Haiti Mission Journal
Here is a journal kept by Jan Loichle during PPC’s Haiti Mission Trip in March 2009:
Travel Minus 1 Day
Many people work throughout the day getting meds and supplies ready to pack. Hundreds of tubes of toothpaste and creams, hundreds of bottles of liquid Tylenol and other items are taken out of their individual boxes and packed into large baggies for packing into large duffel bags. Donations are sorted and stacked.
Duffels are packed, weighed, labeled, inventoried and stacked for leaving in the morning. Twenty-seven big duffel bags: 17 with meds and medical supplies, three with food for the children, four with sleeping bags and pads, two with food for our team and one packed with tools. We also have our carry–on bags with clothes and personal items. What a sight, and what amazing generosity of people in giving both gifts of supplies and funds, and gifts of time and effort to prepare and pack for the trip.
Day 1: March 10, Travel Day
Morning prayer: God of Time, help me to step away from the many things that preoccupy me at home in Arizona. May I be open to the present and the team of people I am with on this journey. Amen.
We arrive at church before 7 a.m. to find that Ken Core has already loaded all the bags into his pickup truck for transport to the airport. Meet the rest of our folks at the airport and begin the huge task of checking in and weighing and checking all our bags. We are blessed with a wonderful ticket agent who patiently helps us and also gets her supervisor to waive excess baggage fees. Our flight is delayed several hours causing missed connections, so we have to be re–booked through Dallas and arrive in Miami late at night when everything including bag storage was closed. So, we reclaim all our bags, drag them to the airport hotel where we are staying the night, take them up to our rooms, arrange a meeting time in the morning, and try to get some sleep.
Day 2: March 11, More Travel; First Day in Haiti
Morning prayer: God of the Journey, you are not constrained by borders, bodies of water or boundaries made by human hands. May we have confidence in your unlimited presence and boundless love as we fly into Port–au–Prince on this day. Amen.
Another day of dealing with bags – first we drag them down from our rooms in the hotel, then over to the airline check–in. Aside from some weight redistribution, no problems this time. After a fairly short flight we land in Port–au–Prince and are greeted by blue skies, a view of small mountains in the distance, a reggae band in the airport entranceway, and then crowds of people wanting to carry our bags or otherwise “help” us. Pastor Luc and his men meet us, escort us and our bags through customs, and pack our “tap–tap” (a Haitian taxi of sorts, in this case a small old bus) for the trip to Thoman. We wait for another truck to join us which has the plywood for building the cabinets, then set off on the two–and–a–half hour journey, first through the teeming masses of people and vehicles in Port–au–Prince, and then through the countryside, past a large lake and then up the long, bumpy mountain road to Thoman.
Once in Thoman we are greeted by villagers, take a walk through the village, meet some people, and see goats, donkeys, chickens, and the occasional pig. The cement block houses are small and sparse, there’s no electricity or running water, and the land is so filled with rocks it’s barely tillable anywhere. After eating a meal that Pastor Luc brought for us, we join his church service where there is lots of music, lots of clapping and amens, and many people. We leave to roll out our sleeping bags and get some rest, and the music continues into the night.
Day 3: March 12, The Clinic in Thomas
Morning prayer: God of the New Day, as we move into work and ministry, help us to stay open to the ways you desire to minister to us. As we help and heal, may we stay open to being helped and healed ourselves. May I listen and love today. Amen.
We awake to donkeys braying, roosters crowing, and road construction trucks rumbling through town. We get up at 5:30 and start to get the clinic set up. At dawn local people are working in the fields and starting to line up for the clinic. There is a morning school session with 120 children all dressed in pink shirts and blue skirts or pants. We give each child chewable vitamins, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The sanctuary fills with families from all around, and Pastor Luc’s people organize the flow to the clinic. Each of us serves specific roles, from packaging and distributing meds, to taking blood pressure, to the doctors evaluating people, to building cabinets. The line of people is unending, and the medical professionals are tireless and caring. They see a wide range of maladies, as well as many people who just want to be seen and touched and given vitamins. There is heartbreak and frustration given the limitations of a one–day clinic and the inability of those in need to get to hospitals and doctors for further treatment. But the people are cheerful, grateful and touching. The children are beautiful, well–behaved and all dressed up in their Sunday finest. They also are small – almost all undersized for their age. They think we “blanco’s” were either very funny, or terrifying.
The numbers are overwhelming (maybe 600 people), and we stay two hours past our planned departure time in order to see everyone (and avert possible rioting?). Exhausted, we board the tap–tap for the long drive back to Port–au–Prince. Just outside Port–au–Prince we have a flat tire – no wonder given the road and tire conditions. We stay on the tap–tap, remaining as inconspicuous as possible, while the tire is changed. Shortly later, back on the road, we have another tire blowout. Now things are beyond immediate repair, it’s dark, and we’re really tired. But our friendly guard Solomon is with us and we’re never threatened. After a few phone calls, Pastor Luc has a couple vehicles lined up – a truck for our gear, and a small tap–tap for us. Squeezed into the replacement tap–tap, we finally make it to a mission house for dinner, and then our hotel where Pastor Luc checks us in (no English spoken).
Day 4: March 13, The Clinic in Leogone
Morning prayer: God of strength, energy, imagination and love. Fill me up with who you are. Give me a spirit of hope and the courage to be present. Thank you for each face I will look into today. For that face has a story and has value. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
We meet for breakfast in the hotel, then set off for the two-hour drive to Leogone, most of which is through Port–au–Prince. The roads are crumbled, rutted and rocky. Traffic is horrible and the drivers are crazy. People, motorbikes, cars, tap–taps are everywhere. We go by a huge tin roof and open market where people are selling mangoes, bananas, onions, clothes, belts, motor oil, you name it. We pass U.N. complexes (and many U.N. vehicles and troops), an area with refineries, many, many partially built buildings or homes. As we near Leogone, there are fields of sugarcane, mangoes, gourds and animals. We arrive and set up the clinic in the church. Today we know better what to expect and how to move people through — maybe 350 to 400. Nutrition is better here; it’s a more agricultural area and they have access to fish. There are some unusual and difficult cases, as well as the more common ailments. Once again we stay late in order to see everyone. The clinic crowds are much bigger this year than ever before.
The long ride back is uncomfortable but uneventful. At the hotel we gather and share reflections. Again, the medical professionals were tireless, kind and effective. Everyone worked well together in our various roles. The Haitians are friendly and gracious despite language differences. The experiences have been both gratifying and heartbreaking. We are overwhelmed by the poverty, hunger, lack of infrastructure, and presence of walls, concertina wire, and armed guards and troops.
Day 5: March 14, The Church, School and Clinic in Citi Militaire
Morning prayer: God of the City, your spirit moves through the crowded streets and honking horns. It weaves through the paint of a tap–tap and the basket of a hopeful entrepreneur sitting on a curb. It moves through quiet alleys and busy intersections. It enters a small rusty tin home and a roaring market. Have mercy on Port–au–Prince, dear God.
Today, we take the relatively short drive to Pastor Luc’s church, school and permanent clinic in Citi Militaire, part of Port–au–Prince. All are in a walled complex, surrounding a plain courtyard. We are surprised at the size of the church, cement block with tin roof, which seats nearly 1,000. There are several classrooms in the school for various grade levels, and a library and clinic. We tour the facilities, talk with various people, and then unpack, sort and stack all the remaining meds and supplies in the pharmacy. We also have Oreos for the school kids, along with drink mixes, toothbrushes and various foods and supplies. Nothing is wasted. Also, Mark checked out the electrical situation and worked out a plan with Luc to send a used transformer and generator. After we finish at the pharmacy and have some lunch, we set off for a tour of more of the city including the Presidential Palace and some of the nicer areas in town. The pervasive poor conditions are almost unbelievable.
Day 6: March 15, Church and the Journey Home
Morning prayer: God of the Great Pause, it is time to stop and center in on you. It is time to worship and find our rest and foundation in you. Restore me. Renew me. Help me to see you in new ways through the worship of the people in Citi Militaire. Thank you for Pastor Luc’s ministry and leadership. Guide Harmony Ministries in all its work. Amen.
From every church we pass, we hear beautiful singing. Pastor Luc’s church is full – nearly 1,000 people, all dressed up and looking wonderful. There’s lots of singing, and lots of encouragement for self–respect and respect for God. Dr. Jacque is introduced and speaks to the women about the importance of seeing a doctor annually, about caring for themselves so they can care for their children. She has touched the women; you can feel a spark of appreciation and admiration through the crowd. Pastor Mac deliveres an inspired sermon that is received with many hearty “amens.” The church service continues, but we have to leave.
Once again, Pastor Luc and Solomon accompany us and make everything go smoothly at the airport. And once again, our flight is greatly delayed causing us to miss all our connections and not get back until the following day. But by now we realize, “It’s Haiti” and you just go with the flow. A few more travel hiccups, and we’re back home appreciating all we have here.