A few months ago members of my church, St. James United Church in Waterdown decided to plan a mission trip to Trinidad. Initially, I was interested to see what the details were for the trip, however, they were scheduled to go during the first two weeks of May. Since Candice would be working and I look after the two little girls on those days, I didn’t think anymore about the trip.
While Candice and I were driving in the car in August, she asked me if I had thought about going on the mission trip. I told her I had, but not too seriously due to the timing of it. Candice, being the ever supportive wife, said that if I really wanted to go then she knew that we would be able to figure something out. My wife is an amazing woman. She is always thinking about others before herself and more about me than I think I deserve. After that I decided to find out more about the mission trip.
In October, I learned more details about the trip to Trinidad. The team would be working at an orphanage, helping to fix up the roof and other areas. The orphanage is the Whitefield’s Childrens Home located in the town of Cunupia in central Trinidad. Linda’s niece had visited the Children’s Home and took a few pictures of buildings that needed to fixed up and the children there. As I was looking through the pictures, there was a little girl with dark curly hair, dark eyes and an adorable smile. She reminded me so much of my little Alayna. I knew after seeing her that I needed to help.
So I am signed up for another mission trip, two years after my trip to Haiti. I am excited to go, as I have learned how much I really enjoy helping people. Whether it was in Haiti talking with new friends or local business owners helping them become more successful, I have a passion for helping.
One of the major differences between this trip and my last was that we need to raise money for the building supplies, as well as for us getting down there. The building supplies work out to around $4,000. One of the first fundraisers we will being doing is a dance on Saturday November 17th at the Burlington Lion’s Club at 471 Pearl St in Burlington. There will be the steelpan band, Pan Connection as well as DJ music. A Cash Bar and Hot Buffet will be served, as well as Draws and Raffles. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. All the proceeds will go into the fund for the building supplies. If you are interested in purchasing tickets, please send me an email at email@example.com.
I guess I better spend some time on finishing up publishing my Haiti journal, before May!
Sunday August 22nd 2010,
Al let us know that it was 5:30 AM, when he left for a walk this morning, so I rolled back over for another half an hour. At 6AM, I got up, showered and dressed. Then I made my way to the Holiday House for coffee and breakfast. I’ll emphasize coffee! The kitchen ladies have Sunday off, but they made us a coffee cake. Along with the cake, we had Corn Flakes by Alberto and bananas. Julie and Hannah picked us up in the van to take us to the Haitian church service. Wadner came with us as our translator. We also picked up Dr. Rodney Baptiste and his family. Dr. Rodney was preaching today at the service. So that made 17 of us in the van going down the bumpy roads to church.
The church was in the back of a kindergarten. We walked through the gate and around the building. There was a cinder block wall with an empty spot for the door. It looked like the other four walls were either part of the wall that surrounds the land or an adjacent building. It had a metal roof, which was held up by 2 x 4s. There is a stage in the front to raise the preacher and choir up. The pews were mostly just wooden benches that you have to step into, with a desktop in front of you. It was mostly separated with the women on the left side and the men on the right. When we arrived, they put out plastic patio chairs for us. There were two speakers in front of the stage to help hear the keyboard and microphone. Everyone was dressed up. The men were all wearing long sleeve dress shirts with undershirts underneath them as well. I couldn’t believe it. I was already sweating in my light linen short sleeve shirt! The women were all in dresses and the kids had on their best clothes. When we got to the church, the choir was already singing. I noticed that Johnson, who I met the day before at the English service was playing the keyboard. I had a huge smile on when I recognized him. Wadner handed us headphones and a receiver so that he could translate without being too loud. After the songs, the Pastor came up to pray and thank the Lord for this day. He had us stand up, say our names and where we come from. Then he welcomed us and we started to do the passing of the peace. I walked over to a few men and shook their hands but noticed everyone hugging each other. When I turned around into the aisle, everyone started hugging me. It was amazing. It was just a sea of people, men, women, old and young, hugging each other. I saw Johnson and hugged him. It was a moment that I will never forget. For the first time, I could really feel the peace of passing of the peace. The music and everyone were loud, but it still felt so quiet and peaceful. (It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that moment.)
Before I went on my trip to Haiti, I wanted to find a book to learn more about the country. I went to the Hamilton Public Library online catalog, but couldn’t find much. The best that I could find was a travel guide to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I requested it, but then found something better. The book was An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a Presidentby Randall Robinson. As I found out, it talks about the history
of Haiti, but focuses, on the 2004 US-led coup-d’etat of Haitian President Jean-Bertand Aristide. President Aristide’s proposed social changes to Haiti would negatively effect the American business interests in the country and the then US government could not let that happen. The US trained rebel forces to distrupt the country, while the US orchestrated removing Aristide from office and sending him to Africa in exile.
The reason that I bring this up right in the middle of my diary entries, is that Jean-Bertrand Aristide has returned to Haiti. During the coup, the US government painted Aristide as a corrupt politician. In an artilce titled U.S. should welcome Haiti’s Aristide by Maria Michalos of the NYU News, Michalos talks about Haiti’s need for a leader like Aristide and the love he has for his country and people. I think that the world needs more leaders like Aristide. When reading An Unbroken Agony, I ran across a quote by Aristide from a conversation he had with the author’s wife, Hazel Robinson. When Hazel asked Aristide what God was, he replied,
“First of all, God is love. That means that wherever there is love, true love, with kindness and compassion, and humour and respect, God will be there. And God’s goodness and mercy will be there. At the same time, God is all around us, and more importantly, within us. And so, each time you observe an act of kindness, an act of compassion and consideration, an act of mercy or justice, no matter how large, no matter how small, that is a manifestation of God. These are all manifestations of the God within us all. And acts of kindness and mercy all around the world combine to create the Goodness and Mercy that is God – on a much larger and more dramatic scale.”
After reading this quote, I had a very hard time believing that the former priest, Jean-Bertand Aristide could be a corrupt politician. Unfortunately, I did not read this part of the book until I was back on the plane leaving Haiti. I wish that I had read it before I landed in Aristide’s homeland. It has really touched my heart and I believe that the world could be a better place if everyone looked for the God within them.
Saturday August 21 2010,
I got up at 6:15 AM and went for devotions and breakfast. We had oatmeal and banana bread. The previous night, when Gordon and I were walking to supper, we noticed a bird just hanging in mid-air. We couldn’t figure out what was going on with it, until we got closer and then saw that there was a fishing line stretched out above the power lines and the bird was caught in it. This morning, the line had been cut, but the bird was still caught in it closer to the tree.
We all got into the back of the truck to head over to the school. On the way there, we stopped off at a “hardware store” to grab a couple of extra rollers. Once at the school, Erin and I went back to the window grates. We still had two that needed a first coat. The white paint was getting low, so the rest of the group worked on the beige around the small building and around the back. We got the four windows painted and gave a second coat to one of the doors, but then ran out of paint. The others finished up the beige. We then cleaned up and came back for lunch. There was a little time before lunch, so I relaxed and wrote in my journal – I was a little behind. Bud joined us for lunch, which was egg salad, avocados and oatmeal cookies. We were going to an English speaking service at 5PM, where we went the other day into the community, so we were given a few hours of down time which let me catch up on my journal. Right after lunch, Erin and I took a walk around the compound, we pretty much walked as much as you could. Before we had to go to church, I got showered and relaxed.
Bud and Jane took was down to Cite de Pup – City of the People in the van. It was the same church that we met at on Thursday to walk around the community. There were a couple of people there before us. Tania started practicing the songs she was going to play for the service. A few more people came in and sat down behind us. We shook hands and I asked them their names. I can only recall a couple of people’s names. The names weren’t any that I recognized as French. Erin got a Kreyol leasson from Ednel, who I talked to after the service for a while. Ednel told me that he had an organization that he was running to help children. He wrote my e-mail address in the back of the book he was carrying – A Purpose Driven Life.
Friday August 20 2010,
I woke up around 6:15 AM, got dressed and went over for breakfast. We were going to a beach today, so I didn’t need to get my work clothes on. After breakfast, we went back to Jane and Bud’s house, for a presentation on the Starfish Kids program. Jane explained how in Haiti a sixth grade education is a good education. She also mentioned that the government made some changes and now Starfish Kids can do high school grades as well. They teach a faith based program and the kids have to attend their Sunday School to ensure that they stay involved in their church community. Right now, there are about 7,000 children being sponsored for school through Starfish. They have partnered with the group, Joy & Hope for Haiti, so they could help build schools for the program.
After the presentation, we hopped in the truck to go to the beach. We were joined by the Bundy kids, Kate, Hannah, Erica, Bud and Jane. It took an hour just to get there. The beach was on the other side of the mountain. We had to drive through Cap Haitien to get there. It was quite busy. I held my camera in my hands, half concealed by my hat. I didn’t want to offend anyone by taking a picture of them. I really felt for the people. I’m sure they don’t want people seeing them like this. They are a proud people. That’s a funny saying. Aren’t all people proud people? Most people are embarrassed or ashamed when they don’t have what others have, but it’s a little different there than at home. Here it is the essentials of life that are missing, but back home it’s other things that really aren’t important, such as cars, t.v.s, etc. Since I was standing at the back of the truck, I had a clear shot behind me. I still didn’t want anyone to see me, so I held my camera against my leg and took them without knowing what I was taking. I just think that I would rather have a bunch of not so good pictures than to offend anyone. When I got back and took a look at them, there were actually quite a few goods ones. I was now up to about 250 shots.
Thursday August 19th 2010,
It’s my birthday! I woke up around 6 AM, got dressed and went out on the porch to open up my birthday cards from my family. It was really nice to read them, while sitting outside in the breeze as the sun was starting to heat us up again. I read through my bible looking for an appropriate verse and devotion to read before breakfast. I tried to pick one that would reflect some of the conversations that went on the previous night. I read my devotion and also read the verse that the cooks in the Holiday House have up on the wall written in Kreyole – 1 Corinthians 15:58 –
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
We had french toast and pineapples for breakfast. Joyce didn’t join us, as she became quite sick the night before. She still wasn’t feeling good in the morning, so she stayed in bed while we left to work. Bud came into the Holiday House to tell Brittney that she wouldn’t be able to go to the clinic today as there had been some vandalism to the gate last night and they had to keep the clinic closed. Bud told us that it was more about not hiring local community people, even if they were not qualified. We were taking the truck to the school today. Al, Gordon and I helped Bud load a couple of air conditioners for the school. We all got into the flatbed of the truck. I felt a little bit better about it and began to notice that not everyone was staring at us as we drove by. They just went about their business. There is a family living in a little house outside the gate of the school and they have a little girl who started walking towards the truck waving. She was probably only a year old. She was wearing a button down shirt, but no diaper or pants. She had such a big smile and was just so adorable. It definitely made me think of my Alayna who is just a bit younger. Tears rolled down my face as we started through the gate as I thought about the differences between the two of them.
We unloaded the air conditioners and got back to work. Erin and I started where we left off by priming the last window grate. The others went back to painting the main wall colour. Carl Henry had joined us again today. Once the primer was done, Erin and I painted the grated that were dry with the white paint. When we got to the third grate, the primer wasn’t quite dry yet, so we were done for the time being. Bud asked me if I would look at the school’s computers to make sure that they were all still working. I cleaned up and went into the computer room. I took off the sheets that were covering them. There were about 7 computers. I turned them on and noticed that a couple of them had Windows 95 on them, the majority were Windows 98. I had to switch a couple of monitors and play with the bios to get them going properly. All of them but one monitor and CPU was working. Everyone else had finished painting since we were out of paint and started to clean up. I closed down the computers and covered them up.
We headed back to the compound for lunch. We had ham and cheese sandwiches with banana chips. The Bundy’s just arrived back from the US after being there for three months. Brett is the field leader of OMS in Haiti and Angie is the principle of the school. They have 4 kids, Brianna (9), Jake (8), Alana (6) and Kristina (3). We didn’t go back to work in the afternoon because we were going into town to a church. We were going to walk through the streets talking with the locals and inviting them to an English speaking church service on Saturday night that we will be attending. After lunch, I wrote in my journal and then went for a walk with Gordon to the area near the entrance where they are making furniture.
Wednesday August 18th 2010,
I had a pretty good night sleep. I must have been exhausted. I did have to pull up the sheet over me as it cooled down enough to need it. At 6:15 AM, I got out of bed, washed and dressed. Since we still had some time to kill, Gordon and I took a walk around the compound. We were looking for the garden that a few of the members talked about the night before. We thought we found it, but really weren’t sure. It looked like a vegetable garden, but time was running out, so we turned around and headed to the Holiday House for devotions and breakfast. When we got up to the Holiday House, there was a tarantula lying dead on the pathway on top of a towel. We walked in and Joyce tell us what happened. As Joyce was sleeping last night, she woke up and saw this tarantula on the inside of her bed net. She told Barbara to turn on the light and when Barbara saw the tarantula she grabbed it up in a towel and stomped on it until it was dead. While eating breakfast, Barbara said that she didn’t know how she did it, because she’s afraid of spiders! For breakfast, the ladies made us an egg omelet with onions, tomatoes, and hot dogs in it. Jane came and got us after we ate. She drove us over to the new seminary for a tour. It was only about 6 miles down the road, but with all the potholes we had to slow down for it took us about half an hour to get there. While we were driving I tried to take a few pictures through the van window. I didn’t want to open up the window and let anyone see that I had a camera. We were told that the Haitian men don’t like their pictures taken because they are afraid of being extorted. The number of houses that lined the street started to become a little sparser and we could see more of the mountains and fields. It was beautiful. I can’t wait to go over the mountain to the beach to see some more of the scenery.
Tuesday August 17th 2010,
I woke up at about 6:15 AM, Gordon was still in bed, but Al was gone. I got up, washed and dressed. We were expected to be in the Holiday House by 6:45 AM for some devotional time together. Marie Marthe, Madame Joseph and Jeannie made us pancakes for breakfast. The coffee was nice and strong. By 8 AM, we were ready to pile in the van with Jane for a tour of the radio station 4VEH before we started to work. The radio station’s new building was built 10 years ago. The original radio station was located in the compound, right beside Jane and Bud’s house. It is now used as storage for tools and called the Wood Shop. 4VEH has been on the air for 60 years now, offering the people of Haiti an outlet for worship and learning about God. They have been getting the word out with solar powered radios used to pick up 4VEH for people without electricity or at least reliable electricity.
After our tour, we drove around the wall surrounding the radio station, down an alley to another gate. This was the Cowman International School. Jane let us off and Bud showed up in the truck with the supplies. We unloaded the truck and Jane left with it. Bud told us that we need to power wash the exterior walls of the school before we started to paint it. We also needed to scrap all the rust off of the metal grates that are attached to each classroom door to help lock them up at night. Al and I set off to take down the three bulletin boards, while the others started to scrape the grates with wire brushes. Al and Gordon helped Bud get the power washer all gassed up and connected to the water. I grabbed the power grinder and started on some of the grates. I was a little hesitant at first as it was going at a pretty good clip. Sparks were flying and paint chips were going everywhere. Once I got use to it, I was able to handle it a little easier. Occasionally, I needed to stop to rest my arms or pull the wire bristles out of my pants. It was nice being under the awning of the school instead of the direct sunlight. While I worked, all I could smell was charcoal burning. The smell is everywhere. That and diesel exhaust are the most recognizable smells here. Just before noon, we jumped in the van and Bud drove us back to the compound for lunch. The ladies made us tuna sandwiches, banana chips and cookies (bonbons). I’ve never had banana chips before. They were really good, just like potato chips in their texture and taste. There was no hint of banana flavour at all. By 1 PM, we were back in the van again ready to start on our afternoon’s work. I went back to my scraping with the grinder. Al and Gordon continued with the power washing since they were still soaked from their work in the morning. Tania went back to her window to continue scraping the paint off by hand. The rest started to prime the metal grates. I was halfway done my last door when the grinder died on me. So I grabbed the hand scrapper and started on the window grates with Tania. The doors all got primed by just after 4 PM. We packed up and headed back to the compound. A much needed shower was definitely in order.
Monday August 16th 2010,
I tossed and turned a lot last night, but by the time I decided to roll over and look at the clock it was 8:50 AM. Wow, I haven’t slept that late for a while. I hopped in the shower, got dressed and went to the lobby for breakfast. Most of the team, Al, Chris, Gordon, Joyce, Tania and Barb were already eating breakfast when I arrived. I was glad that I wasn’t the last one up! I ate some breakfast and had some much needed coffee. The waffles were not very good. I don’t think that two minute timer on the machine was long enough. I remembered to take my Malaria pills and was ready to go. God was shining down on us as Chris let us know that our flight will be leaving around 2 PM this afternoon. It’s easy to fly and stay in Florida, I’ve done that about 10 times in my life, now I’m just nervous about the flight into Haiti. The real adventure begins.
Waiting in the airport is not much fun. We arrived at 12:30 PM and were told to wait. Boarding the plane should be at 2:30 PM or 3:00 PM. By 2 PM, we handed in our passports to be processed. The wait continued. Apparently, as we found out, the plane was not arriving until at least 2:30 PM and we wouldn’t be leaving until around 3:30 PM. We waited for our plane in the Arrivals, so the chairs were not the most comfortable.
While we waited I read through my book on the history and politics about Haiti. It is sad. I’ve gotten angry at the book a few times. It’s not about the book, but the hurdles that Haiti has tried to overcome. I just can’t comprehend how there can still be so much hatred in the world. I can’t stand how the value of money is worth more than human life. Worth more than the pain and suffering of the poor people of the world. It saddens and sickens me.
I’m now sitting on the 30 person prop plane over the ocean. It has been dotted with islands and reefs. Sitting here in 8C, looking out the window towards the endless clouds and shimmering water, I think about why we are separated as a people. Why?