Haiti: Day Seven

The posts that follow are a brief description of daily events surrounding an organized trip to Haiti in the summer of 2010. There were 12 of us total plus one reporter from the Daily Journal in Farmington, MO. I have relayed each post as it was written in my journal so please overlook any grammatical errors or crazy talk. I will also try to include pictures along the way.

Sunday, July 11th

Wow…the last full day. It’s hard to believe that this trip is coming to an end. I have so much in my brain that I know I have missed telling much of it in this journal. I hope to put this on my blog at some point and add more to it including some of the photos. Several of the others on the trip are going to post their pics to Facebook and Snapfish as well.

This morning we arose at 6am again – right as the generator kicked in. That’s been our normal course the past few days – sleep until the generator kicks on. Breakfast came a little early this morning, but I elected to head to the showers instead. I did miss Corn Flakes and milk today – but, I had my normal protein bar and was fine. We had coffee again as well. I was also able to get three small bags of coffee to take home with me – can’t wait to try some.

After breakfast we had our devotional – today talked about finding your inner idols – idols of the heart. Something I’ll go back and visit again – definitely when we have cell group in the upcoming weeks. After our devotional we had a few minutes to hang out, and then at 8:30am we left for our church service. The church was a local Haitian church and we arrived near the end of Sunday School. Come to find out, this was a Baptist church, and it was VERY traditional. There were about 200 people packed inside a building on 20 pews. Needless to say, it was EXTREMELY hot inside. We were packed into the pews and sat there and watched as they finished Sunday School. Next, a Haitian preacher got up and prayed for probably at least five minutes. It was long! Then we stood and sang three hymns in Creole. I didn’t understand any of it, but they loved to sing and worship. It was amazing to see them worship God with a love that was so evident. Not much different than the US, except they aren’t as reserved as we are.

After we sang, another Haitian fellow got up and read what seemed like announcements. Then they asked all visitors to stand and introduce themselves. Three people stood on our left (we waited to stand as a group) and 2 of the 3 said they had just accepted Jesus.  Pretty crazy! Then our group stood and they asked us to come to the front (such a comfortable feeling for first time guests, right?) and introduce ourselves. Heather said a few words on our behalf and then we went down the line and said our name. They seemed to enjoy having us there…I think. Finally we went back to our seats and sang a few more songs. By the way, they did have a drum set and electric keyboard for worship. They keyboard player played bass with the left hand and chords/melody with the right. He was really pretty good. The lady beside me had a hymn book in Creole and I was able to follow along and sing some since I can pronounce French fairly well. Finally, the preacher prayed again (for five more minutes) and then we had to depart for the orphanage. The service, we heard, continued on for the next two hours! Wow! One final note on that part – they had a female leading the singing/worship part. She even prayed at one point. I thought that was pretty cool.

After the service (our part) we headed to the orphanage. This orphanage used to be in the mountains but the government gave them some permanent land. Unfortunately, the land is way out on a back road. We arrived at the orphanage and this was hardly a place for kids to live. There was a make-shift fence made out of small sticks surrounding the perimeter and then a few small tent areas. One area was for cooking and the other was where the kids sleep, eat, play, etc. When we arrived the children were getting dressed in “special outfits” (normal clothes for us) for the party we were throwing. We were able to give money for them to have a meal of chicken, rice and beans, coleslaw, plantains and sweet potato fries. This camp used to have a partner that supported them with food, but now they have no one to help them. A pastor takes care of the orphanage and there are currently about 45 that live there. It costs $6 a day for each child if they eat three times a day. Right now, they eat ONE time each day. That is really hard to imagine – but they were all smiling and didn’t see to mind. Some of the younger kids were malnourished and therefore had distended bellies. After they ate they kept holding up their shirts and saying their bellies hurt. Very sad.

Before we ate, four of the guys left to go get the orphanage’s old bathrooms from up on the mountain. They didn’t have any bathrooms at their land – they just went out into the middle of the field and squatted. Wow! While the guys were gone, the rest of us guys played soccer with four of the boys. We had a blast. The soccer field was a bumpy dirt patch with tiny sticks for goals. No one seemed to mind at all.

The guys returned and unloaded two makeshift toilets for them. It will definitely be better than what they had! After that the children sang several songs for us and then performed a few sketches. One song was actually written by a twelve year old boy – a rap about injustice and how it wouldn’t get them down – they would overcome. Amazing!

We had only planned on feeding the kids, but the orphanage fixed us food as well. We had to eat – it’s disrespectful to turn down food when someone offers it. So we all ate together which was cool. Afterwards, the kids ate bubblegum (I had brought this from home!) and then they sang a few more songs for us. By this time it was after 2:30pm so we left to head back to camp. A great day with them and they (and we) were sad to see us go.

We had  planned to work at the land today, but since it was so late we didn’t have time to do anymore. We did want to go back to the tent city however to give them our extra food and some clothing. Everyone in our camp decided to give all of our clothing to Gerson and heather and some to the tent people. It was a good feeling to be able to give something (even though it wasn’t much).

Most of us took a quick shower (we had been totally drenched in sweat today) and then we loaded up with clothes, food, extra supplies, etc. We headed back to the tent city and it was amazing to see the people who had worked so hard with us this week. The bad part is that this community has a “President” and board that everything goes through. Gerson suggested we leave all of our stuff with the “committee” who could distribute it how they wanted. What we all knew however, was that the committee would either keep it all for themselves or give it to the people they picked. Many of us went around and gave out stuff to the workers and kids we had made friends with during the week. This worked well until some of the committee members arrived and told everyone to leave. They had us pile everything in one pile for them to hand out later. Several of us still handed out stuff to individuals, but the committee started getting upset so we stopped at that point. Everyone did seem truly grateful for all that we had done.

We loaded up the van to leave and started telling everyone goodbye. Many Haitians came to the van to tell us goodbye and many of them said “God Bless You.” Christianity is prevalent here, but so is Voodoo.

Best visual moment of the trip: a young 22 year old boy we called “Son Son” came to the van to say goodbye. There were visible tears in his eyes as he told us thank you. I knew in his heart that he got it. It was truly a God thing. To put things in perspective, Son Son’s parents were killed in the earthquake and he is now raising his three brothers and sisters. He is now their sole provider and leader of that family. May God bless him in his journey.

We arrived back at camp – wait…back up…there was a local man, a skilled laborer, who helped us lay all the bricks for the foundation. He busted it hard for two days straight. We called him the “Mason Man.” Anyway, we drove to his house to hand deliver some extra food and clothing to him. Mason lived in a remote village that was very hard to get to. We pulled through a rough jungle area and in the trees was a beautiful overlook to the mountains. Amazing sight. We gave him some supplies, took a group picture and then headed to camp.

As we arrived back at camp, several of us made a final trip to the gas station for a soda. I made that trip a total of three times, but each journey I found something new or interesting. It was very strange walking down a broken road with trash and burning piles surrounding you. Motorcycles were everywhere and large buses would pass by quickly. The locals would start at us, not rudely, but with an inquisitive gaze. There are probably not many white visitors to Leogane. 🙂

We returned to camp for dinner. This time it was rice and corn with what I think was a hot dog. It was good whatever it was. After dinner we all hung out. The water purification team was there also and one of them brought his guitar out. For the next hour or so we sang songs together and just shared in worship. A great time and a memorable moment for everyone. At the end, one of their more outspoken girls asked if she could pray for us – a very cool thing. A great blessing and end to our night.

Tomorrow we leave Haiti. We took a few moments to share our thoughts of the week and to plan for the next day. The emotions of a long and impacting week were felt in our group. Sad, but yet hopeful for this tiny country. And of course joyous that we would once again see our families and the place we call home.

Until tomorrow!

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