St. Mary's on the Highlands Episcopal Church
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
July 2010 Mission Trip To Haiti
“You can't know until you go.”
By Sara Black
I had heard that before, full of hushed and residual disbelief, and following a parent's or a parishioner’s return home from Haiti. Even before the quake, before words like “devastation” and “disaster” came into play, it seemed that Haiti offered us a strange new perspective on our blessings in this country, on the circumstances of our faith.
I remember thinking in response: “Well, in that case, I'll just have to go for myself.” But I didn’t know that my chance to go to Haiti would be a year after my mother's first trip, and six months after a “worst-case” scenario in natural disasters.
In Haiti, the team and I worked and observed for a week. We planted 110 trees at the future site of Lespwa Timoun, the nutrition clinic for children that saves lives every day. We watched a team of prosthetists give new life to amputees and earthquake victims. We visited satellite parishes, gave medicine and powdered milk to mothers. We spent an afternoon driving through the dusty and demolished Port-au-Prince. All these things made up our itinerary, but they don't sum up the experience of going to Haiti.
I find myself home again, a week and a lifetime later, resuming my college preparations and returning to generously funded road systems and safe water. And when people ask me what Haiti was like, I try to give the spiel about trees, water tanks, and rubble. But the things that stick most in my mind are less easy to understand without having been there.
Like the fat rain-drops that turned the smooth, sky-blue waters of the Haitian coast into a vast mat of popping pearls. Like the adorable (if mechanical) chants drifting across the walls of our compound over breakfast, of the children next door learning the alphabet in French over and over again.
Or, most memorably, like the haunting hymns of women in a nearby church, mournful songs wafting down the streets of Croix de Bouquet, beyond security walls, tent flaps, and language barriers. “Sometimes they sing all through the night,” I was told. “They are singing and fasting for Haiti.”
In a way, these songs were like a metaphor for Haiti: beautiful but uneasy, enchanting and uncomfortable, universal, but impossible to understand with just an echo in a breezy street.
I love Haiti. She's a mystery and a mission. She gets into your blood, and makes you long to come back, so that you can come that much closer to understanding her songs.