It was with a great deal of excitement and a little bit of anxiety that today we began our first visit to Haiti and the HATS mission. The team is composed of Grant Peters, Steven McCready, Peter Morrison, and Darren Hailes. The day started with a very early morning as we needed to be up by 3:30 a.m. Miami time. All of us were very groggy but successfully got to the airport. Getting our tickets and clearing security was an easier process than expected. We arrived at the boarding gate to find a very eclectic group of people with many stories I am sure. There were several physicians going to work in relief hospitals, missions teams both young and old working on different projects and locals who were returning to their home. All going to the same country but with different purposes, goals and perspectives.
As we were boarding the plane, to our surprise, Darren was sitting first class due to his airline connections. We were getting ready to give him the gears but he successfully escaped our teasing (I think it was a perfectly timed bathroom break).It turned out that Darren upgraded to qualify us to take more luggage and more aid to Haiti. The flight was uneventful with times of prayer, sleep and enjoying our last little bit of an air conditioned environment. As we were approaching the airport the poverty became quickly apparent. We could see the tent cities and shanty dwellings. This would be a trip like no other.
Immediately upon leaving the plane the humidity and heat jumped up a notch. We went to claim our bags as a singing group welcomed us to the country. We were quickly met by Karen Huxter (director of HATS) who also welcomed us to the country. She wanted to ensure successful and safe transport to the orphanage.
|Steve & Grant from Calgary at PAP airport|
|Two more of Steve’s group from Brentview Baptist|
Immediately upon leaving the airport, we realized life here was very different. The parking lot was closely guarded with police with guns, there was barbed wire everywhere, there were people begging through the fences pleading “do not forget us and please help us”. We got into the van which was going to take us to HATS. We were followed by an escort vehicle which was armed to ensure our safety. Clearly, all precautions were taken to ensure our teams safety. Thanks Karen and Luckner!
Off we went not knowing fully what to expect. On the trip there, Grant sat up front to take photos while the rest chatted and slept. The landscapes were beautiful but the roads were littered with debris and poverty. People’s homes were often shacks and tents. The struggle for survival was evident. People were carrying water and food on their heads for miles. The buses were colourfully decorated but had people jammed into them. Too many mixed emotions to describe in one quick blog.
We arrived at the HATS compound to a large welcome banner, kids singing and the mandatory Clorox handwash to decrease the spread of disease. The security guard opened the gate and we entered. We were all excited to be here after a long day, but boom! The heat was intense and we all started to sweat profusely. We went for a quick tour and were very impressed by the mission and its work. The kids were lovely and welcomed us with song, hugs and lots of love.
|Welcome Brentview group|
|Just arrived. Steve & Sandra – Love at first sight|
After a quick bite of chicken pumpkin soup, we unpacked and then headed off to the radio station to watch the kids sing for a local radio program. It was a really neat experience.
|Heading to Papas for kids to sing on the air at Radio Creole|
|HATS kids singing at Radio Creole for ‘Kids Day’|
Later we had a time of devotion and singing. The kids really blessed us with song. Steve even sang a song. We were impressed! I see some special numbers in his future. The day was full, we were tired so now off to bed. Unfortunately, the adventure continued.
|Duet – Judel & Karena at evening devotions|
We slept or tried to sleep in tents on a back patio. It was so hot!! We quickly learned that even sleeping would be more challenging. After an hour in bed, Steve asks if anyone is sleeping. Everyone piped up that we were definitely awake, except for Darren. We could hear people talking, cars driving, animals scurrying, cocks crowing and the drums pounding from a local voodoo service. Despite these challenges, most of us got some sleep. We were tired and worn out from day one, but glad we made the effort to see this great work.
|Setting up for sleeping (or not)|
Praise God for HATS and Karen!