Instead of going to churches this week, I left to go on my first mission trip. Along with 10 others, I went to Jacmel, Haiti. Liz was one of those “others”. What an amazing journey!!
We were not sure about what to expect so I had very few expectations! What I found was beautiful, God-filled people, gorgeous Carribean Ocean, green and brown mountains that seemed to reach out in every direction, and two room cinder block houses filled with generations of families. The earthquake that devastated Jacmel was four and a half years ago, but the remnants of tent houses and demolished homes are still there and the rebuilding is occurring in baby-step-like stages as people pay little by little for the work that needs to be done.
We didn’t really know our true purpose for the mission as far as actual work goes until right before leaving for Haiti. The details unfolded as we went along. Of course, I kept track of what we did:
1. We were introduced to the church members by Pastor Lafleur. The warmth of the people was immediately felt.
2. Played with the Preschoolers in the summer camp program
3. Took nails out of the wood after some of the crew along with the town guys took off the preschool roof
4. Handed out spoons along the food line in the feeding program where we fed over 200 kids inside the church as Tishon scooped hearty spoonfuls of rice and beans onto the plates
5. Washed dishes after lunch with Solange, Suvendi, and Roselyn in the “Kitchen House”
6. Set up for Vacation Bible School
7. Moved rubble and watched some demolition of a wall of a house on the 2nd job site we were at
8. Taught Vacation Bible School with Liz – 160 kids came through in waves of 20!
9. Set up for VBS for the 2nd day
10. Cleaned beans (separating the good beans from the bad ones and the gravel!!) at the Kitchen House
11. Taught VBS again with Liz to about 140 kids
12. Interviewed Jean Aly Jean Simon – an 18 year old – about the day of the Eathquake! Fascinating….I will write that up eventually!
13. A church service on a Tuesday night where there were more teenagers than older people – all of whom shook our hands to say “Peace” at the end of the service.
14. Visited the kids at the preschool again on Thursday morning for a few minutes
15. There was no demolition to be done, so I chose to clean more beans at the Kitchen House. I loved being there with the women who cook EVERY DAY for the kids in the Restore Haiti sponsorship program.
16. Visited the school where Colson and Aly both attended. They were so cute. They had a woman open up the Principal’s office so that I could go in there – once they knew I was a principal. What a special treat this was to see their school. Tiny rooms, cement with benches. They were so proud of their classrooms.
17. We hung out at the Restoration House and just played with some of the kids
18. Witnessed Kelly and Dede giving the Kitchen House ladies new aprons and new shoes – YES, I cried!! It was a beautiful moment of love!
19. Served plates of meals at the feeding program and ate the “chicken leg day” meal with a group of kids and Liane and Liz.
20. Witnessed a conversation between Liz and a young man named William on the rooftops between the hotel and his home. William is studying to be a lawyer. He studied every morning as we did our devotionals….right around 7am. It was so cute to witness and he is so smart!!!
21. Had breakfast at the Restoration House – just like every meal.
22. Liz, Dede, Leyka, and I visited Jean Aly Jean Simon’s house so we could see his “world, his home life, and his new home being rebuilt”. As an added bonus we got to meet his grandmother!! What great stories she must hold in her memories!
23. Went to the Ocean beach in a jam packed “tap-tap” (open taxi) – stopping at the public library just to see it along the way – with the 5 cooks who fed us all week from the Restoration House. I believe the total number of people in and on the Tap-Tap was 26!!
24. Saw the kids at the Restoration House for the last time in the evening. Liz gave Colson her Bible – very sweet!! I did NOT give him my backpack that he asked for every time I saw him…..I think it almost became a joke between us, but I do LOVE my backpack. Sorry Colson!
Needless to say, we packed a lot into a week. The details that remain with me are many: the daily Prestige beers for $2 each at the “South Haitian Boat Club” as we referred to our afternoon gathering place, the beep beep from the Tap-Tap beckoning us to jump in for breakfast and dinner, the gravel bump a long road lined with cement block walls, women selling fruits and juices, and cast iron gates on the windows and doors of the cement block houses, the sunrise over the mountains and the sunsets over the ocean, the garbage strewn in the roads and yards, and the tiny fires the home-owners made to burn their own trash. The 14 year old boy who met me on Sunday, after church, by saying, “Hello, I am Colson. What is your name?” Then 2-3 sentences later said, “Can you pray for me? I am having surgery this week.” That was my first tears of the week.
It was amazing. I feel like I didn’t just go to church this week, “I LIVED CHURCH THIS WEEK”. Will I go again? Probably…..it was hot and humid (which I don’t like), but it was the faces of the children and old ladies that will call me back to Jacmel, Haiti someday.
Thank you to Kelly for organizing the trip, to Liz for going with me, and to the other 8 who made the journey so special for me!