The day we left for Haiti was an early one, with not much sleep the night before. Our flight was not until 8:30, but of course, there is all the travel and prep to get to the airport in time for an international flight. We met up at 3:30 in the morning to load up the bus for the hour and a half drive down to Miami. I completely understand getting there early enough to account for any last minute challenges, but when you get to the airport before check-in opens, you know that you may be there too early.
After we got our luggage checked in, we headed down to security. I warned my team that it might take me a little extra time to get through because of all my diabetes supplies. The full body scanners were not set up in this terminal (you would think international flights would be a priority) so it was just the typical metal detectors. I put my Ziploc bag of chapstick and insulin in a bin with my shoes and walked up to the metal detector. The brand of insulin pump that I used contains very little metal, which is probably why I did not set off the detector as I walked through and grabbed my carry-on.
We got settled by our gate and decided to hunt down some breakfast. In a last effort to enjoy some “American” food, most of us ended up with breakfast combos from McDonalds.
As we boarded our flight, I noticed a significant change from last year. A year ago, the flight was very “white”; it seemed to be filled with mostly aid workers headed to the island to help. This year, it seemed like more Haitians were traveling to visit relatives or otherwise traveling “home”.
It is a very short plane ride from Miami to Haiti and we landed in Port au Prince about two hours later. Passengers exit the planes in one terminal and then board buses to travel to the immigration area in another building. The immigration area is overwhelming as you are trying to hold your place in line, fill out paperwork, and watch for your bags in a room that is too small and too cramped and quickly too warm to peacefully accomplish all these tasks.
When were finally able to make it through immigration and find our luggage, we met up with our guide to begin our journey to the Mission of Hope property. There is a funny thing that happens at the airport in Haiti (and from what I’ve heard, other airports on the islands). There are men in fake uniforms that try to “help” you with your bags. The thing is, if you let them even touch your bag, they expect money in exchange for their services and there are a TON of them. They have become experts on the organizations that bring groups into that airport and so they will walk up to you and say the name of the organization you are with in hopes that you will let them “help”. We were told just to say no and keep walking, which was fine until I said no to someone who was actually WITH the organization that was meeting us. After that, everyone figured it would be safer if I just held our sign.
As I mentioned on my other blog, there are small signs of growth and change in Haiti. A ravine that was covered in trash and make-shift tents last year has been cleared out.
On the one year anniversary of the earthquake, the mass burial site outside the city has been marked with crosses and purple fabric to honor the thousands of unnamed loved ones buried there.
I am so thankful that I was able to return to the same site that I stayed at last year. The changes and growth they have experienced in only one year is so encouraging and the ministry they are able to provide to the community is tremendous.
After we settled into our rooms, we took a tour of the property. Some of the current projects include the construction of a hospital and a bigger warehouse for their food distribution program. They have recently finished construction on the buildings for the children that live there – doubling their available space. There is a new guesthouse and kitchen to accommodate all the visiting groups. They have almost completed a water treatment and delivery system to better provide clean water to the property. Although it was closed so we could not see inside, there is also a prosthetics lab helping to fit survivors with new limbs.
An exciting extra project came from the prosthetics lab as well. Many women were coming to the lab often for fittings for themselves and for their children. At the same time, they were looking for a way to support their families. From that grew what is called “3 Cords” after the verse from Ecclesiastes.
“Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The women of 3 Cords make beautiful headbands (that you will see us wearing in most of our pictures) and other crafts to sell to the visiting teams. They are working very hard and looking for ways to expand this service and continue to supply ways for Haitians to support their families.
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we got ready for dinner.
Dinner turned into a bit of a show when the generator began to cause some problems.
Since our day had begun so early that morning, we were happily tucked into our bunk beds by 8:30 that evening. The last thing I wrote in my journal that night was hope for a good night’s sleep. We were all surprised when most of us woke up with a shock only a few hours later.
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God”. II Corinthians 3:5
P.S. You can assume any picture that I am in was taken by my friend Julia.