Ok, it’s time for some major bloggin!

I’m back at work, had a wonderful night’s sleep in my bed (with the pug), and have had time to go through my pictures so I’m now ready to share with you guys! I’ll also be looking at the pics on FB and probably snagging a few of the ones I wasn’t able to capture myself. But I wanted to give you guys a brief snapshot into the first few days of our trip. I’m going to try to divide the trip up into 3 sections: arriving and Easter Sunday, the work days, and then the quest to get home. And most likely in that order. You know. Because it makes sense to. I think I’ll also do an overview post about my personal expeirence and the changes I’ve seen since going and also answer any questions you guys might have. So start emailing or commenting with any questions and I’ll try to do a post on Friday to answer them.

Ok, SATURDAY, APRIL 3. We got to the airport  at 4:50 am to begin our journey. We checked all our bags and supplies with no problems. We made it to Miami around 9 am and caught our next flight to Port au Prince shortly after. We arrived in Haiti around noon and had little no problems. We were able to get our luggage and leave the airport. To most this is a scary experience because it is your first taste of Haitian culture. Lots of yelling. People begging. Soliciting. You have to just remain calm. We met the 2 guys who were picking us up, Stephen and Nathan, and we boarded three Tap-Taps (the Haitian version of a taxi) along with our bags and headed to Blanchard, the church/school we were going to call home for the next week.

Here is a view of Blanchard. The school is a big U shaped building which as you can see they are still completing the 3rd level of classrooms. The 3rd floor concrete section on the left side of the picture is where we stayed. We fit 11 females in a concrete room with air mattresses (mine is the second one on the right with the DUKE BLUE sheets) and 5 women stayed on the roof in tents. Our men stayed on the other side of the building in a classroom with makshift beds constructed out of tables and air mattresses. Below is a picture of the room we stayed in and the 2 tents on the roof.

After we got settled in our rooms, we had pretty much the whole afternoon to relax and prepare for our week ahead. I think we were all somewhat anxious to get started but in the end, I think the Lord knew we needed some rest. We had our first meal on the roof. Dinner on the roof had to be the most relaxing part of our days.  Please notice the lack of railing or any other type of safety percautions. It’s pretty much every man for themself in Haiti. Don’t be stupid enough to fall off the roof.

The sun sets VERY early in Haiti so we were able to watch the sunset shortly before eating around 6pm each day. There is nothing like a Haitian sunset on the roof.

At the compound, we were able to drink the water and shower which was a HUGE answer to prayer! You literally sweat non-stop in Haiti. There are

breezes and there is shade but for the most part, the temps are near the 100s and the humidity is high. Although we could drink the water, you don’t really drink it for refreshment. You drink it for hydration purposes only. One of the big treats of the day though was a cold Coke waiting on you at dinner. This was purely for refreshment. And the glass bottle made it even better!

Our first night there, Pastor Leon came to see us. I don’t have a good picture of Leon right now but I will be sure to add one later. We love Pastor Leon. He is such a bundle of  joy and you immediatly smile when you see him. He loves the people of Haiti and he loves the Lord. He wants nothing but good things for his people and he is very grateful and thankful for groups like us that come down. We have an 11 year relationship with Pastor Leon and we are one of his favorite teams. When he came to see us and saw how many people we brought, the first words out of his mouth were: “Man, you guys came equiped!” After dinner, he wanted to meet with our men, or as I like to call them THE CHEIFS. Right then and their, the plans he had for us this week went out the window. Rule #1 in Haiti is flexibility is key! He knew what project he wanted us to do and there was no way we could tell him no. More on this later…

Leon also decided we were going to do Easter Sunday a little different than in the past. Usually we go to one Easter service and celebreate with the Haitians. This year, Leon wanted us to visit all 3 of his churches. He wanted us to see all 3 locations and see all three congregations. I was so excited about doing this because it would mean we would get to enjoy more of the culture and see the work the Lord is doing at all three locations.

Shortly after Leon left, we prepared for Sunday by laying out our church clothes, filling up our water bottles, and then coating ourselves with bug spray to bed down for the night. We went to sleep with a breeze flowing through the window and it was one of the best nights of sleep I got all week.

We woke up at 5 am on SUNDAY, APRIL 4. We got ready, ate some breakfast and walked over to the first church service at 6 am. The first service was at Blanchard, the compound where we stayed. We sat in the back and enjoyed the choir and congregation singing. We also witnessed the entire congregation praying out loud and raising their hands to the Lord. It was an awesome sight. They were also sweet enough to pin ribbons to our shirts to recognize us as vistors. I kept my ribon and pinned to a page in my journal. It was very humbling to see how they have very little yet they want you to feel special for attending church. Even the group of 30 whites who decided to sit in the back rows. 🙂

After staying about an hour, we loaded up in the Tap Taps and headed to City Soliel (pronounced So-Lay) Church. To me, this church is the equvilant of my “home church” in Haiti. This was the first church we worked at 10 years ago on my first trip. It was awesome to see how much it had grown! They have a completely different building now and many more school buildings. There are trees now and even a paved road leading into the city. All things that were not there 10 years ago. It was amazing to see how the Lord has blessed Leon and the City Soliel compound.

 They also did a dramatic reenactment of the crucifiction which was really moving. It’s tough to see in this picture but this is Jesus on the cross at the front of the building.

We then loaded up and headed to Repatriot. This church is located in the “suburbs” of Port au Prince. This area is called Repatriot because a lot of the Haitians who were deported back to Haiti from the Dominican Republic settled here after they were re-patrionized into Haiti. This location suffered the most damage of all from the earthquake. The church building had 2 of the 4 walls collapse. Church was being held in a smaller building which they use to use for children’s church. Tarps had been set up and many of the church members were sitting outside listening to the pastor preach through the windows.

After church, we went to Walls Guest House. This is the place that use to be our home away from home. In all our past trips, this was where we stayed and would come home to after working each day. Why did we not stay there this year? This is why (sorry for the cameo, Char)…

The guest house was destroyed in the earthquake. There were 4 or 5 people who died inside as well. This was by far one of the saddest moments on the trip for me. To see a place where so many memories were made completely crumbled under your feet is devistating. And to know that there were people trapped inside is even more of a mental picture that is difficult to have.

This pool is where we had many a fun times after working long days.

And here is a shot of one of the rooms where the wall is cracking and coming apart on the other side.

It was just a really sad moment for all of us who had stayed there before. And I know some of you reading this who have stayed there in the past will probably have a hard time seeing the pictures as well.

After seeing Walls, we loaded up for a trip to the grocery store. We all got a nice cold beverage and I indulged in one of my favorite Haitian drinks! LIMONADE! This is a blend of lemonade, limade, and club soda…it is amazing! We bought a few cases of these to enjoy back at the compound during the week. I think I’m going to attempt to make a version of it this summer sometime. It is so refreshing and tasty!

After returning to the compound, we did a little Sunday afternoon labor around the school. We hauled rock using a pulley system up to the 3rd floor for the workers who were constructing the new classrooms, we did some priming/painting of the new walls, and we did some sanding down of the new concrete to prepare for paint. It was the first taste of the work ahead.

Tomorrow, I’ll start with our work days. And don’t you worry…there are MANY more pictures to come!!