Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Not in Kansas Anymore...

Oh, we weren't in Kansas or Tennessee or anywhere in the United States, for that matter. In fact, it was hard to believe that we were still in the Americas, but we were. Welcome to Haiti - only an hour-and-a-half plane ride from Miami.

As we surveyed our new surroundings, it was clear that a force of nature had swept through the area. In August and September of 2008, Haiti was struck by Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna, and Hurricane Ike within a four week period. Valley and lowland areas experienced massive flooding.

It's actually difficult to reconcile the natural beauty of the landscape with the dismal situation of the local people. The above pictures give a glimpse of this stark contrast. On top you see the breathtaking ocean waters that surround the island of Hispaniola and the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. On the bottom you see one of the several rivers we passed over - a current of muddy, dirty, polluted waters that the Haitians use for everything from washing cars to bathing.

Upon our arrival in the country, our team travelled from Port-au-Prince to the town where the orphanage is located. Along the way, we passed in and out of towns - small settlements of people, with housing "communities," a marketplace, and a school. Children walked up and down the streets, wearing their school uniforms. Ladies with baskets or bowls perched atop their heads made their way home from the market. Men sat grouped in market stalls talking with one another. So similar to our world, yet a world away. Above you can see typical homes we passed - small metal buildings in a row, a hut made of woven screens, and the more typical block house with a metal roof.

Most residential areas were surrounded by walls such as the one shown above. Notice the broken glass bottles atop the wall in the top picture. Most locals travel on foot (see the woman in the middle photo and the two boys in the bottom photo), on tap-tap buses, or by motorcycle. At times our own bus had to travel down narrow dirt alleyways hemmed in by the walls.

The statistics are grim: Haiti is the only country in the Americas on the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries. Approximately 80% of its population live in poverty. The literacy rate is only 52.9%. Yet, one finds herself looking at the stunning landscape and trusting that restoration can come, or holding a Haitian child and believing that he or she has a future, or listening to a group of Haitian orphans sing and knowing that there is hope. There is Hope.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. John 3:35

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