This is a long post, but it is basically a compilation of my journal entries during the three days I was in Haiti this past week. I have it broken up for each day so you can take your time reading it. I hope you enjoy sharing in this experience with me. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.
To see all of my pictures from the trip, click here.
About two hours ago, I landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where I will be, along with Dennis and Josh, for the next three days. It is about 5pm now. Since 7:30 yesterday morning, I have slept two hours. So needless to say, I’m feeling pretty drained. The flight over was amazing – especially when we flew out of Miami. Seeing the coastline retreat over the horizon leaving us suspended over the gorgeous blue ocean was a pretty astounding sight. As we ascended, we past above a storm that was approaching the city. Sheets of rain poured down below and gave me a perfect view of a Divine Reminder. The sun reflected over the water droplets causing the most vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen to cascade slowly over the entire frame of the cloud. It made for an encouraging beginning to the trip.
When we landed at the Haitian airport, you could see the rain approaching over the mountain range behind the terminal. It’s been raining non-stop since. A few people from Missions of Hope Haiti came to the airport to greet us. We piled our luggage and our butts into a rickety school bus that proceeded to carry is the 20+ mile trek to the ministry compound. On the way, we passed many structures that serve as continual reminders of that devastation that was incurred by the earthquake in January. We also passed multiple tent cities which are exactly what they sound like – thousands of people living in heavily weathered tents within arm’s distance of one another. We are going to visit one tomorrow. I expect that to be difficult.
Right now (8:30pm), I am laying on my bunk, enveloped within mosquito netting, and I am being serenaded by Mumford and Sons with the soft patter of rain on the roof of our sleeping compound. Listening to the song “After The Storm” with the distinct sound of Heaven’s Fount is eerily and worshipfully beautiful. Try it sometime.
Being here is a very unique experience. Or maybe our lifestyle back home is. I’m not sure yet. But when the use of water is treated as a luxury not to be wasted, you begin to pay attention. I’m feeling a tremendous amount of peace in being without so many distractions. I have no phone, no tv, no Xbox 360, no computer. Only my traveling companions, my thoughts, and some goats and cows tied up to the fence outside.
Tomorrow will be a busy day and potentially a discouraging one. Apparently, the statistics right now are that only 5% of what was destroyed has been rebuilt. And it has been 8 months. But I am reminded of Isaiah 35 and the Truth that in even the most dry and devastated desert, God is ushering forward the day when it will burst forth into beautiful blossoms “like the crocus.” God has not forgotten Haiti and I’m looking forward to seeing how He is going to impress that upon me.
Day two has come to an end. And boy, was it exhausting. We began with a tour of the MOHH grounds soon after a delicious pancake, pineapple, and cereal breakfast. We viewed the orphanage, the schools, the medical clinic, the prosthetics lab, and finally the chapel. The more I experience this organization and its people, the more I am moved by their hearts. I have not met anyone here who feels the need (or maybe the insecurity) to prove themselves in some intellectualized Gospel conversation. They just love. It is their delight to share their mission with others and it is their joy to humbly share Christ’s message of mercy and grace with their lives. And we were able to witness that first-hand as we viewed their compound.
The difficult part was our tour of Port-au-Prince. All that I had heard about the relief efforts before I left turned out to be exactly true. It was like complete and utter chaos being contained behind stoic faces and efforts to forget the crippling effect that was experienced 8 months ago. Rubble had been pushed to the side of the street and Haitians set up their shops on top of it to move on with life. Buildings lay in shambles, trash was everywhere, animals wandered around aimlessly looking for food to survive…the presidential palace (pictured below) was still standing, but the roof had collapsed and sunken into the body of the building. Some Haitians even walked around with hard hats for fear of another earthquake and concrete blocks falling on their heads.
I’ve never seen anything like this place. It was almost more overwhelming trying to see and dream of a place to begin helping than it was to connect with any particular emotion I was feeling at the time. It bought up within me an awareness that seemingly stripped every personally perceived right I have to complain about my circumstances. And my response was a deep desire to help. As I began to process that, it made me consider two things.
Though the devastation is so visible here, it probably isn’t unfair to say that it is a good parallel to what most American souls would look like if we could see with those eyes. If my heart burns to help give hope to Haitians whose brokenness is so visible, how would it affect my personal ministry at home if I could see all people in terms of that brokenness? We all need hope. It also made me wonder, how would my level of obedience to the Lord change if I could truly experience the weight of Christ’s sacrifice, His grace, and His love for me? I assume it would be the same as what I’m feeling now – a deep desire to be involved.
The day came to an end after we attended a chapel service, spoken entirely in Creole, at the local church on the MOHH grounds. There were probably 300 people there and not one of them were sitting still. In America, often times when we see someone dancing and shouting to praise music, it’s intriguing because it is out of the ordinary. Here, we were out of the ordinary by sitting still. Even before coming here, Isaiah 35 has been on my heart. When we were driving through Port-au-Prince, I felt like I was staring at a truly dry, arid, hopeless desert. People have lost homes and loved ones in a blaze of destruction. And being in the midst of it is discouraging. Then God reminds me of His promises. He is hope. He is bringing peace. He is ushering forth flowers that will grow in places they should not exist so that He will receive the glory. MOHH is a flower. The people involved are flowers. The worship in the chapel is a flower. God has not forgotten about this desert. And He is making that evident in His own majestic timing.
We’ve finished up our last day here in Haiti. I’m just sitting in the community area waiting for dinner to be served. This morning began with a meeting with Jeremy, one of the guys on staff at MOHH, about how we can partner with him to begin a branching ministry called Lespwa, which is the Creole word for “hope.” It’s really exciting to see what he is doing and I’m excited that we are going to be a part getting it rolling. This afternoon, we ate at a Haitian place whose name translates into “Big Daddy Chicken.” It only offered one dish (guess what!?), but it was delicious.
After that, we were taken on a very long drive over a mountain to a beautiful waterfall called Soto. We pulled up to the trail that led to the falls and some Haitian kids immediately came running out to “help” us walk to the falls. A few of us actually climbed up and under the falls. Half the time, we were keeping the kids from falling into the current. But that’s the only source of income for that community. So they tried their best and for their efforts, we gave them some money, probably doubling their economy. The waterfall was amazing though. It was nestled into the side of a mountain that overlooked a valley below. Honestly, it looked like a scene from LOST. I was half expecting (and hoping) to see the smoke monster start ripping up the trees…anyway. I climbed back with a few guys and stood under the waterfall. It felt so great.
On the way back, we had a pretty scary moment. There was a point on the road when we had to cross a river in the truck. And on the return journey, we got stuck. All of us guys got out to push. The water was deep enough to reach about mid-calf. We started rocking the truck back and forth to give it some momentum and finally it caught. While the tires were spinning, they threw a rock about the size of a softball into Jimmy’s (one of our traveling companions) thigh and caused him to stumble. Just as he did, the truck lost its traction and started sliding back towards him. It came really close to pinning him under the bumper, but the brakes caught a few inches before reaching him. So he was able to walk away with only a deep bruise. After a nearby construction vehicle pulled us out and we gave them $20 for their help, we headed back to MOHH very grateful to have Jimmy with us and uncomfortably aware of our own mortality. The Lord took care of us today.
This evening, we sat down to hear the testimony of a converted Haitian named Reuben who is now closely involved with MOHH as an employee. He told his tale in a way that was similar to a Pauline conversion. He was a young man many would have thought unreachable. God saved him in prison after he was arrested for nearly killing a man while driving drunk. His story was moving in a way that no words I write here would suffice. We all spent time praying with him after he finished.
Well, I am home from Haiti now. My heart is brimming with a passion right now. It feels similar to the emotions I felt after returning from Omaha. I’m praying for God to give me clarity in what He wants me to do with this passion. All in all, I felt like I got an up close and personal look at God’s grace this week. He humbled me over things that I take for granted on a daily basis (food, water, AC, etc). He allowed me to share in the joy of Christ as our only hope in the midst of devastating suffering. He affirmed in me that He has not forgotten Haiti and He is going to do a magnificent work there. I feel a fire in my heart right now. A fierce urgency to declare the Gospel with my life because Jesus is our only hope.
Continue to pray for Haiti. The suffering is still widespread, but it cannot stand up to our Almighty God and the hope of His Gospel. And be in prayer for Lespwa as well. For more information, click here.
There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair