Jul 25, 2010

How A Visit to Haiti Changed My Life...

Marc Estes

This was supposed to be a 7 day visit to Haiti to repair a home, give out some rice and then come home. What I didn't expect was for this to forever re-shape who I am, how I act, and accept a calling to continue to help the people of Haiti.

This is my attempt to share the details of the trip. Each night I wrote down the days events in a journal and I'll write them here as I wrote them in the journal.

FRIDAY JULY 16th 2010
Taylor and I left Houston at 5:30pm on American Airlines and arrived in Miami around 9pm Eastern time. Each person on the trip (30 people) packed food and medical supplies in our two checked bags and took the clothes we would wear for the week on a carry on bag. Each checked bag weighed 50 pounds as that was the weight limit per bag by the airline. Once we retrieved the checked bags with supplies, we all gathered at the Miami airport hotel to meet Brent Gambrell, the organizer of the trip.

Brent told us of his purpose and history within Haiti. Brent has spent the last ten years in Haiti but has had a tough time since the earthquake in January 2010. All of the 22 churches and schools he has worked with collapsed in the earthquake.

Brent told us he was in the process of rebuilding homes, helping an orphanage, and bringing food and medical supplies to several villages.He said that we would be working with each of these tasks during the coming week.

After listening to Brent for an hour, I suspect this week could be a life changer. We will see......

Meeting downstairs in the hotel at 9am. Plane leaves at 12:30 for Haiti. We arrived in Haiti at 3pm. In Port Au Prince, we were met at the plane by a big bus that shuttled us to an old metal building which was a make shift immigration office and baggage claim. Once through immigration, it was a free for all to get the luggage. The bags came in on a conveyor and once through, they were thrown in a huge pile for everyone to pick through trying to find their own bags.

As if that wasn't enough, once we made it out of "baggage claim", we walked out into a see of chaos outside of the airport. Peaceful but aggressive porters try to get you to let them carry your bags. Brent prepared us at the airport in Miami to say "No Messi, No Messi" sternly. This meant no thanks!

We were met with a dump truck to take our bags and an old school bus to take us to where we would be staying. We travelled for 2 hours on the bus to the city of Thomassin to a place called the Bethel Guest House. No air! Old bus! Pouring down rain! and the luggage in the back of the dump truck uncovered!

This is a God forsaken place. The poverty and way of life is unexplainable.

The Bethel Guest House is the wealthy district. It is a nice place, marble floors, indoor plumbing, etc.

Dinner was excellent, not what I expected at all.

This is going to be an interesting week......Daily re-cap and devotions at 8pm.

SUNDAY JULY 18th 2010
This morning we drove an hour to Port Au Prince to attend a local church. When we arrived, the service was underway. Our group began to file into the church and the local Haitians immediately got up and gave their seats to us. They did this without being asked to do so. This really impressed me....How many times in our own church service does the pastor have to ask us to scoot in and make room for visitors! I was really convicted on this one. We tend to be so selfish in the U.S.

The service was awesome, even though most of it was in French Creole!
Watch the video!

This makes me want to get involved....There is much we can do here.

We visited the orphanage after church. They call it a "cretch", an orphanage for infants to 7 years old. When you walk in, they run to you and touch your clothes, and then hold their hands up for you to take them and hold them. A heart breaker to say the least. When you put them down to leave, they cry out to you.

This afternoon we separated the luggage with all of the supplies we brought. All of the supplies would be put into "family bags" and distributed to the families in the village of Canez. Brent needed to have enough items to fill 85 bags. After an hour of stuffing supplies into the bags, we had 115 bags. Brent was ecstatic! This reminded me of the story of 5 loaves and 2 fish when Jesus was needing to feed a large group. When Jesus was finished passing out the bread and fish, there was plenty left over. This was our 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish today! It multiplied into more than we needed.

Brent says what we have seen so far is Haiti's New York City! This is where every Haitian wants to be, and it is absolute filth and destruction. He says the villages are worse and we will go there on Thursday or Friday.

My mind cannot comprehend this way of life. I cannot find the words to accurately describe what I am seeing. In the midst of this horrible place, these people find happiness that I am not sure I could find. Their attitudes are of praise and rejoice.

I think about the "stuff" we acquire in the U.S. to try to make us happy. What would it be like to just be happy we are alive? That's what I want to find. What is it about this place that makes me recognize just that? Why haven't I recognized it before? Why did I have to come to Haiti to have my eyes opened?

MONDAY JULY 19th 2010
Today we worked here at the orphanage.

Shelves needed to be built for the kitchen, the tool room was a mess and we organized it. All of the wood here will rot quickly due to the humidity. All wood has to be painted or varnished (Shellacked) as Brent would say.

This evening we prepared 115 bags that contained 3 each, #10 cans of rice. These will be given out to the children that attend VBS tomorrow and Wednesday. Each child will take it home to their families.

TUESDAY JULY 20th 2010
Today was a life changer! We spent the entire day in a mountainous village called "Gwo Jean" or Big John.

The people were excited to see us. One man that spoke English said the people in the village see hope with us being there and thanked us for the sacrifice we made to come to Haiti.

So many people came out to see us. To just get a glimpse of "The Americans".

The village was an unexplainable destruction and poverty. Yet the people seemed happy. The people live in tin huts or shacks. No running water, sewer, etc. The very things we think we are entitled to in the U.S. The people of this village walk miles for food and clean water. No bicycles, no car to jump in and go to Wal-Mart. It's survival of the fittest every day for them. Yet they're Christians and rejoice for what they have.....or most do.

We made our way to a widowed woman's home that was being re-built by Brent Gambrell Ministries. It is a concrete structure with a porch. It is no shack compared to the others in the village! Brent was determined to paint it. Paint in Haiti is only for the wealthy. For this woman, this meant the world to her. She was so happy and praised God for what he has done for her. She is in her late 70's and has never had a "real" home.

This is a life I know nothing about but I do know that we have been blessed and that we can make a difference one house at a time!


Today I jumped off of the construction group to go to the last day of VBS. I needed to get some video and pictures for the church service at Second when we get back.

100 kids came from the area. There were 6 rooms set up with activities, Bible stories, games, snacks and the plan of salvation was given.

The kids were given a new shirt. They immediately put them on. They were thrilled to get a new shirt. It was like watching one of my kids on Christmas morning!

After VBS was over, each child was given one of the bags we prepared with approximately 10 pounds of rice. This is enough rice for a family for 2 weeks. You could see in their faces that they couldn't wait to get home and show their moms.

This was an unbelievable day. These kids don't know they are poor and doing without!

But it was sad to watch the kids on the outside that couldn't attend. They climbed the walls to get a peek inside. The church could only handle 100 kids but approximately 25 to 50 other kids had to be turned away.

Today was a good day!

We went to "La Mission Baptiste" up in the mountains. A mission formed 50 plus years ago by the Turnbull family.

It had an American restaurant, merchants, a museum of Haiti, a zoo, a church and a school.

It was set in a mountainous region that was absolutely gorgeous. It looked like Italy or France does today. It is certainly a template of what all of Haiti could be. There is absolutely no reason this country should be so impoverished. The only reason that can be explained is pure corruption and greed. Fifty to sixty years of a government full of corruption.

There could be thousands of acres of vineyards that put hundreds of people to work. The ports are so corrupt that the wine couldn't make it out of the country.

This trip, this country has changed my perspective on life. I feel a calling for the people of this land. I'm not exactly sure what or how but my antenna is up and I'm listening. Abraham went and knew not!

FRIDAY JULY 23rd 2010
This morning we left the Bethel House at 8am and arrived in Canez at 11:30. It was a tough 3-1/2 hours to get there. We rode in the back of truck. The roads of Haiti are in rough shape to say the least.

The village of Canez is the most primitive way of life in the country. Mud huts with a thatched roof was the typical construction of the homes.

Kids ran around completely naked, dust all over them. Most every kid was without shoes.It was hard to comprehend what I was seeing.

There were approximately 100 homes in the village. We split into several groups and went house to house to speak of Christ, pray for them and with them. Our team led 2 people to Christ! I was one of the group members that led a person to Christ. That was pretty neat. I was out of my comfort zone but it taught me so much.

Each home was given a family bag that had soap, toothpaste, toys, shoes, etc in it. They were also given a ticket they could turn in for a 50 pound bag of rice.

If the family had someone sick, they could bring them to the mobile medical clinic we had setup. The nurses in our group looked at 30 people today.

Brent had brought 2 soccer balls to give to this village. When our guys brought them out and gave them to the kids, THEY WENT CRAZY!

Our guys played ball with them for an hour and you could see the joy it brought to the kids of the village AND to the guys in our group. I got some great video and pictures today. I can't wait to get home, see it and share it.

This week has been a blessing to me. It's done more for me as a person than I could have ever imagined. Earlier in the week, I posted on FaceBook that I thought Haiti was going to do more for me than what I could do for Haiti. I was right!

I will be back to Haiti. I want to help Brent Gambrell Ministries, and you can bet I will!

This will not end with just this one trip. I can't wait until the next time I can get here! This has given me a clear perspective on how to live my life from this point on. We, as Americans, are truly blessed and I am proud to be a U.S. citizen but our prosperity has insulated us from listening to the voice of God and how we can help others with the blessings bestowed upon us.

If you feel the calling to help in any way, please contact me at mestes1@gmail.com


Christy said...

I am in tears. I wish I could bring all of those sweet babies home. I would love to watch the video. Where is it?

Asha K. said...

Thanks for this reminder of how blessed I truly am. I was crying when I reached the last post. Can't wait to hear you guys speak on Sunday!

'Dee said...

This is so poignant and moving. Thank you for sharing your journal entries this way! I could see everything through your writing. Very, very special.

Vivienne @ the V Spot said...

I am humbled and ashamed to think of all my blessings and all I take for granted. Thank you for the reminder to 1) always be grateful; 2) always look to see where I can help; and, 3) to give glory to God and rejoice in the Lord always.