Have you ever had that day that nothing seems to go right? You know…that day that you think you would have been better off just staying in bed. I want to tell you about a day I had like that last week…
Robbin, Jenny, and I fly into Port au Prince and just like any other time we are full of excitement about our plans for the week. We walk out of the airport and are greeted by our friend Jean Mary with his infectious smile that guarantees we will have a good week! (If you ever had any doubts about not having a good week in Haiti!) We are so happy to see him. We go to the rental car company and we laugh as we wonder if the company realizes that their Port au Prince franchise sells beer! (I won’t mention the name of the popular car rental company.) We head out for our two hour drive to Miragoane where we are going to purchase a truck for the orphanage. We are a little behind schedule so we are rushed to make it in time before the police station closes. We do not make the trip in time to purchase the truck, but we are able to go see it and drive it. After Robbin and Jean Mary inspect the truck and drive it, they decide it is in good condition and we do want to buy it. We are very excited! So we get a hotel room for the night and plan to get up first thing in the morning when the police station opens. We have a great night spending time together planning for the future and enjoying the awesome atmosphere, food, and weather. After a restful sleep, we head to the police station to meet the seller with the truck. After an hour of discussion about whether an American can buy the truck or not, they advise us that Robbin needs to have a Haitian ID and they decide to take his driver’s license down the road to go make an ID for him. We wait for a bit and they return to tell us that they cannot make his ID (apparently the shady person that will do this illegally for money decided not to come to work this day.) So the decision is made to put the truck in Jean Mary’s name. Just when we think we are about to be done, they realize that the VIN number on the truck does not match the number on the title. The clerk had a typing error and typed n instead of m. This has to be corrected before we can continue. So we drive down the road to another office building to get the mistake corrected. They want the seller to pay more money for this. This infuriates him since it was their mistake and not his. He argues with them and calls them the mafia, but he realizes if he wants to sell his truck, he has no choice, so he pays. And we wait…and wait some more. Three hours later we are still waiting. They finally come out and tell us we have to have it stamped by a notary. So they take off down the road to get it stamped. I’m starting to get a little irritated because number one, it’s hot, like blazing hot! And second, we have plans in Saint Marc, which is 4 hours away. We were supposed to buy the truck the day we flew in and return to Saint Marc that same night. Since we had to stay the night in Miragoane, I am concerned about disappointing the folks in Saint Marc that we came to work with. What seems like an eternity has passed when they return with the paper stamped and we are ready to go back to the police station. The policemen are ready for us and complete the process quickly. God Bless Them!! Now we go to the insurance office. We sit tight for our turn. It’s a good thing that I am a dreamer and thinker because lots of time gets killed in Haiti! Some of the greatest ideas I have had have come from killing time in this place. I believe Jenny and I have planned out the next ten years of our life by this time. Finally the insurance agent comes to inspect the truck. This is no ordinary inspection. In fact, there is a number on the vehicle that he needs that he has to lay his whole body over the truck motor and reach so far that it takes his feet off the ground to get to. We are amazed at his effort to get to this unknown number. As he is getting this important number, he breaks the coolant hose nipple supplying the heater core. We smell engine coolant and see it pouring on the ground. The truck will not run so we call a mechanic. I’m noticing that Jean Mary’s smile has left his face at this point and it doesn’t seem to come back no matter how hard we try to make him laugh. Robbin seems to have checked out, yet he is calm and has not flipped out. We stand by…the mechanic arrives and temporarily fixes the problem. Now we learn that we need to get a license plate. Nothing is done at the same office. Time passes while a couple guys go to get the plate. They return and just when we think we can be on our way, we realize no screws come with the plate. So we have to send someone to buy them. They return, we put the plate on, and drive back to the hotel to get our things and the truck overheats. All the coolant has leaked out. We call the mechanic back and he comes to the hotel. He then fixes it by another method and fills the truck back up with coolant. At last…we are ready for our journey back to Port au Prince. At this point it is too late in the day to go to Saint Marc so we have decided to spend the night in PaP. We are so grateful for Jean Mary and all the others that helped us through this process. It is a beautiful truck and I can imagine all the kids piled up in the back with smiles on their faces. We head down the road while admiring the beauty of the mountains and ocean and the truck starts smoking and overheats again. We pull off the road and Robbin and Jean Mary work their magic while Jenny and I go off in the woods to take care of some business. Yeah that’s right…Jenny pees in the woods! Her first time! I’m so proud of her. I always knew she would come around! We take off again. Robbin is driving the truck and I am following in the rental car. I don’t usually drive in Haiti so I feel proud that I am calm and able to get practice driving in the chaotic environment. I notice the sky is getting darker and its starts to get windy, then more windy. It begins to rain so hard that I can’t see in front of me. People are running everywhere trying to get out of the rain. I watch as Robbin swerves off the road to keep from hitting a Digicel booth that has blown out in front of him. It’s like an obstacle course dodging trees and limbs and people! As scared as I should have been, it’s actually exciting. I feel that after all the stress of the day, I can just take this all in. I feel like I can probably do anything at this point in the day. I see that Jean Mary is not smiling again and he tells me that he has never ridden with a woman driver, especially not a woman driver in a phutaké. Well, he didn’t actually say phutaké…that’s what me and Robbin call these type of storms. He probably said rain or storm or something like that. The rental car is one of those tiny box cars that even my short legs can barely move in. The winds are blowing us all over the road, or dirt path because I can’t tell if I’m even on the road anymore. It is flooding and I have a little concern over how small the car is and the amount of water we are driving through. Still, it seems fun in whatever twisted game my mind has created this event to be. Suddenly traffic comes to a stand still. We sit and wait, which is now a normal part of our life. After a few minutes we see Robbin approaching the car in the pouring down rain. He looks very unhappy and tells us that the truck overheated while in stand still traffic, so he turned off the engine when he noticed it getting warm. Then it would not restart. So he had to push it off the road, in the storm. I already shared with you that my mind was a little messed up at this point. So my reaction was to laugh. I laughed so hard. Jean Mary looks at me like I am crazy and asks me what’s wrong with me. All I can say is “what else are you supposed to do?” He gets out and Robbin and him get back to work on the truck while Jenny and I laugh and probably discuss more plans or something.
We have communicated with the folks in Saint Marc and they are praying for us. I hate that we have postponed our plans with them over the first two days. We drove through so much high water that water got somewhere that it shouldn’t have making the electrical system short out in the truck. Robbin and J.M. think outside the box and come up with a way to fix this by removing the battery from the rental car and putting it in the truck to get it to start, then exchanging them back. Jenny and J.M. have removed their shoes at this point with the high water on the ground. Traffic starts moving and we take off and pass by 3 light poles and wires stretched all over the road. It looks so dangerous!
We keep driving and after some time, I start recognizing the city and know we are close. We arrive at a hotel and go to the restaurant to eat. The food is so good and we are happy to see the familiar faces and more happy to have internet access since we have not had it for two days. We have a great time and laugh so hard as we reflect over the events of the day and wonder how we did it. We wonder how Robbin kept from flipping out. He stayed so calm through the whole process and was generous to those who helped us, even though at times he wanted to back hand a couple of them. I am so proud of him. I saw his true character through this.
Morning comes and we head out to take the rental car back. I forgot to mention in all this that we only rented the car for one day because we planned to buy the truck and bring the car back the next day but we did not make it back before they closed so we have kept the car an extra day. The phone number of the email confirmation of rental car is not a working number so we were not able to call to notify them we would have it another day. We pray that they only charge us for an extra day instead of tacking on all the extra charges for whatever they think is appropriate in this mafia nation. They do in fact only charge us for an extra day. The four of us declare that we believe that the truck is better and fixed and we will have no more problems. We can’t explain the previous day, but we decide that today will be different. We pray together and we say our goodbyes to Jean Mary and head to Saint Marc. We drive the two hours and the truck does fine. We run the air conditioner and it never overheats. We meet Wilbert and her family and fall in love with this new town and the opportunities that we find to serve others in this community. For the next two days we drive the truck and run the ac and still have no problems. We have a successful trip as we team up with F.O.C.U.S One Ministry teaching CPR to the nurses and nursing students in the town. They are so excited about receiving a stethoscope and pair of scrubs. We also teach basic first aid to the community and leave supplies and the book “Where There Is No Doctor” in Creole at the church for the community to use if they need first aid care.
We are so happy about the new town and new opportunites working with F.O.C.U.S One. We make plans to bring a medical team here in the fall. I am so looking forward to working with Wilbert, Elionne, Roobens, and Daniel. They are precious people and I am grateful to know them and serve alongside them.
I learned a very important lesson on this trip. Throughout our troubles, I never really asked God “why,” “why is this happening.” Several times Jenny asked at what point we were going to decide that buying this truck was not the best option. I guess I might should have thought that all this trouble was “signs” that it was not a good idea. And I probably should have started asking God “why.” But I never saw it that way. I felt at peace through it all, even when it seemed impossible. To me it was just another great, complicated day in Haiti. Jenny said to me at one point in the day (it seems like it was one of the most intense times as her words brought much comfort) “The worst day ever in Haiti is still better than being at home.” I smiled at her and we then sat in silence. I understood this comment well. I believe this is why I never questioned “why.”
We became overcomers last week. We learned to stay the course even when circumstance didn’t go our way. We learned patience. We learned to love others. We learned that there are good people in Haiti, people that go out of their way to help. I am so impressed with the seller of the truck. He remained with us through everything and helped us through the difficulties. He did not have to do it. We gave him his money. He could have left us at any time to figure out the mess. Even when he left us, he still answered his phone when we called him back from the hotel and even came to the hotel after it was all over with. I was impressed with his integrity.
I don’t know about you, but I need help in the area of patience. I want to be an overcomer. I need things like this to happen in my life to remind me that I CAN be an overcomer. We can all be overcomers in any situation no matter how impossible it seems. The next time you go through difficult situations, be reminded to Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power as Ephesians 6:10 tells us.
Consider it joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops patience. James 1:2
Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4