Today is Wednesday and I'm joining Lynnette of Dancing Barefoot ...on Weathered Ground for Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane.
I'd like to share some memories of a mission trip to Haiti. It was 1980 and a very turbulent time in Haiti's history. I know I'm dating myself but ...that's OK.
I was sitting in church one Sunday and the pastor was telling us about the desperate need in Haiti. I was living in Florida at this time. Pastor Charlie asked the congregation to pray about how we might help. He had received a cry for help from a pastor in Cape Haitian. By the end of the service, almost everyone was in tears and I was ready to sign up and go. After all, I was a nurse.
Little did I know that my parents and my Uncle Ivar and his wife signed up too. There were about 25 of us, along with Pastor Charlie Martin and his wife Stephanie.
We arrived at Port au Prince Airport and boarded a rickety old bus that looked like it would fall apart. We drove for several hours sitting on seats that were broken and the springs were sticking out. The roads were rough as our bus navigated around hairpin turns and along mountain edges. A little scary for me but who could complain? When I got a glimpse of how the majority of people lived in Haiti, I was overcome with such sadness.
In 1980, Jean-Claude Duvalier (or Baby Doc as he was nicknamed) was the President. His father had been the previous President and had been loved by the majority of the people. But when Baby Doc came into office, he married a woman named Michele Bennett, who was a mulatto divorce with a questionable background. The wedding cost about $3 million US dollars. Meanwhile, the peasants lived ...in extreme poverty.
These were the kinds of shacks in which many lived. This was also a time of great fear because of the outbreak of AIDS. In 1980, there was much misinformation about this disease. And at the same time, there was a scare over the African Swine Flu (ASF). It plagued pigs in this area and there was widespread fear because it was contagious and fatal. The US was concerned it would spread to our country. So Baby Doc had the Haitian pigs slaughtered. The peasants were very upset about this because ...it was their livelihood.
Prior to departing on this trip, I had to obtain all kinds of immunizations including malaria shots. Here I am working in a makeshift medical clinic as the women brought their babies for treatment. The mortality rate for babies was so high. There were so many tiny coffins that were made and I could see them in the villages. Many contracted malaria and the little children's bellies were swollen from malnutrition. I remember feeling so helpless by the overwhelming needs. There was a great voodoo influence in Haiti along with many superstitions. I could almost feel this dark influence.
My dad and uncle joined the construction crews to help build housing for the pastor of the Baptist church.
The Haitian pastor got all dressed up for Sunday services, despite the heat and humidity. There was no air conditioning either and the services lasted for hours.
But these people didn't complain. They were so excited to have the opportunity to worship God. I never heard people sing with such joy. I had seen where they lived and the death and poverty that surrounded them every day, along with the evil influences. And yet, here they were ...singing their hearts out to the Lord.
My mom always had a way with the little children.
We eventually arrived back home but I knew I would never be quite the same again. I remember thinking about all that I'd been blessed with. And after eating goat and pineapples for the entire time in Haiti, I lost about 10 pounds. Believe me, that's not the way to lose weight!
Maybe you've experienced a different culture or adopted children from countries such as this. I know that my heart was touched. And it causes me to be so grateful. This was an experience I've never forgotten. And it's a perfect post on the day before Thankful Thursday. Now how could I not have much to be thankful for?
I hope you'll visit Lynnette to link to other participating bloggers' posts on Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane.