Monday, March 12, 2012

The Day of our Departure

Last Monday morning, we woke up bright and early, not only sad about leaving Bayonnais, but also excited about heading home. None of us had a clue about how to keep those two longings in balance. The days had passed quickly, but not so fast that we didn't fall in love with the place, the people, and one another as teammates. 

Outside the guesthouse, cocks crowed. Dogs barked. Garbage burned. Children donned their colorful uniforms and waited outside the school gate until it was time for classes to begin. Inside the guesthouse, we packed what was left of our wardrobes, stripped our beds, and made piles of sheets, towels, and the articles of clothing we were leaving behind. I tried to imagine who would wear my clothes, who would sleep in those beds on future visits, and how much of an impact our presence there had made. All I could do, all I did do, was bless the piles, bless the mattress, and bless God for giving me the opportunity to be there.

After walking around the village one last time, we returned to the compound to await the arrival of our transportation to the airport, this big blue bus, entitled, "Living Water."

We hugged the guesthouse staff, bid farewell to our new friends, boarded the bus, prayed, and begin the winding trek down the mountain, along the coast, and through the bustling townships between Bayonnais and Port-au-Prince.

The Monday market in town bustled with business, selling recently killed chickens, freshly baked bread, and moonshine.

We crossed a river or two, plunged innocent bystanders and pedestrians into clouds of thick dust, and bruised our kidneys on the bumpy bus ride. The highlight of the ride for me was passing a bus that was heading up the mountain; that bus was filled with OFCB teachers heading to school. As the two buses passed one another, moving rather slowly so as to avoid forcing each other off the narrow road, I spotted the Spanish teacher I had spent all of Friday afternoon shadowing. He saw me too, and we waved to one another. I said the same prayer for him, for the rest of the teachers, and for the entire school that I had prayed so frequently on Saturday morning: Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name. I suspect that I will be repeating that prayer as often as I remember OFCB and its work.

Once we passed through three security checks in the airport (why on earth would we need to take off our shoes and belts and run our bags through the scanning machines THREE times in the same building? One of the team members refused to go to the women's room until she was assured that she wouldn't have to go thru another checkpoint.) we settled in for beer, soda, french fries, and plaintain chips while we waited to board our flight. Guess who was the only person at the table to order Pepsi? 

We were reminded of how protected we had been on our journey when the people at the table next to us reported that they had been robbed by armed bandits and were forced to cut their trip short. 

Passport? Check.  Boarding passes? Check. Journal? Check. Carry on bags nearby? Check.
All ten members of our team and Pastor Eddie, present and accounted for? Check. 
Heart broken, tears shed, and mind wondering what "my students" were doing at that moment? Check.

As we rolled onto the runway and turned for home,
as the day of our departure became the moment of our departure,
I leaned back against the headrest, closed my eyes, and prepared for take-off.

What I did not yet know was where my tenderized heart would land,
what I would do with all I had seen, heard, learned, and experienced,
and how on earth I would ever recover.
In truth, I hope I never do.

Thanks be to God.

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