Magnificent Saris

sarisNo matter how far I go He goes along with me.

No matter where I wander my heart remains in His.

Life is a whirlwind of adventures, but in the midst of all the distance and all the different some things don’t really change. I will always love to wander and He will always remain faithfully beside me.

He is constant even when the destination I find myself in is constantly changing. The further I go the more people I meet whose hearts He made and the more I learn about the vastness and intricacy of our Mighty God who made every mile I travel. The more of the world I see the deeper into His heart I fall. As my feet tread the road it’s the Maker I am truly getting to know.

In the Summer of 2013 I flew into Port Au Prince, Haiti for the first time. What I didn’t know then as I stepped out of the plane into the terminal is that I would come back to that airport many times, that the stench of the city would become both familiar and oddly comforting, that dreams of Haitian children would fill my nights for a long time to come.

It was late afternoon, the 102 degree heat hit me as I exited the airplane shocking the travel exhaustion out of me. The 60% humidity made the air seem drinkable. I had spent my entire summer working, pinching my pennies to come on this trip. I have a hard time staying in one place for very long and this was the newest concoction of my need to explore.

I admittedly had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I actually thought they spoke Spanish in Haiti, until I arrived and my six or so years of Spanish were doing me no good in the Haitian airport. I wondered if you could really lose a language that fast shortly before someone kindly explained to me that they speak French-Creole, not Spanish. At which point I sheepishly replied that, that made sense and explained why I couldn’t figure out anything.

We all had favorite movies when we were little. The ones we made our parents put on repeat and would watch over and over again. Mine were The Lion King and a documentary on Mother Teresa. Maybe these were both early indications of my innate need for adventure.

The film on Blessed Mother Teresa told the story of her life highlighting Christ’s call to her when she first founded her order The Missionaries of Charity in 1950. It was recorded in the slums of India showing the reality of her work with the poorest of the poor. My little heart was moved with compassion and inspired by the women in blue and white saris who didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. They were my superheroes. Years later this movie inspired me to take Blessed Mother Teresa as my Confirmation Saint (well… Confirmation Blessed for now).

The drive from the Port Au Prince airport to the Wall’s International Guest House where we would be staying reminded me of watching the scenes of India on my television at home. It was like walking into the documentary itself. The poverty was tangible.  But my heart, rather than shrinking away began to soar at the realization that I was needed, that I could love like the sisters in the white and blue saris.

I didn’t know that I would find a place so ready to be fulfilled by my vocation to love. And I didn’t know I was so capable of loving.

The first morning we were up and out the door at 6:30am to celebrate mass with the Missionaries of Charity. Because their roots are in India all the missionaries celebrate mass barefoot and sitting on the ground. If peace was a place it would be that little chapel in between the white and blue saris sitting on their knees or cross-legged preparing their hearts for the King of Kings. Even at 7am the Haitian heat was making us sweat but no one seemed to notice, intrigued by these women whose lives are a total gift of self to the world.

The next week found myself side by side with the white and blue saris, working in their home for the dying, children’s home, wounds clinic, and St. Joseph’s School. They are more my superheroes now than when they were on my television set. I’ve seen them run IVs for malnourished babies I didn’t know could live that small, baptize the dying, change bed sheets, deliver medication, pass out food to the hungry, and hurry off to adoration in the middle of the day. Each of their actions beckon to those witnessing ‘you can love like this’’. They are Christ to each person they meet.

I could write pages and pages about all the moments of grace during my first time to Haiti but I will leave it at this:

I learned that the children of Haiti are equally frightened and fascinated by braces. Some will run and others will stick their fingers in your mouth so if you’ve been to an orthodontist recently beware.

Bubbles bring out all the giggles.

When painting it is always appropriate to enjoy painting one another as well as the wall. The Haitian people love to sing and dance and will gladly drop a beat and show you how bad of a dancer you really are.

Joy is 100% up to you. Take hold.

Gratitude. Always Gratitude.

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, this you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

I met the least, in the faces of coffee bean colored men, women and children. And I met Christ there too, waiting to be loved.

While this was my first time to Haiti it was not my first mission trip. I learned about finding Christ in others before, but Haiti was different. This was the mission trip I never came home from.

I knew my missionary heart was not reserved for the home for the dying in Port-Au-Prince but that the least was everyone. The least was the girl on my mission team who had lost her dad, the least was my roommate who grew up without any hope, the least was the woman making my coffee in the morning.

And Christ was there too, waiting to be loved.

The children of Haiti are not different than the kids who live behind my house. And the home for the dying is not that different than the hospice by my school. And the world is filled with Christ waiting to be loved.

In a little over a month I will be arriving in the Port Au Prince airport once again. My fourth trip to Haiti. The familiar stench will fill my nose and my heart will swell with love for the suffering. I will search the home of the dying for my first and only godchild who has most likely already reached the gates of heaven. My feet will brush up against the skirt hems of the white and blue saris. My ears will be filled with the sounds that only Haiti can make, the car horns, the yelling of the market, the laugher, the scolding mothers, the boisterous singing and the playing of drums.

My arms will be filled with old people, young people, and infants suffering in extreme poverty with a variety of diseases. I will find in my stomach the conflicting feeling of not being able to give enough and being joyfully grateful for what I can provide.

I don’t know when I will be in Haiti again after this summer. I always joke that I could go and stay forever, and who knows maybe one day I will.

But for now… I know He will still be  with me, and I will still be discovering His heart every step of the way.

About Hannah Terbrack

Hannah Terbrack is a Franciscan University student in her Senior year of college. She is studying Theology and Business, and has been blessed to travel to Haiti with Mission youth every Summer since 2013. She loves laughing, early mornings and anything outdoors. Being Catholic brings her life and she is grateful for the joy she finds in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
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