Today I traveled back to Haiti.
Reading week/fall break is this week and I wanted to take advantage of it. With my parents help, I made the plans to come back here about two months ago. Since then I have been looking forward to this day. Dreaming about it, praying for it, hoping that the reunion would be everything I wanted it to be.
But instead, it was something greater than I ever could have imagined.
I got a text from Oge earlier today telling me that he wouldn't be able to pick me up from the airport. I was bummed about that, but he said that he'd try to see me later at the Guest House. I started to wonder if today wasn't going to be the big deal that I was building it up to be. I mean, I knew that it was going to be so good to see every one and that they'd be happy to see me... but was it really going to be that big of a deal?
Anyway, so I arrived in Haiti to a MUCH IMPROVED airport and, believe it or not, Martelly (Haiti's president) also happened to be there. He waved to the crowd saying "Bonswa toutmoun!" (Which means "Good afternoon, everyone!") So that was pretty cool.
Then, as I was walking out of the airport, I saw Jackson, our head porter. He gave me a big hug and called me "boss" like he always has. I tried to remind him that I was never really his boss and I'm REALLY not his boss now... but he decided he liked calling me that just the same.
After that I met up with Daniel at the tap-tap. It was so good to see him. We caught up a bit and he was also so happy to see me. Needless to say, I was already feeling extremely welcomed. There were also some other porters that I used to run into now and then with team pick ups (back in the day) and they also recognized me and came over to say hello.
Driving back to the Guest House was also a joy as I got to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of Haiti again. Although, I will say, I think that traffic has improved quite a bit. I mentioned this to Daniel, though, and he said "No, it hasn't." I'll be paying close attention to that to see if it really is better... or if it was just a fluke. Haha.
Back at the Guest House is where it really got good. I think some people knew I was coming, while others did not. I was greeted by Tom and Sarah... wonderful, of course, to see both of them again. After that, by happenstance, I ran into Pastor Ralph and said hello to him.
And then... I saw my favorite ladies in the kitchen... which started a whole bunch of rounds of hugs. First Marie Claude, and then Claire, and then Vivienne (who literally screamed when she saw me), and Tantnette, Ysmeus, Belorne, and Ruth. That was a moment. Seeing all of them, hugging all of them, and having them welcome me back like family... I can't even fully describe what that felt like except to say that it felt like putting on a warm snuggly blanket on a freezing winter night.
However, after saying hello to them, I noticed that something (besides Oge) was missing... there weren't any boys around. I thought for sure that they'd be there to greet me as they had at almost every other occasion... but they were nowhere to be found.
Then Sarah called for me and said, "I think I see some of the boys." She told me that they hadn't told them that I was coming because they wanted to make sure that they just came during the Saturday pay day time and she knew they'd see me then. However, since they happened to be around, she figured that she'd surprise them.
We walked to the end of the Guest House driveway and opened the gate just a tiny crack to see if they were still there. Sarah spots them and says, "Yep, they're here. Timoun!" (Kids!) Then they turned around and saw me.
What happened in that moment is a memory that I will probably replay for the rest of me life. Especially on those days when I wonder if what I do means anything. Their faces said it all.
Instantly all four boys had their eyes bugging out of their heads, shocked to see me, which changed suddenly to faces overcome with joy as they practically tackled me with hugs. I admit that I cried. I cried like a baby, so joyful myself. These are my boys... and so they shall forever be. It was wonderful to hug them, to talk to them, to tell them, "M tre kontan we ou!" (I'm very happy to see you!) I am so excited to see the rest of them tomorrow. So flippin stoked.
During that time I also saw Gregory, one of the artists who sells work in the street, Jessica (Erick's daughter,) Nathalie (Claire's daughter,) and Erick.
Basically it was a homecoming not to be forgotten. One of joy, laughter, and blessing. Seriously, how blessed am I to have such an amazing Haitian family!?!?
And that's what it's felt like... coming home. Spending the vacation with my extended family. I kind of expected this place to feel foreign, different, new. But it doesn't. It feels like the same Haiti... the Haiti I fell in love with... the Haiti I still strive to serve.
Anyway, even though I still haven't seen Oge yet (bumma! - hopefully tomorrow) it's still been an amazing day. Thanks for the prayers. Please continue praying for this trip - that it may be a time of renewal, new possibilities, and friendship.