Try Haiti for a mission-trip vacation

Curt Swarm - Empty Nest

Wanna get out of yourself and do a little something for mankind and the world on your next vacation?  Instead of the madcap, see-it-all, do-it-all trip to Disney World in Florida, keep going southeast to Haiti—no, not the touristy Dominican Republic on the other side of the island, but hurricane-and-earthquake ravaged Haiti, via Port-au-Prince.  You might make a difference to some very needy people.

Vicki Proctor: There are 60-80 seniors who come to Bible study in Haiti.  Here in Iowa, we’re lucky to get 10.

Sixth-eight year-old Vicki Proctor, whose job involves helping people at Hospice in Ottumwa, finds that there is still something more that needs to be done.  She spends her vacation helping the needy in Haiti.  Each February Proctor takes her two weeks of vacation (plus two days), buys a round-trip ticket, and heads, with a church group, to Port-au-Prince.  She went once in August, but it was too hot, and got sick.  The drinking water from the faucet is fine in Haiti, but there is no hot water.  Proctor doesn’t wash her hair for the two weeks she is there.

The church group also pays their own room and board while there–$59 a day.  They stay in a concrete building, with concrete floors next to the church, and sleep in bunk beds.  It’s called the guest house.  Yes, there might be geckos on the wall, but they are harmless.  She has seen only one tarantula.  They can have their rooms fumigated once a day if they want, and Proctor usually does.


The missionaries are furnished with two meals a day—lunch and supper, which is usually rice and beans, but sometimes there is a type of pizza, and gumbo.  They are on their own for breakfast.  Proctor gets real tired of breakfast bars before the mission trip is over, but she toughs it out.  After all, people are starving all around her.

The missionaries take two suitcases—one of personal items, the other full of clothes and black shoes (it has to be black shoes), and items such as Tylenol, vitamins, pre-natal vitamins and worm pills.  This second suitcase is left in Haiti.  When they take suitcases, they know the supplies will get there.

The Haitians remember her from the previous year and welcome her back by name.  It makes the whole trip worthwhile.  There is a lot of hugging and kissing when they arrive.

On one excursion to take 35 pounds of food to the poor, the van they were in had a flat tire, with no spare.  While they were waiting for another tire, they just gave the food away to the poor around them.  Maybe God had a plan.

The Haitian poor are on foot or on small, 125 cc motorcycles, called Motos.  Sometimes there will be five-to-seven people on a Moto, with a huge sack of rice and beans.  Incredible!  The people also travel in what are called, “tap-taps”–old school buses, vans or trucks.  Most of the tap-taps have “Jesus” written on the side and Scriptures.  They can pack an amazing number of people in the back of a tap-tap.

A beautiful young Haitian woman was going to have a baby.  One morning she was taken to the hospital to have the baby.  By 3:00 o’clock she was discharged and stopped by the church.  Proctor got to hold the beautiful baby boy.  He was so precious with tiny ringlets of black hair.  Two days later the baby was buried.  He had died during the night.  Proctor woke to the sound of saws.  A coffin was being made.

When the Haitians go to church they wear one pair of shoes and carry the other.  Arriving at church, they leave their walking shoes at the door, and put on their church shoes.

The feeding program at the church is at least once a month.  They get rice and beans, fish, oil, spaghetti, matches and soap.

Through an interpreter, Proctor likes to ask the children what they want to be when they grow up.  Amazingly, they tell her they want to be architects, pilots, doctors, lawyers, nurses, just like well-fed children anywhere.  Dreams are not segregated by class.  Haitian childrens’ hair is black.  If they are malnourished, their hair might be reddish.

When the missionaries help the Haitians rebuild or build homes, they try to leave the tools behind, like shovels, saws, and hammers, because the tools will be put to good use.

A lot of electricity is bootlegged from the city.  After the earthquake, Bill Clinton took cellphones to Haiti.  Everyone has a cell phone, but no place to plug them in.  They bring their cellphones to church to charge them.

If you would like to go on a mission trip to Haiti, call the Northgate Alliance Church in Ottumwa at 641-684-8811.  You can make a difference.

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or find him on Facebook.  Curt’s stories are also read at 107.3 FM in Farmington.

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