This post comes to us from WFPK’s Mark Bacon. For more on his trip, visit his website.

I’m back in the States. And it seems surreal. The trip was one of the most rewarding I have ever taken. The contrast between the haves of the U.S. and the have-nots of Haiti is obvious. What may not be is the attitude. Here, one hears so much griping and complaining about “stuff.” We have so much, and instead of making us happy, it seems to make us insecure. How to keep it? And at what price? Seems at any cost, mostly. Our pledge and currency state “In God We Trust,” but it’s the stuff we love. Haiti? Faith is all people seem to have and hold. At times, it gets absurd: Jesus Loves You Restaurant and Bar caught my eye one day. And tap-taps have many references to Christ and scripture. But they are happier in many ways. Hearing them sing at church literally raises the hair on the back of your neck, and lifts the foundation off the ground.

These memories flooded my consciousness on the trip home. Plus, hot water on plane? When I went without for almost a week. Not to mention power, and no mosquitoes or rats to worry about. Debarked at National to a lonely reception. Read none. My girlfriend was taking off for Chicago the next day, and another friend who said they’d meet me, didn’t. So much for a heroes welcome. Heroes are hard to find? I took Metro to my friends’ home, and folks were eyeballing me. Or maybe smelled me. I was ripe. Looked kinda rough, too. A hot shower was my parade. And it was great.

To recapitulate the events, I start at the beginning:

The trip from the airport in Haiti with the soundtrack of incessant sound of the car horns on the street—Haitian stop lights. Mangoes falling on our roof during the night.

Loading 90 – 50 lb. boxes of ready made meals that were packaged at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Springfield, VA, by “Stop Hunger Now.” Dividing our group into teams for the purposes of preparing care packages for each of the students. Working conditions akin to a sauna. Frequent water breaks.

A trip to the metal workers village where we spent about an hour shopping. Some came away with some great pieces of art. Walking around the area and looking at how people live was eye-opening; cook, sleep, work, wash, etc., all in the same room.

The weather being hot and humid is an understatement. Sweating like never before. Nights: hot, no air movement, and little sleep, if any.

The Village of Hope School and a church service. The children sing like I have never heard. Beautiful, soulful. After church we drove to a historic sugarcane plantation where there is now a restaurant. Then, Odney Jean, the driver, took us the to the areas more heavily damaged by the earthquake. Eye-opening. Sorrow and joy mixed on the teeming streets.

The daily challenge of extremely hot and humid days. Starting another day at The Village of Hope School, distributing care packages to all the classes—about 640 packages. Experienced eating in the school’s lunchroom and a typical Haitian meal of beans and rice with fish sauce. For many of these kids, this may be the only meal they eat all day. The day ended with a parade in honor of flag day. The day continued with an emotional experience visiting the Little Children of Jesus Home for the Disabled at their new facility. All of these kids have profound physical and/or mental disabilities, but they are full of love and joy.

Final day trip to paint at The Village of Hope, and a visit to a girl’s orphanage where the church collapsed in January from the quake, and a new sanctuary was being built. Haitian construction: mixing concrete by hand, 5/8″ or less riebar rods. Hot. Exhausting. Evening debriefing. No sleep. A final drive to the airport past large refugee camps and then, the surreal part.

Home. In God We Trust. Really? Not stuff?

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