My heart is heavy for Haiti. This morning I finished The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. It’s a book about Haiti, its history and how countless people and organizations have come to help, yet left it in a worse state. It was written by Jonathan M. Katz, an AP reporter who was living in Port-au-Prince before, during, and after the earthquake of 2010.
Learning about Haiti’s historical past and what has gone wrong over the hundreds of years since the European explorers first arrived, should help to resolve the whys in my mind, but in fact, only brings more questions. This coupled with my first visit to Haiti last month, and I am still trying to process what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen with my own eyes, the people I met, and the ultimately the connection with our work at Outside the Bowl.
When I got home from Haiti, the first question my husband asked was, “So, how was it?” A simple question with a complicated answer. Is it possible to feel joy, sorrow, despair, and hope all at the same time? It must be. Because that is the only way I can explain my visit to Haiti.
Traveling with Outside the Bowl founders Jae and Debra Evans, the purpose of our trip was to meet with our Port-au-Prince kitchen director, David Destinoble. We also planned to visit some of our ministry partners, seeing first-hand how the nutritious meals prepared at our kitchen are used to nourish bodies and souls.
We flew from San Diego to Miami on a red-eye, had a short lay-over in Miami, and then made the quick flight down to the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
David met us at the airport and after a warm welcome and an exchange of hugs we were in his car heading into the capital. A feast for the eyes, we meandered our way through congested streets of over-crowded tap taps, fruit vendors in the form of women balancing very large baskets on their heads, honking (lots of honking), and traffic!
Port-au-Prince is the capital and the largest city in Haiti. With a population of 2.3 million (or approximately 25,000 people per square kilometer) it’s an absolute wonder that anyone can get anywhere. And to make matters more complicated, I never saw one single stop sign or traffic signal. I didn’t know it then but sitting in traffic would become our past time for our three-day visit.
By now it was around nine o’clock in the morning, but thankfully we got our second wind and were ready for the day ahead. Our first stop was Adoration Christian School where I experienced joy! Even though I had never been to Haiti or met Randy (Adoration’s Director), I felt like I knew the school and knew him. Our longest ministry partner in Haiti, Adoration Christian School has been receiving meals from Outside the Bowl for five years. Walking onto the campus, watching the kids play soccer during recess, and getting the chance to visit with Randy was amazing! I loved hearing directly from Randy how our meals are a blessing to them. With 400 students attending their school, our meals alleviate the burden of their staff needing to prepare them. They appreciate that the meals arrive hot and ready to serve. And on top of that, our meals are saving them money. At the cost of just $0.37 each, they could not provide this meal for themselves at this price. Purchasing their meals from Outside the Bowl allows the staff to do what they do best, educate and raise tomorrow’s Christian leaders.
Next stop was Outside the Bowl’s kitchen! Driving through the crowded streets and seeing the severe poverty all around us, it was impossible to not feel sorrow and despair for this country and the people who call Haiti home. David told us that most Haitians live on less than $2 a day and more than 50 percent of people are unemployed. Working hard to secure shelter, food, and clean water is every Haitian’s primary focus.
Arriving at the kitchen, we loved seeing the progress David has made in moving the kitchen to a safer and more centrally located area. It was heartwarming for Jae and Debra to meet up with some of the original kitchen staff that have been part of the cooking and delivery team since 2014. I personally enjoyed hearing their gratitude of how Outside the Bowl has provided them with a skill, a vocation, and a steady job.
The next day we started with a visit to Haiti Design Co., another one of our feeding partners. Josh and Chandler, a young American couple with a big heart to care for the least of these moved to Haiti and now run this small micro-enterprise. They train and employ Haitian men and women to make jewelry and leather goods. Work days begin with prayer and the Gospel message is sprinkled through all they do so that their employees will be interested in knowing who this God is that they serve. Lunch time means a healthy portion of food from Outside the Bowl. We got to meet the staff and see the artisans working their trade. Lunch also happened to arrive while we were there!
The remainder of our short visit to Haiti included visits to more ministry partners and extended time with David. Getting to know him and his heart for Haiti was inspiring. We also spent time planning and praying together.
It was time to get back to the airport and head home. As we boarded our flight back to Miami, my thoughts were on my family and my eagerness to get home to them. As we departed though, I was ultimately left with a feeling of hope. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing easy about Haiti and hope is in short supply. With abject poverty and suffering all around, it’s easier to throw up your hands and say, this place will never be anything more than a mess. But then you meet people like David, our kitchen director who feels like he is meant to be here at this time for this reason. You meet people like Randy, Josh and Chandler, missionaries who are living in obedience to the work that God has called them to. He has given them huge hearts to minister to those He has placed in their care. It’s through good people like these that I catch a glimmer of hope for Haiti.
Outside the Bowl may not be able to feed every hungry person in Haiti, but as an act of obedience, we built a kitchen. We’re feeding the hungry. We’re doing our part to make a difference. May the light of Jesus shine through every meal served. Join me in praying for God to infiltrate and renew Haiti as they turn to Him as the only true hope for their future.
Outside the Bowl Operations Director