It's been a wild couple days for all of the staff at Mission Emanuel. Yesterday morning, we loaded into the staff bus and headed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to help an organization called Mision Rescate with earthquake relief. I didn't really know what to expect going in. I thought that what I would be would be similar to my experiences in the Dominican Republic and Bayona. I knew there would be poverty, homelessness, and hunger, but what I saw was far worse than I could've ever expected.
We left Santo Domingo around 4:00 AM and made our way to the Dominican-Haitian border. The border opens everyday at 8:00 AM and closes at 7:00 PM, so our time in Port-au-Prince was guaranteed to be limited. We made it to the border between 8:00 and 9:00. The border between the countries was madness, rows of cars were lined up to get through a gate that was a little bigger than the width of our bus. There were people all over, crossing on foot and selling goods at the market day. Thousands of Dominicans and Haitians carried what they bought on their heads as they headed back home.
Once we passed through the Dominican border, we truly saw God at work, giving us favor to cross into Haiti and deliver the goods that the people so desperately need. Normally, when relief groups go through, they need to have a written letter from the mission that they are going to and a list of all the goods that they are transporting in. Since our trip was so last minute, we were unable to receive these papers, but had a leader of Mision Rescate with us, who helped with the border crossing. The woman, named Omi, has built up an amazing relationship with the country, which can be seen in them letting us pass through without all the papers we needed. They also only charged us $1 per person to pass through instead of the normal $10. Just passing through the border, we could already tell that God's hand was on our trip.
We made our way along the coast of a Fond Parisien towards Port-au-Prince, with a police escort to ensure that we were safe on the roads and to lead us to Mision Rescate. The ride into Port-au-Prince was really amazing. I've never seen anything like what I saw in Haiti. We drove through overcrowded streets, where people spend most of their days because they don't want to spend their time in their houses. This causes the traffic to be horrendous, causing us to drive through the streets of Port-au-Prince for hours. The entire city smells like waste, and we saw people digging through trash and attempting to unclog sewers so that the city streets will be able to drain. Since so many people had their houses destroyed in the earthquake, large open areas have been made into tent cities. They have no water, no sanitation, and the tents bake in the sun. It was so hard to see the people living the way that they are.
Once we got through the traffic of the city, we reached the Royal Palace area, where Mision Rescate is located. The Royal Palace area has a large park in the middle of it, which has been converted into a tent city. The organization has partnered with CIMO, a branch of the Haitian Military, and is run out of their headquarters across the street from the Royal Palace. Once we got inside the Mision Rescate base, we went to work unloading the water that we had brought for them. We were immediately greeted and helped by a few young boys, most of whom are now orphans after most of their immediate family died in the earthquake. One of the leaders on the trip told us that one of the boys had said that Mision Rescate was the one place where he can be happy, where he can forget about the earthquake, and he can feel loved.
We did a little more work and then had to head out. While I'm still processing what I saw, I can honestly say that my time in Haiti, no matter how short, broke my heart in the best possible way. God opened my eyes to a people who still need help. Just because the headlines are not all over the place and six months have passed does not mean there is any less need. Their water is still undrinkable, they still lack proper nutrition, and people are still homeless. I don't think my words can do what I saw justice, so I'm going to finish with a verse from Isaiah.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I. - Isaiah 58:6-9
The Haitians need people to do exactly what these verses call us to. Hope is there, and God is there, but they still need help.