Marla led the youth team from Pleasant Valley last week. This is her journal from the trip….
Friday, January 14
We arrived at The Mole after an eventful travel day. Much of day was spent at airport in Port Au Prince with Jacque from NWHCM’s incredible staff. Jacque worked the phones and the room getting our team headed to the Mole under pretty difficult circumstances. The airline we were supposed to fly with didn’t have all of their planes in service, so we had to take two five-seater planes and leave much of our luggage/cargo behind to arrive late Saturday. That may not sound like a big deal, but the cargo contained most of the supplies that we planned to use for the youth event Saturday afternoon and the guys luggage…so they went without most of what they had packed. The other point that made this significant was that Rachel and Molly don’t like flying on big airplanes, let alone a five-seater. The pilots did not consult Brad or me, they just started calling people’s names and telling them which of the five seats they were going to sit in. They called Rachel Spencer first for the girls plane and said she would be “Co-Pilot” sitting in front, inches away from the controls. The look on her face might have broken my heart if I had given in to emotion…she looked at me and said, “Maaaaaaaaaaarla, I can’t do this!” I reassured her that she could do this with Christ’s strength and she climbed into the front seat. I was so moved by her courage and faith…and the other girls, too…especially Molly who held her head high and buckled up for the journey! The beauty of the five-seater was that everyone was sitting by a window and could take in the gorgeous landscape of Haiti. We flew along the coastline mostly which was amazing…Haiti has lots of rolling, folding land…not a lot of trees, but lots of cactus?! I kept seeing these small, round patches w/smoke dotting the landscape….I couldn’t figure out what they were. Jocelyn, one of our translators, told me later it’s where the people make charcoal!
We landed at Mole International (Lol!!) which is a runway of dirt/rock and then a short truck ride to our hotel. We had lunch with Jody and Jose’ before going on a walking tour of the Mole with Jose’ and our translators, Jocelyn and Pierre.
We were able to see the land where NWHCM has already begun first steps in building orphan homes and will also build a school, staff housing, a medical center, home for elderly care, and of course…a church!
We were greeted by the sweet people of the community as we walked along the roads and many children joined us which delighted us all!
Unpacked, ate dinner and went to bed pretty tired from the travel…it was 7:30 Central time when we hit the pillow!!! We had only slept from 1am-4am the night before in Miami, so everyone was ready for bed and Saturday’s schedule was full, so it was wise to hit the hay early.
Saturday, January 15
We left early in the morning with Jody, Jose’, Beth, Pierre & Jocelyn by truck for the village-Preskul. The team had been praying before the trip about this village and asking God to speak to us if this village was where he wanted our student ministry to focus for the next few years. When we arrived, Jocelyn and Pierre communicated to the people who gathered around that we were there to discover what they needed and to take those needs back to our home church and student ministry to see if they could be met. They told us their greatest need was water…they often walk three hours to the Mole for water and carry it back on top of their head. A cistern would solve this problem. We asked them to paint something about their daily life or their needs so we could bring those paintings back and share with our student ministry, families, and friends. It was so fun watching them sketch, draw and paint. A few of them had pencils and were using different things for a straight edge to make their paintings just right! They were so grateful and kind to us. What touched my heart was watching the women-especially the mothers care for their children. I really related to their nurturing hearts and found it unsettling to imagine not being able to provide water for my child.
I believe our prayers were answered at Preskul. We asked God to show us where he would have us minister to people-to show us their needs-to show us where his name needs to be known…He showed us a little fishing village where a community of people are loving and caring for one another, but need the love of Christ in some very practical and tangible ways and certainly in a spiritual sense as well. I cannot wait to share their story with our church family and friends! I am looking so forward to our return in June.
As we stood on the shore where they keep their boats and dry their nets and daily catch, I couldn’t help but feel like we were standing in the middle of a Bible story! I almost expected the apostle Paul to come around the corner at any moment…such a beautiful, peaceful setting.
We piled back into the truck and headed to the Mole for lunch. After lunch, we had to adjust our plans because most of our supplies for the afternoon with the youth were still in a truck on their way to the Mole. Beth rounded up some playground equipment that another team had left behind and we had our fingernail polish for the girls.
The boys mostly played basketball while the girls and I set up a roadside nail salon. There were five little girls who spent a couple of hours letting us paint and repaint their fingers and toes! One of the girls had her mom come by and have her nails done…we had a color that PERFECTLY matched her dress…she was thrilled ! One thing we really got a kick out of was the girls and our Wet Ones towels! We had taken packages of wet ones to wipe their hands with so the polish would stick…after painting them the first time, they started using the wet ones to wipe off the first color and put different colors on. They also discovered that if you squeezed the wet ones, there would be bubbles…they used all of our package up and loved playing with the soapy bubbles! Just like in America, huh? Who needs toys?! Just give kids everyday items and they discover something fascinating or entertaining in that. Note to next team: take extra Wet Ones 🙂
After a few hours of playing, we headed back to hotel to practice a skit for youth gathering in the evening. Brad had asked Jocelyn what the youth needed to hear about from God’s word. He immediately said “Forgiveness” He communicated that they have a difficult time forgiving one another over large or small grievances. So, we brainstormed a skit to illustrate the burden of unforgiveness and rehearsed a few times before dinner.
The Mole youth gathered at the church for our skit and Brad’s message which was well received…in fact, the question period afterwards lasted for 30 minutes before we had to end it in time to go to the beach for the bonfire. The questions were centered around forgiving things we could only imagine mostly…they weren’t direct, but you could discern that they were BIG things as well as minor grievances. Brad had told them you MUST forgive, but you don’t forget in a way that puts you in danger…someone asked what if you cannot get out of a dangerous situation…Brad reassured this youth that even when someone in authority over us is creating a situation that we cannot leave immediately, that God is with us and will not forget us. Pretty heavy stuff. We needed a long walk to the beach after that.
There were at least 75 youth that went to the beach bonfire with us. They enjoyed hot dogs first. We revised the smore recipe to include marshmallows and graham crackers only b/c the chocolate we had was frosting…we forgot a knife to spread it and I’m not sure frosting, moonlight, and a sandy beach would’ve been a good combo anyway! The youth had not had s’mores before. The incredible women on Jody and Jose’s staff were there to help keep things organized, but we had to demonstrate how the line would move with the roasting sticks and marshmallows and then over to us to pull marshmallows off between the graham crackers. I made one to demonstrate and wanted to give it to one of the youth but they were all hollering about something I didn’t understand. Jody or Jose’ said, “They want you to eat it FIRST!” I don’t know if they didn’t think it would be good or didn’t trust me?!? So I ate it and they kind of cheered and then started thru the line. Things got a little dicey a couple of times as the girls and I dodged flaming marshmallows and red hot roasting sticks, but we survived without major injury!
Sunday, January 16, 2011
We rolled out of bed around 5am so we could be on a boat to the Preskul fishing village by 6am. We had hygiene kits and granola bars to give them as well as some clothes from our students. Really don’t have words to describe the boat ride across the bay with the sun rising…all I can say is Glory to God!
The villagers were so gracious and sweet receiving the gifts we brought. One man spoke some English and said to me, “You bring us cookie?” We picked up the remainder of the paintings from the day before…we had left some to dry and some were painted by villagers that had been out fishing while we were there during the day. We said farewell and let them know we would return in June! Jody shared with our students that she would like to purchase chickens for them so they could have eggs…our students gave generously and we have already heard that Jody arranged the purchase of the chickens since we left! Can’t wait to see how they’re doing in June.
Arrived back at the Mole and dressed for church and finished packing for our departure after lunch. Brad delivered a message on being alive spiritually, not just physically…John Chapter 5. We enjoyed hearing some familiar hymns (including How Great Thou Art) sung in Creole and were amazed by the people’s passion as they worshipped the one true God! After church, we had time to let the Mole congregation paint before heading to lunch. Had incredible pepperoni pizza at Jody and Jose’s before going back to pick up dry paintings and getting on bus to Mole International J It was a big bus & a daring driver… just wondering if anyone has seen the movie Speed? Enough said.
Spent the night in Port Au Prince before heading to airport for long day of travel Monday (7am-11:15pm)!
That sums up the play-by-play version of our trip!
There are a several take-aways I’d like to share before closing. First, NWHCM staff amazed me. What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ! The warm hospitality blessed our team. We were there such a short time, but because of the staff’s diligent preparation and organization, we were able to accomplish so much and focus on hearing God’s voice rather than details that had already been taken care of and arranged! I’m looking forward to our return in June and being reunited with our new friends.
Second, I was amazed by the students on our team. Outside of the American Airlines flight arrangements, very little went according to our plans. Rather than complain and become anxious about all of the things out of our control, the students responded with grace and maturity. Clearly, God was in control and had better plans. Because the students were flexible and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we were able to recognize God’s hand and joyfully receive what He was doing with our time in Haiti.
Finally, some have asked if we wanted to bring the little children home with us. I have to admit that I did want to scoop up the naked toddler I saw near a garbage dump in Port Au Prince…who wouldn’t want to protect a precious little one from the danger and harm of that? But the children in the Mole and in the village of Preskul caused a different reaction in my heart. They were a beautiful people living in a beautiful place. Their parents were holding them, loving them, and caring for them. My heart’s desire for these children is that their parents would come to know Christ and that their parents would bring them up in the Lord. I am in agreement with Brad that God has probably already ordained a pastor for the village of Preskul. What joy it will be to see their physical needs met and then to see their spiritual needs met by our Almighty God! I look forward to witnessing all of that in the coming days, months, and years!