Elim’s Missionaries Join Haiti Mission Team
March 3, 2015
This week (March 1-6), two men from our adult services program, along with two of our adult services program staff members, are in Haiti, participating as part of a missions team in the Port-au-Prince area, and in collaboration with Haitian Support Ministries. The following are photos and updates from the team (written by Liz Drogos, from Elim's adult services program):
March 6, 2015
Monday morning we were picked up at 7:15 and headed to the compound for devotions and breakfast. Breakfast consisted of spaghetti w/ham, bread/butter and fresh fruit. We then split into our 2 teams, the de-worming team and the builders. The builders were building a new church. We were heading an hour up into the mountains. I made the wrong choice of sitting in the front passenger seat. We were in pastor’s SUV travelling with another SUV behind us. Much to my chagrin my seat belt did not work. I thought the ride thru Port au Prince was harrowing, that was nothing compared to this. At no point was it paved. We slalomed boulders and ditches constantly at the steepest incline I have ever experienced outside of a roller coaster. We arrived safe and a little less sound than an hour earlier.
We quickly went to work setting up the deworming station. The process involved filling out a form on each child with a translator, taking their photo, getting weight & height, administering a pill and then handing out a Tootsie Pop. Trisha and I were the pill pushers and our guys were on Tootsie Pop detail. Our daily goal was 500 kids. This school had 500 kids total. I couldn’t imagine from the buildings I had seen already, one holding 500 kids. And I was correct, this was not a building which SHOULD hold 500 kids, but it did. The kids were from 2 years old to 9th grade. We were only giving pills to those 3 and older.
We were set up outdoors as much of the school is either outdoors or open to the outside. Every school we went to had their own uniforms and they were all very neat and clean. All the little girls had braids or pig tails or just a head full of hair do-dads. The girls at this first school had ones that said Jesus. Kids were polite wherever we went. The first school in the mountains, so far removed from the city, was the hardest. The kids had no idea why we were there and many did not want to take the pill. After we got it in their mouths, Trisha and I had to encourage them to chew it, so we knew they took it. We were quite the sight, miming chewing and repeating “manje” over and over. Our guys did an awesome job. When we saw all the trash around the school, we decided to have the guys unwrap the suckers so we wouldn’t add to the trash. They were troopers and kept up with unwrapping and handing them out as fast as we were going. I think we finished in about 3.5 hours. Then it was time for the same scary ride back.
To the compound for hot dogs and fries. Back to the hotel to clean up and then we are picked up for the compound where we enjoy chicken, rice & beans and fresh veggies. We then head back to church. When we get there an awesome music worship service is going on. After the music, lights are turned off so we can watch a 45 minute section from “The Bible”. Post movie, the whole team decides to head back to our hotel to sit on the patio to enjoy some refreshments and borrow some wi fi. It is a great time to get to know the other team members who are all awesome individuals in their own right.
Tuesday is pick-up, devotions and breakfast. We are treated to more juicy fruit and a yummy potato/chorizo casserole. We have our goal to hand out 500 pills and head to our first school. Pastor say the school is close, but when he makes the same turn he did the day before to head up the mountain, there are audible gasps and nervous jokes all around. We are almost there when we have to back up and go another way due a bus parked in the middle of the road and no driver around. Everywhere we drive we see the livestock the locals raise for food. It is hard to imagine how much food they will get from these animals. The goats are tiny and the cows’ ribs are easily visible.
These kids are much more at ease with us. They easily take the pills and either swallow or begin chewing immediately. Bob is in his glory and gives up on handing out suckers to interact with the kids. He places his White Sox hat on many of them and they laugh and cheer. This is his second trip to Haiti and he has mentioned he would love to live there. He has such a heart for the people. If there wasn’t the language barrier, I know he would do a fantastic job teaching the Bible to these children. While alone at the sucker table, Tony gets swarmed by kids and becomes very protective of his Tootsie Pops. The team has everything down to an extremely efficient rhythm. It is the perfect storm of joy at that school.
It’s off to an even smaller school. At this one all the teachers take the pill and some bring pills home for their kids. We head back to the house for a lunch of sandwiches and popcorn. After a short break we head to a feeding center the ministry supports. We are told there are 70 kids there. We wind up serving 150. I think word got out we were there and an additional 80 people come in off the street for a pill. The adults laugh when the guys offer them a Tootsie Pop, but they all take one and immediately begin to enjoy it. A little boy walks in with a t-shirt with a windmill on it which reads, “From the heart of Dutch Country”. I capture that image to show Elim folks. A little girl walks up behind Trisha and runs her hand over her blonde hair. Everyone is gracious and pleasant.
We head back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early departure. Some of us get another swim in. We break from the rest of the group and stay at the hotel for dinner. The guys go on and on about how much they have enjoyed themselves. Tony is asking to come back next year. The rest of the team will stay 2 more days, we fly out in the morning.
Waking up at 3:15 comes far too quickly. The 3-hour drive to the airport begins. The first half through the mountains is much less nerve racking as there is not much other traffic. Once we get to Port au Prince it is a different story. I don’t know how to begin. It is just people on top of people. There is trash everywhere. The roadside is filled with people trying to sell things. I have been told from those who go down there often that unfortunately for the the Haitian people, there is just no one to employ them. That is why they are all trying to create something they can sell. I cannot comprehend how people live like this, yet they do. I again acknowledge how lucky I am, actually how spoiled I am. Trisha regrets sitting in the front seat as we drive thru the city with vehicles on either side of us only a couple of inches apart.
Across from the airport there is a brand new boutique hotel. Lou decides to take us there for breakfast. It is so bizarre to be in this lovely place in the midst of all the squalor. We are dropped off at the airport and have to wait only a short time for the flight. In Lauderdale we have another long layover, mostly spent hanging in the food court. I open an e-mail and play the attached video for the table. It is the clients back at home singing Happy Birthday to Trisha. She cries. I have also received Happy Anniversary messages as the 2nd was my 28th anniversary with Elim. Everyone gets home safe and sound. When I come to work on Thursday I am bombarded with hugs and “I missed you.” Repeatedly. We work with and serve the best people.
What impacted me the most was how our guys were treated by the Haitains. No one looked at them funny, mocked them or ignored them. They both needed assistance walking the rocky terrain and everywhere we went someone jumped up to help them or offer a chair. One gentlemen even carried Tony on his back rather than make him walk some challenging steps. Amazing.
March 1, 2015
Started out by staying at a hotel near O'Hare Friday since we had such an early flight. Up at 3 am, on shuttle at 4, checked in at airport by 4:30, took off at 5:25. In Lauderdale by 9:25. Killed 4 hours until flight to Haiti. Arrived in Port au Prince 5:00 pm. 45 minute wait while transportation for 20 and luggage is arranged. What follows next is the most harrowing drive I've ever encountered. Port au Prince is eons beyond crowded, many roads not paved, traffic laws are unheard of, mopeds hold up to 5 people and I am shocked no collisions occur on our drive. Once out of the city we start the 2nd leg of the trek thru the mountains. What seems to be the same scrawny, beige dog appears every mile dashing into road. Hair pin turns with oncoming traffic up and down mountain. 3 hours later we arrive in Jacmel.
Today, Sunday we get up, dress and take advantage of the hotel breakfast buffet. Upon trying pumpkin soup for breakfast, Tony exclaims "oo la la" and wins the hearts of the waitresses. Pumpkin soup is indeed yummy. We are picked up and head to Calvary Church for worship in downtown Jacmel. Service is inspiring, awesome music, adorable & well behaved children, everyone in their Sunday best and enthusiastic to be there. Most of the service is in Creole, but a member of our group preaches the sermon in English and is translated to Creole. Service lasts 3 hours.
We return to hotel and change into beach gear. Head to the compound for a lunch of sandwiches, popcorn and bananas. We caravan to the beach where we are met with a van load of kids from the children's homes Calvary and Haitian Support Ministries runs. The other client on the trip, Bob, just loves the kids and spends the whole time interacting with them. Tony experiences the ocean for what I believe is the first time and just beams. Beach outing breaks up, everyone returns to their lodgings. Elim team enjoys the hotel pool for a bit. We change and are picked up for dinner back at the house: chicken, rice/beans, veggies and cake. After dinner we plot out our duties for tomorrow. We are hoping to see around 500 kids at a couple different schools. Tony is in charge of handing out the Tootsie Pops, Bob says he has smiles and hugs covered.
March 2, 2015
Today, Bob and Tony were welcomed at Calvary Church in Haiti.