My Week As A Missionary (Part 1)
My Week As A Missionary (Part 1)
Jerry Smith (Justin's Dad)
After three months of prep talks and pep talks, the day was finally here. The day we leave for the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. My son recently became president of Catholic Assistance Missions (CAM) due to the untimely passing of Doug McDougall. When Justin asked me to join him on his next mission trip, I had a hundred excuses. "I can't afford it", "I have no skills", "I can't afford to get sick", yada yada yada. Justin fired back with " do you think you could hold a baby for 15 minutes?" "Well of course I can." "Then go find some money and come with us." Three months later after hitting up everyone I knew, I was waiting for Justin at the Miami Airport. I had four suitcases, three with clothes shoes, medical supplies and food. One with some clean underwear, shampoo t shirts and hiking shorts for me. I knew I would be coming home with one small carry-on, if that.
With the help of one of the largest men I have ever seen (Justin called him Mr. Big. I called him Sir) we were soon whisked through Haitian customs and on our way to our ride. It seemed like everyone had their hand out and I felt very un Christian-like by not giving a few buck here and there. We had been warned that unless you brought enough for everybody, don't show any cash. It just causes bad feelings among those who don't get any. So we smiled and kept walking. The trip to the Missionaries of Charity house was quite depressing as we saw our first of many "tent cities". These little villages are scatted all throughout Port au Prince. People in my hometown stake out larger areas to watch fireworks on the fourth of July than these folks have for a home site. The tents are ten by ten and mostly made from tarps provided by the UN teams following the earthquake of 2010. As we drove by in a $60,000.00 Landrover with enough luggage on the roof to fill any three of those tents I again had a little pang of guilt, but what they could not see was that our luggage was 85% medicine, clothes food and shoes to be left behind at our two stops.
We got to the Sister's house about 6:30. right at the start of their evening prayers. After we got our luggage to the room, Justin Jerry and Jerry and a guy named Jun Jun ( a whole other story) joined the Sisters for their evening prayer which ended about 7:30. Went back to our room, had some snacks, repacked the bags based on what stayed here at the orphanage and what was going to the mountains with us.
Sunday April 15 2012. Divine Mercy Sunday. we woke up around 7:00. No water for showers. Got dressed, went downstairs and held babies for a while. These are some of the cutest little babies on the planet and a good number of them will not live to see their 5th birthday. About 40 beds on the ground level and another forty or so downstairs. When you pick one up, regardless of age, they just seem to hang on like they don't want the moment to end. Their big white eyes (some not so white, yellowed with jaundice) are just alive with hope. Hope that maybe you are the one that is going to love them forever. Putting them down was way harder than picking them up.
Then Mother Superior informed us that Mass today would be at 10:00 on the grounds or a few of us could join a group going to Mass across town (could mean anything here in Port au Prince). Jerry W and I chose the road trip. There were 14 of us packed into that van for the one hour trip. Turns out it was an annual revival Mass. There had to be 15,000 people there. Travelling with the Sisters has its perks. We were escorted right up front under a shade tree about forty feet from the stage. The archbishop of Haiti Archbishop Guire Poulard said Mass accompanied by 17 priests and a great choir. The homily was over an hour long. Couldn't understand a word of it but the locals seemed quite moved, so I'm guessing it was a great homily.
The rest of our time with the Sisters consisted two adult food drives, a child's wellness food drive, a trip to the wound clinic, where we treat wounds the size of a baseball and some the size of a loaf of bread (yes 6" x 15") and then a trip to the terminally ill clinic where we all went to different departments. I was sent to the barber shop where I shaved faces and heads until our shift ended. No matter where we went, there were tent cities along the way. A few nice homes that looked like maybe they were built since the earthquake, but mostly tents. The food drives were quite inspiring. I watched people get in line two hours before the distribution, and this was to receive a coffee can full of rice. a coffee can full of black beans, a bottle of Mazola cooking oil and maybe a package of powdered milk. The last thirty or forty families got nothing but a promise of a better place in line next time. As I watched them laughing and singing while waiting in line for a meager gift, I thought of a typical Sunday in my house. Drive eight blocks to Mass in a $20,000.00 car followed by Breakfast at a local restaurant, then over to the grocery store for approx $120.00 worth of groceries and maybe a bottle of wine. Come home and watch a football game on a 42" flatscreen, cook steaks on the grill and maybe soak in the hot tub. Why is it the people getting the rice and beans exude more hope than I do?
We enjoyed morning Mass with the Sisters every day and a Benediction centered prayer service each night. They made sure we were following along in the Creole prayer book.
I have only been here three days, but I wonder what will happen to all these people. Some will die, some already have. Thousands of children will die before they reach their fifth birthday, Thousands of mothers and fathers will die before hearing their children speak their first words. And thousands more will lose limbs to infected wounds that could have been cured with simple first aid. I did not see any CNN or network news teams. I guess after the earthquake, they headed back to Atlanta or New York to cover the stock market, or other important new. Haiti just isn't news any more.
Thursday April 19th, After Mass, we began packing for our next trip, The mountains
It was about a three hour drive to the village of Despinass (sp?) where we stayed with Loll in a beautiful house that took 14 years to build, Not may tents up here, the air is cleaner and we could see all the way to Port au Prince from here. More on our mountain stay later.