International travel is always an exciting adventure. A new town. A new culture. Often times, a new language. Traveling to Haiti for my first time was no different. Leaving my home here in the US to meet new friends abroad always stirs this excitement inside me.

I was fortunate enough to fly to Haiti with Missionary Flights International. Much like an Indiana Jones’ movie, the cargo laden DC-3 aircraft carried us south over the sea. Along with a total of 24 seats and 22 passengers, our cargo and luggage sat next to us held safe by the canvas strapping. The open cockpit showed the activity of our pilot and co-pilot as we made the three hour journey. The pilot began with safety instructions and prayer and then we were airborne.

Upon arrival in Cap-Haitian, Haiti I was struck by the simplicity of the small airport. A basic concrete runway surrounded by dirt and construction vehicles. A small damaged aircraft welcomed us as we walked to the Haitian customs building.

This structure was obviously too small for the 22 passengers along with the 2 dozen Haitians already inside. After a quick stamp in my passport we began collecting our luggage being passed to us through a hole in the wall. Tight space. Fast paced. New language. Unfamiliar faces. I love this place.

Javier found a handsome man and gave him a big hug. This must be Pastor Julio, our host. After a few minutes our small team was ushered through the crowd to a pick up truck outside. We loaded our bags and ourselves into the back and suddenly … we were in downtown Cap-Haitian in the back of a truck, dodging cars, trucks and motorcycles. Bienvenue du Haiti!

Thirty miles per hour is not very fast unless your avoiding accidents by inches at that speed. The city was packed. The smells rolled by from fresh air to fresh sewage. The people were in a hurry and focused on getting to their destination. You better keep up or have a good driver. I’m grateful we had the latter.

First stop, The Bethesda Church and School in Madeline. This would be our work site for the next week. Down a dirt road (like most of the roads in Haiti), the big gate opened to welcome our truck. I immediately noticed that this place was cleaner than any place else in had seen that day.

The church building sat neatly in front like a beacon of hope. Then a large field and nestled in the back of the property sat the school. Before we got out of the truck we could hear the voices of children chanting their daily memory lesson in unison. I don’t speak Creole but I quickly recognized the sound of learning. Beautiful.

Pastor Julio showed us around like a proud parent describing his children’s art work. We visited each classroom from kindergarten through the 6th grade. Each class greeting us more warmly than the last. Each teacher as proud as could be. Each child with a story in their eyes welcoming us with hope and gratitude.

After the tour, our host invited us into his home. Pastor Julio’s wife greeted us at the door while Julio and his brother Rochnelle helped us with our bags. Our rooms were simple and comfortable. The bathrooms were great. Running water, toilet and shower.

Julio encouraged us to rest a while and then we would share a home cooked meal together. The warmth of this home far exceeded the heat of the day. The love was immediate. The kindness was sincere. I missed my family. I missed my city. I found myself immediately at home in Haiti.