Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Unbelievable 44 Hours

On Tuesday, May 26, I flew out of Atlanta with seven others for a five-day trip to Haiti. It's hard to explain, but a day in Haiti feels like a week. This turned out to be a good thing since I spent just under two days in the country. Unfortunately my roommate became seriously ill on Wednesday night, so on Thursday I, along with one other teammate, brought her back to the States. Thank God we made it back without incident, and she is now home recovering.

This was my first international mission trip, and while I felt scared and uncertain at times, God provided for my every need - even for my overwhelming emotions as I loved on these children, saw unbelievable poverty, and witnessed the reality of voodoo culture and a people that live in near spiritual darkness. Below are photographs that chronicle my time, specifically with the 120+ orphans we visited:

When we arrived in Haiti on Tuesday evening, we stopped by the orphanage for a short visit. Immediately we were each surrounded by children wanting to touch us and to be held. Since it is not safe to travel at night, we couldn't stay long as we still had another hour to drive to reach our hotel.

The children loved having their pictures taken and then viewing them on the camera's screen. Better than that was getting their hands on my camera to take the photos for themselves.

We reached our hotel on Tuesday night long after dark, so we went to bed with really no idea regarding our surroundings. Imagine my surprise to wake on Wednesday morning to this ocean-front view. It was truly beautiful! The hotel's manager said he hasn't had a "vacationer" stay there in 10 years. They primarily host mission groups. (Pictured with me above are my female teammates: Katie, Ellen, and Mia.)

When we arrived at the orphanage on Wednesday morning, the older children were away at school. The younger children were divided into two groups, sitting on benches in front of a chalkboard. The two ladies who care for them were teaching them. Next, they ate their breakfast (spaghetti). Afterward, we told them the gospel story from Creole storybooks we took to them. We had local interpreters to help us throughout the trip.

The above pictures show where these children spend both their days and nights. When these 125 children were found, most orphaned by the hurricanes and floods that struck Haiti last year, they were moved to this abandoned nightclub, which now serves as their home.

Because of danger, they remain locked inside this complex (all except the older children who leave only to attend school). It has this circular structure in the center (a former dance floor, I imagine), a narrow plot of dirt on the outside perimeter, and a small building along the back of the property, where the older children live in the eight or so rooms. At night they lay thin mattresses (you can see them piled in the background of the bottom picture) to sleep, at meal time they spread out two carpets to sit and eat, and the rest of the time the children sit, play, and nap on the concrete floor.

One Vision International has a place to move these children that offers much more space and improved sanitary conditions. However, government red tape is delaying this move. Please pray for this to happen quickly so these children can enjoy fresh air and sunshine, room to play, and a cleaner, more comfortable home life.

The week before our trip I took a crash course on "balloon art" by watching clips on the Internet. While Ellen and Mia "face painted," Katie and I made balloon dogs and crowns for the children. This was a hit! The children were so patient as we worked as quickly as we could to make something for each of them. Afterward, we sang the hokey-pokey together. Imagine our surprise when they then sang the hokey-pokey in Creole to us. Apparently, this song is a classic for children around the world! Who knew?!

For lunch the children had a small pack of crackers and a cup of Kool-aid. Then, later in the afternoon after the older boys and girls returned from school, they were served a meal of red beans and rice. The plates were heaped with rice with a few beans and gravy, and even the smallest child licked his or her plate clean. You can see that they sit on carpets on the floor to eat their meals.

In the afternoon we had the pleasure to distribute the clothes we had collected for the children. They lined up in two lines and patiently waited their turn to receive one item. (The older girls and boys [middle school/high school age] also received a pair of new underpants.) After they received their clothes, a worker marked it with their names. The children share everything, as they have no place to store personal possessions. For example, when the older children returned from school, they undressed from their uniforms, laid them in a pile on a table, and then took clothes from one of two large barrels to wear.

We also told the children the gospel with the aid of a "story cloth." The 48 pictures on this cloth survey the entire Bible, from John 1 ("In the beginning was the Word...") through the Old Testament (including the Patriarchs, Moses, the kings, and the prophets) to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Pictured above is Ellen telling the story to the children, with the help of an interpreter.

The men on our team worked hard to build benches and tables for the orphanage. They completed three tables and six benches for them in only two days time. The men and boys were fascinated by this work, and they watched attentively. When they got their hands on sandpaper, they eagerly set to work themselves. In the above picture, you can see the children grouped around the finished product.

The two girls pictured above spent hours fixing my hair. They had one rattail comb that they used to part my hair into grids similar to their own. However, when they let go, it would of course fall down and the parts would disappear. They were fascinated by my straight, sleek hair and kept trying to style it. During this time, I also held at least one, usually two, other children on my lap. They desperately wanted to be held or at least to be touched by us.

I look forward to the opportunity to travel back to Haiti and spend more time with these beautiful children, and I pray for sponsors for them. For only $50 a month, a sponsor can provide food, medicine, and other vital items for a child's care. Please visit or e-mail Rachel at to learn how you can help.

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