As I sat in church this morning, I was overwhelmed. I couldn't keep the thoughts of last Sunday from the forefront of my mind. The difference in the experience there compared to where I sat today. As I looked around our beautifully newly renovated sanctuary, felt the cool air, saw electric lights, and just thought of the huge gap in experience, it was hard to process.
A very recent decision and a whirlwind of preparation lead to an opportunity for Thomas and I to go to Haiti with a group on a mission trip. Partly from our church and partly from another local church, we headed out last Saturday for a one week trip.
It was a GREAT week. We had an amazing experience. Saw a lot of redemption in action. Ministries who love the Lord being 'Jesus with skin on' to these precious people in Haiti. We saw orphans who are loved and well cared for who just radiated JOY. Truly a great week, one that changed me. And to experience it with Thomas made it all the better. He was a stellar world traveler. He loved the kids. They loved him. I LOVED hearing their Haitian accents excitedly call his name each time they saw him. "Toe-maas! Toe-maas!" He had a great attitude, helped without any complaints and really took in the experience. I think it changed him, too. So thankful he got to experience it and that I got to be there to watch him experience it. Also, that much more thankful to be his mom...what a privilege.
So, I need to work through my thoughts from the week. I also want to document the trip. Since we didn't have phone/internet access while we were there, I kept a journal. (old fashioned blogging, right???) I want to attempt to journal here now...and it will be from the 'after' perspective, so hopefully I can process what we experienced. May take me several posts...but, here we go.
DAY 1 Adventure
There is always an excitement I feel when heading into the unknown. An excitement to see what will come. To experience something new. To learn. To understand more of the world.
That's how I felt that morning.
And I felt fear. Fear of that same unknown. Fear of discomfort. Fear of seeing hard things. Fear of witnessing suffering. Suffering of people...people made in God's image.
As I wrestle with those conflicting feelings I (tried) to hand them over to God. (I also had to hand over the fear of leaving my other 3 children and husband at home. Never an easy thing for a mom to do! Especially when a little one clings to you and says, "But Mama....I like you." as you try to walk out the door.)
As I opened my hand to allow God to take them, I felt it was a time when the Holy Spirit prayed for me. When I didn't have the words to pray.
"Help me to love without reservation."
I didn't want to hold back--fearful of loving and having to let go.
With all of the reading/talking/experience I have had with orphan care, I've never actually been IN an orphanage. I had just realized that. I was worried about how I would feel to see and not be able to 'fix' their problems. I was worried my heart would be broken by a little face, a little pair of eyes, a little hand holding my own. I wouldn't want to leave them there. Would this haunt me? Despite the fears, I moved forward...trusting God had something in store.
My first glimpse of Haiti from the airplane was the checkered landscape of fields. As we descended toward the ground, the houses came into view....the cinder block and tin roof homes that looked typical of pictures I have seen. We landed at the airport, heading to baggage claim. A mass of people were headed in the same direction. Telling Thomas to stay right with me, we waited for our bags--which, thankfully, all arrived. We loaded up all of our 'team' bags on carts and headed out in a long line. Having been told to stay together, keep walking and just say no to anyone who offered help, we exited the airport. (Later finding out how great our host was for getting us out so easily without having all of those bags searched.)
The heat hit me like a wall. There was a crowd of people, all trying to sell something, help with our bags or asking for money. The chaos was a bit overwhelming. We pressed on. Arriving at the truck, our bags were quickly loaded and we boarded a bus and headed out. We were briefly in Port-au-Prince, seeing people all over, closely packed buildings--homes, businesses, stores, every so often a pile of rubble where I assumed stood a building before the earthquake. There were still several tent cities we passed. We were quickly out of the city and driving along a road toward the mountains. The land was flat and almost desert like. Low brush and cactus. Rocks. A soccer field with cows grazing. Still occasional homes, most of cinder block and tin. People outside cooking, keeping cool in the shade, some working the land or carrying loads of water or supplies down the road on their heads. The grey look and feel of a place where survival is the task of each day.
As we got closer to the mountains that rose ahead of us, we saw homes there on the side. Relocating after the earthquake, these people were trying to start fresh in a new place. We started up the mountain and the road began to wind around, back and forth. As we rose, the scenery became much more lush and green. Still seeing scattered homes and people, we arrived in the central plateau of Haiti--lush green vegetation and banana trees. We continued on to the city of Mirebalais. A city unaffected by the quake, we passed through quaint streets closely lined with homes and shops with their wares out front. People were actively going about their business. We circled the city center--a square where the Saturday market was bustling with people. A single block away, the road abruptly stopped, where we took a right turn onto a dirt road, descending to a low bridge clearing a river by only a few feet. People were washing clothes nearby as we made the turn back to the paved road and continued through the city to the outskirts of town. Continuing to see similar small cinder block homes with simple charcoal 'stoves', we arrived at the GCA complex.
We pulled up to the guest house where our luggage was quickly and efficiently unloaded by many helping hands. These men and boys, who we would get to know over the next week, are great guys. Most of them translators, each with their own story of how they came to be employed there, some young boys--same age as Thomas--employed there to help out with whatever was needed. Fun kids.
Later, we walked the short road up to the orphanage. Here we go, I thought. My heart strings feeling vulnerable. The building was very nice--especially by Haitian standards.
Precious voices, precious smiles. We then headed up the steps and were greeted enthusiastically, to say the least. Wanting held, playing hand games, taking pictures asking names took up the next hour or so. We were led by little hands through the hall inside and out back to the covered outdoor eating and play area. As we played, several of the older children started asking me "Son?" while pointing to Thomas. Suddenly, an unexpected feeling rushed over me. Guilt--I almost felt guilty for being a mom/son pair in front of these precious children.
But their smiles as they ran over to him and asked "Mom?" while pointing back to me made that pass. I won't feel guilty for the blessings God has given me. To say they were precious doesn't do justice to these beautiful children.
All busy, playful, full of life, their smiles showed they are well cared for and loved.