I spent 3 weeks in Haiti 1 summer and learned about the people and culture
|During the summer of 2002, I spent 3 eye opening weeks in Haiti. It all started on May 25, when the 10 of us flew from Minneapolis via Chicago and Miami to Port-au-Prince. We had to get up in the dead of night to leave for the airport at the ungodly hour of 4AM. None of us were very happy to leave at that time, but were all excited to be finally going to Haiti after preparing for the past 8 months. Each of the 3 flights were short, and our excitement grew as we got closer and closer to our destination. The last flight from Miami to PaP (as most people abbreviate the very long name of the capital of Haiti) was an interesting experience. We were on a jumbo jet, that was less then one third full. Each of us had several rows to our self to stretch out on and relax before being very busy for the next couple weeks. As we flew over the Bahamas, the water was a beautiful aqua close to the islands with a definite line where the deep ocean began with the water a deep blue-purple. We landed safely in PaP and were surprised to end our taxi in the middle of the tarmac, several hundred feet from the terminal. We walked out of the air-conditioned plane, into the heat and humidity of Haiti, down the stairs and across the tarmac to the baggage claim in the stifling terminal.
After a long wait, we had all of our bags and went through immigration and customs and were met by the missionaries, Ray and Sandra, we would be working with for the next couple weeks. We loaded all of our luggage into the back of their truck and got in. It was like being in a cage. The sides were like a chain link fence from the floor to the roof. There was a door in the back that was padlocked closed when no one was in the back. There was a latch on the inside that could be used to close the door when people were inside the “cage”. We began our journey across the city. When we left the airport the air smelled sulfuric but eventually it was just a badly polluted smell. We drove for about an hour through narrow streets with most of the houses surrounded by walls and gated. The last part of the journey was climbing quite a ways up the mountain side to the nicer part, where Ray and Sandra live.
Ray and Sandra host short-term missions teams in their home, so they needed relative safety and space to be able to have groups of up to 30 people for a couple weeks at a time. They have a nice view overlooking PaP. The bottom 2 levels of the house are stairs up the side of the hill. The 3rd (or first) floor was mostly open, 2 bedrooms and a large open multipurpose area where the kitchen, eating area, and living room were. On the east and west sides of the floor, there were slated closeable windows; with the north, front side of the floor a lattice work wall with no glass of screens. The wind only blows east to west so it will never rain in on the north side. This was the floor that the teams would stay on. Upstairs on the top level, Ray and Sandra had their home and also one room for teams to sleep in. The back door was on this level to their garden behind the house. There were balconies on both floors where one could overlook the city of Port-au-Prince.
We did many different activities, and helped out at several different ministries, churches, and schools during our time there.
One of our favorite places was a home for disabled children. We helped out practically by painting a bedroom and hall and having fun trying to keep cool and relatively clean as we painted the ceiling. We also had time to play with the kids. Most of them are severely handicapped and need help with the most basic things, feeding, sitting and crawling. We read stories and held the children.
We also got to spend a day each at Mother Theresa’s home for the Dying and for children. Those were the two hardest days as we were surrounded by those that are least wanted. We were able to bless the women in the home for the dying by giving massages and nail care. At first I was overwhelmed by the large number of women, especially young women there and it took me a while to relax and be able to really enjoy my time there. Spending time with them and showing them that someone cares form them. We could not communicate with them because of the language barrier. Everyone speaks Creole and only a few people speak French which is the official language. Virtually no one speaks English. If they can speak English then they will leave Haiti to try and make a better life for themselves in another country. The saddest thing we did was to visit the home for the children. All of them are malnourished, most underdeveloped, and some have AIDs or TB. There was one “mother” in each room for about 20 children. It was so sad to see these little children sitting or lying in their cribs, some of them playing in their own urine. We changed diapers and bedding and just cuddled as many children as we could.
One day we spent at a small school that a Christian woman had started for poor children who could not afford to go to public school. It was a rainy day and a holiday of some sort so only about one third of the children showed up, which was more that enough for us to handle, about 50 in total. We sang songs with them, shared a bible story and then did some crafts with the kids before playing games with them. We had an interesting volleyball game with a beach ball because of a low celling of about 15 feet. Then the kids wanted to jump rope and we were impressed at how good and creative they were as they jumped for half an hour. We prayed for them and then said good bye. We were given a wonderful Haitian meal for lunch. There were multiple kinds of salads, rice, meats, various vegetable dishes and tarts, brownies and fruit for desert.
Halfway through our time there we took a 7 hour trip from PaP out to one of the cities on the southern peninsula called Les Cayes (pronounced La Kai) for a week of ministry there. It was an interesting trip as we ran into lots of traffic going through downtown PaP. It took us 2 hours to get out of PaP. Then we drove along the ocean for 2 hours. There were crops and animals in the fields along the road. Eventually we turned south and climbed across the mountains. We passed through many little towns. Many of the houses had a family tomb close by. We also passed the homes of several witch doctors. They are distinct because of the multicolored flags around their house. After 2 hours in the mountains, we went down on the other side to the ocean and drove along it until we reached Les Cayes. We stayed in the guest house of the Baptist mission. It is a one story building with 4 bedrooms and a kitchen with a main room. It is surrounded by a fence that includes a little land as well.
We did more ministry with various churches, leading Bible studies and sharing about God during our time in Les Cayes. For the girls, our favorite time was when we went to a home for 9 physically handicapped women. We sang and talked with the women and helped then make some beaded crafts.
We had fun painting at a Bible school and a church. At the school we painted an outside wall of the new building and at the church we painted a large room over the church. That was the most interesting time as the ceiling was 15 feet in the center (the roof was peaked) and in the middle on the front were 3 windows that had to be hand painted. I chose to do the job even though I was in a skirt and the ladder was not very stable. I had a blast as I love heights and ladders. It was also neat to be able to look out over a little of the city and pray for the people living there.
Those three weeks were very memorable for me. I very much enjoyed my time in this beautiful, depressing, sad nation. The people were beautiful, but they have no hope. The land, while retaining some beauty, has mostly been destroyed through deforestation, overcrowded, natural disasters, and a lack of desire to preserve what is there for future generations. It is hard to want to preserve something for future generation when you are just trying to survive today. One of the saddest things I heard while there was, Haiti wouldn't be here if it weren't for the missionaries. And yet, overall the nation has not understood this. Two hundred years of serving the devil was not enough to teach them that serving Satan will not bring prosperity. The leaders of Haiti rededicated the country to Satan in 2000. There is little hope for a better future in this country without major international help and even when there has been international intervention in the country, things have not changed for very long before everything breaks down once again.