We met up with the water truck half way and ultimately arrived deep in the city. I don't know quite how to describe the scene. In America, a poor neighborhood has run-down apartments and rusted out old cars. Here, no such luxuries exist. Frankly, it feels much like driving into a dump, with a line of tin shacks and narrow roads or walkways. As the taptap slowly crept into the neighborhood, the "dump" changed. Children emerged from everywhere, smiling and yelling "hey you" to the caged Americans arriving. They knew what was coming.
In this neighborhood, there is no fresh water without someone bringing it in from the outside. One would think the children were running toward us in celebration of the water arriving. They weren't. When the doors of the taptap opened, hundreds of kids -- many undressed -- were standing with their arms held high. They just wanted us to pick them up and hold them. These kids aren't often held. They aren't played with. In fact, many of them are essentially abused slaves, obtained through child trafficking. They are called Restaveks.
More than anything, this scene showed us how desperate we humans are for love. Feeling loved was more important than water. It was more important than anything else we could give them. Almost immediately, every member of our team was holding two or three children in excruciating heat. If we held two in our arms, a third was climbing up our back.
Then we opened up the water hose and the scene became mayhem. Hundreds of people came running to the truck with anything that held water -- five gallon buckets, barrels, pots and pans. The water was streaming so fast it filled a five gallon bucket in about a second. We needed one person controlling the hose, a team pulling away the heavy water buckets, and a team maintaining order for the crowd struggling to get to the front of the line. Amazingly, although it got heated at times, there were no fights or significant pushing. It was exhausting. The water poured for 30 to 45 minutes. Those not working the water truck were holding children, playing, dancing and singing. But we all rotated through because it was too exhausting to do any one job too long.
The most heart-breaking moment came as the last drops came out of the truck. Many empty buckets remained as people begged for a bit of the remaining water. But then it was gone. It's hard to describe the looks on their faces or the anguish in our hearts. So we turned our energy to something positive: the kids.
We all walked down the streets with the kids, holding hands, carrying them, skipping and dancing. Similar to the feeling we had when water ran out, each of us was carrying multiple children while others pulled at our legs asking to be held. We simply couldn't hold everyone, which was also heart-breaking.
At the end of the road, we came upon an oasis. It was a wonderful new building -- the only quality building we had seen since boarding the taptap that morning. It was Hope Church. It is brand new and open to the community. Last year when we were here, Hope Church was under construction, built on top of nearly thirty feet of trash. What an incredible construction project, built by local Haitians, who were thankful for the blessing of having a job and learning a skill. But, last year, we wondered whether it would ever finish. Now, here it was, paid for through donations of people from around the world -- and many supporting Churches in America. This incredible building is not only the first of its kind in the neighborhood, but we estimate that it is perhaps the only real building many of these people have ever stepped in. It is a refuge from the craziness, the danger, and the heat. And it's a place where the neighborhood can learn about the one who loves them. It's also a place to learn... because the church is also a school with quality classrooms, desks and chalkboards. You can't imagine how valuable this simple building is to the neighborhood until you walk through it. Absolutely amazing!
Around noon, we boarded the taptap and traveled back to the guest house to clean up. We were a mess!
After cleaning up and a quick snack, we re-boarded the taptap and were on our way to Grace Village in Titanyen... another miracle. We went there to prepare for the service we will do this morning. We can't wait to share more about this. But I'm going to let another team member do that. There's so much to tell. There aren't enough words :)
Please pray for us to be effective today at Grace Village, that we will connect with the kids and help accomplish Healing Haiti's mission to strengthen families :)