First of all: Why? Why do they need to take a trip together at all? Just for fun?
Well, of course, we do want our staff to have times where they can take a break from their labor and have a good time together. It encourages them and refreshes them. It builds team unity.
But that is not the only reason we see value in sending them on a trip to another area of Haiti. It is because we want them to learn by SEEING and EXPERIENCING many things that we are so often trying to tell them.
The importance of trees, for example. You can talk about the importance of trees and try to make people see the importance of trees until you are worn out. People may believe you and try to understand. But SHOW them a place where there are trees (I mean, like, established, prolific trees), and they will know for themselves. Few people on the Plateau have had the chance to see other places and other contexts, even within their own country. A trip like the development outing can do wonders for a person’s personal growth. It can also help them to better understand the work of Lemuel and certain aspects of their own job.
In addition, times like this spent with our staff provide opportunities to make investments in their lives.
It all started on Thursday afternoon with quite a sight to behold…the development men in the kitchen preparing “pate” for their own breakfast in the morning!
Petit- Jean holds the bowl, while Jean-Marcsonne (apron and all) kneads the dough.
Early the next morning (after eating their chicken pate), they were on their way. Manis’ mother also went along!
Of course, road trips in Haiti are always an adventure. The development staff had about a 10 hour drive ahead of them to get to Port-à-Piment in the South. Along the way, the clutch in the bus started giving trouble. By the time they got to the mountains before Port Salut, the staff actually had to all get out of the bus and PUSH it up the mountain. Yes, that’s true. I really regret that my designated photographer (Wilferne) did not get any pictures of that….he was probably pushing the bus.
Needless to say, though they left the Plateau at 3 AM, they did not arrive in Port-à-Piment until around 7 PM. (Follow the red line below.)
Port-à-Piment is where Samuel had his first experience in Haiti. He lived there for a year and a half, and still has friends there that provided a place for our staff to stay. The guys got themselves all set up for the night. (From what I hear, they also had quite a good time playing pranks on one another, such as the old toothpaste-in-the-hand-tickle-the-nose-while-he-is-sleeping bit.)
As you can see, they took all of their provisions along with them. The staff was split up into groups, each responsible for a different meal. Although a lot of Haitian men know how to cook, that job usually doesn’t fall to them when they get older. So it was fun to see them coming together to make food for each other. (Technically, they are not “cooking” in these pictures…but they did!)
On Saturday, Samuel and Okson had to take a motorcycle into Les Cayes (over an hour away) to look for a new clutch for the bus (that’s Okson in blue).
Meanwhile, the rest of the staff visited a famous cave near Port-à-Piment.
A guide explained important aspects about the cave and the surrounding area.
Then, they had to make their way UP before going DOWN.
Apparently the way up was a little steep. Luckily, the ladies had gallant men to help them on their way. Poor Mme Bogi looks like she needs a breather.
At the top at last!
As you can see, the terrain is a far cry from that of the Plateau. Haiti’s South is drastically different than the areas north of Gonaïves. Not only is it environmentally different, but it has a greater tourism industry and is more developed.
And finally it is time to go down…
And in they go! A new experience for everybody…
After leaving the cave, the staff went to visit an agronomist. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this, but they said that his house was in a literal jungle. The agronomist shared with them out of his expertise, and they were able to ask a lot of questions about planting and caring for trees and plants. Interestingly, one thing the agronomist told them was how the killing or chasing away of certain birds has removed the natural predators of the crop worms and other pests. The men especially noted this and mentioned it when they got back. Every time it has happened to rain a little bit on the Plateau over the past year and crops have begun to sprout, they have been completely destroyed by crop worms.
On Sunday morning, the staff attended church in Port-à-Piment. The ladies, especially, shared when they got back how blessed they were by the service.
Afterwards, Samuel had planned for the staff to go to Port Salut. Unfortunately, the mechanic had trouble mounting the clutch in the bus. In the end, some of our own guys managed to do it! By that time, it was too late to go to Port Salut, and the guys went to a nearby beach instead. One thing notable about this particular beach is that it has a natural spring which runs out of a nearby hill and empties into the ocean. So after swimming in the ocean, you can jump into the fresh water and rinse off all the salt!
(Samuel and Okson spent a great deal of their trip trying to find a clutch and repair the bus.)
The next day, after saying their goodbyes to the people who received them in Port-à-Piment, the staff was back in the bus to return home.
Other than a few tricks needed when changing gears, the bus did well on the drive…no pushing it up the mountains was necessary. (Notice the hole cut in the floor under the gear shift!)
In Port-au-Prince, they stopped to make a few adjustments. Unfortunately, they also got stuck in solid traffic for a couple hours. But at midnight–literally, on the dot–they finally pulled in to the Lemuel campus.
Despite hardships on the road, many of the staff said that if they had not gone on the trip, they would have missed a major life experience. What they saw, heard, and experienced changed their perspective. Samuel also shared how the events of the trip opened opportunities in their devotional times together to point out God’s protection and care over them during the entire trip. It is our prayer that these investments in our staff will make a lasting impact in their growth and development.