Woke up ridiculously early to meet with a team of 7 travelling with me to Haiti. Gary Light (3 from left; Our fearless leader until we got to Dallas), Les and Carla Burrus (middle; both fluent in French), Stephanie Berzinski (center, bottom; KMAC News Reporter), David Morris (far left; KMAC Producer), Yvonne Lopez (left, bottom; Nurse), and Kristi Wuensche (right, bottom; Free-lance photographer for Operation Hope).
All of us check in and we’re off to DFW where we met up with Dr. Thomas (3 from right; Operation Hope, founder and General Surgeon), Barron Batch (2 from left; Texas Tech tail-back hoping to enter the NFL draft), and James Rodriguez (far right; Texas Tech Student).
To my surprise I then realized that I had been awarded Priority/First Class from DFW to Miami and then again from Miami to Port-a-Prince. (I don’t think anyone else bought my explanation that God loved me a little bit more … they would come around.) I offered first class to Dr. Thomas as he was our leader and I would have felt guilty if I hadn’t since I had just finished reading Honor’s Reward, but lets be honest, I really didn’t want him to accept. Fortunately he declined and told me to enjoy it, which I did.
First Class (The only way to travel)
First Class was a wonderful experience! My seat was a full recliner capable of lying perfectly horizontal (with a foot rest) and they brought me a 3-course breakfast. As it was still early morning, I was having my quiet time on the plane.
The guy next to me (kind of a rock-star looking guy) leaned over and asked if I was a preacher. I responded no. He nodded and went back to listening to music. A few minutes later he said, “Are you with a Bible College or something?” I snickered inwardly at the thought that because I was reading scripture I must be either a preacher or a Bible College student and then again answered “No. I am just reading because I enjoy it.”
To that he had a clear expression of surprise and curiosity (and maybe delight). We were both more interested in what we were doing that having small talk, so I went back to reading and he to music, temporarily.
Soon he leaned over and said, “So where are you going?” I briefly told him that I worked for Breedlove Foods, a food manufacturer that supplied food internationally through humanitarian efforts, and was travelling with a team of volunteers making up a partner organization to Haiti to help people in whatever ways we could. I then, in turn, asked what he did and if the other guys he had been talking with in first class were travelling with him, to which he responded that they were a band on their way home from touring. (I had my suspicions because he looked familiar, but I am not very impressed with the idea of celebrities, so I wasn’t planning to ask.)
He continued to tell me that they were KC and the Sunshine Band. That rang a bell to me, but again, I’m not easily impressed by celebrities, so I nodded unimpressed, which made him laugh out loud. Fermin Goytisolo (Wayne Casey was on the other side of me although I didn’t recognize him) then said, “Ask your parents about us. We are way before your time.”
Fermin and I talked a little bit here and there throughout the rest of the flight, but most of it we spent lost in reading/music.
Near the end of the flight I started thinking, “I wonder if he has ever read scripture?” The more I thought about it, I started feeling led to give him my bible so he could have the opportunity. (An idea I didn’t really like because it was my study bible stuffed with notes and markings) But I removed all of my lose notes and used a few tabs to mark the beginning of John with 'Start Here'.
Then I asked Fermin if he had ever read the bible. He wasn’t willing to answer, so I interrupted the awkward pause with “well I would like to give you my bible so that you have the opportunity.” Fermin was completely taken aback. “No, I can’t take your Bible. I have Christian Bibles at home. I can’t take yours. You need that in Haiti.” I agreed.
When the plane landed Fermin jumped to his feet, stuck out his hand, and said it was a pleasure to meet you. Then he said, “May God Bless you and all of your children.” I thanked him and prayed the same blessing over him.
I don't know anything About Fermin, but something tells me that meeting a real Christian was a new experience for him, one that he really liked.
First Class Again (whoo hoo)
I also got to ride first class to Port-au-Prince. Nothing spectacular happened, but it was still awesome! That can spoil a guy pretty quickly :)
We had all been well warned that when official looking people came up offering to help with your luggage that the only way to see it again was a to firmly say no, hold on tight, and walk on by. I am glad we were warned.
That being said, Dr. Kerry and his team of translators had planned for us well. They greeted us all (those they already knew with giant bear hugs and smiles from ear to ear) and quickly started throwing our luggage on top of the “short bus” (a school bus that had been donated full of food the year prior). It was the only working means of transportation any of them had.
The luggage was tied on top of the bus and we all loaded in. Surprisingly it was pretty comfortable. All of the seats had been removed except the front two and a wooden bench had been installed along one side. Those of us without a seat throughout the week just stood up. I was very surprised how quickly and smoothly customs, baggage claims and exiting the parking lot went. Dr. Kery explained that the airport was lightyears more advanced then it had been just a few months earlier. Then we were off through the streets of Port-au-Prince heading for Montrouis.
The sun was nearly down by the time we were driving through Port-au-Prince, but it was day as I drove back through it on the 8th. Although it has been right at a year since the earthquake, it looks like it was just last week. Very little work seemed to have been done. I did notice that there were giant drainage/sewage gutters along the main highway. They were probably 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep, made out of CMU blocks. It was nicer than nearly all of the buildings. It was an international agency that came in and built it.
There was also a giant building in the distance that was half built and supposedly the project of some agency. I rarely saw progress of anything changing that was not the direct result of some agency’s project.
We then drove by the tent cities. Tents as far as you could see. I will never forget the smell. When it hit my nose I immediately gagged and it took everything I had to keep from vomiting. I don’t know what to compare the smell to, but it has forever re-defined the words bile and filth in my mind. There are endless horror stories that come out of the tent cities and after seeing them, it was way to easy to visualize them.
During the drive we were updated as to what we should expect from our trip. Dr. Kerry Reeves told us his expectations that the election results would come in over the next couple of days and that riots would probably take place in Port-Au-Prince, but that we probably would not see too much of it in Montrouis. He also explained that Cholera was not too big of a concern for us because we would be drinking clean water. However, it is far too common for the people within the community to get Cholera, which says that they have not been using clean water for whatever reasons. More on this later.
Moulin Sur Mer
After about an hour and a half drive we pull into Moulin Sur Mer Resort. Stunning is a good word for the resort. Here are a few pictures to show just how beautiful it is. The full compound is a museum with beautiful grounds, peacocks, pigeons, goats, chickens, and even a spider monkey. There was a giant steel gate that locked and had two guards carrying 12-guage shotguns.
Further towards the beach there is a second steel gate that also has a guard carrying a shotgun. Within this second gate was our resort with a private beach, kayaks, a gazebo, etc. My point is that we were very safe and staying in a place of luxury. We definitely did not have to live like the people we were there to love on. I make sure to state that because it is a general misconception that mission groups “rough it.” We certainly didn’t. We had hot water, clean sheets and two hot meals served to us every day.
As beautiful as the resort is, it caught my attention that there were not any tourists there. It caught several of our groups attention that if you didn’t already know it was there you would never find it because it is so tucked in, hidden behind a very poor little community.
Within the resort there were a few other groups of Americans, but they were either also there on Mission work, Community Development work, or business. There were a few wealthier Haitians there for Honeymoons or vacations or what have you, but not many. I think that is a shame, because it would be an excellent vacation spot, and it appeared, no body else would be there to bother you.
I personally really enjoyed spending an hour every night laying on the rocky beach looking at stars that I had never seen before. America is so bright. I unwound after very emotional days by staring up at the stars thanking God for blessing my family. Then I would record everything I saw on my phones voice recorder so that this blog could be as accurate as possible.