We're here! The Healing Haiti Alleluia team met in the Miami airport this morning and had about two hours to hug "Hellos," get some food for lunch, and get ready for our flight to Port au Prince. We five from California were pretty beat from flying all night (arriving in Miami at 5:45 a.m. - which was 2:45 to our tired bodies!) but it was wonderful to meet our Minnesota team members, finally, face to face. Before we boarded our plane, we drafted a Haitian to take our first all-team photo. It felt really good to all be together.
It was a beautiful day for flying and we made it to Haiti in just 90 minutes. As we flew over the dry mountainous northern part of the island, then across the bay, circling around to land at the airport, I thought back on some of the experiences I had in 2013 during my first mission trip with Healing Haiti. I remembered the places we visited (Grace Village, Cite Soleil, the Mass Grave site), the staff at the guest house, the many children I had held and hugged (I still have them on my prayer list at home), and the wide range of emotions that each day had brought me as I handed out food, played with kids, encouraged the elderly, and just gave personal attention and love to both young and old wherever we stopped to minister. All of this reflection filled me with anticipation at what the Lord has for our team in the week ahead.
Our team navigated passport control and headed for the baggage claim area. The Minnesota team had donation suitcases full of supplies and contributions, one bag for each team member. They were mighty heavy! The California team had opted to solicit a monetary donation from our congregation. A door offering after worship one recent Sunday brought in over $4000! Which we simply mailed to Healing Haiti in Minnesota, and spared us having to lug more suitcases to Haiti. Once outside the terminal, we were greeted by Healing Haiti staff members, loaded everything in to two tap taps, and experienced our first bouncy ride to the guest house.
As we entered our accommodations for the week, there was the supper table, all ready for our first meal together: Shepherd's Pie! Our team got settled in our rooms, then had a beautiful time gathered together in a circle outside on our patio. Carol had us tie a continuous string around each of our wrists, symbolizing our connection to one another and serving as a reminder that we need to be connected to Jesus as we serve in His name this week. It was early, but because we were so fatigued from our long day of travel we opted to eat as senior citizens, sitting down to our delicious feast at 4:30! This gave us plenty more time to get acquainted and share laughter.
Following our meal, we met with our prayer partners to talk about how we were feeling, now that we're actually in Haiti, and to discuss various concerns and need for prayer. Patrick and I are very well acquainted from serving together in Hilmar, but Al is new to both of us. As we did the dinner dishes, we learned more about Al's journey and his huge heart for ministry, both at home in Duluth and around the world. Our Healing Haiti host, Grace, then gave us our group orientation, taking us through the myriad of details that go with living and serving at various locations here in Haiti. These were all helpful reminders that will make us even more effective as "the hands and feet of Christ" this week.
Now it's free time. People are unpacking, taking showers, chatting, getting ready for bed, and the guest house is cooling down and slowly quieting down. There is a rather reflective, pensive mood here as we all settle in for our first night in Haiti. Pray that we get a good night of rest so we will wake up refreshed and ready to hit the road in the morning, distributing water in the neighborhoods of Cite Soleil. We are eager to get started! Thank you, God, for calling together this team to minister this week in Haiti.