I am trying to reflect on my time in Haiti as I sit here in the Cap Haiten airport waiting for my flight. It is hard to believe that I was only here for 2 full days. It was a whirlwind of experiences. From having to navigate my way around several airports without any language to loosing bags, it was an adventure for sure. I learned how much I take cell phone service for granted.
I am trying to think of the best way to reflect on the trip. I guess I will start with what I learned and how Haiti impacted me
1. You get scared in ministry
My trip down was a scary experience to say the least. I am used to mission trips where there is a group leader and he/she has contacts on the ground and we all travel together. When we are together, we feel safe. But on this trip I had to travel alone from Florida to Cap Haitien, Haiti. Of course I made some silly American assumptions that when I flew into the capital city ( Port Au Prince) I would get my bag, find some food and sit down and wait for my next gate. Little did I know that I would have to take a taxi to a smaller airport to catch the local flight to Cap Haitien (about a 4 hour drive, or a 22 minute flight). So I found a way to get to the airport by pointing to the name of the airline on my phone. When I got there, I realized I had no water, no food, and was running on about 3 hours of sleep. Frankly, I was terrified. As I sat and waited, I prayed that God would comfort me and keep me safe. I had to be safe! I have a beautiful wife back home that I needed to get home to eventually. God reminded me to be “Strong and courageous,” and that he was with me. Just about that time, another group from America walked in. God knew I needed company. I was able to talk to them and learn a little more about Haiti since they had been here many times. It was nice to be able to talk to friends! I boarded the plane and began the last flight to complete my journey. The flight was a tiny plane that sat 18 people. It was bumpy, but it was fine. When I got to Cap Haitien I entered into my new reality. This was going to be my life for the next few days. My bag was lost. Whatever. I moved on. Thankfully, someone who knew English was nearby and helped me to understand how to get my bag. The next adventure was to figure out how to find the mysterious Haitian “Marc-Endy.” I walked out of the airport because I knew I would stick out. I was a very white person in a sea of Haitians. I looked around but saw no one who looked like the man on my phone. I was scared. But just when I had enough of a scare I hear, “Paul.” From the crowd. I see a man who looks similar, run up to him, compare his face to the photo and give him a giant hug! I was so glad to see him. God had prepared my path for me. I was safe.
2. Transportation is alway an eventful experience
I already shared my trip from Florida to Cap Haitien, but it is always interesting to see how people commute in other countries. From riding in the back of a pickup truck in the rain to the back of a motorcycle across the Haitian countryside, this trip spared no experiences from me. They drove like I expected; similar to the Philippines and Uganda with motorcycles and trucks turned into taxis. Bikes and good old fashioned walking were customary as well.
3. The fruit just tastes better
It’s just this simple. The fruit tastes better in tropical climates. Bananas, mango juice, oranges. They are all great.
4. God’s children are beautiful
We stayed on a compound that was built by a Catholic Church in 1977. We were in a small village outside of Cap Haitien where there is no running water, electricity, or any other common amenities. But the life here was beautiful. The children were amazing. They do not have much in material things, but what they lack there they make up for in smiles, in holding your hand, in giving you hugs, in sharing love. These children are not distracted, so they focus on love.
In an hour I will begin my journey back home to my family, but every time I travel, I know I leave a little of my family behind. I loved my time and Haiti and love the friends I met. Father, Marc-Endy, Sandra, Bencie, Snarley, and all the other staff at Our Lady of the Lake church will be in my prayers for many years to come. I am excited to see the videos that help Adarable raise awareness for the sewing project they are starting in Haiti. I will treasure the footage and photos for years to come as I remember back on my trip.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers while I was away. I would love to talk about the trip with anyone!
We landed safely last night in Florida. As we gathered as a team around a table to eat, our producer asked what we all wanted to be when we grew up. I gave a common response and we all went around the table sharing and laughing of what life would have been like if we would have pursued it. I said I might want to change mine, but I needed to think about it.
And now as I sit here on the plan ready to take off to Port Au Prince, I can’t help but think about that question. And I think my answer would be that I can’t think of a better calling than what I am doing over the next few days. My dream job would be to travel around the world with hundreds of nonprofits helping them capture their mission stories though film.
Here’s to mission capturing.
Well, it’s been a long while since I’ve updated the blog. To be honest, I have been busy with life and loving being done with my Masters program. But now, it’s time to pick up where I left off over 15 months ago.
I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to be used to help people around the world. So over the past year, I have looked for opportunities to go and serve the orphans and widows of the world. I have helped promote and support other close friends of mine in their efforts. I have continued to help local nonprofits in their effort to spread their message. I have joined with others in building communities around me.
But now it’s time for me to go.
This time: to the country of Haiti.
Specifically, I will be filming stories for an organization that has partnered with a design school in the US (http://www.omorecollege.edu/) and women in Haiti to provide sustainable employment through the work of making children’s clothing. You can read more about Adarable here: www.wearedar.org
I will only be in Haiti for a very short time: August 9 - August 13. I am not sure how much I will be able to post because of internet connection, temperamental power, and other logistics. But if you are interested I would encourage you to follow the journey here on the blog!
beads give hope to Uganda
This is the story of the widows and orphans in Kampala, Uganda at Africa Greater Life orphanage. Their business of hand-made jewelry made out of magazine scraps tells a powerful story of how you can bring hope to Africa.
Visit www.sweetsleep.org for more information on how to support these women and children.
the future for 4theORPHANS?
As I have been wrapping up the official thesis project process, many of the supporters of 4theORPHANS have been asking, “What is next?” At the beginning of this project, I had no idea of what the future would hold after the 2 international trips and stories I found along the way. But because of all the wonderful support and interaction through social media and the blog it only makes sense to find a successful future for 4theORPHANS. From its origins, the project has been centered around helping bring awareness and relief to orphans around the world. This focus will not change. However, what will change is how that focus is implemented. Below is an excerpt from my thesis document that will shed light on the future for 4theORPHANS:
From the beginning of this project, friends and family all asked a simple yet important question, “What is your plan for 4theORPHANS after your thesis is complete?” The question was first brought to my attention during the brainstorming session with the creative team in November 2011. As the trips and project unfolded, others asked what might result from the energy and passion that has been poured into the birth and early growth of the organization. My answer always remained the same: “To continue to bring awareness to the serious problems that orphans face around the world.” While the intensified focus on the creation and study of how to create an effective social media awareness campaign has passed, a real need to help those who are unable to help themselves still exists in our world. The two journeys I was a part of in the countries of Moldova and Uganda made this reality abundantly clear. I only visited a few cities in two countries. There are millions of other children in the thousands of cities around the world that still need a loving hand to reach out. So that will remain the focus of 4theORPHANS for 2012 and the future.
The first practical step will be through supporting Sweet Sleep and the future trips of 2012. I plan to work with the Sweet Sleep staff to help them in their efforts as they raise support, awareness, and create a social network dedicated to eradicating the problem of poor sleeping conditions for orphans. I hope to contribute to their efforts and help in their marketing and development. The stories told through the videos I captured and the images I shot will be important to making this a realistic goal.
Also, 4theORPHANS has sponsored its first official short-term missionary. One of the initial dreams that emerged during the creative brainstorming process was the idea of utilizing the 4theORPHANS social network in order to help other individuals on their paths towards supporting orphans. A friend and co-worker of mine Chris Bischoff will be traveling to Jacmel, Haiti, for the summer of 2012 in order to work with the Franklin, Tennessee based nonprofit, RestoreHaiti. I plan to spread the stories that Chris encounters during his time helping lead soccer camps with many of the orphans of Haiti.
Finally, I desire nothing more than to spread the awareness of how we all can participate in the enormous needs that exist in our world. I hope to help bring to light the injustices that exist both here in the United States as well as international problems present in every community. The 4theORPHANS community has grown centered around helping orphans and there is no reason to stop the mission simply because my masters degree is complete. I plan to share my story with anyone I encounter who wants to make a difference in the lives of others. I believe that our energy is many times wasted on pointless goals that lead to more problems than actually being a part of the solution. I pray that the story of this thesis, 4theORPHANS, and all of the experiences surrounding the project will inspire students, teachers, business leaders, and families that education can be about even more than facts and figures. Thank you for spending the time with me as I shared from my heart and experience about the journey of a thesis with a purpose.
"A successful thesis is one that is accepted."
The quote above is from one of my Belmont professors Dr. Timmy Tappan, and it couldn’t be more true! I am thrilled to announce to the 4theORPHANS family that my thesis has been accepted by my thesis committee. Yesterday afternoon I presented the project in the Center for Nonprofit Management’s multimedia room. It was a blessing to have all four of my thesis committee members present as well as my lovely wife. As I stood watching the stories from Moldova and Uganda, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with excitement knowing that I put my all into this project. And as the committee asked me what I had learned through the project, I found my mind racing to tell more stories about the amazing journey I just completed.
But it is not over. In the coming weeks I will be finalizing the thesis project and preparing it for the university’s process for final acceptance. Also, I will be completing the last assignments for my last class in educational research. But most importantly, 4theORPHANS is not over. While the official project has come to an end, a tremendous amount of work remains in serving the orphans of the world. Over the coming months, you will see what began as a project become a place where people can find out how they can help. I hope to bring awareness by using the small megaphone that this project has created.
Thank you to everyone who has made this project a success. To my friends, family, supporters, thesis committee members, editors, proof readers, and team members. I am grateful and humbled by your belief in the cause.
a smell in the air
People say there is a certain smell in the air. They also say that there is a feeling when you walk off the plane and see the sights of Africa for the first time. Well, they are right. As I shuffle through the video clips and think back on my experience in Gulu, I can’t help but remember the feeling I had when I first walked out on the ground at the airport in Entebbe. It was a foreign experience unlike anything I had ever witnessed. The people with their beautiful dark chocolate skin and beaming smiles were welcoming. The children would run up to you and quickly grab your hand and look into your eyes. The culture was simply amazing.
As I am settling back into the life here in Nashville I left for Africa, I am finding it more and more surreal to believe that two weeks ago I was in a tree with little children who I will probably never see again. We did not speak the same languages, nor had we grown up in any sort of similar environment, but it was humbling to know that God loved their dust-covered heads and He used me to bring a smile to their faces. It was sobering to know that people from completely different backgrounds and cultures could know and show love in many different ways, yet our human natures understood each other.