Visiting the Beehive Ministry in Port-au-Prince, Haiti From the Eyes of a Fun-Spirited, Adventurous Young Girl by Erica Hall
Ever since I was very young, I have felt God’s call to do mission work. As I grew older, I saw more and more just how many are in need in our world, not only in foreign lands but also at home, in my community, and across America as well. Everywhere we look, there are those who are suffering and do not have the Hope of the Gospel Message!
As I was praying about what to do this summer after completing my schooling, I had a friend contact me and ask if I wanted to join her and a team she was going with on a mission trip to Haiti. Immediately, I felt like it was an open door from the Lord to do ministry for those in need!
The next few months flew by as I prepared for the trip. Finally, the time had come to leave for the Haiti adventure. I was not totally sure what to expect but excited to face whatever lay before me!
Well, even with numerous experiences in other countries, I can’t say that I didn’t have a little culture shock when I arrived in Haiti! As we debarked and walked through the Port-au-Prince airport, I got wide-eyed as we embraced the busy crowds of people traveling here, there, and everywhere. I don’t think I have ever seen an airport packed almost shoulder to shoulder with people! Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible that so many people could fit into such a small airport!
Then came my next wide-eye moment as we traveled the streets of Port- au-Prince for the first time! It was definitely a memorable, and dare I say, slightly scary experience! I was certain that we would get into an accident and quickly realized that traffic laws were nonexistent! Cars, motorcycles, people, buses, trucks, animals, and people pushing carts going every which way possible filled the streets! I soon found out the one existing traffic law was: if you think you can fit, just try to squeeze in, honk your horn a bunch, and you will eventually get through. Oh, and if you want to drive on the sidewalk or down the wrong side of the street going the opposite direction, that was totally fine. The people or oncoming traffic will find a way around you, hopefully. After only about a minute of driving the city streets, I thought to myself, “Oh my! I could never drive over here, at least not safely! I’d have a heart attack just sitting in the driver’s seat, not even moving!” Jonathan Euler, our host and Director of International Development for The Beehive International, did a great job navigating the town as if he had always driven under such conditions.
Upon arriving at the Beehive Ministry compound in Port-au-Prince, I was expecting very rustic accommodations. While I’m not sure exactly what I expected, I know I didn’t expect to be sleeping on beds, have a shower and a flushing toilet. I expected it to be more along the lines of sleeping on the floor and taking bucket showers so I was pleasantly surprised with how the compound had been developed with many things that we have here in the States!
As we toured around the compound, Jonathan explained to us how the woodshop business there in the city works. It warmed my heart to see that the woodshop trained and employed locals to learn how to turn discarded shipping pallets, that they considered useless trash, into beautiful pieces of furniture and also hand painted pallet art masterpieces! As we walked into what I’m going to call the art gallery of the woodshop, my mouth must have hit the floor as I looked around at their work! I never knew there was so much one could make out of old shipping pallets!
While we stayed at The Beehive city mission, we spent almost all the waking hours out at Mexny’s orphanage in Canaran, Haiti, working with a physical therapy group from Loma Linda University on the building they had chosen. The building plan was to extend the living space of the orphanage about 5 feet by 20 feet, put a new concrete floor down on that area, build a new wall and put in a new door and windows on the front of the orphanage, and finish all the walls with a fine concrete to seal them.
Now, let me just stop you right here. Before you imagine the traditional American way of building and making and pouring concrete, let me just tell you now how far that is from the Haitian way of doing things! No powered tools, no bulldozers, no machines. The Haitians take the meaning of manual labor to a whole new level! We did everything imaginable by hand!
The concrete-making processes were definitely tedious and consisted of many different phases. First, we filled 5 gallon buckets with mixed gravel and passed each bucket along an assembly line of people spread out down the side of the hill to the orphanage. Here it was dumped onto a huge pile of gravel. The next step consisted of someone shoveling the gravel into a handmade box, which another person was holding. This box had metal wiring on the bottom of it to sift out the larger rocks. The person sifting would shake the box back and forth allowing the medium-sized, sifted gravel to fall at their feet, and they would toss the bigger rocks into a different pile for later use on other parts of the project.
Eventually once the pile of sifted gravel was big enough, a 50-pound bag of concrete powder would be added to the pile and mixed with the sifted gravel. Once mixed, several buckets of water would be added, and the whole concoction would be mixed yet again using shovels. Then, we would form an assembly line up to where they were pouring the concrete for the pillars and floor.
Meanwhile, other teams were taking the medium-sized sifted gravel and sifting it one more time into fine gravel. This was then taken up in buckets and dumped in the areas where they would mix it with concrete and water and use it in the more detailed areas on the inside walls. During all this, other teams were going on supply runs getting cinder blocks or other building materials for the next steps. Thus continued this process for the rest of the week. By the end of the week, the orphanage had a new wall, the floor had been extended to expand the living space, the walls covered with the smooth concrete, and more materials were on the way to finish out the roof, doors, and windows.
While we did a lot of manual labor at the orphanage, we also spent a lot of time with the kids both working together and doing fun little activities throughout the day for them. By the end of the week, we had practically the whole village there helping us and participating in our impromptu children programs. Even though I might not be in Haiti anymore, the sweet, innocent, little faces of these children will never be erased from my mind! Their joy and love overflowed boundlessly! They would just look at you with wondering eyes and then without a second thought come and cuddle up in your arms! Before you knew it, you had more than a lap full! Oh my heart could only just melt in deep love for these precious children who weren’t even my own! There in those moments of having children nestled around me, I realized just how deep of a Love God must have for His dear children! How His heart must just overflow to boundless ends with a deep care for His precious children. Children that He bought. Bought with the price of His own blood. Blood spilled for us that we might live. What love is this? This, my friends, is Love Divine… The Lord taught me many lessons while I was in Haiti, but this was one stood out to me more than all the rest! God’s unending love for each and every one of us! I could truly understand how Jonathan coined the phrase “Their lives will change yours forever!”
Well, after working all week, we all were looking forward to a blessed Sabbath rest from our labors. On Sabbath, we attended a local English-speaking Adventist service on the Adventist University campus grounds. Not totally sure what to expect, I went along for the ride in the back of the pickup truck, excited to see what new adventure lied ahead. Upon arriving at the church, we all took our seats in the desks of the classroom where the service was held. Being the only Caucasian people in the whole room, our arrival immediately brought all eyes on us, which was not exactly how I like to nonchalantly slip into church. After being asked general questions such as where we were from and what we were doing, the services and Sabbath school proceeded fairly similar to a traditional service here in the States except all the music was done acapella. It was some of the most beautifully harmonized music I have heard! My heart couldn’t help but just sing for joy as we lifted our voices in praise to the Lord!
Later on in the afternoon, we walked to a cave in the Port-au-Prince suburbs. On our way, we walked through the more residential areas of the town. It was nice to see more where the people lived instead of the business areas of the town. The atmosphere was completely different than the busy streets downtown. While it was nice to see the living conditions of the typical Haitian, it was also sad. Many live right next to piles of trash where the animals find their food and the children play. The living conditions of these people is definitely much different than I have ever seen in any other country and it made me wish all the more that I could do something to help such as teach cleanliness and personal hygiene. Despite all of that we saw some very beautiful areas as we hiked to the top of the town ridgeline that overlooked the ocean and town.
On Sunday, we headed out on a new adventure to visit The Beehive countryside mission in Bohoc. I tell you, this place is a paradise on earth when compared to the surrounding Haitian areas! The air was so fresh and clean, and the peacefulness of the area was utterly indescribable! Everywhere you looked there was nothing but wild, mostly untouched rainforests covering the hills as they climbed into mountains off in the horizon. The cool breeze that night brought such a sense of restfulness to my spirit. After being in the rush of the city for the past week, I hadn’t realized how anxious I had become. As we sat on the roof of the mission station watching the lightening of a nearby storm light up the darkening sky, I could feel my whole body grow calm. I can’t totally describe it, but I felt it the very moment I stepped foot onto this beautiful property. As I sat there with the evening breeze gently blowing, overlooking mountains and God’s beautiful creation, my soul just couldn’t help but sing forth of the glory and power of my Creator. The words of the song “How Great Thou Art” sprung to my lips as I stood in this moment of awe at the masterful artwork of our Creator!
This evening was a great way to end our time with Beehive Ministries, and looking back now as I write this, I realize just how much was accomplished in such a short time! Not only did we accomplish getting the building project well underway, but we also made impressions on the people there. Most of all, these dear people made an impression on me! My heart just pours out for these precious people! I wish sometimes I could help even more! The poverty here is so sad to see. The streets are lined with trash, people have to almost fight to live, and they seem to go about their every day lives just trying to survive.
Yet despite all of this, they hold a smile on their faces and go about their days with joy. That is puzzling at times. Over the course of this trip, I learned so much, not only about the Haitian way of life, but the Lord also taught me many lessons about myself. I realized just how much we as Americans have to be thankful for! Most of us in our society do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from, or where we will sleep. We also don’t have to worry about how to get our water for the day or if we will be able to make enough money to get a little rice by what little trinkets or food items we can sell in the market that day. We don’t have to carry 50 pounds of water or rice on our heads for miles on end. American children do not usually have to work the load that an adult would work so that they can make ends meet for their families. We do not have to walk 20 miles in a day just to go to the market. We truly have so much to be thankful for! May each of us take a moment to think of all the blessings the Lord has given each of us, and not only think of them, but also thank Him for them!