Haiti Mission Trip part 11 The last day

 

Friday June 15th 2012

This morning the group is filled with a combination of excitement and sadness.  It’s that feeling you carried with you at the end of summer camp.  Happy to go home yet saddened to no longer be surrounded by these people whom you have become close to in an abnormally short amount of time.  Knowing when you wake up tomorrow the scenery will be completely different. Your feet, your body and soul will no longer encompass this place you called home for the last 8 days. It’s as if you were never there, then you ask yourself; if I come back to this place will it be the same? Will I carry the same feeling of accomplishment and joy currently residing within my being?  Could there ever be another group as wonderful, humorous and caring as ours?

We had our last breakfast, we cleaned up our rooms and many of us left suitcases filled with clothes, shoes and other belongings behind for the church to distribute to its members.  Everything was moved downstairs quietly towards the loading zone as the guest house trucks arrived to cart us away.  Small talk and innocent giggles were had by all.  Before any of us had time to sit and reflect any further it was time to go.  Our final goodbyes, our last au revoir or in Haitian; bay-bay; goodbyes are always miserable.  Some small tears were shed, many blank faces climbed aboard our chariot home. As we pulled away I looked back at our temporary home and sighed.  Many days I was ready to leave, while other days I couldn’t wait for the next challenge and now here I was watching it disappear in my rear view.  Mixed emotions swelled inside bringing tears of joy to my face. 

It only took a few minutes for most to settle down and you could see many reflecting as we rolled along towards the guest house.  Gone were the naïve Americans white knuckling their ride through town, in their place were 10 seasoned mission participants who no longer feared NASCAR style driving, crowded streets, UN personnel, language barriers, and humidity. The further we traveled from Leveque the easier it was to accept our next destination.  The guest house was looking more and more inviting. Yet inside I was already longing to see our new-found friends again.  I knew there would be another mission team in two weeks, then another after that and so on.  Before long the people of Leveque would forget who we were but I was positive they would never forget our contribution.  We had all talked about traveling back to see the finished church, I feel as though this is my next personal mission. 

After 30 minutes we arrived at a dirt road that headed back into the hills; this led up to the mass grave constructed for an estimated 316,000 who perished on January 12, 2010.  We had all declined the offer to see this memorial.  Not out of disrespect mind you, but from exhaustion.  The further we travelled the more we all relaxed and exhaustion was evident on every person inside that bus.  The bus turned anyways and up the hill we traveled.  Letting out a heavy sigh of frustration my mind-set was soon replaced upon arrival to the memorial. 

Where a sloping hillside once stood now lay a football field sized plateau. Of to the left, closer to the original hillside sat a marble monument.  Simple in stature and design, looking upon it you suddenly felt remorse for ever thinking you could drive by this place without stopping.  To get at the memorial you needed to traverse this football field sized area which meant walking over the dead.  Humbling to say the least; the entire area lays in clear view of the ocean with a gentle sea breeze enveloping you where you stand. A picture perfect view for all souls at rest; with my head hung low I made my way back to the bus where I vowed to never look past another’s reflection of the past to meet my own personal needs.

Two hours, lots of sweat, a few bumpy roads and we were back inside the comforts of the guest house.  A facility that when I arrived looked as though it had seen better days, but to me on this day it appeared as though it was the Grand Hilton, the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, it was filled with luxury and comfort. After unloading both vehicles I made my way upstairs to our rooms where immediately the i-phone was plugged back into the world.  After 30 minutes of returning e-mails, sending pictures and catching up on work I found a clean pair of swim shorts and headed to the pool.  

Our entire group was here and after jumping in I realized it was the first time I had actually been cool for 8 days. It was fantastic!  Water, cool water all around my skin, no sweat, no wet clothes, we all swam until our fingers shriveled up.  Many of during the course of discussion joked that when you arrive at the guest house for the first time the pool should be off-limits.  Because you can only truly understand the significance of this little concrete gem after you have sweated your ass off for 8 days! Of course we were only joking, maybe….

After dinner our group was invited into another structure for a debriefing.  We all shared our stories of trial and triumph with the coordinator.  I am sorry to say I don’t remember her name as she was the replacement for Sara who had finished her tenure on this assignment.  It was an excellent way to end our journey as we spoke very highly of the church congregation in Leveque.  We also discovered there have only been a couple of instances when a going away party was thrown for the team. She had heard lots of compliments about our group over the week and was impressed we took the entire building to the ground.  We all left feeling very good about our efforts, knowing we came together as one and performed to the best of our abilities, it was gratifying to say the least. 

As the night wore down we all trailed off to bed.  The 1950’s metal bunk with cotton batted mattress I despised the first night felt like a goose down bed from heaven.  Drifting off to sleep all my brain could focus on was the pride I held inside for our group, the immense fatherly pride I held for my son, the new friendships I now cherished and the thought of hearing my wife’s voice the minute we touched down on American soil tomorrow.  Sleep came quickly…

 

Haiti Mission Trip 2012 part 12 Coming home..

Saturday June 16th 2012

Bleary eyed and disoriented most of us stumbled around trying to figure out whether we were coming or going.  A nice cool shower, a shave, and a fresh clean pair of clothes for travel, we were one by one getting ready for the long ride home.  Our final breakfast together was filled with prayer, laughter and stories of the past week, a truly fantastic way to end this journey. As we gathered our belongings, purchased our last gifts, distributed passports and documentation, the anticipation of finally being on a plane home started setting in on us all.  Loading up and pulling through the iron gates for the last time I was finally ready to go, ready to be home again.  I had come to this country with a simple goal, tear down a building, with that goal complete; I found myself leaving with so much more, more than I could ever have imagined obtaining from this little tropical island and its people. 

The airport was controlled chaos, people moving you here and there; the same issue we had previously upon arrival in country with baggage handlers reared its ugly head as we unloaded from our bus.  John C took the front, Paul was in the middle and John G and I took up the rear of our group ensuring no one was separated or bags grabbed. A few of us purchased some last-minute gifts before entering the boarding area, while others just made their way upstairs.  The terrace was crowded and hot but at this point no one cared. After an hour we loaded and were finally on our way.  The flight was quiet and uneventful, (except for the reemergence of the corn muffin) most of us were quietly enjoying the in-flight movie, or sleeping.

Landing in Miami the winds were blowing very hard and our arrival was hair-raising to say the least! As we deplaned heading into the terminal there was an indescribable feeling that came with walking on American soil.  There is something to be said about the freedoms we Americans enjoy on a daily basis. It takes experiencing the trials and tribulations of another country to fully grasp this immense gift we have been given, it is the reason people fight and die trying to reach American shores.

We all gathered for one last dinner together before catching the last leg of our travels home. During dinner every one of us was plugged back into society.  8 days with little cell phone use and an abundance of conversation, now with little more than 5 hours left together we all were texting, Facebooking and catching up with family and friends. Cody called his mom the minute we landed in Miami, giving her a short synopsis of his adventures. I called her sometime after that and relished in hearing her voice.  I couldn’t wait to land in SF and see her face.

The 5 hour flight was uneventful and in the blink of an eye we were face to face with loved ones.  Our dear friend Alisa (Maggie’s mom) drove her commuter van down to pick us up. When they pulled up curbside my wife was hanging a welcome home sign out the window! We all hugged saying our last goodbyes as Paul and Mason went their separate ways with family and friends.  Climbing into the van sitting next to my wife for the ride home the whole trip seemed surreal.  A years’ worth of planning, fundraising, meetings the anticipation of going and it was all over, done, we were home. Sharing our stories of adventure with Alisa and my wife Jacy the trip home went very quickly. My body was exhausted; there was a numbness that took over as we made our way to the house at 1 am Sunday morning. 

Hot water! Hot water flowing over my body in copious amounts! Soap and a towel smelling of bleach; the sound of little Parker snoring while Jake sleeps quietly in the bunk above him, being home is grand.  Slipping into a clean shirt and shorts, I stroll downstairs, peek in on Jessica then over to check on Cody finding him completely passed out, his dog Cricket (who he missed more than family) snuggled up to him lying under his arm. I whisper Goodnight son, thank you for coming with me on this great adventure, I love you. Then slowly close his door as Cricket raises an ear at the creaky hinges.  

Climbing into bed, looking at my wife lying next to me sleeping I feel as though I may be the luckiest man alive; a nice house, a soft bed, a woman who loves me, food in my refrigerator, an awesome family, wonderful friends and a great job.  When I left for Haiti my feelings were that of a married man with a wonderful family, yet I didn’t have enough, I wanted more, feeling as though with budget cuts at work, an increased workload (both at work and home) and a severely dwindling income our lives were becoming extremely difficult.  Over ten days I learned what difficult truly was, I also learned how to be happy even content with my life in those same ten days. I learned from emulating my Haitian friends.

A Haitian is thankful for each day

A Haitian is thankful for the food on their plate

A Haitian is thankful for friends and family, willing to do anything at anytime or anywhere for someone in need

A Haitian is thankful for God’s love

A Haitian believes every little moment is a gift from God

A Haitian believes hardship instills belief and all hardships can be overcome with a willing attitude

A Haitian doesn’t know the word can’t

A group of Haitians changed my life forever. I am filled with joy, love and appreciation for all God has blessed me with in this life. For that I can never repay them, I pray for the little group in Leveque and hope one day I can revisit this special place to sit and worship in a brand new church.  A church built with love and devotion from many caring hands who know there are no obstacles that can’t be overcome with God’s help.

And to our church group; the nine of you are amazing human beings. You are all caring, loving, hard-working people who I am very proud to call my friends.  We may not talk everyday, we may only see each other once in a while or only know what the other is up to through Facebook but there is one thing we will share for eternity.  It will bind us till the day we leave this earth.

Haiti

I love you all, thank you for the time of my life.. 

OSHA out…..