This past weekend I had to make a quick trip into the capital city of Port-au-Prince. We periodically ship supplies to Haiti through a mission organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan called Rays of Hope for Haiti. They pack up containers, ship them to Haiti, clear them through customs and put them in a warehouse in Port-au-Prince. Since space in the warehouse is limited, they like for us to pick them up as quickly as possible once they get there. Last Monday, I got a call that a container with some of our supplies had been cleared and was in the warehouse. So, on Friday, I flew to Port-au-Prince and some Haitian friends and I loaded the supplies on a 28 foot box truck we have there. We re-arranged everything in the truck on Saturday, planning to leave early on Sunday for the 12 hour drive to Jérémie.
Five o-clock Sunday morning saw us on the road heading out of Port-au-Prince. I was looking forward to the trip because I didn’t have to do the driving, it’s a great way to see life in the Haitian countryside and I figured I could take a lot of “people” photos as we drove. Little did I know what was in store for us!
The first 120 miles to the town of Cayes is on mostly paved road. When we were an hour outside of Cayes, near the town of Aquin, we had a flat tire – a blowout, in fact. Fortunately, we were near the center of town where there was a tire repair person, so we pulled over and began the process of changing the tire. It just so happens that a very good Haitian friend of mine lives in Aquin, so I was able to have a short visit with her and meet her six-week-old first grandson. A fortunate set of circumstances, I thought, despite the fact that we lost two hours in the process.
When we got to Cayes, we had to buy a new tire to replace the one that blew out, since we always travel with two spares. So, we lost another couple of hours there. At 3pm, we started out for Jérémie, only 60 miles from Cayes, but on the opposite coast, requiring travel over multiple mountains, on rocky, narrow roads. In a jeep it usually takes 6 hours, so we knew we wouldn’t be arriving home until after dark.
There are three really treacherous, difficult areas on the way to Jérémie, where the mountains are steep, and the roads are rocky and too narrow for vehicles to pass. Whenever Cherlie and I drive through these areas, we pray extra hard that we don’t come face to face with a big truck and that we don’t wreck our vehicle on the rough terrain! The first of these areas is called The Ramp and when we got to it late that afternoon, a light rain had started to fall. As we came to the first steep climb, Michlet, the driver, shifted down into low gear and we lurched forward. But, we were going too slowly to get up enough momentum to climb and he had to put on the brakes. As he did so, we started to slip down the hill and every time he took his foot off the brake to back down to a less steep area, the back of the truck slid closer and closer to the edge of what was a very deep ravine. It also happened to be the passenger side of the truck! The thought suddenly flashed through my mind – if we don’t stop sliding, we could go right over the edge!
Fortunately, he backed the truck down to the bottom of the hill and brought it to a stop. Our load was heavy, our traction poor and we wondered what was in store for us in the next few hours! After a collective deep breath, we made another attempt to climb, this time successfully, but all the while slipping and lurching over the large rocks. We continued on for several miles, slipping and sliding on the narrow road, coming close to the edge several more times as the rain poured down harder. Each time, I gripped the roof handhold tighter and tighter. Normally, I am not one to scare easily, but I have to admit that I was a little afraid during that stretch, realizing that if the truck went over the edge, I would be the one to hit the ground first. Not a pleasant thought! Thank the Lord, the road further ahead was dry and we made it through the next two dangerous areas without further mishap, getting to Jérémie around 11:30pm that night, 18 hours after we started. It never felt so great to be home! So, if you felt led to pray for us here on Sunday afternoon and evening, now you know why! We are grateful for the prayers and thankful for the Lord’s protection! Neither is easily taken for granted.