From the moment we step off the plane in Port au Prince, Haiti becomes a real place to me. The faces I’ve seen in photos and online look into my eyes, children smiling and adults wary of this white person in their world.
Pastor Lavaud, the man with whom CTR has built a relationship, packs our bags into our rental car and drives out into the streets. Immediately the scope and the weight of the poverty here becomes stunningly obvious. The crumbling cement exteriors of the homes spill into the streets with the rest of the day’s garbage. Everyone is an entrepreneur; street vendors selling their meager wares and women carrying large baskets on their heads.
The roads are more like narrow dirt alleys, with sections of unpaved muddy hills and bumps. There are brightly-painted buses called tap-taps that people hop on and off at intersections. Every vehicle is packed with people. Those children who are lucky enough to attend school are walking home in their uniforms, carrying books and holding the hands of younger siblings.
The word comes to us of news about the large container of beans and rice that Christ The Rock has donated to the Stock the Storehouse fund. This very day the container has cleared Haitian customs after sitting in a warehouse for several weeks. This is lucky for us and good news for the people of Hinche, a town three hours northeast of here. The people will be able to eat this food for quite some time as 400,000 portions of beans and rice will provide daily sustenance.
A bed for our heads
Tonight we are staying in a missions house called Matthew 25 House. It is a large home with many rooms on a secured property in the middle of Port au Prince. There are gates, armed guards and dogs to protect the visiting missionaries.
They come from churches all over the United States. We meet Will, a young med student who has just finished a year of providing medical care in a nearby town. We meet a young married couple who is serving children in another town nearby ministering to children who are in the early stages of malnourishment.
Sister Mary warns us to not allow our toothbrushes to touch the tapwater here. If that happens, she says, throw your toothbrush away and she will provide another. The bacteria in the water will make us sick. But there is plenty of fresh bottled water and soda in her house.
That night I slept in a room with four other women, and we shared our stories. They were young members of church groups as well as experienced missionaries who had been serving in many countries. I have never been on a missions trip, and they welcome me to a world I’ve never experienced. At two in the morning I hear them–roosters. The compound is home to several of these squawking alarm clocks who are oblivious to their purpose that God has designed for them!
Next morning as I am brushing my teeth it hits me–I am not supposed to let the tapwater touch my lips! I spit the water into the sink and seek out Sister Mary to learn how much time I have left.
Sister Mary and the breakfast-seekers were in the kitchen, giggling at my mistake. She gives me a pill–a mild antibiotic–just for people like me who have short-term memory loss.