I told you I would speak to you the whole truth as I see it in Haiti; that I would bring you in to my side and help you know like you were there (because you were, I could sense the breath of your prayers brushing the surface of my skin). I told you that I would paint word pictures using the whole wheel of sights and sounds; color and personality. Well this is me kneeling down at your feet with the information that is now a part of us for better or for better. And I want you to know that sprinkled between the descriptions and stories of hope and redemption and beauty so wondrous it will cut you open and make you keep bleeding, will be actual facts of evil and poverty and orphans and hunger and disease and so on. This sprinkling of gritty details is not designed to emotively create despair between your rib bones or manipulate a response from your aorta, but rather to keep my aforementioned promise to be a truth teller offering everything I can remember for this journalistic style series detailing our five day pilgrimage with Haiti.
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I found it ironic to get bumped to first class on my way to Haiti, the comforts of the privileged juxtaposed next to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Chris Marlow was seated beside me and I took the opportunity to get to know this man who founded Help One Now, the organization I was leaving hearth and home for. We talked “shop” and asked “get to know you” questions of each other and played with ALL the buttons on our fancy chairs like little children would and laughed at our own young-like behavior. Chris Marlow is a good good good people and became a true brother in such a short time (more on him later). The flight attendants gave us hot towels to wipe the travel grime off our epidermis and warmed us up some cajun-style shrimp with a side of cheesy polenta and our real glass glasses never came to half empty. Being served so studiously always makes me feel a bit weird because I’m the girl who is much more comfortable on the other side of pampering.
I took a million iPhone pictures of the aqua ocean as we flew over atlantic waters and bahama beaches. And if I’m being completely honest from start to finish, then I’ll have you know that I wanted nothing more than to squeeze my body out the itty bitty plastic window so I could dive birthday-suit-style into the hues of blue below and feel naked creation dripping off my everywhere. Creation plus nothing is my jam; experiencing it launches me into God’s lap.
Just a little over an hour of flight-time later, we landed in Port Au Prince on a Saturday evening and within .02 seconds of walking down the jetway I realized that wearing jeans was a mistake. Tropical humidity is it’s own high level of stick and denim and sweat go together like catfish covered in chocolate. But there wasn’t much time to dwell on my mishap because immediately following our collective burst through the airport doors into the big blaring city I was struck by all the feelings (there’s a word for when every-each of your senses climax at once, but I can’t remember what it is). Oh my God, we were in Haiti and I could hear the spirit of adventure calling us like a lover; come hither and follow closer… This was our time, heaven was sitting in our hands and all we had to do was take one panorama look and the flavors erupting from of a single scope were cascading in waterfalls over my head; I was drinking Haiti through my pores and faster than a snap I dove headlong in love. From the wild and tasty colors to the spices impregnating the wind to the lush growth of rumbles and shouts to hundreds of brightly clad bodies moving like a pile of upright earthworms, I kept pinching my soul to make sure I wasn’t conjuring it all forth from my vivid imagination. God was everywhere and he was smiling to split the universe. Amber and I looked at each other and a simultaneous “I’m just so happy to be here” fell from our mouths. I wanted to throw my head to the sky and let go a worship yell and dance a joyous jig. If I could go back and do it over, I wouldn’t have held it in.
I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I travelled extensively in my very late teens and early twenties–including five weeks in India. And after a person sees India up close and personal, foreign places do not have shocks or surprises anymore. But in that moment, standing where I was on that tiny square of Haitian asphalt, I felt like I was a bug-eyed toddler seeing a playground for the first time; my vision was brand new again. I could’ve bowed down and kissed the ground in gratitude for being trusted in a small way with the land and people of another country on God’s green earth.
With Spirit behind our backs and Spirit pushing up our fronts and Spirit falling from above, we piled sardine-style into two SUV’s and commenced into plural unknowns. Pastor Gaetan and Brennon picked us up from the airport and whisked us to our hotel. And by “whisked”, what I really mean is that we arrived approximately one hour and 2,000-some-odd car-honks later. Vehicles flow like a mighty river in the streets, there is a rhyme and reason to the way the wheels move, but with no lines or signs to guide the way, I certainly didn’t understand it. All I know is that a well-timed beep from the driver keeps the motorists and pedestrians mostly alive. We learned fairly fast that a “Haitian handshake” happened when the rear-view mirrors of two opposing vehicles hit each other in passing and I might’ve whispered “Jesus take the wheel” a few hundred times under my breath.
In between “handshakes” and car honks, my eyes ate more things I had never seen than I could ever count. Four years after the earthquake and some big hunks of Port Au Prince looked as if it had been jackhammered apart just yesterday, then thrown haphazardly back together on top of one another—like a concrete and earth Tetris puzzle gone completely skweee hawed. I knew I would see poverty layered in spades, but I didn’t anticipate what would slam into my eyes during that first hour alone… To be continued…
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This series will probably go for ten parts or so and I am very much excited to make you words and string you along. In the meantime, follow the stories of my pilgrimage partners HERE.
And lastly, just a few more iPhone photos: