Monday, January 6, 2014

My First Trip to Haiti

I couldn't sleep last night. Just couldn't. In less than 24 hours I would be in the country Avery held so dear to her heart. Haiti. Avery's country.

I would be travelling with multiple people who knew Avery, who loved Avery, who went to school with Avery, whose kids went to school with Avery, who never knew about Avery but heard about her after her death.

I was 100% certain this trip was called by God, planned by God, sanctioned by God; there was something BIG on the horizon and I was going to do everything I could to run towards it and grab it with willing hands!
Sleep? Forget about it.

Instead, Matt slept while I busied myself with scheduling social media posts. Even in my absence from technology, I would make sure that people were reminded of our mission trip, that they would not forget the amazing work being done by Children's World Impact, that people would be reminded of the need to continue to help the people of Haiti.

Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013


Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013
 
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013
 
Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013

Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013


Photo Credit: Children's World Impact, 2013


I was beyond ready.

And, so, I shook Matt from his sleep at quarter after one in the morning. He wiped the sleep from his eyes, pulled on a pair of jeans and started the car. The temperatures were brutal. Negative forty, fifty degrees - I even heard on the news someone estimated it got to -70 degrees. It was ridiculous. But we threw my backpacks into the trunk and drove towards the church we were meeting at.

It was eerily quiet on those small city streets. Matt concentrated on driving; I on praying. "Lord, you know what you have called me to do; let me welcome it with open arms. Let me be willing to do whatever you ask, go wherever you call."

28 of us gathered, quickly threw bags of supplies into a freezing trailer and climbed into waiting vans, eager to start the first leg of the journey.

That first step tested me quickly. I was tired, without sleep - that I can handle. Cold? Cold I'm not so good with. The heater was broken in our van. For two hours I shivered. My toes turned to ice, my fingers numb. Ice formed on the inside of the windows. I wanted out. I hated this stupid van with its nonexistent heat. I was convinced my ears would become frostbit and would fall off.

But none of that happened. Instead, we pulled in front of the airport and began lugging in sixty large bags of supplies, along with the two carry-on's 28 people were allowed. (Did you do the math? That's a lot of baggage!) *we would quickly learn three bags did not make it; they were left behind at the church.

We waited patiently through check-in, emptied our pockets through security, Starbucks'd it through the waiting area, and handed our boarding passes to the lady at the gate. She told us to make sure our coats were on; the airwalk to the plane was really, really cold. And long.

She was right. I could see my breath.

The Midwest is used to cold. Chicago is no wimp when it comes to winters. We do winters. This, though. This brutal cold was something altogether different. This was something we don't see often.

Once cozied on the plane we all relaxed. It was cozy. It was warm. The freezing temperatures were behind us. We had nothing but sunshine and happiness to look forward to!

Our plane was about half full. Lots of room. Lots of overhead compartment space. Perfect for an early morning flight. After we had been sitting there a tad too long, the pilot came over the loudspeaker. Our pilot. We had actually met him earlier in the airport Starbucks. I was waiting for my chai tea latte when I heard a voice proclaim, "I am a Christian, too." That's not something you hear everyday so it tends to carry across the airwaves and perk people's interests. It was our pilot, talking to a couple members from our team. He was so proud and excited to be flying us into Florida and then on to Haiti.

I smiled. Look at God work! He made it so we would meet our pilot; our Christian pilot. I loved this trip already.

Anyway, so there we were, waiting for the plane to depart, when our pilot announced that we were in the process of refueling and it was taking a bit, so sit back and relax. Once they figured out what was going on it would take about ten minutes to fuel the plane.

I looked out my window and watched the most beautiful sunrise. The brightest orange I ever saw! And to the right of the plane's wing, a sun dog: a bright prism of light revealing itself as a rainbow. How many of these did I see after Avery's death? An orange sunrise and a sun dog, God is good!

After more waiting the pilot announced that we were, in fact, the last flight to leave for Florida. They were cancelling upcoming flights. Because of this we would be sharing our ample room on the flight with others. He asked that we all move to our originally assigned seats. The overhead compartments were being rearranged to provide more room.

We waited, but no one came on our flight. An hour after we were scheduled to take off came this announcement, "This flight has been cancelled. Please collect your belongings and exit the aircraft."

I assumed we had been bumped, but I was mistaken. O'Hare airport was grounding everything. I would hear later on the news that thousands of flights were cancelled today. It wasn't just us sitting in airport chairs wondering what to do next.

Logistically speaking, getting 28 people to travel together on one flight takes some serious coordination. As a team we couldn't "trickle in" and attempt to somehow join up after a mish-mash of flights and connecting cities, hoping that we'd find each other. Most of us were not carrying cell phones, which added another layer of things to consider. Besides, the trouble with the flight was due to the effect the extreme cold weather was having on the fueling operations, and that wasn't likely to fix itself as long as the weather was so brutal. The best case scenario wasn't that great and wouldn't even be possible until Wednesday.

After waiting several hours, praying, speculating, and more waiting, the decision was made: This medical mission trip to Haiti was being cancelled.

What?! I felt like the girl who gets all dressed up for prom and her date doesn't show up.

I felt disappointed. Confused. Angry. And, somehow, embarrassed. Like, I had told all these people I was going. I joked about the weather. I scheduled Facebook posts and Twitter updates. I had people praying and supporting me and - what? I go home and watch TV? Pretend like I'm okay sitting at home when I really, really, really want to be at prom?

Why would God call all these people to make plans, take time off of work, pack bags, hope, pray, want, expect - only to have us all collect our bags and go home? Why would God call us out on the most brutal Arctic-freezing cold day of our lives just to board the plane and walk off again?

And then it hit me: God called me to go on this trip. All he wanted was an answer. He didn't say, "if you say yes, it'll be this fabulous time and you'll just love it!" He didn't say, "if you hem and haw and act all unsure, well, then, I don't know if things will all go according to your plans." He simply said, "I'd like you to go to Haiti."

I answered His call. I said yes. A very excited yes!

That doesn't mean we'd be going when we said we'd go, on the flight we said we'd go on. Oh, no. This is God's trip and He's in complete control of the itinerary.

Hours and hours later, after a day spent in an airport, we all returned home to the church we had met at less than 24 hours before. It was there I heard a man proclaim, "I heard the flights were cancelled and that you guys wouldn't be going on your trip and I just said, 'Thank you, Lord, for protecting them for whatever it was they were about to walk into!'"

Thank you. His first reaction was to thank God for stopping this trip. While I sat disappointed and confused and anxious and well, just plain sorry for myself, this man was hi-fiving Jesus for keeping us safe.

I have so much to learn.

We will be meeting tomorrow night to discuss coordinating a second try. (Possibly late February, March or April. We need to see when the doctors are available!)


"Lean on,
trust in,
 and be confident
in the Lord
with all your heart
and mind
and do not rely on
your own insight or understanding.
In all your ways know,
recognize,
and acknowledge Him,
and He will direct
and make straight
and plain your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6