On Aug. 29th, we had the wonderful privilege of traveling to Haiti to minister God’s love to the people of Haiti. We ministered to children in an orphanage and the surrounding community in a village called Cam Coq. We had an amazing time and feel that the Lord is opening up the door for us to begin an orphan care ministry that will provide on-going support and resources to the work in this part of Haiti. I have recorded our trip each day and hope that it will excite you and cause you to think about how you can pray and be more involved in what God is doing in Haiti – a country that is desperate for the people of God to rise up and reach out to them. Will you be one of those people?
the flight out
Our flight was out of D.C. which is about a 2 hour and 20 minute drive from Wilmington, Delaware, which is where we live. Our flight left at 7AM which meant that we had to be at the airport at 5AM, which meant that we had to leave our house at 2:30 in the morning. Even though I was able to wake up immediately because of all the excitement that I was feeling, my body was still telling me that it was just wrong to be functioning at such an ungodly hour. I was trying to keep awake on the drive down by having general surface conversation with my wife sitting next to me, but then (the non-surface communicator that she is) she starts breaking into deep theological conversation asking me what I think about her latest understandings of the seventh seal in the book of Revelation! Aw man…I just had no brain functioning whatsoever to start discussing these things at 3AM. Ok, ok, so I pretty much don’t have the brain functioning to discuss these things at 3PM, 12 noon, dinner time, or whatever time. My wife (God bless her) goes way deeper into theological thought than I do. Somewhere inside of her is a seminary professor just waiting to be revealed. Anyway…back to the trip…we flew out with a minor delay…well, that “minor” delay caused us to have to run like the wind to make our connection in Miami. As soon as we got off the plane in Miami, we heard them call our names over the loud speaker stating that the plane was boarding. So, I had to make a sprint through an entire terminal and was just able to catch the people before they closed the gate. We flew from Miami to Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti. Traveling with us were a Haitian Pastor from Delaware with his wife and daughter. This pastor has helped start a few churches in Haiti along with assisting in starting the orphanage. The Lord sovereignly brought us together a few months ago as my wife and I were feeling a desire to start an orphan care ministry in the U.S. that would help orphanages in the Caribbean. My wife is from Puerto Rico, therefore she wanted to do something in the Caribbean. So, our trip to Haiti was twofold…first, we wanted to minister to the children at this orphanage and bring a smile to their face, along with doing other outreach and missions in the village. But, even more, we wanted God to give us a clear vision as to if and how He is calling us to start an orphan care ministry which would partner with this work that we were going to check out. So, we each had 2 full suitcases filled with all kinds of things for the orphanage – clothes, handmade dolls (sent to us from NAMB which came from a woman’s church group somewhere in the U.S.), school supplies, candy, etc)
arriving in Haiti
We arrived in Port Au Prince at about 3PM. We immediately were picked up and brought to a very small airport down the street which would take us to Cape Haitien – a city in the North that would be a 30 minute flight in a tiny little puddle jumper plane. As soon as we got to the airport, it was madness and mayhem all around. Every worker for this tiny little airline (if you want to call it an airline) wanted to handle our luggage…gee, I wonder what they were expecting to get from these white folks…$$$? So, I really didn’t need help with the luggage since we only had to transport it about 8 feet from the car to the conveyor belt, but these people insisted. So, we let them take it, but I told my wife that I am not tipping them because 1. I really didn’t ask them to take it. 2. I really didn’t have much money at all for this trip. She agreed with me and we didn’t tip them. BIG mistake…I realized as we were boarding this tiny little puddle hopper that all of our luggage was sitting in this big pile just outside the plane as we began to head down the runway. Lesson learned – next time tip…a few American dollars can be the difference between luggage accompanying you on your journey into the wild and unknown or you waving bye-bye to your luggage as you head down the runway with the nagging thought as to whether or not you will ever see your bags again.
We arrived in Cape Haitien…luggage-less…and was told that the luggage should arrive on the next flight in a couple of hours. So, we drove through Cape Haitien which was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life and we found a place to eat so that we could kill some time. I have never seen a place so dirty and poor in all my life. Garbage everywhere, piles of garbage in the streets, people picking through the garbage, people urinating on the side of the street, and next to that is somebody sitting there trying to sell a bucket of limes in hopes to feed their family for the day. The only problem is that every 10 yards there is another person selling limes for the same purpose. If I buy from one, the other goes hungry…and so the story goes…but I don’t need any limes…and so I don’t buy from any of them. Another dilemma: Everybody is asking for money, sharing the same story of hardship and suffering, some are maimed in the hands, some are just ragged and tagged. But, if I give to one, then I have to give to the other…and the other…and the other… I would be out of money before even getting to our village to which we have come to give to the children in the orphanage. So, people on the street are asking me for money in the name of God to help them, and I have to turn them away or ignore them so that I can get to the village so that I can give to the people that I originally set out to do. What a dilemma of the soul that this causes.
After eating at a restaurant( by the way, the word “restaurant” should not be bringing up images of fine silver, tablecloths, and waiters and waitresses. Though the food was very good, we saw the back where it was cooked, which was just a wide open dirt floor and a fire in the middle.), we leave to go back to the airport. As we are leaving, we see a huge procession of people filling the streets and singing and playing instruments. I thought it was some sort of parade, but then was told that it is a funeral, and that’s how they do funerals in Haiti. It was a pretty awesome sight to see. Well…after waiting a few hours and then returning to the airport, we realized that it was all for nothing since our luggage never arrived still. So, we decided to head out for Cam Coq with a glimmer of hope that our luggage would arrive the next day…or the day after…or… The thing is, even though I had only the outfit I was wearing, I wasn’t bummed about our luggage situation except for the fact that our luggage contained all of the things that we brought over for the orphaned kids…I was saddened to think that we might not be able to give these things to the kids. But I was also hopeful because I knew that God’s heart is for the orphaned child, and therefore believed that He would make sure that these kids received what we brought them.
Our drive to Cam Coq was a few hours. We could probably make the drive in less than 45 minutes if we were on paved roads…but the roads in Haiti are not paved…very bad roads…huge potholes all over the place, ditches, holes in the ground…what a ride! Our drive took us into nightfall and the amazing thing we saw was that everybody was walking along the streets at night. Where in the world did all these people come from? I mean, we’re driving in these remote areas, there are no “houses” in sight in several places, there are no lights whatsoever because they don’t have electricity…so, where are all these people coming from? And where are they going? And the biggest question is: How in the world can they see where they are going since there are no lights anywhere and they are walking in the pitch black of night? That was an amazing sight. Anyway, we finally arrived at the Baptist Mission House…after crossing a river to get there! I had no idea what our living quarters would look like…I was prepared for the worst, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. Amid all this poverty stood this walled fortress like area that just happened to be the Mission House. It was a very nice house. It is very big since they use it to host other Pastors and mission groups that come and help support the work in Cam Coq. Our hosts were so kind to us and gave my wife and I the master bedroom. The people in our group were so kind and gave us so much preferential treatment. The master bedroom was nice. (again, don’t let the word “master bedroom” conjure up images of fluffy pillows, his and her towels, and mints on the pillow), but rather it was simply a big bed in the middle of a big room. But their kindness in giving us this room is what was really the big and nicest thing.
After we settled in, we had a nice dinner, and met everybody who was there for this particular mission outreach. We realized that many of the pastors from other parts of Haiti had come simply to meet us since they heard we were coming in hopes of starting a partnership with this orphanage. There were 6 pastors from other churches in Haiti, then there was a Haitian Pastor and his wife (Frank and Nicole) who are from Florida, who we soon learned that they are the ones who built the orphanage and the Mission House…all with money from their own pockets! What a testimony of faithfulness, trust, and commitment to God’s call. Then there was also the Haitian pastor and his wife and daughter who came with us, and then there were some others who were there to help around the mission house. After dinner, we had a time of worship and devotions. They all spoke in Creole, but Nicole translated for us. What a beautiful time of singing and praising God. As we returned to our rooms to go to bed, I saw what I was hoping not to see…there on the wall of our room…a huge roach. I have to admit, I’m pretty much the “rough it” kind of guy, but the one thing that really freaks me out are roaches…especially ones this size. So, being the leader that I am, I delegated to my wife the task of killing it with my sandal. So, off to bed with the weird sensation that something feels like it is crawling on me. But nonetheless, my sleep is enjoyable as I drift off thinking about how excited it is to be in Haiti to bring the message of God’s love to a people who are in such desperate need.
(Picture of Cape Haitien above..the pickup truck in the foreground is a taxi in which all of those people will pile into at one time.)
(The funeral procession that filled the streets)
(The chef who cooked my great food over an open fire on the ground. We are standing in the kitchen of the “restaurant”)
(the “master bedroom” where we stayed at the Baptist Mission. Hard to sleep on such a comfortable bed when you know that just outside the walled fortress are people sleeping on cardboard…nonetheless…we were thankful to the Lord.)
After a healthy breakfast in the morning followed by a time of prayer and devotions, which was in Creole, but we had someone translating, we then walked to the orphanage…only a minute from the Mission House. I was surprised by what I saw at the orphanage…I thought that it wouldn’t be so small and primitive looking. I am thankful to know that these kids are being well taken care of (food, clothes, bed, shelter), but there living conditions are very very basic. Yes, compared to those children that are living outside the orphanage, they have it great…but still, these kids are basically just getting their basic needs met…which they are extremely thankful for since they had absolutely nothing before they were taken in. To think that children like these are all over the world, many in Haiti, that are fighting for survival, that don’t know if they will eat today, that don’t know where they will sleep, just living to survive the moment. It is hard to fathom such a way of life. I’m 36 years old and I have a hard time imagining being in such a place…some of these kids are 6 years old and living in such a reality. ( “Lord, use me to reach these kids so that through my giving of gifts, talents, and resources, there may be one less orphan who has to spend childhood days fighting just to survive.”)
(Me with some of the orphans that are being cared for in the orphanage. It is such a blessing to see that these kids are being provided for and cared for. But Lord, enlarge our tents so that we might take in more.)
The kids at the orphanage came out to greet us with a kiss. That is how they greet in Haiti. There was something so precious and sweet to have an orphan girl come up to me and give me a soft kiss on the cheek. I felt so much love through that one gesture. They were so kind and sweet. I believe it is because they associate us with part of the group that literally rescued these kids from living and possibly…dying alone. One of the orphans is an 18 year old boy who has been there since it opened a few years ago. His name is Herod. He took to me immediately and I really like him. He has such a good soft heart. He is very much a leader in this orphanage with the younger kids, in the school, and in the church. Nicole believes that he will become a pastor someday. I can see that happening.
(Me and Herod…a missionary and an orphaned young man…but in God’s eyes, just 2 of His children who He delights in who are following hard after God.)
After we went back for lunch, we were blessed to hear that our luggage had arrived and that one from our group would be returning with it shortly. We gave praise to God for the fact that we now would be able to go back to the orphanage and give out the many things that we had brought. After lunch, we went back to the orphanage and the kids were so happy to see us walk up the steps with 2 huge suitcases. I gave Herod a soccer ball that I bought the night before I left. It was a gift for all the kids, but I handed it to Herod. We then gave out a bunch of clothes to the kids at the orphanage. As we were doing this, many of the kids from this village (maybe about 50) were just outside the porch area, which was closed in by bars, waiting and hoping that they too would receive something from these white Americans.
(May we not forget about the ones that are on the outside…)
So, it was every intention of ours that once we clothed the orphans in the orphanage, that we would give to the people of the village. They were so happy to receive clothes. Have you ever seen a kid in America be so grateful and joyful for simply receiving a second hand pair of pants? I haven’t. Yet these kids would get so excited when a piece of used clothing was handed to them. After giving out the clothes, we then gave out the handmade dolls that a group of women in a church somewhere in the U.S made and sent to our mission board, who then sent them to us. The kids were so happy to receive these dolls. At the time we gave them out, we had just enough for the amount of kids that were there. On each doll was a necklace that was also a salvation bracelet (the 5 colored beads that each tell part of the gospel message) So, having my translator standing by, I told her that I would like to share with them the story of salvation. So, it was wonderful to be able to share the gospel message of salvation with all these children and adults who had gathered around by this point. Most every hand went up when I asked them who would like to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. I then led them in a simple prayer to ask Jesus to forgive them of their sins and give them eternal life.
(Sharing the story of salvation with all the kids…and some adults)
(Praying with them to receive Christ)
(A showing of hands of those that prayed to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior)
After praying with the people, we then wanted to give them something fun…sweet tarts. So, we walked throughout the crowd that had gathered and handed them some candy. They were so happy just to get one single sweet tart. Amazing. After handing out the candy, we went with Nicole (the wife of the pastor from Florida who had the orphanage and Mission House built) to see a woman who she wanted us to meet who lives next to the Mission House. She said that this woman is so extremely poor and would like to do something to help her out. So, we decided to bring her and her children some clothes. Along the way, we were now being followed everywhere we went by several of the kids in the village…some out of curiosity, some out of desire to get something, and some out of friendship and love. We didn’t mind which of those motives they had. We just wanted to love those kids with the love of Jesus like never before…and we certainly did just that. I couldn’t have prepared myself to see the home of where this woman and her 4 children live who we went to see. Her name is Jamare (Ja – mar- ee) And here is where she lives:
(a mother and her 4 children really live here…really. I don’t know about you, but I cannot see this and then walk away without much further thought. I cannot remain comfortable in my little world when others live in a world like this. And I will do something about this…will you join me?)
This house, if you call it that, is no bigger than a king-size bed. As a matter of fact, that is all that is inside this tin box…a big mattress…and that’s it. Anyway, Jamare is such a sweet and kind woman. She has not asked for anything, but I believe that God has begun to rouse the hearts of some to help her out, including me and my wife. So, we brought some clothes over for her children. She was so thankful. She is a Christian.
(My wife and I with Jamare and her children outside their “home”)
After leaving Jamare, we encountered a young girl who we were told is an orphan and has nothing and nowhere to go. We gave her some clothes, and that was it. We didn’t know what else we could do. The orphanage is full at 10. That is why we need to build a bigger orphanage. Later on, we found out that the girl is not orphaned. Her mom is alive, but has 8 children and cannot provide for them at all. Before we left, we found out that a woman in the church was going to take in this girl temporarily until a better placement could be found. I watched the Mom hand over her daughter to one of the Haitian leaders, records and all, and walk away. I don’t fit that in my head as to how somebody could possibly do that. I’m so glad that someone in the church opened up their heart and their home to this young girl. God bless the people that care in such a way. While we were at the orphanage the first day, there was a little boy who they just took in that same day and another girl who they wanted to take in, but couldn’t because there was no room. So, the Haitian pastor brought her to his father’s house where she will stay until a spot opens up in the orphanage. That just goes to show how often these orphaned kids are showing up on the doorsteps.
(the latest orphaned girl who was brought to the orphanage the day we were there.)
After leaving Jamare’s home, we returned to the Mission House where I spent some time with my new friend Herod learning some of the Creole language. We then gave some more clothes to the orphaned girl who just showed up that day. We also invited a girl from the village that latched on to my wife to come inside and we gave her some clothes as well. Her name is Shayla. She is 14 years old and just a beautiful young girl. Her and my wife formed an immediate cross cultural, cross language bond with one another. It is true that love communicates to all languages alike and all can understand it.
(The language of love…my wife with her new friend Shayla)
After all this, we had dinner and then proceeded to the church where there was going to be a wedding. Three couples were married. It was amazing to see a church in a tiny little village pack the house with so many people. There must have been about 400 people there. And the singing was so passionate and beautiful…I never witnessed such passionate singing ever! I only wish that I could have joined in with the words…because I know that the songs were all about Jesus. It is amazing to worship and be amongst people worshiping in another language within another culture and nation. It is just a small picture of Heaven where one day all nations, tribes, and tongues will worship the Lamb of God. What an amazing sight that will be. We were so welcomed by all the people. They were so kind to us. The whole time I was there, there were 3 children in front of me who were looking at me, smiling, touching my white skin, and giggling. I practiced my Creole on them and they were surprised to hear me speak in their language. My favorite thing that I said everywhere I went was: “Bondie Benue” which means “God bless you. I had to leave the wedding service a bit early because I was feeling very stomach sick. So, I went home and painfully fell asleep. I woke in the middle of the night and had to use the bathroom. Upon returning to the bed, I saw either a rat or a roach the size of Manhattan scurry across the floor and run right under our bed. I was so freaked out. I grabbed the flashlight, woke my wife, and searched all over for what I saw, but found nothing. So, I was forced to go to bed and I just tried not to think of what might be lurking right underneath my bed.
This was Sunday and we were excited about worshipping together with our brothers and sisters in their beautiful island country. Before church, there was a baptism in the river. The 3 couples who were married the night before got baptized. It was an amazing sight to see all the people of the village walking in procession down to the river while singing praises to the Lord. After the baptism, we ate a quick breakfast and then walked to the church. The people had already gathered and were beginning to sing. Again, their singing was just so passionate and lovely. We had somebody translate for us. We were then introduced by the pastor and asked to come and share a little about who we are and what we were doing here in Haiti. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip as I was able to share the Word of God with the people of Haiti for a few minutes. I opened up by speaking several sentences to them in Creole. They were amazed and all cheered for my efforts and desire in wanting to communicate with them. “Beniswa Le ten El” which means “Praise the Lord.”
(The Baptist church in the village of Cam Coq.)
After church, we went throughout the village visiting some different people and spending time in a few homes. We gave out some more clothes, gave out some school supplies, and gave out some money to a selected few who we were told by the leaders are in absolute desperate need. After this, my wife and I decided that we wanted to give our new friend Jamare (the woman and 4 children that live in that tin box) a fair sum of money just to bless her and let her know that the Lord has not forgotten about her. She was so overwhelmed when we gave her the money. She just kept saying thank you and god will bless you in return. It was just so nice to see how the hand of the Lord was touching this woman’s heart. We saw her in church later that evening and she was dancing and praising God in such a lovely way. After seeing Jamare, we went to another home where an older woman lived and her home was not much better than Jamare’s except for the fact that it was made with concrete. But it was still so tiny, one room, dirt floor, dirty mattress, and that’s about it. I prayed for the woman there as she just recently had a stroke. I sat down on her mattress, put my hand on her arm and asked God to bless her and restore her health. I then kissed her on the forehead and told her that Jesus loves her. We then gave her a little money and left. Then we went back to the orphanage to give out school supplies to the kids.
After dinner, we returned to church for the evening service. After the service, we told people with infant children to stay around because we had some clothing for their babies. We were expecting about 10 or 12 people, instead there was about 50. We tried as best as we could to distribute evenly to those that really had need. I had a pack of 10 toothbrushes that I was trying to hand out one at a time, but soon a hand grabbed my arm, and then another, and then another…and within seconds those tootbrushes were ripped from my hands…that wasn’t a pretty sight…but to think that it was just little kids who were fighting so hard to get a toothbrush. I can’t get my brain around that one. Next time, I’ll bring more toothbrushes.
We finished off the long day by my wife and I having a meeting with the leaders and letting them know what we feel the Lord is calling us to do. They were very happy to hear that God has put it on our hearts to begin an orphan care ministry that would provide on-going support to the orphanage and village, as well as lead mission trips there each year. We prayed together and committed these things into the hands of our great God and Savior and asked Him to lead us according to His perfect plan.
We woke early, had breakfast, and said our goodbyes to all the people who had come to see us during our time here in Cam Coq. We drove back to the airport in Cape Haitien…tipped the worker and watched him place our bags on the plane, and headed back to Port Au Prince. We stayed at the Guest House in Port Au Prince, a house that is owned and operated through the Florida Baptist Convention. We stayed there for the day since we were flying back home early next morning…or so we thought…
After getting to the airport early in the morning and waiting in a crazy line in the hot sun for hours, we were told that there are no flights leaving because of the impending weather. So, here it is Sept. 2nd, the day that we’re supposed to leave, and they issue us a ticket for Sept. 9th!!! I couldn’t believe it! They told us that we would not be able to get a flight back until the 9th…a week later! Anyway, we were in shock, but just had to roll with it. We ended up being brought to one of the Pastor’s friend’s house in Port Au Prince where we stayed for the day and were thinking that we would be staying for a week…but that didn’t happen.
We prayed like crazy, we called the airport, and we were able to get a flight home.
The Lord certainly gave us a great time in Haiti. We have come back with a passion for further involvement and a vision for starting an orphan care ministry. I will be sharing about this in future entries. Until then, I hope that you have enjoyed this travelogue…but more importantly, I hope that God has touched your heart for the people of Haiti. As I write this, I am told that 174 people have died in Haiti as a result of the hurricanes. Please keep Haiti in your prayers.
(I couldn’t think of any better way of spending time and money than being with these kids and sharing the love of Jesus with them…and I’m so thankful that my wife was right by my side.)