Yesterday (July 30) was our return home day. Day began with 5 AM wakeup (Haiti time, which is 4 here) so we could be at airport by 6:30. You have to get to airport there at least 3 hours early, and we needed just about every minute of that to go through the check-in at the American Airlines desk, then through security before the flight. We got to Miami around noon and had a scheduled 8 hour layover, so we decided to rent a couple mini-vans (got a good price with a little begging) and went out to Longhorn Steakhouse for our first red-meat meal in over a week. I think everyone ordered a steak and we sat at the table for about 2 hours just relaxing, talking, and enjoying our last meal together before returning. We got to our gate at the airport, and the last little struggle of the trip started as our 8:25 flight was already delayed to 9:15, then 9:25, then 9:45. So we actually got home to St. Louis at around 11:30 last night (St. Louis time), and got to our homes around 1:30 AM. But we are home safely after an amazing trip. I plan to post one more blog later this week with some final thoughts, but thanks to all of you who have been praying for us. Going to Haiti is an eye-opening experience. We see things that we have never seen, poverty and brokenness that is unlike anything experienced here.
On Monday we went the beach, which was a lot of fun, but the trip there took us through Haiti, and we saw miles of tent cities, and people walking the streets. We saw countless tap-taps (a truck, the small ones are pickups, but there are even dump truck sized) filled with people hanging out the back and even riding on the top heading to Port-Au-Prince hoping for a day of work to feed families. On our way we stopped at Titanyen, the location of the mass grave which holds as many as 200,000 people who died in the earthquake on January 12,2010. Standing here was a sombering moment for our team, a reminder of the tragedy this already hurting nation went through is still suffering from. Lots of tears there, and our group had a time of prayer at the site. Going to Haiti is not easy, but it is very good. Those who go will have their eyes opened and hearts shaped in ways that will change them forever. Going to Haiti gives people a heart for things that really matter to God, and give you a new perspective on your own life. Things that used to really matter will not upset you quite so much as you realize how blessed you really are, and that other people live with so little, but do so with so much joy.
One last thought tonight. We love House of Hope and the ministry they provide. They are growing, and looking for all kinds of ways to serve the people of Haiti. They are building an amazing medical clinic (maybe a medical mission trip for some of our nurses in the future?). They want to start a soccer program. They may be putting up a building so they can take in babies. They are more and more involved in the community. Andy they have planted a church on their compound, planted another church in City Soleil, and are looking to plant another one in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-Au-Prince. They train pastors and church leaders, and they serve people in the church. We have a really exciting project that we hope to lead our church to do for House of Hope in the near future. One thing that is blatantly missing from House of Hope is a good place for the girls to play. Jason Adams built them a simple swing with two pieces of rope and a board, and it was used constantly while we were there. Jason had to take it down as we left just because it wasn’t the safest thing if unsupervised. But we dreamed of a day when the girls would have a set of playground equipment, and this is what we would like to do. In the next couple weeks we will be doing some research to find out what a set with swings and other fun stuff might cost, including the material that would go on the base. Our hopes is to raise the funds to purchase this equipment, and hopefully get it on a shipping container in the next several months. And then we would even like to put together a mission team to go down and build the set. Big dream for us, but we would love to see it happen. What an incredible thing if the next time we sent a team to Haiti to do kids clubs and spend time with the girls, if we could play with them on the playground that we built for them.