Haiti 2019 by Jared Marsh
“Disaster’s in the air” is a line from a famous song in the movie, The Lion King. It is also the line that I poorly chose to use as my first words to Megan (my wife) to describe the difficulties that we had experienced thus far at the airport! Since we were supposed to have already been in the air on our way to Haiti you can see why my words were poorly chosen. I quickly had to backtrack and assure her that we were all fine and in fact hadn’t even made it into the air yet.
The disaster began as we arrived at the airport at 4 AM to discover that our flight had been canceled and we had been automatically booked on another flight that didn’t leave for another 3 days! Thus we began a process of trying to get 12 people on standby to Haiti during the holiday season. Right away we had more problems. Due to a lack of communication and the fact that we were all very flustered, one of our team members was put on a plane and his bag was taken to the luggage compartment, he was then pulled off the plane with his bag left behind. This wasn’t a big deal because all of our checked bags had been sent to Miami without us already. However the problem that we discovered a little later was that inside that bag was his passport and it was now in route to Miami! So I spent the next 5 hours talking with managers about this problem and dealing with the fact that all 12 of us were still on standby needing to get to Haiti. After a very stressful stint in the airport, 3 team members got on standby flights and were reunited with the passport in Miami while the rest of us drudgingly headed out of the airport having seemingly no other choice but to take the next available flight 3 days later.
I sent the team back to the hotel while I confirmed our new itinerary. As I waited alone for the shuttle I had a moment to ponder “why.” Why did this happen? What is God doing? No answer was given, but as I waited a prayer was answered. I got the call that my 3 in Miami were boarding the last flight to Haiti. I was experiencing a split in emotion. I was frustrated, confused, and defeated from all that had transpired but I was also feeling grateful and relieved for the 3 who would soon be in the care of Ron and Karen, our missionary partners at Sing a New Song Transition Home.
For the next three days our team was in a holding pattern, 3 in Port de Paix, Haiti, 9 in Hartwell, GA. I didn’t know what to tell the team so I just expressed my apologies for the situation, my reasons for the decisions that had been made, and my questions for God that still lingered. Those of us residing in the home of my parents in Georgia took the time to ask questions, pray, and study God’s word. At the suggestion of Ryan, we decided to study the book of Acts which is filled with stories of unexpected situations and interrupted or redirected plans.
This was a good time for me. I couldn’t get the team to Haiti, I couldn’t answer my questions or their questions, and I couldn’t see what God was doing, but what I could do was turn to the word of God. God’s word has a way of filling us like nothing else can. So for 3 days we ate, hung out, played, studied Acts, and waited to see what God would do next.
At 1:45 AM the alarm sounded and thus began our 23 hour trek to Port de Paix, Haiti on New Year’s Eve. Pulling back into the airport was a strange feeling. We were excited to finally go, but anxious from our previous efforts. Thankfully we arrived in Haiti with few setbacks. We gathered all the luggage and piled into a van that would later be humorously named “purgatory.” As the name suggests, the ride wasn’t pleasant. We were packed in with little space to move and the last 5 out of the 9 hour ride was on the worst road that I have ever been on. But the 9 of us were so grateful to be in Haiti that we made it fun and even celebrated New Year’s in “purgatory!”
New Year’s Day, also Haitian Independence Day, was a day of rest for the weary travelers, but, us being camp people, we couldn’t stay away from the children very long. So we regrouped and hosted the first official cedar lake day camp of 2019. With it being a holiday, we only had about 20 kids or so but it was a good warm up for the next few days. We played games, told Bible stories and served pumpkin stew. It was a great day of uniting the team and getting our feet wet in the ministry that we had come to do.
The next two days were spent traveling back and forth to Ca l’Etang about 2 hours west of the missionaries’ home. Ca l’Etang is a sparse village on the side of a desert mountain range. The first day we found out how hard it was going to be to do camp here. It was very hot and the only shade that was available was under 3 small trees or in the school which was around 450 square feet. The only flat ground was a small dirt area that mostly included the road next to the unfinished church building.
That first day we broke into 3 teams to do some outreach and play some games with the kids that had already shown up. The hiking was tough with the houses being so spread out along the mountain ridge. By the time my outreach team returned, I was informed that every ball they had used had already popped and the team had been singing silly songs for the past half hour in the school because it was so hot. We regrouped and tried octaball in the church with our last ball but it popped after 5 minutes. So we scrambled and played “tail tag” and “cat, cat, bird, or duck, duck, goose” as we call it and then did Bible class. We passed out the 100 Peanut Butter Sandwiches we had brought which fed just over 80 kids and few adults. Right at the point where I felt we had exhausted our resources and energy, the tap taps arrived to take us back.
We came to Ca l’Etang the next day with a better game plan. We sang and played. We utilized the shade with small group games. It went a lot smoother even though we had about 50 more kids. We did Bible class and fed them rice and chicken with some sort of Haitian sauce. We passed out gifts: dolls for the girls, cars for the boys and a bracelet for everybody. As soon as we were finished, the tap taps were ready to go.
Our final official camp day was Jan 4th back at the missionaries’ home. This was our most organized day by far. Some of the team decorated our play area and when the children arrived we had a game plan of what would work. We utilized the class rooms in the school next door for octaball and played tag games in the road. During the final Bible lesson 3 sisters had a lot of questions and ended up praying to accept Jesus! The day was great, it felt very much like the end of our camps in Tennessee, spiritually-filled and physically-drained.
The next day we took a trip to rest and relax at the beach and have some fun with our new friends from the transition home. But of course, that evening back at the house we couldn’t keep the kids away nor would our hearts turn them away. So we played, sang, and danced until dinner was called.
We had one more full day in Haiti which consisted of traveling back to Port de Prince, staying at a hotel, studying the last 4 chapters of Acts, and getting some good sleep for our plane ride the next day. The next morning all 12 plus our missionary partner Bensley and a driver packed into a van for one more final adventure in Haiti; the drive to the airport. And for our team it wouldn’t be a trip to the airport without something going wrong. I was told that my 3 who had traveled to Haiti on standby were not booked on our return flight, or any flight for that matter, even though I was assured before we left Atlanta that all 12 were booked on the flight. It took some demanding, but soon we were all in the air headed for home.
As I write this a week later, I still don’t have answers to all my questions and I may never get answers. This morning as I walked over to the office, I passed by a bird that had fallen to the ground and it brought to my mind Matthew 10:29 which says, “Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father.” God’s sovereignty is a hard concept to grasp when things in ministry don’t seem to go right. However, I can see that good things came out of our trip and our struggles. Our dependence on God, patience with others, and joy in his saving work grew substantially to name a few. Seeds were planted, watered, and some even harvested by the Lord on Cedar Lake Camp’s trip to Haiti!