One of the longest times Alexis and I were separated from each other after we were married was when I went down to Haiti for five weeks to help with sanitation and community development initiatives in some disaster relief tent cities. There is lots I could say about that experience but what I want to focus on is a way that we discovered how connected Father God was keeping us, even when we were so far apart.
One of the first things they had me do in Haiti was help load a cargo truck with non-perishable food items that had been donated. The plan was to pack the truck up and then while the distribution team was at work, I’d wander the tent cities with a translator and see what I could learn about the current sanitation and water situation and what we might be able to do to bring it up a notch.
The truck was similar to a really large U-Haul and was packed pretty much floor to ceiling with boxes of food, much of it in cans. There was no strapping or webbing to hold the boxes in place but we tried our best to create the stacks so that they leaned against the walls and cab of the truck and, at least on stable ground, it was fairly secure. When I found out that the cab only held three, there were nearly a dozen of us going, and the rest of us would be in the back with the food – well I was nervous to say the least.
Driving from the airport to the central compound I would be working out of was unlike any previous driving experience. The best way I could describe it at the time was using like they were using traffic “rules” and techniques from India in small streets sized for old European cities and using huge North American sized vehicles. I think it was on this same trip that the truck we were driving in had it’s driver side mirror clipped off and everyone just kept on driving like that was just a normal part of business. My driver was unhappy but explained it was the third mirror he had lost in the past couple months.
At any rate I wasn’t excited about getting into the back of that food delivery truck in these conditions. However, I was told that there was no other option and that they had been operating this way for months with no problems. So, I said a prayer asking for grace and protection before positioned myself furthest in so that the young volunteers that I had just met would be closest to the exit.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ontario, Alexis woke up a little earlier than usual and had this unease. She felt like something was off and when she asked God what was up she felt strongly that she was to pray against the Spirit of Death. So she started praying and didn’t stop until she felt peace again, firing off an email to me afterwards to ask if anything was up.
Back in Haiti, the truck we were in started up and began moving out of the compound and up a small mountain. I was keeping an eye on the stacks of food and they seemed to be staying stable. Suddenly a rear tire started spinning and the whole vehicle veered, tilted and slipped in that direction. I hopped up and braced myself against the tower of canned food, spreading my arms and back against it. I was pushing with all I had to keep it in place in the midst of the moving and swaying and was yelling at the kids to get to the back of the truck away from the food.
They obeyed and suddenly the truck lurched to a stop and the pressure against my back lessened. The back gate rolled upwards and two of the people from the cab quickly helped the others out of the truck. As soon as they were out I took a deep breath and made a dash for it, sure that the cans would come crashing down behind me. They didn’t, in fact the only injury I ended up with was a bruise and small gash from smashing my calf against the tailgate on my way out.
Once outside I dropped my jaw in amazement. A small mud slide had caused the rear tire to slip off the road as it was going around a curve on a narrow road. There was a shear drop down and nothing to keep the truck from tumbling and rolling, nothing except for one tiny mango tree that didn’t even reach the top of the truck it was so small. However, somehow, the truck had anchored itself against that tree and it was the only thing keeping it from tumbling down the hill.
Shortly after a gator and back hoe from the compound arrived and moved dirt around to create a support ramp and the director jury rigged stabilizers and such to hold it in place while an assembly line formed to transfer the food from the disabled vehicle to a new one. Before long we were on our way again leaving behind the heavy equipment to pull the, now empty, truck back onto the road. Granted this time the passengers were in a hired taxi rather than the back of the delivery truck :p
This is the last time I can remember allowing myself to be pressured into a work or volunteer environment that I was sure in my spirit was unsafe. I’m incredibly grateful for God’s grace covering what could have been an absolute disaster, and for my wife’s faithful prayers.