Wake up time was on the early side today as we needed to do last minute packing and pitching before starting our return trip. The pitching was leaving behind any of our clothes, supplies, etc. that we did not need to bring back to the states and which MSH could either use or add to the inventory in their resale shop. Our transportation showed up even earlier than expected so we also arrived earlier than expected at the Kaliko Beach Club. If it seems strange to be stopping at a resort on a mission trip--it serves several purposes, both for Silentor and for us. 1--it got us to within about an hour of the Port-au-Prince airport, important because of our early flight out on Wednesday. 2--It allowed us to see a side of Haiti that is very different from what we had experienced the rest of the week. 3--It allowed us to decompress and reflect with Silentor on our week.
We were delighted when we could get into our bungalow accommodations right away instead of the normal 3PM check-in and we all pretty much rushed to change into swim suits and jump into either the ocean or the swimming pool. We all did very well during our week of cleaning off the daily sweat, dirt, and dust with a quart or gallon of water a day, but we were more than happy to have full body immersion in water today--both swimming and in the showers in our bungalows. And we're sure that our fellow passengers tomorrow will appreciate it, too!
We lounged most of the afternoon with several in the group getting a little too much sun before enjoying a buffet dinner that each of us paid for out of our own pockets. The whole day allowed us time to reflect on our week in Haiti--so many fantastic experiences; so many beautiful, warm people we met; so much we learned about Haiti; and so many ideas about what to do to support MSH once we are back. We have all had a fantastic experience and could not be more impressed with what everyone is doing at Mission Starfish Haiti and the very conscious, soul-building philosophy that pervades everything that Silentor oversees and does.
This will be the last blog of this trip. Hope that you have enjoyed following along with us, hope you want to hear and see more either at this Sunday's9:30 service, at an event to be planned in May when Silentor will join us, or by catching any of us individually. We also hope that we've infected some of you with the desire to be part of a mission team. Thanks again to everyone who played any part in making this trip a reality.
It was wrap-up day today as we will be heading partway back to the airport tomorrow. We all scattered in multiple directions--
--Jean R. mud daubing gaps in the base of MSH's compound wall
--three of the women painting part of the courtyard wall
--the men continuing to build benches
--several of us working with two classes to draw whatever they wanted. Our hope is that their artwork can be converted into notecards that could be a revenue generator for MSH.
--Bill, Jean W. and Donna B. doing an amazing number of tooth extractions today
--most of us taking time out between tasks to play with the children, visit with the adults, check out the women's sewing class, walk a couple blocks to meet Silentor's mother, and personally thank the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts for their dedication and enthusiasm around MSH.
When dusk fell, we retreated once again to the rooftop and a short time later the power went out across most of the city. That is the first power outage at night that we have experienced here. The stars became much more visible! As I write this, we are being powered by the generator.
We hope that we have blessed a lot of people with what we were able to accomplish this week and by the time we spent with lots of people here. We know that each of us team members has been blessed beyond measure by our week here. Thanks to all of you who made this fabulous week at MSH possible.
This morning's church service lasted several hours--and once or twice a month they have a church service that lasts all night long. The team stayed for just part of the service. Bill did a great job giving a message/testimony with Silentor serving as his translator. After he finished, the rest of us came up front along with a huge group of children who played two songs on the handbells we brought and we sang along on one of them. The kids did a great job.
After leaving church, some of the group helped the MSH staff wash dishes in preparation for a lunch that was served to all the adults at church in takeaway containers so that they could leave if they wanted to and serves on plates in the classrooms for the kids so that they could stay and play if they wanted to. It was delightful to see each classroom of kids wait patiently until everyone had been served before "digging in." The rice, beans, little bit of chicken, and maybe a carrot slice was a feast for them.
By the time that wrapped up, it was early afternoon and we relaxed for a few hours to let the sun get lower in the sky before going back into the community to distribute 40 of the bags of rice we packaged last night. Some of the 40 went to the families in the homes we added cement floors to so we got to see their refurnished homes. Some went to single mothers struggling more than most, and the rest to families that the minister was aware of who could use a lift up. With the minister and other MSH staff, we were a group of about 13, but as we walked around we were more like a group of 45 walking around with all the little children holding our hands and following along.
While most of us distributed rice, Bill, Jean W., and Donna B. continued to extract teeth. They were kept busy and had to turn people away at the end of the day.
After supper we were treated to a great concert by The Four Musketeers--a group of SIX guys including the music teacher and one of the security men at MSH. The latter, Pierre Jean, has an incredible range. And even though "white men can't dance" we all tried and had a lot of fun. Everyone on the team contributed to the basket they had out. This is yet another way that MSH works to provide a means of earning an income to people in the neighborhood.
Another joyful day in Haiti.
We had a mountaintop experience today. At 6AM the team hopped in another tap-tap and headed to the base of one of the mountains surrounding Gonaives. The four oldest members of the group went about halfway up the mountain before deciding that the rocks and loose stone were telling them to go back. The rest scrambled on and were rewarded with an expansive, early morning vista of Gonaives and the Caribbean. One team member commented that those who made it to the top could cross it off their bucket list, but another quipped that it hadn't even been on her bucket list.
Next we headed to downtown Gonaives and walked through the open air markets to get to the "Haitian Home Depot"--a much smaller operation but where we were able to pick up a few hardware items and then where our carpentry members, Paul P. and Jim B. picked out the lumber to build new benches.
We were back at MSH by about 9AM and a frenzy of activity commenced. It is amazing to see all the diverse talents of the team being put to good use. SOME of the multi-tasking for the day included Bill W., Donna B., and Jean W. working to extract teeth; Jean R. and Mary B. working to weed and arrange stone; Margaret C. and Chris M. helping the staff wash our laundry by hand and hang it in the courtyard to dry; Mary B. and others practicing handbells with the children; Margaret C., Donna P. and Connie K. inventorying and arranging items in the MSH resale shop; Jim B., Paul P. and Randy B. turning out two benches with backs yet today; Ann B. befriending (or maybe more correctly, being befriended by) one of the young boys and then after supper, all thirteen of us pitching in along with several Haitians to divide quite a few large 25 lb. bags of rice into 84 bags of rice that we will distribute tomorrow. Each bag is enough for an average size family to eat for a week.
Our activities weren't the only ones going on. A crew of Haitian men worked long and hard spreading several truckloads of stone in the courtyard to prepare it to be transformed into a basketball court. Lots of bags of concrete were delivered and every one of the batches of concrete will be mixed by hand on the ground--more hard work.
We are realizing how incredibly fast our time here is going and how much we still want to do--and have every intention to meet the challenge.
Today focused primarily on the same two missions as yesterday--pouring concrete and dental screenings. An even larger contingent of the team worked on the two homes today and even more children helped and watched the goings-on. Some of the children quickly paired up with a team member and became cutely possessive if anyone else attempted to "butt in" on their partnership. Meanwhile the dental contingent worked its way down through the 3rd and 2nd graders. Every student got a new toothbrush and practiced good brushing techniques as part of their visit.
School lets out after the midday meal on Fridays so the students were already gone when the concrete crew returned to MSH. After lunch and some time to cool down and rehydrate, it was time to do some more arts and crafts and to practice the handbells with the students who had returned to the compound for the afternoon. The sick grandmother we wrote about yesterday was taken to the clinic. They were not able to determine exactly what her problem was, but prescribed some antibiotics until they can get some diagnostic tests early next week. Please keep her and her grandchildren in your prayers.
Silentor suggested, and the team agreed, to spend some of their personal spending money to go out to a Gonaives restaurant for supper. All but one of the team fit into or hung on the back of the tap-tap Silentor arranged. A tap-tap is similar to a covered (colorful) pickup with benches on both sides. It provides public transportation and is called a tap-tap because riders tap on the roof to signal that they want to get off. And the final person in the group rode to the restaurant on Laza's motorcycle--Laza is in charge of security at MSH. The whole group enjoyed a supper of fried chicken, french fries, fried plantains, and Haitian beer in a restaurant that was also air-conditioned--a very welcome plus to a team that is coping well with the heat but had no objections to a brief reprieve from it. The rooftop continues to provide a beautiful and comfortable place to spend the evening and the team has had lots of good conversation and meditation while overlooking the neighborhood that MSH is in.
Being here has opened our eyes to so many more ways in which MSH is impacting this community along with more insight into the visions Silentor has for doing so much more. We can't wait to share this story with you. We will share some of it with everyone at the April 19thchurch service and then will plan a more extensive evening of sharing with everyone in the church and the community in May when Silentor can be with us.
Click on the Links below the pictures for more news and pictures from the past week in Haiti.