Mission: Expect The Unexpected
God sometimes uses our giving, service and love to create results we did not expect, for those we help, and ourselves. Martyn Evans traveled to Haiti to help recovery efforts just days after a Hurricane Matthew devastated the island in October. After growing up in a missionary family in Africa, Martyn felt prepared. But what he experienced, and brought home in his heart, was completely unexpected.
Two truths strike me after going to Haiti. First, a poster in my sister’s bedroom in Zambia said, “There is no I in team.” My entire experience with the Give Hope Global relief team confirmed that. I was one member of a 19 person team, each of us playing a role in a much larger effort.
Second, as a professor of mine, Dr. Mark Mitchell, wrote in his book The Politics of Gratitude, teamwork invariably results in gratitude. He was right. I am incredibly grateful that my company allows employees to take a week off for community service, and that my supervisors and coworkers changed our schedules and responsibilities to ensure everything was taken care of in my absence. Most importantly, I am grateful that Give Hope leaders, like Roger, Angela, Rob and Angie, allowed me to join the mission at the last minute.
Upon landing in Port-au-Prince, my gratitude was coupled with a sense of privilege. Hunched down in my seat and peering out of the little Boeing 737 window, I saw US Army Blackhawk helicopters, Marine Corps CH-53s, a Samaritans Purse cargo plane and other large transport planes all standing by, as a UN/World Food Program convoy slowly emerged out of a US military hanger. They were all there because of the vast devastation of Hurricane Matthew, the dire needs of the Haitian people, and the invitation of the Haitian government— and we were joining their efforts. I felt incredibly privileged to be just a miniscule part of it all.
We then flew in a little plane to Les Cayes, where we would be operating. As we descended from the clouds, it looked as though a child, playing with toy houses, had picked up entire roofs and tossed them into fields nearby. People’s personal belongings were also scattered in those fields, blown out of their homes by 140+ mph winds.
We immediately got to work at the Cambry Orphanage. Our group was half medical personnel, and half construction team, nicknamed “the chain saw gang” because tree removal preceded almost any repair work. While the medical team sorted through their supplies, the chain saw gang prepped their saws and assembled our water purification system.
The next four days went by blindingly fast, and yet somehow very slowly. In the tropical heat, each task seemed to take an eternity, but the conclusion of the day also seemed to spring upon us. We chopped up numerous fallen trees, cleared brush, and removed trees that had fallen on latrines, an outdoor bakery and a clinic. We fixed roofs and built a rainwater collection system. We built simple water filters out of buckets. Our medical team did physicals and surgeries on more than 450 people. We purchased thousands of sheets of tin for a local church, and a large generator to provide power.
Our work in Les Cayes looked much like the horizon. Gone was the foliage that created the gentle, smooth line where heaven meets earth. Instead, the fearsome storms had stripped the trees bare, leaving the horizon jagged and haphazard, rudely reminding us of the destruction we had done so little to repair.
On the night before our departure, it began to rain and never stopped, drenching the already-flooded countryside with another foot of water in only 10 hours. More storms were coming. Our diesel fuel would soon run out, and with it our drinking water, since we had to run generators to purify it for drinking. Nearby bridges, the only escape route to the airport, could soon be washed out. The bottom line: we quickly realized were in real danger of being stranded, and suddenly found ourselves throwing everything on a bus and rushing back to Port-au-Prince.
A nearby medical team was not so lucky. They were 45 minutes behind us. A mudslide blocked their way. One of the bridges we passed over soon washed away. Les Cayes was cut off. We left knowing that those we’d spent the last week with faced far more challenges and hardships than we could imagine.
I must confess that I celebrated my return to the United States with a Steak n’ Shake double cheeseburger, two orders of French fries and a chocolate-chip-cookie-dough milk shake, but for some reason, I still felt hungry. I was far too overjoyed when a friend picked me up at the airport. I felt a strange contradiction of sadness, damage, euphoria, and the joy of friendship… excitement, reunion, struggle, success, setbacks, relief and exhaustion… all of which are real life… full life… truly human life.
To those that prayed for us: thank you for lifting us up before our Father. Fate or chance isn’t powerful enough to have been as beneficent as He was and is. To those that gave to offset our expenses: thank you for your generosity and sacrifice. Finally, thanks be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whom we live, and move and have our being.
Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti, and to give to the recovery effort, which is far short of what’s needed. If you would like more details about our work or would like to donate, please visit the Give Hope Global Facebook page, or the website, givehopeglobal.org.
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