There is something to be said for coming home, whether it is after a long race weekend, a vacation or a mission trip; coming home is good. When my wife and I landed at JFK Sunday night after a weeklong mission trip in Haiti we were never so happy to set foot on American soil. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Racing has its stresses and strains, long nights, difficult days and challenging journeys. We know that, accept that and develop a lifestyle that allows us to pursue our passion to race. Most times the choices to do things are ours, no one forces us to race. Yes there are days that don’t go as planned and races where we get caught up in someone else’s mess, but that is all part of the deal. We make pick up the pieces and move on.
When we show up at a new track there may be some things we need to learn but the basics are the same, turn left, go fast. I read how one driver racing at a new track, nothing like he had ever raced was off the pace. He went to the guys who ran there and they helped him understand the adjustments he needed to make to turn left and go fast. The place may have been new but the goal was the same and they spoke the same language. The rules are the same.
When we travel to Haiti the rules are different, the language is different and the things you are used to counting on are no longer there. For example, driving in Haiti is unlike anything you have ever experienced, no rules. You think I am joking, but I am not, very few traffic signs, road markings and lane indications exist. There is no traffic control enforcement. When cars come to a stop it is every man for himself. If you see an opening go for it, doesn’t matter if you just made your own lane, wedge your way in. Our focal verses for the week were from Proverbs 3:5-6;
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
These verses could not be more applicable then when you set foot on foreign soil. Thinking you know something is your first mistake. More than any place I have ever been Haiti is a place where you must put your faith and trust in God and follow His lead. Only God will get you through. He will show you what path to take. He has your back, because what is in front of you will put fear in your heart.
Forgive me I misspoke, there is one traffic rule in Haiti, use your horn. When you toot your horn right of way is given. It means I’m coming through, move over. Not unlike the chrome horn, but no contact is required. The first person to use their horn has the right of way. Imagine that for a moment, now let’s speed things up, there are no speed limits in Haiti. I’m sure there is somewhere but not anything that I have seen obeyed or enforced.
Imagine this, drive as fast as you can, use any part of the road that is available, toot your horn to let others know you are coming through and drive it like you stole it. Sounds like it could be fun. It is for a little while, especially if you are the fastest, but there is always someone faster and willing to take a greater risk to get ahead of you. Trust me driving 80 mph into oncoming traffic beeping your horn takes some nerves. Swerving from one side of the road to the other, dodging chickens, goats, people and motorbikes takes some concentration. Doing all this on what we would call a two lane road with drop off shoulders takes guts. Drivers in Haiti are very skilled. Ours, Manno, accomplished all this on our 200 mile journey into the mountains without putting a scratch on the rental vehicle. Oh did I mention the mountain roads, twisting and turning, no guardrails, 200 foot plus drop-offs, blind corners and all.
While riding shotgun is coveted in the states, in Haiti it should come with a blindfold, five point harness, a bottle of whiskey and a barf bag. Welcome to the Haitian Grand Prix, driver’s start your engines, check your horns, go!
Fortunately we only spend two days traveling, sometimes three, maybe four? You see that’s another thing, you never know what lies on the road ahead. There is no traffic report, no warning, nothing to indicate what kind of trip you will have. Sometimes you can be in a traffic jam for six hours and move only a few miles. Other times you can literally fly and make the journey in a few hours.
There is so much out of your control you truly have to depend on God. Going to Haiti will increase your faith or it will crush you. Being flexible, assessing situations, making changes, being aware are all good traits when you know the rules. When you are in an environment where you need to do that but understanding the rules is foreign makes your trust in faith in God all the more important.
Our last two days fell into that category, after a successful trip to the village and a relatively quick ride back to Port Au Prince we realized real quick there was tension in the air. The government raised the gas tax by 50% and the people were threatening to respond with fires, road block and protests. Couple that with World Cup fever and the conditions were right for chaos. We realized that we had a few short hours to get our supplies and get to the lodge where we would stay ahead of our flight home. We were able to do that before the kick off of the Brazil-Belgium match. Haiti is a huge Brazil supporter and this game would prove to be fuel for the fire. Brazil lost and the protest started. Take a look at the news stories, google Haiti unrest, crazy stuff. From the disappointment of the loss to the tax hike, to removing the president from office things escalated quickly. Fires burned all around us. Gun shots rang out. Roads were blocked.
We were in the safest place we could be, God had led us there at the right time. We had planned on going to the shopping district and picking up some gifts to bring home but the urging was there to get to the lodge before the game started. We followed that prompting, thanks be to God.
The airport was shutdown, all flights canceled, how would we get out of this place? Pray! We were able to get word out and people lifted us up. We had the best opportunity to get out because we were only a mile from the airport and any break in the action would afford us the opportunity to get there. Now all we need is a plane!
A friend told me about an app for my phone that tracks all the air traffic. I sat and watched on Sunday morning as a flight scheduled from JFK to PAP sat at the gate deciding whether to fly. It backed up then returned to the gate. It moved again and started to taxi. Could this be our opportunity? Lynda and I prayed, the plane left the ground and was on its way. We quickly grabbed our things and headed to the airport. Sunday morning afforded us a break in the action, they respect Sunday and things on the streets were quiet. We had a quick uneventful ride as we drove through the rubble and debris from a two nights of rioting. Three members of our team got out at the airport and we were ushered in. The remaining two decided also to come. They followed close behind. Two planes were coming, one from Miami and another from New York, thank you American Airlines. Either one would get us back to American soil. God opened the door for us, four of us returned to New York on one flight, one to her home in Miami. We were headed straight home, no connections, no more detours. A Delta flight from Atlanta landed and another American flight from Miami was scheduled, all other airlines canceled all their flights for the day.
We are humbled that God showed us favor. Many are still struggling to return home. Travel is not safe, conditions are not good. Please continue to pray for those folks, the folks of Haiti and the opportunity to trust God with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding, follow Him!
Until next time, remember God loves you and Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing! God Bless. Remember, that your prayerful support helps us continue this ministry. Thank You.