It is hard to believe that Mark's trip to Haiti is here and gone. I think we always know things will come and go faster than we can imagine but when it does it is still a bit mind boggling. I am going to try to put words to Mark's experiences with him for you. I'm not sure he even knows where to begin with it all.
To say that this trip was life changing would be a gross understatement. At the first mention of a possible trip last spring, our pastor thought Mark should go. Being well employed with a demanding job, this was not even a blip on his radar. But when you don't have a job to prevent you from doing things you wouldn't normally do... I guess you could say "the sky is the limit!" God saw fit to allow Mark to be unemployed to make this decision a little bit easier. He still felt that the timing wasn't right to be going on the trip when he didn't have a job to pay for it. I said one thing that I think he may have listened to. "You don't ever go or not go on a mission trip based on your finances. You pray about it and let God decide. If He wants you to go, the funds won't be an issue." And God was faithful to provide abundantly what was needed for this trip, for the whole team.
As the preparations began to take a more physical form; shots, supplies, donated items, I think the reality of it all began to sink in. He was going to Haiti. With this firmly in his mind, he moved forward with eagerness and determination. He actively participated in fund raisers, got all the things he would need ready, only to be met with the first and only real road block. In early to mid December, as you may remember, commercial airlines were unable to land in Haiti due to political and civil unrest among the people. This really dampened Mark's spirit. After hours of prayer at home, at the church with the elders, and with the other team members, and with the ban on the airlines lifted we made a decision as a church, as a family, and as a team to go forward. We had been given a word of prophesy that God would create a window of time for our team to safely go in, hold their clinics, help in the orphanage, and get back out. He did just that.
I mention this background to just give you a little insight into his heart before leaving. It wasn't for the people of Haiti so much as it was a heart of obedience.
Something changed that! Dramatically! After spending 10 days in this dark and broken country, Mark's heart has forever been changed. This began the moment they landed in Haiti and got off the plane.
The air holds a fowl stench. Odors of burning plastic, rotten garbage, raw sewage, and death permeate the air confirming that you are no longer in the US. Validating this assault on your sense of smell are the sights you take in. Now your eyes have been accosted by this atrocity. Mounds of rubble containing concrete from buildings, folded re-bar, and trash are the common landscape of this country, broken up only by the vast expanse of tent villages. These blue and white seas of make-shift homes are everywhere and they are truly massive. Hundreds and thousands of families are still housed in these tarp communities. Not exactly living the good life, is it?
Eager Haitians surround you, hoping to be of some assistance with your luggage, expecting a tip of some kind in return. Fortunately, they had been warned of this and arrangements had been made for them to be picked up. This may have been the first time Mark ever felt glad to pay a tax to the Department of Transportation for road maintenance and repair. Driving in Haiti is an adventure all on its own. With no laws to govern the roads, no lines to designate lanes, and horns to announce a merge, you put your life into the hands of your driver the second you get into their vehicle. I assure you this was no yellow brick rode that they followed either, rather a road of poverty and despair. Judy Garland said it best in "the Wizard of Oz" "We aren't in Kansas anymore Toto."
In addition to the things previously mentioned, there were streams of water flowing through the town, full of debris and garbage. Another common occurrence was people relieving themselves where ever and when ever that urge should arise. Broken down vehicles were not towed and repaired. They were left where they died and anything of value was stripped from them. Street vendors hawking their wares lined the streets. And everything was covered in dirt.
And so begins his journey.