Here is a letter Ernie has written in response to Hurricane Matthew. Since writing this letter Ernie has been out 2 more times and is out today. Please keep him and the people with him in your prayers as they travel. The impact of Hurricane Matthew has been felt the most on the western part […]
Our last full day in Haiti began with news that sadly reflected on what happens on a daily basis in this country. A young man came up to the house and told Ernie that his sister had just passed away giving birth. He swallowed his pride and asked for money to help cover the funeral costs. I can’t even imagine how hard this had to have been for him. I’m not sure what has come to be from this situation, but it broke my heart.
Before we left we prayed with many of the local children, and Jean-Claude led up in prayer with Charlie translating. Hearing what he had to say and his vision and love for him home was very moving and a great note to sadly leave on.
Today we were to travel back to the Guest House so we could be close to the airport for our flight home the next day. On the trip back we were to stop at different orphanages and missions to visit with the founders and find out more about the operations that many of them are struggling to keep up. I was tired and got a local red bull like drink called Toro.
One of the places we stopped was a church and school. To get there we had to follow a tight and windy jungle road. Pastor Bail is a man who has a vision to one day have an orphanage, but right now he can’t even afford the school and church he operates right now. It costs him $5,000 a year to run the school and pay his teachers. He is about $3,000 short. To me, this is something that could easily be covered by if not our church, another group. He told the story that his very first convert to Christianity was actually a voodoo priest. This new Christian ended up donating his land when he died so pastor Bail could build his church and school.
We then traveled to Pastor Enoch’s orphanage. This is the same orphanage that we built beds for and today we traveled back to visit and deliver mattresses for those beds. The view from this place was breathtaking.
Pastor Enoch had quite the story about his journey. This orphanage has been here for 40 years, and was leveled during the earthquake. Pastor Enoch said that when it happened he was out of town at a meeting and that the kids were having a soccer game. He said that had he been there, he would’ve been inside the main building and many of the children would’ve been inside with him. This building collapsed. Since he was not there, every single child and worker was at the soccer field and not a single one was harmed. GOD IS AMAZING!!! Enoch told of how he had a son in the states and thought that after losing everything that maybe he should just move to the U.S. with his son. Then a man who he had raised up said, “what would we do without you?” So he stayed and is currently in the process of rebuilding.
We saw another worker here that rivaled the feats of the well diggers in the city. This man was making gravel by hand. He sat on top of his pile of gravel with a larger rock in front of him. He would grab a rock and hammer it into gravel one by one. He did not have gloves on his hands but rather had socks. We gave him some work gloves.
We got back in the trucks and headed to Port Au Prince to eat pizza at a hotel. On the way we stopped to buy some mangos and about 10 ladies ran up to the car trying to sell them to us. I also witnessed a man in full spandex roller blading through the city traffic at a very high speed. Needless to say, this was a first and last. After pizza we decided to see how many people could fit on two lounge chairs by the pool. Even Brother Wesley got in on the action.
It was a great way to end not only a great day, but a great trip before heading back to Texas. In the end, nothing could’ve prepared me for this trip. Emotionally, mentally, physically. Nothing. People have asked me how it was, what it was like, and it has been so hard to explain because there is nothing to compare it to here in our country or even anywhere near us. The only way to fully know is if you’ve been to Haiti before, or another 3rd world country. It breaks my heart to see the suffering these people live through on a daily basis, and how little hope many of them have. Pray for Haiti. Pray for those over there trying their hardest to help these people in the most effective way. Helping without hurting them. Pray for the young men like Duckenson, Jimmy, and Charlie who are trying to change their country in big ways. Pray for change and hope in the hearts of the Haitians. They are a beautiful people, living in a beautiful place who need the love, grace, and hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.
Day 6 would be our last full day on the mountain. Today Jennifer and myself volunteered to help cook the high nutrition food for the locals. It was a process that took around two hours but was very rewarding.
We also experienced some of what Sharon and Ernie deal with on a daily basis today. A young boy who’s parents had left and was staying with his sister came up to the house complaining about what seemed to be a hernia. Jean-Claude, the local man who donated his land had Malaria, and another local had shingles. They really need a nurse that stays up there.
Jerry, a young man who is blind came up to the house with a family member and sang for us. We had to bribe him with a lolly-pop, or what the Haitians call pee-willies, but he ended up singing and it was beautiful.
That afternoon we decided to hike once again. One time up the mountain was not near enough. John, AKA Captain No Underpants, was one of the children who came up to “help” us on our journey. Cutest little boy ever, just didn’t like to wear pants. Loved to crawl all over you…but yeah, you get the picture.
After our hike I had the privilege to play soccer with Luben’s wife and a few other girls. She is amazing. As I mentioned in my last post, she lost her leg in the earthquake. She took off her prosthetic leg and used crutches when she played. What she was able to do is astounding. Very impressive.
What was even more impressive was the meal we had that evening. Jean-Claude’s wife cooked a Haitian dinner for us that included chicken, rice with black beans, a special coleslaw type salad, fried plantains and potatoes, and a sauce. I want it again just writing about it. So good.
While we were eating dinner, some men from the village came up to confront Ernie and our drivers. They had some issues with what was going on on the mountain, but really had no footing or sound reasoning behind their argument. Charlie explained to us afterwards how one of the biggest issues in Haiti is jealousy. They see people rising up and bettering themselves so they want to knock them down. Jimmy said, “people only throw rocks at the red mangos, not the green ones”. I told him that in America we say “haters gonna hate”. Then we broke out into Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. Anyways, pray for the people of Belo, especially the young men who are suffering from envy.
I apologize for the delay in posts, but I will try and finish up the trip this week.
Day 5 in Haiti was probably my favorite day of all. Being on the mountain and away from all the dust and smoke of the city was such a relief. One thing did not change though, we still were woken up by roosters every morning. I’m an early bird though so waking up at the crack of down is normal for me, and this time in the early morning is possibly my favorite time of the day.
I helped cook breakfast again and then headed outside to play with the kids. Unlike American children during the summer, the children on the mountain were up and moving around by 7:00 AM at the latest. One little girl who lived in the hut right next to Sharon and Ernie’s home was up at 6 to feed the chickens and sweep her yard, yes sweep her yard, every single morning.
One little boy ran up to me immediately and handed me this little green pod about the size of a quarter and the texture and look of a very small lime. I had no idea what to do with it then I saw Jennifer who had one too and seemed very excited about it. In Haiti they call them kineps and she said that she had had them in Venezuela. You bite off the peel, and suck out the gummy covered large seed. The gummy coating tastes similar to a grape. The rest of the trip I was searching around trying to find kinep trees. I was addicted. I even bought some at Fiesta grocery store the other day!
Today for VBS we read a story and then decided to teach the kids how to play kickball. They know a little about baseball and a lot about soccer so we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to teach them. This process ended up being one of the funniest experiences we had the entire trip. We demonstrated, had our translator give rules in Creole, and demonstrated some more. A few of the older boys and girls caught on, but some of the little ones just did their own thing. They had so much fun though, and that’s all we really cared about. At first they didn’t realize that you could stop at a base and be safe, and once we pointed this out to them we would end up with 4 kids on one base all running at the same time. Then one little girl never stopped running. We were playing on a small plateau with a drop off just past 3rd base. Whenever she thought she was about to get tagged she would run straight through 3rd and all you could see was her little head disappear as she ran down the hill and into the cow pasture. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long long time.
Lubens works for the mission and cooks high nutrition food, a mix of rice, beans, soy protein, and vitamins, for the community 6 days a week. His wife helps out around the house. His wife also is an amputee. She lost her leg in the earthquake and before she got pregnant with their now one year old daughter Lulu, she played on the Haitian Paralympic soccer team. I really enjoyed talking to her about soccer, and we made plans to play the following day.
While we were playing kick ball, some other members of our group were building a retaining wall and then we brought out kites after lunch. The kids also taught us some of their own games. This one reminded me of “little Sally Walker”.
Around 2:00 we came to the realization that we had run out of water. The reservoir was 95% dry and we could not get water to pump up the mountain. Our hosts were getting worried, but honestly we didn’t care. As long as we had water to drink we would be good.
Later in the afternoon a group of us decided to hike up the mountain. As soon as we headed out, the kids began to follow and “help” us by grabbing our hands, pushing our backsides, and jumping all over us as we trekked up the steep incline. The hike wasn’t an easy one and left us covered in sweat and dirt, probably not the best idea after discovering we had no water, but it was rewarding. The views were breathtaking. The barefooted kids practically ran up the mountain then showed us where they lived begging us to go see their homes. When we said we couldn’t go down into the valley they were upset.
We got back in time for dinner and noticed that some clouds seemed to be looming outside. Before dinner we prayed for water. As we were all finishing up our meal we heard some sprinkles on the tin roof. Of course we ran outside and stood in it hoping to wash just a fraction of the dirt off our bodies. Then it began to pour!! I don’t think I have ever been so happy to be standing in the rain. We got shampoo and soap and stood where the water was running off the roof and all took showers in the rain. What an experience! A gift from God at the end of an amazing God filled day.
Oh did I mention we had glass bottle Cokes and one of the interns made sweet tea at dinner? Best day ever.
Today was the day we were to head to the mountain house. First I volunteered to help cook breakfast, and would do so for the rest of the trip. Heather gave the devotional at breakfast. She spoke about a couple of Psalms that talk about praising God with everything you have, and to always turn everything back to being about Him.
We then headed about 15 minutes down the road to church at a mission compound that had been established for many years. It was considered a “mega church” and had about 1,000 attendees in an outdoor sanctuary. Nearly the entire service was held in Creole, but many of the songs that were sung were songs that we sing back home. Each song could be heard throughout the congregation being sung in both the native language and English, as there were many mission groups attending the service. It was definitely a moving moment for me. We also partook in the Lord’s Supper. It turns out that a member of our group was able to lead a local man to Christ while this was going on. Long story short, the man asked Micah if he was a Christian when he saw him get up to the bread and juice. Micah said yes and then asked the man about his walk with God. The man knew about God and Jesus but had never been told how to go about accepting Christ as his savior. So Micah took the opportunity to pray with him and take communion with his new brother in Christ. What an AWESOME moment for both of them!
For most of the service I honestly had no clue what was going on, but I KNEW God was there and moving through that place. From what I got during the few times the preacher spoke in English, his message was about figuring out what our mission is, that God’s vision is our vision, to separate ourselves to seek God and find out what this vision is, and then to go out and preach the gospel. It was honestly just what I needed to hear as I am currently in a place in life where I have no clue what the coming year holds for me career wise, let alone what tomorrow holds for me. I pray God gives me peace in this, and that I continue to search for Him in order to find His purpose and vision for my life.
After church we headed back to the guest house to eat lunch and load up our things to o head to the mountain. We had been driving for about 3 miles when we came to the realization that our new driver who was on his first day on the job did not know how to drive a stick shift. He was blowing black smoke out of the back of that truck like crazy, as those in the truck yelled at him to shift gears. He didn’t know a lick of English so you can imagine this scene. Luckily, we ended up pulling over to fill up on gas and got him switched to another car, the car I was in at the time. I had to switch cars in order to allow someone who spoke a little bit of Creole and knew the route to the mountain to ride with him. Man am I grateful for this switch. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that this guy couldn’t just not drive a manual, he couldn’t drive AT ALL!!!
Now let me tell you a little about driving in Haiti. Rules may exist, but they aren’t followed. There are motorcycles and tap taps everywhere, and passing vehicles that are moving too slowly and honking of horns happen as often as an American driver pushes on the breaks while driving. Needless to say, it is basically real life Mario Kart. Oh watch out for Yoshi on the motorcycle!! There’s bananas in the road!! Look, there goes Luigi in Semi going the wrong way coming at me head on!!! Hopefully you get the picture.
Anyways, this new driver was a bad driver even to Haitian standards. Our driver Duckenson was calling the other drivers saying “this guy is crazy! He is going to kill someone!” He was not only going all over the road, but he was also trying to pass people on the right side of the road, and on sharp turns and curves. Very scary for all of us, especially those in his truck. We finally reached a point where we could stop and sent the man home on a tap tap. We had a problem though…who was going to drive now? We had too many vehicles and not enough Haitian drivers. That’s when Luke saw his dream of driving in Haiti come to fruition. He ended up doing much better than anyone thought, and luckily the remainder of our journey was through smaller towns and we didn’t face a lot of crazy traffic like we typically did.
We finally arrived on the mountain and I was amazed with beauty. I was also thankful that we started our trip in Port Au Prince before we went to the mountain village of Belo. Had we seen Belo first, I feel as if we would have all had a scewed vision of what Haiti is like.
The view from the front porch of Ernie and Sharon’s home was amazing. We were greeted by many local children, who loved to hangout on the tractors at the front of the house. Many of the families in this area lived in simple and primative huts, very different from the cinder block and dusty homes found in the city. I must admit, getting out of the dust, smoke, and fumes was quite the relief for us all. I couldn’t wait to see what the next few days held for us in Belo.
I once again started my day on the balcony with my Bible and coffee. After breakfast we headed back to around the same area we were at the day before. Today we were visiting Diddi’s other orphanage that housed young boys and the girls. I guess the boys from the day liked us soo much that they wanted to come over too. So Diddi brought them over on the bus to spend the day with us and the other children.
When we arrived we found another hole, with another man 30 feet underground digging and digging trying to find water. I was also told by one of the older boys who spoke pretty good English that my name sounded much like the Creole term for “The House”. Pretty cool. A part of our group quickly started in on painting a couple of the bedrooms and had help from one of the boys again. He loved to paint.
The rest of us did a mini VBS to start the day, and before we got started the children sang us a song.
The Bible story we decided to tell was the story of Zacchius. 16 year old Jimmy had heard the story and volunteered to play the part of Zacchius and steal other’s belongings and climb the tree to see Jesus. The rest of the children loved the enactment.
We then moved to the backyard for some more soccer, volleyball, and even a game of duck duck goose! This is also the time when we all introduced to Neldine, AKA “Little Miss Sass”. Also, on Saturdays Diddi has a “open house” type program where any kid in the neighborhood and come over, play, and get a good meal. One of the kids who came was a little crippled boy who could barely walk. He spent the day playing with flash cards, eating lunch, and even receiving a new pair of shoes. Turns out, he had been over before a while back and Diddi’s sister who is a physical therapist had sent her a pair of crutches months ago after meeting the little boy. Diddi remembered this and her face instantly lit up as she ran to her room to get him the crutches. Her joy in remembering what and who the crutches were for was almost more than she could even bare. It was a beautiful sight seeing that young boy gain the ability to move around a little better.
The education system in Haiti is flawed. Almost all schools are private, and many children cannot afford to go. Those who can afford to go receive a limited amount of knowledge due to the lack of properly trained teachers. At the orphanage, Diddi has all of her children in school. Susan Marx and I spent a lot of our afternoon working with some of the girls with some flash cards working on their English and reading. One particular girl named Tita was a very good reader come to find out.
One of the most rewarding moments of the day for me was getting to talk with Jimmy. We spent a good half hour talking about sports, politics, America, and life. He is such a smart and insightful boy at 16. I pray that he stays on the right path and gets the guidance and help he needs to become a successful man. He definitely has the talents and character to do so, even after his very troubling past.
At lunch time I realized how considerate and giving these children were. The older boys always waited and made sure the young boys and all the girls got their food before they got their own. We also gave the kids bags of candy and one little boy went around to every single child handing out smarties before he ever took one for himself. After lunch Murphy came by with bags of shoes. Each kid got to get a nice pair for church and another pair for everyday use. These kids were so grateful just to have a pair of shoes that they did not even care what they looked like for the most part. They just wanted them to fit. Well except for little Pierre. He didn’t care if they fit. All he wanted was a pair of soccer cleats. Luckily Heather was able to help him out and find a pair that actually fit him. The look on that little boy’s face after she tied a pair of used cleats on his little feet. Man. So humbling.
After shoes were handed out, candy shared, walls painted, and many many hugs given, it was time to head back home. I don’t know about everyone else, but I had totally forgotten that today was July 4th until our pastor Wesley stood up before dinner and started belting out God Bless America and ended the meal with the Star Spangled Banner. I think our Haitian drivers/translators got quite the kick out of that! After dinner we wound down by sitting in the dark and braiding each other’s hair. We all said it felt like we were little girls at G.A. camp again. A great way to end an amazing day.
I awoke to the sound of roosters on day 2, as I did every morning in Haiti. Roosters everywhere, sounding off throughout all hours of the night constantly waking each one of us up. For the rest of my life, every time I hear a rooster call, I will be taken back to Haiti.
I grabbed my cup of coffee, Haitian coffee is AMAZING by the way, and headed to the balcony to read my daily devotional and enjoy the peace that 6AM brings.
The plan for the day was to all go to an orphanage to start off, then split up into two groups with one of the groups going to another orphanage for the rest of the day. The next day each group would switch locations so that everyone was able to visit both orphanages. This did not go as planned. We ended up all going to one orphanage and staying there all day. After breakfast, and the absolute BEST mango I have ever tasted in my life, we headed out for the day. It took us about an hour to reach our destination, and on the journey I realized that this country had little in means of infrastructure. There are hardly any buildings and what buildings they do have are typically little boxes about the size of a closet in an American home. These little boxes usually contained either a place to play the lotto, get more minutes on your phone, or buy snacks. Every other kind of commerce that seemed to go on took place on the streets, and produce being sold from baskets atop a woman’s head.
To give a little more insight about this particular orphanage; it is run by a lady from New York named Diddi Washington. Her organization is called Mission Haiti Helping Kids, and let me tell you, this lady is ON FIRE for Christ and helping the children of Haiti. Her passion and love for what she does was never once questioned in the time we spent with her. The orphanage we visited this day was her all boys home. Many of these boys she called “street boys” in that they were roaming the streets, no food, no money, no parents, and little hope.
After arriving at the orphanage we were hit with our first real encounter with the language barrier. Luckily, we had translators to help us out throughout the day. However, the language barrier was nothing compared to the challenge that Diddi was facing. Her well in which she received water had collapsed and she had hired two local young men to dig a new one. This is perhaps the most amazing feat I have ever seen first hand. A hole in the ground, perfectly round and 30+ feet deep, with a man at the bottom digging with a stick and patching the holes walls with concrete. He would send up the rocks and dirt he removed in a bucket, and his partner would then dump the bucket into the hole that once housed the well. This man didn’t just stay down in this 30 foot hole for a few minutes at a time either. He was literally down there ALL DAY. I can’t even imagine.
The Haitians LOVE soccer, and turn and run at even just the mention of American football. So being in charge of the games part of VBS, I spent most of my day playing soccer with the boys. We did teach them how to play ultimate football, a game they ended up liking even though there was some hesitation at first. I kicked the ball around, argued about who was better Messi or Cristiano, and truly enjoyed getting to know the boys better.
After lunch Luke our youth pastor shared the gospel with the help of a translator. It was a moment that I will never forget. The most memorable part of this time was when Luke was just about to start and Diddi said “no no no Hold on just one moment. I want to get these men working on the well to hear the great news too!!” So she ran and got them and gave them lunch while they sat and listened very intently to the message given. It was such a moving experience and just one example of Diddi’s passion for spreading the word and love of Christ to anyone and everyone. I truly do not know how she does it. A woman, on her own, in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, running two orphanages, both of which do not currently have water, and taking orphans off the street into her homes. Truly admirable.
We also broke out the jump ropes, drum sticks, and bubbles. By the end of the day, the boys had everyone taking penalty kicks against them. Even our host Sharon stepped up to take one. All in all, it was a tiring but rewarding day at the boys’ orphanage, and I made some connections that would grow even stronger on Day 3.