Steven: my husband ventured on a mission trip down to Fedja, Haiti to an orphanage called All God's Children. He returned a changed man and is FINALLY ready to share his experience beyond what just a letter in the mail can tell you. He'll show you through his journal entries here on this blogpost and more to come.
Good morning and happy Monday to you. Yes, I said “Happy Monday”. I trust that the weekend was used to re-charge and refuel your batteries for whatever is waiting to be tackled in your path this week. There are some who are reading this page on purpose because of a letter, email, or voice to voice recommendation from me to ‘hit’ this site. There are others who were told to visit this site because they want to have an inside look as to what the Haitian experience might look like. Finally, there are others who just landed at this site. Regardless, I would like to welcome all of you to my personal journey in Haiti that took place back in August 2015.
I promised all of those that I spoke with about this mission trip that an “in the moment” journal would come out sometime in my return to the states. This is my warning to all readers. These writings are from my own lens and my own opinions. The writings to come are most likely not grammatically correct. The punctuation is average at best. I encourage English majors to put the pen cap back on your red pens because the sentence structure is at a minimum. The warning is put out there to all readers because I went ‘old school’. Yes, I wrote all of my words on paper with an ink pen. This might sound foreign depending your generational make-up, but it really does work when you want to tune into your experience and tune out all the distractions that come with every screen (t.v., phone, computer, ipad, etc.) we engage in on a daily basis.
The last statement that I will make is that I hope you enjoy reading these experiences. As I have said to many, every activity had a story; therefore, I encourage you to call me, email me, text me, have dinner with me or connect with me if you desire through whatever other form of communication I may be missing. I would love to share with you every moment and scale down the 50,000 foot view into the gritty reality.
Day 1…August 8th, 2015
My first mission trip is official underway. What better to start it off with a text message from our family friend and one of my ‘influencers’ to go on this trip that says, “we’re here” while I am sawing logs because of my inability to actual prepare, pack, and shave before 12:45 a.m. the day of our trip when pick up was at 2:20 a.m. Whoops! Thank you Sara and Eric for the ride and thank you for waiting patiently in the driveway while I ran around the house doing exactly what I set out not to do, sleep through my alarmJGreat first start….insert sarcasm here.
I was asked a very simple question on the way to the airport while rubbing the crust out of my eyes and the drool off my lip. “What are you looking forward to the most?” My honest answer was twofold. One, I’m pumped to see these children and engage in their home life. Second, I’m excited to connect and deepen my relationship with God on this journey.
I shared with many in preparation for this mission work that I have been praying for years around mission work. Does God really have a plan for me or do I just want to escape from reality, enjoy hot weather and receive words of affirmation while doing so. Rewind the clock five years and I honestly believe the answer would have been along the selfish answer vs. the selfless answer. Today, I honestly believe there is a purpose I am headed to Haiti. I can’t express or pinpoint a specific reason why, but I can confidently say that He has a plan and I look forward to taking the path He leads me on in efforts to find the answer.
True to form, my preparation or lack thereof were nothing short of standard for those that know me. Examples: We fly out of Minneapolis but where are we connecting? What flight are we taking? I remember there being an email somewhere in my phone about this. I wonder if I got all of the necessary shots now that I am looking at my doctor’s notes while sitting in the airport. The small yet very important details all appeared to have taken the back seat to my family, my career, and all those ‘other things’ that take place in life. Whoops. Well, I am writing this in my journal so it must have all worked out. Good bye American and hello Haiti.
We made it to Haiti
I landed in Haiti with the team and was in awe yet anxious with excitement. It is funny how many time people tell you something that you acknowledge but don’t really hear. Long and short of it, I was buckled at the knees. I watched our team (see below) made up of a mixed rookie missionaries and wiley veterans move through customs. As I pulled up the back of the line, I looked out the window and saw a country that was torn and broken yet hysterically jaw dropping in its’ beauty.
I have had multiple individual airport experiences in all of my travels. Now, you take the individual experience and multiply it with 11 team members, 20+ bags of baggage and donations and you have a traveling circus. As we wrapped everything up in the airport, we walked out the doors and into Haiti, officially.
The look and the smell…unforgettable
The pick-up area was far from that of my personal experience at the Minneapolis airport or any airport throughout the U.S. People, horns, whistles flying at the woman on our team, etc. were plentiful and certainly provided experience. The people were literally stacked on top of one another with comparable of taking you two baseball teams and shoving them into one dugout. The smell was unforgettable and extremely difficult to even describe. If I could sum it up, I would describe it as a mixture of trash that had been left in the garbage unattended to for an extended period of time, mixed with exhaust from the vehicles, coupled with body odor brought together on a mild 100 degree weather day. Unforgettable!
The luxuries that we call upon in the United States were gone. The option of a stretch limo at the airport in Nevada, the Bentley through Uponor in the cities and any opportunity that Americans have to throw away money in the states was replaced with what the Haitians call a tap-tap. I think the best way to describe it is a bus without seats and replaced with wooden benches wrapped around for all passengers to sit on. Otherwise, you could compare it to driving down the road and watching a cattle rig cruise by you in the U.S. I can guarantee that when riding in the ‘luxurious’ tap-tap there was no air conditions, no shocks, no cushions, and a clutch that sounded iffy at best. The good news is that we were headed on a 1.5 hour trek through Puerta Prince and into the mountains where roads don’t exist. (Insert sarcasm) I wanted to engage and immerse in the culture. Well, my wish just became a reality!
The transportation on the way to the orphanage was an absolute blast through the mountains all kidding aside. The view was impeccable and filled with sheer beauty as long as you looked straight or up. If you looked down, terror would strike your core! There are no road signs, no guard rails, no anything. In fact, the rules of the road were very simple. There were no rules!
I can see it; the orphanage
Please allow me to paint a picture. First, the tap-tap inches the hill like the little engine that could. My chin is buried at this point in my shirt attempting to keep my American breakfast in. Honestly, I thought it might be easier to run the hill and probably safer. Secretly, my head was asking if it is next Saturday yet and did I sign my will before I left? Sorry Brent, I know you gave that assignment to me months ago.
As I took my chin out of my shirt, I looked up to witness just feet away the brokenness that I saw in the city and the disaster that devastated the country had vanished. Yes, the kids came pouring out with smiles that will be forever in my head. I mean FOREVER! You know that smile you may have had on Christmas morning with a tree buried by presents or that smile you get when someone complements you? Those examples are nothing compared to those kids faces.
The night came and the day was wrapping up. The games, interaction, relationship building, etc. had taken off without a hitch. The craziest thing though. As I played basketball, soccer, tag, and served as a 6’2” jungle gym to 6 kids at any given time, I was amazed that I hadn’t been with these children for five hours and it felt like I’d know them forever.
So, I ask the awkward question to those reading my journal. Was this is a God thing? I won’t answer this question with a statement; however I will follow up with more questions. Is it odd these children don’t speak English yet I can communicate with them? Is it odd I don’t know Creole or any of their native tongues but they are still teaching it to me? Is it odd, I don’t know sign language fluently for the deaf children of the orphanage yet I just got done telling many of them about my wife, children, career, athletics, etc.? Isn it odd that the kids didn’t care what I looked like, sounded like, or what language I spoke and just wanted me to play with them, listen to them and engage with them? Is it odd that 100% of the conversations that I have taken part of since I landed in Haiti were eventually communicated effectively? No statements from me above…simple questions I asked myself. You insert your own response to my awkward question above.
Overwhelmed and Tired
My hand is getting tired from this whole ink and pen concept so I need to wrap this up. The day has been overwhelming to sum up all of my thoughts. I really haven’t even scratched the surface in the above writing. So, I will share one story before I close my eyes for the day.
Each morning and periodically throughout the day, our Five Oaks Church mission team was scheduled for mini breakaway gatherings. These times are used for us to share stories, memories, experiences, the word, etc. As I went and attempted to relayed the message from our leader to other teammates, a little boy who couldn’t have been older than Hudson, 22 months, who is my son came wandering my way. The evening darkness had set in and the little light that shown in the orphanage shined through on him as we walked directly into my arms un-staged and unrehearsed. It was the same little boy who earlier in the afternoon had me place him on a swing set like I did with my own beautiful children yet this Haitian child had no ability to verbally communicate with me.
Again, I’ll do my best to paint a very small picture. As this boy walks towards me, he is draped in ragged clothes, mismatched shoes, stretched out shirt, and only one sock. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that one of his shoes didn’t have a sole. Oh yeah, I also didn’t lay out the environmental surroundings that are made up of only gravel, sparse concrete and dirt. Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention that this country doesn’t have a sanitation plant therefore anything else that happens to be on the ground is in fact on the ground. The night was late and I was exhausted. As I dropped to my knees to meet this little boy at eye level, he buried his head in my chest.
There was absolutely NO ability to speak or comprehend my talk as he rested his eyes in my arms. I walked this wandering child back to where the kids his age were supposed to sleep and was escorted there by another 7 year old orphan who acted as his big brother. As I walked up the steps, I entered the rooms where the children slept and flocks of kids came running out the doors to greet the little shaver in my arms, their brother. You want to feel overwhelmed like I had so many times today? Well, it just happened, AGAIN. WOW!
The 7 year old communicated to me that I should lay the little boy perpendicular on the bed. Why was the first question I asked myself? It should be so obvious but it wasn’t. Answer, there are still 4 other kids his age and size to lay in that very bed tonight with him.
Day 1 at the orphanage has come and gone and I just got punched, HARD! Some reading this will think that this is sad and depressing. Let me tell you, these smiles were not sad smiles today. That boy in my arms was at complete peace. The laughs and conversations that took place today were fruitful and plentiful. God knows everything and He is in charge. I can’t wait to see what day two has in store for these children and this team.
The next blog post will be on October 5th. I wish you the best on this week and know you have a great gift to be the change in every path you come across this week. Make it count!