So what did I see, smell, experience over my most recent week in Haiti? Is it even plausible to put into words? Or share the whole story in pictures? No, you'll have to go see for yourself and you'll be glad that you did, but in the mean time I'll do my best to share. And don't be fooled by my light heartedness, laughter and pictures of smiling faces, as I mentioned in my previous post, the people there do have joy, but there is pain and suffering there too, Haiti is in need of relief.
This was my 3rd trip back and I don't know how many trips it takes to get use to the Port-au-Prince airport, but it's not 3! Thinking back on the experience it really is very comical. You should have seen the looks on my team's faces as we left customs with our bags and men are swarming our carts trying to "help" us. If you didn't know any better and with the language barrier you would think they were trying to run away with our belongings, but we knew that it wasn't our bags they wanted, but our tips. It's just very intimidating having so many men hovering, yelling, and grabbing. Over the past 2 years I've been trying to learn creole, so when I was telling the men "no merci" we already have chosen someone to help us, I could understand one of them making fun of me for not knowing creole! LOL it really is funny looking back on it, I felt so sorry for my husband with this being his first trip and feeling responsible for me and our group. But finally we saw familiar faces, Jean Mary and Chris, and they were able to help us through the chaos. We loaded up in our vans and met a second team, Conduit Missions, who we would be working alongside with over the week. Now to take in the view of devastation as we drive 3 hours through Port-au-Prince and the mountains to our destination, Jacmel.
Our work was hard that week. We had to break the ground with pick axes and shovels to lay a foundation to add another room for an expanding family who was living in only a one room home. Another site required us to carry sand and rocks down a steep curvy hill, a quarter of a mile long each way. These rocks and sand were then sifted to make cement to build a house for a woman in need. Progress was being made one cement brick at a time, one bucket of sand at a time, with one team a week at a time. And in between the heavy lifting and swinging of a pick axe we took breaks to spend time with the many children who followed us everywhere, and we loved on them as if they were our own.
We were just volunteering that week, but we were working alongside men who do this everyday to provide for their families. These men who know how to laugh, smile, and joke, these men who told me they loved Jesus and that He was their life, only make $2 a day! And don't be fooled into thinking that cost of living is cheaper when it is not by much. This is back breaking work to do everyday for just $2. These men work hard, they aren't lazy, so it doesn't seem fair that they bring home so little, when my life back home is a vacation and I have so much...this knowledge breaks me.
Beside one of the houses we worked on was a home of a mother and her 6 children. The father was not present. She still has the same household task that I do back at home, cook, clean, dishes in a bucket, laundry in the river (ok maybe not the same), get the kids fed, make sure they brush their teeth, have clothes to wear (that is if they want to wear them, clothing seemed to be optional in their home), only her worries and mundaned tasks are weighed heavy by poverty and wondering where the next meal is going to come from. Thoughts must flood her young 25 year old mind who had her first of six children as a teen, "can I keep going?" 6 demanding children need her and they look to her with hopeful hungry eyes and I know there must been some days she can't provide. But why does she have the life that she has and I have mine? Did I work any harder to deserve my life? No. She simply was born in Haiti and I simply was born in America. How can it be that where we are born determines our wealth? While playing with her kids I gave them a bag of small toys and a bag of granola bars. This mother wrapped her arms around me and kissed me, thanked me. What had I done really? It was nothing, but to her it meant something. The next day she gave me a bag of mangos. How could I take food from this family...but she insisted and my husband and I didn't want to insult her and her generosity. Again, I am broken.
It turns out that this entire family is being sponsored by a couple I met just a year ago, which means these children do at least get one hot meal 5 days a week, their education is paid for and they receive basic health care. Praise God!
I have so many more memories to share and I will pour out my thoughts in posts to come. Thank you again for reading what is on my heart. I hope that what I've experienced inspires you to move and share the grace that we all have so undeservingly been given.