One family's journey to hear God's calling, overcome our fears, and be obedient to Him!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Here I am - Send me

I traveled to Haiti again this past week, July 21-29, 2012 to serve and spend time with my beautiful girls. This was my eighth trip to Haiti and the fourth mission team I have been blessed to lead. My daughter Ashley and her husband Jeff also made the trip. Our mission team consisted of 16 people. We had an awesome group of young adults with pure servant's hearts, and many first-timers, which made for an awesome experience.

We departed Knoxville on Friday evening, drove to Atlanta and spent the night near the airport. We were at the Atlanta airport at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning. We checked 18 bags of supplies.  Our flights into Miami and on into Port-au-Prince were timely and uneventful. We arrived in Port-au-Prince about 2:15 PM. Two of our team members flew a different airline and came in just minutes after us without any issues. The process of clearing immigration, baggage claim, and customs went smooth. All our check bags were in hand. We walked straight through customs without a single bag being inspected. We loaded our bags on the truck and got on the road. The drive through Port-au-Prince and up the mountain was relatively quiet. I noticed remarkable improvements in the roads. Many areas have been newly paved. We didn't have any traffic delays and we made the drive to Camatin in about 2.5 hours. We arrived at the orphanage about 6:00 PM and the girls were waiting to greet us. Jesula and Redjina were so happy to see Ashley, Jeff, and I. Those first hugs are always so wonderful! 

Sunday morning we attended Church in Coq Chante. The Haitian people know how to worship. Ashley went up and spoke. She talked about how Haiti first impacted me, and then how it has impacted her life. She spoke so eloquently and many of our team members cried. Jeff and Leah went up and performed two songs. Jeff played guitar and Leah sang, Amazing Grace and Agnus Dei. Their performance was amazing. After church, we provided the church members with a warm meal of chicken, rice, and beans.

We served in all the area villages. We spent a day in each of Camatin, Tiapo, Beloc, and Coq Chante. Walking to and through the villages is always the serving highlight of my time in Haiti. Seeing the faces, the environment, the living conditions, the isolation is enough to break the strongest person. Our focus in the villages was providing prayer, medical attention, food, baby food and clothing, and children's clothing and toys. Everywhere we turned there were babies. We distributed bottles, formula, cloth diapers, and clothing to hundreds of babies. 

Tiapo is always a very special experience. It involves a long, steep walk just to reach the church. We provided a food distribution for church members, conducted a medical clinic, and distributed baby and kid clothing. On the walk out of Tiapo, a few of the team members met a family that obviously was struggling with a lack of food and cleanliness. The next day after another trip to the market, Nate and Allyson, with Chad's help lead blessing this family with prayer, baths, feet washing, three goats, and rice.

Beloc, the village I feel most drawn too, included several highlights. We provided complete sets of soccer uniforms to the area youth and organized a great soccer match. Babies were blessed and loved on everywhere we turned. My sweet friend Mikiana, who calls me Popi, was there waiting for me when I arrived and walked with me every step. We prayed for and blessed Mikiana and her mother Madame Islande.

Coq Chante provided several special moments and one true God moment. The first day we were in Coq Chante someone came running to our team and said we were needed as a baby had fallen into a fire and was badly burned. Jeff and two others ran ahead of the team. I can't imagine what must have gone through their minds in route to this baby. I must mention how proud I am of my son-in-law Jeff, He is a recent paramedic school graduate, and a long time EMT, firefighter and rescue squad member. He doesn't blink an eye when faced with trauma. He is hands on, and time and time again we were fortunate to have him on this trip. The baby had fallen bottom first into a coal fire for cooking. I won't describe in detail the extent of the burn, but it was surreal. Jeff, with the help of the others, treated the baby as much as possible. It was obvious that this baby would not survive without being taken to a hospital in Port-au-Prince, a three hour drive away. The team collected money to provide for the baby to be transported and admitted to the hospital. At last report the baby was stable and  expected to be in the hospital for approximately a month. I have no doubt that God placed Jeff and our team in this baby's path that day!

We blessed an elderly lady, Madame Maranta, that my daughter Ashley feels led to help. Ashley and I walked through the area market and bartered to buy chickens and beans. We took them to bless and pray for her.

While walking through a less traveled area in Coq Chante we came across a baby girl that had been born just a couple of hours prior. We gave the mother and the baby a basic medical check. We blessed the mother with food, vitamins, baby bottles, baby formula, cloth diapers, baby blankets, and several other items. To our delight the mother asked to name her baby after one of us. We arrived at the name Presley (for Preston) Marie (for Ashley Marie). Presley Marie Bien Aimes weighed 4 pounds and was approximately 18 inches tall.

We took a nice break during the middle of the week and treated all the girls and workers in the orphanage to a day at the beach in Jacmel. Everyone enjoyed the beach, the water, as a well as a nice meal of fish or pork, and plantains, and piklize (Haitian slaw). The weather was absolutely perfect.

The primary mission on the trip was to build a new house for Jesula's grandmother, Madame Elivert Labady. Jesula's parents are deceased and Madame Elivert raised Jesula since a very young age. In December 2009 realizing it would be a better opportunity for Jesula, she brought Jesula to the orphanage. Madame Elivert is a very elderly woman and is not in good health. Her previous house, which had a leaking roof, failing walls, and a dirt floor, is located in an isolated area at the bottom of the mountain in Coq Chante. She was no longer able to make the 1.5 mile walk, each way up and down the mountain to secure water and food from the market or to attend church. The new house, albeit a small one room house, would provide her with basic protection from the elements. It is close to the top of the mountain and next door to her daughter's family house (Christella's parents). They will be able to help care for her and she can now walk to the market and church. 

We had planned to build the house on Monday and Tuesday. But things don't always go as planned in Haiti. When we got to the home site Madame Elivert was not there, but the house was already being built. There was still a lot of finish work to do, but the concrete slab, walls, and metal roof had been erected the day before. I was not happy. I expressed my displeasure with our Haitian host. We had raised the funds for and our plan was to build the house.

I soon learned that God had a different plan. Within just a few minutes Madame Elivert came walking up with a smile as bright as the sun. She told us how much she loved her new house. She loved her new house so much that she slept in the house on the concrete floor the night before we arrived. In that instant I was reminded that God was in control. God had blessed her with a new house and she was very thankful. She was so thankful that she slept on a concrete floor and never again had to make the long walk up and down the mountain. We spent the best part of the next two days doing finish work. We painted Madame Elivert's house inside and out. We bought Madame Elivert a new mattress. Several team members hiked down the mountain to carry up her remaining belongings. We also painted Jesula's aunt and uncle's house next door. They were so grateful. They cooked yams and chicken for us that I know was likely there food for the week. People from all over the village gathered, watched, and even helped work.

On the last full day of our trip a few of us made one last visit to Jesula's grandmother's new house. We took her a few parting gifts, primarily food. Inside the house, I emotionally explained to Jesula and her grandmother that this would be the last time they would see each other, as Jesula would soon leave to live in the Untied States. Jesula had large tears trickle down her face and her grandmother smiled that smile of total peace that says I fought the good fight, I finished the race. I stepped back just outside the door of the house to give them privacy and just watched. They hugged and exchanged words in their native language. Then Jesula flashed her beautiful little grin, kissed her grandmother on the cheek, and turned and walked out the door. Jesula and I were the last to leave. As we walked away out the trail to the road, Jesula stopped several times and gazed back momentarily at her grandmother sitting on the porch of her new house. I would so much like to know what was going through Jesula's mind. Perhaps Jesula was day-dreaming of sweet childhood memories surrounded by her grandmother. Perhaps Jesula felt at peace knowing that her grandmother, who raised her and then lovingly left her in a better place at the orphanage, was on this day being left in a better place.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7