A few months ago I was invited to go on the Bridgewater Brand Experience to Haiti. I was speechless. I mean… I’m the girl that’s afraid to leave Mississippi, much less leave the country! But without thinking twice, I accepted this opportunity. As soon as I got off the phone, I was stunned that I had actually said yes, but that was that. I was going to Haiti. Scared to death, but going to Haiti.
As I was preparing for this trip, I prayed a lot. I prayed that God would use this experience for his purpose and that I would fulfill his purpose whatever that may be. I also prayed that I would have a complete peace about this trip and that God would silence my fears. Keep in mind. I am not a world traveler. I once dreamed of traveling the world and I created a “mental” bucket list of all the places I wanted to visit, but when it came down to it…I was scared. The idea of traveling to a foreign place and experiencing another culture sounded great, but I WAS SCARED. This fear of the unknown, fear of a language barrier, fear of another culture, fear of leaving my comfort zone was crippling. I share this with you because I want you to understand where my mind was, but when we landed in Haiti I was overcome with peace. A peace that I cannot even begin to describe. I wasn’t afraid, I was over joyed. I knew that this was the beginning of something great. I just didn’t know what that “something great” was. So here’s Day One: IKondo.
As soon as we landed in Haiti, we were greeted by a young man holding a sign “Welcome Bridgewater Candle Co.”. His grin was so big and bright. I instantly felt at home in this foreign country. He greeted each of us each individually like we were old friends. I’m not sure if he’ll ever understand just how welcome he made me feel. (I’ll talk more about Max in a later blog!) We then were escorted to a van and off we went. On the ride to our first stop a place called IKondo, I tried to take in every second. There were so many people. 2.5 million in Port-au-Prince alone. Everywhere you looked there was a vehicle, a person, or an animal. It was so crowded and so unfamiliar. The ride to IKondo felt like a lifetime. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Haiti and the way of life and culture of the Haitians. I was filled with so many questions and so much excitement. And then there it was.. IKondo.
**A little bit about IKondo. IKondo is located in Grand Goave, Haiti. It was built by the Hands + Feet Project. Their overall purpose for IKondo was to help the local Haitian economy and individual Haitians by providing job opportunities and supporting the local farmers and markets. So they created this beautiful resort where missionaries and groups come to experience the beauty that Haiti has to offer. The real beauty though is the job opportunities that are being provided to Haitians, from the cooking and cleaning, to the landscape maintenance. You can read more about them at http://www.handsandfeetproject.org**
It was so beautiful. You could tell someone took pride in building this place, but I was so confused. We just passed so much poverty, houses made of sticks and old tin and most homes had tarp roofs.. And THIS is where we were staying for the night. I’ll be honest, there was a sense of guilt. Why did we get to stay in a nice air conditioned room, when there were children living down the hill in blue tarp shacks. I didn’t understand and honestly I was embarrassed. We got our room assignments, unpacked our bags, and ate dinner. That was that. Until someone wanted to go walking down to the village to meet the people and see the beautiful view. So of course we all jumped at the idea. We get to go meet the local Haitians! I was so excited. When I meet them, will I know what to say, will I feel a sense of pity, and what do I do? Hug them? Try to speak Creole? I had no idea. We left the safe, guarded gates and headed towards these shacks. As we were walking, kids appeared out of no where. They all just stared at first, but then they started to follow us, running along side us with their wire and plastic rings. (They cut out these large rings from barrel lids and pushed them around with a piece of wire. It’s actually very hard.) I was so confused. How could these kids have nothing and yet be so happy and filled with complete genuine joy. But when we were walking back to the resort, a little girl ran up to me and tried to hand me a Gourde. Now I know that’s only like .40 cents American money, but I was instantly filled with confusion and awe. This little girl lived in a house with a blue tarp roof and tin walls and she wanted to give ME her money. It was then that I understood. These children don’t want stuff or money. They want love and acceptance. They just want companionship. I don’t know if this makes sense at all, but God used this experience for me to see life in a bit of a different light. We don’t need stuff and money. We need friendships, family, and a sense of community. I feel like that’s when my perspective of this whole trip changed. I came expecting to see and help sad poor Haitians, but instead what I was witnessing was pure joy and happiness. And they were the ones helping me. Showing me a new way of living. Showing me a sense of pride that doesn’t come with material possession. A joy and love that can’t be bought.
Anyway, we then headed back to the resort for bed. Before we went to bed we all gathered around and shared our thoughts about the day. A few people shared and I definitely could relate, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was and still am processing everything. But there was one thing I wanted to share, but feared it didn’t make any sense. I still fear that you won’t understand. I was jealous. I know this might make no sense to you and it is such a harsh word, but I was jealous of a Haitian child that had nothing. I craved to have the eyes in which she saw the world. There was a sense of innocence that I was jealous of, but more than anything I longed for her joy. Even though she was born into poverty, she knew no difference. This was her life and she was still filled with complete joy. As I lie in bed that night, I prayed for that joy. I still pray every night for Christ filled, complete joy and I do feel like God is revealing this to me a little more each day. As I sit here now (a week later) reflecting on this first day I realize that I’ve changed. I no longer am jealous. Instead I have a sense of respect and admiration for that little girl and all other Haitians. I understand that I was born into this life for a reason just as they were born into there’s and I am going to find that reason. I am going to strive to be filled everyday with a Christ like joy that that little girl had.
So that’s it for day one. A lot to digest. A little over a week later and I’m still digesting, but it gets even better. So stay tuned for Day Two: Jacmel.
P.S. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer them in my future Q + A Blog about Haiti