Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Wow, so much happened while I was on this trip, and I have no idea where to start. I guess I’ll try to point out the most memorable things. Now bear with me because there’s a lot to say for those of you who have never been! (Hopefully I can hold your attention.)
The day before I left for Haiti, not gonna lie, I was SO scared. I had NO idea what to expect and I wasn’t going to be anywhere near family. What if something went wrong? What in the world would happen to me if I got some kind of disease??? Oh yea and I’m in charge of VBS…WHAT???!!! I didn’t even want to go that much anymore, but I figured it was way too late to back out. So, early the next morning I found myself on the way to the airport with the rest of the Haiti 2014 team (12 others from church).
Haiti at a Glance
I was outside the whole time, even at night. We’d typically start off with VBS in an amphitheater the Haitians built outside our little compound. From there, a few of us would head up to the roof and nap/mess around for a few hours. Then we’d head to the orphanage and/or the tent city for the rest of our evening. And if we weren’t doing any of that, we were having devotions (either with the team or by ourselves) or sitting in a church service somewhere. We moved around a LOT.
For breakfast we had mangos and oatmeal For lunch, rice and beans with some topping that had a whole bunch of things squished together and looked orange, and for dinner we had either more rice and beans or noodles with thinly sliced peppers and onions.
The roads are so trashed and bumpy with super steep hills (that’s everywhere really). And the roads they have that are actually paved are super dangerous to drive on (by American standards). People are tearing around curves and most times, there’s not even six inches between vehicles. Also, I swear everybody there has road rage. It’s pretty intense when you have 17+ people in the bed of a truck and you’re worried about being hit.
All of the houses are made out of cloth, tin, and some wood. The only possessions kids have are the shirts and shoes they wear every day and their toys (which are really just interesting bits of trash they picked up somewhere). One little boy had two buttons and a broken hair tie that he clung to the whole time for VBS.
Stories and Application
Now for what I really want to tell you
The flight there was relaxing and gorgeous but when we walked into customs, it was like checking into a prison or something. It was so quiet, and not many people were smiling. As we went to claim our bags people offered us help, but then after that they asked for money…awkward. As we struggled to get all 34+ bags to the truck, people were eyeing our stuff and we had to stick close together so no one would steal anything.
The ride to the compound was ridiculous. The people we passed on the street looked so hostile (probably because we were the only white people in like the whole country), three or four people were balancing on our mountain of luggage in the back of the truck, and the rest of us were shoved in a tap tap (a truck with benches in the bed). TEAM BONDING!!! <3
Of course the first day in Haiti I was struggling with the level of poverty and I just felt completely horrible and helpless, so I turned to the Bible looking for comfort. Of course God followed through and showed me Deuteronomy 15:11. (Yes, I expect you to pull out your Bible and look it up.)
Sunday we pretty much just started preparing for everything, which included going to the orphanage to set up days and times to visit. I had to go to the bathroom by the time we got there, so I found the woman in charge and asked her if they had one. The orphanage was set up in two halves- one building had the disabled kids in it and the other one (separated by a breezeway) had the kids without disabilities in it. She told me I had to go through the one with the disabled kids; now of course I was uncomfortable because I didn’t know how to act. The moment I walked in, was the most uncomfortable moment I have ever experienced in my whole life, but for a different reason…the sight. I feel like nobody could ever be prepared for such a horrible reality check. All of the kids were in wheelchairs and not one of them was smiling or talking…nothing. There was a soccer game on the TV (which clicked off constantly and had a sort of hum to it) that none of the kids were watching. All the adults were just standing outside talking, not taking care of or paying any attention to any of the kids. Nearly all of the kids had flies walking across their faces but they couldn’t move to swat them away. The hot air was so heavy, like it hadn’t moved in ages. The first clear thought I had was Oh my goodness…these kids are waiting to die. They had no thing or no one to live for. I’m not lying when I say there wasn’t a speck of light or hope in the whole room. I longed for each and every one of them to feel happy, safe, wanted, loved. When we went home that evening, I knew my life and world would never feel the same. I went to bed a complete wreck.
Monday was the first day of VBS and it went really well I’d say. I interacted with a lot of awesome kids and got the privilege of giving one of the older girls a pair of my shoes. After that we went to the tent city. The kids there were so cute; they thought being tickled was so much fun. They were helpful too. Since the hills were so rough and hard to scale, they would hold our hands and try to pull us up. The willingness to help and desperation for our presence was…touching to say the least. We gave a small lesson and handed out clothes then everyone filtered out. I think the image I’ll always remember from that day was what I saw while we were pulling away. All the kids were standing on the hill waving goodbye and about halfway up the steps, this little boy was standing with his lower half completely bare…despite all the clothes we had given out. He hadn’t gotten any.
Tuesday we had VBS in the morning. After that I took a short nap and then headed to a missionary training center that Cross to Light is setting up where I helped in the garden. Then, I met back up with the team at the orphanage. I hung around one of the handicap girls and helped her color a heart (that day’s craft for the kids) along with another little girl (who wasn’t handicapped). The other little girl had stepped in to help finish the heart when she saw her peer struggling, and after finishing, she left. Once my handicapped friend had finished, she communicated wanting me to have it. As someone else wheeled her away, I struggled not to cry. A little while later another girl tried to take the colored heart away from me. I told her no several times and held on to the heart for dear life. A friend walked up in time to help me find the little girl something else to do. That heart had become a huge treasure to me. That orphan had colored that heart for ME. That touched me beyond words. (The coloring is at home with me now and I still cherish it.) Later I realized that little girl had wiggled her way right into my heart, and it scared me. I didn’t expect to really become attached.
After all that, I saw some of the kids throwing rocks at the orphanage’s dog. (Since dogs are everywhere on the streets and dig through the trash for food, they’re not really seen as important.) I squatted next to the dog (didn’t want to touch it and catch diseases) and started telling the kids no. They still didn’t listen, and thought this had become a funny game. I scooped the animal up, no longer caring about diseases, and scolded the kids until they left. As I gently stroked the dog, she dozed off finally feeling safe. Another boy approached me and told me to give the dog a kiss, but I said no because that really would be asking for a disease. He looked at me, nodded like he understood, and simply said no good. I frowned and argued good! good! but he walked off, still insisting the animal was no good. But later, another little boy (much younger) came up with his thumb in his mouth and watched me pet the dog for a bit. After a while, the boy stuck his hand out and began to gently stroke the dog. I smiled thinking; this kid just got a taste of love.
After this (yes all the same Tuesday), we headed back to the tent city for a church service. Of course the whole thing was in Creole and I didn’t understand a word of it, but the kids we had seen before were now sitting in our laps or on the benches right next to us and the power of their worship was so strong that I started tearing up and came to an emotional (and much needed) surprise prayer meeting with God. God does work in His house no matter what language is what I took away from the whole scene.
Fast forward a bit, and we’re at Thursday (the second to last day of VBS). We gave the kids giveaway bags every day, and today’s had soap, shampoo, etc. in it. I picked a little boy up front to watch open his bag, since I realized I had never really taken the time to see the kids’ reactions. So he opens it, pulls out the box of Dove soap and gets really excited. He immediately opens the box and pulls out his bar of soap to start showing everyone sitting around him, and from the smile on his face, it looks like his day has been made (maybe even his week, who knows). It made me think of all the things I take for granted. Obviously this topic had been on my mind the whole trip really, but I just sort of let it sink in more during this moment.
Friday was pretty much our last day in Haiti (we left early Saturday morning). I found myself at the orphanage again. Now the only problem with this was that I didn’t want to get attached to anyone and then have a hard time leaving, so I pretty much stayed off to the side by myself. At one point, I was watching one of my team members keep the flies off a girl named Roodline. She was sitting in the semicircle along with all the other disabled kids in wheelchairs. The little boy next to her didn’t have anyone helping him out though. So, I found myself crouching by his side stroking his arm and swatting the flies. We exchanged a moment and I got scared so I backed off a bit (remember, don’t get attached!!!). When my team member left the little girl to go take pictures of the others though, flies immediately landed on her face and in her mouth. I couldn’t just sit there and let that happen. I positioned myself in a way so that I could keep flies off of both the kids, but focused more on keeping the flies out of the girl’s mouth. The problem was, she couldn’t keep it closed. I turned my full attention to her and said a prayer. I prayed that God would help her keep her mouth closed so the flies wouldn’t be as bad. Then, she closed her mouth and looked up at me. I smiled and stroked her face, but I didn’t even realize what had just happened at the time. She must have felt so much more relaxed and taken care of, because she fell asleep with her face resting in my palm. Unfortunately, at this point the staff wanted all of the disabled kids wheeled back inside because we were about to leave. I wanted to help, but for some reason I just couldn’t let this girl go. I stayed with her, gently running my fingers down her cheek. When all the others had been put up, a friend from the team walked up and asked me if I wanted him to take her back. I simply nodded because I felt like I was going to cry, despite my efforts. It would just be harder to take her back myself. He saw me tearing up though and insisted I take her. Since I didn’t have the heart to argue, I stood up and started wheeling her back. I put her in that room, stroked her face one more time, and left. I kept my composure for about a good three minutes after that. Then I just found somebody, latched on, and started sobbing. I was having this huge meltdown. People asked me what was wrong, and all I choked out was, “I can’t leave.” Roodline touched me so deep. It was SO hard taking her right back to the conditions I had found her in. Why couldn’t I take her with me? Why couldn’t she know she was loved? Why did it feel like I had done nothing for her?!
Sunday I went to church and I learned that was wrong. Pastor Mark was teaching about miracles that day and I hadn’t really decided if I still believed in miracles. About halfway through the sermon I had such a sudden, clear thought that maybe Roodline had been the event to solidify miracles for me. I hadn’t seen her keep her mouth shut before I prayed. Then a huge wave of peace came over me and reassurance. It was like God himself saying, “It’s okay. I handled it. What you asked for was given.” Immediately after the service I went up to the person who had been keeping the flies off her before I stepped in and asked if he had seen her keep her mouth shut at all while he was with her. He replied no. The peace now went even deeper and my belief in miracles and prayer had been renewed. Mark 11:24- “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Towards the end of the week I did the morning devotion for the team, and the lesson was on laying up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24). I know personally I was having a feeling of sickness and disgust for our luxury back home while these people had nothing. Right before I went to Haiti, I had been increasingly stuff-obsessed and when I got there, my selfishness shocked me. As the week went on, I witnessed moments that could only be from God and I had never felt so complete (This brought me to Romans 8:5-6). I had been treasuring the wrong thing. Worldly possessions don’t bring a person satisfaction so deep and pure. You need to treasure those heavenly moments and live like the Bible says to feel complete. It’s not just a book of crazy rules and expectations; it’s the key to feeling happy and complete.
Haiti changed me and the experience really was priceless to me, and it always will be. My heart goes out to that country and especially the kids. I definitely want to go back, for much longer than a week.