Haiti...Where do I even begin? I had to take a few days before starting this post because I needed the time to emotionally decompress. Even sitting here at the beginning, I'm already feeling my heart begin to race. Visiting Haiti was a lot like love at first sight. You fall fast, head first and blindsided by how strongly and how quickly your heart bursts for someone--or a lot of someones. How do I use words to express what I feel and what I experienced? I'm not sure I can. I've been home for 5 days and have tried talking to a few people, but I'm always lost for words and overcome with emotion. It's been hard to grow so attached so quickly and just as quickly be torn away. Of course, I had to come home, I had my own children waiting for me. I had my husband waiting for me. But if only they had been on their way to Haiti...
I had to come home.
So where do I begin? I suppose the first thing is to thank those who donated to my trip. Amy and I wouldn't have been able to get to Haiti if not for the support of our friends, family, church family, coworkers, and clients. You helped us bring love to the children of Blanquette.
There is so much that happened, and I feel I just don't have the time to write it all out. But I do have pictures, and I hope the pictures can properly express the love I have for the people who entered my life during this short period of time. Love for the mission team, love for our translators, love for the pastor and his church, love for the children, love for their parents. Love for Haiti.
It took Amy and I two days to get to Haiti. We flew out to Atlanta on a Sunday after church and met up with our mission group. We stayed the night and flew out to Port-au-Prince the following afternoon. I only saw a small portion of the city. There were broken stucco buildings and tents made from sticks and tattered tarps, evidence of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
Driving through the country was a test of courage as vehicles wove in and out of traffic, often playing games of chicken with the oncoming traffic. Motorbikes, used as taxis, could be seen carrying up to three passengers and whatever luggage they had. Tap Tap trucks were stuffed full of passengers.
We had to travel uphill on a ditched and rocky road to reach Blanquette, working slowly around the bends, rocks, and other drivers.
It was an amazing site when we finally got to the top of the hill and saw First Baptist Blanquette sitting there. This would be our home for the next 7 days. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous.
As soon as we arrived, children came rushing down the hill and into the courtyard to play with those they recognized. The mission group that we went with have been going to Haiti, and specifically Blanquette, for years, so they've built strong relationships with the people there. Amy and I both hope that we can continue to visit with our new friends in Haiti.
The kids were a little hesitant around Amy and I at first. We were a bit unsure as well, but one thing Cliff had said at the orientation meeting was to not wait until Thursday to fall in love with the people. That stuck out to me, so we did what the others in our group were doing and started playing with the kids. They warmed up to us really fast after that.
The kids loved watching videos and looking at pictures on our cell phones. They also loved having their pictures taken. One of the girls in our group brought a Fuji Film Instax camera and was able to give the kids the pictures she took. The kids cherished those pictures!They would hold on to them and show them to everyone. Whenever I would pull out my camera, they would ask for me to take their pictures and then be very confused when I couldn't give them the physical copy. It actually made me sad, so I decided that once I finished working on all the pictures, I would send prints to Pastor Evans with the next mission group in July.
One of the kids who got a picture with me (and the physical copy) was Gibley. He became my buddy throughout the week. He was attached to my arm the whole week...like most of the other children. They loved being held and snuggled with. I told Gibley on our last day that I loved him and would miss him. He got all bashful and then as we were getting ready to embark back to Port-au-Prince, he and a bunch of the other children were screaming a chant to us, which the translators told us was, "Don't Cry!"
We were definitely crying after that.
While in Blanquette, our group put on a vacation bible school for the over 200 children that showed up every day.We did these songs every day in VBS that got all the kids dancing and singing and then the kids were split into two groups. One group listened to the bible lesson and learned memory verses, while the other group went outside to play games and then they would switch. The first day, I was able to help by leading in a skit about Adam and Eve. The different members of our mission group took turns teaching throughout the week, so Amy got the chance to do that. When I wasn't directly teaching or doing skits, I helped by holding children, playing with them, making peanut butter sandwiches for their lunches, and serving their lunches.
Every day after VBS, our group taught english with the help of our 4 translators: Val, Ariel, Jessen, and Kenny. During this time, Amy and I typically played with the kids or watched them play soccer. Since they were trying to learn english, we were set on trying to learn Creole as well. During one of our conversations with Val, I asked him how long it took him to learn english and how old he was. He said he was 24 and it took only one year. ONE YEAR! That's incredible! Amy and I decided that if he could learn english in one year, then we would try to learn Creole in one year. I've already learned a few phrases and I'm trying to teach my kids as well. I hope they'll be able to go to Haiti some day.
Something that I thought was incredibly awesome to do was go out into the town and see the people and talk with them. Usually, it was just the children on the church compound all day. A majority of the children would go home after VBS was over, but there were a lot who stuck around and we would play with them or they would play soccer. Some of them were church members kids, so their parents would be around, but we never really saw the parents the majority of the kids who attended VBS. So when we went out into Blanquette we were able to meet some of the parents. We were even able to go to the next town over as well. We were able to encourage new believers, pray for people, and share the gospel. It was truly an amazing experience.
Blanquette is currently experiencing a drought, so a lot of the townspeople were asking that we pray for rain to come so that they could get their vegetable gardens growing. Drought in Haiti means that many go without food. One of the deacons of First Baptist Church Blanquette went to an agriculture class so that he could learn how to cultivate a working vegetable garden through times of drought. They started by creating raised beds and then put together the watering kits that our group brought with us. The kit uses a stand that they place 5 gallon buckets in, they drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket and attach long tubs with small holes every few feet. The tubes run the length of each raised garden bed and the holes allow water to flow into a controlled area where the seeds are planted. They cut of the tops of some palm trees and placed them over where they'd planted the new seeds so that they could have shade and won't wither in the sun.
We were able to visit with others who are doing great work in Haiti. Our first stop was at Rosie's Boutique, which is providing jobs for Haitian women so that they can provide for their children. It is the goal of Rosie's Boutique to lower the rate of poverty orphans, who make up 80% of the world's current orphans. Every product they sell is 100% Haitian made.
The next stop was at the Alpha Omega Clinic, which employs professionals in the medical field as well as tech professionals who are working to create a high tech clinic with the best medical care found outside of Port-au-Prince. Everyone who works there is Haitian and equipped and willing to share the gospel with their patients.
Last, we visited with a missionary family who is working with Healing Hands International to build wells in the most remote parts of Haiti so that all can have clean drinking water.
Amy and I got to try some new food that was all so different from what we're used to, but it was all delicious! We had amazing cooks who worked incredibly hard all day to feed not only us, but also the over 200 kids that showed up for VBS. This is their ministry to the kids and to us and we were truly blessed. After dinner, we spent our evenings relaxing with card games and hanging with our new friends.
One night, Pastor Evans told us about when he first became the pastor of First Baptist Church Blanquette and how he faced persecution from the townspeople for removing the voodoo tree and court from the church property. Voodoo is the main religion of Haiti and the people of Blanquette were afraid that the spirits in the tree would curse them because of what Pastor Evans had done. They were afraid that he had come to harm the community, so they actually took him to court and tried to have him convicted and executed. The court ruled that if the spirits of the tree were powerful, they would enact revenge themselves and kill Pastor Evans. He looked at us with a smile and said, "I'm still here." It was a powerful testimony to the supreme authority of God.
Despite the continued practice of voodoo, it is evident that God is working in Blanquette. Hope is spreading as the love of Jesus reaches the unreached. Our church sent Amy and I to Haiti with Cliff's missionary group to learn how to start planning our own foreign missions. So in the evenings, we were able to talk with him and some of the other leaders about their experiences and get some sound advice from them. It'll definitely be a long process, but so worth it when we're able to teach our church and send others out into various parts of the world.