Reflections on Our Haiti Mission Trip
Haiti is a land of contrasts. The beauty of the coastline rivals any in the Caribbean but the overwhelming poverty and lack of even basic services is everywhere. When we got off the plane and walked outside the heat was instantly oppressive. As we drove through Port Au Prince in a school bus, all the sights and sounds instantly reminded us that we were in a third world country. Trash and people are everywhere. The smells are overwhelming. It is hard to believe that people live in this every day. There are no stores, only markets with the wares spread out to the elements.
Lifeline Missions is based in Grand Goave – approximately 40 miles from Port Au Prince – but the drive takes over two hours as the roads and traffic conditions are constantly changing. In Haiti, the driving rule of thumb is whoever is largest has the right of way. Mopeds and pedestrians weave in and out between cars and trucks at alarming rates.
Our first task was at a home building site. It was up on a hill with a million dollar view of the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea and nearby mountains. We began by sifting sand (taken directly from the beach!) for cement and mortar. We also helped level the foundation by finding rocks (not hard in Haiti) and placing them within the foundation. We formed a bucket brigade hauling the mixed cement to the home site. It is hard, hot work! We soon found Rosemary (the homeowner) and Seraphina helping us. With tears in her eyes, she thanked us and said she prayed for this day to come. Each home cost about $4,800 to build. Before 2010 Lifeline had built approximately 200 homes. Since then, they have built over 800 in Grand Goave and surrounding areas. Not one of these homes, which were designed to be hurricane proof, fell during the devastating earthquake. We were blessed to help dedicate the home at the end of our time in Haiti.
We also helped with infant nutrition at Lifeline’s on-site clinic. The infants have a weekly check-up and weigh-in. Babies that gain the most weight sometimes receive a special treat. They are given some formula and baby food then we prayed with each family. Most only spoke Creole, but they understood our hearts as we prayed.
There was plenty to do with several different ministries. We painted church benches a beautiful blue to match the sea at the newly expanded Lifeline Church. We painted beds for sponsored children, which are often shared by several little ones. We put together hygiene packs that were given to Haitians (brought by different teams). We saw the real Haiti as we visited homes with baby layettes (bibs, clothing and blankets) which are given to new mothers in Grand Goave. Each child was prayed for. Park Chapel's sewing group made blankets and bibs for this ministry.
A highlight was the opportunity to go to Haitian homes to pray for those that requested it. We gathered around the person, laid our hands on them, and prayed “Haitian style” – out loud and all at once! The Haitian ladies sang as we prayed for health, their family’s faith, or the heart of the person. We ended with the 23rd Psalm – Haitians praying in Creole and we, in English. As we weaved down unfamiliar alleys, children gathered and grabbed hands just to walk with us. Their smiling faces showing us the love of the Haitian people.
It was a change of pace when we visited the Children's Home. Thirty children consider themselves blessed to be in the Children's Home. They have their own beds and are well cared for. We were given free rein to love on the kids by playing games and getting our hair braided by the children.
On Sunday we put on our best clothes, as those in Haiti do, and went to Lifeline church. There are no one-hour services there. It began at 9:00 and ended somewhere around noon. There was a lot of singing – including a song our group sang. Haitians sit very close and are very friendly especially in the church. Several sponsored children and their families came to the service. After church and we were given a day of rest at a local beach. We were able to take a leaky boat out to a nearby island and snorkel. The water was warm and the snorkeling was fantastic. It was a much appreciated day of rest and a chance to see the beautiful side of Haiti.
We got up at 3:30 AM for a prayer meeting at a Haitian home. We walked through Grand Goave while it was still dark. We sat on wooden benches outside the home as the Haitians sang and prayed. The roosters crowed and dogs barked, but the Spirit was strong in that place. After the service, we learned that one of the ladies had been doing this for 23 years. Such exceptional faith we have seen in this hard country!
The toddler nutrition program is part of a food-bagging project that Park Chapel has done several times. Complete meals are packaged and sent in containers to Haiti and other places. They are called ABC (All Because of Christ) meals. Each family is given two or more bags and prayed with by the team. It was a great way to see the end of the line for the project.
At the end of the trip Debbie Horn and I attempted to visit her sponsored children's homes. In Haiti, we soon learned that “not very far” can be an adventure. We drove down little more than a dry creek bed which does not work well for a truck. We ventured further and further but eventually were able to go no farther. As we looked around and saw no visible housing we asked where Mickelson went to school. He said “Lifeline.” For me personally, this was the most heart wrenching because it was over five miles away and his mother said he got up at 4:00 AM every day to walk to school. We were able to visit Julie’s home in Jeanty. It too, was heart aching. A two room shack that they only cooked in because there were no beds. The family of grandmother, mother, Julie and her sister slept in another Christian sister's house as theirs was unsafe to sleep in since the earthquake. Little Julie didn’t smile. Her serious, somber eyes told the story of her life. This made us determined as a team to raise money for a home for her and three other families.
It is impossible to really tell people what we saw and experienced. It is hard to believe that this country only a few short hours away by airplane exists in such a dire state while we enjoy a life not nearly so difficult. Yet, this is how most of the world is. We must do what we can where we can as that is the task He has given us to do. Haiti has been plagued by political unrest, no basic services and extreme poverty. But, the faith of its people can be clearly seen as they worship and live out their faith.