Trip to Haiti will be culture shock for missionaries

January 20, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

MIAMI - Step off the airplane in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and soon after a missionary is likely to be thinking, "What am I doing here?" The second day they'll think, "If I ever get out alive, I'll never come back," and on the third, "I'll never get out, they'll have to bury me here." Finally on the fourth day the shock wears off, and they say to themselves, "When I come back next year."

Joe Mobley attempted to prepare a group of Bluegrass and Indiana missionaries for the culture shock that begins today when their plane touches down. "You're going to get hit by culture shock, I don't care how many times you've been to Haiti," Mobley said. "I've been going since 1979, and I have to deal with culture shock every time."

Soon enough we'll find out first hand what Mobley means. Breakfast is at 3 a.m. The shuttles leave for the airport at 3:30 a.m. By 7 a.m. the flight will take off, and by 9 a.m. the missionaries will come face-to-face with the reality of their situation.


On Monday after settling into rooms, four people to two double beds, most went out for a last meal. Six members of New Harmony Baptist Church in Mackville walked three blocks to an IHOP restaurant.

The Rev. Barry Harmon, who pastors the church and is also the Boyle County jailer, ordered a monster cheeseburger and immediately started talking about the week of goat meals ahead.

He and veteran Trish Claunch, who have been on several mission trips to Haiti, advised the group to try a little of everything served there, but not to take more than they could eat. Wasting food is offensive.

Stephen Runyon, of Harrodsburg, and Bruce Thompson, of Mackville, both ordered 16-ounce steaks at the restaurant. They forced it down and talked about coming back for another meal at 2:30 a.m. Breakfast will have already have been served by the time the group arrives in Haiti, and so the next meal won't come until evening.

Already people have begun thinking about cans of tuna fish and sardines in their suitcases.

Mobley set out a few ground rules. Never talk about the government under any circumstances. "If someone asks ... you say you don't know anything about it," Mobley said.

Recent violent demonstrations in downtown Port-Au-Prince don't worry him. "I can go to heaven from Haiti, just as soon as London, Ky.," he said.

Earlier he told a story about a 1980 trip when the bus was stopped by a demonstration with a street fight and burning tires.

An interpreter stuck his head out of the window and yelled, "American pastor, American pastor."

Mobley watched as people pulled the flaming tires aside with giant metal hooks, and the fights stopped for the bus to go through.

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