Pick a Direction - HAITI
When I got back to the states, someone asked me, “Was it life-changing?”
It’s hard to have your entire life changed in the course of a few days. There are exceptions such as near-death experiences and the birth of a child, obviously. But, I prefer to think we are nudged in one direction or another based on events choices. I started volunteering five or six years ago. Back then I’d didn’t have the guts to take a trip like this.
Regarding my recent mission trip to the International Christian Development Mission (ICDM), I can’t say I’m an entirely different person. However, I was certainly moved: to action, to tears, to play lots of fùtbol. And I was moved to share my story.
Below are journal excerpts from my trip as well as a video of the week’s events. The entries came from the cool mornings on the roof or the muggy evenings on my bottom bunk before passing out from fùtbol exhaustion. If you would like to know more about ICDM or how to sponsor a child, please reach out to me or visit www.ICDM.us.
To those of you who donated, I can’t thank you enough! The shoes went directly to the kids, the balls and pumps went directly to the mission who provides them to the community, and the rest of the money that was leftover went to feed many of the children you’ll see in the video below. Going without a meal is common for these kids and your money made an immediate impact.
Immediately following this paragraph is a 15 minute video of my trip (roughly two minutes per day) and below that are my journals from the trip outlining much of what you see in the video. It was an unforgettable experience and if you take the time to watch the video or read the journals, I’d love to hear from you so please reach out.
My Uncle Jesse is many things. He’s a pastor. He’s a husband and a father. He’s a diesel mechanic. He’s a PhD. He’s a disciple of Jesus and a missionary. I’ve always loved and respected him but after spending time with him on this trip, I admire him more than ever.
I decided to come to Haiti for a few reasons. I’ve had it on my heart to do something like this for a long time but never came across an opportunity that resonated with me until early 2018. Uncle Jesse told me he was going to Haiti again and we discussed me going with him. I’ve had friends go on other missions recently and loved hearing their stories. Plus, it was a chance for me to spend precious time with my Uncle Jesse and his wife, the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life, Aunt Joi.
Uncle Jesse met Yvan Pierre back in 1999 in seminary and Yvan asked Uncle Jesse for over 10 years to come down to Haiti. In 2010, after the massive earthquake that killed an estimated 150,000-300,00+ people, Uncle Jesse knew it was time. He immediately, “Fell in love with the people of Haiti,” and I now know why. Uncle Jesse has been back to Haiti a number of times and is very involved with ICDM. It was his push and his words of encouragement that got me to take the leap of faith and book this trip.
6/16/18 – Bottom bunk, PM
The city of Bayonnais isn’t exactly a metropolis. I witnessed nearly 80,000 people living in poverty (by American standards) today as we drove in. I mostly sat in awe as we passed hut after shed after shanty of locals selling their goods, carrying massive baskets on their heads, or just living their lives. Most places we passed were markets, definitely not all though. The last hour of the trip was off the main road on a dirt trail from Gonaïves to Bayonnais – passing villagers on foot. I could count the electric light bulbs I saw after dark on one hand.
Yvan and his family (Rosemond – his brother, Myriam – his wife, Chiff – his nephew, Gaina – his daughter) were extremely nice. I can’t wait to get to know them better over the next seven days. No internet, no phone, no social media, nothing but me and the Haitian people I’m here to serve.
6/17/18 – Rooftop, AM
Hardly slept between the fans turning off, the dogs barking and the roosters crowing at 4:00 AM… But I feel well rested and I’m so excited to see what this day holds. I’ve found my quite place up here on the roof ????
6/17/18 – Bottom bunk with three fans and no A/C, PM
Today was church. It lasted from 9:30 to almost noon and was passionate. I was never bored or anxious, but definitely not used to a service that long. The kids were my favorite part of the service. They were dressed up and singing worship songs… so cute!
After church we changed, ate lunch, and prepared for our first day of serving. We fed the elderly and “abandoned” of the community who had nobody to care for them (where people like Dad would be if he didn’t have family). They were appreciative of the food and drink and dance and all the medicine baggies we packed for them.
Then I played fùtbol… for more than two hours. The kids here love fùtbol and because I told them about it at church, they were lined up during our elderly ministry ready for a ball to be tossed their way. I loved every sweaty second of it. They were competitive but fair. Didn’t cheat, but didn’t let anyone get over on them, either. They played so hard in their sandals and bare feet on the rocks and gravel. I think I can walk to and from the beach back home barefoot if these kids are that tough! I hope my time with them is a blessing like the donations everyone sent.
I am learning what Yvan’s message is here: SERVE. Just serve others and do it for Jesus. It is inspiwing (as he would say in his Haitian accent) to see this and learn that I can also make an impact in my hometown like him.
6/18/18 – Bottom bunk, PM
Started really talking in depth with Uncle Jesse today about how to help the people of Haiti and seriously wanting to adopt this cause as my own. Began reading “The Big Truck That Went By” about how Haiti has been left in ruins more so by political aide than national disasters.
This happened after a morning walk up and down the main road. We checked out a house that was built in the community for a dwarf lady who was so proud to show off her digs! I held the cutest baby and we picked up kids every eight feet along our walk. Odrinne (sp?) was carrying rocks and loves my bracelet. Wenzie and Weevus (sp?) wouldn’t let go of my hands and I gave one of them a ride back down the mountain on my shoulders. We saw a high school, the original ICDM school, another clinic, and tons of mud huts with tin roofs. We have it SO GOOD in America. These kids were thrilled just to hold my hand and play with my GoPro. 95% of American couldn’t live like these people for one day. Heck, I don’t think I could.
The afternoon brought more fùtbol. It started on campus with a few boys and a few balls, then escalated after an hour. An older boy in cleats showed up and the older faction (who I wasn’t playing with at the time) asked told me to join. So for the next 90 minutes, that’s what I did. After we’d already played for an hour!
We went up the mountain 10-15 minutes through trails, over creeks, along houses, and into an open field surrounded by mountain faces on all sides. The land was cleared for farming and had obviously been used for crops, though none were there now. I had to pinch myself on the way up and every few minutes during the game. Lighting struck and thunder crackled all around us the entire time we played under the dark skies.
The field actually had two four-feet-wide by two-feet-high goals that were part of the open field. However, we had more players than normal, plus I brought cones, so we played perpendicular to these goals. The said goals were suggested boundaries that we sometimes paid attention to. The field was half topsoil, half green, and 100% uneven. They loved it and their passion showed through their play.
After dinner we hung with the kids and Dawna handed out balloons. We played with the balls, ate dinner, and the boys showed me how they could all whistle better than me. I. Am. Whooped.
6/19/18 – Bottom bunk and all banged up, PM
I almost lost my left hand today. We were trying to remove a refrigerator truck’s refrigerator but it wasn’t cooperating because it weighed 4,000+ pounds. We had successfully removed the truck from the fridge when our makeshift base of poorly made cinder blocks and 2X4’s crumbled (literally) under my hands. The 2×4’s pinned my hands to the top cinder block as the fridge fell forward and snapped the wood like toothpicks. My left hand was yanked out but not before sacrificing a few chunks of flesh to the concrete.
The mission was in a panic and it was cool to see everyone (especially the kiddos) so concerned. They care about us as much as we care about them. My time here is special and I wont’ let this slow me down. Lots of stuff to fix and fùtbol to play!
6/20/18 – Bunked up with a bandaged hand, PM
Today started with an hour long 6:00 AM hike through the countryside of Bayonnais. I loved it! We went up a mountain, past farms, alongside cows, by burrows, and between goats all while listening to Yvan speak about Haiti. He is a patient, passionate, focused man. Yet, he still has the Haitian attitude of, “we’ll get to it when we get to it.”
Uncle Jesse walked the entire time, very proud of him!
The afternoon brought more fùtbol. I taught Jeff, one of the seventh graders, Soccer Tennis and he appeared to dig it. He reminds me of (a former teammate from Charleston Southern) Abiyd Coleman in so many ways. He got shoes this evening along with four girls and two other boys. They were so happy to have the shoes they immediately began trying their moves with their new kicks! My heart was full.
6/21/18 – In bed after playing Spoons, PM
I learned a new game tonight: Spoons. We played with a rotating cast of me, Dr. Linda, Gaina (Yvan’s daughter), Tupee (pronounced too-pee, who helped in the kitchen), Steve, and Sunny (pronounced su-nee, who helped on the grounds). We laughed and smiled and had a fun time together as we listened to the rain outside the dining room window. This was a natural progressions after the rain started and Dr. Linda, Gaina, and I had our tea and a long, winding conversation after dinner.
I felt accomplished today because Uncle Jesse, Ron, and I finished the stand/cage around the freezer. We cut, screwed, nailed, and rigged up a functioning version of what Yvan asked for. Two boys, Weesley and another, helped for well over an hour and half, even forgoing fùtbol with the other boys. I rewarded them both with the hats I brought. I hope they enjoy them because I loved working with them and having them by my side!
Today has been long but very worth it. We started at 5:45 AM when I woke to go on a 6:00 AM hike with Yvan, Dr. Linda, and Dawna. We hiked for two hours up the brown faced mountains! We attempted the goat farm but the gate was locked so we just kept going up. We could even see Gonaïves far on the coast! Pics were amazing and I’m so glad I got up to do that. Six days has flown by and I’m so glad I did this trip. This will not be my last trip up the Haitian mountains.
6/22/18 – After giving a bunch of stuff away, PM
Some of the small things I loved about this week in no particular order include:
- Hearing Tupee singing/humming as he works
- Exchanging glances and looks with little Wenzie across the courtyard
- Talks with Uncle Jesse
- Morning hikes
- Siestas on the tile floor with my feet in the air
- Fresh, home-cooked meals (including goat stew) prepared by Myriam and Marie-Claude The children’s laughter
- Hearing “blan” or “Mike” from a distan/li>ce and then turning to see the cutest kids watching to see if I’d respond to them (I always do)
- Saying “Bonjou” (good morning) and “Bonswa” (good afternoon) to everyone and hearing it back through smiles
- 5:45 wake up calls and 9:00 bed times
- Fùtbol till I collapse at any and all times of the day
- The boys helping with our construction project
- Sunrises and sunsets on the roof
- Marie-Claude’s Haitian coffee
- Fùtbol out in the field on Day 2
Today started awesome with a long talk with Uncle Jesse over a special cup of Marie-Claude’s coffee. I’ve always known he was incredibly smart, but have only been able to see him in action so often. He is a man after God’s heart and he works very hard to further the kingdom of God. He absolutely adores Aunt Joi and I admire their relationship. He still makes her morning coffee!
Next we finished the freezer truck project by getting it running and cleaning out the inside with soap and water. But not before an hour of sweaty fùtbol. The afternoon came and Weesley and a few other boys helped me measure, cut, and carry the wood to encage the truck motor. Afterward, I gave out as much stuff as I could: watch, bracelet, sunglasses, etc. I pray we’ve done good down here.
The night ended with a debrief during a rooftop sunset. It felt like my Seacoast small group. Afterward, I pulled Yvan off to the side and asked about CSU being a possibility for someone to go to school there. THAT would be cool! We finished up with a few rounds of Spoons.
Back row left to right: Tupee, Rosemond, Sunny Front row left to right: Yvan, Ron, Dr. Linda, Me, Steve, Dawna, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Joi, Andi, Myriam Front row: Marie-Claude