I arrive after my 3rd and final flight. I’m here. I was emotional crossing the Atlantic as this was my first real trip out of the country. But I made it. I successfully make my way through customs, even dodging the $10 fee as I was mistaken for a Haitian. That would be the first time of many during my visit. It’s not until I make my way to baggage claim that I realize my bag more than likely is not there. I had only received 2 flight tickets during my travels and had to ask for the 3rd at the 2nd stop. That meant, my bag had only made it to the 2nd location. I am on the phone with my friend who I came to visit explaining all of this, panicking and freaking out. Then all of a sudden she is there in person and my frustration and anxiety are mixed with elation. But there is little time for a sweet reunion as we are now on a mission to find my bag. Lucky for me my friend speaks fluent Creole and is able to assist a lady at the service desk in locating my bag and scheduling it to be delivered the next day. I feel God’s presence and pray fervently that my bag and all of its contents will make it. My friend and I make our way through the crowd of people standing outside the airport and I follow her to the vehicle of choice. We then ride around with our driver and make our way into this new world I’ve never explored before. We drop off my carryon and I know this is the perfect time for a proper reunion which can only be completed with a picture.
The first of over 600.
I’m introduced to my friend’s friends as we make our way from one place to the next, finally settling down at a local restaurant. There was no electricity at this particular site and I was advised not to use the bathroom there. Or in many places for that matter. We wait over an hour for food and I am told that is normal. We make conversation as I sample the local beer called Prestige. I would have several Prestiges during my trip. The food arrives and we eat by the light of our iPhone apps. We solidify the evening with another picture.
That evening we attend a Haitian night club and I learn what sensual people Haitians are. I also learn to not go into a dark room with a good looking man unless I’m ready for what comes with that. Always learning. My friend and I stay at a really nice hotel that night and I’m blessed they serve coffee in the morning. It’s a coffee unlike any in the States and I soon become addicted during my stay. The German owner of the hotel who personally delivered the coffee shares a little bit of his story and his heart for Haiti. “If we as believers are called to move mountains, than what is a country?” I am moved b/c I hear Holy Spirit in his words and I meet the revelation of the eternals in his eyes.
God is here.
We make our way to the airport to pick up my bag. We then meet with another friend of a friend and are served lunch at his house. We go sight-seeing, hangout and take more pictures. I also pick up some souvenirs. Each day I spend in Haiti is surreal. So many moments of bliss. There is poverty, but I am not as affected as I thought I would be. I look out the window of our vehicle at the streets through eyes not of a prideful American, but a lowly Haitian. Eyes I would have been given had I been born in Haiti. We cannot choose where we are born or the family we are born to. For that reason, I realize I could easily have been born into poverty and therefore what seems abnormal to me as an American would be my normal. I think I am also able to make this connection b/c on the outside I look Haitian and am often received as a Haitian. We stay in resort type places where they serve you fresh seafood in chairs overlooking the ocean. I am met with peace and quiet and catch my breath when I walk outside each morning b/c of the beauty that surrounds me. It is stuff I’ve only seen it movies. It is paradise. My friend knows it and that’s why she brings me here. I can’t get over how quiet it is. It is quiet b/c tourism is low and not many locals can afford these premises. We visit the beach where we negotiate a fair price for souvenirs. Negotiation is vital and my friend is stellar at it. We lounge and relax, drinking water from a coconut and I am on vacation.
We eat lobster on the beach and take more pictures. At some point we visit my favorite place of all. “Bassin Bleu”. Quite the little hidden jewel. We are guided by locals, leaping over water and carefully walking across slippery rocks. The danger in falling is evident and I trust God is ordering my footsteps. We successfully make it under the waterfall, and my iPhone successfully makes it too (due to much prayer I’m sure!!).
That evening I witness more of the manifested presence of God as my friend and a pastor pass out gifts to local children. The kids are taught that the larger gift is in fact Jesus and I am touched beyond words at the gospel being shared. Each package was carefully put together by donors all over the country. If only they could see the kids’ faces when they received their gifts!
Seeing those faces make the heat more bearable as the church has no air conditioning and I am feeling sick at one point b/c of the heat and the long day. My friend and I relax that night and the next day make our way to the mountains where I am touched again by the quiet and beauty. I also end up meeting my friend’s girls. She mentors them once a week and they are precious. They ask me questions in English while I struggle to ask them questions in Creole/French. My friend translates and we take more pictures.
The very last night of my stay I am sitting with my friend, her pastor and his wife. They are pouring into us. He is speaking eternal words and I have tears forming b/c I know the Father is letting Himself be known again. I realize that the only way I can possibly fulfill the calling on my life is to walk so closely to the Father that I cannot easily be distracted from purpose. I am told that in order to walk with Him I must agree with Him. I have not been agreeing. But even in my frustration and difficulty, He is still caring for me. He is blatantly showing me on this trip that I am favored and I am His. He is teaching me many things.
My friend’s pastor shares his heart for his country. He shares that even in the midst of the poverty and the struggle, there is hope. He knows this country is in a season of transformation. I am reminded that I am a prophetic person, and it could be that my trip itself is prophetic. It could be that my exposure to the beauty of this place is just a glimpse of what others will see in the coming season. Even as we were traveling one of our drivers uncharacteristically began sharing his heart about Haiti in Creole. Up until that point he had been so silent, but then his words began pouring out and I could not help but think God was speaking through him. “So many come to this country and they see its beauty but then they go back to their own, and they only speak of the negative things. They only speak of the poverty. They make it seem like Haiti is dangerous and scary”. Even though I needed my friend to translate his words, I still felt his pain at being falsely labeled.
It’s difficult to summarize my experience in Haiti. My friend made sure I saw all its different parts. The city, the country, the beauty and the poverty. I took it all in, knowing this is a once in a lifetime experience. I learned how much a country forms and shapes ones’ identity. I learned to adjust my expectations that were cultural. I learned how some things are the same no matter where you go. I learned how important having order on the road is and paved streets. I learned that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are lesser than. I think that is something Americans have ingrained in them. I think the missionaries that come to Haiti have good intentions, but I don’t know if their tactics are the most effective. I think my friend who has adopted this country and their people and their ways is going to be more effective than a thousand well-intentioned missionaries simply b/c she is not trying to change the people, but help them. A country suffering with a 90% unemployment rate, needs more than a few missionaries visiting and passing out tracks every now and then. I could see that the Haitians are well acquainted with religion and Christianity as exhibited in the references to Jesus and scripture on most public buildings and transportation vehicles. More religion is not going to help this country. I don’t believe religion helps any country. They need people coming alongside them, helping to create sustainable change and opportunity. There are so many who are educated and talented and b/c they do not have opportunity their gifts are wasted. I can’t imagine how purposeless one would feel with no open door to use the God given talents they were given. Religion is not needed. Relationship is needed.
I was in awe of my friend who has traded her middle class, secure, comfortable life for these people. She reminds me of Ruth in the Bible. I can’t imagine loving someone or something so much that you shed your own identity for them/it. It is God to put this mission in her heart and it’s simply amazing. I’m blessed He has given me this opportunity to see His heart for another part of this world and to meet the people who share His heart.