Doug's Blog

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back from Haiti

Well, I'm back from a week in Haiti. Yesterday I was completely exhausted. Today I'm still very tired, but the emotions are starting to set in more. There's one feeling I really didn't expect: I miss it. I don't miss the oppressive heat and humidity, or some of the smells, or sharing one bathroom with 30 people. But I miss the people: both the people that I served with and the Haitian people themselves.

I don't tend to be an outwardly emotional person, but I find that my eyes begin welling up with tears almost immediately as I remember some of the stories that I heard:

-The 16-year-old single mom raising a one month old infant while living by herself. She has dreams of being a doctor someday.

-The multiple mothers that I met who have been separated from their children since the earthquake because the mom's had moved trying to find work (and, of course, hadn't been able to).

-The woman living with eight children in a "house" made of sticks and bed sheets, and smaller than my bedroom.

There are so many many more stories. And you know what? I don't know what to do with them.

As we left, I looked out the plane window over Haiti and had one overwhelming feeling: helplessness. My group had distributed hundreds of tarps to cover people homes for the rainy season. We had prayed with people, played with the kids, and dropped off thousands of dollars worth of food. But as I slept in my comfortable bed last night, having eaten a full dinner, the people that we "helped" were still living out in a dirty field littered with piles of garbage. The week ended for me, but I don't know if their living conditions will ever change. So, what exactly did I accomplish?? I fully believe in my mind that God used us last week to touch those people. But what I feel is completely different. I feel useless.

One of the hardest things for me to comprehend is the joy and hospitality of the Haitian people that we witnessed. While visiting the home of a couple people, one of them got out a machete (which gave me pause for a brief second), climbed up a tree in his bare feet, and cut down two coconuts to share with us. It was quite a sight. But what struck me most was that they only had about 6 coconuts on their tree. And they gave two of them to complete strangers (and did so with smiles). I saw this repeated over and over again.

I watched as people danced and sang, worshiping God. Quite honestly, I don't know that I would be doing that if I were in their place. Their joy and love for God defied my logic. Shouldn't they be cursing God for the conditions that they're living in? This was the joy of the poor that I had heard and read about for so many years. But to see it with my own eyes...I just don't have the words.

I guess one of the things that I'm least looking forward to is the many well-meaning people who will ask me how my trip was. I would probably do the same if I was in their place. But I'm just not sure how to answer that. The people who ask will want a nice, neat 30 second response. But how could I ever convey what I saw and experienced into a few lines? How can I just respond "it was good" when I saw people living in filth? How can I smile and tell them it was "incredible" when I have the image of a mass grave holding 155,000 bodies that is now covered by a tent city where thousands of the relatives of the dead live? I just don't know what to say.

I knew I would be changed by seeing Haiti. But I did not realize it would rip me up inside.

Usually, when I write, I come to some sort of conclusion that relieves the tension of the questions I'm asking. I have no such conclusion today. I don't know that I ever will.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

DCLA Roundup

It's been a week since we returned from DCLA. As I reflect back on the trip, there are so many good memories (and really no bad ones--flat tire aside). I'm so grateful to the leaders--John, Amanda, and Mandy--for their hard work throughout the trip. You don't understand all the logistics that go on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly on a trip like this, and those three are pros!

And to all of you who went, thanks for following directions and just being great! I was so impressed that during our 3 hour flat tire ordeal, I didn't hear one complaint--not one. You all made the trip a joy to be on.

And parents, I'm so grateful that you would trust me enough to take your kids for almost a week (into two major cities nonetheless). Thank you for the sacrifices you made to make this trip possible for your kids. I promise you it was worth it!

So now we wait for DCLA 2012...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trip Home

A couple pictures from the ride home:

Flat Tires & NYC

I never had the chance to write another post after we left Washington. For some reason I couldn't get on the Internet at our hotel in NYC.

We had a very smooth trip from Washington to NYC...that is, until the truck blew a tire on the New Jersey rush hour...with barely any shoulder to park on...did I mention that the tire that blew was on the side facing traffic??
I immediately did what any good driver should: I called AAA. What I quickly learned was that AAA is not allowed to operate on the New Jersey Turnpike (of all places). But someone still came out to change the tire. An aside: I'm not against changing a tire myself, but not when it's literally two feet from the traffic lane, with cars shaking the vehicle as they fly by.

So the non-AAA guy came. Two problems: it was very loud, and he didn't speak very good English. My hearing's not the greatest, and this made for a difficult situation. Long story short, he couldn't get the spare off the truck (John tried as well with no luck). We even tried the spare from the van, but it wasn't the right size. On top of that, the non-AAA guy called his garage to see if they had the tire we needed in luck.

So he called us a tow truck...and left.

We had no idea where we were going to have the truck towed to. But thanks to some technology (shout-out to the iPhone) we were able to locate a Pep Boys 15 minutes away that had the tire and was willing to take us right away. So the tow truck came, we went to Pep Boys, and then we were on our way. The whole thing set us back about 3 hours. The kids, to their credit, were wonderful during this whole ordeal. They stayed in the van and entertained themselves.

At 10:15 PM-ish, we pulled in to New York City.

I love GPS, and our GPS unit was a great help to us, but the tall buildings in the city really messed with it. We ended up driving blind part of the time. (another shout-out to the iPhone for helping us with navigation at points). We finally made it to the hotel and parked the vans (which is no small task when you have a large truck and a 15-passenger van).

Then we went out to eat and walked around Times 1:00 in the morning. Here are some pictures:
A diner near our hotel (Midnight).
Nick and Andy doing head-stands in Times Square (a random guy came and joined them and people were taking pictures and video of them...I hope they took showers that night).
The whole group (I was taking the picture) in the center of Times Square (it was after 1:00 AM at this point and the place was packed). In the background is where the ball drops on New Year's Eve.

After a (very short) night's sleep we ventured back out into the city. I found out in the morning that the Staten Island Ferry was running for free, and that we would be able to get great shots of the Statue of Liberty. So we went there first:

Oh, and this is from the subway on the way there:
Afterwards half of our group split off to go up the Empire State Building (I'll get and post those pictures another time). The rest of our group made our way up to Wall Street and then to the World Trade Center Site.
We met up again and left our hotel at 4:00 PM. For only 18 hours in the city, we were able to see and do a ton of things!

Monday, July 13, 2009


We've had such a wonderful time here in Washington DC. The conference exceeded my expectations this time around. Big thanks to YS for their hard work!

Right now everyone is packing. We're going to head over to Lab at 8:30. From there everyone will go to the final Big Room, which will wrap up shortly after Noon.

After we load up the vehicles we'll be off to New York City. I'm hoping to arrive (*fingers crossed*) around dinner time. Everyone is excited to see Time's Square all lit up tonight.

I don't have any pictures from yesterday (I didn't want to carry my camera around), but it was a really great day. We had Lab, and after lunch we walked by the White House (again), by the Lincoln Memorial, and World War II Memorial, on our way to the Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust Museum isn't something that you enjoy (those of you who have been there before know what I'm talking about), but it is a very moving experience. And last night...what a session! Hard to describe...

I'm off to take the kids over to the convention center so I can come back and pack. I'll shoot to have another update late tonight.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

DCLA Day #3

Yesterday we took it a little easier on the sightseeing. Everyone was pretty wiped from walking around the day before.

In the morning the kids went to their first "Lab". This is a 2 1/2 hour session where they are in a large room filled with small group circles. Each of them was placed into a circle with 7 other kids from other groups. This is the real meat of DCLA, where the kids have guided discussions based around the theme. Everyone seemed to generally enjoy this.

After that we went and got lunch. One of the girls was able to meet up with her uncle who lives right outside the city.

We had a cool opportunity in the afternoon to see an advance screening of a movie that's coming out in January. We were all blown away by it. Click here to see the website.

Then we went to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner, and back to the convention center for Big Room #2. Here are pictures:

Right now I'm readying for day 4. We've got Lab, and then we're taking most of the group to the Holocaust Museum (I was able to get advance tickets for a couple dollars each). After that we'll grab a quick dinner, go to a concert and then Big Room #3.

More to come later...

Friday, July 10, 2009

DCLA Day #2

It was a long and eventful day here in Washington. Most of the group didn't roll out of bed until mid-morning (0r later). We then went on a 5 hour excursion that included a walk down much of the National Mall (which a few people were surprised to find out did not include stores), lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, and a trip all the way around the White House. Here are some pictures:

After all that we rested for a little while before heading to the convention center for our first session. This session was with everyone together, and it was fantastic. Youth Specialties (the organization who puts on DCLA) has really stepped it up this time around. Incredible speakers, media, thematic material, and worship. I'm very pleased so far (the kids seem to be as well). Here are a couple pictures from the session:

There was a concert afterwards, and now we're back at the hotel getting settled for what will hopefully be a decent night's sleep before the first "Lab" in the morning.

Good night!

Up Early

For some reason I woke up at 5:30 this morning (after going to sleep at 12:30). Andrew and I headed down to the lobby, where there is a Starbucks conveniently located:
We took a short walk to see what restaurants are near the hotel. It's a beautiful morning here in DC. The temperature is mild for this time of year.

I'm back in my room now (it's 8:30), and most of the group (including L-J, who's in my room) is still sleeping. Guess it's time to take a shower...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

We Made It!

Well, we had an uneventful trip down to DC. It took us just shy of 13 hours (with plenty of stops). It was a nice, relaxed pace and went by fairly quickly. Here's a couple shots from my van:
Our hotel is very nice (minus the fact that it doesn't have a pool...which I have been reminded of about 30 times so far):

We got settled and headed out to Fuddruckers for dinner:

I'm going to go to bed now and try to make up for the 3 hours of sleep that I got last night. I'll have more tomorrow!