Ten Things You Should Know About the Haiti Missions Trip
1. What stuck out to you most when you first arrived?
Ashley - The sights, the smells and the people pressing in around us as we left the airport were the first things I noticed. We walked out of the airport into a semi-controlled mob of people, some trying to “help” you with your luggage. As we drove on the bus to Leogane, we breathed in the dusty roads and watched shambled buildings in Port au Prince change to cement shacks with tin roofs as we made our way out of the city. To me, it looked like a country that had just been through a war and was still recovering. As we drove past the market place, the pungent odor of human feces was overwhelming. They also burn all of their trash, so it’s often very smoky as well.
2. Considering the language barrier, how was communication with the Haitian people?
Dan - At first, it was difficult to communicate without knowing any Creole, but there were many Haitians who knew at least enough English to serve as translators. As the week went on, I found many Haitians eager to help us practice our Creole while they practiced their English. Together, we were able to communicate pretty effectively.
3. What work projects were you involved in throughout the week?
Aidan - We worked on electrical projects around the compound like ventilation for the bathrooms and ceiling fans in the dining hall. We built benches for the schools and pulled nails out of boards so that they could be reused. We constructed funicular for a medical room and nailed up a wall for a church building.
4. What were your interactions with the Haitian children like?
Stephen - My interactions with the Haitian children were definitely interesting. The language barrier was extremely difficult to overcome, so in order to interact with them I needed to do something that didn't require talking, such as soccer. The kids were really sweet and actually super helpful. When we were working at Fauche (the orphanage/church/school), the kids would help us carry materials and tools to where we needed them. There was one kid at the compound we stayed at who could speak Spanish, so I was able to communicate with him on a very basic level, which was nice.
5. Explain what attending a Haitian church was like?
Aidan - The church had no start time. Instead, they start when enough people get there, and people are always coming in late. They have these huge speakers that don't really work; they just produce a loud screeching sound. Everyone is dancing and singing hoarsely because they’re out of breath. With the deafening noise and crazy dancing plus the fact that you don't understand the language, there seems to be total chaos, and it is very overwhelming.
6. What projects were you involved in throughout the week?
Julianna - I was part of the registration team for the sponsorship program. We traveled to six different schools in five different villages throughout the week to register children into the schools and the sponsorship program as well as deliver letters and gifts from sponsor families. I got to live my dream as a photographer for a missions organization as I took headshots for all the registrations and documented the giving and receiving of gifts!
7. What kinds of food did you eat?
Ashley - I loved Haitian food! We ate lots of rice with stews to put on top that usually had different kinds of vegetables and meats in them. I bit into a habanero pepper one evening that burned my mouth for the next half hour. That was an experience! I think we ate goat once, but the meat was often a mystery. We had some delicious juices made from fruits like watermelon, mangos and papaya. Breakfast foods usually contained a lot of bread as fillers. My favorite breakfast was hot dogs stuffed with peppers and onions in some sort of sauce and chocolate cake on the side!
8. Give an example of something you did that took you out of your comfort zone?
Stephen - I was definitely out of my comfort zone when I had to perform in a skit for the kids. Drama/acting has never been an interest of mine, and I've always felt awkward on a stage. There wasn't a stage for me to be on, and it was definitely a "low pressure situation," but I was still way out of my comfort zone.
9. Name one thing that you learned about Haitian culture that stuck out to you.
Dan - The Haitians do things piecewise. In our culture, we wouldn't build a foundation until we have enough money to build the house on top of it. There, they build the foundation when they can afford it. Then they wait a few months and build the structure when they can afford that, and build the roof a few months later when they have the resources for that. Getting things done quickly and completely is not valued as much as ongoing commitment is. As a result, you see a bunch of half-finished buildings and in-process projects.
10. What is one thing you took away from your trip?
Julianna - This question is always so hard because I could share for literal hours on different aspects I took away from the trip. I think the main thing is that in the midst of the horrors, hardship (extreme poverty, sickness, and the ever present smell of burning trash), and darkness (Voodoo) in Haiti, the Haitian Christians are so faithful to live out the commands of scripture. They don't trust in God because they want to but because they NEED to. They don't have the same distractions and materialistic mindset we do that can fool them into thinking they can have a good life without Christ. Mike Leo put it perfectly: "The darkness in Haiti has teeth and looks dangerous. The darkness in the U.S. looks beautiful and is alluring. Know your enemy." I have been challenged to consider the commands of Scripture (i.e. sharing the Gospel, praying without ceasing, denying my life for other's sake...etc.) just as they are – commands. Not things I can choose to apply to my life when I deem convenient or comfortable.