Haiti for the first time

Can you remember a moment, even recently, when you experienced something for the first time?  What was it like?  Maybe beforehand there was joy or butterflies or anxiety or eagerness or excitement or questions or…

I like “firsts.”  I appreciate the freshness and newness that accompanies firsts.  There are new perspectives to witness, new lessons to be learned, new opportunities to give and share and listen and see.

One week from today, Martha and I will experience a very big first.  We will be in Haiti for the first time.  This place that has been on our minds and hearts for the past 8+ months.  This place that we’ve read about, studied, and decided to pour ourselves into.  This place that we are committed to.  Our one week trip (June 3-9) will give us the opportunity to see our future home, meet co-workers, and witness the real and tangible work World Concern is doing.

In her classic book about the fall of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier and the subsequent events in Haiti during the late 1980s called “The Rainy Season,” journalist and author Amy Wilentz describes what she thought her first time in Haiti would be like…

“When I went down to Haiti for the first time in the early days of 1986, I thought I knew what the place would be like: I would fly down and the Tontons Macoute, Duvalier’s personal army of pampered thugs, would search my bags, confiscate my notebooks and my copy of The Comedians, Graham Greene’s banned novel about Haiti in the 1960s.  I’d walk through the cardboard slums in the daytime, shadowed by beggars.  At night I would retire to the hotel veranda and drink ten-year-old rum.  The Macoutes would spy on me, the rare foreign correspondent.  On the walls I’d see cheerful, encouraging frescoes of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the young President-for-Life, and his beautiful wife, Michele.  A handsome voodoo priest would guide me to a temple in the hills, and I would watch as the peasants played the drums and Baron Samedi possessed his worshippers, his serviteurs…I was wrong.”

It is nearly impossible for us as humans to not create some imagery in our minds about what a new place or experience will be like.  This may come from something we read, what a voice on the radio told us, or even purely our own imagination.  Although it is important to be informed and educated, Wilentz’s experience reminds us not to expect everything to play out as we think it will.  Basically, expect to be surprised and perplexed and amazed!

Like most things in life, moderation is probably best.  Therefore, a week before arriving in Haiti for the first time, I am at least attempting to do two things; ponder what I’ve learned about Haiti from a distance and prepare myself to be surprised by the things I could never have experienced from a book.  How effective this will be, well we’ll find out haha.

Martha and I are excited, curious, ready, and yes, a little bit anxious.  We are thrilled to have this opportunity.  Following this trip, we will surely be more prepared to return later this year affirmed in our calling and ready to get down to work, walking alongside colleagues and community members in creating a stronger and healthier Haiti.

We encourage each of you to pray for us and return to our blog next week as we share photos and stories about our trip and what World Concern is doing in Haiti.  Thanks for all your support and generosity.  We couldn’t do this alone!

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