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…