Bonjou Haiti! ~Part 1
It’s been almost 2 months since I have been back from my mission trip to Haiti! What a life changing trip and one that has taken some time to process! I thought as soon as I got back, I would be able to jump right on my laptop and type away but it has been months of reflecting and processing this experience. While there has been many things that are going on in my life, Haiti has been playing in my mental ‘background’ and after several attempts of starting and stopping this blog about my trip, I finally got to a place of completion. I decided to break up this experience into 2 parts calling this blog entry Part 1. So here it goes::::
My girlfriend Jessica and I
both voiced a desire to do a mission trip so earlier this year she attended an interest meeting in Charlotte, NC with an organization called Love One Another Ministries International,
passed me the details and the rest is history! We both signed up and had our first mission trip experience together. This mission trip was scheduled for Sunday, July 1, 2018 to Saturday, July 7, 2018 but it didn’t quite go as planned. I’ll explain later in the blog….
I had a very ‘brief’ moment of hesitancy that I only told a few people while I was deciding on taking the mission trip. It was a moment where I became concerned with a slew of ‘what-if’s’ and God reminded me that He is the great “I AM”. He gave me a sense of peace that will revisit me in a real moment of potential danger while in Haiti. If you have never been to Haiti, outside of Labadee (a port that is a private resort leased to Royal Caribbean Cruises), my prayer is that this blog will give insight along with highlighting my personal account of what I experienced before and after the trip.
I knew some basic things about Haiti before traveling there like the blatant races tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic who both share the island and how visiting both countries in certain parts can be like night and day based on your skin complexion. As far as natural disasters, Haiti has experienced their fair share. The earthquake in Port Au Prince in 2010 resulted in over 230, 000 deaths, another 300,000 injured and displaced 1.5 million people. While still trying to recover from the earthquake, Haiti endured disaster from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, leaving thousands of deaths and literally very little time for rebuild between the two hurricanes. Not only has the country suffered from natural disasters but also from the corruption in the government that has deeply deprived the people from resources and opportunities. The country is not poor but the people are. The land is RICH with resources that have been stolen from other countries including the U.S. Some may say but there are multiple mission organizations, private and public, that have given back and brought many resources to the country. Yes, that’s true. But what one of my ministry leaders explained to me made sense, “The number one issue with organizations coming to Haiti is the continuity. Many come and help but there is no sustainability. More than just receiving food and supplies, the people need to also be taught how to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.” So while there, I made it my business to have multiple conversations with the ministry leaders and some of the locals to get a personal account of what the Haitians have had to endure over the years. History books and News Networks are all good but to talk to people IN Haiti for me was empowering as I took notes like a reporter to later go back to read and digest.
When we landed in Haiti, I was taking it all in. As soon as I got off the plane, we had a short walk to the baggage claim area where it was chaotic to say the least. No air conditioning but everyone trying to grab his or her bags and exit out. We were greeted by our driver and loaded up to head to our hotel. While sitting in the van and driving through the city of Cap-Haitien, my eyes were astonished at what I was seeing. My mind immediately started to go through the Rolodex of countries I have visited over the years to find commonality. This level of poverty wasn’t new to me but I felt it differently based on all of my travels. Sure poverty is everywhere and hard to escape and trust me, while on a mission trip, there is no escaping mentally or physically. When we ventured out to the shelter where ministry took place for 3 and a half days, there was trash and puddles of mixed pollutants everywhere. The smells of some of the areas was not automatically known to my senses but for me, I compartmentalized it so that I can serve with my whole heart. I had never seen a community well before but would hear about fundraisers for getting wells placed in local areas in countries where people could not afford to have a private water source. I witnessed to some hard reality and after day one of visiting the shelter, you could only imagine that the word got out quickly. During the visit the team was split into two groups that assisted with clinical help that included administering medicines and bible studying.
When we returned on day 2 there were double the amount of people..Whoa! But the ministry team was prepared and accommodated everyone with a meal but to get to the meal, you had to sit through bible study and if you were there for medical attention, you had to be present until your number was called. I assisted with bible study teaching and had a front of the room view of the faces of the adults and children. The kids were so loving and kind and greeted every adult respectively with “Madame” which never got old hearing. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Every day that we will get ready to eat for lunch, our ministry leaders will communicate to line up to receive a sandwich and drink. Sure you would expect the normal pushing or jumping line but I witnessed to that and more. It was as if there was no confidence in being told that there is enough for everyone and everyone will get served. In my mind I was trying to imagine how would I respond if I haven’t ate in days and didn’t know where my next meal was coming? It didn’t matter that there were a box of sandwiches and a cooler of drinks right in front of them because their reality was going to go on beyond a few days of us being there so for them it was an ‘every man for themselves’ response to instructions. I got it but it was hard to watch. In my mind I knew I was doing a good deed but what could I do that would help beyond this trip? It felt like it wasn’t enough because when I go home, this will still be the same situation for them.
I ate fresh food from the land everyday that made me question what am I REALLY eating back in the U.S?
Once I returned from the mission trip, I begin to take my food intake more seriously and begin researching GMO’s more closely. I started buying more organic food choices from the market and started using ingredients to prepare my food and monitoring any process food that I was buying. I have begun the process of eliminating chicken out of my diet. Currently I don’t eat pork and that has been the case for over 20 years and with beef, only eating it when I crave it because of me being anemic. I never tasted a mango THAT good and sweet! I had fresh plantains from the tree, fresh fish caught that morning and prepared that same day, fresh eggs from chickens on the land, just to name a few items. There were also local food variety as well. Here is what was so crazy to me. When in the U.S, my body is accustom to eating every 3 to 4 hours and while in Haiti, due to ministering for several hours after eating, it was sometimes 5 to 6 hours later before my next meal and I was not starving in between meals. What I was eating was sustaining me for hours and my energy level was still in tact. Another kicker, I lost weight. Ha! So you know it was definitely a lot of reflecting I was doing on my food intake and the importance of fresh ingredients in all meals once I returned.
Friday, July 6th there was a news story that broke out about protest taking place in Port Au Prince concerning the IMF – International Monetary Fund. They were discussing the current gasoline contract that was going to expire on Saturday, July 7th and since no negotiations for a new contract agreement was not in place, Haiti woke up to a 38% increase in gasoline prices the morning of July 7th and the protesting that started in Port Au Prince made its way to Cap-Haitien. After breakfast we canceled plans for that day and thought it would be best to get a jump-start on making our way to the airport. While in route to the airport we were notified via text from the airline that the flight was cancelled. We decided to still try to make it to the airport to hopefully get rebooked only to be stopped by a local who said to our driver, ”If you continue on you will be putting your life in danger so it’s best to turn around,” in which he did. There were a mix of emotions from everyone in the van because in that moment it got REAL. For me, in that moment, that guy stopping us was an ‘Angel’ because if he didn’t stop us, we would have been right in the middle of chaos! And who knows how that could have ended. As I discerned the situation and observed how mindful and cautious my ministry leaders were with putting our safety first, I experienced God’s peace in the mist of it all. It was overwhelming and it overtook me. His peace didn’t bring tears but for me a calmness and quiet response. My trust for the Lord over my life became bigger than that moment. It’s REALLY hard to explain but I had another ah-ha moment in my relationship that helped me to not question who He is in my life and how he truly ‘Got Me’ in every sense of the phrase…God Got Me….Peace will bring many different responses because I have been at peace and moved to tears but this time, it was as if his love wrapped around me like the arms of someone who loves you unconditionally. There is no greater feeling on earth when I think about both examples. *Smile*
I hope that I left a mark that showed you in that moment how much you have changed my life. I have many amazing experiences and this one easily makes one in my top 5. With this being my first mission trip I returned home with a ‘heavy’ heart and mind. I also thought to myself that I’ve heard a lot of mission trip stories but I don’t recall anyone talking in-depth on how a mission trip has such a mental effect. My deed didn’t feel like it helped enough. Was it enough time spent in the country to make a difference? Does it count if I didn’t solve the problem but contributed a portion of love and ministry to their hearts? Was some of the conversations I had with locals about life and Jesus enough to provoke change in their lives? Yeah, I beat myself up and I had to say no Charlene, your contribution was a part of a bigger effort and God used multiple people to fulfill his plan and purpose. Your contribution mattered and even though your seed did not produce an immediate harvest, it will in God’s timing.
He quickly reminded me of 1 Corinthians 3: 5-8: After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
Look out for part 2 of Bonjou Haiti! There is more to share….
Xoxo Charlene Evans
Facebook: Chiccy Baritone ~ Poet