Thursday, August 9, 2012

Haiti, Day 1, July 21 2012

I recently returned from a trip to southern Haiti to visit one of our mission partners, CODEP. They are located in southern Haiti just west of Leogane, which is basically the closest named area to the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. While this blog is being written two weeks after our return, I plan on trying to recount as much of our experience in a day by day format, as we experienced Haiti, to help share what we learned with others, prepare future teams, and hopefully see more support of this amazing organization.

Our first day was primarily a travel day as we left for Haiti at the crack of dawn. We had packed all of our things the night before and met at Trinity Presbyterian Church at about 3 AM. That's right, 3 AM. Our flight was leaving out of Miami, so we had a few hours to drive and wanted to make sure that we didn't miss it! Our team consisted of 10 different people, all of whom I got to know much better on this trip in a more personal and spiritual way. We flew with a company named Insel Air, which did a great job of getting us there but unfortunately, not such a great job with the luggage. We had each checked two bags weighing about 40 lbs each. Usually mission teams max out what they bring in because it is very difficult to get shipments into Haiti as the primary ports are owned as a monopoly by a few wealthy Haitian families, resulting in exorbitant shipping costs on top of a ingrained cultural system of bribes in order to receive anything at all. Our luggage, did not arrive with us on our flight. This has happened to me on both of my trips to Haiti on the way into the country, most likely because teams and people coming into Haiti try to max out their weight capacity. Insel Air currently only has one flight to Haiti so we had to wait a whole day without our checked luggage. This did, however, allow us to move easily through immigration and customs as we entered Haiti since all we had was our carry on baggage. Two of our team members, Jackie Spahr and Ed Enochs, work for Delta, so they had secured passage on a separate Delta flight (with all their luggage in tow!) so we had a few hours to kill in Port-Aux-Prince. We were very pampered by having an air conditioned van so we went and visited one of our other mission partners, Fishers of Men Ministries.
We, especially through our leader on this trip, Scott Cerasale, have been involved with FOMM from its founding days and every year our church family donates generously to help provide for the feeding program portion of this ministry. We got a tour of the compound and we're able to see the massive compound where FOMM had converted a former luxury hotel into a centralized ministry location. I say compound because most of the areas that have amenities are surrounded by various types of protection. Most homes and organizations had either barbed wire, or smashed glass glued to the top of the walls to discourage unwelcome visitors. The FOMM compound, and the Samaritan's Purse compound we visited later in the trip both had armed guards, who were very kind to us, but nonetheless were a bit intimidating with their firearms.

The CODEP compound was smaller, used conch shells on top of the walls (a similar function but different aesthetic), and had unarmed men who kept an eye on the entrances. We arrived at the compound, after picking up our Delta compatriots, sometime in the late afternoon. I was surprised to see that CODEP had beds, electricity, clean running water, and a prime beach location. We received a tour of the facility later in the week, so I'll relay more of that later. On my previous trip we had not had such luxuries and I was glad to know that we would have a place of rest to return to after our long days. This had been a long day of travel so we concluded our evening with an introduction to our hosts, Dale and Ingram Caswell, showers, an evening devotional and sweet deep sleep. This was a Saturday evening, so we looked forward, with anticipation to Day 2 in Haiti, and worshiping with the Episcopal Haitian church next door.

You can see all the pictures from our trip here.

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