Going on a mission trip to Haiti sounded like a great idea back in May, when my brother casually mentioned that his friend’s organization had an open spot.
“Um, count me in,” was my initial response, knowing full well I could never pass up any opportunity to travel. And, bonus, this one included playing with kids. “Where do I sign up?”
All valid concerns and good advice, no doubt. Driving through Port-au-Prince, I clung to these words of wisdom like a timid child clings to its mother, hoping they’d keep me safe. But it wasn’t until later that I realized there weren’t enough wise words in the world to prepare me for the experiences ahead.
From a distance, putting on a brave face is remarkably easy. Oh, I’ll be fine! The trip will be a blast. It’s only when you’re confronted by your fears — fears you didn’t even know you had — that you find out what you’re truly made of.
On our second night in La Vallée, in a one-on-one conversation with the trip counselor (and lifelong family friend), I opened up about how overwhelmed I was suddenly feeling. How I was having trouble falling asleep at night. How all of these worst-case scenarios kept running through my brain. “The truth is, I’m scared of everything,” I joked half-heartedly. He sighed with relief, and the words that followed took me by complete surprise.
During my brief time in Haiti, I met the most incredible kids. A little boy named Bona stole my heart–and then my camera–with his cheesy smile and mischievous manner. Two sweet sisters, Asmede and Mika, became my closest companions on our walks through the town. Adson, quiet and kind, held my hand all the way down the slippery hill to Codeha so that I wouldn’t fall.
I’ve never seen people so happy, and with so little. From sunrise to sunset, a group of our Haitian buddies would play on the street outside of the hotel, waiting for us to join in the fun. They’d greet us with hugs, show us to our destination, teach us Creole phrases, and laugh at our American accents. They’d proudly lead us in prayer, kick our butts in soccer, run barefoot through the woods, ride on our backs and whisper “I love you” in our ears.
On the way home from the airport, after more than 12 exhausting hours of travel, I gave my parents the complete rundown of the week’s events. It was almost 11:00 PM in Houston, and yet I couldn’t stop talking. I wanted to tell the whole world about those kids, about how much they had touched me, and how much I already missed them. How I would go back in a heartbeat if it meant spending more time with each and every one of them.
When I signed up for the trip in May, I hoped that by the end, I could make some small difference. I wanted to bring happiness to at least one child’s week in any way that I could, to change one person’s life for the better. Little did I know that the kids would be the life-changers, and that the life altered forever would be mine.
Turns out, I didn’t lose my passport.
Or wake up face-to-face with a tarantula.
Or come home sick (with anything more than a cold).
But if I had, it would have been okay. Because at the end of the day, they understood me and I understood them. The connection was effortless, and the effects infinite.
|| originally published on Her Story Goes ||