Published: June 21st 2010June 18th 2010
I rode to DHQ for the last time...said goodbyes to support staff there and waited for Jeannot to arrive to take me to the airport. We have 6 Haitian drivers serving the SA staff (several trucks, one van, 3 cars). Some drive the delivery trucks, one drives the entire team to and from DHQ daily in the old beatup blue van we have. Others drive individuals to and from camp or to various meetings or on errands. We also have one available on Sunday to drive us to and from church services. During the last 4 weeks, I have had an opportunity to ride with each one and have come to know them personally and to have them share their lives, their story with me.
Jeannot arrived and carried my baggage down to the car. I followed...came through the outer door...and there stood the remaining 5 drivers...lined up to say goodbye to me. I had promised myself I would not cry...but now I'm struggling hard not to cry. Each in turn, hugged me, thanked me for coming to Haiti to be with them, to show them care and love, hoping I would not forget them and that I might come back again someday. Even Sergo, who only speaks Creole, (and our 'conversations' had been limited to smiles, hugs, thumbs up signs, and some French I had picked up), spoke to me through Jeannot as translator. Lastly, Jeannot was told to 'take specially good care of this special lady, our friend'.
After unloading the luggage at the airport, Jeannot also hugged me, thanked me, and hoped I would remember them all and continue to pray for them and his country. Remember them? How could I ever forget!
And so...I check into the airport...and wait for my flight (scheduled for 10:55 a.m. takeoff)...and wait...and wait...and wait...
Eventually, there is an announcement that the flight has been delayed; the plane is in the Dominican Republic with mechanical problems. Then it is announced that the plane is being pulled for service (good thing, I wouldn't want to fly in a plane having problems, right?). They will bring a plane from Atlanta to take us to JFK. During the long wait, I have a conversation with a photo journalist from Europe. He had been in Haiti right after the quake and had returned to do follow-up pictures and story. We shared stories and our concerns for Haiti during this hard recovery time.
Then I was adopted by a group of 50 young people from a church named The Rock in San Diego, California. They and several chaperones had been in Haiti for 2 weeks in a town named Jeremie, about 1 1/2 hours out of Port-au-Prince. They were eager to share their stories, as well as their granola bars with me (no one had a meal since breakfast). I laughed over their story about the 'Indiana Jones bus ride' into PaP that morning, as they described the bags of rice, sweet potatoes being loaded on top at every stop. I said - "what, no goat?" to which they rolled their eyes and said..."oh yes, we shared the bus with 2 goats!"
At 6:00, the plane arrived from Atlanta and we took off at 6:30. Does the story get better? Read on...
We land in Atlanta for refueling and replenishing of snacks and beverages (the only thing we're getting to eat, of course) but do not deplane, as there is no customs support there. Then on to JFK - arriving at 12:05 a.m. After exiting customs, we are met by Delta employees, who have already redone reservations for the next available connecting flights to replace the ones we've missed. This takes time...as they process several hundred passengers. My flight to Syracuse will be at 9:55 on Saturday morning. Delta has arranged to put us up at the Sheraton for the night. I briefly consider just staying in the airport, then decide against it. So, at 3:00 in the morning, we are standing along the curbside outside the terminal waiting for a bus to take us to the hotel. One of the young lads from the church mission group, takes out his guitar and starts playing. Picture this - at 3:00 in the morning, we are standing in the street of NYC singing praise music! A man walking along the street, comes up to me and asks "who are these people"? I explain most of this group are young people who are just returning from a mission trip to Haiti. He says "wow, that's great...and I'm really liking this music!" He turns and literally dances on down the street!
At 4:00 a.m., I'm in my room...falling into the big, luxurious bed for 2 1/2 hours sleep. At 6:30, I get my wake-up call and take the first HOT shower I've had in a month, with water pressure so strong, it nearly blows me away. (remember, in Haiti there's no hot water and almost no water pressure...most times it's a trickle in the shower) I have breakfast, the first meal in 24 hours, catch my ride to the airport and wing my way to Syracuse, arriving at 11:00 a.m.
John and Larry Michael pick me up and I begin the process of re-entry into my life here. However, I know that I've been changed deeply and profoundly by this experience and I wonder what that change will mean as I go home and pick up the thread of my life. I also wonder what God has planned for me....certainly there is more to come. He has shown me I can serve in a disaster response situation; that I have the stamina to keep the pace. He has shown me that I can be obedient to His call. He placed people in my life and I could respond to them with His love and compassion; that even I could make a difference in someone's life.
I pray for the people of Haiti...for the long recovery process ahead of them. I pray that out of the ashes of the destruction there, a new and better Haiti will arise, like the Phoenix, and this country will be blessed. I know there are people of faith there; committed to helping this to happen; committed to the long road ahead; and committed to serving God well.