But this one felt different.
The week in Savanette was like a sprint for our team, the days blazing by so quickly. And then it was Friday, the finish line in sight.
More than 600 kids crowded into the church for the final day of Bible stories, sharing verses, singing, crafts and games.
Our Bridge team was delighted to reward the children who memorized the most verses throughout the week. This young girl recited 9 verses about the Fruit of the Spirit; six more recited 8 verses. They all received Kreyol Bibles as a prize.
Ericlee and Jonathan led the kids in relay races. It's amazing how a simple running race can bring out so much competition and pure joy.
Walquis was our translator extraordinaire for the week, translating for the Crafts part of the VBS and, of course, using his gift of leading music.
To close out the day we all gathered in the church. Sweat glistened on our faces. Dirt and dust covered their little arms, hands. Our Fruit of the Spirit Tree was heavy with mangoes, cherries, papayas, bananas carefully-colored by the kids. (Crayons are such a wonder here - and even more to be able to choose your own colors!)
The real grand finale came in the simple, but profound words of gratitude shared with our team. Two of the Haitian leaders stood before the group and thanked our team. Then two kids - one boy, one girl - gave an impromptu speech about how the week was life-changing for them, how grateful they were for new friends from California, how they didn't want it to end. A few tears trickled. Pastor Mele took pictures, beamed with pride.
The team piled back into the vehicles exhausted but so full of God's blessings from the week.
And we even threw in a mountaintop experience for good measure on Saturday. A few of our team members requested a hike to Haiti's historic Citadel to close out the week. All but two climbed back in the rental for the 3-hour drive to Milot.
We were so proud of the team leader Kim McCurry who made it to the top of the fortress, despite rubber flip flops and achy knees. In fact, everyone made it!
We even got to meet his mama - a brave single mother of 8, who makes a living selling cold water to tourists. Her oversized clothes hung on her frail frame. How my heart ached for her. Our team emptied her cooler. John's face was all fireworks when we gave him the rolled up clothes.
Just the right size. A true finale to the day.