A Parents’ Second Perspective of Haiti Written by John Mortier
Several weeks ago Cathy and I (Melissa’s parents) had an opportunity to revisit Haiti. We previously spent a week in this incredible country last Christmas. During our first trip we experienced only the city of Port au Prince, witnessing the effects of two million people living in a city built for 200,000. We saw people living in terrible conditions in a dirty, dusty, deteriorated city of which no person should be subject to live. We witnessed individuals who were strong-willed , determined, and tough living in conditions you and I would never endure. We returned from our trip last year with a new appreciation for the many luxuries we enjoy in the United States, realizing that our problems are few compared to the daily challenges of survival encountered by so many Haitians.
Upon our return we immediately planned a return trip to expand our experiences and to bring additional supplies and support to ease the burden placed on Melissa and Ryan, and the wonderful people to whom they are ministering. This trip, though, was totally different from our previous adventure. As Ryan and Melissa have learned the lay of the land and have become quite fluent in the Haitian language, we asked them to show us a different perspective of Haiti, allowing us to experience life outside of the city of Port au Prince.
Similar to Lewis and Clark, they took us to areas of Haiti where few foreigners have ever traveled. It was like stepping into a National Geographic magazine and experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and taste of the Haitian culture. We walked mountain pathways which lead to the tiny shacks occupied by families, viewed incredible hills and valleys colored with beautiful greenery, spoke to Haitians who shared their daily lives with us, and once again witnessed a culture of people who were strong and determined to survive. We were able to hand out dresses, designed by Cathy’s Bible Study group, to young girls we met as they walked long distances to and from school, and saw the joy they displayed from such a simple gift received from us. In addition, we enjoyed very tasty, breaded snacks sold from old, rusty, roadside stands and watched the locals playing dominoes at a local gathering area. Despite their poverty, every person we met was friendly, smiling, and welcoming as we talked with them throughout the gorgeous countryside.
We had two highlights on our mountaintop experience of which we will never forget. The first occurred as Melissa and I had ventured into the hills. We met a family of five who had welcomed us into their living area to experience life in the mountains of Haiti. They answered many questions we asked regarding their everyday lives, allowed us to view their cooking hut, and even attempted to sell us a chicken and a rabbit of which we declined. The view from their shacks was heavenly, with miles of rolling, green hills in every direction, it was truly a far cry from the subdivisions where many of us live back in the States. As we departed to continue on our hike and were several hundred yards up the steep mountainside, we stopped and I asked Melissa if I could give the family some money for their needs of which she agreed would be a good gesture. I barely reached into my pocket and suddenly we saw the mother running up the hill toward us in anticipation of the gift, she had a smile the size of the state of Texas. Upon giving her only $5.00 she started jumping up and down shouting “Merci” (thank you), and proceeded to run down the hill to her family, waving the money and voicing continued thanks. Upon her arrival back down to her home, the entire family began rejoicing over the gift, it was as if they had just won the lottery. Cathy and Ryan were one quarter mile away and could here the family proclaiming their thanks and joy. Do you believe it, all for $5.00?
Another highlight was when we met a ten year old boy on the hilly pathways. He asked us if he could give us a tour of the area (for money), sell to us some potatoes or a fresh bouquet of mint from the hills. We declined his offerings but continued to talk with him about life in the mountains. He was very polite and respectful and shared with us information about his schooling; he then gave us six potatoes and the fresh mint as a gift expecting nothing in return. It turned out he loved school but unfortunately his parents could no longer afford tuition; the young man was attempting to earn the $6.00 necessary to attend classes for a month. As our hearts fell to the ground, I reached into my wallet and gave him the money for tuition for one month. He repeatedly thanked us proclaiming that he would walk to school the following morning to pay the tuition; we then watched him run down the hill with excitement. When you compare that experience to purchasing a morning “latte”, quite frankly there is no comparison.
Our experiences on this trip provided us a view of Haiti which showed a country of beauty and hope. Their new president is making positive changes such as cleaning up the garbage on the streets, repairing the roads, rebuilding the State Capitol, tightening the adoption requirements, designing greenhouses, and promoting a tourism package. Like turning around the Titanic, it will take many years for these changes, but with much prayer, support, and continued commitment by many missionaries, the Haitian people may once again experience a life of joy and unlimited potential. Cathy and I thank Ryan and Melissa for allowing us to experience the fascinating country of Haiti. We pray for them and wish them safety as they complete the final months of their mission.
Dad & Mom