Sweaty But Happy in Haiti

June 3, 2016

We returned at midnight last night from a trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti with the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation. We went with our two girls (Jack is a camp counselor at Pine Cove for two months – missed him YET AGAIN on a trip…no, I’m not bitter) and our friends Cara and Lance, their two girls and seven other folks associated with PKF.

I’ve never technically been on a mission trip before – but I do feel like my life as a mother is one continual mission trip.

Amen, moms?

I’ve always heard that spiritual warfare breaks out fast and furious before one goes on a mission trip. But until I experienced that up close and personal, I never grasped that concept. The battle that raged two weeks leading up to the trip was one for the books. Or my book, at least. But we made it there in one piece. Even if we had no clue the stuff we had thrown in our suitcases….


My traveling companion from the airport…

When we arrived at the airport in Cap Haitien and got into the truck (driven by Daniel, a police officer) that would take us to the Joshua House (where we would be staying), I looked down at the console and saw a pistol. Nice. Hope this trip works out in our favor.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw as we drove from the airport to the Joshua House. The abject poverty and filth was overwhelming. I would have never guessed that 40 minutes away was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Amiga Island was discovered and named by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to the New World. Amazing to see how beautiful God made Haiti…

After a bumpy road that would have thrown any pregnant woman into labor, we made it to EBAC, the first of three orphanages we would visit during our time. To see children whose native language is creole respond to pasty white and sweaty Americans who only speak english with such warmth and love was overwhelming. Not to sound cheesy, but love was the language we had in common. There was no awkwardness that can sometimes accompany meeting someone new. It was immediate comfort and ease.

The younger children wanted to be held, the older boys just wanted to walk with you and be near you, and one girl in particular wouldn’t leave Wayne’s side. She told him she wanted to be “friends for life.” Sigh.

Caroline and Carly played basketball with a group of boys while sweating in culturally appropriate ankle length skirts and birkenstocks. Wayne played a simple game of tic tac toe on a piece of paper that drew kids to him like a magnet. Elizabeth’s blonde hair became an instant hair salon for many of them. And Hannah’s hip was always home to someone.

We said our goodbyes at EBAC and headed to the Joshua House (which I considered a four star place by Haiti standards) where we would be staying for the next several days. The next orphanage we would be spending a lot of time at was called Idadee, which was just down the hill from the Joshua House.

Electricity is not a staple in Haiti. Actually, any kind of common luxury is not a staple in Haiti. But one staple we could depend on with our group was laughter.

Our beds had mosquito netting (which trapped my face instead of mosquitoes one night); the plumbing system couldn’t handle toilet paper (oh. my. gosh.); Cara shrieked the whole way through every cold shower she took, which in turn strengthened my abdominal muscles; an ice-cold Coca Cola made me as happy as the birth of my first child (ok, slight exaggeration, but not by much); we picked our clothes for the day by finding the ones that smelled the least offensive; the resident rooster started his show at 3:30 a.m. every morning; Mr. Sun was bright and strong at 5:15 a.m. every morning; finding ways to keep from sweating after five minutes of being dressed were futile; and the daily discussion of how everyone’s bathroom habits were progressing bonded us all.

This trip is now on my top 5 list.

But the most memorable part of the trip to me was the orphans. Oh, the orphans.

We would head down the hill to the Idadee orphanage (ages 4-6) each day. We brought them clothes, some toys, and bubbles to play with. Hannah also brought a Polaroid camera for them to have pictures of themselves. The bubbles and Polaroid snapshots almost started an orphanage uprising similar to the Haitian Revolution of 1770, so that had to be monitored closely.

Yvrose (“Eve Rose”). Typing her name out brings tears to my eyes. A precious child of God who has no parents. Actually, 33 or so precious children of God who don’t have any parents to take care of them. Our job was to hold them, love them, and play with them. And my, how they responded. Amazing how basic human nature is to need the love of others. And the love of God. We heard them singing Christian hymns from the top of the hill when we were packing to leave on Thursday. We all stopped dead in our tracks to listen to them.

I have no doubt that God will bless them through the work of PKF, the Joshua House and Water Missions International. They now have clean water in many of the areas where we were because of these organizations. Typhoid has been erased from the EBAC orphanage because of the clean water.

The guys on the trip built three latrines. To see where some of the villages were using the restroom would have brought tears to your eyes. Fundamental help to bring dignity to their lives.

But in reality, I’m the one who was blessed to be with those sweet little orphans. Our group leader, Brad, told us to not feel guilty by having the things we have in comparison to what the people of Haiti have. He reminded us to feel grateful for what we do have.

He shared from Proverbs 30:7-9 which says, “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

So today I am grateful. Grateful for what God has given me and my family and loved ones.

And I am thankful for Haiti.

And those sweet orphans.

**I’ve added a dinner recipe, salad recipe and two centerpiece ideas to the website














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  • Amanda Vick June 10, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Hands on experience is the only way to truly grasp some things. However, your description of your expreince made me jump into that world with you. WOW! My heart is overjoyed that amazing families went over there to encourage and love God’s people in another part of the world. A piece of each of you will always remain in the hearts and lives of those babies. Thank you for the reminder, too, of how I need to be thankful for everything.

  • Jill Bechtold June 9, 2016 at 8:56 am

    God bless you all for your faithful service to Him, sharing His love and your resources with these precious children! And JuJu, thank you for bringing out the Proverbs scripture verses…ones I want to take to heart!

  • Cara Berkman June 3, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    I want to laugh and cry at just reading this… you summed up our 5 days perfectly! I haven’t stopped thinking of our time in Haiti and I’ve been way more thankful for everything today… good and bad. May we be as continent as the Haitians that have nothing… they truly live everyday just trying to survive. I want to go back!