In reading my journal as I flew to Haiti I think two main things stand out. The first is my apprehension of the humility I expected God to dole out to me during my time in country. The second is my excitement for all of the new, unknown things that I was about to experience. Add to that the possibility of using my French and you have yourself a good combination of fear and anticipation.
Our trip was exceptionally smooth, especially considering we were a group of 15 internationals traveling through the madhouse that is Port au Prince’s international airport. In the midst of all that there is one confession I should probably make early on: we kidnapped a German.
Now I’d prefer we hold off on the pointing of fingers and accusing of anyone before I make the following statement: my dad and Brenda did it. They willfully took responsibility of all this in public so I’ve been absolved of any and all guilt. That said, here’s more or less what happened:
Silke (pronounced silky, like silky smooth) was a delightful German girl we met in the Miami airport. I plopped down to eat my sushi with Clay across from Brenda as we waited to board our plane. California rolls, pre-made, decent but over-priced (these insights important to the sushiphiles reading in case you’re wondering). This cute girl comes wandering over and winds up sitting next to me as I pester Brenda in German. I’m not sure why I was pestering Brenda, she was looking at me in an unusual manner or something; not that this is in itself unusual considering the nature of our relationship.
Either way I was annoying her in some vaguely intentional manner when the girl who had sat next to me asked in a surprised tone if I spoke German. I bashfully stated that “mein Französisch ist viel besser als mein Deutsch.” This, however, spun into a conversation wherein we learned that she was going to the same place we were: Mission of Hope, just outside of Port au Prince.
Silke, much like many of the women with us, was a nurse. Unlike our ladies, however, she was interning for 3 months at Mission of Hope. The great relief to her, however, was meeting a bunch of [attractive] young people in the airport with whom she could connect on her way to Haiti. Up until this point she had been traveling by herself, bravely all the way from Germany.
When we got off the plane in Port au Prince we filed into the corral style customs line and worked our way slowly towards freedom. In this process we met a man named Claudel, who turned out to be the worship pastor for MoH Haiti. He said he was supposed to escort a group of 16 of us, to which my dad replied that there were only 15 and that the 16th was coming the following day.
Here’s where I’m absolved of guilt. Brenda spoke up at overhearing this bit and let them know that there was a German girl who was also heading to Mission of Hope and that we shouldn’t leave her behind. She must be the 16th traveler since MoH knew Stefan was coming later. So we found Silke outside the customs line and invited her to ride with us in our big yellow (albeit slightly broken) school bus.
After about 20 minutes or so of work to get it running again we were on our way to Mission of Hope, Haiti. The ride was educational as we made our way past the open markets and tent cities, but also beautiful as the sun set over the distant landscapes leaving Port au Prince. We passed a mass grave (estimated at between 150k-200k people), the leavings of the earthquake, and one of the largest tent cities in the country aptly named Obamaville 3.
That night was great, getting to meet our hosts and filing into the hoop barn for the first time. Granted our hosts were surprised to discover they had a new intern coming in for 3 months, but they rolled with it and found her sheets and a bed. As for our new home, it was far better than expected; we even had a delicious Haitian meal to kick things off. Considering we expected to live in tents and eat rice and beans exclusively for two weeks, our digs were ritz.
The following morning, before devotionals could kick into full swing, Lindsay and Leeann had some bad news. They approached Silke and let her know that she was at the wrong Mission of Hope, which came as a surprise to everyone since none of us were aware that there was another Mission of Hope around. That morning they had been asking the US office where this German intern had come from (Germany not intended) and why they hadn’t been informed ahead of time. Mid-conversation (via gtalk) the US office received a call from this other Mission of Hope who were wondering if their misplaced German intern had popped up somewhere nearby.
It turns out there were people at the airport to pick her up who had seen her, thought she looked like the girl in their picture, and then dismissed her out of hand because she looked like a happy member of a group of [attractive] young people. This led to a search involving the police and airport officials which, obviously, resulted in nothing. After a quick call to the parents, the gist of which was something like “hey, your daughter showed up and cleared customs but we can’t find her” they must have Googled around for potential hiding spots.
Poor Silke was in tears, the stress of reaching her final destination only to be told she couldn’t stay was unbearable after so much travel. We prayed for her, feeling slightly responsible for her plight (but knowing it was really Brenda and my dad’s fault all along) and sent her off with a driver to her new home. We really hope she’s doing alright and might need to do some hunting to find her and make sure.
All that to say, don’t befriend people while traveling or you might find yourself on the wrong (or right I guess) end of a kidnapping. Haiti was off to an eventful start.