Re-entry, it was all good.
Well, at least for a little while.
The first flight took us from Port-au-Prince to Miami. The plane was nearly silent in those last moments on the ground in Haiti. I’d never seen so many people looking out windows as a plane readied for take-off. Even so, it was all good.
Going through customs, waiting longer than expected for our luggage in Miami, and then waiting another 30 minutes to get into the terminal for our connecting flights? It was all good.
But then, after all that, re-entry wasn’t so good.
I bid farewell to the last members of the group I’d been traveling with for six days, and things went downhill from there.
A man directed me that way, to Concourse H, the place I’d check in for my flight back home. The walk was longer, much longer than I expected. In fact, so long I thought I’d gotten lost. By the time I made it to Concourse H, my anxiety and stress levels had skyrocketed. If there was any way to measure my anxiety in Haiti (nonexistent) vs. my anxiety in that moment (extremely high), I can guarantee the contrast would’ve been striking. I was so anxious and stressed, that by the time I arrived at Concourse H, the only words I could muster to the last two Compassion travelers I ran into from Wisconsin were “I’m really stressed now.” But I’d made my way, so I paid to check my big red suitcase and picked up my boarding pass.
I ran to the security line which appeared to be a mile long. I had to go to the bathroom and wanted to grab lunch before the flight departed, so I knew I didn’t have a minute to spare. I stood in that security line for 30 minutes, listening to two in front of me talk about $4 million, $22 million budgets, how they hated the fact they had to hear the same speaker two years in a row – how could anyone think that was a good idea? A lady stopped dead in her tracks and sighed. Everyone was harried.
I had to hold myself back from breaking down in tears, sobbing, at this re-entry. It was bad enough bearing this weight, this heaviness inside, the somber feelings anyone would’ve seen if they observed me closely. Tears were welling. I wanted to run, hide.
And then, I looked down and realized – I hadn’t actually checked my bag.
So after 30 minutes in that security line, I had to go back to the airline check-in, stand in line for another 15 minutes, and check my bag.
I got back in the security line, only this time it was much longer than it’d been the first time. I forced myself to breathe deeply. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. A woman from Atlanta struck up conversation with a woman from Canada in front of me. “I just got back. All I want to do is go back to the island. It’s too cold here.” And the woman from Canada? She responded, “I just hope my flight gets delayed. I’d be good staying here as long as they need me to.”
And me? I just wanted to catch a flight back to Haiti, and somehow magically transport my family there with me, and magically all four of them would acclimate, and magically they’d all feel called to become missionaries and we’d spend a lifetime waking sleeping giants in Haiti.
A woman nearby had the words Trust Your Journey printed on her shirt.
I knew God had me going back home. My husband’s called to creative corporate life, my kids are established, safe and sound in their school, sports and peer groups. There was no way any of this magical thinking would ever become reality. My life and my loves are in the United States. But I also knew in my heart that God intended, planned for me to return to Haiti. I didn’t understand how it’d all fit, how it’d all unfold, and I didn’t know when. I just knew, I just know.
Trust your journey, I reminded myself.
This second wait in security was another 30 minutes, but I finally got through.
I felt like a foreigner, a robot, just another body as I formally re-entered this nation of mine. Shoes off, laptop in the bin, bag on the belt, liquids in the quart-sized-bag using this 3:1:1 method known intimately to TSA. I didn’t take off my sweatshirt, but the TSA agent called me on it right before I passed through. Apparently, there was something about me that was unusual, alerting. I didn’t pass the test. “Follow me,” said the agent. He asked me to hold out my hands, face up. He swiped a tiny piece of fabric or paper across my hands, stuck it in some machine that read the results, and lo and behold, I checked out ok.
I plopped my shoes, bag, laptop, and all my other stuff on the ground so I could gather myself outside of security. “It’s just not right,” said a man as he passed me and shook his head. “Ridiculous,” I responded as the stranger walked away.
I proceeded to the bathroom. The toilet paper holder fell on the floor. The door didn’t lock.
I grabbed the only food that was close, Nathan’s Famous. Soggy fries and a chicken sandwich were dropped in a paper bag, now mine, for a total of $12-something.
There was nowhere to sit, nowhere to plug in my phone. I sat, then grabbed all my stuff and got back up thinking there must be a better place. But truly, there was nowhere else to sit. So as odd as it seemed, as odd as it felt, I plopped right back down in that same spot a couple minutes later.
It was all a little awkward.
People were on phones everywhere.
I overheard a man, tattooed up and down, “they’re not making money.”
A young guy, “I’ve had scheduling problems.”
And even an old guy, “I’m a little annoyed.” And later to himself, after he ended the call, “It’s starting already. I hate this.”
My straw creaked loudly as I adjusted it in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs cup of Diet Coke I’d grabbed with my lunch. Everyone turned and stared at me all at the same time.
I scarfed down my soggy fries and chicken sandwich, and plugged in my phone for a few minutes of charge before I boarded the plane.
It was then, as I looked down at the rolled-up painting I bought in Haiti, that I realized – we’re all human, we’re all broken. We’re all living in poverty one way or another, all impoverished without Him. He knows our fallen nature and He’s desperate to re-charge us, give us hope. So we plug in to the source, the only source that brings life and true wealth, God.
I looked across, out the window where wings made by men directed our way back home. The sun was setting, the clouds victorious, soft promises.
He’s in control.
He knows what He’s doing.
He knows the way.
He turns our poverty into wealth-of-a-spiritual-kind if we plug in, let Him lead the way.
Snow covered the ground. I walked out, into the cold with a humble Haitian heart, full of hope regardless of any circumstance I face.
I plug in. And I know, I’m not alone. For my one true source of life, of hope, is with me, now and forevermore.
*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.