From Hawaii to Haiti
This trip report is from a young man from Hawaii who had never been to Haiti before:
Day 1: Wednesday – “The Awakening”
We left Hawaii later in the evening around seven or eight pm. At first, my initial thoughts and feelings towards the trip were anticipation and excitement: What will God have for us? Who will God place into our path for us to meet? What will Haiti be like? What will the team members be like? These questions filled my head throughout the many hours from Honolulu to Los Angeles, as well as from Los Angeles to Miami. These flights and the long layover in LAX really helped me to form the start of a special relationship with my dad throughout the trip. We spent long hours talking and eating multiple times in airports and just hanging out. It brought us closer even in the midst of anticipation and long waits.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we made it to Miami. We met up with about half of the team there. Reuniting with my best friend, Alex, second sister, Lauren, and second dad, Kirk, filled my heart with joy and instantly wiped my mind clean of any impatience or negative thoughts. We then met the portion of the team that had traveled together from Boston, Massachusetts. The team leader, Laurae, her daughter, Melissa, and many others gave us a warm welcome to the gate. Instantly, we all became best friends. We started playing Scrabble and hanging out getting to know each other and forming bonds to last us a lifetime.
After our short flight (about 2 hours) to Haiti, we were all thrown into the chaos of the Haiti airport. No sooner were we shuttled to the baggage claim area then we were asked to fly through customs and retrieve our bags. Looking for duffels with “SFH” (Servants For Haiti) spray-painted on them, and my dad’s military duffel, and my own military duffel amidst all the luggage carts, Americans, Haitians, and luggage was completely ridiculous. Next, the walk from baggage claim to ground transportation resembled a gauntlet. Just as you leave the baggage claim with your luggage cart, what seems like hundreds of Haitian men start either asking or just taking your cart expecting payment for their service later. Desperate shouts of, “No, merci!” (No, thank you!) and muscling our carts away from the helpers proved to be challenging and harried.
We finally made it to ground transportation and after a short wait, about a quarter of the team piled onto a well-maintained, half school bus. Amidst all the bags and fellow team members, I experienced the reason why I named this day “The Awakening”. Most of the way from the airport to the orphanage all I could see from the left to the right was tents. Tents full of people whose homes were ravaged by the earthquake and left to fend for themselves. How humbling. My heart instantly broke for these people. Alex said something like, “I thought I knew what to expect, but I didn’t expect this.” There was some level of truth in his statement to all of us new to Haiti, but also those who had been to Haiti numerous times before. We were all awakened by the raw need here in Haiti and immediately our hearts were rendered in the right place.
We made it to the orphanage pretty spiritually drained, or at least I was, and literally, as soon as we walked in the door, I was hit by what seemed like a two-foot wave of 3 year olds. This wave was composed of three rambunctious, energetic toddler boys named Clarence, Cowen, and Chryslin. Immediately one child ran up to me and raised his little arms. If my heart wasn’t already in pieces it surely broke completely at this point. I picked him up and hung out with him for the first hours at the orphanage. How amazing to serve a God who serves as a father to the fatherless!
The rest of the evening was spent forming amazing friendships with every new team member that walked through the door of the orphanage with either a firm handshake or a welcoming hug. We played an extremely long game of Egyptian rat-tail screw and unpacked all our bags. Near the end of the night, we all came together and had devotions to recap our day and reflect. We drank some Cokes and then hit the bed.
Day 2: Thursday – “The Kick-start”
This morning I woke up around 3:30 a.m. Haitian time and felt around ten to fifteen mosquito bites on my legs and arms. I immediately got out of bed and sprayed on some bug spray. Silly me! After a few more hours of sleep, I woke up at normal time: 6:30a.m. I awoke to Haitian music and voices riding the morning breeze through our window into our room filling it with soft songs that sounded a lot like hymns or worship songs. I woke up praising God with the Haitians even though I knew none of the words they were so fervently singing. How amazing to serve a God who’s worship surpasses language barriers.
A lot of the team sat out on the roof that morning doing morning devotions individually. It was refreshing to see so many people seeking after God in the same place at the same time. We progressed downstairs and ate our breakfast, which was so kindly prepared for us by the Haitian women in the kitchen. Eggs with celery and onions chopped up inside, Portuguese sausage, and bread filled our stomachs and gave us energy for our morning ahead. Eating with many toddlers around asking to be picked up and asking for a little morsel of our almost American food was tough, definitely heartbreaking.
Next, we all walked together from the orphanage to the church where we would be working during the next few days. This walk could have been the most impacting ten minutes of my entire week. Seeing the poverty just along the side of the road was extremely intense. People living in tents, young children walking aimlessly, dirty water running throughout the streets, everything. One thing I will say is that God was there. With me, with them, in Haiti. He knows their needs and has a plan for each and every one of them. With this statement, I come to the reason why I named this day “The Kick-start”: consistently every morning, but in particular this morning God would kick start my heart from being so broken with the orphans to running full speed on fire for Him ready to work my heart out for His kingdom and His church.
Next, we worked. We moved rubble down three stories, moved re-bar up three stories, moved benches, and much more. We grabbed lunch (pb and j) around noon and went back to the orphanage around two in the afternoon – a short work day. We came home took baby wipe showers (which feel ridiculously amazing) and hung out with the team and the orphans. We then had devotions as a team. I led worship: Hosanna by Hillsong and I Could Sing of You Love Forever.
After devos, I hung out with Jo and Amanda, two girls from our team, and sang worship songs while playing guitar for what seemed like ages! It was probably only an hour or two. Then we all took our showers in the evening. Showers in Haiti consist of a 5-gallon bucket of water and a large cup. You can imagine that it’s a little different than back home, but I immediately appreciated bucket showers for their coolness and refreshing feeling. After my shower I climbed in bed, but not before putting on loads of bug spray J, and was completely asleep in two seconds.
Day 3 – Friday: “The Vets”
Friday, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. the same as the day before. That morning I decided to help to make pb and j sandwiches for lunch. A lot of us crowded around a table and made two loaves worth! After that I went back to the roof and did my morning devos as well as grabbed some breakfast with the team. One thing I really appreciated about breakfast and every meal is that we hold hands and sing a verse of a song before praying for the meal. It’s really refreshing and great to see other team members in song together praising our awesome God each meal. We then walked from the church to the orphanage. Then, we worked. We moved cinder blocks up three stories either walking them up two at a time or making a long line passing them person-to-person. Either way it was tiring. When we were in a line, I was on the ladder which involved pulling the brick from between your legs to above your head. It was intense and awesome! I worked on the ladder for a long time, lots of people switched off but I stayed on. When I finally got off, when all the bricks were done, three or four Haitian young men slapped my back and said, “You not lazy!” In a few hours with a little sweat and work, I had earned their respect. This is why I called this day “The Vets” because all of us new team members felt like we were fitting right in with the rest of the veteran workers and Haitian workers. We took lunch and then moved cement bags and metal supports for the remainder of the afternoon. We then went home and hung out with all the young orphans. A few hours later we convened for a dinner of chicken, rice, and plantains. Good stuff. We then had devotions, in which Adam led two songs: How Deep theFfather’s Love For Us and El Shaddai. It was a great worship time. Next, the teens met on the roof and played cards and hung out in the cool breeze. After a couple hours up there we all grabbed bucket showers and hit the bed.
Day 4 – Saturday: “God’s Haiti”
This day we woke up a little later then we usually did. We got up around seven, what a blessing to have a sleep-in day! We all piled into a big, blue bus and headed to a ministry called The Apparent Project. This ministry helps struggling people to learn how to make jewelry, so that they can sell it and support their families. This ministry is particularly great because they learn how to support themselves instead of relying on the aid coming from the United States and other countries. We shopped there and supported them by buying their merchandise. We then went out into the Haitian country to a mission up in the hills. We had some delicious lunch there. I had an awesome steak, ham, and onion sandwich. We then went out into the street and bartered for Haitian bracelets, Haitian boxes, original paintings, and carved, wooden-handled machetes. We had lots of fun and got some good stuff pretty cheap. We then piled into the bus and went to another ministry back in the city. Named Christian Light Ministries, this ministry is an elementary school that houses, clothes, feeds, and educates the kids in all the subjects of normal school, as well as the Bible. The older lady who started this ministry is amazing. She has such a vision and endless goals with God. This is why I called today “God’s Haiti” because in seeing all these amazing missions and ministries, I have a peace that God has plans for Haiti. We then headed home, grabbed dinner, and hung out with the orphans and each other for the remainder of the evening. We grabbed bucket showers and went to sleep.
Day 5 – Sunday: “Church of Champions”
We woke up extra early today to get all spiffy for church. Guys wore pants, long sleeve collared shirts, and ties. Girls wore long dresses and sweaters. We all walked to church together in the hot Haitian sun. We were so sweaty J. It was amazing to see all of the Haitians who have so little dressed up to honor our God. Their church service was three and a half hours long. How intense is that? I will never get bored in an hour and a half church service again in my entire life. I have a new found respect for sitting on wooden benches. They sang the song Breathe in Creole and I knew this because I could hear the music and the melody. This is why I called today “Church of Champions” because Haitian church is intense! We came back from church at around eleven in the morning and grabbed breakfast for lunch – waffles, Portuguese sausage, and hard-boiled eggs. Next, we piled in a bus and a pickup truck and went to an ice cream shop. We bartered for the ice cream using goods instead of dollars and ate together. In line for ice cream, I talked with the guy behind me and found out that he was from Hawaii! What a small world. He lives in the Dominican Republic currently, but lived in Hawaii before. After ice cream we went to the President’s Palace, which was reduced to rubble in the earthquake and still has not been repaired. It was stunning to see the damage. Next, we went home and had dinner – squash soup, a Haitian favorite. Next, we had devotions as a team. Lastly, we went down into the foyer and played worship music with the Haitians hanging out there. They knew many songs in English and we worshiped our mighty God together. Next, we took our bucket showers and hit the bed.
Day 6 – Monday: “Heart and Home”
We woke up at normal time 6:30 am and got downstairs to have our delicious breakfast of fried eggs, French toast, and pineapple. We fellowshipped and started our day with sustenance physically and spiritually by singing and praying before our meal. We then walked to the worksite together. I am pretty sure today was the day that we all did a prayer walk together. I paired up with Alex and we prayed for people we passed on the street, both of our sisters, and what they are going through, Haiti as a whole, our team, just everything. I felt like God was extremely present in this fifteen-minute walk to the worksite. It felt as if He was walking and listening to all of our prayers with us. This is why I called today “Heart and Home” because I felt like my heart and home was definitely in Haiti this day. We worked on moving more cinder blocks up onto the roof, moving rebar back down to the lowest level, and salvaging wood to use in other places. How amazing to be able to serve a God that will allow us to work all day for His glory, but also walk with us and hear our prayers! We grabbed lunch of pb and j sandwiches and Haitian meat pies, which were delicious. We then finished up work and headed back to the orphanage. We hung out with the Haitians and the orphans. We had devotions as a team, heard about a soccer ministry, had dinner, and took bucket showers. We went onto the roof with our mattresses and slept in the cool breeze.
Day 7 – Tuesday: “Together as One”
6:30 wake up time just like normal. We had a great breakfast and walked to the worksite. This day was our longest work day. We formed a line and passed buckets filled with cement up three stories, across the roof, and then laid the foundation for the next section of the building. We had many more Haitians working with us this day than any of the others in order to finish the roof quickly. They all stood on a huge wooden ladder that looked like it could break at any moment and passed up bucket after bucket. Their work ethic is unmatched and very impressive. We had lunch of pb and j sandwiches and then went straight back to work and didn’t finish till around 6:30 in the evening. The whole time we were working we did an exercise of thankfulness thinking about one hundred things to be thankful for. We surpassed our goal and reached far beyond what we ever thought. This is why I call today “Together as One” because we came together and meshed as brothers and sisters in Christ and helped this school and church to finish their third story. We had dinner, hung out with the orphans, and hit the bed.
Days 8 and 9 – Wednesday and Thursday: “Relaxation Station and Travels”
On Wednesday we spent time at the beach just relaxing and debriefing from our trip. We swam in the water, played Frisbee on the beach, and bought some things from the local vendors. On Thursday we said our goodbyes, traveled to the airport, and arrived swiftly back into Miami only to be met with layovers, delays, missed flights, and sicknesses. However, we made it home safely, only by the grace of God. Thank you for supporting me. This trip changed my life, changed my view of myself, and changed my view of God