Haiti (April 15: transition day)

How do you prepare yourself to re-enter the real world? After a week in Haiti, it’s good to have a day to reflect, recuperate and recharge for the journey home. 

We didn’t have to get up as early today, and traveled to Kaliko Beach Club just a little bit north of Port-au-Prince. It’s a nice little resort on some clear blue water lapping up against a rocky shore. You can just reach down and grab spiny lobsters and giant crabs, which various locals did who then offered to cook them up for me.

We sat on the beach, talked in the pool, napped and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

  
After supper our group reflected on the week, and how it affected us and our faith. Plus, what will we say when someone asks, “So, how was your trip? Did you have fun?”

It’s a difficult question to answer. It was a hard week of grueling days and not drinking the water and not opening your mouth in the shower. It was a series of long rides to parts unknown where curious looks welcomed us onto their home court in strange tongues. It was a constant encounter with poverty, mercy and faith. It was as a previous team described it: “The worst vacation I ever loved.”

Everyone from rookies to seasoned veterans talked about “next time.” Lophane and Helen reminded us of the value of “presence.” And we were reminded that our friends, family and colleagues will now try to reel us back into the world from which we have been absent, whether we are ready or not. 

The images of young eyes peering through holes in the walls, impossibly bumpy roads, the joyful splash of baptismal water and smile after amazing smile will play over and over again in our day and nighttime dreams. Those visions make you see every person, headline and bible passage in a different light. 

How do you re-enter the real world? Transformed, renewed, discerning and grateful.

Haiti (finale)

This will be my last segment on Haiti, just some random reflections to tie everything together.

One question asked of me: “What did you do?” Among other things I fixed Gail’s glasses, played the part of an IV pole, learned how to take someone’s blood pressure, colored with some of the kids, and learned how to count to five and say, “Go to the tent!” in Haitian Creole. Most of the local people laughed at my south Philly-Creole accent.

We worshiped at a Lutheran Church on Sunday. Enock translated Pastor Benoit’s excellent sermon for us, and we thoroughly enjoyed the music, which included a grooving rendition of “Thy Strong Word.”

The Cholera outbreak cut out trip short by a day. News of the disease reached us early in the week, but it was in a region to the south of us. We were already taking precautions with the water, so we weren’t too concerned. Then, as the numbers of fatalities grew, we became concerned that there might be a quarantine or have trouble traveling, so we switched out flight to a day earlier. Other than another three-hour kidney-jarring, teeth rattling ride in the back of an SUV, travel back went smoothly.

Another question asked of me was, “Did you have a good trip?” I always answer, “No. It was rough.” It was rough to see the conditions the people live in and rough to not be able to do a whole lot about it. How many stomach aches were simply hunger? How many other ailments were due to dehydration? It’s hard to say. If the clinic continues to serve the people in Poto, then perhaps we did some good. If the experience will help us motivate others for mercy work like this, then perhaps it was a good trip.

We are already planning on going back with more from our church through the efforts of Mission: Haiti and the Florida-Georgia district of the LCMS. We keep in touch with many of our friends through Facebook and email. As I write this, a hurricane is just a few days from Haiti. A storm would be especially horrible for the thousands still living in tents and under tarps. Needless to say, we are doing a lot of praying for them!

We’re in this together

About a week ago, my wife Lisa and I sent out a letter about our upcoming trip to Haiti and how people could support us, both in prayer and financially. As great as a mission trip might sound, there is the sobering reality that you have to pay your own way. You need a flight, ground transportation, food and lodging while you’re there, translators, and you need to bring along medical supplies. Remember, we’re going some place where they basically have nothing, so you have to bring something.

As uncomfortable as raising support for a trip might be, it’s good to remember that many people who can’t or won’t go to various places can be a part of what is happening there through prayer, encouragement, and contributions. If their talents enable them to earn money that can be used for these efforts, that’s their part of the puzzle that makes these medical mission trips happen. What a great reminder that we’re not doing this alone, but we’re the church doing this together. We’re supposed to be dependent on each other, suffer together, rejoice together, worship together, and serve together.

(Having said that, if you’d like a copy of our letter, just respond with an email and I’ll be glad to send one along.)

My wife’s back from Haiti!

She flew back to Miami this past Sunday, and my youngest daughter and I drove down to meet her and drive back home on Monday. Was it ever good to see her! I also got to meet a number of the medical mission team she went with her and talk with them over supper. An interesting, diverse, and talented group who made a difference in the 1300 patients they saw at the church turned into a clinic the week before.

She was glad to be home, for the conditions were hot, sticky, rainy and dirty. But I think a part of her wanted to stay since so many would need so much help for years to come. Even though what they did was awesome, it was only a drop in the bucket. The team had just gotten to know each other and many members of the church and community, so it was as hard to leave as it would have been to stay. One of those paradox things.

Now that she knows people there, we’ll be able to stay in touch and help more in the future. It feels very different to help people you met and know by name than to just support “missions” somewhere, so this can be a great opportunity for her and our congregation. Where will she (or hopefully, “we”) go next? Hard to say. There are many, many opportunities. Of course, for just about everything now, you must pay your own way, so a little planning is needed.

So, God — what’s next?