So I'm going to rewind to the day of arrival and bring us through other details I didn't include about Sunday in the previous posts.

Our team: 10 of us, 8 students from George Mason, 1 college-aged guy not in classes right now, and myself. I work for the Gathering, the college ministry of McLean Bible Church, which each of these students are a part of.

We went to bed around 11 or 12 the night before leaving, woke up at 3am, jumped in 2 vans and got the the airport around 4 am. Early mornings are never great, but somehow the team still managed to have high spirits. We had to wait in some lines, but the frustration never shined brighter than the joy of being on our way to serve God in Haiti.

We had a layover in Newark, NJ - and took the time to relax, eat, and spend time with each other. We set up at the gate next to ours because there were enough seats to sit next to each other, and there was a wall in between the two gates. I ventured off to Dunkin Donuts for a bagel and eventually made my way back shortly before boarding time. Strolling by our gate, I saw no one. A little concerned, I wondered if everyone had boarded and for some reason forgot to give me a heads up. I turn the corner and see the whole team lounging, singing along to Mark's guitar playing without a care in the world. I took the moment to let them know that I was pretty sure we were about to miss our flight. We did make it though!

We arrived in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti by early afternoon. We went through customs, got all of our bags and were on our way out the door. It almost felt like a TV show walking out of the airport. Onlookers and family members waited expectantly for their loved ones and friends to arrive. There were many "porters" who were over-willing to "help with your bags. Help is in quotes because even helping push a bag you already had your hands on is helping. Either way, in the time that we had to wait for our ride to arrive, some of the porters gave up hope and realized their time was better spent on some other arrivals. The World Hope International country director met us at the airport - a guy named Thony, who is, to say the least, amazing. Here is a picture from later in the week of myself with Thony:

Thony has a huge heart - not only for others, but for God and his country of Haiti. World Hope is also doing a lot of amazing work in Haiti - and has been for years. Check out the World Hope website

We stopped for some lunch - chicken, fried plantains, and acra (a root, ground up and fried). All of it was delicious - especially the chicken! This is when I was introduced to Fruit Champagne - a Haitian soda, which is very sweet, but I think it is also very good. It took a few hours to drive only 35 miles, but we made it to the Wesleyan campground we stayed at in Petit-Goave (Pronounced pettie-gwav or pitty-gwav, depending on who you ask).

We were blessed to have a great meal at a local hotel that night. We had plenty of time to sit and talk at the hotel restaurant. I had the Creole chicken and just as Thony described it was "Really, really chewy." However the couple pieces of white meat were very tender and very good. I can't say I love the Creole Chicken as much as Thony did. Others ordered goat and a pork dish. Everything was served with fried plantains - sliced and crispy, not soggy like other countries where I've had them.

A few observations - The UN was quite present on the roads from out trip from Port-Au-Prince to Petit-Goave. Though, after talking to a Haitian, it sounded like "they have big guns and just ride around," which of course would change in just a few days. Every once in a while there would be a police check. Other than these occasional "checks," people would drive almost however they felt necessary to get where they were going. It seemed to be a controlled chaos of sorts - pass at your own discretion and speed is quite subjective at all times. Altogether, kind of a "whatever you're comfortable with" driving attitude, which would make the average American cringe. A common snack is raw sugar cane. I was told it is very good, but for a lot of people it hurts their teeth so they don't eat it. Sounded good though as described: "It's like watery sugar."

We started the day with a devotion from the Bible on the Lord's Prayer, which is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

There is so much more to this prayer, and I would encourage you to take time to realize that each of those lines of the prayer has so much meaning to it. Prayer would be key in the coming days and allowed us to never lose hope, but rather to continue to grow in our faith in God. As the previous posts show, the children that came on Sunday were dressed in their nice clothes. We would soon learn that these nice clothes were the only nice clothes they had, many wore the same clothes for the rest of the time we saw them. The kids ranged from about age 2 or 3 up to 15 or so. The time with the kids was a lot of fun. By the end of that time, I had a little friend. He followed me around everywhere I went - either holding my hand or, if that was available, hanging on to my shirt or pocket. As I'm sure you would have guessed, he's the little guy crawling in between my arm and leg.

The picture above was taken by Marcio, another guy on our Haiti team. At this point, it was Sunday afternoon and we were walking around their village - a small shantytown, with houses made out of mostly corrugated metal, sticks and stones, mud, sheets, and whatever else could be used to create a sense of privacy and property division. The little village, pronounced Percin (I think I saw a sign that said it was Parsen with an accent on the "e"), doesn't have any sanitation. Our goal for our work project was to build a community latrine, which we would begin working on the following day.

We had another great meal that night for dinner - fried boneless chicken pieces, rice and beans - and had some great team-time that night. Mark pulled out his travel Martin guitar playing all the old hits and some new ones as well - the other guys seemed to always start singing "Party in the USA," but we sang All Star by Smashmouth, some Backstreet Boys, and so much more! A great time. That night, it rained the ENTIRE night.

I'm excited to share more photos on my next post!

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