11 Jul Haiti – July 10, 2014 : Day 2
The Haiti trip I have been blessed with this year has been an experience that I will never forget. It has already shaped me in a way that cannot be easily explained in words. However, I will give my best attempt in today’s blog, from the perspective of our first day as missionaries.
We started off the day with team breakfast at 7:00. Experienced Haitian cooks prepared a well-balanced meal that included spiced eggs, mangoes, sausage, and croissants. As for drinks, we were allowed the choice of a delicious pineapple-lemonade mix, mango-orange juice, or the classic clear drink, water.
After breakfast, a few members loaded up the team truck and everyone packed themselves in tightly. We began the drive through town and observed everyone. We were on our way to the missionary buildings which serve as a school and a church. Another vehicle with a few select members of the team followed behind the truck until we got into the middle of town. This is when the day’s first mistake occurred. The second vehicle lost track of the first in the unorganized traffic. After waiting over half an hour, the SUV found its way back to the truck.
On a side note, the traffic is very different in Haiti than it is in the US. There are no lights, and there are very rarely any stop signs. When and where the traffic is very busy, some intersections are controlled and piloted by a Haitian police officer. All vehicles follow the left side of the road rule as they do in America, but the road is constantly a passing lane. Very few roads have lines, and many are not even paved (even in the capitol of Haiti!). On many roads, when speed is to be reduced, an unpainted speed bump span the road. to say traffic is hectic is an understatement, but it is still effective.
As we began down the final road leading to our buildings, we passed many things few of us have seen. These included piles cans on the road (placed there to be flattened for recycling), homemade houses built from tarps and sheet metal, piles of plastic bottles, dumps, and goats with wooden triangles around their necks roaming freely. We arrived to our building, which was fenced off by 7 foot high cinder blocks (and no barbed wire, which is very common). A few people unloaded the truck and began watching the small children partake in a small church activity.
We began our time with them by playing a game with balloons. They were to throw them from one side to the other (Boys vs. Girls) and see which team could have the fewest on their side after the time was up. In our small town, ownership amongst the children is very important and rarely had. This meant many kids wanted to hold onto the balloons rather than throw them, so the game didn’t quite go as planned.
We continued in a time of learning by using puppets, a skit, three testimonies, and a few children’s worship songs (in English). These were all spoken through three translators, one who is a member of the team. The other two, Kirby and Max, joined us only to help. The main difficulty of these learning activities was not only the language barrier, but also the disaccord. Many did not mind the constant chatter in the audience, which is not what we were accustomed to, but everyone did an amazing job staying on task and performing their duties. Over 125 children (not including Haitian adults) showed up to the service, which ended in a (translated) salvation prayer led by one of the team’s members. Many repeated the prayer, including adults, and hopefully, with even one soul saved, our job has begun to make an impact on the community we are attempting to serve.
Following the service, we went into a large, open room in the cinder block church to play games with the children. We got out frisbees, soccer balls, and jump ropes. Everyone in the group began to play with the other children, mostly speaking with hands as communication. Many team members were tricked into playing a game that involved getting your hands slapped repeatedly by fast-reflexed Haitian children. Girls played with hair, in dance circles, with the frisbees, and with the jump ropes. Most men played soccer with the teenagers of the area and were shocked by how terrible we were in comparison.
After the games were over, one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life occurred. We sent all of the non-team members off the grounds and closed the gate. We began eating our lunch in an area where they have so little. It may not have been a conscious thought had some of the children not climbed the fence to stare into our building as we ate. I, as well as many others wanted nothing more than to share, but we were told that we could not. When asked why, it was because there wasn’t enough for us to fairly share with everyone.
Leaving that meal led many to the outdoor bathroom, which was a toilet seat hovering over a hole in the ground. This waste then was broken down by bugs, such as maggots, and left to rot. Luckily, after being warned, I was able to avoid this commodity.
Next, team members unloaded the paint and painting supplies, and our job began for the first time. The inner cinder block walls of the school, previously bare, are now covered in a first coat of paint added by the team and a few willing children from the local community. The fresh tan color will later be matched with red in each of the schools rooms. These rooms, by the way, are only furnished with a simple chalkboard and a few scattered seats.
After finishing these tasks and packing up the vehicles, the half hour journey back to the house began. Many were glad to be done working, and many were grateful for showers. The paint, luckily, washed off relatively easily and the showers cleaned off the dirt on everyone’s bodies. Dinner was at 6, which left some free time that was spent relaxing or playing games with others in the team.
A delicious meal of grits, black beans, beef, and fried something or other made the whole day twice as good. The same drink options were available, but now, an unsweetened black tea was also at the ready. Dessert was either lemon cake, chocolate frosted brownies, or a cookie. After we finished, we made sure to fill our water bottles, as we do frequently.
Heading outside, the group began a fun name activity and then went up to the balcony to discuss the day, the devotion, and the overall feeling of our experience thus far. Almost everything said was positive, ranging from meeting the excited children to thanking God for the opportunity. Only one thing was unanimously negative, and that was how we felt that we couldn’t help enough those that we saw struggling.
The practice that followed was for tomorrow’s skit and for the puppet show that will be presented. Hard work, dedication, and perseverance are the three main qualities that everyone on the Convoy of Hope missions team seem to possess. A strong love for and commitment to God can be seen in each student, adult, and leader alike. Settling down with final showers, clothes changing, and bed preparing, each person can go to bed happier knowing that they are helping impact a group of people in a way they may never see, but also in a way that may change the future of our planet as we know it.