So this Haiti trip…clearly it was a God thing that it even happened. It was not on my radar at all…and the more I talked to the people in our group, the more I realized it wasn’t on their radars either. But like someone in our group had shared, she loves to see how God puts these groups together. They always turn out perfectly. Our group rocked. I may be a bit biased. But seriously, I laughed so hard that I cried pretty much on a daily basis. We shared our testimonies and hearts with one another. Even though I had just met many of the people in our group, I felt at ease to share how the past few years have seriously kicked my butt. But how God used it all, healed me to even better than I was before, and helped to prepare me for what is to come: Guatemala! And to quote a person from our group: who’d a thunk it?
Let’s just start with the hot mess of traveling to Haiti. So I was crazy and got 45 minutes of sleep prior to leaving for Haiti…so you all know where this is going: I was loopy. Everything was amusing. And the group quickly found out that I can sleep about anywhere. Once we arrived to Fort Lauderdale and had boarded our connecting flight, they realized that there was a crack in the windshield. They announced, “We need to get something to measure the crack in the windshield from a store or from another airline.” So, back off the plane we went and couple hours and many laughs later, we boarded yet another plane that had to come from Miami. We finally arrived to Haiti, hopped on the back of a truck, and drove 3 hours north to the children’s home where we would be serving for the week.
It was a beautiful drive up into the mountains. Just fresh air and the stars. The following morning, we were ready to dig right in. All throughout the week, we worked on painting 2 bathrooms and 2 bedrooms, pulling nails out of boards, mixing concrete, washing clothes, cleaning up trash, and visited people in prison. On Tuesday night, the neighborhood kids came to the church and we sang, did a Bible story with them, and then fed them. 55 lbs of rice later, over 250 kids were fed. It was amazing to sing with all of them and be a part of that awesome night! Those kids have so little compared to what is available in the States, but they have such joy and a hunger to learn more. In the evenings, we just fellowshipped with one another, played games, talked, had a certain someone believing that Leah was in the witness protection program, and played with the kids who came to hang out. During our last breakfast we together at the home, something happened that was absolutely hysterical (oh my word…I will spare them from sharing what totally happened. But it was hysterical and we laughed so hard. You just have to trust me on that). We also played some soccer and volleyball, 2 of the girls loved to braid our hair, and some very competitive games of dutch blitz, memory, and bananagrams happened. On the final night, we went to the beach. Leah, Peter, and I went snorkeling…and again, I will spare the details since I value their friendship…but again, laughed hysterically and I can only imagine what the boat driver went home to tell his friends! Let’s just say, he had a smirk on his face and at one point, tried to jerk the boat to see if I would fall in the water since I was laughing so hard already.
The one evening, we walked up the mountain to see how the water project was going where they were going to build a dam. We started out with our group and ended up with way more than double our group following. We had to get back fairly quickly since there was a brush fire that was spreading rapidly, plus we didn’t want to be walking back in the dark. But we were able to still take time to do some balloon rockets for the kids. At one point, the horse way up on the mountain came barreling down the hill, neighing, wanting to join in the fun of running around with the kids. There is a lot of voodoo, especially up in the mountains. Every night we could hear chanting, drums, and at times, they would go into a “frenzy.” In some of the houses we walked past in the mountains, we noticed the setup where they did their voodoo each night.
“As I went down to the river to pray, studying about that good old way…” That is what we sang every time we went down to the “river”…aka stream to wash paint supplies and/or clothes. It’s also the hot spot where people get baths. So it is not uncommon to have someone getting a bath right beside you while you are washing clothes. Some of the most entertaining moments came from being down at that river. Oh my word. So, there a concrete dam under the bridge and that is where we would stand to clean out the paint supplies. Well, the algae got the best of us at times. One woman went face down into the river water. By the time Leah, Peter, and I had arrived, everyone down at the river was laughing and there was a growing crowd of kids watching the “blans” laugh hysterically. Once they explained what had happened to Carol, we all were laughing. Jean described it as “Carol was prostrate before the Lord.” Which of course that made me think of Tim Hawkins, “I’m just going to lie here prostate. Prostrate…I don’t know! That R is so important!” It got to the point that Peter was lying on the ground laughing hysterically, the rest of us were about dying, and a few almost fell in the river.
On Sunday, we attended church that meets in a pavilion that has some legit leaning pillars. The group had found out that I played trumpet because I had told one of the kids who came to help paint the day before. So all of a sudden, the pastor knows, and I’m scrambling through hymnals to find something to play on a whim at church. Well, I played Great is Thy Faithfulness and everyone sang along. It was a little shaky playing with the hymnal on a music stand on uneven dirt ground, playing something that I haven’t practiced, and the hymnal and stand started to fall at one point. But all was well, they caught it; I kept playing. Once again, while worshipping with them, I was hit by how they have so little, but they are so joyful, praising God, and I loved watching the little kids just go right up with everyone else and do their little dancing shuffle. There is definitely something about living simply and having more focus on God. A friend from Guatemala has said many times, “Being a missionary really grows your faith. You HAVE to trust Him for absolutely everything.” There is so much that we take for granted that it’s going to be there. But these families, don’t even know if they are going to have food for the day, but they still take the time to praise God.
Listening to everyone’s testimonies and stories, both from Haiti, and those who were a part of group really helped all of us to see that all of us have baggage, have had crappy parts to life. But, God can use us to help others and it helps to heal ourselves. The way we all ended up in Haiti was totally different. Some have been coming for years. Some came after family members had died. Some of us were retired and wanted to help serve. Leah had heard it while attending their church one Sunday, had served in Haiti for a year 14 years ago, and told me about it. I said, “Pretty sure I am crazy, but I’m going to say yes.” 2 weeks later, Peter had mentioned that it would awesome to be able to join a mission trip in another country and got the go ahead to purchase tickets. Well, like I mentioned before, this group was put together by God. Most of us had really rough weeks before, doubts about going, and a rough trip down. We just knew that God had big plans for our trip. The one night, most of us stayed up and sang songs. Mama Ruth told us the next morning that she thought she was in heaven when she heard the singing, “but the more I listened, I knew I wasn’t in heaven!” Man, did we laugh at that comment! I was told that when I’m in my 70’s, I will be like Mama Ruth. Probably a fairly accurate statement. But I just pray that I can be even half as amazing as she is. She’s awesome. The comments she would make, the random slap while talking to you…yeah…that is like me and my grammy. She, along with everyone in our group, has quite the testimony. Not only were we blessed by serving in Haiti, but we blessed each other. And now, a lot of our group want to come next year to visit in Guatemala. Who’d a thunk it