Today was the first day of the trip. It all started with a long drive from Clemson to Givhans and then to Florida with Josh, Jacob, and Sarah. Once we arrived in FL – at 3 AM – we had some time to kill. So naturally we went to go get food and roam around before we had to meet Aaron and the rest of the people going with us. We ate at Waffle House…my last meal in the USA for a week was ham & cheese toast with some hash browns.
After breakfast we still had time to spare, so we went to the beach. It was dark. Because the bugs were so bad we left almost immediately. By this time, it was finally to go to the airport.
The airport was not a normal one. It was a special missionary flight terminal and was much different than when I flew out of JFK last weekend. The whole process was very simple. We got there, they weighed our luggage, we waited a minute, and then got on the plane.
Instead of a traditional passenger plane, we flew on a cargo plane. As bad as I thought it was going to be, it wasn’t at all. I slept most of the way as it was 6 AM and I was still tired from the drive down.
We landed in Haiti around 11 AM and went through their version of security. This consisted of people who didn’t speak English pointing at us to go to different stations to show them our documents.
Finally, after being annoyed long enough, Vilmer showed up. Vilmer is the pastor in Haiti who coordinated our trip on the Haiti side; he went to seminary with Aaron. We loaded our luggage in a large truck and started on our way to our host home. Everyone crammed into a car except Jacob and I who rode in the truck carrying everyone’s luggage. In this truck, we met Yvel. He is 27 and the first Haitian to speak to me in English. For that I was very thankful.
My first impression of Haiti was utter amazement. There were so many people and it seemed like all of them were poor. The streets were cluttered with trash and people barely had clothes that fit them, if at all. It was all very sad. Soon after this shock and relatively short drive, we arrived at our host home.
Our home/hotel is run by an American named Natalie and was inside a walled fortress type thing. For the first time, here, I felt safe. We claimed our spaces and set our things down. Surprise, no AC! This place is hot. Not just a little hot, but a lot hot and there is no escaping. The coolest place in the fortress in the walkway outside of my, Josh, and Jacob’s room where there is a nice breeze. For the next seven days, I will be hot.
After settling in, lunch was ready. The workers at the house prepared cheese sandwiches and popcorn. It was the kind of cheese you get from Mexican restaurants. I really liked it.
When we were finished eating, we had some rest time to walk around or sleep. I could not sleep because of the heat, so I chilled on the porch.
When rest time was over, we started to prepare for the clinic that we are going to tomorrow. All this meant was to unpack our supplies and sort them. Vilmer returned during this time to take us around the city. Instead of riding in the large truck as before, I rode with his wife, Sara, and it turned out she had AC in the car. I loved this!
We went to visit Vilmer’s seminary school that he runs and had a look around. They are looking to collaborate with some US Wesleyan schools to have MA and M.Div programs. Their experience is similar to ours for college in the sense of living and studying on campus. We didn’t stay long before we continued through the city. Again, just like last time, there were tons and tons of poor people. It hurts my heart.
While we were in the car the residents did not even acknowledge us. It was as if they didn’t want us there. Not to mention there are no driving rules here so I probably didn’t look that friendly as we were racing in and out of cars. We pulled off the road to buy some groceries tomorrow because we have to wake up at 4AM to head to the clinic. The store raised their prices because we weren’t from here, so Vilmer thought it would be better for he and his wife to go back later.
We went back to our home for the week and got ready for dinner. It was about 6:30 PM by this point. We had spaghetti and salad – nothing crazy. After dinner we counted pills for the clinic and prepared for bed. Cayce, Aaron’s wife, gave the devotion and we were set for sleep…EXCEPT I am gross…so I need to shower and then convince myself to fall asleep in a sauna! We shall see how this goes in the morning.
I slept pretty well last night. My shower could have been a little better though. The water pressure in our host home is very odd. Sometimes it is good and other times…not so much. Anyway, today was a good day. We woke up at 4 AM, which wasn’t as bad as I thought. It probably helped that we all went to bed at 8 last night, too. As son as we got ready we went straight to the cars and started for the clinic.
I’m going to go ahead and point out that the roads in Haiti are not fantastic. They are a mix of the rocks around the pond at my house and my old driveway – both of which were uncomfortable and full of potholes. It took us about four hours total to get to the church where the clinic was to be held. Along the way we crossed two rivers. I mean vehicles tire deep and driving like it was no big deal! I was in the Penske truck again this time. One time I thought we were going to get stuck one time but we pulled through. We passed Vilmer’s wife’s parents’ house as well. It was a little like I expected except for the fact that it resembled an old store that had been converted to a home. It was a nice place.
Once we got to the church we set up right away and then were fed. We ate very well in Haiti. I actually think I gained a little weight while there. (Ironic, right?) Vilmer’s wife cut up tons of fresh fruit for us and it was absolutely amazing. We had mango, pineapple, bananas, and apples. This was the sweetest fruit I have ever had. In addition, there was a fruit that looked like a watermelon but had a white center instead of pink. It was too tart for me to eat. I’m not sure what it was called.
For the clinic, I was in charge of saying hello and checking vitals along with Sarah and our new translator friend, Lud. The whole experience was breath taking. People came from near and far just to get any help they could. We mainly packed ibuprofen and acetaminophen but helped with everything else the best we could. All of our “patients” were so humble and so thankful for our help. I think that it was here that confirmed my love for healthcare. While we took vitals, Jacob and some of the other team members played games with the children there. It was happy, but makes me sad to realize that the only thing they will ever know is poverty. People so young in this country are already born so under-privileged with a small chance of growth.
Once we had seen everyone who was waiting, we began to wrap up. We ended up seeing 109 people that day and were only there for around four hours. The amount of lives we changed in such a short time was incredible. I really hope they say the love of Christ in our actions. Really, all we had was an expanded first aid kit with Josh to lead the way. Imagine the things possible if people started bringing quality healthcare to these people!
After we were packed, we went to visit the site they use to get their water. It was nothing more than a gigantic hole in the ground. Luckily, Vilmer dug them a well about a year ago so they don’t have to walk half a mile each time they need water. On the way to and from the well we mingled with the children. They held our hands, gave us hugs, took pictures with us, and were so happy. It made them so excited that we were there to help them. It gave me a very nice feeling inside. It is just amazing that they can be so happy with so little. They have the level on content that we should all strive for.
When we got back from the well we boarded the cars to head home. Today was an awesome day and I am so happy that I had this opportunity. After another super bumpy four-hour-drive, we were greeted with rice and beans, chicken, salad, and a really good banana cake. By this point I felt disgusting again so I too a shower and then sat on the balcony to write. Tomorrow is beach day so I am sure it will be equally fun but in a very different way.
Last night I slept so well! I was really tired from the clinic day which probably explains it. We didn’t wake up super early today, thankfully! Today was beach day. It only took about 30 minutes to get to the site. We were escorted through his really nice resort with beaches that were amazing. Apparently it is the place the cruise ships go when they come through. I’m not even a beach person, but I was very impressed. However, the resort isn’t open on Saturdays so we rode a little boat to a separate part of the island to swim.
The place we swam was really cool. The water was clear, the sane was white, it was great. We swam around a coral and Jacob found a few cool shells and other things. I wasn’t thrilled with lunch. They only had fish stuff o that’s what we ordered but I only at the rice that came with it. Fish freak me out to eat. We swam around, ate, and then got back on the boat to head back. All in all it was a simple, restful day. Deb gave this really nice devotion when we got back. It was from 1 Corinthians 13, the “love is patient, love is kind” passage.
After all of that we sat around while talking about the trip. The people we helped and met humbled us how thankful they were for everything. They are content with all that they have because they have worked for it all. Everyone shared what they noticed and I was incredibly excited that other people were feeling some of the same things as I.
Following our conversation time, we played a few games of cards. We played this game that most everyone else knew – something like “Yuncom.” I think. I wasn’t good at it right away so naturally I hated it haha.
For the night I am going to sleep. We’re going to Vilmer’s church tomorrow so I am sure we’ll have an interesting time.
P.S. – dinner was pizza cut in squares with the same cheese as lunch the other day. Sooooo good!
*** Notes from Aaron’s sermon this morning:
No “I” in team…except
Scriptures: Psalm 103, 1 John 1
Message how John teaches us to walk with God.
- Illustration with Grandma and the water
- We do the same when reading the Bible. We interpret and then believe things that are lies.
- 3 Lies in John 1
- We can live in two places
- One with words and one with actions
- We begin to believe that what we do is not a sin
- We must judge our actions of the character of a hold God
- We begin to believe that sin is not our problem
- We live looking no further than ourselves
- How we live reflects what we believe about God
- If we confess our sins we will be cleansed
- We can live in two places
I decided that I could start writing as I go through the day so that I don’t miss any details of what I want to write. Today is the first time we went to a church service. We went to Vilmer’s church, which was about 10 minutes from where we are staying.
Church was one of the most interesting experiences that I have ever had. First, and obviously, the service was primarily in Creole, not English. There was a lot of much and it was all very loud. They use most of the same instruments do but they are set off to the side as an aid rather than the main attraction. It’s more about the people in front of you. All of their songs were delightful. They had a few different groups come and sing up front – some brought their own instruments. Judging simply by the way each person was getting into the music, it was very clear that their heart was in the right place and that God was with us.
After a few rounds of singing, Aaron gave the message with the translation assistance of Vilmer. It was a good message about how we live as Christians and something else. We should not live split lives and only focus on the true meaning, which God lays out in the Bible. I enjoyed his sermon. I felt like it really hit home a few times.
After church, we visited the building for a few minutes. Their church is two stories and is made entirely out of cinderblock. They have a few classrooms upstairs where we will be helping with VBS. A member from their church was showing us some paintings that he did. They were beautiful. I really hope I get to buy some before I leave.
When our tour was over, we rode a “Tap Tap” to Vilmer’s house for lunch. We had tons of food. There was rice, lettuce, onion, peppers, beats, carrots, and a really good mixe fruit juice that I want to replicate when I get home. The most surprising thing was the sauce that went on the meat. It was a mix of onions, cashews, and goat meat, all mixed in a broth. I ate it and it was really good. It was hard to convince myself that it wasn’t bad when I put it in my mouth since we don’t eat goat in America. I am getting better at trying new things!
After lunch we came back to the house to rest. We will count more pills for the clinic/VBS day tomorrow after nap time and before we go back to church.
***Evening service notes***
- If we want to walk with Jesus, we have to walk in obedience
- Follow the leader
- Obedience is the pathway to victory over sin
- Steps of obedience lead to transformation
After a nap, we went back to church. Tonight’s church experience was one to remember. We started the same way with songs and prayer. The people here get so into what they are doing. They are 110% devoted to their worship time. This is something that I don’t see as often in America. Out of nowhere, a small storm came and it began to rain. Shortly after, the power went out. It was almost as if no one was phased. I bet the sort of thing happens all the time. People brought in a generator during the dark time and got it to run while we continued singing. People raised their hands, moved around the room, and showed their hearts through song. I was moved. I admire their devotion in coming for wherever they are, near and far, to worship the Lord. There weren’t as many people as this morning, but it was still more than the average small-town-church-service I am used to.
When church was over we went back to the house, ate some bananas and went straight to bed. VBS and clinic tomorrow – it’s bound to be exciting.
***Evening service notes***
- 1 John 2:7-8
- Love the Lord, your God, with all that you have
- Love must define the people of God
- Christian love is self-giving and self-sacrificing
- When love defines us as the people of God, the world will turn from darkness to light
- 1 John 2:9
- Lie: I can love Jesus and hate someone else
- Stop making excuses to justify it
- Is love the defining characteristic of our lives?
So. Today was definitely interesting like the previous. We started the day with a delicious breakfast and then went to the church for another day of service. We set up the clinic area for the church people downstairs and VBS for the children upstairs. Cayce originally planned all of the activities, but to her surprise, all would change. We started upstairs with about 35 kids who were so eager to begin. Their principal helped us as much as she could but was limited because of her lack of English speaking proficiency. Thankfully, our friend was there to help us translate.
We divided everyone into groups with matching wristbands that Deb brought. All of the children seemed very interested in wristbands and bracelets. Half of the group went to much with Jacob and the other half stayed with us to make friendship bracelets. We anticipated that everyone would know how to braid. This was not the case. Almost no one in our groups of children knew how to braid so we had to assist them. This quickly turned into a bit of chaos as new children showed up out of nowhere. We made friendship bracelets until we felt friendly no more! We did the same thing when the groups switched. This is totally wrong. We started with the bible story before we gave everyone their wristbands.
Cayce led the bible story and we assisted. She told the story of Moses, the pharaoh, and the plagues that God sent so that the Egyptians would let his people go! She explained each plague and we handed the children an illustration so that they could see it. When we go to the read sea part, we held up a sheet, parted it, and let the children walk through into the classroom. That’s when we gave them their group bracelets.
After bracelet making and music time, we attempted to play games. From what I could tell, they have never played an organized game. We tried to get them to line up into teams and they didn’t quite understand. Out teams turned into a mosh pit. It was alright though. Everything turned out okay and I think that all of the children enjoyed themselves. After all, that’s why we were there. We had a candy relay and I think they loved it.
After the relay, we handed out chalk and bubbles. They grabbed and begged so we had to hand them out as fast as we could. From here we split them up again. Half played a roller coaster game with me – the same one we used to do at the AR basketball games – and the other half played a colored square game with Cayce. Everyone seemed very happy. When the games were over, we handed out the candy as the children were going down the stairs to leave. All in all it was a good morning. It moved very quickly but I think that even the short time we were there was significant.
The clinic downstairs ended up helping about 100 more people today. Many come with UTIs or yeast infections but unfortunately, they have to be turned away because we don’t have anything with us that can help that. Perhaps if we are ale to come again we can bring sometimes for that.
Once we wrapped everything up, there were headed back to our home. I was greeted by another set of those delicious cheese sandwiches that we had the other day. Right after, I took a very good nap. My body needed some sleep very badly.
When I woke up – or was woken up by Josh – I rushed along to get ready for church. We ate dinner before we left. We had what resembled mashed potatoes browned on top in a casserole dish served with spaghetti meat sauce. It was very good. Everything I have eaten thus far at the hotel has been very good.
Church was interesting today. It wasn’t exactly my style, but that’s alright. We began with singing as usual, but today seemed especially loud. The singers get very involved in what they do and almost seem to yell sometimes. It probably doesn’t help that there are mics and large speakers involved. After singing, there was a lady, whose gift is reciting scripture from memory, who came up and led a response.
After all of that, Aaron came and gave his sermon. He spoke from John again and talked about how we need to move the darkness and spread the light because that is what we, as Christians, are called to do. I thought it was an excellent message. About six people came up at the end and confessed they have been holding onto things that have kept God’s light from shining through them. It was very moving.
When we got home, everyone was feeling the same emotion from the noise of the church but were excited that we could be a part of the service and witness people hearing the word of God and be changed. We all went to take care of our own business while some stayed up. I took it upon myself to take a very nice shower. I have felt absolutely gross for about three days now and needed some alone time.
Now it’s time for bed. We are going to the Citadel tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes. It’ll probably be fun – everything else I have been skeptical of has.
***Evening Prayer Service
1 John 2:12-17
- 14: same power that breaks sin
- If we love the world more than Jesus, we are not living the word of God
- Worldly things distract you from God
- Desires of the flesh
- All that we have comes from God
- Remember that God provides for us
Today, like yesterday, was very fun. The day started like the others with breakfast, We then moved on to go to the Citadel. Josh, Jacob, and Sarah stayed at our host home while the rest of us went on an adventure. The ride was much easier than that of the clinic day. We stayed on a real, paved road almost the whole time and the other times were on cobblestone, so it was okay.
As soon as we got out of the car we were BOMBARDED with people trying to sell us souvenirs. It was crazy. They tell you their name and then ask for yours. It’s almost like every salesperson picked a tourist and remembered who they were. Vilmer got our tickets and we were ready to go. Right at the entrance of the road to be traveled were people trying to sell their horses to you for a ride up the mountain. I decided to walk. Regardless, Stephen – as he told me his name was – decided to follow me. He was very nice and provided some good information on the way up about the fort.
When we got up to the top we had the tour guide tell us what it was we were looking at. The fort was actually pretty cool – especially since I’m not a history buff by any means. Surprisingly, the bathrooms at the fort were the most modern looking things in the country. I wish I had gotten a picture of them. Anyway, we got some really cool pictures and had a nice time experiencing a little of Haiti’s history.
We took a shortcut down the mountain, but it seemed to be more strenuous than the way up. On the way down, Aaron and Cayce negotiated with a lady on the side of the road to buy a wooden flute for their daughter. You have to negotiate everything in Haiti. It would seem as if nothing has a set price…ever. When we got to the bottom, Stephen, the person who followed me, asked me for a tip. WHAT?!? I did not ask him to go with me an now he wanted money. Clever. I have him the dollar that I had in cash and sent him on his way.
Meanwhile, Gladdis, the lady who tagged me when I got out of the van, started to hit me up for some of her necklaces. Sadly, I didn’t want or need any of those. I did, however, see two wooden turtles that I liked at another table. I got two for $10. Gladdis did not like this at all and continued to follow me saying, “I give you good bargain.” Maybe I would have purchased something if she had something else I wanted. Oh well.
Vilmer’s wife had packed lunch for everyone. We had some rice, chicken, plantains, and a veggie broth to go with the rice; it was all very delicious but I still kept a distance from the solid vegetables. We ate lunch by the van and then packed up for home.
When we arrived, we had a lot of free time. I was able to get on the Internet today and contact some friends and family. I tried to go to sleep for a bit but it was to hot for all that. We ate a delicious dinner some time after that. It was closer to the meal we shared at Vilmer’s house, but this time it was with beef instead of goat. It had cashews in it. I really like the cashews here. Hopefully I can buy some before I leave.
After dinner we headed to church. It was the same style and the other nights. There was a lot of loud music and a little shouting. I have actually noticed that a lot of the people on the streets and other places we have been in the country did a lot of shouting. Maybe that’s how they get their point across? Vilmer thinks it will be a good idea for Jacob and I to do a song in church tomorrow night. We decided on our original debut, “Blessed be Your Name.” I am a little bit nervous, but it should be pretty fun.
Tomorrow is our last working day here. I am very excited that I was given the opportunity to come here. The things I have learned will stay with me forever. I have learned that we should take nothing for granted. Be thankful for what you have because it an instant it can be taken from you and you’ll have nothing. This has been an amazing trip and I venture to say that I would do it again.
It’s time for bed, and tomorrow is a big day. It’s only 9:50 PM and I am down for the count. If only I could go to sleep this early in America!
Wow. I slept wonderfully last night. There was a nice breeze and I woke up feeling great. It could have been because although I have enjoyed my time here, I am excited to be going home tomorrow. Maybe it’s just because I slept well. Who knows?
Today was our final day of Bible school. We went back to the church and set up the clinic and VBS in a similar fashion as before. Since today was the last day, there was a celebration planned. The children had decorated the classroom with tissue paper, toilet paper, and anything and everything colorful they could find.
The Bible story today was about how Jesus calmed the wind and the waves. So to make the story fun, we gave each child a pair of streamers (blue for water). When we mentioned the water the waved them! After the story, everyone made boats out of paper plates, craft sticks, and their streamers from the story. This craft represented the boat that Jesus was in with the disciples. It seemed as if all the children loved the interactive story.
After the Bible story and crafts we went out to play games. This time, their principal led them and it went a lot smoother. I guess she knew their flow a bit better than us. It worked out very well.
During our breaks, we looked at some beautiful paintings that the man in the church made. I bought a few of them. They weren’t very expensive and they were way better than most of the reproductions you find in America.
We said goodbye to the children, the new friends we made, and other and went back to our host home. For lunch we had chicken salad. I’m not usually a fan of chicken salad, but today I tried it and I loved it. We napped for a while as we waited for Vilmer to come pick us up for the market.
We went to the market today to go buy things to take back and for Sarah to pick up some things she needed for cooking. Haiti has normal, tourist-type shops just like everywhere else. Many people sell the same things. You can get a necklace, bracelet, a box with Haiti engraved on the top, or even the same rock almost anywhere. I didn’t want any of that. I picked up a few things but I liked the grocery store the most. They call it the “Kokiyaj.” It’s like a convenience store to us, but their version of a grocery store. I picked up some juice that we had at Sarah’s house, some Haitian rum, some coffee, and a Gatorade for the ride. All of that only cost me about $25.
We went to a few other vendors but they didn’t really have anything else I wanted. I got Kaci a little iron thing for her house. When we were done shipping we came back for dinner before going to church. We had spaghetti again. It was good. Church was about the same. One of our people, Deb, got a little sick and had to leave. The whole congregation stopped and prayed for her. It was encouraging and very sweet.
Tonight Jacob and I debuted in Haiti with “Blessed be Your Name.” The drummer at the church picked it right up and before we knew it we had a jam session going on.
After Aaron spoke we said our goodbyes and headed back to the host home. I was already packed up so I skipped that and chatted with everyone else who was doing so. Today was a good day – it was simple yet fulfilling at the same time.
Tomorrow we will leave and it will be all over. As we were leaving church, everyone shook our hands and thanked us for coming. They were so appreciative for everything that we had done with and/or for them and you could tell that their gratitude was so genuine. I really enjoyed this place. Although my biggest pet peeve is being hot, and Haiti is very hot, I was able to escape my comfort zone. It was a great time and I hope I get the opportunity to visit again.