I have been back in the US of A since the end of April. It’s been a strange couple of weeks, and a bit overwhelming at times. Mostly though, it’s been great to be home and reconnect with friends. My flight was originally scheduled for April 12, but I extended two weeks while we waited for four more water purifiers to be released from customs. Unfortunately, they never were released for one reason or another, and there’s no estimate on when they will be available. I can only speculate as to why the units were not released after a month of being in customs, but I’ve heard some compelling theories. We were told that the president of Haiti’s father in law is in the water business so that could be one motivation to prevent free water. It could be that the units are being held as long as possible in hopes for a bribe.
Luke and I were able to take the Haitian family that we lived with to the beach for a day. The three little boys we lived with had never seen or swam in the ocean despite spending their entire lives in a port city. We loaded up two cars full of people and drove the two hours up the coast to the beach. The little boys were the most fun to watch. They hesitated not going very deep into the water. When we held them and brought them into deeper water they clung to our necks and climbed us to ensure their safety. They started to relax and we tried to teach them to swim. Then they spent most of the day running up and down the sand at the water’s edge. We had a sand fight and they were covered with sand that they just left, content to be covered with mud. That day at the beach is one of my favorite memories from the whole trip.
For my last week in Haiti I had a change in living situation, and I camped at SOS Children’s Village. I did maintenance and worked in the warehouse and other odd jobs for the Village, it was great to have an added experience and meet even more interesting people. SOS is a worldwide organization and they have nearly 200 children’s villages worldwide. The model is numerous homes throughout the village with a “mom” and a few kids. Before the earthquake there was 8 kids to every “mom”, now there are nearly 30. One of the tasks SOS has taken on since the earthquake is finding the children’s families and reconnecting them with the kids. In many cases the kids are forced to live in worse living conditions than at the village so that they can be with family members.
I met a lot of great people at SOS. Most of the short-term volunteers spoke Spanish so it was fun to practice my espanol. SOS’s regional headquarters are in Costa Rica so many of the volunteers were from there and other parts of Latin America and Spain. The village is divided into two sides, one with the homes for the kids and the other side for the school and volunteer living space. I think it’s wise to separate the volunteers from the kids because it’s so easy to become attached and then have hearts broken when it’s time to go. That being said, I was sad that I was unable to spend more time with the kids.
Flying away from Port-au-Prince was very emotional as my mind raced through too many thoughts to make sense of. We took off and I watched out my window searching for familiar sights. I could see the chaotic roads that I was able to get to know all too well. Here’s an excerpt from my journal that I wrote as I was flying away:
My mind fights between two thoughts. One side is thoughts of relief, the joy that comes from knowing I’m going where I can have warm, daily showers, whatever food I want, functioning traffic, and limited corruption. I wonder why I didn’t do this a long time ago, in only minutes I’m away from the chaos and in a couple of hours I’ll be with family, we’ll laugh and speak English and drink beer and eat good food.
Then there’s the conflicting thoughts. I fly over tents and broken buildings and know that each hold more lives than could be healthy, let alone comfortable. I leave them knowing I didn’t do enough, that I could’ve done more, so few did I even have the privilege to actually meet. I imagine they look at planes taking off with different thoughts than when I do. I see a plane and know what it’s like to fly, I know what it’s like to go, to do, to travel, to live life fully. I guess they see planes fly off and few have had the experience, most never will. Few can ever afford the cost and fewer will get passports, visas and legal documents necessary to leave. I want to stay and help and do what I can to help, but I just go.
I was talking with some friends about Haiti the day after I got back. I told them that it was really hard for me to have hope for Haiti, it seemed like things were getting worse instead of improving. The chaos, the corruption, the lack of leadership, the lack of jobs, money and resources, all seemed to being winning out over the good that is being done. I thought about this conversation later and how depressing it is to say there’s no hope for a place. In saying that I failed to remember the bigger picture. I failed to remember that we serve a God that is greater than what I can see, we serve a God who is in the business of restoring the world, and we serve a God that is reigning over the chaos.