• Culture Shock: First Thoughts Back From Haiti

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    The eight days I spent on the island of Haiti were truly incredible in every sense of the word. My heart broke countless times — not only for the country as a whole, but for the individual lives I saw and had an opportunity to impact in some small way.

    Driving through downtown Port-au-Prince, my senses were overloaded. Every where I looked I saw scenes and pictures reminiscent of something on CNN in the days immediately following the quake. But here it was, in front of my own eyes, even more moving and powerful than I could have imagined.

    Nothing truly prepares you to see and experience a third world country, let alone the poorest country in the western hemisphere after the most devastating natural disaster in the last few hundred years. My 2006 trip to Rwanda didn’t prepare me. Everything I’d seen on TV didn’t prepare me. All my imagination and mental images didn’t prepare me. Nothing prepares you for Haiti. Nothing.

    After an incredible seven day experience (most of which I’m still processing and concocting into various other blogs — don’t worry, you’ll hear about them), it was time to come home. But I wasn’t ready to go. During the last three missions trips I’ve been on (Mexico, Rwanda, and the Philippines), there comes a point when you’re enjoying the work, yet, you’re ready to get back to the creature comforts of the states. That point never came in Haiti. I didn’t want to leave. And now that I’m home, I want — and can’t wait — to go back.

    I left a piece of my heart in Haiti.

    Driving through downtown Port-au-Prince Saturday morning on the way to the airport was truly bittersweet. Something about this country just wouldn’t let me leave. As I glanced out the window of the plane, through perfectly clear skies, I could see the desolated cities, as well as the infamous tent cities scattered across the countryside. Flying over the mountains, back toward Miami, I couldn’t help but marvel at the country’s beauty, wishing people could see those images instead of the more popular ones of poverty and destruction; I wish people could see Haiti for it’s beauty and magnificence.

    My seven hour layover in Miami would allow me the chance to connect with a few friends for lunch. Although I was excited about the food and fellowship, I was overwhelmed by culture shock for the first time in my life. I’ve seen a lot of things in my time traveling; I’ve never had culture shock.

    It began as we descended into Miami International Airport and I started to see the city from the air. It continued while we walked through the terminal, baggage claim and customs. It grew as we road the bus, on smooth roads, with minimal horn usage, towards South Beach.

    Compare South Beach Miami to Port-au-Prince in any way, on any level, with any gauge, and you’ll find them on opposite ends of the spectrum. They are polar opposites. To go from one to the other in a matter of a few hours threw my mind, my senses, and my conscience into a tail spin.

    I saw cars that, if sold today, could feed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Haitians for a few months. I saw hotels whose rooms rented nightly for the monthly salary of some of the pimps we ministered to while in Haiti. I saw clean streets, completely intact buildings, beautiful cars, and people who appeared not to have a care or concern in the world. They had no idea what I had just seen.

    Haiti isn’t some country, half way across the world, that takes nearly 24 hours to travel to. No, we’re talking about America’s backyard. A two hour flight from Miami. To know (and now have seen) that this kind of situation is so close and choose to do nothing is something my conscience and spirit cannot live with.

    To say there is massive potential lying inside Haiti is an understatement. While Haiti has the capability to be so much greater, not only than what it is now, but than what most would believe it could ever be, there are countless changes — starting with leadership — that must take place. It’s entirely overwhelming, to say the least, to consider all those things. And because we understand progress isn’t made instantly, but rather over a long time, it’s easy for the frustration to fester and grow.

    But worrying does no good — action does. Prayer does.

    Just as I promised earlier this year, that I would make a trip there, I am now saying that I will be back again, likely in December (I have to finish Fall semester first). I would love to be back sooner, and if there is a way, I will make it happen. But at the very least, I shall see Haiti again before the year is out.

    That means I need your help, not just for one more time, but from now until who knows when. I need you to partner with me, financially and spiritually, to help me fund these trips, and to pray for me and the team as we travel and become an extension of God’s hands and feet. You can find more details here, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to be a part of the trip, either in December, or any other time.

    (NOTE: All photos used in this post are courtesy and property of Esther Julee Photography Inc. For more information and pictures from Haiti, check out her website and Facebook. Thanks for the beautiful shots!)

    [Written by Stuart McDonald for Elev8.com. For more from Stuart, check out his all NEW personal blogfollow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.]

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