Haiti: The Good, The Bad, & the Downright Crazy (Part 1)
Hi Friends! If you’ve been following along here on the blog and browsing through Taking Up the Cause, you’ve probably noticed that lately, we’ve added a lot of stuff regarding our adoption. We made the announcement on social media last Saturday, the day after I returned from a week in Haiti. So of course we wanted to post about the beginning of our adoption journey…but I’ve also gotta share with you about my trip to Haiti last week!
Last week, I traveled to Haiti for my job as Project Manager with World Orphans. I’ve done a good bit of traveling in my life, but I’ll admit I was a wee bit nervous about this trip. Mostly because it’s my first World Orphans trip that I’ve done totally on my own without any other staff members. The traveling alone part didn’t really worry me, but I was worried about whether or not I’d actually be able to accomplish much. You see, I’m still fairly new to the organization. I’ve only met a few of the Haitian pastors, and that was just one time briefly. They don’t know me or have any sort of trust built with me. Plus, I’m a 27 year old female trying to work in a culture that sometimes tends to lack respect for women and also for young people. So I already had 2 cultural strikes against me just by being me. But this was my main prayer before I left: that the Lord would prepare the way for me, prepare the hearts of our pastors and staff I’d be working with, and that He would give me the right words to say and the wisdom to make good decisions. Mostly, I prayed that my trip, each day, each action, and each word would bring glory to God! So knowing that I would probably face some challenges along the way, I was ready to tackle them because I was prayed up!
I had a giant to-do list of things to accomplish while I was there. In fact, here is all the paperwork for everything I hoped to accomplish:
Needless to say, I knew I’d have my hands full. Some of my main tasks were to set up a gift shop at our guest house in Port-au-Prince, do some training with our new program director, develop procedures and work flows for various responsibilities in country, oversee the installation of an inverter and generator system at the guest house, and meet with each of our 13 pastors in Haiti to gather quarterly reports, and that’s just to name a few. Man! It was gonna be a busy week!
I hit the ground running the moment I landed in Haiti. I purchased some awesome goods for the gift shop from a local craft store in Haiti and recruited some of our staff to help me start setting it up…
I worked a little on the gift shop each day, tagging items with prices, creating an inventory list, and training our guest house manager on how to run the shop and account for the profits on merchandise sold. Lastly, I tried to make the shop look nice, with the goods displayed appealingly, and then took some photos to use for marketing!
I’m really proud of how it turned out! A lot of work went into it, and I know it may not look like much, but this was “my” project, and it’s nice to see it in real life and not just a vision in my head anymore! I hope our teams will love having a shop right inside the guest house, and I hope it will help raise more money for our ministry serving the orphaned and vulnerable children in Haiti and around the world.
It was so satisfying to mark the gift shop off of my to-do list! And not just the shop, but EVERY OTHER ITEM ON MY LIST. I’m telling you, I was kicking butt and taking names. Thankfully, we were actually staying on schedule (which is kind of a miracle itself in countries like Haiti), and managing each day’s tasks effectively. I’m glad I had our staff, like our guest house manager, program director, and social worker, all on the same page, chugging along, and working hard with me! We all worked long hours and took few breaks as we plowed through the lengthy, all-important to-do list. And we GOT. IT. DONE.
So that’s the “good” from the week…we were productive, we were dedicated, we were efficient, and we accomplished so, so much that will greatly improve the way our ministry runs in Haiti. Now for the “bad”…
I won’t go into near as much detail here, but I’ll just give you an overview. I ran into some hiccups with a couple of tasks, such as installing the inverter/generator system. Turns out, after months of work, endless questions and research, learning about watts/voltage, determining our power needs, and thousands of dollars….the new generator does not fit in our little back yard shed (and it needs to be in a place where it’s safe from rain and the elements). So after aaalllll that effort, we were thwarted by a problem that could’ve been avoided with a ruler. UGH! I’ll admit I kinda lost my patience. I lost my “mission trip game face” and definitely showed my frustration.
It was at that point that I discovered something about this trip and about myself. I’ve always known that I am more of a “task oriented” person rather than a “people oriented” person. I tend to focus on to-do lists and efficiency more than I focus on relationships and feelings. In my task-driven mind, feelings just slow us down and distract from what needs to be done. I get frustrated when people just want to be affirmed and complimented so much that we spend more time complimenting than we do actually DOING.
Ever since beginning to work in cross-cultural ministry 2 1/2 years ago, I’ve learned that this is an extremely American mentality. In Rwanda, it’s totally common to spend hours each day just chatting with your co-workers and maybe enjoying a Fanta. And to them, that’s a successful day. To me, it sounds like wasted time, but in their culture (and most non-Western cultures), relationships and trust are the foundations of absolutely everything. Work cannot be accomplished until relationships have been established. Knowing this, and knowing myself, I’ve really worked hard to become more aware of other people’s feelings and their need to be affirmed and loved, particularly in other countries and cultures. I’d say I’ve come a long way in my few years of cross-cultural ministry, but during my week in Haiti, I may have regressed. I was SO focused on that giant to-do list and my limited time available, that I may have not focused enough on the people I was working with. It occurred to me that I hadn’t spent any time throughout the entire week just talking to them and catching up on their lives and families. So…I’ve reflected on my time there and definitely know I can improve in this area. I think I’ll ALWAYS have room for improvement in this area.
The Lord showed me a lot while I was in Haiti. We accomplished many things and feel like I can really be proud of what we did! But I also know that accomplishing things is not the only reason for going. I’m thankful for what the Lord did while I was in Haiti, and how He is continually working on me too!
So lastly…the “downright crazy” part of my trip was my journey home. It was crazy y’all. Unlike any other travel experience I’ve ever had, and hope to never have again. But since this post is already pretty long…and the travel day is a whoooole ‘nother post in itself. I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow and give you all the crazy details of [barely] making it home.