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  • Jeff Rynning

Haiti Blog #6 | Palming A Jellyfish

“There is just SO MUCH potential here.” I found myself repeating that over and over again today. It was hard not to. We started our morning by meeting with one of the most joyful families I’ve ever met. It was evident as soon as we walked through the door. A 3 year old girl, her eyes beaming and smile stretching from ear to ear as she opened up her new pink soccer ball that her sponsor brought for her. She couldn’t wait to get started playing. It was all fun and games until her older sister tried to steal it away from her so she could have a turn. That’s when the sass came out! Turns out kids are kids no matter where you are in the world. However, the more time I spent getting to know this family, the more I realized how much they love and care for each other. We were seeing first hand an incredible example of family from mom and dad, who are not only still together (which is rare in Haiti), but who are building their marriage and family around Christ, and encouraging the people in their lives and community to do the same.

As we were walking around the neighborhood, a lot of the kids started to notice us and come running over. It’s pretty easy for a group of light skinned people to get noticed in Haiti. We’re not exactly needles in a haystack, we’re more like soar thumbs; we stick out. As the kids came running over I started to recognize a few of them from last years’ trip. They recognized me right away, one of them even remembered my name! I couldn’t believe it. It was so much fun to see and hear about them working hard at school, that they’re staying out of trouble, and about how much they love Jesus. I love that we’re able to develop long term relationships on a short-term trip. The kids and translators say that one of their favorite things is seeing the people who keep coming back.

After meeting with families for most of the morning, we headed back to the guest house, suited up, and headed to the beach for what was sure to be a fun afternoon! We were on our way to Wahoo Bay! Wahoo Bay is a resort a few miles up the road from the guest house. We had pizza for lunch and then spent a couple of hours out in the water. We decided to go snorkeling which turned out to be quite the adventure! You see, when you go snorkeling, you’re mostly looking down at all of the pretty coral and fish underneath you. So, you can probably imagine how surprised I was when I pulled my head up and was about a hand’s width away from a jellyfish. I know it’s technically impossible to look dead in the eye of a creature that has no eyes, but it was definitely staring me down. It was an intense moment. You may be surprised to know that I very gracefully and patiently swam away from the area in order to respect the jellyfish and uphold my own dignity. Unfortunately that’s not how it went down. I was thrashing all over the place, swimming backwards, and getting the heck out of there. Meanwhile, Jenny, Courtney, and James were floating around without a care in the world.

The experience, though traumatic, didn’t keep me from getting right back into my snorkel game. I was in the zone, seeing fish all over the place. But then I felt something tickle my side. I swatted it away thinking it was just a little fish that bumped into me, but then I felt it again. “What in the world?” I slapped whatever it was away. I couldn’t see anything so I wasn’t sure what it was. It felt like something was poking my side and then slithering across my chest. For a second I thought I might be in the clear, but then it happened again. I looked down and saw what looked like an 18 inch long black snake-fish with the head of some kind of bottom feeding shark. It was like a foot and a half long leach with a shark head. Something fun I learned about myself today is I’m a pretty fast swimmer. I got out of that water SO fast! Thankfully, we had been out there for a while so the team was ready to head back.

On our way back we were telling the guide who brought us out there on his boat about our deep sea encounters and he was telling us that we had nothing to be afraid of because the jellyfish can’t really hurt you. He even said you can pick them up with your bare hands. He had to be lying. I’ve seen the movies. I know that as soon as you get stung by a jellyfish you’re getting peed on, that’s how it works. So you can forgive me sir, but I don’t think I’ll be grabbing any jellyfish on the ride home. Before I could even finish my thought, our guide was leaning over the boat and he came back up with a jellyfish in his hand. I felt like I was in the presence of Aquaman. Not only did he find one in the middle of the ocean, but then he just palms it like it’s no big deal? Who is this guy?

If that wasn’t enough seeing a jellyfish right in front of us, he went around and had all of us touch it to show that it was safe. I’m still not so sure, but what I can confirm is that a jellyfish does in fact feel like jelly.

Now, before I sign off for tonight I want to quickly mention why WWV takes teams to the resort for an afternoon. It’s not because we’ve worked so hard that we just needed a break. It’s not because we’re lazy and wanted to turn part of this trip into a mini-vacation. It’s not because there’s nothing better to be doing either.

The theme of today’s blog is potential. I see it everywhere I go in Haiti. From the individuals we meet, to the growth of the tourism industry, there’s potential, and it’s easy to miss that when you’re only surrounded by the hard stuff. Missing out on the potential of Haiti makes it easy to form a false perception of Haiti; that everywhere you look is going to be full of poverty and hopelessness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Haiti is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its future consists of strong families rooted in Christ, educated and skill-trained kids who are excited about building a strong future for themselves and their country, and men and women who are learning daily about their value and worth in Christ and how they can use the gifts and abilities they’ve been given to make a difference in the world around them.

I like to ask people when we’re meeting with them what it is they hope we know about Haiti before leaving, and often times they’ll say, “Haiti is a beautiful place with many people and resources, and if we could all just work together, we could help everybody in Haiti flourish and live a sustainable lifestyle. We may need a little help getting there, but we can get there. There is SO MUCH potential here!”

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