Monday, November 7, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip Days 8...and 9

October 15, 2011

We left around 11:30/12 from the Methodist Guest House so we could drive around the city some before going to the airport.  We stopped by a grocery store to pick up some coffee.  The grocery store looked much like a small grocery store in the U.S. except there was an armed guard at the door.  It took a while to get to the presidential palace because the traffic was so backed up.  When we got there, the car was silent for a few minutes as we looked at this huge mansion (like looking at the White House) that had huge cracks in the wall and portions that had collapsed on top of one another.  Here's a good before and after picture of the presidential palace: Haitian Presidential Palace.   As we stopped on the side of the road to look and take pictures, many Haitians came up to the car trying to sell us paintings and carving and food.  One man pointed to the palace and said something like "We call that the devil's house because it was full of corruption."  After spending a week in Haiti, I still have no concept of how it would be to live in a country whose infrastructure is in the shape it is in Haiti.  We only got glimpses into life in Haiti, but what was apparent is their hope.  Haitians are so resilient and have so much hope for their future.

We continued on to the airport, where we were warned we would need to hold on tight to our bags from the time we got out of the van until we got inside the airport.  There were many people surrounding our van hoping to carry our bags so they could get some money.  It was a short walk into the airport, and when we got in, an employee of the airport asked how many were in our group.  He already had our boarding passes printed and ready for us!  It was wonderful!  What wasn't so wonderful is finding out when we got in that our flight was already delayed.  Rich and Colleen spoke with the airport employees with American Airlines because the employees were pretty sure we could miss our next flight from Miami to Virginia since our layover was already only about 1.5 hours to get through customs and immigration and recheck our bags.  The American Airlines employees went ahead and tentatively booked us on a flight out of Miami the next morning as well as reserved hotel rooms for us in case we missed the flight.

As we waited in the airport, we read, played cards, and talked about our week.  Our flight was pushed back again, and we started getting nervous that we really wouldn't make the next flight.  The plane arrived a little earlier than they expected, so we were holding out hope that we'd make our connecting flight.  When we landed in Miami, we had just enough time to make it if everything ran smoothly.  Unfortunately, our run across the airport didn't help because our bags took much too long to get off of the plane.  We finally found all our luggage and got through customs only to be met by an airport employee who told us we would not make it to the gate because we had about one minute until scheduled flight time and the gate was on the opposite end of the airport.  So, he printed out meal and hotel vouchers for us and we caught a shuttle to the airport.  We ate a late dinner together in the hotel restaurant then went to bed in preparation for our morning flight.

October 16, 2011

Unfortunately, around 4am, Josh was struck with food poisoning (we think from something he ate at the Port-au-Prince airport).  This made travel pretty much miserable for him.  Our flight was on time, and we finally made it back to Virginia.  Josh was still feeling so horrible, that we ended up staying with his parents for the day and night, not trusting having to be in a car for 3 hours.  The rest of the team carried on to the Farmville and Hampton Roads areas.  Soon after departing, the Farmville area team members that went ahead got into a car accident.  Other than sore muscles and Rich getting a burn on his arm from the airbag, everyone was thankfully okay...but the car was not.  They all piled into Don's car (who was right in front of them and also got hit from the force of Rich and Colleen's car getting hit) and continued on to Farmville.  They got a little ways down the road and got a flat tire!  It took a long time for them to get back, but they finally made it.  Josh and I left the next day and made it back to Farmville finally as well.  After an amazing week in ministry in Haiti, go figure that making it home would be the hardest part of the week!  I am so thankful for my experience in Haiti, and I am so thankful for Colleen who continues to answer God's call on her life to lead teams to this amazing country.  I hope you will prayerfully consider joining the 2012 (or even 2013) trips to Haiti as we continue to be in ministry with the people in Haiti.  Thanks for joining me on this journey as I relived my experiences, and thank you again to all who were praying for us throughout our time in Haiti.  Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti and all those in ministry there. 

Grace and peace to you!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip Day 7

October 14, 2011

We made it back to the Methodist Guest House!  What a treat to have a bed with a mattress, fans and most of all--a real toilet!!!  We were told yesterday that the vans would arrive in Odee between 9:30 and 10am.  So, before breakfast we took all our donations down to Solomon's house (which we were told would be the best way to get our donations distributed to the community) and packed up our cots.  We had an interesting assortment of food for breakfast: grilled cheese sandwiches, watermelon and pumpkin stew.  I didn't end up trying the stew, but Rich said it was delicious.  We had a nice farewell from Solomon who thanked us over and over again for our sacrifice of coming here.  Then we waited....and waited....and waited.  It was just going to be "10 more minutes" for 2.5 hours.  Finally at noon, when we were all hungry for lunch, the vans arrived.  We loaded up and said our goodbyes.  The engineer decided to hitch a ride with us all the way back to Port-au-Prince.  So what was already a pretty crowded and hot van, became even more so.

As we winded through the mountains, we saw a crowd of people on the side of the road.  Then I noticed random items in the middle of the road--car seats, stereo speakers and other debris.  We looked over where the people were and a truck had rolled off the side of the road.  As we were passing, I saw people pulling a man out of the truck.  We debated whether to stop (Would the presence of a medical professional cause more chaos and issues?  Would we be safe in the midst of a crisis?  What are the laws in Haiti...would we be liable if there were any deaths from the accident?).  Then Gary said, "It's the story of the Good Samaritan for goodness sakes."  So we pulled over and Rich, Colleen, Gary and Patrick went down to the crash site with supplies (we didn't have much left after our clinic yesterday) while the rest of us stayed on the side of the road.  Most of the cars and motorcycles that came by stopped to see what was going on.  But, we watched as several cars just drove on by.  We asked our driver how these situations worked in Haiti: are there ambulances you can call?  Do you call the police?  Does the UN help?  He told us that there are ambulances but they are few and far between.  The police and UN will help if they are around.  And while we would offer to drive the injured man to the hospital, in Haiti, if the man died while in his car, he could be found guilty of the man's death.  Just after the conversation, a UN vehicle drove by without stopping.  Maybe that is part of the reason why many Haitians don't appreciate the UN's presence?

A big dump truck stopped and we found out later agreed to take the man to the hospital.  They lifted him on a blanket which Colleen was really worried about because there could have been a spinal injury, but there was no changing their minds.  Colleen said she thinks he may have had some internal injuries.  We realized as we continued down the road that we were only about a mile from Partners in Health (the leading hospital in Haiti that we were able to stop at on our way to Hinche earlier in the week)!  The dump truck that transported the man was still out in front of the hospital.  We are praying that he is getting the care he needs and will recover.  We definitely scared Patrick.  He was on edge the rest of the trip.  We realized that if the vans had not been late, we would not have passed that accident and been able to stop and offer our assistance.  God was present!

When we arrived at the guest house we unloaded all our stuff, had a cold Coke and did a little shopping around the compound.  We bought some really neat things!  Josh and I took some pictures of the Longwood University scarf around the guest house.  Longwood is hoping to spread school spirit all over the world and therefore are asking people to bring and take pictures of the scarf wherever you go.

There were more people here than we expected-- 3 teams.  Dinner was rice, salad, avocado, plantains, watermelon and goat!  The goat basically tasted like beef.  After dinner we played some cards until it was time for our debriefing session with John (the accountant for Haiti UMVIM).  We talked about what went well, what could have been better, perceptions, expectations, etc.  It was a good meeting and resulted in a lot of laughter and stories from our time together.

We had a chance to shower which is the cleanest I've felt in a week, even though the water was cold.  Our flight tomorrow is at 4pm, but we will leave here at 11am so we can do a little driving tour of Port-au-Prince and see the Palace.  Then, we should be back in Virginia at 11:30pm tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Haiti Mission Trip Day 6

October 13, 2011

Today was our last day in Hinche.  After breakfast (pancakes and bananas!) we headed back to the church to start on work...except the rocks still hadn't made it there.  Roshnee, the engineer, said a few people could work on moving the mounds of dirt from digging out for the foundation.  Josh, Don, Rich and Gary helped with that while the rest of us sorted and took down supplies to set up for the clinic.

Rich came over a little while later and said we should walk over to where they were trying to get the truck of rocks up the hill.  We were cautioned not to walk to close to the edge of the cliff because the rain had softened the ground so much that some of the bank had already collapsed.  Several workers were shoveling dirt into the road in hopes of giving the truck more traction, but nothing worked.  They tried and tried, and made one last effort of driving the truck up the hill in reverse, but the road was just too muddy.  They decided to send the truck to come in from the other side of town.

Later we all decided to walk down to the other end of town to see if we could find the truck.  It was stuck again.  This time the road was too narrow at one point for it to get through.  So, we decided we would go ahead and start the clinic.  We had some group teaching on brushing teeth, washing hands, and taking vitamins.  Then Colleen met with most of the people individually--taking blood pressure, giving out medicine for headaches, rashes, and indigestion, and bandaging minor wounds.  We gave out almost all of our vitamins during the clinic, and the health kits were distributed in no time flat.  We definitely want to assemble and give out more of these next year.  We had paper and crayons for the kids to draw pictures while the parents were waiting to see Colleen.   After being seen by Colleen, many people were hanging around, so Josh and I went back to the church and grabbed a soccer ball to encourage some of the kids to go play because it was getting crowded and chaotic.  We took a break for lunch and then finished the clinic around 3:15pm.  Good work was done, and Colleen did a fantastic job, along with Patrick who translated all day.  We all got showered before dinner (homemade lasagna--Lulu's favorite meal to cook, chicken, rice and Coke and Sprite).  At the end of dinner it started raining so we rushed back to the church.  We're worried that the van will not be able to get up the hill tomorrow if it keeps raining.  It will be interesting for sure!