We made it home to Fresno!
Yes, it was quite the trek to get here but we were certainly ushered by angels. We woke up and left the Mission House in Pignon at 5:30 a.m. Our team was surprised that our Haitian staff was there so early to make us breakfast and send us off. Ericlee and I have experienced this many times before but it is always touching to see the crowd of people who gather in the front yard of our mission complex to pray over our travels, say Psalm 23 in unison and send us off with hugs and tears.
This journey was different from years past because we jumped in Peter's truck and our rental car and drove back to Port Au Prince. This is the first year we were not able to take the small missionary flight to the main airport. We had a 5-hour bumpy ride ahead. We strapped down our suitcases and headed on our way. There was a sweet sorrow in all of our hearts as we drove away from the orphans, our new and old Haitian friends and a week full of God's blessings and appointments.
Ericlee and I were admittedly a bit nervous about making the flight in Port Au Prince. Since we were burned last year and our team had to fly home standby over three days we were praying we would not have a repeat experience. Let's just say that Peter needs some new shocks in his truck. Better yet, a new truck altogether. A few more of our team were sick along the road but we made it to the city by 9:30 a.m. We thought we were in good shape to make the 12:10 flight. Then we hit traffic.
We are used to traffic. We've been in traffic in Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles. I grew up in Chicago so traffic has always been a part of my driving experience. You learn to embrace. This was a whole different ball game in Port Au Prince. At one point, we were stopped in traffic at a stand still for 40 minutes. We were separated twice from Peter, who had Gerby (who is headed to school in Memphis for a year), Nancy, Stephanie and Jeremy in his truck. Understand this, the rules of the road in Haiti are a bit different. If you want to make your own lane, you do. If you want to cross traffic or drive on the sidewalk, you do. My dear husband tried very hard to stay on the tail of Peter's truck so we wouldn't be separated. At one point, a truck driver did not like this. He motioned for us to let him pass. When Ericlee did not allow him to cut in line, he backed up his truck and rammed on through, taking the front bumper off our rental car. I don't think that big AVIS sticker on the front of our truck really helped our cause. We immediately wrote down his license plate but later realized that probably would not make a difference.
We finally pulled into the airport, jumped out and tried to organize our bags, the kids, etc. Peter and Ericlee still had to return the rental. We were mobbed by skycaps trying to "help" us get through the line and make some extra money. It was stressful, especially because I was leading the crew without Peter and Ericlee. We all made it inside. They allowed us to check in even though we had missed the two-hour cutoff for international flights. Ericlee met up with us. Gasp. We were on our way to Miami.
Thankfully, our flight was direct from Miami to Los Angeles and we all were able to fly together. All of the bags made it except for my carryon computer bag. With my computer and camera inside. That's when I realized that those two precious things might be gone forever. This, of course, was another exercise in faith. Over the last few months God has really been challenging our family to consider what is "enough." Do we truly value people over material things? I was certainly grateful that our team - especially my children - were safe and sound. Yes, I had lost a new camera that we had received for Christmas with photos from Haiti and a recent family reunion. (This is why you will not see anymore photos here on the blog for a little while.) Yes, I had lost my laptop with four years worth of files and photos. It was disheartening but I did feel a strange peace. God would provide.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, our church bus driver Jerry McElroy and his wife, were there waiting for us. They picked up our team and drove us back to Fresno - after an important stop to In 'n' Out Burger. We pulled in the church parking lot at 2:30 a.m. We were home.
UPDATE: My carryon bag was found by a man in a little mountain town where we stopped to get some fresh air when a few of us were sick. Apparently, I had put it down on the ground to pick up Giada. Some people ran off with it, took the camera, etc. but a man called the police and at least recovered the computer. I had to pay a "ransom" to retrieve it and it's now being shipped with Peter's wife. A sad price to pay.