The humidity was oppressing at times and we constantly dealt with mosquitos as a result of the rainy season. There is an epidemic mosquito born virus in that area right now and I don’t know if we met one family who had not been effected by it. So many people and kids we came in contact with had just had it, were just getting over it, or were just getting it. We ministered to several kids at the Saturday Success Ministries soccer & feeding ministry who were still sick with it. You could see it in their faces and feel it on their bodies. There was little we could do for them except for hold them, love them and help them eat something. One of our ladies, Joan, got the idea to try and cool one little girl down with wet wipes. I gave her a scarf to wet with water and she wiped the little girls body with that and helped her eat some lunch. Then the little girl’s 2 brothers helped her get home when they were through eating. As a result of this virus, we practically bathed in deet filled mosquito spray. There is just something wrong with bathing off and then immediately covering your body in mosquito spray! You do what you have to do in situations like that! Several of us still got bit, though, even with all of the protection. Our female interpreter told us the blood of Jesus Christ ran through our veins, so we would not get “the fever” as they are all calling it! ( I must be allergic to deet, though, and have a rash on several places on my body! Fun, fun!!)
We arrived on Thurs morning, but had to wait several hours for our other team members to arrive on a later flight. Their flight was delayed an hour and by the time we all were safely in one place, there wasn’t much time left in the day to do much. We traveled about an hour and a half via tap tap and van, with a quick stop at the grocery store for a few food supplies and water and then went on to Merger to Pastor John’s house where we would be staying for the week.
John has a very nice house by average Haitian standards. It has a sitting porch, living room, kitchen area, 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms. There is no running water in the house, but you can flush a toilet by putting water in the tank. We live by the missionary rule… “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” There are actually showers, but since there is no running water you use a 5 gallon bucket and a large cup. Kind of interesting washing ladies hair! The water is rain water collected from a system that runs off the roof into a 12 ft cistern. Many buckets of water were pulled out by Alexis while we were there. You can go up to the roof via rock stairs. John’s plans are to build a 2nd story on to house mission workers in the future. He has a concrete court yard and cinder block walls where he holds his English class at. You have to hike up a steep hill to get to John’s house. It’s one of those kind, if you stop to rest while going up, you might not be able to start again. Very exhausting all week!
We rested, got to know each other (for those of us who had never met) and ate a wonderful meal prepared by John’s wife and her friends. We had to rush through supper, though, because John was headed out the door to go interpret a worship services that an Adventures in Missions team was going to be at and we wanted to go with him. It was at a church where we had to hike up a mountain and back down the other side a little ways. And when I say hike, I do mean hike! David had warned me before how steep a climb this was and I had seen pictures, but until you actually experience it, you just don’t understand it! Practically everywhere you go in Merger you are hiking up and down and around steep rock strewn paths. We definitely had a work out all week! It was great meeting the AIM team and they were thrilled to meet fellow Americans. The thunder was rolling and lighting flashing and it was dark by the time we got back to John’s house. Then, the heavens opened up! We had to vacate the front sitting porch, as it got soaked by sideways blowing wind. Mike’s bedroll got soaked in the guys room from rain blowing in the screen windows (There is no glass on windows here. Only screens or bars.) They finally rigged up a towel over the window and used tennis shoes to keep it from blowing up. Very ingenious! We hung out and talked for a while and then headed to bed. This was the coolest night we would experience here because of the rain.On Friday, we went and purchased four 55 lb bags of rice and donated it to a local orphanage. We also donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for each child Then to balance that out, we gave them a big bag of candy!! We played games and sang songs with the kids and had a great morning! Wish we could bring them all home with us! We headed back to John’s for some lunch, only to find out the resident kitten, who was constantly crying, had snuck into our food supply during the night and helped himself! We had purchased some apples and had 1 very small pkg of grapes that the kitten had had not gotten into, so Megan and I hand washed them with purified water & we all ate an apple & a couple of grapes for lunch. We were all so hot at that point, and no one was really hungry anyway that it worked out fine… and the apple was just so refreshing! A few Clif bars or crackers held us over until supper. After lunch we hiked half way up the mountain to a local church whose pastor had volunteered their space for the Days For Girls kit distribution. It did not play out as I had thought it would in my mind. There were lots of women with the girls, which we knew would be, as we were donating to them also, but they did not want their pictures taken. So the only picture documentation we got was what David was able to take through the front door looking in, and a couple as we were leaving. We did not get to visit one on one with the girls afterwards either, to hear their stories as we had hoped to do. None the less, it was a tremendous success! The pastor of the church was thrilled and thanked us for coming, as no one had ever discussed this topic with their girls and women. He said the recipients were all very happy we came and to receive their kits! We knew this first distribution would be a learning experience anyway, and one of the things we learned was we need a health care professional with us on future distributions. They all had lots of questions, and many of it dealt with problems they were having with their bodies regarding this subject and also dealt with sex education. One of our team members, Joan, has a degree in something dealing with biology (which my old brain has gone blank right now) but anyway, she used to do medical research type stuff and had a great grasp on our bodies anyway. She did an amazing job answering all of their questions. We all agreed it would be more beneficial though, in the future to have a medical professional with us. We distributed all 100 bags and everyone seemed very happy with them! We were pretty wiped out after that. The humidity was tremendous this day and being inside the church made it much worse with just a little breeze flowing through. We headed back to John’s house and got ready for English class. He holds an English class every Friday and maybe Monday too, for kids who can’t afford to go to school. Jereme and Ashley from our team taught the lesson on the fly that day. They taught verbs and did a REALLY good job at it! We ate supper after that, visited, laughed and spayed more bug spray! I think we hit the hay (or tile floor) early that night! It was much warmer this night trying to sleep than it was the night before. It thundered and lightninged in the distance, but no rain.
On Saturday, we loaded up in a tap-tap and went to the slum area of Carrefour to visit Alexis’ family. Alexis (Ah-lek-see) is an older gentleman who John hires to help out around the house when they have visitors. David had told me about Alexis and I had seen a video of him before, but never met him. I have never met anyone before who serves with such love in his heart! He is a true servant of Christ and one of the hardest workers I have ever seen! He is like a beloved Grandpa figure to everyone and he is always positive and joyful and right there when you need something! He speaks very little English..but once again, the language of love overcomes these barriers. Alexis has a 22 yr old son who appears to have severe depression and anxiety. It breaks Alexis’ heart and he feels so burdened over his son. Alexis told our guys about him back in November when they visited there and his son has been on my heart ever since then. We traversed so called roads up the side of a mountain in Carrefour that no vehicle should ever attempt. Once again, it’s really hard to describe it. We also kind of think missionaries have never been in this part of Carrefour by the looks we were getting. Carrefour has been listed as an area dangerous enough that American Embassy members are not allowed to enter in after dark, but I haven’t checked lately to see if this is still the case. We believe this is the area they were specking of though. Our AIM team stayed in a different part of Carrefour 2 years ago which was completely different and much safer looking. We did not feel threatened or unsafe in ANY way this day, but I just wanted to let you all understand the situation of this area.We finally reached a point where we had to get out of the tap-tap and walk the rest of the way. Alexis’ house is off the beaten path, kind of tucked away by itself, which was nice. It was a typical dirt floor shack with a couple of beds in one room and a very small table and small bed in another with a tin roof and thin curtains over the doorways. We watched a very large rat scurry across outside right as we were about to walk into the house. Alexis’ wife was sick with the fever and not feeling well. She did not look good at all. He has two daughters, 16 and 23, who we met, and then his son was hidden away in another little area in a cocooned hammock. Mike got to see his eyes, I believe, through the hammock. They had never had white visitors in their home before and you could tell how proud it made Alexis that we visited. Alexis told us all about his son through our interpreter and how it hurts so bad and he feels so burdened for his family. He said his son has only been this way about a year and used to be such a good looking young man, so normal. He has tried taking his son to the doctor, but said his son was much bigger and stronger than him, so he couldn’t make him go. Evidently the day before his son had acted normal for a little wile. He bathed his mother off, since she was sick with the fever and he made her some juice. Such loving simple things, which gave Alexis and his wife a glimpse of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. We prayed for Alexis, his son, and his family then. There was not a dry eye in the room. It was one of those indescribable touching moments that make the whole trip worth it all, even if that had been the only thing we did. We then sang songs to his family. Tender, touching moments of that language of love crossing barriers and worshiping our Lord together. We hugged his wife and daughters and started the trek back to the tap-tap. We weren’t in it long before we had to vacate the back and walk part way down. Not even sure if the empty truck would make it back out of this place. Pure craziness where they try to take vehicles in this country! We rode back to John’s and rested up, re-bugsprayed, and ate some Clif bars, crackers and chips for lunch! A little later the guys hiked up to Pastor Juniors house to retrieve 8 bags of rice we had purchased for distribution to 68 families in the shanty town area of Merger. We all made an assembly line and bagged the rice all up. It. Was. Hot. And. Humid. And we drank warm water all week. That is all.
We had spare time before the families came so we hiked up to Pastor Juniors Church to visit him. He was out getting his hair cut, so John Wesley, (which some of you know) let us into the church and we sat and visited for a while, waiting on Junior. When he returned, he sang a beautiful Haitian hymn for us and them prayed for us. I don’t know what the prayer said, because John had to leave before Junior got back, but the prayer was beautiful in the Creole Language. We all exchanged sweaty, but heartfelt hugs and went back down to do the distribution , as Junior had to leave for Port au Prince to go meet an AIM World Race team that was coming in later. When the designated time came we distributed the bags of rice to the families and went back to John’s for about an hour.We then geared up to make the strenuous hike back up the mountain to the soccer field for the Saturday ministry. The older guys all played soccer and Mike (from our team) attempting to play with them and the elementary age boys play their own little game of soccer off to the side. The younger children are divided off in one group, the older girls in another and they play games, jump rope, and sing songs until the soccer is over. Then all of them, except most of the older boys, all gather around and listen to a Bible lesson and sing a song or two. After that they all traverse back down the mountain, to be fed a meal of beans and rice. For many of these kids it is the only meal of the day they receive. The lovely women who cook, try to give them generous portions. It is hot work over the steaming pot of rice and beans, but these women do it every Saturday. We helped serve the kids and also passed out candy to all of them.
When this was completed we were done. It was an exhausting but heart warming day. We went back to John’s house where supper was waiting for us. We decompressed for a while. We were then blessed by the presence of 14 young ladies hiking up the hill to John’s house… two Adventure’s In Missions World Race Teams had just arrived in Merger for month 10 out of 11. (Go to www.worldrace.org and check it out….11 countries in 11 months!….amazing!) They ate supper at John’s house and afterwards, 1 team left to go settle in for the night and the other team stayed and hung out with us. We had a great time getting to know each other and share stories. We all wished we had more time to visit, but it was getting late and we had to be up early to leave for the airport and they had been riding in a bus all day from the Dominican Republic across Haiti.We left Merger about 6:30 yesterday morning, Haiti time and took a harrowing truck ride to the airport. Several close your eyes and pray type of moments! It’s always an interesting ride to the airport! After numerous security check points and having to do the whole take your shoes off twice we made it on the plane! After 4 airports and 3 security checks and customs and immigrations, we finally landed in Dallas and got home late last night. Pretty wiped out this morning and will spend the day trying to recuperate! All in all it was a successful trip and I feel so blessed to have been able to share in it with 6 other people I now call family! I also loved getting to meet some of the Haitian people David has formed relationships with on his last two trips! They are all so amazing and have such wonderful hearts for God! We will now be gearing up, raising money, planning, and finishing up legal details for regular mission trips to be offered through Footprints of Charity. Hopefully we will have the first one coming up sometime this fall. One of our favorite phrases picked up a few trips ago… Bon Bagay… Good stuff!