November 22-25, 2014
Journeyers with me: Jeremy and Amy Prickett (son-in-law and daughter), and Jennie Whitt (wife)
Saturday, 22 November
This was a very special trip to Haiti as most of my family is traveling with me. Most of the time I travel with several other guys and I have made a number of trips by myself. We were scheduled to go in June but Amy was bitten by a copperhead snake, so this trip is a re-schedule of that trip with the exception of my son, Seth who had difficulty getting off work this close to Thanksgiving.
Amy and Jeremy spent the night with us, so we began our journey toward Haiti via Atlanta Airport from our home at about 4:30 AM. We had a non-stop flight on Delta Airlines from Atlanta to Port au Prince leaving at 11:15 AM. Of all the years I have been traveling to Haiti, this was my first non-stop flight. We usually have to change planes in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Our plane was a little late getting off the ground in Atlanta. There was a little confusion in the rear of the plane. Several uniformed policemen were talking with an individual and several more policemen were near the front of the plane. The flight captain went to the back of the plane talking with the person and then came forward motioning for the police officers. They instructed the guy to come forward and when he came forward they put his hands behind his back escorting him off the plane. Okay, now that makes flying interesting! I would have been more concerned if no one left the plane after observing the situation. We never knew for sure what the problem was but at least he was off the plane.
As we approached Haiti coming in for the landing, I wanted Jennie to see the land from above. We could see the little shanty houses even from the sky and the mountain areas scalped of trees. You can see flying in that you are entering a third world country.
After landing, we disembarked from the plane on the jet-way. (In former years, we had to walk down the steep steps to a hot tarmac proceeding to the hot and muggy luggage area where most of the bags were just piled on the floor and you had to scramble for your bags.) Thank the Lord that has changed – the airport is quite nice now. It has had continual improvements over the years especially after the earthquake.
We gathered our one checked bag from the carrousel and quickly made our way to the street. Pastor Baptiste, Pastor Lavache, and Jude Olsen (Pastor Baptiste’s son) were there to meet us. Traveling through Port au Prince was the usual with heavy traffic, people crowding the side of the road, and street vendors everywhere.
Arriving in the area of Leogane, we quickly made our way to Taciana Hotel which is located in a little neighborhood called Chatuley. This is only the second time I have stayed at a hotel in Haiti. On one of my previous visits, I had visited the hotel to check out the facilities. It is not a Holiday Inn Express but it has pretty good accommodations. I felt it best to stay here since we had our wives. Everyone was paying their own way so we arranged for the hotel. We settled into our rooms by about 5:00 PM.
I had planned to eat supper at a little pavilion style restaurant in easy walking distance from the hotel. Pastor Baptiste checked with the restaurant and informed me they only had fish and bananas on today’s menu but there was another restaurant in Leogane that would have a full menu. We traveled through some dirt streets with wheel barrel sized potholes and soon arrived at Belle Negresse Restaurant (French for Beautiful Black Girl). The streets were dark with just a few lights from lit buildings. The restaurant had maybe eight tables with about three lone customers. You basically order your choice of meat and the sides are the usual Haitian fare of rice with some type sauce, fried plantains with pikleze (spicy slaw) and a few slices of tomato and onion. We all ordered chicken and when it arrived it was not recognizable cuts like legs or thighs but chunks of cooked chicken. We ordered bottled water and Coca Cola to drink. It tasted good and we were starving so it really “hit the spot”.
Back at the hotel, we settled in for the night. Although the hotel had a fence and gated entrance, it never seemed to be locked or manned. Our hotel doors only had a knob lock with no dead-bolt lock so we just slept in the arms of Jesus. The rooms were air-conditioned and we were pretty tired so it was a fairly pleasant night of rest. The roosters began to wake the slumbering Americans very early in the morning with their 3:00 AM serenade that lasted until good daylight. The rooster crowing is such a fixture to the experience that Jennie bought a rooster Christmas tree ornament to commemorate our trip. Cock-a-doodle-do!!!
Sunday, 23 November
Sunday morning – oh yes, I did come to Haiti to preach! After the roosters stopped crowing you could hear the beautiful singing of Haitians preparing for a day of worship in a nearby church. We ate our self-prepared breakfast of coffee, cereal bars along with some bananas, and bread Pastor Baptiste bought for us the day before.
Roody Joseph picked us up and drove us to the church. We crossed the dry river bed and left the city behind entering the rural landscape in which our church and school lies. It was great to arrive in Bossier, a rural village where the church is located. Pastor Baptiste met us and he was so happy to see my family. He was telling Jennie and Amy had lovely they were in their Sunday best. I asked him about me and he just grinned and jokingly waved me off like I was an “old hat”. Jeremy had been with me on another trip so Pastor Baptiste was especially excited for Jennie and Amy to be there. Jeremy and I were too!! It was so special to have our wives with us. It meant so much to me for my girls to see with their own eyes what God had done in Bossier, Haiti. Jennie remarked how peaceful it was on the church grounds – you can feel the love of God.
We took a few pictures outside and then joined the service in progress. The singing was beautiful and the people were dressed to the “nines”. It is remarkable to see how beautiful the folks are dressed on Sunday morning. I am usually the most under-dressed person in the church with my khaki trousers, blue shirt, and tie. Hey, poor people have pride too! They have scrimped and saved to have nice clothes for church. It was a beautiful congregation. There seems always to be some little girls on the front row who have red socks with lacey tops completing their Sunday best outfit – they are so cute!
Pastor Baptiste had everyone in my traveling party give a greeting to the people through our interpreter, Roody Joseph. My family members did a great job greeting the people; I was so proud of my family. I preached a message about being in the boat with Jesus in a storm from Matthew 8:23-27 and making it to the other side. Pastor Baptiste told the congregation after my preaching that the message was for him. I didn’t let on, but the message was for me too. Hopefully, most of the people felt the same. Jesus is with us to carry us to the other side and He said He would never leave us nor forsake us. Wonderful promise, especially when you wander from home.
After the service, Pastor Baptiste had a table prepared for us under one of the mango trees just outside his house. Oh man! He had a feast prepared for us. We had roasted goat, goat stew with potatoes, white rice, rice and lima beans, fried plantain, pikleze, and some of the best potato salad I have ever ate. We ate like little pigs. My whole family loved it all. The girls still talk about how much they loved the goat meat. Who knew the women in my family would be goat-eaters? It was a lovely time as several folks from the church joined us in the meal under the mango trees. It was one of those very special moments in the trip that will linger in our memory for decades.
Monday, 24 November
Today is school day. Pastor Baptiste picked us up for our time at the school. We arrived and toured the school grounds before making a visit to all nine classrooms. I introduced the teachers to my family and we spoke with each of the classes. In one class my heart was particularly blessed. Pastor Baptiste related the story to me of one of our teachers by the name of Clerissaint. Clerrissaint was raised in a home where his father was a voodoo priest. Five years ago, Clerrisaint accepted Jesus along with his two brothers through the evangelistic efforts of our church. As a result of their conversion the three brothers were kicked out of their father’s house. Clerrissant was discipled by the church and today he is a strong Christian and a teacher in our school. The Friday before we arrived, he led thirteen of his students to salvation through Jesus Christ. He had them stand while we were there—it was a beautiful sight and a great example of how the Kingdom of God works. I was just thankful to be a small part of God’s big plan!
We also observed the feeding program from the preparation at the outdoor kitchen to the children being served. Today they had rice with dumplings cooked in bean sauce. For lunch, we ate the same food the children had. It was very good. The dumplings are similar to our dumplings in our chicken and dumplings dish except it was cooked in pinto bean sauce instead of chicken broth. Pastor Baptitste had mentioned that there were some mission schools where the local pastors would not permit the visiting Americans to eat the food because the quality was not acceptable. I eat with the children every time I visit. If it isn’t fit for us then it would not be fit for them. We are able to feed a hot meal five days per week. This costs $700 per month.
My family observed some of the things I have to contend with as a leader of a mission organization. I had a short conference with a couple of teachers about some school issues. Then Junio, one of our teachers spoke with me about his continuing education in a theological school in Port au Prince. We have helped him with this and hope to continue to help as the hand of God is upon him for ministry. Then another family spoke with me about getting help for their daughter to go to nursing school. I am praying about that situation as well. I want to seek some help from some of our supporters to help her.
For me, this is one of the most difficult things about coming to Haiti. There seems to be a continual line of needs. My family began to jokingly call me Papa Nwel (Creole for Santa Claus). Funny!!
In the afternoon, we made a short visit to the seashore. There are always a bunch of children in this area; well, come to think of it, there are children everywhere. According to UNICEF statistics, about 42 percent of the population is under 18 years of age. Some of the poorest people live around the seashore area; we find that strange as the real estate near the ocean is expensive in the US.
Later, we visited the homes of some of our widows we support. They received us with great grace and thankfulness. God put this on my heart some time ago, to help the poor widows. I begin to notice in the Bible that God had a heart for the oppressed, widows, fatherless, and strangers. I began to question what I was doing about that and what I could do—so I personally began to help one widow. I told others who begin to support a widow though Pathway Outreach and as of this writing we are now supporting five widows and one widower.
Tuesday, 25 November
So our return to the United States was just a few days before Thanksgiving. When you travel to a third world country like Haiti it gives you a fresh perspective on things for which you are thankful.
Our ride through the streets of Port au Prince this morning was quite dusty. It was the usual scene; busy traffic, uniformed school children headed to school, people with bundles on their heads headed to market, and the normal flood of people everywhere. There is often an unusual sight and this time it was no different – we saw a motorcycle transporting no less than six live goats tied on the back seat. I’m not kidding, six goats just a bleating. In the United States he would be arrested for animal cruelty. Such scenes are difficult for some people with sanitized sensibilities but in Haiti it is survival. You see, this guy was not trying to torture the goats for the fun of it; he was just trying to survive and make a few bucks for his family. It is in life anywhere, we don’t need to judge people from where we stand but we need to understand what they have to do in order to get through life.
When we landed in Miami, I was relieved and thankful! I had felt a greater sense of responsibility on this trip than on previous trips because I had three family members with two of them being women. I always feel responsible for those travelling with me but they are usually a couple of guys who have previously been to Haiti. I had prayed for the Lord to keep us safe, healthy, and to have a joyful anointed trip. He answered all of my prayers.
I want to thank my wife Jennie and daughter Amy for having the courage and desire to travel to Haiti with Jeremy and me. It was their idea—no pressure on my part. They both are great women of God and wonderful mothers. I also want to thank Jeremy for going, this was his second trip but I’m sure not his last. He is a great Christian father and husband. Seth was not able to go on this journey but we have plans to go together soon. He is a great Christian man and one of my best friends. My whole family has sweetly tolerated my absence while I have travelled to Haiti. They have borne the burden at home while I went and prayed for my success and return. They are wonderful supporters of the mission work in Haiti. I am very grateful to each of them and love them dearly.
Each time I write one of these mission journals, I get the same feeling inside as when the plane wins the battle with gravity and leaves Haiti behind. I usually have less physical luggage but a greater weight of responsibility for my adopted people of Haiti. Realistically, I know I cannot solve everyone’s problem but I see the faces of those who look to me as the multitude must have looked at the disciples when Jesus told them, “You give them something to eat” (Matt. 14:16 NKJV). Sometimes my concern overrides my faith but I am thankful for the times Holy Spirit prompts me to trust Jesus for the multiplication of provision. I need your “five loaves and two fish” to put into the hands of Jesus. Thanks to those who have sent bread and fish over the years—my heart melts with gratitude for your perseverance of faith and generosity. Every month I need bread and fish because Jesus keeps telling me, “You give them something to eat.”
We give them more than physical bread. We give them the Bread of Life—Jesus! We give them hope for a better life and for the healing of a nation that can only come through the great power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You can see all of our mission trip pictures here.