Saturday, April 2, 2016

Haiti Mission Trip, Day 1

We’ve made it to Les Cayes in southwestern Haiti after an exhausting but oddly energizing day.  The 6 a.m. flight from KC seems like it left a couple of days ago now….
Today (like every kingdom day, properly understood) was a study in trust.  Once we arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport and recovered our luggage, we wheeled a comically overloaded cart out the door.  That doesn’t sound like a particularly trusting thing to do, but we actually had no idea who was coming to pick us up.  The anonymous driver was supposed to be carrying a sign with Carolyn Kroh’s name, but specific expectations are something you learn to lose in Haiti travel.  Meanwhile, we had to run the gauntlet of probably 50 young men, all of whom would be competing to touch our overloaded cart and thereby earn a share of the tip.  But the drivers aren’t allowed to come into the terminal, so out we went.  As it turned out, the driver was there, complete with Carolyn’s name on a sign. 
The second case study in trust came from the driver himself (whose name I never could make out).  He led us to his vehicle, and the lucky designees from the gauntlet of young men offloaded the luggage cart, each of them earning at least five times a daily wage in Haiti in that one tip.  The driver made the payments and convinced the hangers-on to go back to the terminal.  He started the car, turned on the A/C (blessedly) … and sat there.  Before he even put the car into reverse, the driver closed his eyes, clasped his hands, and spent a couple of minutes in silent prayer.  I did, too.  Prayer is always a good idea; but if your driver is praying, it’s probably a good idea to join in.  He crossed himself, put the car into reverse, and made his way into – and finally, out of – Port-au-Prince.  The prayers were a wise choice, both in the city and along the “highway” toward the southwest region of the country.  Imagine people walking and riding bikes along the white lines of I-70, and you get the picture – but add dogs, goats, and pigs, too.
The third case study in trust comes from the Haitian people themselves.  Every time I come here, I’m struck by the seamless interweaving of the sacred and the secular.  Flannery O’Connor writes about the American South being a “Christ-haunted landscape”; if that’s true, then the spirits of all the saints are alive and well and inhabiting Haiti.  Everywhere you look here, you see proclamations of trust in God.  And you need only look at the oncoming traffic and the businesses lining the road.  Most of the tap-taps (multicolored trucks serving as public transportation) bear proclamations above the windshield, and most of them are faith statements.  Here are a few I saw today:  “Merci Jesus” (thank you, Jesus), “Grace Divine,” “Fils de Dieu” (Son of God), “Jesus Mon Seul Espoir” (Jesus, My Only Hope), and “Jesus Revient” (Jesus is Coming Back).  Looking from the oncoming traffic to the businesses you’re passing by, you move from sublime proclamation to stunning mash-ups of deep trust and commercial necessity.  Here are some actual business names we passed:
·         Nouvelle Jerusalem Salon
·         Merci Jesus Bric-a-Brac
·         Grace Divine Pharmacia (maybe that one works)
·         Lumiere de Dieu Reparation d’Auto (Light of God Auto Service)
·         Le Sang (Blood) de Jesus Boutique
·         Jehovah Store
·         Christ Capable Matériaux de Construction (building supplies)
·         And perhaps my favorite – Pere Eternal (Eternal Father) Lotto
These may strike us as amusing, but there’s more there than meets the funny bone.  Day in and day out, people here take their faith to the level I think God would like to see from us all: to the level of deep trust that acknowledges God’s sovereignty and overwhelming love, regardless of the outcome we get in a given moment.  You see it everywhere you look in Haiti – Grace Divine.

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