The story of Haiti – part 8

The last day in Haiti is the most difficult for me to write about. First, my journal stops the night before. I wrote nothing about the last day. I think there was some feeling that if I didn’t write about it, it wasn’t actually happening. There were so many emotions that day, it was difficult to process it, let alone describe it.

Since the doctors and nurses started their shifts early, the coffee had to be started even earlier to be ready in time for them. One of my teammates and I had taken turns going downstairs around 5 am (since we weren’t sleeping well anyway) to plug in the coffeemaker. This morning, instead of tossing and turning and not sleeping for the next two hours, we decided to grab our cameras and watch the sun rise.
sunrise 4sunrise 2sunrise 3sunrise 1flowers in the rocks

If you asked me to describe a perfect Haitian morning, these pictures are how I would describe it. Beautiful memories.
After breakfast, we were given the amazing opportunity to hear one of our hosts share his testimony of survival. I tried to record the story, but he spoke so quietly and I was sitting across the circle from him, so it is very hard to hear. Make sure your speakers are turned all the way up, you have no background noise, and maybe even try some headphones.

If you couldn’t hear the video here is my pathetic attempt at a summary. Ruben was at his first day of college when the earthquake hit. There were 65 students in his class. When the earth started shaking, they didn’t really have any idea what was going on, but most people got up immediately and started running for the door.

As he tried to escape the building, Ruben ran into one of his classmates that was much taller than him and outweighed him significantly, which caused Ruben to fall onto the floor. At that moment, one of the walls started to collapse and it fell onto the classmate who in turn, fell onto Ruben. The force of the wall hitting the classmate killed him instantly, trapping Ruben under his classmate and the concrete wall. As the aftershocks hit, Ruben could hear his fellow trapped students cry out, but there was nothing he could do for them.
There was a girl in Ruben’s class that he had developed a friendship with. It was funny to hear him describe their friendship because it sounded like any American friendship as he mentioned them passing mp3s back and forth. His friend was trapped under one of the other walls but was in arm’s reach of Ruben. He was able to reach out and hold her hand as she sang, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” with her dying breath.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Ruben was trapped for over 5 hours until one of his friends who knew he was at the school was finally able to dig him out. Fifty-eight of the 65 students in the school that day died in the earthquake. Most of them are buried in the mass grave in the countryside because it took so long to find them under all the rubble.
Ruben does not consider it a story of what happened to him in the earthquake but instead his testimony of what God has done in his life. He states, “two things I learned. This earthquake made me realize that God is good and faithful. And the second thing I understand – God gives and God takes. And I understand to give God praise in the good and in the bad.”
I am speechless.
As I mentioned in a previous post, there were twin girls living with their parents at the site we were staying at while they wait for their adoption to become final. The story of what they have been saved from and their personalities when they first left the orphanage is unbelievable compared to who they are now. They had been sickly, withdrawn, and frightened and now they are outgoing, funny, and incredibly loving.
The girls really connected with our team. They loved taking pictures and playing with our cameras and we loved sharing.
a camera 1a camera 2m camera 2m camera 1

It was really hard for them and us
as it got closer and closer to our departure time. They told us to just lose our passports because then we would not be able to leave. Then they told us to go to sleep and not wake up until after our plane was supposed to leave. They were really the sweetest little girls and we did not want to leave them just as much as they wanted us to stay.
sweet girls

There was a problem with the vehicles that day, so the school bus we had taken from the airport was not available to bring us back. Instead, we were all surprised when our new ride came to pick us up.
ride to the airport

The lock for the storage area was on the outside of the cage, so after the driver locked us in, one of our team members (who would be riding in the cab of the truck) unlocked it again so we would be able to get out if anything happened.
locking us in

The only problem with that was that we now had to hold the back doors shut so we wouldn’t fall out on the road.
holding the door closed

We took a different (and shorter) road back to the airport than the one we had arrived on. We found out later that they don’t usually take guests on that road because before the earthquake it was known to be dangerous for robberies and kidnappings. I am very glad we did not find that out until we were safely at the airport.
tent city 2tent city 1
After an uneventful trip back to Florida and an easy passage through customs, we settled in to wait in the Miami airport. There were two other teams (one from Brazil and one from Guatemala) that were scheduled to arrive within a few hours of ours, so a bus had been chartered to pick us all up.
It’s amazing how easy it is to pass the time when you have a digital camera with a big enough memory card.
awkward picture - on purposeover the shoulder

By the time we left the airport it was really late. Some of us had a more difficult time than others staying awake for the hour and a half drive home.
sleeping brothers

Even then, the team was not ready to be apart yet, so we spent the next few hours eating the most random collection of food at the nearest IHOP.
IHOP at 1 am

It was definitely difficult to adjust back to life in Florida over the next week or so. Some of it I expect or was warned about, but some of my feelings caught me by surprise. I feel like I need to write one more post about Haiti and then I promise to return to your regularly scheduled diabetes blog.

hands of haitiHaiti 2010


  • Sara, don’t feel bad about not writing about your regular D blogs. I think we all really appreciate your trip and insight into your Hatian trip. It has been very heart warming and touching to all of our hearts. Thank you for bringing us this miricale and how the people who survived it are coping.


  • I’ve loved reading about your time in Haiti, you and your team should feel so proud of the work you all did.

    Thankyou so much for sharing it all with us. x

  • As I wrote before – and now, will write again, I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to tell us about your experiences in Haiti.

    Thank you for doing your part to help others and for letting us share your joys and yes, your sadness.

  • Sara, these stories about everything you experienced and saw while in Haiti are incredible, and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us. I imagine it is probably helpful for you to write stuff out too, just to sort of process it all.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how different things must be back home with such a change of perspective. They have changed ME for the better I believe.

    Thank you.

  • Finally finished with all 8 parts. What an incredible experience. The pictures of the children broke my heart; they are so adorable. The rollercoaster of blood sugar levels sounded like a big obstacle for you and yet you managed to have a huge ministry and heart changing encounter. I love you.

  • i am in tears yet again. I started humming Great is Thy Faithfulness and thinking about that girl and how beautiful a soul she was and is.

    you can write more then one more. I love it.

  • I have loved reading your stories of Haiti. I have wanted to go on a trip since the quake. I am insulin dependant on a pump as well. I have an opportunity to go but was told I cant because of the diabetes. Reading your blog has assured me that I can go on a mission trip because with God all things are possible even if your a diabetic. Thank you so much Reading your blog reminds me of my blood sugars. All the sudden I dont feel so alone in the battle against diabetes. I have never let it stop me and dont intend to start now.

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