It has been a couple of weeks now since Haiti. Each day goes on as it always has, but something is different. I carry something new with me that I did not have before. Something heavy and real, something meaningful that I will never forget. This trip stirred in me thoughts and feelings that I have not felt for several years now. It made me remember the purpose and meaning I found while living in Africa, and it made me realize that I may have left some of that behind.
This trip was not like most mission trips. It was not a group of middle-class Americans dropping thousands of dollars to go to an impoverished people, to solve their problems for a week and then leave back to the comfort of routine and order. In fact, we decided on the trip not to even call it a missions trip but instead to call it a learning journey, which is exactly what it was. A step into the lives of our brothers and sisters who, aside from where they were born and the lives they were born into, are not so different from ourselves. It was a look into the heart of our Maker and the work that He is already doing in the world that we daily choose to turn a blind eye to. A lot of emotions arose on this trip, as we have been so ingrained with the doctrine and tradition of western Christianity and it’s idea of what missions should look like. But in the end, we all found such a serene peace and fulfillment about the time and resource we had spent to be a part of this journey.
While there, we spent most of our time working with local pastors who, on their own initiative, have carried on amazing projects to help those affected by the earthquake, and to meet the needs of their respective communities. We stayed with Pastor Jean-Alix Paul in the mountains overlooking Port-Au-Prince and spent time in a near bye village called Geibert. While there we got to work side by side with community members to build a house for a family who had lost theirs in the earthquake. Part of the money we raised for the trip went towards the materials for the house as well as creating jobs for able Haitian men to do the construction. Our part in building the house was minimal as we sifted some dirt and carried a few bricks here and there. More than anything, I think we served as comic relief for the workers and neighbors who observed. Each morning we were served fresh coffee that was picked, roasted, ground, and brewed right behind the house we were building. We took several breaks to hear stories, play with the kids, and walk around to take in the beautiful mountain views. We were so blessed to be accepted by these wonderful people and to be allowed to join in the restoration and renewal of their community.
We also spent some good time with Pastor Gaetan Alcegaire at his orphanage Yahve Shamma. This is a man who has sacrificed time and time again and who has taken great leaps of faith to provide and care for the children of his community. We got to play soccer and do crafts with the kids and spend some good time praying for Pastor Gaetan and for God’s continued provision in his work. His orphanage houses many of the recipients of Help One Now’s child sponsorship program. It was so cool to be able to see first hand the positive result of partnership with Churches and individuals in the U.S. It was a humbling experience to allow ourselves to just be there and not necessarily do anything physically for them, but only to spend our time and affection with them.
The part of the trip for which I have been most grateful though, was our time with Pastor John St. Cyr in one of Haiti’s largest “tent cities”. These tent cities were created after the earthquake and still house over 20,000 people who have been left without a home. Pastor St. Cyr was on the ground immediately following the earthquake working day and night to rescue members of his community. He has also been working non-stop ever since to help rebuild and to share the hope and joy he has in found in the love of Christ. He leads a church that sits atop a hill in the middle of the tent city, which seemingly meets every day of the week. When they are ready to start, they turn their huge speakers up as loud as they can go and start playing worship music for all in the city to hear. People begin to stroll in one by one, and within twenty minutes the entire tent is full of people joyfully dancing and singing songs in Kreyol! At the end of the service, I was tapped on the shoulder by a young man sitting behind me named Antone Davidson. He began to speak to me, piecing together what what words he knew in English to formulate broken sentences. He told me that during the church service he had seen the tattoo on the inside of my arm. He decided to sit down in his chair and read the verse throughout the remainder of the service. He told me that the verse had very much meaning to him and that he was going to write it out and put it up in his tent to read every morning. He also went on to thank me and that I had allowed God to bring me to Haiti to share this verse with him. The verse reads:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Thoughoutwardly we are wasting away, yetinwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentarytroubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I was completely floored and fought to hold back the tears as he continued to share with me. This verse was one that I have always recited and carried with me, but I had never felt the true weight of it until this moment. I have often reverted to this verse when the going gets tough or in times of doubt and confusion. But how much more this verse meant to this young man who had lost both of his parents and has been living in a small shack of a tent ever since……for him to not lose heart and to fix his eyes on the unseen seemed to mean so much more than I had ever known it to. I will forever remember and be grateful for God opening my eyes through Antone and to the reality of how He is moving and working in the broken world around us.
The beauty of this trip is that it is not something that we will be able to leave behind, but the stories and lives of our friends and brothers with whom we shared will now live on in and through us. We will take what we have seen and learned back into our own homes in hopes that the eyes and hearts of others will be opened just as ours were. We will continue to stand side by side with our friends and partners as we work not just to renew and restore Haiti, but also our own communities and the world abroad.
Thank you so much to everyone who prayed and gave to allow me to be a part of this journey…..I hope this journal helps in a small way to bring you along in the experience with me and to share with you some of the beautiful things I learned!
If you would like to learn more about what God is doing in Haiti and how you can be a part of it, you can visit http://www.helponenow.org