My friend and colleague, Lisa Moseley, was on an assignment with The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she recently traveled on her first international trip to a third world country. Since I have been traveling international since I was ten years old, I don’t remember that first encounter, the shock, the strange smells, the guilt, the sadness, or the transformation a person’t heart undergoes, when experiencing a third world country. So, I always enjoy hearing stories of people’s first encounter of a different world. So, I asked Lisa to share about her first encounter.
My trip to Haiti lasted only 5 days, but not a day has passed since I returned home that it is not fresh on my mind.
Growing up my family traveled all around the U.S. but the only time I had traveled out of the country was on a few trips to Canada (which was not a big deal growing up in Pennsylvania). So when I was first presented the opportunity to go to Haiti was anxiously hesitant. I had seen the photos of the devastation following the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince; I had watched coverage of the country on TV and even taught my children’s church class about the poverty in the country. None of that prepared me for the first-hand experience of being in, what is often called, the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Five days and a world away.
When we arrived in Haiti my first indication that this was not going to be like any other trip I had ever been on was the airport –a single runway with a terminal the size of a U.S. hangar. We went through customs and into claim our baggage. But there was no carousel or digital arrival board. Instead there were piles of bags and Haitian men clamoring to arriving travelers to get their bag – and their tip money. I’ve never been the type to say no, but on this trip I learned very quickly that it was not only necessary but imperative.
Driving to our destination was the single most eye-opening event of my life. Our driver bobbed and weaved through the ensuing traffic like an obstacle-course-master. Along the roads we saw garbage piled in streams; pigs, goats, chickens and dogs living on and in the garbage. People selling good along the streets looked like an extreme flea market. Many vendors had local food for sale. Although this food is nothing like what you would find in an American market. It was covered in bugs, no packaging, protection or preservation methods; fish and meat would not be kept on ice or in cold chests.
In other places we saw people using the bathroom in the street. On one street a United Nations facility pumped water out through a wall for residents to use. Instead of taking it in bottles, pots or jugs for cooking, cleaning and drinking, the people were bathing in it right there on the street.
I have never witnessed such poverty in my life. And this was not even the area where the earthquake’s destruction took place.
Not even to our destination, I found myself giving thanks to God for all of the wonderful blessings he has provided to me. For safe ways to get around, my car, our roads, public transportation, traffic laws, domestic air travel, clean food and water, indoor plumbing, regulations that make us safe in our daily lives.
Something that we often take for granted is simply saying, “thank you,” to our friends, family, co-workers, and strangers, and especially to our Father. We get caught up in the little mundane things in daily life and overlook some of the most important and often lose sight of the big picture.
Today, take a look around and remember to give thanks to God for the splendor that he provides.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.