Confession #104: What I Learned From Jesus Windows, Dump Trucks & Pig Heads
Next week Emmaus House will be partnering with a medical team from Johnson City, TN. Hunter and I are pretty excited to have them down. Excited because we get to share Emmaus House with them for the first time, excited because they all know what Pal’s Tea is (meaning they are from our home), and excited because they have always been one of our favorite teams to work with. The stash of memories we have collected while working with this team over the years are numerous and we are excited to make some more in the week to come.
For me, however, this team is where it all began. This makes their coming always a little sentimental. My first trip to Haiti was in the summer of 2003, right on the edge of my 17th birthday. The trip was…well…adventurous to say the least. To this day we all still reminisce about that summer in Haiti. Here is one of my favorite stories:
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One day we went to host a clinic in who knows where. All I remember is that is was the longest trip of my life. We rode a bus. I sat beside a widow on the right hand side. Jesus’ face was painted on it so I literally “looked through His eyes” to see the view of the exotic land as we drove along the mountain side. I remember counting how many naked people I saw on the ride in order to keep my mind off the fact that there we no guardrails and that the shaky bus was only inches away from the edge.
Midway up our trip my counting of naked people came to a halt. It had too. Because we were no longer going up the mountain, we were going down. Backwards to be exact. The brakes let out and we had to find a way to to exit the bus. Fast.
I heard someone tell me to jump out of the window. It was big enough. I was small enough. And it meant going though Jesus to get to safety. Surely that in and of itself would be my saving grace, right? So I did. I jumped. Out the Jesus window. Out of a bus. Rolling backwards down a mountain. In Haiti. With no guardrails.
All of us safely made it out of the bus, including the medical supplies. But now we had a problem. We were miles away from the next village and we had no transportation. So up the mountain we all started to climb.
Hours. That is all I remember. Walking for hours in this unfamiliar heat. And thinking, surely it can’t get worse than this.
We had a successful clinic, although we had to cut it short because we were quickly approaching nightfall due to our late start. As we packed up for the day we came across our next problem. How exactly were we going to get back down the mountain and back to our hotel in the city?
A dump truck, of course!
So we all loaded in the back of a dump truck which was filthy and rather sketchy. But we didn’t care. We were tired and we just wanted to go home.
But the dump truck didn’t want to take us home. At least not all the way home that is.
Half way down the mountain we hit a village. By this time it was dark although I don’t remember the time. The only details I remember were entering the main road of the village and hearing the drums. Lots and lots of drums. I remember people with strange clothes dancing in the streets. And a pig’s head. I remember seeing a pig’s head on a stick. At age 16 I had no idea what Voodoo was, but I realized on this night, in the back of the dump truck, I was having my first encounter.
I’m not going to take you any further. I stop here.
This is what the dump truck driver told us.
So off the truck we climbed and were quickly escorted inside a local pastor’s house for safe keeping. We were there for a while, listening to the drums outside and wondering what in the world would happen next.
Along comes our next mode of transportation- a school bus. Surely this ride would be better. Surely this bus would take us home safely. Surely.
Except for the fact that it was the most excruciating ride of my life! The shocks on this beast were practically nonexistent. And I think almost every seat on the bus was just a little bit out of whack. The one in front of me and my friend Matt, however, was pretty much all the way broken. So for, eh, 1 1/2 hours we rode this bus. With every bump (which on a Haitian road comes every other second) we guarded our heads from hitting the ceiling while in the mean time holding up the seat in front of us from crushing our bodies.
By the time we made it back to the hotel in the city it was midnight. Bodies bruised, legs sore, and minds only focused on our beds we were escorted to the table. The hotel had dinner prepared and waiting for us. And…oh…yeah…it was my birthday (did I forget the minor detail?) along with one of the doctor’s and there were cakes ready for us to celebrate.
None of us wanted food. None of us cared about the cake. But what were we going to do? People had stayed up to keep everything ready for us so we couldn’t refuse. We all sat down, ate, and celebrated with the best pretend smiles we could muster. And then ran off to bed…
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Days like that, you never forget them. Now, almost every time members of this group get together this story seems to find its way into our conversation. We laugh as we recall the details and we reflect on all we learned.
This day, as long and scary as it was, was one of my best experiences in Haiti. You want to know why? Because I learned a lot about God that day- a lot that continues to guide me through my life in Haiti 11 years later.
1. I learned that God is bigger than our circumstances. He is bigger than broken down vehicles and Voodoo ceremonies. He is God.
2. I learned that if God wants you to do something for Him and His people, He will protect you and He will get you where you need to go.
3. I learned that the road to obedience may not always be easy. There will be times in the road when you go backwards, when you have to take a leap of faith (literally), when you have to walk up steep mountains, when you may come into danger, when you may get left behind by others, and when you have to deal with a little pain. But God never leaves your side so just keep your eyes focused on Him.
4. I learned that His love never fails even when your plans do.
5. And I learned that difficult times have the potential to bond you with your brothers and sisters in Christ. And that bond can be your greatest source of strength.
God never bailed on us that day. Each step of the way He saw us through to the next step in our adventure. And in the process He brought us closer to one another and gave us a day that continues to bring us together as we serve in Haiti.
I am so excited for my teens at Emmaus House to have the opportunity to work with this team next week. I am not wishing for a day like the one I just shared, but I am praying for adventure. I am praying for life-changing experiences and lessons to be learned. And I am praying for God’s provision every step of way.
So what adventures has God taken you on lately? What did you learn?