Magen Andrasko has worked for Many Hands since April of 2021 as an Executive Assistant and Marketing Specialist. She also interned with Many Hands in the summer of 2018. This was her first trip to Haiti. You can read the previous blog from this team here.
Those of you that know me will know this is true: I do not do mornings well. I prefer most mornings to involve hitting snooze at least twice, a big coffee of coffee or tea, and complete silence-no talking, please. Today I traded this beloved routine in for something a bit different: a 5:30 am take-off time on the truck to head to the base of Mt. Pignon so our group could hike to the top to watch the sunrise. Mt. Pignon sits a few miles from campus and we can see it’s beauty from any direction. A few minutes before 5:30, please note I was on time, we went to meet Herby at the base of the mountain. It was pitch black and a bit breezy which gave a few of us the impression that the hike would not be that hot (that was not the case we were all covered in sweat halfway up). As we rolled down the road, from the view on top of the truck roof people would come into view in the glow of the truck lights. With zero street lights, the community was awake and moving with donkeys, goats, and people starting their regular Saturday routines.
As we started up, we passed around 30 piles of gravel each about 2-3 feet tall. Christi explained to us that each pile was owned by a different person. Every day that person would walk up the hill to the rock quarries, collect rocks the size of a holiday ham to fill their wheelbarrow, walk it back down the mountain, break it into gravel, and hope that someone would choose their pile to buy rock from. A 5-gallon bucket runs for about 200 gourdes which in US dollars is equivalent to less than $2.00.
With headlamps on, we started up the mountain in our long pants and shirts to protect us from the vegetation. Within 5 minutes we came across a man who was carrying down his load of rocks for the day to start to beat into gravel. For a quick reminder for those who forgot: it is still pitch-black outside with no street lights. Christi knew the man and chatted with him then translated for us. He got his rock every day with his almost broken wheelbarrow. His wife has passed recently and he was doing what “God gave him the ability to do” every day to get by. As we continued up, we saw the rock queries and learned that our culture guide Herby also was familiar with the rocks because he used to bring a donkey up the mountain when he was 10 years old to collect the large rocks.
A farmer passed us on our way up to tend his fields of corn planted right into the side of the mountain. As we continued to climb we pointed out plants Tom Dent told us about the day before on our campus tour, asking Christi questions about Pignon, and some of us caused distractions by commenting on sticks and small flowers to get the group to stop for a break. At some point we broke apart so some could head up a little faster with Herby and others could take extra care with Christi. Herby and I made our way to the top, I will spare you all the details of the spiked bushes, slippery rocks, and comments on the heat from behind me.
Herby and I talked about his life, that he was one of four brothers, his wife, his soon-to-be daughter, and he pointed out different structures. He told me about his property where he will one day build his home and that “he thinks about it all the time”. At one point Spanish came up because I told him some words Creole words sounded similar to the Spanish ones. Herby responded “I don’t like Spanish quite as much”, which if anyone is counting is 3 languages for Herby and 1.25 for me. My .25 of Spanish is from almost 5 years of Spanish classes including some at a college level and I am still not very good; Herby had a book to teach him English and he is fluent if you ask me. At the top Herby helped me onto a the roof of a small cement house. We sat, looked around, I asked questions while I soaked my surroundings in.
“My coworkers at Many Hands have mustard seeds of faith when they show up
and work so incredibly hard every day.”
I love hiking. I was so pumped for this trip up the mountain. I have always loved climbing and exploring ever since I was a kid even if it was just through a creek behind my house in Iowa. Once we all got to the peak, sitting watching the sun finish rising (it was pretty much done) and checking out the rest of the mountains and valleys I remembered the quote from the Bible that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Now, this is cliché, I know but stick with me here. Standing on top of a mountain that took a lot of work to get up, looking over the now very tiny city and almost invisible cars with the continuous other mountains as the backdrop, this verse is a little more…impactful if you will.
The faces of the Haitians that we pass on the streets, the stories I have heard of trials they endure, and the realities they face that I witnessed for myself were all instantly brought back to the front of my brain. I remembered the feeling of being overwhelmingly small and unable to do anything actually helpful. The farmer that climbed the mountain has a mustard seed of faith. The man with the rocks in his wheelbarrow has a mustard seed of faith. Herby has a mustard seed of faith. My coworkers at Many Hands have mustard seeds of faith when they show up and work so incredibly hard every day. The children in school have mustard seeds of faith as they continue to learn. Craig, Christi, Tom, Denise, Liz, Mark, and Melissa, have mustard seeds of faith when they witness and walk with people through incredibly hard situations that I could never even begin to imagine.
And through it all, everyone is quick to say “it wasn’t me, it was God” that got them through. I want to have attitudes like them. I want to have drive and determination like them. I want to have unwavering, always-focused faith like them. I pray that their mountains move. And I give thanks for the ones that already have. Because as the Haitians will tell you “if it is God’s will.”
Also I did pick on my team members a bit during our hike up and down the mountain so I will take a moment to acknowledge in front of the entire internet that I was the only one who completely laid herself out at the peak of the mountain. On a flat surface, when we weren’t even walking. The rock that I thought I was putting my foot on to stable myself just didn’t exist and down she goes.