Right now I am sitting in the cool night air in Haiti so very grateful for a full day of traveling and touring Port-au-prince. There are so many words to describe what I and other members of our delegation have experienced thus far: from deep sadness, to joyous fellowship to simply being overwhelmed by what we have seen and heard. So with my brain on overdrive – forgive the rambling nature of this post – here are just a few of the reflections that I have on the day.
The devastation: Honestly, I really had no idea what to expect visually, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I am always a little skeptical of the media's take on these kinds of things. Was the destruction going to be much worse that reported or was this all overblown? I suppose after a day of driving around much of Port-au-prince, the answer for the city is yes: massive destruction, but glimpses of hope. As we drove around, we were blown away by buildings that were reduced to piles of rebar and concrete dotted with an occasional chair, piece of clothing or automobile. Some of the sites that were most impacted by the earthquake that we saw were surreal, almost movie like. Add to those realities the tent cities that dot the city, the obvious poverty that has gripped so many and the overall sense of trauma, the whole situation is simply incomprehensible to me.
But . . .
Just as we experienced so much destruction and pain, we were also gifted with many moments of creation and hope. During our meeting with Bishop Jean-Zache Duracin, we learned of many ways the church has been responding to so much pain. As we toured the city, we each noticed the resilience and creativity that has been demanded of the the Haitian people in a time of chaos and instability. This is, of course little comfort and in no ways should be construed as me saying that reconstruction efforts appear to be going well, but rather, it does NOT seem like there is an overwhelming sense of resignation and despair.
Our task: The main reason we are on this trip is two-fold with the first reason being to express, by way of The Moderator, the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s continued support for the people of Haiti and their recover efforts. Through prayer, mission personnel and financial resources we want to be a helpful partner in the systematic and personal rebuilding efforts. The second reason we are here is, as we make plans to increase our presence in Haiti life, we want to avoid repeating past mistakes that so many well-intentioned church entities have done before: do something that they THINK is needed, when in fact the people being impacted actually need our support in different ways. Not only does this kind of action create short-sighted and fleeting results, but we fail to understand that partnership demands two-way interaction and, in my opinion long-term, systematic engagement. We have already had some good conversations to affirm both our support for the country as well as our yearning to know how we can best leverage our resources towards rebuilding efforts.
The group: One of the best parts of these kinds of trips is getting to know other members of the delegation. So far we have crammed grown adults into spaces in cars not meant for two, I have marveled at the stories of these amazing veteran mission workers and we have begun to build some creative and hope-filled dreams for future engagement of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Haiti. Lead by our fearless leader, Pix, if the next seven days are anything like the first, she along with Maria, Doug, Bill, Bob and Ruth will be etched into my memories forever.
Lastly . . . on a personal note, my wife Robin and I have agreed that we shall have no more adventures without one another. Sure, the girls can come along if they want – just jokin' . . . sort of – but after spending the last two years experiencing some wonderful places and people, there is something missing because my rock star wife has not been directly part of those moments. We know that this was part of this whole Moderator deal, but it has affirmed that in our relationship we yearn for and need to see and experience life together.
And there was so much more, all on day one.
Tomorrow we are headed to Leogane to visit Holy Cross Hospital and The School of Nursing of the Eglise Episcopale d'Haiti. Not sure what kind of internet access we will have for me to blog, but I will again post pics and updates via TWITTER.