In the morning I leave for a less-than-routine trip to Haiti.
I say “less-than-routine” because while it’s easy for me to get comfortable traveling to Haiti, it’s just one of those places I don’t want to ever get routine.
Haiti is a place of complexities. It’s a place with historical difficulties. It’s a place where nightmares have come true. And it’s a place where God’s work has moved before my eyes in ways I can’t put believable words to. In some ways, I think I keep going back because I want to return to that place where I’ve seen God do things I’ve never seen Him do. In other ways, I think I keep going back to fulfill a simple promise I made that I wouldn’t forget the Haitian church. While not as complex as Haiti itself… going back is always filled with complexities for me.
So, traveling to Haiti tomorrow is routine in that I’ve done the trip before and I know what to expect. A long day of flying from San Diego to South Florida. A night in a hotel… thanks to Priceline... it’s a luxury one on the ocean. And a 6:15 AM departure on Saturday from a place of wealth with an 8:10 AM landing time in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I’ll walk through an airport I’m familiar with and walk outside to smiling faces of friends I’ve made along the way. Then we’ll drive places I’ve seen before, sleep in rooms I’ve slept before, meet church leaders I already know, and other things that’ll bring shades of familiarity.
But that’s where the routine ends. Haiti is a developing country with a developing storyline. I expect things to be different. I haven’t been there since July… I suspect some things will look just as they did while others will be bright and shiny because the government will have initiated a new initiative. (Last time I couldn’t believe how much liter was gone because the city started a recycling program. What a difference!)
Visiting Haiti is like eating a strong, earthy cheese. There’s so many layers of complexity… as the flavors fill your senses it’ll feel both wrong and right at the same time. Rich & disgusting– this sensation will be appreciated by some while repulsive to others.
In the literal sense, you’ll bite into the sweetest, juiciest mango you’ve ever tasted at lunch. And an hour later you’ll meet a 6-year old who lives in a tiny dirt floored shack, the only thing keeping his body growing is an aluminum spoon he brings to an orphanage for a daily free meal.
Haiti turns your senses on end. For some it’s too much while for others it instantly feels like home without a whole lot in the middle. No one is ever “meh” about Haiti. And going with a group of first timers will be plunging into that complexity with all it’s worth.
My job is simple. I’m not in charge. I’m not driving or making choices on behalf of the group. I am there to help a group of ministry compatriots think through a simple question: Is God calling me to come back to Haiti and build a relationship?
My prayer for the next several days is this: Make it clear.
And, as always, I’ll share some stories along the way. So check back Saturday-Tuesday for updates from the field.