On Sunday night, I drove up our winding driveway, gravel crunching beneath the tires, and pulled to a stop beside the house. Home again after ten days of travel, ready to see my family, ready to sleep once more in my own bed, and yet feeling that I had left at least a part of my heart in Haiti.
This was my third trip to Haiti and people often ask which trip was my favorite, or how I would compare the different trips, but in all honesty, I cannot say. Each of the trips is completely different, with different team members, different work projects, but the mission is always the same – to evangelize and disciple and shower others with the love of Christ.
We met at noon on Friday, January 4th, for a packing party in which we tried to cram all of our personal belongings (as little as we could get by with), camp supplies (things for craft projects and the activities), work project supplies (a welder and all the supplies needed to build a drinking fountain/hand washing station at camp), smores supplies (a huge hit with the campers) and tons more, into our ten pound carry-ons and 23 fifty pound checked bags. In the end, we had two extra bags and something like 1300 pounds to load up and transport to the airport.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale, arriving close to midnight, with a four hour lay-over before our flight to Haiti in the “morning.” We spent the night in a hallway, trying to catch some sleep on the newly-cleaned and still-damp carpet, squinting against the glaring lights, and trying to ignore the warnings broadcasted every ten minutes about not leaving your bags unattended or taking bags from strangers. At 2:30 am, everyone gave up trying to sleep and we began the check-in process with IBC (a tiny company that flies to Haiti). Since the plane was so small, we had to be weighed along with all our bags to ensure that we did not exceed the weight limit. As it was, most of our bags were put on the next plane to Haiti and didn’t arrive until several hours after we did.
We touched ground in Cap Haitian and loaded up in the tap tap to drive out to Jacob’s Well, planning to send someone back later in the day to collect our bags once they arrived. The drive to the camp took a little longer than usual, because the tap tap kept stalling and eventually died completely. At length, we arrived at camp in time for lunch and a nap (after getting almost no sleep the night before, this was a great blessing) before launching into unpacking and preparing for camp.
The next morning was Sunday, so we went down to Jacob’s Vision Church and worshiped with the Haitians there. They sang a few songs in English just for us, but most of the service was in Kreyol. It was an absolute blessing to worship with our brothers and sisters, praising God in our different languages and looking forward to the day when people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship together before God. Most of the leadership of the church is very young, in their early twenties or late teens. It’s awesome to see God working in this generation of Haitians and to see how He has used the camp to reach out to them.
|This precious little girl stole my heart!|
After church, we launched into work projects for the rest of Sunday and Monday – putting together snack bags, unpacking, inventorying everything we had brought and everything that was already there, gathering activity supplies, working on the drinking fountain and welding chair-carts. I worked on translating our Elijah bible drama (lots of fun!) and then spent Monday on the mowing team – machete mowing, that is. It’s hard and tiring work, and we had a lot of areas to mow so it took all day, but it was fun. And it certainly makes you appreciate lawn mowers in the US.
In the evenings, we did play days with the village children. We played soccer, duck duck goose, and others games, tried to communicate with our limited knowledge of Kreyol, and fell in love with all of them.
Tuesday was the first day of camp! The schedule is always relaxed at Jacob’s Well (completely different from the way we run camps in the US). I helped teach riflery (with BB guns) with one of the other team members, Zach, and a Haitian activity leader named Peterly. Peterly did an excellent job of teaching the kids how to shoot and keeping them involved. Peterly and the kids also tried to teach me and Zach Kreyol, and we tried to teach them English, so it was very fun! I feel like I learned so much more Kreyol this trip than I have in previous trips. Maybe it’s finally starting to stick in my head.
One of my favorite things about camp is watching the counselors interact with the campers, investing in their lives and teaching them Bible verses. For me, it’s always a blessing to be able to be a part of Bible Drama too. Peter Marc (the pastor of the church and the camp program director) narrated the story in Kreyol (basically reading it straight out of the Bible) while I directed the American actors, following along in Kreyol and telling them what to do when. It’s always a little bit challenging but the drama team this year was awesome and I think the kids got a kick out of watching us act silly on “stage.” We did the story of Elijah this year with the following Big Ideas: the Lord provides, the Lord alone is God, the Lord is powerful, the Lord is present, and the Lord judges sin.
|The drama team!|
The overall memory verse for the week was Isaiah 44:6:
“This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”
There were also memory verses that went along with each drama, emphasizing the Big Idea, and the kids memorized all of them!
|King Ahab and Naboth arguing. I’m in the background
translating the Kreyol narration for the actors.
Thursday was our final day of camp and after two activity periods in the morning, the last Elijah drama, and lunch, we headed up the hill for a final drama about the life of Jesus and a Gospel presentation, and smores. We were so sad to see camp come to a close and the trip felt like it had flown by!
Friday was our debriefing/packing up day, so we got up early in the morning and hiked Double Head – the mountain behind Jacob’s Well. I’ve been wanting to hike Double Head for the past three years so I was super excited to be able to do it at last. That afternoon, we took the Haitian camp staff with us to the beach and enjoyed fellowshiping with them. On the way back from the beach, the camp staff sang the entire way and it was amazing to think that every single village we passed through heard Haitians worshiping God in Kreyol!
Our journey home contained several surprises . . . of a not so pleasant sort. But though they were surprises for us, God certainly wasn’t surprised and provided a way through all of it. When we arrived at the airport, we found out that the exit tax had been doubled and so we had to pay twice as much as we had anticipated. Thankfully, we had enough to cover everyone.
Then, due to poor weather, our plane did not arrive in Haiti until three hours after we were supposed to leave . . . and only two hours before our connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale was due to depart. With the help of friends back in the US we let Southwest know that we would not be able to make the flight and tried to figure out alternative arrangements.
When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we circled up and had a prayer meeting. The next flight we could take didn’t leave until the next morning which meant we would probably have to spend the night in the airport again . . . and Southwest was under no obligation to allow us to switch to the flight for free. But the Lord provided for us! According to Southwest, they had a rare group of unsold seats on the plane (funny coincidence, huh?) and they allowed us to switch for free. And we were also able to get enough hotel rooms to lodge the entire team through team member parents graciously donating hotel points!
At the end of the trip, the departure of the team members always feels like the breaking of the fellowship. But I know that all of us will remember this trip and hold the people of Haiti in our hearts. I pray that this trip will not become just a memory, not just an experience, but that the lessons we learned would continue to change our lives and keep us focused on the Great Commission to share the Gospel with everyone that we meet.
I will continue to pray for Jacob’s Well, for Tse Guinea, for the children and for the church. And I pray that I can go back next year and see them all again.