I’m pretty sure I could write enough about my sudden trip to Haiti to fill up the entire Encourager and it still would not do the experience justice. And yet, I can encompass the experience with one word: Beautiful.
My application essay began, “I have seen enough poverty to last a lifetime, and I’m not even sure I want to go,” so I wasn’t particularly surprised when I wasn’t originally chosen to go to Haiti with Trades of Hope. But, when departure week dawned and not one, but two, women on the team had an injured foot, I asked Brent, “If they call, can I go?” (They called. He said yes.)
I like to tell people that I know the Lord loves me because He knew that if I had two months to think about going into a zika virus infested developing country without a functioning government, the anxiety alone, not even considering the mommy guilt, may have landed me in a hospital, but with two days to prepare, all I had time to think about was booking flights, laundry and packing.
Just before I left, a friend dropped by and prayed, “Lord, don’t show Jamie the brokenness; she is broken enough. Show her Your light.” And He did.
I could see my breath when I left Kansas at 5AM, but when I arrived in Haiti, we stepped off the plane to a blast of heat and calypso music. From that moment on, yes, I saw tragedy, but it was always—ALWAYS—juxtaposed with beauty.
The Lord and His roosters woke me every morning before the sunrise which I watched from the rooftops over rebar and through clotheslines and He spoke, “I am here, too.”
We worshiped together with the locals and relief workers at Quisque Chapel, an open air international church. No one cared that we were only there for that one week. They welcomed us with enthusiasm as their fellow sisters in Christ. When the pastor asked us to open our Bibles to the same passage as the Lord had led me to that morning, I thought, “Oh, my goodness! Jesus LOVES me!”
We were able to visit our artisans’ homes, just across the ravine where a baby had been abandoned the week before. We got a lot of distrustful looks as we entered the settlement, but then we could hear the whispers grow and before long we had our own escort of bodyguards. Distrust became gratitude. THESE are the women who sell our products! (We found out later that the baby had been legally declared abandoned and was immediately adopted by the local woman who found her and had always wanted a daughter!)
We saw trash….turned into treasure. Steel drums became beautiful home décor. Discarded paper and cereal boxes became beads. Clay that people used to feed their children to stop their cries of hunger was being made into beads and mugs. T-shirts were cut into strips and made into necklaces. We were able to try our hands at the artistry, and some of us (waving hand) were a disaster. These were no easy tasks; it takes skill!
We walked along the hot, rutted dirt roads, feeling the sweat bead up on our foreheads and down our backs, only to enter the gates of our shaded artisans’ compounds where we entered into joy. The air was 15 degrees cooler, joyful music was playing and the excited hum of people happy to be at work buzzed all around us interspersed with gales of laughter. Smiles were everywhere.
At Three Angels School, children were fed, clean, and obviously loved. Their parents and other locals waited patiently in line at the on-site clinic where they could receive medical care at a small cost. We were fortunate to meet the children who are being sponsored to attend this school due to the sales of our company.
Just down the road was Three Angels Orphanage where the children are so well cared for, they hardly glanced at the strangers peeking around corners. Anyone who has visited orphanages knows that when foreigners enter the gates, the children clamor for attention. TAO was the most peaceful (and clean!) orphanage I have had the privilege to visit.
Was there rubble? Yes. And in the rubble were homes where people are rebuilding their lives. They are a proud people willing and eager to work and provide for themselves. They need only the opportunity.
Go to Haiti. See the razor wire, yes. But look also for the bougainvillea that grows within it. It will be there.