a few minutes and then asked how they were doing with food. Nicole tried not to cry as she told us the day before they had run out. They had nothing at all for today. Winston immediately responded that we would be back within the hour with enough to get them by for a few days. We headed back to the orphanage and started gathering snacks together - things we brought for the team as well as from our personal supplies. We quickly had enough piled on the dining table that Winston made the announcement to stop bringing food. Within minutes a few people headed back to Nicole's...
We were actually in Haiti a full ten days, plus a couple partial days for travel. In those ten days, we held five church services. Nothing was particularly outstanding about any one of them, but all of them were really solid and at least three people became followers of Jesus.
The first service was at the mountain church...one of our favorites. I've written about this place before. It's about a ten minute drive to the west of the orphanage and then a few minute hike up the hillside. Every time I've been there, their faith and fervor has inspired me. During prayer in the middle of worship, I really felt like praying that, though they are a small group, God would use them to make a difference in the world. Clint preached by the light of a single fuel-burning lamp - his first time preaching ever.
This past July, we had a service in Grand Goave for the first time. We were able to visit this church again to encourage and pray for them. They were actually videotaping the service and brought us a copy of the tape the next day.
One hope we had before the trip was that we would get to minister somewhere new...and we did get that opportunity. One of Poppy's friends had us come to his church in Petit Goave (this town is a lot closer to the orphanage than Grand Goave). This was a really good service and something that stood out was the number of men and young adults who responded to the altar call. These are two groups that are usually more hesitant to step forward.
We also had a couple services at the church on the orphanage's property. These are special since we're able to minister to our Haitian family.
The chicken coop is a huge blessing. This was a project we helped launch in May of 2005. They have a continuous supply of fresh eggs, meaning a continuous supply of protein - there was no shortage of eggs available for us at breakfast. On this trip, we were able to help start a new project. Poppy had a vision to build a bakery to be able to supply all the bread they need and to sell it for income as well. Pastor Winston designated $1000 to go towards this project - not enough to take care of it completely, but it's a huge jump start. We were able to see the site being excavated and bags of concrete piled up ready to begin construction.
There's been some significant progress in Haiti that has made travelling much easier than it was in the past. Previously, driving was a really slow process because of potholes scattered all over the highway. The acting president decided a while ago that this has to be fixed. When we were in Haiti in July, we saw a lot of work being done, but this time we really got to enjoy it. The drive from Port-au-Prince to the orphanage used to take several hours, but this time it took less than three. We actually had a couple hours to play with the kids before dinner.
Soccer, Dinner and Bingo
The older kids are more involved working around the orphanage and running errands in town so they weren't as free to play soccer this time. That opened the door for the younger kids to have a few games. One scary thing happened, though. In the first soccer game, Dave was going for the ball in the most dangerous corner of the field. He lost his footing and as he fell, his knee made a loud pop. He was in a lot of pain and laid on the ground for a while. We weren't sure if something had broken or if maybe he had only torn his ACL. He was able to get up and hop inside, which was a little promising. He iced it and then kept it wrapped for a few days. Dave isn't one to back down and take it easy. He refused to miss a service - even at the mountain church where we have to climb a hill...and then come back down. Through the rest of the trip he slowly improved and when he got back home Dave went to a doctor to have his knee checked out. The report at that point was that it was just badly bruised. I don't know if a report immediately after his fall would have been the same. God either prevented the injury from being worse or fixed what actually happened.
The Haitians always treat us so well, we make a point every trip to do something special for them - to show how much we love and appreciate them. They are not used to being served, but for one dinner we made them sit and we brought everything to them. On the menu... ham, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and Kool-Aid. This is extreme luxury in a country where some people are literally forced to eat dirt. Poppy jokingly made the comment, "I feel like a king because all of these white people have come here and are serving me!" That's what it really is about for us. Jesus modeled servant-leadership and that's the example we're trying to follow during our time in Haiti. The heart-breaking thing about it, though, is that we simply cannot include everyone. Since supplies are limited, we have to make a list of people who get to enjoy the meal and anyone not on the list can't come in. After the meal, we have to chase the ladies out of the kitchen. They try to swoop in and start cleaning all the dishes, but that's part of what we were offering - a free evening.
This past summer after most of the group had left, Winston, Sara and Uwe hosted a bingo night for the kids. They gave away some donated clothes and leftover snacks as prizes for the winners. The kids had a great time and really got into it. Apparently some of the older ones were the most competitive. For this trip we took things up a notch, planning bingo as an evening activity and bringing a bunch of prizes specifically for it. Most of the prizes were intended for the younger kids (toys, Play-Doh, etc.) and then there were a few things (like cologne) intended for the older ones. The first few winners were younger kids who, to our surprise, went straight for the cologne. It was hilarious that 8-year-olds didn't care about toys and candy as much as smelling good!