Wednesday, April 26, 2017

No long underwear in Haiti

Hey Peeps—

I may have spoken too soon a few weeks ago when I boldly pronounced “my long johns are nicely tucked away in the drawer, not be worn again until Fall” or something ridiculous like that.  I know it’s almost May, but I’m freezing.   And yes, I know the weather may change in the next 5 minutes, so even though I am going to don the long underwear, I’ll be sure to keep my attire simple in case I need to start stripping off the layers.   I’m a native of this lovely state so the weather switch-a-roo doesn’t surprise me, nor does it annoy me.  Unless it’s wind.  Everyone hates wind.  Poor Wyoming.  At least they have Old Faithful. 

I’ll tell you there is a place on this earth that you won’t ever need long underwear.  Not even wool socks.  I wouldn’t have believed it unless I’d been there myself.  But it’s the gospel truth.  Haiti.  The country is amazing, beautiful, desperate.  And very, very hot. 

The climate of Haiti took my breath away.  Literally.  The second I walked out of the airport in Port au Prince, I felt a weight on my chest, as if I couldn’t breathe.  Everyone tells me that was the humidity.  For this born and raised Colorado girl, humidity is something my body does not recognize.  Twenty minutes later we were riding in an open air truck, through the heat, and I was thankful for 2 things: 1. The slight breeze, and 2. That I had removed my second pair of  leggings in Florida and was only wearing one layer of yoga pants. 

For the following 6 days my life was dynamically changed.  I was uncomfortable, scared, alone, unworthy, and wrecked.  For each negative feeling I experienced, the opposite emotion flooded my heart.  I was filled with faith, joy, comfort, peace, and hope. 

My trip to Haiti was with an organization called Haiti Lifeline Ministries.  I was one of several medically inclined folks who spent 6 days at an orphanage providing medical care to the kids at the orphanage, as well as in the community.  Each day  people in the community began lining up early in the morning.  Sadly, there was still a line at the end of the day, when we had to wrap up and stop.   I saw so many broken and hurting people.  Most people had skin infections, stomach pain, high blood pressure, to name a few of the illnesses we treated.   

In each room, every provider had a translator.  I was happy to have two different girls that lived at the orphanage to help me.  One was Gretchen, and one was Edna.  They were both about 17, and their English was amazing compared to my Creole.  By the end of 4 days, I loved these girls and not surprisingly, wanted to bring them home.   I offered my son Jack to Edna for a husband, and she declined.  Too bad for Jack, because marrying someone who is bilingual is always a plus. 

There were many highs and lows during this trip.  Knowing there were tarantulas hiding in the ground where we were staying was a low.   Mice in our guest house was a low.  Eating spam was a low at first, but I was so hungry, it actually turned into a high.   Who knew?!?!

In all seriousness, the lowest points are hard to even put down on paper.  My head and my eyes knew what I would see, but once I was there, my heart was unprepared.  Even after 4 days of seeing patients, I felt inadequate and questioned my purpose.  We were such a small help, it left me wondering if we did more harm than good.  As Americans, we often go with good intentions, to countries like Haiti, but in the end are we hindering them more than benefiting?  I had to honestly ask so many questions like this as we offered our services.   I’ve been home two weeks, and these questions still roll around in my head. 

The one thing I do know, and thank God for, is that my faith grew as I experienced God’s presence those days in Haiti.  The absolute best part of this trip was on our last day when we saw close to 100 patients in a church out in the country.  After each patient encounter, Edna would ask, “Can we pray for you?” Every single person said “yes”.  These were the moments there was no language barrier.  In English, I prayed aloud, that God would bless the person sitting before me, and that God would heal him/her.  And that if they had not experienced His love, that please God, show Yourself to them today.  I never got through my prayers without tears.  This was by far the best part of my trip to Haiti.  Praying words of life, even if they didn’t understand them, was a gift I was blessed to give. 

Coming home was better than Christmas.  My whole family was there to greet me, and the smiles on their faces filled me with the happiest joy!   I am beyond thankful to have had this experience in Haiti.  Many folks have asked if I will go back.  Who knows?  Maybe.  But I do know there is work to be done here too.  If you look outside of yourself, you will see the needs are real, and much closer than you might be comfortable to admit.  And if all you can do is pray, then pray.  There is no better gift than to bring a name directly to the heart of God.  Sometimes it takes traveling across the ocean to learn this lesson.  God loves Haiti, and God is good.