We departed Knoxville on Tuesday morning on time after checking 22 bags of supplies. Our flight into Miami went smooth. Then we had our one and only snag for the entire trip. About an hour before we were to board in Miami for the flight to Port-au-Prince, the airline announced our scheduled plane was being placed out of service due to maintenance issues. Eventually the airline was able to divert another plane to cover our flight. We finally departed Miami over 3 hours behind schedule. From there things could not have gone more perfect. We arrived in Port-au-Prince and the airport was basically empty. We breezed right through immigrations. Our 22 check bags were all stacked neatly in a big pile in the baggage claim area. We walked straight through customs without a single bag being inspected. It was dark when we walked out to the transport truck but the parking lot was basically empty. We were able to load our bags on the truck and get on the road within about 15 minutes.
The drive through Port-au-Prince was eerily quiet. All I could think about the entire drive was holding my beautiful girls. Images of Jesula and Redjina flashed through my mind. As always, the last few miles seemed to be never ending. But there was absolutely no traffic or delays and we made the drive to Camatin in about 2 hours. When we arrived at the orphanage about 10:00 PM we assumed the girls would be asleep. But they were awake and waiting to greet us!
My two girls were not on the porch this time. They were upstairs in our guest room. I think they were hiding to surprise us when we came looking for them. Once I found them I got the hugs I had been dreaming of for so long. Jesula and Redjina were very happy. Once again I heard that sweet sound of being called "Popi". The girls were thrilled to see mommy. Jesula was immediately all about Matthew as she was the last trip. With a little flip of God’s light switch everything was perfect again in our world. We stayed up late talking, laughing, hugging, opening presents, and trying on new clothes. Over the last year and half, Jesula and Redjina have both grown into beautiful young ladies. They are both beautiful inside and out!
Wednesday morning we spent quality time with all 28 of the orphanage girls. We then split into two teams to prepare for the week's village walks. One group built 30 clean drinking water filtration systems and the other group divided food (rice, spaghetti, cooking oil, and fish) into bags. We sorted out baby supplies (formula, bottles, and diapers), 280 pair of sandals, 125 creole bibles, and many other items for children including soccer balls and toys. We staged all these items so that before each village walk each team member could load their back packs with supplies to distribute.
Wednesday afternoon we headed out to the village of Beloc. We walked through the entire village and blessed many families. We treated a few cuts and one bad burn. We prayed over several families. We handed out creole bibles. We distributed water filtration systems. I got to spend some time with Mikanna, a sweet 17 year old Haitian girl that calls me "Popi". We blessed her and her mother with food as well. We fed and clothed several babies.
Thursday we walked to the village of Tiapo. This is a very physically demanding hike. The road passes over a couple of mountain ranges and is very rocky and dusty. It is approximately 2.5 miles each way and took us 1.5 hours each way to complete.
The Jericho road has nothing on the Tiapo road. And we certainly traveled that day in the spirit of the Good Samaritan. Along the way, going and returning, we met and served many people. We distributed food and water filtration systems, treated medical needs, and handed out sandals to people with nothing on their feet. We met, provided food and supplies for, loved on, and prayed for one sweet little girl with cerebral palsy. She seemed very happy and I will never forget her face.
When we finally arrived, the Church in Tiapo was packed. It seemed the entire village was there waiting on us. After greetings, the Pastor Anfadre Joseph spoke, the church sang and prayed. The we distributed creole bibles, food, water filtration buckets, baby supplies, and toys for the children. It was an amazing event. After that our entire team walked down to the Pastor's house where we were seated and treated to coffee and freshly cut coconuts.
Friday we visited the village of Coq Chante. Coq Chante is the home of the PCAP Church and orphanage that collapsed during the January 12, 2010 earthquake. It was awesome to return there two years later and see the newly constructed Church and school. We met with Pastor Amour and many of his Church members in the Church. We sang and distributed creole bibles, food, and other supplies.
After that we set out to walk in the village of Coq Chante. Little did I know that at that the culmination of this walk would be a God Moment that would be the highlight of our entire week in Haiti. We started hiking down the beautiful mountain side to Jesula's grandmother's house. Jesula does not have known or living parents, but her grandmother, who helped raise her, lives in Coq Chante. I have met her grandmother twice before, but in my six previous Haiti trips I had not had the opportunity to go to her house. A good ways down the mountain we stopped for a rest and to ask for directions. We learned it was still "a very long way". I was worried after hiking to Tiapo the previous day that I was asking too much of the team to make another long hike. I explained the situation to the team and recommended turning back. But the overwhelming response was "it's what we're here for" and "let's go". So that's what we did. After approximately 45 minutes of hiking straight down the side of the mountain on a narrow, rocky path, we finally arrived. Jesula was very happy to see her grandmother and her grandmother was very surprised and thrilled to see Jesula and us. Shawna, Jesula, Matt and I made pictures with grandmother inside her tiny shack.
She has aged very much since I saw her 9 months ago and is in failing health. It is hard to imagine that she is still able to walk up and down this mountain to get water and food. After a long visit I announced it was time to go. But, Shawna looked at me and said she didn't feel like she could leave yet. Shawna said she "needed more time" and felt like there was "something she had to do". With grandmother still sitting in a chair outside her house, Shawna sat down on the ground at grandmother's feet. Then with emotional support from Beverly and Allyson, Shawna prayed and slowly washed grandmother's aged and weathered feet. It was a surreal, emotional, beautiful, biblical scene. Grandmother's face glowed with the comfort of feeling completely surrounded by love. We closed out that amazing God Moment in prayer.
Saturday was beach day. The girls absolutely love going to the beach. We loaded up 28 orphans, about 10 Haitian workers, and our 21 team members and drove 2o miles down the mountain to the beach in Jacmel. The weather was perfect. The girls played in the sand and water for several hours. We ate local prepared fish, conk, lobster, and pork. The grilled goat/veggies on a stick is wonderful and is the food highlight of the trip. Everyone bought some neat souvenirs from beach vendors. For the first time, we had a local band appear and perform a mini concert. They were very entertaining. It was a special day!
Sunday morning we attended Church on the hill above the orphanage in Camatin. The service was beautiful and these people certainly know how to worship. I went up and spoke to the church and read scripture, Revelations 21:1-7. The response made it all worthwhile. Hearing the Haitian people sing during worship is always an amazing sight and sound. They truly, truly worship God.
Following the service we served lunch to the local church members. The church was packed. We served the usual rice, beans, slaw, and an added treat of pork. These people are always so appreciative of us. They think we are blessing them. I always try to explain to them that they are blessing us.
Sunday evening we returned to the Church in Camatin. Chad Becker, one of our team members, brought a laptop, DVD and projector. We played a 2 hour movie, The Life of Jesus, and served them popcorn. It was standing room only, but as the crucifixion scene approached you could have heard a pin drop. It was a great ending to an incredible day.
Monday morning we walked through the village of Camatin. This walk was really special for two reasons. One being that Ricot walked with us. This is the first time I have ever walked through a village with Ricot. He is usually busy working, but not today. He was an excellent guide and enjoyed interacting with everyone. We made several stops on the hike distributing food, baby supplies, soccer balls, and so on.
We spent Monday afternoon with the girls at the orphanage. We used street chalk and wrote on the outside walls of the orphanage. Each girl painted a pillow case and made a tie-dye sheet for their bunk beds. The girls all painted their names on a large sheet that was hung like a banner in the hallway. The girls sang "You are My Sunshine" and “Worthy is the Lamb” in English. The girls love to sing and it was an amazing scene. We had a party with donuts, cheese puffs, and kool-aid. We closed out the evening with them watching the movie (in French) "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". They oohed, and awed, and laughed so hard. It was a perfect day with the girls!
And just like that it was Tuesday morning and time to depart. Before leaving we prayed over and for Ricot, the orphanage staff, and the orphanage. These people need our unselfish support and our prayers more than ever. I encourage everyone involved to humble themselves, serve them, and pray for them.
We made a few pictures with the girls. Mainly we just sat with our girls and hugged and cried long and hard. Letting go of those two precious girls and leaving is harder than anyone could possibly imagine.
As always, God really “wowed” me on this trip. We experienced God Moment after God Moment after God Moment all week long. It was a perfect God given week for which I am very thankful. Our team was so amazing. It was a joy to serve with each person on our team. Each showed the love of Jesus and served humbly just as Jesus served. I love each of you and look forward to serving with you in the future.