I have journaled A LOT the last few days, but here are a few of the highlights:
We arrived in Port-a-Prince around 12:30 Saturday afternoon. At that point, we rode in the van for about 2 miles to another smaller airport where we boarded a “puddle jumper” for the flight to Port-de-Paix. That was an experience! This plane held 20 people and was SMALL! I know they make smaller planes but I don’t think I ever want to be in anything smaller than that!! Talk about feeling every little bump. But it was a short trip, about 45 minutes, and overall it wasn’t bad. Of course, the whole flight I was thinking about my carry on bag that they decided was too heavy for me to take on board and they insisted on checking. So I sat there at the window watching the pilots and other Haitian men arguing, rather heatedly, about whether or not it could go on the plane. After about 10 minutes of intense conversation, I watched as my bag was rolled off to goodness knows where. Not only was that my overnight bag with clothes for the next day and toiletries and camera, but it made me a little nervous to think that a bag that couldn’t have weighed more than 25 lbs was such a point of heated discussion. Were we really that close to our weight limit?? I felt like we all needed to hold our breath for the flight! And then there were the strong gas fumes as we prepared to take off. In fact, Paul had Shonie convinced that the liquid dripping out of the engine was gasoline, thus explaining the gas smell. Once we got in the air, he then proceeded to tell Shonie that the good news was the smell was gone and no more gas was leaking out…bad news was that he hoped we had enough gas left to get there. So we had Shonie worried about our gas and I was worried about my bag (aka camera!) and the weight on the plane. But we made it! For the landing, we came in on a little road…and I mean little, dirt road right next to a river. All along the river there were women washing clothes and the river banks were covered with clothes laid out to dry. It was an incredible sight! We were definitely not in America anymore!
After we landed in Port-de-Paix, April and John from Sonlight were there to greet us. It was so refreshing to see April’s smiling face as we got off that plane! At that point, we discovered that all of our baggage was coming separately and we would not get it until the next day. Great…I didn’t have anything except the clothes on my back! So we all piled into the back of a Ford pickup truck and headed for Sonlight. That was another interesting experience. It was about a 10 minute ride, and the streets were just total chaos. There are obviously no traffic laws, except that the biggest vehicle gets the right of way. That usually was us but a couple times we met big dump trucks and then we just had to lean in so we didn’t lose an arm! For the most part, people are walking or riding mopeds. In fact, the “beeps” from mopeds are pretty much a constant noise around here.
We are staying in a “hotel” of sorts across the street from Sonlight. Our rooms are very basic…nothing fancy but they have running water and electricity which is more than most people around here. A funny thing about the electricity in the hotel is that it only comes on in the evening and then goes off around 6:30 in the morning. But that works for us since we aren’t in our rooms much during the day. The shower consists of a pipe coming out of the wall, but there is warm water if you let it run for about 20 minutes first. Jada had us prepared for no hot water, so I am very grateful! Although I must say I feel like a very spoiled American as I write this.
On Monday, we spent the morning at the school. We were all in different class rooms assisting the teachers with whatever they needed. It was great to interact one-on-one with the students…but I will share more about that later. In the afternoon, we went to an orphanage across the street. I don’t even know how to put into words what we saw and experienced. This orphanage houses around 200 kids with five families living there to oversee them. I didn’t see many of the adults, but there were kids everywhere! They were very dirty with dingy, ragged clothes. And they literally mobbed us when we walked in there. Within minutes, we all had children hanging on each arm, trying to get in our lap or on our back…and just wanting to touch us and have us hold them and love on them. It was heart-breaking to see children in such conditions. I wanted to scoop them up and just take them home where they could have people that love them and take care of them and meet their very basic needs for clean clothes, a roof over the head and food to eat. There was one little girl named Menushta who latched onto me and stuck with me pretty much the whole hour we were there. Someone told me she was 4 years old and I just kept thinking of Tanner. It was a really hard place to visit and I am still processing everything I saw. In our team meeting last night, someone made the point that it gave them a new perspective on what it means to be an orphan. What a comfort to know that we are told in Psalm 68:5 that God is a father to the fatherless. I have a better understanding after today of why orphans have such a special place in God’s heart!
A few pictures. Here are some preschoolers at Sonlight Academy:
This is Menushta and another little boy from the orphanage: