We set aside two days for travel at the first of this college and young adult trip, since it was a 12 day venture and we wanted to ease into it. So instead of making the 4am-10pm all-day-trek from Shreveport to Les Cayes, Haiti, we stayed the night in Miami after church on Sunday and flew out yesterday morning about 6:45. That put us in Port au Prince around 8:30, which would have normally put us in Cayes around 1:30 after a good 5hour bus ride to the south.
At the packing party last Saturday before we left, we talked about how wonderful the trips can be, especially when we let ourselves be ok with the phrases "Haitian Time" and "flexibility." We just didn't know we were going to get a chance to practice that upon immediate arrival into the country.
We had gone over the drill multiple times prior to getting to customs in Port au Prince. We would collect all 17 of the bags that have yellow duct tape on them. Put them on three carts. Surround those three carts, and respond with the typical and typically not useful "no mesi, we can carry them" to the many many red hatted "workers" assisting you for a tip. So our team made up of half former members and half first timers did a magnificent job lugging our loads down the newly finished and definitely more efficient walkways at the airport. The concrete path and the overhead roof made for a much easier transition to find our driver than the potholes directly outside of baggage claim used to. And there we were, hard part over, sitting on our bags, looking for a sign that said "Britney" or "FUMC Shreveport."
No where to be found. We had gotten by with only giving out $3 in tips to a guy who took our cart and were eager to throw our bags on the Hosanna Guesthouse bus and hit the road before we received any further assistance. And after a call to the Hosanna pastor, Sarah confirmed that he would "be there really quickly, he had just gotten into Port au Prince."
So, that meant another hour of waiting as it takes an hour to get through the city once you've reached its boarders. But we were good. We had witnessed Justin running to a sweet French Nun's rescue after she fell while loading her team and got to visit with her workers from Belgium who were there for rebuilding. And we were chilling on top of our bags, visiting with Francois, our newest helper, who was "keeping a look out for our van and driver..."
"Eez thees your bus?"
No, thankyou though...
"Wot about thees one?"
No, it won't be here for another hour...
"Oh, I think thees is your bus"
Nope. Not our bus. Thank you.
Yes....yes! That's our bus...Thank God, that's our bus!
"K, how much you geev me?"
We loaded our luggage and people into the 15 passenger van and pickup and headed for the southern coast. The drive was of course gorgeous, especially now in Haiti's rainy season when all of the red flowered trees are blooming. Our van windows cracked just enough to miss most of the side-road-stand's smoke but catch a cool summer breeze throughout the back seats. And then, about 2.5hours into the drive, we pulled onto the side of the road to "check the brakes." And there we stayed for the next hour-hour and a half waiting on brake maintenance (which happened completely and securely, mommas). Lucky for us, there was a family selling cold sodas in bottles that let us pay with US dollars, and we got to know some of the locals in Petit Guave. Missy decided to start a game of "I'd plank that...in Haiti" (where you lay flat on any surface you can find and take a picture). She fell off the bumper of the bus attempting plank #2, and swore that before the trip is over, we will have taught the orphans how to plank. Lomax also drew some mazes on paper for the neighborhood kiddos to figure out. And Anna, Sarah, and Carrie received their first proposal for the trip from a young gentleman that thought they were "very magnificent."
No complaints. A little bit of sun. Our first round of sugar-cane-coca cola. And a few good attempts at Creole conversation, and we were back on the road for the last 2.5hours. Which we slept through. Until we heard from the back, "Everybody now!" as Missy joined the Haitian radio station in leading us in a rousing round of "I'm proud to be an American" and we all died out laughing at the randomness of the Haitian rap station's choice to celebrate the holiday.
We got to the Hosanna Guesthouse in Cayes around 5:15pm last night. Settled into our rooms. Ate a wonderful supper of black rice, goat, and coconut muffins. Then unpacked and organized supplies, had debriefing/devotion time, and showered and were asleep before 10:30.
This morning, our first timers enjoyed their breakfast initiation of eggs with hotdogs, potatoes, and carrots, right before we left for Bighouse orphanage.
The drive through the muddy backroads to Bighouse was amazing. And by amazing, I mean, just like a roller coaster. And our driver was a beast. He wasn't playing with getting stuck. We were going to make it through "by the power of Jezi!" dedgummit! The few of us in the backseats got the best show for sure, as we off roaded in our 15passenger. Then we arrived at Bighouse...
...where everybody is family:) Each person was swept away by ten little hands as soon as their feet stepped out of the van. And the kids were so happy. So very happy. We all hugged and squeezed and called out names to show that we remember each other and that we were hoping that a reunion like this was surely to come again.
We gave a rundown of the day with the kids, letting them know they'd be sized for new shoes this morning and that VBS would start in the afternoon. To which they applauded, then Obnese (a 13 yr old orphan) prayed for our team and that God would bless our time together.
I love hearing a language that I don't understand call out to a God who hears them all. It makes me think that He is what connects us. And it makes me trust that that is why we are here.
We sized for crocs. Which, showed us that we brought PLENTY of medium sized pairs, but not near enough smaller children or larger children pairs. So if you're reading this, and you're wondering if there's a specific need that you can give to, I'm planning on bringing little crocs and big crocs down on our next trip in three weeks.
Then we broke for lunch and reconvened with some VBS story telling of Joseph and his faithfulness, game-playing, bracelet making, and dancing.
Our wood and circular saw that didn't get to make it out due to the large amount of rain that muddied up the roads earlier this morning, finally got delivered about 3pm just in time to store for tomorrow's mosquito screen installation.
We said our goodbyes. Anna Connell rounded up the "blans" and we loaded up in the truck, after of course playing round 4 of "locate Lomax"...as he tends to wander off.
We're now back at the guesthouse showering, reading, resting. Enjoying the lovely, open, tiled second floor, wrap-around porch. And waiting for dinner. And maybe a round or two of cards on the porch before devotion/debrief. Tomorrow we've got the story of Moses, height/weight/picture updates, and mosquito screen installation.
We are focusing on gratitude while we're here. Knowing that it is very tempting during week-two week trips to different worlds to be all-consumed by what to do or what to feel. Instead, we are praying that God will stay us in gratitude. Of you who helped us get here. Of you who are praying. Of the Good News that empowers and equips us. Of the Kingdom that begs to be built. Of the God who knows all languages. Of goat meat. And car breakdowns. That give us stories to laugh about and share. Of the babies and that they're growing. And that they love to dance and remember our names. That they are learning to pray and that they pray for you and me and each other. Knowing that gratitude will put us in a place where God can then lead us to what to do or feel in His own way and timing. That gratitude will free us to embrace a fuller life, a fuller trip, a fuller experience with relationships than anything else chosen.
Keep Haiti in your prayers. Pray for leadership that is solid and transformative. Pray that the dumpsters (that we saw for the first time) continue to multiply around the country's city along with other types of things that point toward progress, cleanliness, education, and sustainability. Pray that our hope is built on nothing less than the promise of Jesus. And like Joseph, who believed throughout years of not seeing, we will partner with the Haitians in our belief that restorative things are happening and there is a greater future than even we could have imagined for the country.
Thanks for coming with us:) We'll be here until the 13th, so check back!