Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Story...

I really do live a great life. And I have great family and friends and friends who are like family to enjoy life with. The Mangine's are some of those "friends who are like family." Nick, Gwenn and their three kids (Nia, Nico, and Josiah) live in Jacmel Haiti, working with Joy in Hope. They are living this indescribable disaster that we have watched unfold in the news the last 2 1/2 weeks.

Shortly after the earthquake hit, and after it was realized how extensive it was, as well as the lack of supplies, and the great need for relief became evident, the Mangine's asked if there was a way to evacuate their kids. They had multiple reasons for doing so, a few of which were to guarantee their safety, and also, to free them up to help in relief without having to worry about said safety. Jacmel hadn't become "unsafe" but in crisis, and in desperation, any town can become less safe.

There were just a few hurdles. Planes weren't landing in Port Au Prince, Haiti. And if they were, the road between Port au Prince and Jacmel was impassable. The golden ticket, was a runway that sits in Jacmel. It was 1400 meters long, which meant we needed to not only find a plane, but a small one. The search was on. Between emails, phone calls, and more emails and phone calls with the help of many people the staff of Joy in Hope and I were able to secure safe transport to Haiti and back. It took several hours, but we had a plane, and we had a plan. Also with the help of the many people who were following this journey we had been able to contact the state department and a variety of other folks (I can't honestly remember, sorry) and I had papers in hand to permit me to travel with the kids and get them into the USA.

Early Saturday morning I was dropped off at RDU for a journey unlike any that I have taken. I flew on US Airways to Charlotte, then on to Puerto Rico. I was greeted at the gate in Puerto Rico by a man with a sign "McKerring." I tried to muster up any spanish (swahili still takes precedent in my brain) and followed him. He escorted me to a runway where I was greeted by the pilots of a cessna 208. The guys were trying to get into Jacmel, but up until our conversation the day before had not been able to communicate with those on the ground in Haiti. They generously agreed to fly me in, so it would open doors to continue to bring relief aid into Jacmel. They shook my hand, handed me a subway sandwich and said, "We still don't have ground communication. Have you talked to anyone?"

To which I said, "Yep. I just got off the phone. They are waiting for us, the UN has the airstrip protected by armed guards, and they received your tail number and colors earlier. They're waiting."

And off we went. 2 hours later we touched ground and I fought back tears as we opened the doors to the plane and Nia came running putting her arms around my legs. This is why I was here. We made it. We got supplies, so far there hadn't been any glitches in the travel, and I was hugging my friends. I also handed them my gluten filled subway sandwich. Heck, someone should enjoy it!
After a few hugs with the Mangines and Pye's, and the exchange of paperwork to travel with three minors who aren't my own, we boarded the same plane and headed to the Dominican Republic. The guys who generously flew me into Haiti, were hoping to bring much needed supplies from a warehouse in the Dominican Republic, so when we arrived in the DR, they helped me get connected with the people coordinating the next leg of our journey, and we parted ways.

The DR proved to be the most tiresome part of the trip. I'm not sure if it was due to the fact that I hadn't really slept all that much the entire week, or if it was emotions, or if it was due to the fact that I was now in the airport in the Dominican Republic waiting on paperwork, and watching the sun go down, with three kids, who by the way had just said goodbye to their parents and who knew me well, but were obviously a little confused. After a 3 hour visit in the Santo Domingo airport we found ourselves in a van sitting waiting for fuel for what will likely be the nicest plane I have ever flown on. The plane had been sitting in the DR, and its owner was wanting it back in the states. For a greatly reduced fee, the owner agreed to fly myself and the kids back into the USA. We sat down, buckled in, and with 2 year old Josiah on my lap we all had some snacks and almost immediately fell asleep.

We were jolted awake when we touched down to refuel and go through customs in Fort Lauderdale.After a short conversation with many pointed questions from Immigration, I received my first passport stamp and check of the day. I explained the situation, handed them the documentation we were told would be necessary and was allowed to bring the kids into the USA. An added plus, was that they had real food waiting for us. It was now about 10PM and all we had eaten since leaving Haiti at noon was snacks. We needed real food.

We then boarded the plane again, and were finally on our final flight home. Around 1 am, I fought tears as we landed in Raleigh, and I praised God for his provision over the last 24 hours. He had provided planes, pilots, safety, security, and almost seemless transportation for us to get the kids home and into the arms of their grandparents.

It really was surreal, and I remain quite thankful. God is doing awesome things in and around us all the time, and I often don't take the time to notice. I've been compared to some pretty incredible people because of this journey, but honestly, I did very little. God opened doors, I had an army of people all over the country helping me to walk through those doors, and honestly, I would hope someone would do the same for me if I were in the situation. I'm human. And when family needs you, even when they are friends who are like family, you jump in.

To follow the story of the Mangine family more closely...follow their blog. God is doing awesome things in Jacmel, Haiti.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sensory overload...

It's been a little more than 48 hours since I heard about the earthquake. And for the last 48 hours I have in one way, shape or form been receiving stories, pictures, details of devastation in Port au Prince, and Jacmel, Haiti. It's my job, and I have a handful of friends I love there.

After 48 hours of watching, my eyes hurt. But my heart hurts even more. My friends are there. And my heart aches for them as I think about the fact that they can't turn it off.

I have control over what I see. I chose to turn on CNN, I chose to follow the twitter updates, I choose which links to listen to, I choose how long. And yes, I must confess, a few times I had to look away because I just couldn't take in any more. It is horrific. It is bad. It is frustrating to feel like there is so very little I can do...besides pray...and lend support from this end...which I know are great things...and this isn't a post about my feelings now is it?

But my friends. They have no choice. They can't turn off CNN. They can't turn off Twitter. They can't look away, because every where they look, there is destruction. Everywhere they turn, there is rubble. Everywhere they go, there is a stench, and I can only imagine the sounds.

My friends, are living it. 24-7. I tuned out for a bit last night, desperate for some normalcy, and again from 2a-5:45a this morning, desperate for some sleep, and I'm drained. I can't even begin to imagine how my friends are feeling. I am sure they long for normal, even Haiti normal.

Not to say it is hopeless. Because I am a firm believer that disaster always leaves room for hope. Ruins can be rebuilt. Our God is a Healer, and a Redeemer, a Provider, and a Comforter. I know He has not abandoned the people of Haiti.

He is in Haiti. He is all throughout Haiti. And My prayer, is that my friends, while they can't tune out what is around them, would see evidences of Him amidst the rubble and the ruins. I keep going back to Psalm 121, and hoping it becomes their reality.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-
he who watches you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you-
The LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.