Friday, 10 July 2015

Update: My First eMi Trip

I very clearly remember my last visit to a Humpty's restaurant.

That may sound like an odd way to begin a blog post, but stick with me...

Just over four years ago, I sat down for lunch with (my now-co-worker) Kevin at a Humpty's to learn more about Engineering Ministries International.  I was interested in working for eMi, but still didn't know exactly what eMi did.

Kevin told me that, first-things-first, I should join an eMi project team and experience a project trip myself.  As it happened, Kevin was leading one a month later to Haiti and needed someone to survey just over 4 acres of land for an orphanage in the town of Mirebalais.  The day after our Humpty’s meeting, I committed to joining the team.

I had previously been on two trips to Mexico with our church, so I wasn’t particularly nervous.  I probably even thought of myself as a “seasoned veteran” of missions trips.  However, the difference in culture and poverty between Tijuana and Port-au-Prince became obvious in the first post-airport minute in Haiti. 

 We saw mounds of rubble – reminders of the previous year’s devastating earthquake – still littering the streets and alleys.  “Temporary” tent cities for the displaced were obviously becoming more and more permanent.  As we drove past a market, a young child approached our van’s window to beg for money.  Shortly after, we passed a mentally ill man wandering naked through the streets.  A woman trying to sell a small bundle of vegetables used the dirt-road gutter to relieve herself.  All of this within walking distance of the airport.

Despite being less than 60km away, the drive to Mirebalais took well over two hours.  Traffic in the city felt like a stampede in slow motion, and the highway to Mirebalais was in poor repair even though it was described by some of the locals as the best highway in the country.  3 hours into the trip, our team seemed to unanimously agree to having experienced a “dark feeling” of spiritual warfare in the country.

We witnessed many other signs of extreme poverty during our visit – locals bathing and washing clothes and dishes in a river known to be the source of the recent local Cholera outbreak, a subsequently overrun Cholera treatment centre, an under-equipped hospital with signs specifically prohibiting firearms and a church building that was simply wood posts, tin roofing and tarp walls.

As we were leaving Mirebalais 10 days later, I no longer felt the same “dark feeling”.  Our team had spent the week witnessing the faith, hope and love that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians through our ministry partner – Haiti Children’s Home (and their associated Canadian non-profit Haiti Children’s Aid Society).

We saw the tragic result of malnourishment in the mental disabilities of some of the orphans contrasted with the care and love they were being given – not only by the staff and leaders, but by their fellow orphans (and family members).  We saw the caretakers (now mothers) raising potential future leaders and developers to have hearts filled with Jesus’ love. 

Sadly, they had to do this in temporary housing.  Due to earthquake damage to their building, the orphanage had moved the girls into the garage and the boys into temporary plywood shacks.  They had purchased new land just outside of town to re-establish their homes.  Our team was tasked with providing a safe, effective design for their new facilities.

Last week, I was scrolling through Facebook when the HCAS logo caught my eye.  Four years, and a few master plan revisions later, I was especially excited to see their latest update – the kids have moved in to their new homes!  The new orphanage complex is designed to allow the children to grow up in more normal “family” units.  Instead of one big building for all the kids (like their previous campus), each child lives with a few other kids, a mother and a father.  This creates a community feel to the orphanage, rather than an institutional feel.  This has been shown in the past to improve the children’s development and social skills, as well as aid in transition for those who are adopted.

Being my first eMi project, this is special for me to see.  I’m so thankful to those who supported me to allow me to join that project trip, as well as those who have continued to support me as – four years later – I get to work for eMi as a full-time staff member.

I’ve been on multiple trips since this one and they’ve all been amazing.  This one, however, will always be extra special to me. 

I’m looking forward to hearing more stories about how HCH is changing the lives of children in Haiti.  I’m looking forward to seeing more and more ministries I’ve gotten to personally work with completing construction and making more and more of a difference.  Finally, I’m excited to get to continue to be part of building the kingdom with eMi.

Thanks for reading!