Trip to Haiti May 1st thru 5th 2014
Thursday, May 1st
The latest group from Westbrooke is arriving in Haiti and being greeted by a grateful Pastor Kesnel and his friends. The suitcases full of shoes and other luggage are loaded onto the top of an old Land Cruiser and everyone piles into the back. We sit on two long benches along the sides, with just enough room for our knees. The weather is hot and muggy with no air conditioning to bring relief to the people who live here. The driving and scenery along the way is humbling. The streets are crowded with people selling food or wares along the sidewalks. There are women carrying heavy loads on top of their heads bringing items to sell along the streets. The buildings along the road are old and damaged. They are short and brightly colored, lined up one after another with graffiti, open windows, and doorways that look onto the street. Most are occupied by families living under metal roofs close to the road. The hand washed laundry is hanging in front of their doorways where a cooking pot is sitting.
The roads are narrow with brightly painted buses and cars going in every direction inches from each other and us. There are vehicles honking and noises from goats, pigs and cows that are walking alongside or crossing the roadway. The roads are natural gravel or chunks of rocks with many large potholes and sink holes to steer around. Pastor Kesnel is veering in and out of traffic like a pro. As we approach the Church, roads become even rougher with deeper holes. We are spotted by two men that are trying to pull a cement mixer up the road on their way to the All in One Church. They hook onto the Land Cruiser and jump on the back swaying and bouncing. Looking at the people while driving I thought of John 4:35, “I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields, they are ripe for harvest.”
As we come to the Church we enter through two large metal doors that slide shut for protection and privacy. All the buildings are inside a “compound” surrounded by cinder brick walls 15 to 20 feet tall. There is a large common dirt and gravel courtyard in the middle with the church facing the front gate. On the left of the church is a building that houses the babies, younger children and girls. To the right are the classrooms and sleeping rooms for visitors and the Kesnel’s. A building in back of the church is for the boys.
We are taken to our rooms on the second floor which they have prepared for us. We have bunk beds with mosquito net covering open windows and doors. There is a bathroom, with a pipe but no showerhead, which only sends out cold water. After settling into our rooms we enter into the courtyard where there are children from the orphanage and neighborhood mingling around. All that is needed is to sit down and a group of children come to be held or played with. Our meal is prepared and we are thankful and aware that everyone eats only two meals a day. We are excited for tomorrow when the church lays their new concrete floor. Being tired from the flight we make our way to our rooms before the excitement of tomorrow’s work begins.
Friday, May 2
We woke this morning by a loud buzzing noise that sounded through the entire compound. It is 4:00 am and this is the time for all to get up! Babies start crying and people are already arriving for the work of pouring the concrete floor for the church. It’s a task that won’t stop until everything is completed.
We begin helping those that have come. Two cement mixers are on each side at the front of the church. Piles of sand and gravel are in mounds outside the building. Bags of concrete are piled inside a room to keep dry. Women are carrying and holding on their heads five gallon water pails full of water. They are coming from the well in the bakery across the road and walking the journey to the church. They are emptying their water into large barrels for the cement mixer. Men are filling wheelbarrows full of gravel and sand and bringing it into the church to make more huge piles to load into the mixer.
We begin bringing water with the women and are astounded by the amount of hard work they are doing. The men also join others on the rock pile. As more and more men, women and children begin arriving a rhythm of work begins. At least three hundred people have arrived with large pails for the adults and small ones for the children. Children old enough to hold a bucket full of rocks, work alongside. There’s a sense that God is doing amazing things today.
We are stopping for a late breakfast in which the women on our team decide to visit the babies and young children. They are together in one room with older girls taking care of them. We sit on beds or the floor and hold, rock and play with them. We work at communicating with all the children and adults through pantomime. The girls are preparing the food for the babies on the floor with a bowl and hand grater. We feel fortunate to be able to feed some of them. Seeing all the orphaned babies and children in one place I am thinking of James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We learn that one of the babies is being adopted by an American. We also learn of a baby boy and girl appearing only a month old are actually five month old twins that have been brought to the orphanage by their father who was unable to care for them after his wife’s death. The little girl is beginning to thrive but the boy is in need of medical attention which a medical relief organization is providing. The children are well taken care of despite their limited supplies.
The men of Westbrooke are still hard at work shoveling rock. It’s very hot and the sun is beating down. I’m wondering if they are quoting Phil. 4:13 over and over. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” We once again attempt the water brigade then stop to get to know the children playing outside. All we need are more laps and arms. 12 year old Fonzie is attached to my every move. He wants to become an interpreter and wants to know the English word for everything. Menevah loves to follow along behind holding onto my pants. We all are being blessed by specific children touching our hearts.
It is the middle of the afternoon and the workers have stopped for maybe the only meal they will have today. As evening comes and most have left we are gathering over the veranda and reflecting about the amazing work these Haitian men and women working together in unity have done.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
BZZZZZ! It’s 4:00!! Good Morning! It’s VBS DAY. Because of the language barrier we are trusting God to talk for us. While we are preparing supplies, children are pouring into the courtyard. They are all dressed in their best clothes for this special occasion. After teaching a song, Stan begins with a play of the Prodigal’s son rewritten in Creole by Dodo our translator. Actors are costumed and all are having fun. Mary is taking a group to reteach the skit through pictures. Kay and I are busy crafting celebration tambourines. Wes, Mark and Tony are busy helping all of us. Haitian women are helping to keep order. (“Chita” Sit Down) VBS ends with a late lunch that is very memorable. The children are divided into open-air classrooms waiting for their lunch to be served. The women in the open kitchen have made the rice in a large metal pot on a burner that is sitting on the ground. They are serving the 200 children that attended VBS. Westbrooke became the plate relay from the kitchen to each of the classrooms. It’s a humbling feeling walking back and forth thinking of how important this one meal is for many of these children. Eph. 6:7 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” We ate after all were fed.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
It’s Celebration Day! The church is full, the singing is exciting and the lesson is practical. We’ve never attended a four hour service before! After service we meet with various leaders of the church to get an update of their ministries and see how they have been. After the meeting we begin the second half of our VBS with around 150 children. Kay is starting with a mesmerizing lesson on the Good Shepard. We are ending with our peanut butter and juice snacks that we bought at the market yesterday.
The remaining time we are here we are talking, playing and holding the children. We are emotional as we have to say goodbye knowing that we are leaving early tomorrow morning.
Westbrooke is definitely loved and in the hearts of the church in Haiti. We see how their desires aren’t for their own gain but they share everything they have, Pastor Kesnel even shares his own personal clothes. Luke 3:11 “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” They have a servant’s heart and we are learning many lessons from them. I’m so grateful I am able to be here.
– Karen Daskoski