The overwhelming feeling of being back in the States has yet to settle. And constantly revisiting what I felt and saw on this trip through questions from the ones I love leaves me feeling overwhelmed again, and again. So in an attempt to explain what I saw and felt on this trip I am creating this blog post. Because no matter how much I love my friends, it’s too much to handle the questions or even explain a glimpse of what happened on my trip to Haiti. So here’s my attempt.
Every story starts with a beginning and mine starts about six months before I journeyed over to Haiti. Sitting in the middle of a church service and thinking about how my spring break was not going to be spent with family since they had moved 100’s of miles away from me. I was thinking about how I would love to take a mission trip anywhere over my break and within those few moments they announced a Haiti mission trip over UNF’s spring break. I rushed to sign up and put my deposit down. Now lets fast-forward to this past week.
We left for Haiti last Sunday with each one of us not knowing what to expect and not knowing how God placed us in that group for a reason and how we each had our own purpose. The 20 of us made our way down to Fort Lauderdale where we waited in anticipation for our flight to leave bright and early the next morning. The anxiety rushed through me no matter how much I reminded myself to be calm; I was just excited and anxious to see what was going to happen that week. We made our way to the airport that morning on two hours of sleep, our relationships were not as built up as they would be, and more sleep was not far from our mind. I remember those first few moments when we could finally see Haiti from the air. Seeing the beautiful and the messy, the rolling hills and the flattened houses. I’m not sure if those were the moments when I knew that this trip would be incredible, or if I was still in shock that I was actually going to be in Haiti for a week, but either way those were the starting moments that lead into a trip that was unforgettable.
We landed at a little airport where the language was unfamiliar to most of us and our eyes bounced back and forth trying to take in everything we were seeing. Nothing like America; that’s for sure. We made it through customs and were greeted by a man name Carlos who we would come to love very quickly over the trip. We gathered our things and began the walk to the vehicles. Fencing surrounded us with a few people lined up by it from the other side, asking for money, and things of that sort. We loaded up the car’s and pilled in which would come to be one of the scariest drives of my life. The lack of lines on the road, the over amount of cars and bikes and the extreme use of honking horns flooded the city. We made our way out of the craziness and stayed on the bumpy roads to Love a Child Village. Two hours later we pulled into what would be our home for the next week.
We were welcomed and loved by the people of Love a Child. Of our group that had not been there before we weren’t expecting how incredibly nice the facilities were. We slept in tents, but they were not just any tents. We were blessed with air conditioning and cots to sleep on. We had a running toilet and showers to use. These may seem like small things, but in Haiti even the smallest things are like huge blessings. They gave us a tour of everything. We were shown the school, the warehouses, and the rest of what was there to see. Another group from Georgia joined us soon after and we ate together before we would start our day working. The first day was probably the most exhausting and overwhelming day for me. We were going off two hours of sleep, and being so new to everything I didn’t know where to start with taking it all in. I was on the paint team and our first day we were given the wrong paint to use. The frustration kicked in when we discovered that our sprayers didn’t work and the smell was enough to give everyone a headache. Trying to push through without falling sleep we made it and the right paint was found for our second day of painting. When we all wandered into the warehouse for dinner, a million thoughts were still going through my head and the realization that I was actually in Haiti had not kicked in. Everything felt so surreal; I still couldn’t believe I was there. There was no problem falling asleep, but staying asleep with the AC that ran all night long kept me curled up in a ball to try to keep warm. Now that I look back at the situation and how the enemy tried as hard as he could from God working through these first few situations. He did not defeat any of us, God kept us strong and showed us the realization of every situation through that week.
Day two we got started bright and early. We all gathered for breakfast at 5:30 ready to go work hard. I had still not caught up on any sleep but I was ready for whatever the day had in store for me. We started on painting and as time went on I ended up working alone. Everyone else had someone with them and here I was working alone, I was upset that I didn’t have anyone to talk to when God placed a conviction on my heart. He said, “Why can’t you talk to me.” In that moment I realized that I was focusing so much on what I didn’t have that I missed what I did have, alone time with God. From there on out my attitude changed and every moment out there spent alone or with others was a treat from God. The workday began to come to a close around 6:00, 6:30 and we headed back to Love a Child for dinner. We were in for a treat that evening when a group of us made our way over to the orphanage. What a joy those children were. You sit down and within seconds you are greeted with a little one sitting on your lap. I had a sweet little girl who didn’t say much but she was just darling. Even with the language barrier, I have never seen children worship God that way before. Their whole hearts were in it, their arms raised their eyes closed. Tears in some of their eyes as they prayed. How I so desperately wanted to know everything that they were saying, but just observing was enough to see the love of Christ that shown through their little hearts. It was in these beginning days that I started to realize how much of a blessing it was to have nothing. They rely solely on God; there are no distractions from all this stuff we have here in America. There wasn’t an attitude that I need more or want more, but that I have enough in Christ.
Day three was the middle of the week and probably one of the most humbling and peaceful days of my life. It was just enough time for everything to settle from the first couple of days and just have some time to process them and see how blessed we are as a nation in America. The chapter I read that morning before we started working was Philippians 4, and the verse I held on to that day was Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” I started my day off working alone again, but this time with a whole different attitude. I spent that morning praying, singing songs of praise, and just being reminded that the same power that conquered the grave lives in me. That God gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and He is the one that has the patience, and the joy and the love that we could never have. Being reminded of that as I worked and praying about it and just feeling such a peace and a joy throughout the day showed how amazing it is that God can reveal so much on the most simple days.
There’s something about starting your day off with watching the sunrise. Just being reminded of how God created everything, and how beautiful his creation is. Thursday we did just that. We made our way up to the helicopter pad that morning and witnessed God’s beauty through a sunrise. We went out to work soon after and I decided to make the switch from painting to pushing gravel. I wanted to spend some time with girls on my team and I enjoyed having that time to be encouraged and get to know such lovely ladies. We had our laughs and our times of serious conversation and even accomplished catching a goat; which was an experience in itself. We had some of the Haitians help us with the catching. It was that evening that God blessed me with such an opportunity and I experienced one of the greatest moments in my life. We wanted to do some sort of worship thing that evening, but were lacking intstruments and music so we just went with it and boy it’s amazing what God can do. We did worship at the church there at Love a Child and found an old out of tune piano and the Georgia group brought a guitar with them. A guy on our team named Tom played guitar and God moved through everything that night. We didn’t have one song planned and I sang notes I’ve never sung before in my life. God has full credit for everything that happened that night. It’s amazing how when you let go of everything and rely on so little that God’s glory is shown the most. He is able to take full credit for everything that night and just to be apart of it was such an honor and a blessing.
The last day was bittersweet. I could not believe how fast the week went by. It was here and gone in what felt like seconds. The last day was packed full of what would be the most eye opening and life changing moments in my life. We first journeyed over to one of the mud hunt villages. Such a difference, nothing felt real and I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Most of the children lacked clothing, and they were living in little tiny huts. To see the drastic difference from how we live to how they live really changes everything you ever thought mattered in life. We then went to camp hope, which is one of the tent cities there. My heart broke walking through there; words can’t even describe how I was feeling in those moments. No matter how much I write about this hour of my life it will not do justice to the actual situation. I will be forever changed by all of this. That evening when we were blessed by a visit from all the lovely children. We sang songs, and danced in celebration of four of our team members that were getting baptized. It was such a special moment for everyone and I was able to lead two more worship songs with the Haitians. All in all this was one of the greatest nights of my life on one of the greatest trips of my life. God blessed me with such a great opportunity that left my life forever changed. I have made such wonderful friendships, and learned so much in only a week. I can’t wait to head back hopefully sooner then later.