Two years ago I visited Haiti on my first foreign mission trip. To say the experience was life-changing would be an understatement. To read up on our first visit, you can look through my archives and find the posts I wrote back then.
I won’t go as in depth as I did two years ago with this post, but I would love to give you all an idea of what we did, experienced, ate, and saw while we were in Haiti the first week of July.
3:00AM: Wake up call came quick after a restless night of anxious and excited sleep.
3:45AM: Leave church to head to airport.
12:00PM: Arrived in Miami and learned our flight to Haiti was delayed.
6:30PM: Finally make it to Haiti, get in the two rented vans, and head to Petit Goave.
7:30PM: After about an hour of sitting in traffic, we all start to get pretty hungry.
9:00PM: 2.5 hours we finally arrive to the hotel just as a storm hits, unload our bags, and have a traditional Haitian meal of chicken, black rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, fried plantains, and pikles (looks like coleslaw, but “burn your tastebuds off” spicy).
Saturday morning we woke up, had breakfast of made to order omelettes, bread, peanut butter, coffee, and that oh so delicious Haitian mango.
After breakfast we went to Pastor Phenix Bail’s school to prepare for the week of Bible School and painting that would start on Monday morning.
We scraped the walls of the school, power washed them, and scrubbed all of the dirt so that we could begin painting first thing Monday. We also organized everything for a Bible School that would include crafts, Bible Story, Rec, and Music. We were gonna go all out with this Bible School.
Around 12:00PM we got pretty hungry, yet there was no sign of food. I knew something was up when some intense discussion between Ernie and some interpreters was going on near his home. Turns out there was some miscommunication about food for Saturday, so hot dogs, tuna salad, PB&J, cookies, and anything else you could find in the kitchen was what was on the menu. We were so hungry that we didn’t even care.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we discovered something that we would end up encountering nearly every afternoon. No water, no AC, and on/off power. It was so hot and humid out, that showering before dinner seemed pointless, plus without the water it was impossible, so I ended up taking a nap by the pool in the shade.
Around 6:00 we had dinner. Options for dinner each day would include Lobster, Chicken, 2 types of Fish, Pork, Goat, and Beef. I ended up trying everything at least once except for the Pork (probably because I couldn’t stop picturing the bear-sized pig we saw in Port Au Prince on the side of the road). The always included plantains and some sort of rice, often with vegetables or mashed potatoes. Here is the fish and lobster.
Pastor Bail joined us for dinner and thanked us for coming and for the work we were about to set out to do. Pastor Bail’s school is one that our church has been helping support since the first time we visited it two years ago. Tonight Brother Wesley gave him another donation to help with the costs to run his school, and he was extremely grateful.
A storm hit as we began to wind down for the night. We also heard some gun shots and had two Haitian men trying to get into our room. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep two well on the second night.
Breakfast bright and early and then it was off to church at Pastor Bail’s “stick church”. It was hot, it was humid, and it was 3 hours long, but it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. You could tell the locals were feeling very special with the “blancs” in attendance. Ladies and girls sang and danced 4 times throughout the service, Brother Wesley preached with the help of Charlie(one of our translators/drivers from our first visit to Haiti) translating, and we partook in the Lord’s Supper. The thing that touched me the most was when the offering was taken up. Nearly every member gave something. These are people with close to nothing, but they come every Sunday dressed in their best, and give to the church. Wow.
After church everyone wanted to come shake our hands and tell us God Bless You in creole.
When we got back to the hotel, they were having a Kindergarten graduation with about 100 graduates. You could definitely tell these were more of the “wealthier” Haitians in attendance.
We decided to have lunch on the waterside patio at the hotel, and then went to Pastor Enoch’s orphanage up on a mountain. Susan Marx was able to see one of her little girls that she adopted two years ago, and I got to experience some preteen boys telling me their name was a bad word in Creole just to hear me repeat it. The view at Enoch’s is breathtaking, and the rebuilding of their facilities after total destruction during the earthquake in 2010 is coming along nicely.
We then went on to Haiti Arise. A Canadian mission compound that included dorms, a tech school, and a woodworking shop. In the fall, Ernie will begin to teach woodworking here and hopefully will be able to build his own shop at Pastor Bail’s school in the near future. This will allow the school to not only support itself, but also give locals a skill in which they can earn an income and support their families.
Another nap by the pool, dinner, and 3.4 second shower before the water would surely turn off ended our day. I don’t think I have every felt so accomplished after taking a shower.
Monday-Friday we held VBS/painted in the mornings, had lunch, and then proceeded to paint in the afternoon. VBS ended up being much more than we expected it to be, and I truly applaud those who worked it. I was the lazy one who decided to only paint. I definitely had the easier job of the two. 200 children who are undisciplined, do not know English, and have never seen a PE parachute vs. 8 Americans who don’t speak Creole and 4 translators…take a wild guess who won.
Pastor Bail’s wife and friends cooked us lunch each day. The first day I think they definitely overestimated how much we would eat, but the presentation and effort put into this meal each day was amazing. We had everything from Haitian potato salad, mushroom chicken, lasagna, pizza, goat, more chicken, macaroni, scalloped potatoes, cake, and much much more. We all left lunch way too stuffed to do anything the rest of the day. Some of us even took naps before heading back outside to paint. 😉
Also, we hired 4 local painters…I’ll keep it short and just say that they DID WHATEVER THEY WANTED. Most of our time was spent following behind them to fix what they just did. Painting tape and paint roller scrapers are not something they seem to think they need. In the end though, we got it done, and the school had a whole new coat of paint.
Did I mention while cleaning out of one of the classrooms in order to clean, we discovered a rat with 4 babies?? Thank you Haitian painters for your help with those. We will give you that much.
As the week went on, although still exhausting for the workers, VBS began to go smoother and smoother, and you could tell the children were not only enjoying it tremendously, but they were also learning so much.
We spent July 4th working, wearing Old Navy flag shirts, and playing with the hotel puppy.
My dad was able to get the solar panels working on Ernie’s roof on Thursday, giving him AC at night for the first time since he has lived in Petit Goave. That night a man named Tony from Canada came to dinner and brought us coffee. He rides a donkey up a mountain for hours upon hours to buy coffee off the growers at fair market price, then he roasts it, sells it to churches and individuals in the States and Canada, and uses all the proceeds to build and support schools back up on the mountains where he buys the beans. The man is amazing and his story is even more complex and interesting than what I have just shared. He blew my mind.
On our final day in Haiti, we finished up at the school with final touch up painting and the last day of VBS. We ate lunch and then took a boat to a private beach to swim, relax, play some beach volleyball, and eat dinner. When we arrived back at the hotel, a very emotional and thankful Mr. and Mrs. Bail came to thank us for our work and the impact we had on the community this week. It was the perfect ending to a trip that ended up blessing us more than we could have imagined.