Student’s journal recounts Haiti experiences, lessons

East Linn Christian Academy senior Lucia Davis was one of seven students who traveled, along with three ELCA staffers, to Haiti on what has become an annual missions trip for the school.

Here are some of Davis’ thoughts and memories from the trip, which is being reported in the April edition of the Lebanon Local newspaper.

Saturday, March 18

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for for months.

East Linn team members pray with residents of a house they helped construct in Haiti.

Like I knew I would be, I was so unprepared for what I saw. I painted this picture in my mind of half-naked people living in mud huts.

What I saw was very different. Port-Au-Prince is much more of a city than I thought it was. This is the best way for me to describe what I saw: there is so much trash – enough to fill what would be river ways. All around these “rivers” were houses; some were made of brick or wood, and some with metal. In the sky there are lots of kites. The children collect garbage and make kites out of them and fly them from the windows or street.

There is a lot more foliage than I expected. There are mango trees, all sorts of flowers, small bushes. The people look nothing like I expected. They all dress nicely and look very clean, but behind that you can still see poverty being very apparent. 

Even just driving through today, I have had a change of heart – that it is not them that should feel honored to have us here, but WE should feel honored to be here. I feel so blessed to be serving the people of Haiti, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and meeting my brothers and sisters I never knew I had. I feel like I’m supposed to be here.

Sunday, March 19

I’m currently sitting poolside at the Villa, writing by the streetlight. My eyelids are heavy and my heart is overflowing.

Today we went to church! The church was nothing more than a cement building, with large gaps in the walls for windows, tarps as curtains, and some wood pews. It was simple, but so full of God’s love.

The first thing to happen when we entered the church was two young girls in matching dresses came up to us and hugged us all, and the little boys came and shook our hands as if they were little grown men.

When church started, I was lucky enough to sit right next to Frantzdy, our translator, so I got the entire service translated to me (which I then had to say to the people next to me, and it continued like a game of telephone).

I tried singing in Creole “Great is Thy Faithfulness” (probably really funny to listen to if you’re Haitian), introduced the group in front of the church, listened to some beautiful ladies lead the church in song, and participated in offering time. The sermon was about God’s faithfulness and how He will always keep you through your suffering, which was so refreshing and a great reminder!

Today we also made the climb up the hill from the Villa to visit one of the orphanages. When we walked in, 13 pairs of eyes were watching us. The orphanage was about the size of the average American’s backyard. The house itself was very small and looked more like a large garden shed than a housing place.

When we first came in, it took the kids a minute to warm up to us. But after some hugs were exchanged and we brought out the balloons, everyone was all smiles.

I hate the language barrier; I want so badly to tell them how loved and precious they are. After playing with them for about 30 minutes, we had to leave, which was very hard, but before we left, they all sat together and sang us “Kumbaya.”

It was a precious gift from them; their beautiful voices will forever be in my mind! As we walked down the hill, I couldn’t help but be a little angry. Why did God choose me to live in the States, where I have everything I want and more, an education, food, and a family, while these children have so little? It doesn’t make sense to me. 

My highlight of the day was in church. Frantzdy kept looking at me funny, and finally asked “Are you OK?”

I said yes.

“Are you happy?” he asked. My heart burst, and I said “yes” with a huge smile on my face.

He smiled back and replied, “You look like it.”

It was so significant, because the happiness I felt was real, pure, simple happiness; Haiti is bringing out the happiness in me.

Monday, March 20

Today was the first workday. So, of course, we managed to put it off for a few hours!

Today was the first day to ride in “the truck,” which is basically a truck that you would see landscapers use in the States. We all stood in the back of the truck and held on to whatever we could. Even with air pollution and some of the not-so-great smells, it’s so fun to ride in the truck!

We went to pick up some blueprints for the roof, and in the area there was an all-girls orphanage and a school. All of the women (and Frantzdy) went to go visit the orphanage and meet the ladies. It was such a powerful experience seeing their farm and praying with them.

Jesus was 100 percent in those walls, protecting the women and young girls. Then the whole team was able to go to the school down the road; we spent some time there meeting the children (ages ranged from preschool to high school).

The little ones came and sat on our laps and gave us hugs. They were dressed in school uniforms and all looked so sharp and adorable!

Once we were torn away from the kids (none of us wanted to leave!), we made it out to the work site to begin our work. The jobs were scraping out the concrete windows and building the tresses. There are other children on the work site, and when we played we blew bubbles and made funny faces.

At one point one of the children asked me for some water through hand signals, and I couldn’t give him any. It broke my heart to say no to him.

We spent the rest of our workday there, then headed back to the Villa. When we got there, a small group of us wanted to go visit the other orphanage up the road. This particular orphanage was much more spacious than the first one, but had the children play on top of the concrete roof.

The children were used to seeing missionaries, it seemed, and all of a sudden I went from having two free hands to having a small girl wrapped in my arms, two teenage girls hugging me from behind, and the rest of the team and children behind me doing a conga line. 

I’m sunburned, have nine bug bites the size of quarters, and have never been more alive.

I am in love with Haiti and all of its people.

Tuesday, March 21

I had a pretty long night last night.

About midnight, I woke up very sick. I was running to the bathroom every two to five minutes for two hours, and at one point was laying on the bathroom floor listening to worship music and praying, “OK Lord, this trip is about pushing my boundaries. If you really want me to, I’ll throw up!” (I hate vomiting, and haven’t since seventh grade because I’m so stubborn). I didn’t get much sleep after that and continued to be sick, and therefore wasn’t allowed to participate in the workday, so I spent the day in the Villa.

But it’s now the end of the day, and I was able to eat a PB&J and two bananas (the bananas here are a DREAM)! So I’m going back to work tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 22 

Today I was able to go back to work!

I still can’t eat much more than bananas and bread, but I can still work lightly. I did some building work today – screwing in part of the ceiling, but had to take it easy due to having no energy in me. So I spent a lot of the day with the kids.

We started with eight in the morning (the ones who don’t go to school), and by the end of the day we had 24 kids all coloring and playing games!

One of [the kids] was Clarsen. Clarsen came to the work site this morning and, to our pleasant surprise, spoke amazing English, so we were able to sit and talk with him throughout the day. He was about my age, and was telling us how he wants to go to college to become a surgeon.

He explained to us that he has full faith that God will provide for him this dream of his because God has always provided for him and He will continue to do so! His trust in God was remarkable and such a blessing!

We spent a few hours talking, singing, and him teaching me some Creole, and within that time Clarsen became a friend. Right before we were done (we finished the house!) it started to rain, and Clarsen had to go.

Before he left, all of us students came and laid hands on him and prayed for his college education and that God will bless him in his journey. It was such a special moment I will never forget! 

At the end of the day, I spent some time talking with some of the girls about a topic really burdening me.

How could I go home, back to my cushy life, where I am going to go to college on a scholarship to do the sport I love, while there are children wanting to learn to read and write and who are in so much need?

Why am I where I am, and the children at the orphanage are where they are? After talking with my friends about it and hearing their opinions, it dawned on me that in America there is just as much spiritual warfare as Haiti—it’s just different. We have idols everywhere and idolization is so common among us, while in Haiti they have to have the strength to trust God will provide the next meal for their families. It’s not that they are worse off, it’s just different. I need to go to college, be thankful for the gift of education, and use what I have learned to do God’s work. It brought peace to my heart.

Thursday, March 23

Since we finished the house yesterday, today we met the family that will be receiving it and prayed a blessing upon them and the house.

They were such a blessing! But we couldn’t stay there long. I said my goodbyes to the children I made friends with while we worked there. We played a few more rounds of “A Sailor Went to Sea-Sea-Sea,” and when the truck drove off, they all followed behind it yelling and waving goodbye.

At one point I heard one of them yelling “Lucie! Au revoir Lucie!” and my whole being melted away.

It broke my heart leaving, knowing the chances of me ever seeing them again were slim.

We started to head out to Bon Repo, a community of houses just like the one we built. When we got there we split into a few teams. I was part of the team that went from house to house, meeting the owners, hearing their stories, and praying for them.

I made friends with one of the little boys running around; he would hold my hand as we walked, and when I picked him up he would lay his head on my shoulder. He was so darling!

But my favorite part of Bon Repo was the church that was built within the last year. It was fancier than the church we attended on Sunday, but still so simple. When you walked in you could feel the presence of God! And what made it so awesome for me was watching Frantzdy – he was a part of the team that built the church, and he talked about his experience with so much pride!

It was a godly pride, and one that I hope to have in my work God has me do. And now, I am sitting outside my room listening to the rain and thinking about how much I want to not go home. 

Saturday, March 25

I feel like there are no words to describe how I feel right now.

I guess the best place to start is yesterday. Yesterday was our culture day. We started our day by going to a museum to learn about the history of the country.

Then we went up the mountains to the Baptist Mission, where we had lunch and visited their market. Outside of the market were all of the different vendors. We were warned beforehand that they were going to be very pushy and we might be a little uncomfortable. But I couldn’t have felt more comfortable!

I loved being right in the middle of the culture and getting to meet all of the vendors – even if they only talked to me because they wanted my money.

Then we went back down the mountains, but stopped to look at a viewpoint of all of Port-Au-Prince.

It was breathtaking and it made my heart fall even more in love with Haiti. We spent the rest of our day doing our normal routine – played in the pool, chatted, had dinner, played games. Those were some of my favorite moments on the trip, the moments of laughter, fun and fellowship with my teammates, who I now call friends. 

We woke up early this morning; I didn’t sleep much last night.

My mind was heavy with the thought of this being the last few hours I would be in Haiti.

We all met in the dining hall to say goodbye to Frantzdy and Nathan (our building director), which is where the tears began. They both felt like an older brother kind of figure to me during this trip, so it was sad to say goodbye, not knowing when I will see them again.

From there we made our way back to the airport and through the streets of Haiti one last time. I was holding up pretty good, mostly just tears that were easy to hide. But as soon as we got our tickets scanned, I felt the ugly cry rising up, and it came out as soon as I said “mèsi” for the last time.

I was blubbering like a baby, and it was the first time I let myself truly cry the whole trip. It lasted for a good 30 minutes, and everybody got to pass by me as they boarded the plane.

And now I am sitting on my third plane of the day, heading from Dallas to Portland.

I have many prayers after this trip.

I pray that God will give me strength to hold on to the lessons I have learned in Haiti for the rest of my life; I pray that I will have “faith like a Haitian” every day; I pray that I will live as minimally as possible, and love as maximally as possible; I pray that God will guide me on all of my new adventures he has planned for me; and most of all, I pray that God will allow me to return one day for a long or short term mission to Haiti, a place where I left a giant piece of my heart.