2016 Exploration Pilgrimage – Day 1

Today was a day of travel, beginning with our wake-up at 3:00am so we could get to the airport for our 5am flight to Miami and then on to Haiti.

I sat next to a Haitian woman who was beautiful dressed in a silk jacket and dress with a matching hat and purse.  She spoke no English and she hummed while we waited for the plane to take off.  I could tell she was very nervous and when the stewards handed out the immigration forms, I felt so helpless that I could not explain to her how to fill it out.  The Stewards were so busy with handing out drinks and snacks that she finally just asked the people in front of her to help.
She hummed her songs the whole flight – and it was amazingly peaceful.

After landing in Port-Au-Prince around 1pm EST, Alix picked us up and took us to visit his Aunt  She served us traditional Haitian spaghetti and surprised me with a cake for my birthday, which I’m not allowed to see until tomorrow.  Then we were back in the car to drive to Boileau and what a crazy drive we took – the pictures don’t do it justice.  It was like fish swimming in the ocean, but total chaos instead of graceful 🙂  I am still amazed we got out of there without getting injured or killing someone!  We passed so many sights that were indescribable – trash everywhere on the roads, broken down homes, people everywhere, dogs, cows, donkeys in the roads, people in tap-taps  – these are Haitian Ubers, loaded with people, going who knows where.  There were so many people on the streets, it was crazy.   We finally got out of the city into the more lush area of the island.  The ocean views were beautiful and I can’t wait to actually stop and see it.  We made it into Boileau around 5:45.  It was so exciting to finally see the village we have spent so many years supporting.  Father Ingrid had a feast prepared for us – pork, goat, fried plantains, salad, rice, a french slaw that was delicious and of course a bottle of wine.  After dinner we drove down to Martineau to the Nova facility where we are staying in the evenings.  We then wrapped up the night preparing for our first village tour (Flamand) tomorrow.

Please keep us in your prayers and ask the Lord to guide us on our mission to find our new village.

– MaryLynn Hilton

Korem: A word with no meaning, that means so much

By Ron Wozny

This past February a group from St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church set off for the fourth pilgrimage to Haiti. As in past years we visited several operations that are helping the poorest of the poor. At each orphanage and school there was one thing consistent among the people we met – they were eager to communicate with us, though few spoke any English. The children sang songs for us and were thrilled when some of the pilgrims taught them our songs. B-I-N-G-O was a great hit!

Our visit to an AIDS hospice was dramatically different. There were no songs or laughter from young children. The common thread, though, was that the patients were happy to see us. A simple touch let them know we cared. Many patients extended their hands and smiled broadly. Others could only look up at us as we stroked their arms or forehead.

But no matter where we visited, we were communicating. Not through words, but through touch, through handshakes, hugs, laughter. Through tears.

The young men and boys we met had an interesting greeting among themselves which they shared with us. It took us a while to catch on, but it goes something like this … the boys came up to us, holding their fists out toward us. We did the same. Then they hit their fist against ours, then strike their chest twice.

So we adopted this as our ministry’s “secret” handshake. What we didn’t know at the time was that this “handshake” has a significant and powerful message behind it. While heading back home on the plane a few of us were practicing this ritual which caught the eye of a Haitian woman traveling to Miami. She beat her chest twice and said “Korem!”

We visited with our fellow passenger for sometime, trying to understand this greeting and the meaning of Korem. She said it meant respect or support. Guessing there might be a deeper explanation we turned to Philippe Calixte, a native Haitian who works for Food for the Poor. He was our tour guide in Haiti.

Philippe writes, “Korem means nothing, in fact, but means so much at the same time. Let me try to give you an explanation. Touch me with your hands and your heart and let me feel that I have somebody by my side to support me. The verb kore is used when you have a car sliding down, so you find a big rock or piece of wood to put behind the tires to stop it, you KORE it. In other words, you do not let it slide or fall. I hope this explanation can help.”

Philippe, indeed, this does help. To our brothers and sisters in Haiti… Korem.

Through the Eyes of the People of Haiti

By Laura Adams

Imagine for a moment, flying over a land of rolling hillsides – but these hillsides have no vegetation, greenery or life. There are miles and miles of metal sheets leaning against stakes to provide shelter. Children run naked through the streets with no regard for their surroundings of debris and filth.

I had read about such places, but, like many Americans, I had not given them much thought. That changed this spring when I visited Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In Haiti, I was given a chance to witness God through
the eyes of the poor.

Starvation is real in Haiti. Children with bloated stomachs and reddened hair are everywhere. Compounding the food shortage is the lack of clean water. Animals run wild relieving themselves in the very water the people of Haiti use for drinking, cooking and bathing.

My experience, while devastating and dramatic, was very positive because I saw a consistent message of love in the eyes of the people. Despite their circumstances I saw love, need and the grace of God in everyone I met. As difficult as it might be to believe in the face of devastation they have a loving way about them. Children run to hug you and cling to your legs, hoping you might be the one who helps them see a new way of life. What the children did not see is that they gave to me a renewed sense of value, peace and humility.

Thankfully, efforts are being made to help the people of Haiti. Through the generous parishioners from St. Philip, the Haitian Pilgrims – working with Food for the Poor—have provided water wells in a remote area of the country. A school and medical clinic have been built in the village of Boileau that gives the community a step toward an improved life. A doctor to visit regularly and daily hot lunches for the children are provided through the continued fund raising efforts of the Haitian Pilgrims.

I hope my personal commitment to the people of Haiti will be an inspiration to those I meet and move them to become involved in such a worthwhile cause. Through the eyes of the people of Haiti I have come to recognize and fully appreciate the blessings that my family and I share. These extraordinarily poor people have enriched my life and have taught me to not take our good fortune for granted. But more than that, they have helped me develop a stronger relationship with our Lord. For that, I am greatly indebted.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3