Sweat dripped down my temples as I sat perched on the off-balance wooden chair. The street behind me bustled with activity and the foreign language chattered in the background. I glanced around the porch, seeing my mother and three other people from our mission group, along with Gido, the man who owned the bar/restaurant/doctor’s office/occasional movie theater and dance club we were currently visiting. Only in Haiti could a one-room building, that was not much larger than my kitchen back home in the states, multi-purpose to be all those things.
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Gido, knowing the gravity of the question we had asked, called over one of his friends who was fluent in English. They conversed quickly in Creole before Gido turned back to us, “Very bad.” He said simply. His translator friend went on to explain. The abandoned orphanage we had visited earlier in the day, that still housed nearly thirty children simply because they had nowhere else to go, was still overseen by very bad people. Unspeakable things were happening there, the least of which being disease, malnutrition, and illness. One of the women with us began to cry as the translator continued. I ground my teeth together as he finished speaking, ending with, “There is nothing you can do. Go back to the village, build your school, but forget about the orphanage.”
How ironic that I thought this would merely be another trip, that I wouldn’t feel anything. People always told me that mission trips change your life. Having gone on a mission trip to Kenya when I was fourteen and returning unchanged, I thought they were lying. Yet, sitting on that small porch in Haiti, listening to words that crushed my heart, I suddenly believed that mission trips really could change you because, in that moment, I was changed.
I hadn’t wanted to come to Haiti in the first place. When my mother said we were going, I was terrified. I would have to leave my comfortable life, give up a week of my summer, and go to an ungodly hot place teeming with bugs of record proportions. (Spiders happen to be one of my greatest fears). I went into this trip with the mentality of simply getting it over with and helping to build a school in the process. Instead that trip was one of the most real, most genuine experiences of my life. From the crazy process of getting there, which included a party bus, two plane rides, and a four hour drive up a mountain on “roads” that resembled competition level BMX trails, to arriving the first night and seeing a moth bigger than my hand perched in my room, to meeting the local people and working side by side with them to build a school that would drastically change their community, to relaxing pool side at a beautiful resort when the work was done, to finally cruising down a well-paved American road on the way home from the airport, every single moment was unforgettable. I truly felt alive for that week, more alive than I have felt my whole life. I marveled at the beauty of the country, I laughed and cried with those around me, and I felt blessed to have served in any way I could. The trip that I thought I would hate turned out to be accidentally amazing and I wouldn’t have traded a minute of it.
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