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Friday, July 4, 2014

Haiti Mission 2014 - Day 1

Bienvenue, mes amis! This is the first in a daily series of blog posts that will provide information, insight, and personal thoughts regarding our recently completed summer (2014) mission to Minoterie, Haiti.

Minoterie (Google Earth)

This year, five people from Wall Highway Baptist Church (WHBC) in Madison, Alabama partnered with a fantastic group of seven folks from White House First Baptist Church (WHFBC) in White House, Tennessee. I suppose you could say that we went to Haiti this year with the White House staff!

Minoterie is a relatively small village about twenty or thirty minutes northwest of Port au Prince. It is situated on Baie de Port-au-Prince and extends north from the coast and the economic anchor of the village - a flour mill - which gives Minoterie its name.

Le Minoterie (Flour Mill)

The village is quite spread out although, as you can see from the Google Earth image above, there are neighborhoods, as we would call them. The tag in the image is the basketball court in the center of the village. The original court was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake and the Haitian ministry we partnered with - Prosperity of God - completed the rebuild in June, 2011. In the autumn of 2013, the Haitian government installed solar-powered lighting at the court after recognizing its central location and utility for other community events.

Minoterie Basketball Court (PoG)

We arrived in Haiti on Wednesday, June 25, with thirty-six pieces of luggage! No, we're not all fashion horses. Because of the broad scope of the mission, part of our funding goes to pay for an additional suitcase for team members, in which we can each carry up to fifty pounds of supplies for the village. American Airlines in Nashville - our point of departure - was kind enough to let us check our carry-on bag as well for no additional charge. How cool is that?! It should be noted that the bag total doesn't include our backpacks, the indispensable, go-to, daily container.

Ministry note: Shipping anything to Haiti is very expensive, so, despite the cost of travel and lodging, paying for an extra fifty-pound suitcase for each team member is actually a pretty economical way to get matériel into the community. 

The airport in Port au Prince has vastly improved since I first visited this beautiful country in 2010. Haiti has worked very hard to get this key infrastructure back in shape - and they have done a fantastic job. Despite all our careful packing, checking and documenting of luggage, we ended up short two bags upon arrival. And in Haiti, there is no service that will bring them to you when/if they are found. So, what to do? We hung out at the airport - first inside - then outside. On the inside, we found a kind and conscientious airport official who helped us determine which two bags were missing, and then he was able to discover that they would be coming on the next flight from Miami a little later in the afternoon. With profuse expressions of thanks, we then took the thirty-four suitcases which did arrive and loaded up the elementary school-sized Bluebird bus that was to be our primary mode of transport for the duration of our stay.

Then we sat on the bus…for a couple of hours. Did I mention it is warm in Haiti?

Bluebird luggage lounge

At the end of our wait a rousing cheer echoed inside the bus - and likely outside too - as two of our intrepid Haitian leaders (please accept my sincere apologies for not remembering which two!) appeared with our wayward suitcases. With all bags now securely on board, we headed off directly to Minoterie to meet and greet Bildad's family and some of the other good people in the village, with whom the Tennessee folks have become friends with over the years.

This is probably a good place to begin noting - and I will likely do this a number of times as I complete this blog series - how wonderful our driver was (is). For those of you who have driven American school buses, you will totally get this. For all the others, imagine driving a large school bus through a putt-putt golf course and not hitting any of the edges or damaging any of the decorative hazards. Throughout our eight days in Haiti, Jean Justin was reliable, calm, intrepid, helpful, imminently skillful and, ultimately, the source of perhaps the biggest blessing we would receive all week.

Jean Justin

Although everyone wanted to spend as much time in Minoterie as possible, it was late afternoon when we arrived thanks to our airport adventure. So, we wrapped things up before dark and headed off to our hotel for check-in and to get settled in our home base for the week.

Room 142

Room 142: We will miss you. You provided us a place to clean up, lay our weary heads, rest and recuperate, and, in the spirit of Haitian hospitality, you also became a sanctuary for the odd gecko or two.

Tomorrow, our mission begins in earnest...


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