As we near the end of our 2 and a half hour flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince, I peer sleepily out the window…nothing yet, just miles of sparkling Carribean blue. The pilot announces that we are beginning our descent into Port-au-Prince. Then, I see it…emerging from the mist like a magical, mystical land. “Mountains”…I wasn’t expecting that. Not pointy, snow-capped mountains like what you’d find in America, but rather green, round, and flat-topped. Almost resembling bunches of green, crumpled-up pieces of paper. The fog begins to dissipate as we fly further inland…beautiful undeveloped land…no blacktop roads, no perfectly squared-off backyards…just this beautiful mountainous, primitive looking land.
As we near the runway, concrete, blue tarps, and rubble replace what on an American landscape would be strip malls, highways, and neon signs. Smoke billows up randomly around the land, which we would later find out to be charcoal fire pits where people cook their food. As we land, it’s as if we are surrounded by mountains on either side with the ocean beckoning behind us. Then it hits me this absolutely gorgeous land is also the most impoverished country in the world. How can that be?
Then, as we debark from the plane and begin our long walk down the windowed departure gate, the cracks appear…literally. Out the window to our left more magestic mountains…to our right, the old departure gate, no longer safe for usage due to huge cracks caused by the devestating earthquake. “Over 300,000”, someone says in the background…the number of lives lost in a matter of seconds.
About an hour later, we are out of customs, out of the airport, and into mass chaos. Men in “uniforms” try aggressively to latch onto our luggage in an attempt to collect some sort of monetary compensation. Our 25 pieces of luggage are causing quite a stir in the eyes of the hundreds of hungry Haitians gathered outside of the airport…some to stay cool in the shade, some just to people watch, and some to work as “skycaps” in the hopes of a tip. “Women in the bus now!”, Nadar our bus driver says as the guys stay back and guard our luggage as it’s loaded onto the bus. The independent woman in me laughs at this, but I’m also relieved to be out of all the chaos. I see the reason for the hurry, as Nadar climbs into the bus and slams the door behind him, before random people make an attempt to beg. At this point, a few people are beginning to gather around outside the bus as we drive off to Tortug’ Air, which will take us to our final destination…Port-de-Paix. And so begins what will be the most marking and memorable experience we could have ever hoped to have had.
Each of us went on this mission with something different in mind…some fulfilling a lifelong dream, some for a fresh perspective, some dreaming of the chance to work with the kids. My reasons for partaking in this mission stemmed not only from craving a fresh perspective, but having an unexplainable feeling that God was going to move in a big way. In my own limited human thinking, I went expecting one big revelation. As if God could prepackage destiny in one message. But once again, God in his amazing way, and as He so often does, opened my eyes to so many things and in so many unexpected ways.
One thing that is striking down there, is this incredible sense of peace that you feel. God’s protection and provision are tangible. Lack of phones, internet, and tv, translates into no distractions, agenda, or unnecessities, and an amazing thing happens…God speaks instantly! I wonder how often we miss this at home, caught up the midst of our own distractions and obsession with more, more, more. Even at the American poverty level, we are still considered rich in comparison. What would happen if all excess was stripped away and only necessities remained? Would we actually begin to want and be content with what we already have? That’s not to say we should never have or aspire for greater things, but it’s the attitude that goes along with it. Not deserving what we have, but rather thankful for the privilege…and we are privileged. And maybe someday, if we are able, to spread that those less fortunate.
Over the course of the week, I think God spoke to each of us in different ways. Whether it be forming friendships with resident missionaries, touching the lives of the children, creating a new-found appreciation for our own lives back home, fueling the fire to be a traveling missionary, or creating an even stronger conviction of a calling to be a resident missionary.
Touching back down in the states, our group was a mix of emotions. Some cried, some thankful to be home. The first thing I noticed was the landscape, this time descending into Miami. Trade those magestic mountains for perfectly manicured lawns and pools. I don’t know why, but the first thing that popped into my head was the Berkin bag (more commonly known as the purse on “Will and Grace” that Karen’s puppy pooped in). This purse at one time cost $20,000…! $20,000! The fact that anyone would charge or even thinking of spending that much on a bag to carry around your stuff that’s going to wear out in a year or so anyway is absolutely ridiculous to me. So, I guess my mind just went to the most extreme example of excess that it could think of in the moment, lol.
One thing I’m noticing this week is American excess is becoming so much more obvious. Things that seemed to matter before, just don’t anymore. My faith increases as I see how God provided for and protected us in so many ways on this trip. As He continues to reveal the bigger picture, I am so thankful for this experience and I can’t wait to see how God will piece everything together!