So much has been happening in the past month, I have not had the time to be able to fully capture the moments. But this weekend was incredible and it would be unjust for me to not share the experience with you all. (If you want to see the photos for this post, please click here: http://www.haitiarise.org/hear-our-heart-blog/
Here is the slideshow of photos from our trip:
We went on a mountain mission trip, we being an awesome team of our Haitian church members and leaders from Legliz Mahanaim as well as Erica, who's here with us from Canada for two months. It was quite the journey and a blast.
Since early April, we had been planning to go visit our sister affiliate church, Legliz Mahanaim DuFour led by Pastor Edmond, which is located high up into the mountains above Grand-Goave. To get there is a long journey across the mountains on motorbike, then by foot or by donkey. The rainy season makes the route even more treacherous with mud and slippery rocks. So when we met earlier in the week, we told Pastor Edmond that if it rained, we don't think we could make the trip. He looked worried and disappointed and hopeful at at once, reassuring us that God would hold back the rains so we could make the trip. Marc and I both determined that no matter what, we were going to make the trip with as many would come with us. We made the appointment for everyone to meet at 6am, rain or shine.
6:00am came, we eagerly headed to the church, although it had rained lightly in the night. No one showed up. We started making phone calls and by 7am all 15 but one of the team showed up. We prayed and with much joy and courage, we started on our journey.
8:00am The first leg was the shortest- Anel drove us in the Kia van to Petit Goave. As we were heading out of town, our last team member showed up. She almost got left behind! There was also another short delay at a police roadblock just out of town. Our team consisted of: Marc, Lisa & Leah, as the leaders, Stevens, Ronald, Joassin, Vayola, Louisna & Johanne, a core of our worship team, Luciana & Yolette, sisters and kitchen staff, Canje, our mountain guide and resident evangelist, and church sisters Jule & Manicia, and Erica of course.
We arrived in Petit Goave and Canje, who grew up in the mountains and knows the road well, had made arrangements for motorbikes taxis to take us up as far as they could go with drivers who were experienced with the road. But a revolt broke out as other drivers were upset they were not hired. One tried to demand that each motorbike only take one passenger when they could take two, cause they wanted to force us to pay more drivers. We all hopped on our rides and broke away.
9:00am we started up the road, when the drivers that were mad for not being hired whipped on ahead of us and tried to block the road so we couldn't pass. After lots more lively discussion and arm throwing and a truck also trying to get past, the blockade was broken. But further ahead again, they raced to set up another blockade, this time with large rocks in their hands and threatening to stone us, like that is really going to convince us to put confidence in them to be our drivers! The Spirit of God was definitely with us though as none of us feared and finally we just pushed through. Canje threatened that he would report them to the police since he knew all their names and they gave up, throwing their rocks to the ground.
Our whole team realized right away that God wanted us to go on this trip, cause the enemy was really trying to thwart our plans.
This second part of the trip on motorbikes took about an hour and a half, up steep, rocky dirt roads that were slippery with mud and water. Marc had decided to drive his own motorbike for the experience of it and he was doing really well, til another motorbike was riding on his tail and pressuring him to go faster. He hit a slippery turn and dip at the same time and wiped out. Thankfully, he was not hurt badly and his bike just got a broken mirror. But he decided to let Ronald drive the rest of the way and he rode as passenger. There were some parts of the drive that were through riverbeds and then up very steep, rocky slopes.
10:30am we came to the point where the drivers would turn around and we had to continue the journey on foot. This was at the peak of the first mountain behind Petit Goave. We still had four mountains to cross over on foot to get to DuFour.
With the weather being very cool and cloudy, we all prayed earnestly that the rain would be held back. The air was thick with a cloud of mist that we walked through, some places so thick we couldn't see those walking 20 feet in front of us. The soil was deep orange with clay and fertile with all kinds of crops growing. Really, the mountains are the heart of Haiti, where the sources of food come from. The mountain people work so hard with the land and most of them make the trip twice a week to bring agriculture produce down to the markets in town. It is strikingly beautiful. We met many friendly, helpful folks along the way that would help us find paths of least resistence through the muddy, slippery rocks.
As we reached a little further on about an hour in, some of the church members from DuFour had actually come down to meet us with five mules to help carry our bags and those who couldn't handle the walk. This was a good thing, cause Marc's knee had started to swell from his fall on the motorbike. Lousina, Johanne and Sr. Jules also took one. One man with a mule remained with me, eager to give me a lift as soon as I would allow him to, but I felt much more secure with my feet on the ground, slippery as it was. He was persistent in coaxing me to ride, so I mounted, but the mule was a bit stubborn and his feet seemed to be weak in the mud. He slipped and fell, rolling me onto the muddy ground. I wasn't hurt, but not too convinced I was safer on the mule, so I walked mostly. When my legs got tired or the way got super muddy, he would again encourage me to ride. Our team was having a great time though, enjoying each others company and the beauty. For many of them, it was their first time on a trip into the mountains like this. It was neat to see a mission trip from their perspective, although it was still in Haiti, to them it was like another country. Erica was a real trooper with not a peep of complaints. She even carried her own bag the whole trip.
Half way in, we reached a point where we thought we'd made it, but Canje was just showing us where his house was and there was a church there. He still spends a lot of time in the mountains, although he now lives in Grand-Goave. At that point, the landscape really changed too. Not only was it slippery, we were passing through very narrow paths with sharp volcanic looking rock on eaither sides of us. And after another hour again, the landscape changed again to even narrower paths on the sides of the mountains. We were literally walking on crests of the mountains, with steep slopes reaching up on one side and straight down on the other. I had to keep my eyes on each step and not look down or my head would spin. Lucianna had a hard time starting about half way in, feeling she just couldn't go anymore. We stopped a few times to rest, drink and eat some bread and nuts. Although we were all tired, we were all still smiling!
2:30pm a group of young ladies from the church came to meet us, as the last hour of the trip seemed to be the hardest. All of our legs were like Jell-o and the path was almost straight up the mountainside. I actually felt like I was rock climbing instead of hiking. We reached the village of DuFour where there is a beautiful health clinic and Catholic school. I couldn't help wonder how in the world these people built these concrete buildings way up here!
3:30pm we finally arrived! After 7.5 hours of travel, five of those walking, we were glad to be in DuFour! Those that had been on mules and been fast walkers had made it half an hour before us. We all plopped onto chairs that were readily available for us weary travelers as the church folks were already hard at work making us food and promptly served us bread and coffee or hot cocoa. It was delicious! They stripped our feet of our dirty runners and socks and swept them away to be cleaned for us. The people were so hospitable; they prepared buckets of water for us all to bathe, offered us mattresses and beds to rest on and prepared a savory soup with dumplings, goat, carrots and potatoes. We had a few hours to bathe, rest, eat which were all very welcome, before we prepared for the evening service.
6:00pm the church service started. The worship team was a band of men with drums, tamborines and a long metal tube that likes a cheese grater that they scrape with a stick to create rythms. They have a small generator to run 3 lightbulbs and the little church was packed with maybe 100 people. We had a rockin' time! Our team all shared testimonies and songs and I shared a word out of Matthew 5:1-12 about the Beattitudes. Service went til 10pm.
10:30pm we all gladly collapsed into our beds. Pastor Edmond gave us his two-room house to sleep, one room full of mattresses on the floor for the ladies, and the bedroom with two beds and mattresses on the floor, a bed for Marc and I and the rest of the spots for the guys. I fell to sleep fast and woke once to go to the bathroom, which is an outhouse about 15 feet from the house. I think it was midnight by then and I could still here Pastor Edmond and his wife and others talking in the yard.
5:30am we all woke to Lucianna's gentle singing a song about waking up. Then we spent a half hour in prayer and each slowly rolled out of bed. I was first to bathe as I wanted to stretch my sore body and wash my crusty eyes! I actually don't think the church people slept much, cause again they were up early preparing breakfast for us. We had a traditional bitter tea, which is made with local herbs tasting like dandelions, and salt. Yuck! It was fun to watch Erica's face as we told her she had to drink it before she could have bread and very swet coffee with milk.
8:00am church started with Sunday School. I must mention here that Legliz Mahanaim DuFour is a church that we have adopted and become their mother church. Pastor Edmond planted the church in 2004 and was independent, but aware that he needed an afilliation and covering. After many visits, pastors conferences and building relationship with us, we accepted their church to come under our covering and name. So we are seeking to accompany them to help reach their community and build up the church. We had a powerful time, again, in worship. Stevens led worship, then Pastor Edmond led more worship, then our team sang and gave more testimonies. Amazingly, there were groups of visitors from two other churches also in the mountains that showed up so the little church was even more packed. All the songs, testomonies and scriptures shared flowed in one vein. It was so much fun and so powerful.
12:00pm church got out and we had a short meeting with the leadership team, which was encouraging as they shared their vision for the community and how they hope we can assist them. Our whole team concluded that this is a trip that we need to make as a church missions project at least twice a year, July and January when there is no rain and we are looking at ways we can build tighter relationship with the church. They have many youth and children that have to come down to Grand-Goave for schooling, so most of them attend our church while they are here. Many of the young people were going to accompany us back down the mountain as they were on their way back to school this week.
We had lunch and then got our bags packed up and ready to head back on our journey.
2:45pm We decided to take a different route down the mountain that would be shorter, but steeper and more direct, although it still crosses over three mountains. But since there was no more rain, it was dry and easier to cross. Most of it was right along the ridge edges of the mountains, some places barren red rock. It only took 3 hours on the way back. Marc, Johanne and I rode mules most of the way. I had a good mule this time that worked very heard and steady following the other two. By the end of the second hour though, I had to get down and give my butt a rest by walking! The day was beautifully perfect, with a pleasant cool breeze.
6:00pm we arrived at the motorbike station and waited for the rest of the team that had been on foot. The motorbikes all arrived and were down the mountain and into the church yard by 7:30pm. We were like a train of bees honking through the town, three people on each motorbike.
It was a thrilling experience and wonderful time of bonding with our church team. I think Erica just about speaks Croele now and has made some good friends. All of us have sore bodies, but rejoiced that we all made the trip safely. Marc is laid out resting. He pretty much shot his voice preaching Sat and Sunday and his knee was still sore. I'm looking forward to the next trip! In that last picture, the farthest mountain behind us is the one we are at the top of!