Last week, Tyler, Bruce and I (Curtis) took a quick trip to Haiti to survey our newly acquired land and start working on our road to prepare the way for the drilling rig that will dig our well this summer. Leading up to every trip I take to Haiti, a sense of excitement and peace always greets me. Haiti is a place where I feel completely comfortable being me. It is a place I know I was made for, despite the fact that I sweat buckets while I am there.
Leading up to this trip I was abnormally anxious. I felt the same way I used to before a big game in soccer back when I was in high school. I had knots in my stomach for at least a week before we took off. I felt a weird sense of pressure. I was worried about things I couldn’t really control. Eventually, once all the details I could control were worked out, that familiar peace about going to my second home greeted me again.
On Thursday morning, Tyler and I flew out of Miami happy to leave behind our long night in the frigid airport. Bruce, who was already in Haiti, met us with our partner Fabiola at the airport. We made a quick stop at the grocery store then made the trek over the mountain range to the northeast of Port-au-prince into the Central Plateau region where our property is located. Bruce and I have seen this area before, but it was Tyler’s first time meeting this beautiful part of Haiti. Whether it is your first or third time seeing it, it is breathtaking! One of God’s beautiful pieces of art.
Once we made it to our land and the guest house we were staying in, we got situated then eagerly headed over to our property to check out part two of the property we purchased this winter. Gabriel, a local magistrate and the man behind the scenes helping Fabiola acquire land for us, took us on a tour of our property. Property in Haiti is a little different than property in the states. By a little I mean A LOT! It took us nearly an hour to find our boundaries and walk the land. Our land was marked with sticks, rocks, and concreted rebar in the corners. This may be alarming to some of you, but this is simply the way of Haiti. Everything is a little more complicated and often times has some interesting twists and turns. Why would our property lines be any different?!
After seeing our land, Fabiola headed back to the big city and left Bruce, Tyler, and I with our translator Jean Robert. The four of us ate the first of many scrumptious meals we would be served by our housekeeper, the one and only, Dadoune! After eating, we went back to our land to game plan for the next two days of work. Gabriel met us at the land again then invited us over to his to meet his family. This is a great honor so we took him up on it. Tyler and I hopped on the back of Gabriel and a local named OGe’s 125cc motorcycles. Bruce decided to take a pass stating, “those guys drive too crazy for me!” Tyler and I were ready for our next little adventure so we hopped on and went for a little ride!
Once at Gabriel’s house, he brought us right inside and introduced us to his wife, three daughters, and two sons. He was very proud of his family and home. We stayed for a few minutes and did our best to chat with his family. Just before we left, Gabriel gave us a little speech about legacy. He spoke about how the project with Ephraim and now Project 117 was part of the legacy he wants to leave. It is part of how he believes God is calling him to be remembered. “I doesn’t have a lot of money, but I can give my knowledge,” he wisely said. This is so true! He may not be able to fund a school (P117) and orphanage (Ephraim), but his knowledge of the area, land, and culture is invaluable! I absolutely love the way God masterfully weaves the stories of uniquely gifted people together! Hearing Gabriel speak and seeing the way he worked over the course of the few days we were there brought great reassurance to me as I saw and heard how God was at work!
After Gabriel finished is speech, Tyler and I hopped on the motorcycles with Gabriel and OGe again as it began to rain. Our ride to Gabriel’s house was just an appetizer compared to the wild ride they took us on the way home! I think they were worried about melting because they sure were in a hurry! I quickly came to understand what Bruce meant when he said they drive crazy! Yikes! The rain pounded our house for about 2 hours before letting up for the night. Bruce, Ty and I sat on the front porch enjoying each other’s company and excitedly waiting for the next couple days.
Our two full days of work on the land and road were a blur! The rain changed our plans some but our crew of ten locals came on time ready to pound out some hard manual labor each day! It is crazy how much you can get done with a group of hard-workers over the course of 16 hours of work. The status of our road is still incomplete but we know what needs to be done and made great progress in a short amount of time. The crew and Bruce dug a 150 foot trench along the top quarter of our road that was very wet and soupy. They also moved a fence line, trimmed trees filled with poisonous sap and other thorny plants, and started attacking a massive, rock-filled chunk of earth blocking access to our land.
Tyler and I spent most of our time surveying our land and taking a little bit of video. All of this was in preparation for future building plans! Work is always just work though. The real stories are always found on the faces of people. Regardless of how much work we got done, the highlights of our trip were not measured in the amount of land moved but in the memorable moments we shared in the down times with the people of Haiti.
Here are some of those stories:
After day one of work, Ty, Bruce, Jean, a group of about 10 local men and boys and myself walked over to the lake that is about a mile from our property. Once at the lake, the boys immediately stripped down and dove into the water. Bruce was next in line. I hate to say, the mystery man we all love isn’t quite as mysterious to me, Ty, and ten shocked Haitians anymore. Tyler and I had a little internal debate before deciding to join the others in the less than clear water. It sure did feel great once we were in it despite it’s murky complexion! Sometimes the simple things like going for a swim make for the best memories!
Later that night after dinner, Ty and I walked back to Locapa to play soccer. We were supposed to meet some of the guys from the work crew but it was pouring down rain and everyone was inside their houses. We decided we were committed to the cause and walked through the village hoping to attract attention on our way to our land. Our plan worked and we soon had 6 or 7 boys running down towards us ready to play. I tried to organize a little small-sided game, but the boys just wanted to play keep away! Too soon Curtis, too soon! We had a blast slipping and sliding through the mud and enjoyed laughing at each other as we wiped out! One of the things I love about the Haitian people is their sense of humor. It can be somewhat harsh at times, but I love the way they just laugh at each other! When one person does something embarrassing, everyone watching bursts into laughter as if it were the funniest event in the world. It is a fun thing to be a part of whether you are the source of the laughter or not. We all had our turn at wiping out in the rain that night!
The next day, we continued work on the road but the children of Locapa stole the show. Tyler and I were assisted by two little boys while we were surveying the land. They held my pen and notebook for me and helped move the measuring tape when needed. Tyler and I also met an ornery crew of 9 to 11 year olds who were busy playing in the creek on our land and were later chased off by a local farmer! It was hilarious! Bruce spent his time overseeing both the road construction and the construction of flower garden created by some 4 and 5 year olds.
At the end of the day, we were greeted by rain yet again and finished work on the road 20 minutes early. We gathered all the workers to talk to them one last time before we left the next day. Jean Robert translated for me as I thanked our crew and new friends for their hard work. I did my best to explain to them that right now we are just working on a road, BUT one day we will be building a school. One day we will have teachers and students. One day, some of the children of our work crew will attend our school. The work we are doing now is preparing the way for what God is going to do in the future. The work we are doing now is a part of God’s plan and story for Project 117 and the people of Locapa. I told our crew that we cannot do this project without their help. It is simply not possible without their hands and hearts.
After I finished up, one of the workers named Wisnham spoke to us. He thanked us for bringing this project to their area and simply told us they could not do this project without us either. The sincerity and humble look on his face is one I will not soon forget.
After our meeting, we paid our crew, gave away our tools asking them to save them for future work and to use them in their village to help each other, then walked home. We took the back way home and passed through Ephraim’s property then cut through some small pockets of houses. On the way, Jean Robert stopped to talk to a family. We were carrying all of our important items in Ty’s backpack because it was still raining so he asked us for his wallet. He told me quietly that this family needed money for food then went inside their house to give them some of his own money in private. It was awesome to see his generosity! What a great example he is to us.
Once we were home, we ate another meal prepared by Dadoune then cleaned up for the evening. Ty, Bruce, and I were sitting on the back porch when some of the guys from the work crew started showing up. They wanted to hang out before we left. One guy brought a guitar and sat beside Tyler as they played songs back and forth.
One of the guys kept to himself and stood at a distance so I went over to him and struck up a conversation. His name is Georges and he is a local pastor. He told me about his family and how he hopes to finish his schooling one day. He told me about his church and how it is too small and needs more benches for people to sit on. I told him I would like to visit his church on another visit. I think God is up to something. He is already connecting the dots. We aren’t going to build a church at our school, but we want to be a part of the local church! Education and community outreach is the way in which God is calling P117 to tell HIS-story in Haiti. Maybe one day we will help Georges with his church. Maybe one day a church will meet in our cafeteria because it has grown so rapidly they need more space. I do not know all the ways God is going to use our land and school, but I am open for anything! I cannot wait to see what God does with the blank canvas labeled P117!
These are just a few of the moments Bruce, Ty, and I got to experience last week. These are the moments we keep going back for. The moments that fill you up inside and help you realize that no matter how different we seem, we are all the same, we are all a part of a greater family. These are the moments that I hear God calling me into a story far greater than myself. These are the moments when I realize that God is far greater than my anxiety or the knots in my stomach. These are the moments I see God as the great orchestrator of beautiful things, the divine aligner of people and stories. How humbling it is to be placed in such a story as this.