My Life Changing Experience – Day 1

I knew when I decided to take a trip to Haiti that my life would change forever. I thought I would get a renewed perspective on life then come home and feel really thankful. What I learned the most though was that the heart’s capacity for love has immeasurable and indefinite limits. But for now, let’s start with the first day of the trip.

I always get nervous before I travel. This particular trip caused me more anxiety than most. I was going alone with no family to lean on. I felt like a little girl with all the fears and uncertainties of the unknown. However, there was a force from within driving me to do this. The dates of the trip just happened to fall exactly concurrent with the dates of my mid-term break at the college. It only took me a week to plan the trip but I feel as though God had planned this for me my whole life.

As George drove me to the airport early in the morning of Sunday, February 26th with Shaela in the back seat, I experience some disbelief that I was actually doing this. We got to the airport and Bernie and David, my travel buddies, were already inside with their five bags of luggage each. Together, we lug 15 bags of luggage full of donations through US customs. American Airlines graciously waived all of our luggage fees. Once the baggage was safely put through to board the plane, I felt excited that we were able to get all of these items to the orphanage.

We flew to Miami and had to wait about four hours for our next flight to Haiti. We were all shocked that the flight was completely full. We wondered who all these people were travelling to Haiti. There were a couple of groups of missionaries on the flight as well as some shockingly wealthy elitist Haitians. As we neared Haiti, which is only a two hour flight from Miami, I was taken aback by the beauty of the land. Haiti is such a large island with huge mountains and river streams running through them. It was so beautiful. As we descended lower towards the airport, the shacks and lean to’s came into view. I didn’t see a single two story building in site other than the airport itself. We loaded onto a bus that was packed like a can of sardines. Inside the next building, we went through Haitian customs and immigration. I spotted Phillip Rego in the crowd by the luggage pick up. Phillip is the founder of the Feed My Lambs Ministry. Phillip had paid a police officer to help ensure that we and the luggage got to the car safely. I never had any fear but the arrival hall was wildly chaotic and I was thankful for the assistance.

Once we were all loaded into the car, we set off for Montrouis (pronounced ‘Mon-we’). Driving through the streets of Port-Au-Prince was a nightmare. Apparently there are no traffic laws and I’m pretty certain that if a horn breaks on a vehicle it would be considered undrivable. There is no center line on the streets, heck; some of the streets aren’t even paved properly. I do believe the omission of the center line is so that the driver can choose his own line to drive in, wherever that may be. There are three, four, five sometimes six people on one bike. This however, has no effect on the speed of the motorbike. The part I love the most, and I would just love to try this at home, is if you are irritated and someone is in your way, all you have to do is lay on your horn and aim your vehicle directly for them. In seven days, I did not witness a single accident which is a miracle in itself. We passed the mass grave where some of the 316,000 people who died in the earthquake are buried. We passed the tent villages. Yes, thousands of people still live in tents two years after the earthquake. To explain, I would have to let you imagine miles upon miles of Shelly Bay Park at cupmatch time. The difference is at cupmatch time you can often smell food burning on a bbq. In Haiti, the only thing you can smell burning is trash. There are no sanitation services. Trash is piled up on the side of the road and burnt. Every 50 feet there seems to be another pile of trash burning. The river is polluted and piled up with trash. The smoke burns your nose and stings your eyes. The streets are cluttered with people.

After we get out of Port-Au-Prince, the streets are smooth and well maintained. Onel, 23 years old from the orphanage, tells us that the US government came down and paved the roads. There are checkpoints every so often. We see the UN buildings on the side of the road. Phillip asks us if we would like to go to the orphanage to meet the children before going to the hotel. We all say yes. When we get to the orphanage, the gate is opened for us. We can hear the hum of the generator and the children are standing in the doorway, jumping up and down and singing in Haitian Creole. Before we are fully out of the truck, they are jumping into our arms and hugging us. We can’t even see each other’s faces in the darkness of outside but the children would not wait for us to get inside. We are quickly trying to remember names and faces. Little Abinada clings to me and won’t let go. Some of the other children are pushing at her for attention. They all just want love and affection. As I type this tears roll down my face. All of these children are some of the most beautiful, caring and loving children I have ever met. They have so little, but give so much.

Originally Posted on March 6th 2012 on http://rachaelburrows.wordpress.com/

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