Tent City in Port Au Prince
Day one far surpassed my expectations. To start at the beginning, we woke up somewhere around 3:30 am (Yes. You read that right. And yes, I was half asleep.) Everyone met at the church at 4:00 am to leave for the airport. Our plane took off for Miami at 7:00 am. We arrived in Miami around 9:00 am and immediately boarded the next plane from Miami to Port Au Prince. We finally made it to Port Au Prince, Haiti by 11:00 am. There we go. That was 7 and a half hours of travel stuffed into one paragraph. 😀
When we got off the plane, we were whisked away to customs… a confusing ordeal and a wonderful growing experience in patience. Next: baggage claim. We were told before the trip not to allow anyone to help us with our luggage because they’ll expect a large tip. I found while walking to the bus that this piece of advice is much easier said than done. There were people grabbing for our bags, firmly offering their hospitality and services. Thankfully, everyone in our group made it through without losing any luggage!
Standing Outside the Airport Fence
Once we reached the Mission of Hope bus, we loaded up our luggage and piled in! There was a boy who was probably around 14 or so outside the fence begging us for a dollar. It’s heartbreaking to see that and know that granting him his wish would be more harmful than good. I wondered to myself if this boy was a bit of preparation for what I thought I knew was to come. But I don’t believe anything could’ve prepared me for the next 45 minutes.
Bus Ride to MOH
The bus pulled out of the crowded airport parking lot and we started driving North through Port Au Prince toward Mission of Hope, the mission compound we were to be staying at. It’s amazing how much we’re exposed to pictures and videos of poverty and devastation here in America. It makes us think we understand or can comprehend that kind of suffering. Believe me when I say that pictures and videos could never prepare a person for seeing it first-hand.
We drove through tent cities, saw fallen buildings, and discovered that animals do not have pens in Haiti. (I’m unofficially announcing that the human and goat populations are equal.) There was more poverty than I could’ve imagined. Driving through Haiti is like driving though a desert populated with the poorest poverty that is situated next to the most beautiful ocean in the world.
After our 45 minute bus ride on dirt roads, we made it to Mission of Hope (MOH). We unloaded and unpacked our suitcases, ate lunch, and then we took what was actually an unplanned trip to a village called Abraham. It was about ¾ mile from MOH, but because of the rough terrain, it took us about 15 minutes or so to get there.
We got off the bus, and I realized that this village was made completely of plywood houses smaller than just my bedroom at home. Our translator, Wilbert, took us up the hill to the field where the village kids often played. On our way up, little Haitian children came and grabbed the hands of the members of our team, except for me. Haha! I was just walking there feeling sorry for myself that no little Haitian boy or girl wanted to hold my hand, when one of the kids stuck out to me. He was probably eleven or twelve, so he was older than the other children. He suddenly ran up to me and grabbed my hand, interlocking fingers with me. I couldn’t help but smile! And then it struck me- if an eleven or twelve year old boy interlocked fingers with a twenty year old guy, others would laugh and make fun of him. But the innocence that these kids had didn’t even allow their minds to travel to that realm.
Girls in Abraham love to play with hair!
How refreshing to know that the poorest of the poor have the mentality that the richest of the rich desire; to see such joy and purity in the midst of poverty, devastation, starvation, and rubble. I was blown away. From the moment I landed in Haiti, I felt sorry for the people. But now, there was almost a jealousy- a godly jealousy. They have next to nothing and don’t have a lot to hope for, but have more joy than I do; who has a family, nice home, great church, and awesome friends.
We spent about an hour and a half there and then went back to MOH and spent the rest of the day acquainting ourselves with the heat.
It doesn’t seem like anything extraordinary. But for me, that day radically changed my view of myself and the greatness of my God. My prayer is that He daily grows me in rejoicing through my now seemingly insignificant trials. He is God and is still on the throne. If He’s taking care of the poorest child in Haiti, then He has far beyond abundantly blessed me. So that’s it. Nothing profound. My first day in Haiti, I learned what it looks like to rejoice in brokenness.
“I don’t know why the innocent fall, why the monster stands. I don’t know why the little ones thirst, but I know the last shall be first.” – Brooke Fraser
Blog Written by Andrew Kurtz, 24/7 Intern
Pictures by Emily Creech, 24/7 Intern