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Eye-opening moments continue for Dotson on Haiti mission trip

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
by Caitlin Dotson, junior setter

"To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly" - Henri L. Bergson

Today I learned in so many ways to never be content, we must always strive for a better tomorrow.

Bergson knew that we must continue to learn and adapt in order to grow. Today I got the opportunity to grow.

Originally I thought I was being called on this trip to make some impact. That wasn't right either. I was sent here not to change Haiti, but to let Haiti change me.

We started our morning visiting something similar to a nursing home. The people there were the definition of wisdom. They talked about change and a new generation coming in and taking over. They wanted us to learn from the past in order to make a better future.

They've lived through so much; still they were thanking us for coming to visit them. I just wanted to say 'No, thank you for living a life I can't even begin to imagine and teaching me yet another Haitian lesson.'

We sang to them and they started to hum along with us and with the breeze through the trees, it was almost like there was music. It was like God saying this is why you're here- this is Christianity. 

Then we headed to the azil, which is supposed to be the poorest of the poor, and in Haiti pretty bad is an understatement.

I don't think anything in the world could have prepared me for that visit. It is a well kept place run by missionaries from Jamaica for people who are mentally ill, sick, crippled, everything. They don't turn anyone who is left there away.

No one on our team could keep from crying as we walked through. I don't know if I was crying because of how badly I felt for the people or because there are people good enough in the world to start and run a place like the azil.

 Inside there is a large room lined with paralyzed people on cots and right in the middle laid a white cloth concealing a dead body. The person had died an hour before we came and was being buried when it cooled off.

Just seeing the pain in people's eyes was enough but then we met a man in a wheelchair who was badly disabled, had suffered malaria and typhoid, and was paralyzed. 

His body was so distorted his face almost rested on his wheelchair and his head was about the size of the rest of his body. He told us he was happy, so lucky to be in a place like the azil; he smiled and said God was so good and for us to hold on to our faith. He kept repeating "never let go."

Nothing has  ever impacted me so much in my life. If this man who has everything under the sun to be bitter about is so thankful then I have no excuse ever to be unhappy, to complain or even to frown. I'll never be able to communicate what an experience it was.

As we left we prayed over the workers, who I'm positive have to be angels. We sang again to say goodbye and it was like a scene from a movie. All of the noise surrounding us went silent. Every person there had their eyes fixed on us and were listening intently. 

People always say there are moments that define us. Until now I don't think I've ever really had one. I've never felt such a compulsion to drop to my knees and just cry out of empathy, faith, and thankfulness. That moment is why I was brought to Haiti.

To end the day on a lighter note we did VBS with the kids and acted out a demon being driven out of a girl. Now all the kids think Katie (Rose) is a zombie demon. We also got to showcase our volleyball skills using a net tied between two palm trees. The kids loved it and I think we enjoyed it just as much as they did. Katie came out of retirement for a special appearance and Claire (Peterson) and I took our first swings since our shoulder surgeries. 

I have gotten lots of emails from people saying how proud they are of me and how brave I am for going on this trip. But really, there's nothing to be proud of, and I am not the brave one. I'm learning how much I still have left to learn and how small my world is. That’s nothing to be proud of.

The people who live and work here, they are brave. The workers at the azil, Hunter and Jillian who run the orphanage, the people who are struggling everyday just to live, and people like Dr. Kinzer (who after this trip, I'm almost sure he's a saint) who continuously preach and connect with people- they're brave.

Between the orphans, the azil and all the families we have visited, I have yet to determine if Haiti is breaking my heart or just remodeling it.

What.

A.

Day. 

Caitlin Dotson is one of four Lipscomb volleyball players on their first mission trip to Haiti. This is the second installment of her journal.