Haiti, not unlike other countries, is a study in contrast. Today we experienced the country, city, community and culture in all its spender and distress. A mission trip is not a vacation; our goals and purposes are more deliberate, more focused in support of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our words, deeds and actions. These actions require travel; in Haiti as our first two days of blogs attest our transportation to and from our destinations are in a “flat bed truck with a cage” or more commonly called a tap tap. The open air tap tap allows us to use our senses to touch, hear, smell and see the country we are working in.
Day 3 of our mission trip, more than any experience so far, reflected how “color” is a manifestation of the Haitian culture. We visited three distinctly and different places: Sweet Home: a seven year old orphanage built after the earthquake (seven years ago); Papillion and the Apparent Project: a highly successful jobs centric nonprofit business with its own restaurant and retail store; and finally an orphanage named La Phare: small and seemingly isolated located near some of the poorest neighborhoods in Port –au – Prince.
Traveling in our tap tap we drive on and through busy streets, and highly active markets, intersecting with pedestrians, cars, trucks, motorcycles in all their sense of purpose; mostly what appears to be to get to another destination as fast as possible. Horns are a constant. One needs to be a highly confident driver to successfully navigate the streets and alleys; they are narrow, often times with litter or construction debris in the way; busier than a Minnesota interstate with no traffic control (emphasis). Yet, in three days of riding, we have yet to witness one incident, even so remotely minor as a “fender bender”. In route, the colors you see are a complex mix of gray, brown, black, white and faded shades of green, red and blue. Signs need a fresh coat of paint, and dust, dirt and rock are commonplace.
But how that changes when we reach our destination.
Sweet Home is an orphanage serving abandoned children and orphans ages newborn to 18. The buildings and facility are bright, and colorful. Pulling into the gates we are overwhelmed with reds, greens and yellows. Fresh paint with children smiling, laughing, and yes crying, rings the school yard. The joy in the children’s eyes and smiles when they see us is worth the small sacrifice we make to participate in this mission trip. Language barriers often deflect honest conversation (mostly), but a smile is a smile, a laugh is a
laugh and a hug is a hug and we give and receive generously.
Papillion is a special place; without pretention, built in a neighborhood that looks like others, but inside is nothing remotely close. A bustling retail store selling all colors of pottery, jewelry, clothing and ornaments, each made on site with real people and real jobs. According to our tour guide, proceeds support up to 300 Haitians. It’s amazing, and our lunch of smoothies and pizza were a delight and unexpected. And, to what will be no surprise to my wife, I bought a coffee mug, yes, another one to add to my collection.
Our final stop for today was a small orphanage named La Phare. La Phare is located adjacent to a small city street with a hard gate that opens and closes our entry. Kids with clothing of all colors come running out of school (permission granted by the teacher, no doubt), and we play soccer, catch, jump rope, and color. Our markers represent the spectrum of colors and the kids drawings are amazing.
Tomorrow we have water truck day in the morning followed by a visit to Home for Sick and Dying Babies in the afternoon. Thank you for your prayers.
Written by Dave Unmacht