We woke up this morning to a great sunrise. We were in Jacmel waiting for our ride to Port-au-Prince. He showed up at 7 o’clock, just in time to grab a little breakfast before we were off. I forget our drivers name (he didn’t talk much at all) but our co-driver was a guy by the name of Junior (all I could think of in my mind was cool runnings). He was awesome and almost talked to us the whole ride in. Kim would ask Junior about certain places she remembers from living hear before. His answers were usually either “It’s flat” or “it is there but it is very badly damaged.” We talked about the future of Haiti and what his story was and we even talked about why the Canadians were so mad (we don’t know if they this is true but he said that the Americans kicked out the French and the Canadians and took over the Port-au-Prince airport and that’s why our Canadian neighbors didn’t give us a ride…there is no way we can confirm this but it made a lot of great jokes as the day went on). Junior lived in New York City during 9/11 and lived in Haiti during the Baby Doc’s departure, all the riots and coup d’etats, the school collapse, the bad hurricane season, and now the earthquake. Needless to say he had several amazing stories.
The ride over was …. I don’t know if you can put it into words. To me its like explaining to someone the Grand Canyon--how big and massive it is—but you are only able to show them a picture of it. They walk away thinking they know but you can only feel the “realness” of it when you are there in person. I had heard reports and seen pictures and video on TV but when it is something you hear and smell and breathe and it encompasses you it takes on a whole new form.
It is only maybe 25-35 miles (as the crow flies) to Port-au-Prince, but crows can fly over mountain ranges. We had to drive through one, which made the ride three hours long. The road was damaged the whole way, but as we got closer to PAP it worsened. In some parts there were hummer-sized boulders that had broken off the mountain and rolled down to block the road. In other parts there were mountain slides and some areas where the road had cracked and dropped up to 2 feet. Junior tells us that everyone knows this road will someday break off and slide down the mountain. It is the only (passable) road between Jacmel and PAP.
As we moved through the mountain you could see some houses reduced to rubble and some that were heavily damaged but miraculously still standing. Once we started to hit heavily populated places it was unbelievable. It was the Grand Canyon affect on me. About 60% of the houses were completely destroyed. Another 20-30% were damaged but still standing. We drove through Leogane, perhaps one of the hardest hit areas. It is just a few miles from Carrefour, the epicenter of the quake.
In my minds eye when I think of a building collapsing I think of bits or pieces falling or maybe half of it but that was not the case here (only a very small percent had minimal damage). The most common way I saw how building were crushed was this. Picture the ground and foundation then about 1 foot of rubble then the concrete roof on top of that. It seemed that the walls just disappeared and roofs where staying intact but had compressed everything below to the floor. You would see a 2-story building that was once 15-20 feet high; the roof would be intact only 3 feet high. The roofs are also not like ours. They are made of heavy concrete—perfect for hurricanes but deadly in an earthquake. Those that survived the collapse of their homes are now making tent communities. Anywhere there was a park, there is now a tent city. The Prime Minister’s home in Bourdon, the large parks in downtown, and the Petionville golf course now serve as refugee camps for the displaced.
I could go on a lot about all the disaster but we need to move on to the school. We arrived at the school and there we finished the day doing a several random errands for the staff. The first task that was given to me was to find a box of underwear….still haven’t found it. The army is also using half of the compound as a base so it looks very impressive. I believe there are over 250 medical personnel working out of the school. So much to say but we will cut it short there and say that even though it has been crazy it has also caused me to question God. Which is good. On the way down here I read A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis. In it he talks about our faith in God and how real it is to us. He likens it to rope--he says if someone asks you if you believe rope can tie a box shut, of course you would have faith in that rope. He goes on to say but suppose someone asks you to hang over a precipice? Would you have that same faith in that rope? I really believe as Christians we need to ask ourselves questions about our faith and what do we do with suffering when we are confronted with it. I don’t believe there is a set answer to this but I do believe I can point you in the right direction, and that direction is Jesus. I can never relate to these people and what they lived through. Right now as I speak I am in a house and the Haitians we are with won’t sleep in it even though there is room. They are sleeping outside for fear of another earthquake. The bible does say though that we do not have an unsympathetic high priest. Who better knew pain than Jesus? In the garden we see agony. On the cross we see questioning but through it all he didn’t sin and he ended victorious. That’s the key: he ended victorious (and it so happened that he got victory after death, is the same for some of us also? I believe so) Let us not forget we were promised hard times.
Let me leave on one more thought. I think back to my very good friend who said this in his testimony once. I find it comforting to me and a good reminder to keep things in perspective. He said, “God calls all of us to be a Bull that is ready; whether it is for the altar (laying our lives down) or the plow (a life long journey of ministry) is up to Him. So let me ask you, are you ready for either?