The mission trip with Haiti Cheri was one of the most eye opening experiences that I've been through in my entire life, it made me realize how good we have it here in the United States. I left on the mission feeling bad for those people and wanted to help, but I returned feeling bad for us and the way we take everything in our lives for granted.
We arrived in Haiti on a Saturday morning. We exited the plane and walked across the runway towards the building to check in. The atmosphere was relaxed and really quiet inside of the tiny airport building, most of us didn't know what was waiting for us on the other side of the exit. We finished checking in with customs and then we walked towards the back to exit the building, then someone opened the door. It went from relaxed to chaos in a matter of seconds. We started walking to the truck that was waiting to pick us up, I was overwhelmed with all of the noise from people yelling and the amount of vehicles driving around. The first thing I thought of was, what did I get myself in to? Some of us jumped in the back of a pick-up truck and we started driving through the city. The streets were lined with trash, you could smell all the trash and people burning their trash throughout the city. There are no traffic signs or traffic lights in the city, so you can just imagine what it was like to ride in the back of something with no idea where you are headed. The streets were congested with trucks, motorcycles, people pushing wheel barrows, people carrying stuff on their head, bicycles and people just walking. I saw one guy pushing a wheel barrow full of an entire slaughtered cow, there was no telling how long he had been pushing it or how long it had been sitting there, but someone was eventually going to eat it. I watched a motorcycle run into a guy, it knocked him down and everything he was carrying, but he got back up and picked up his things and started walking down the street again.
We finally made it to the hotel that we would be staying at for the next couple of days, it was beautiful. The hotel was right on the ocean right outside of the city, you couldn't even hear the busy noises from the city, all you could hear was the sound of waves crashing on the beach. But all I had to do was look down at the beach and reality brought me right back into the place where God had brought me. The beach was lined with trash from the city that, the waves had carried it back to shore.
The first day consisted of filling little plastic bags with medicine so that we could get a jump start on the medical clinic that we would be doing in Acul Samedi. We just kind of sat around filling the bags, listening to the ocean and getting to know each person that came on the trip.
On the second day, Sunday, we went to church. There were about 2000 people who attended and the service lasted about 3 hours. At the end of the service the preacher was talking to the church and the choir was singing, a few people started walking up to the front and brought their own chairs, I didn't know what was going on. The preacher kept talking and even more people came to the front. Some of those people didn't have a chair to bring up there with them so some other folks in the church gave up theirs for them to sit down. Then I realized what was happening, these people had just accepted Jesus into their lives. I couldn't understand a word that was said because they spoke Creole the entire time, but I didn't have to understand their language to know what God had just done. We also got to see Dan ( Pastor Oris translated) get up and preach in front of the church, that was really cool. Later that afternoon we visited a children's hospital in the city, this was such a humbling experience, just to see all of the sick kids laying in a bed waiting on medical treatment that they probably weren't going to receive. There is no way that any one of us would take our kids to a place like that, but that's all they have and all they can hope for to get well. There were piles of trash just laying on the ground outside with bloody gauze and exposed used needles, and the smell of that place was awful. Most of the children had their parents sitting right next to them, the parents could do nothing, they had no money to go and buy the medicine that their kids needed to get better. While we were there, we prayed for them at their bedside and we got a list of the meds that some of the kids needed so we could purchase them and give them some hope. Pastor Oris told me to go with him to get the medicine. We walked to a corner pharmacy to get prices and compare them with another one, we walked about 20 feet to the next one and got a much better deal. I couldn't believe that within 20 feet you could get such a drastic difference in price.
Monday we went to a town to hand out food and clothes, Haiti Cheri had not been before. When we pulled in and got out of the trucks, we were immediately surrounded by people of all ages. We grabbed the clothes out of the truck and walked into a small building to hand them out, it quickly turned into a huge group of people in such a tiny area and we found ourselves backed up against the wall. Pastor Oris started to hand out shirts to the villagers, a tall mean looking young man walked in to see what was going on, he turned around to walk out and started staring at me. He looked me up and down and asked if I had any money for him, I said no, he didn't believe me. He said " I know you got some for me, step outside with me", I was overcome with fear and said a quick prayer to God to get us out of this situation. About five minutes went by and then that same man entered the room once more, but this time he had a different attitude. He quickly started helping Pastor Oris finish handing out the shirts, at that moment I felt like God had heard me and answered that quick little prayer. WE went outside to hand out food to the children and then that same man took charge and started handing out the food to all the kids. After the food was all gone we prayed with them.
After we left that village, we started our journey towards the village of Acul Samedi. When we arrived, we were welcomed with open arms by the people. We got settled in, they showed us around and then we just chilled out for the evening. We slept in the school, some of us slept on the concrete floor with a blanket laid on it and there were no full walls or doors. The next morning I awoke to the sound of a choir singing, it sounded like angels. The village church was only a few yards away from where we slept and the choir would get to the church every morning at sunrise (5:00) to worship, I made sure I was up every morning to listen to them sing.
Tuesday was the day we started the medical clinic, word got around quickly that we were there. People started lining up early that morning as we were setting up, there were so many people that came through with all kinds of illnesses and diseases. One of the Haiti doctors that was with us asked me to help him for a minute, there was a little boy who looked like he was about 3 or 4 sitting on the bench. His face was covered with some type of fungal infection, the doctor had me pour peroxide on some gauze and then he started scrubbing the child's face until it bled. That little kid sat right there in that seat trying to be tough, but he started to whimper and started shedding some tears. I kept pouring peroxide on gauze after gauze after gauze for the doctor and he kept scrubbing on that child's face, I couldn't help but start shedding my own tears for that boy, I was so thankful that wasn't my son sitting there on that wooden bench. We saw a lot of bad things during the two days of the clinic, we saw over 600 people on Tuesday and Wednesday.
We handed out food on Thursday. We started the day off by opening 100 pound bags of rice and pouring them into individual smaller bags, we poured beans into small bags as well. Everyone gathered in the church to sit and wait for their food, when it was their turn they walked out a side door and we handed them their bags to take home. I think we handed out food to about 500 people that day
After the food was gone, we split up into 2 groups and went into the village to spread the Gospel. This was a little strange to me as I had never done anything like this before. Pastor Oris led our group to people who caught his attention, it was pretty cool to see how he just zeros in on people. 3 of us in our group are fairly new in our faith (about 2 years) but Pastor Oris wasn't about to let that stop us from reaching people. One of the first people we saw wanted to accept Jesus into her life so Pastor Oris gave Eric the opportunity to lead her in prayer, then later on we found a young pregnant lady who wanted Christ in her life and I had the opportunity to lead her to Jesus. God brought me to Haiti to have several different experiences and that that one will stick with me forever. I also got to pray over some people who already have a relationship with Christ, every time I prayed it felt like God was opening my heart more and more to him.
One of the hardest things I had to deal with was the food, but it's not what you are thinking. The people in that village live day to day trying to survive on the food that they gather, I saw a little boy in the top of a huge tree picking mangos and sticking them in a backpack to carry home to his family. But every time we sat down to eat, I felt like we were eating like kings. We had steak, chicken, rice, pasta, bread, clean bottled water, soda, etc... I could never get over that while I was there. The water those people drink come out of a well that the kids (mostly) pump into dirty buckets to take home. We should be so thankful for what we have here in the U.S.
Our last night there, Pastor Oris made me get up in front of the entire church and give a testimony, it didn't freak me out as much as I thought it would. I started out by thanking them for welcoming us into their village and then continued to tell them how God has changed my life. I explained to them how He has really put it on my heart to serve people, I even threw in Romans 12:11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to serve those people through the clinic, through food and sharing the Gospel.
On Friday I got the chance to do some electrical work. Haiti Cheri is building an office. They started it in 1995 and now I got the opportunity to wire most of it 16 years later. We were a little strapped for time so I didn't get to finish the project. Eric, Erika and Becky also helped me do the wiring (thanks yall). Who would have ever thought that I would get to wire a building in Haiti, not me. Maybe I'll get the chance to finish it someday when I go back.
There was so much more that happened while we were there but there is no way I could even begin to explain it all. You will have to go see it for yourself. If you love serving God and his people, I strongly suggest that you step out in faith and go help the people of Haiti. Haiti Cheri does mission trips there about 4 times a year and I can tell you right now that this won't be my only mission trip with them. This trip has totally changed the way I see things as a necessity and the things that are just a comfort that we take for granted in life.
I want to thank Dan Merrefield and Pastor Oris for being such strong leaders in their mission to help the people of Haiti and I also want to thank Donna, Dane, Tanner, Landen, Melissa #2, Becky, Erika, Melissa #3 and Eric for being such a strong and fun team. It was really cool to see you guys surrender and do what God called you to do.