Mommy Doc Madness: Haiti First Impressions
I had the privilege of returning to Haiti last week for my third trip. I was especially excited about this trip as I would be sharing it with my mother and my daughter. Three generations of my family serving together was a joy in a legacy of faith. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6
Throughout the trip, I tried to capture thoughts and impressions, so I could remember and savor them. Our mission partners ask that we avoid social media while we were there as a safety measure for us and for the mission. The next few blog posts reflect my musings while I was there serving.
So, do you remember that attitude adjustment that hit me before leaving for Haiti last Friday? Well, it turns out, I needed it today. Our flights were fairly smooth, and we arrived here in Haiti around 5 p.m. We then loaded the vintage, retired American school bus that was shipped to Haiti a few years back (but really should have retired 20 years ago). We set out from Port-au-Prince to our mission destination. It was a whopping 30 miles away, but a harrowing 2-3 hour bus ride to get there.
It was Saturday, which is market day in Port-au-Prince. That means the streets are literally full of people and wares. And, there are NO traffic laws in Haiti. Driving is like a mass "honk fest" (yes, they love their horns) for rule-less drivers, beat up cars that have no emission control, and "tap-taps" swerving through streets that are cluttered with trash, goats, pigs, and people. Let me pause to describe a tap-tap: A tap-tap is an old mini pick-up truck that has a brightly colored metal contraption on the bed with benches that allow people to sit and/or stand. From my best estimation, a tap-tap can hold up to 30 people! Yes, 30. They hang off the back, sit on the top, and jump on and off at various stops. It's a physics phenomenon that they don't tip over! The driver knows someone wants on or off because passengers "tap" on the side of the truck. It is public transportation like you've never experienced!
An hour and a half into the inevitable three-hour ride, and the fascination with the tap-taps had worn off, and the swerving and stench were getting to me. The sensory overload of Port-au-Prince is hard to describe. The air is thick with smoke, smog, and the smell of dead fish from the markets and open sewers from the 6 million people who live there. Furthermore, the temperature on the bus was approximately 90 degrees. Needless to say, I was miserably carsick. Despite my Zofran and ginger chews, I wanted to hurl. I breathed a quick prayer to God to get me off this bus.
Just as I was about to hang my head out the window, there was a loud explosion... one of the bus tires had blown out. Our driver rather skillfully maneuvered the bus off the side of the road. By this point, we were beyond the city limits onto the southern peninsula of Haiti. No streetlights, no electricity, no AAA to call for help.
Our team of 18 people sat on the bus and looked at each other, waiting to see what would happen next. Getting off the bus was not a safe option, as we already had an armed security officer with us. Within a few minutes, the driver and the armed security guard found a spare on the roof of the bus and solicited the men on the trip to get it down without dumping our luggage. In a few more minutes, they were skillfully changing it by the light of cell phones. At one point, one of our male team members got back on and encouraged us not to look at what was happening. Our makeshift mechanics had evidently found logs on the side of the road and propped the bus up in a precarious fashion to change the tire. We just sat there and prayed.
Soon, we were back on our way and finally arrived at the mission guesthouse compound at the 3 1/2 hour mark. (Only in a Third World country does it take 3 1/2 hours to drive 30 miles.) I got off the bus and was greeted with a delicious, warm meal of beans, rice and something that I could not pronounce but tasted delicious.
We were also greeted by the host of the mission organization there that offered my family a single room in the guesthouse, as opposed to sleeping in the large bunk room where I had stayed previously. I was blown away. One of my fears for the trip was sleeping in an open room with family members that snore impressively. This meant everyone, including me, could sleep in peace.
As I settled into our room, and started to ponder the day, God reminded me that He called me to this adventure, and He promised He would take care of us. He also reminded me that He indeed answers prayers, big ones and little ones. I asked Him to get us safely to the guesthouse. He did. A big prayer that was answered. I had prayed that I would be able to rest while I was there (knowing the rigor of the trip). Smaller prayer, but He answered. And, I had prayed that God would get me off the bus, so I would not puke. He did. Ironically, that was through a blown tire. But, it was an answered prayer under my breath after all!
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24).
Lord, help me to remember that you answer our prayers, in ways we often don't expect.