From October 2-9, a 14-member team from Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church embarked on an amazing journey to do mission work in Haiti, primarily with the Haitian Child Sponsorship Program and Good Shepherd School. And on this day of Thanksgiving, I’d like to express my “thankfulness” for that experience which has forever shaped me as a husband, dad, minister and human being. I am grateful for:
Walls International Guest House where we stayed for the week. Walls has housed mission teams who come from all over the world to help the people of Haiti (before and after the January earthquake). I am appreciative of the Walls (an older couple from Canada who built the hotel and who have built schools in Haiti); the hotel staff, the comfortable accommodations (including a refreshing pool) and the delicious food.
Jeff Lewis, an ordained minister and representative of Young Life Expeditions (which organizes mission trips to Haiti and other countries). Jeff came along as our guide, having been to Haiti four times previously since the earthquake. Jeff’s encouragement, patience, insight, wisdom and humor were invaluable during trip, especially on the hardest days. Jeff helped us navigate a landscape that completely different than any place we’d been before. In a poverty-consumed country that is lacking in infrastructure and trustworthy government leaders, it was a blessing to have Jeff remind us in subtle ways of how God’s hope and love was always present in the midst.
The tent city which we visited on Sunday afternoon, at the beginning of our week in Haiti. Thousands upon thousands of people are forced to live side by side in deplorable conditions under make-shift tents that barely hold up during heavy rains and hurricane like winds. Children run around naked in the dust and dirt that covers every inch of this refuge. As we took a tour through the tent city, two 6-year-old girls dragged a large tin tub up a rocky barren hill; they will likely use the precious bowl to bathe, wash their laundry and cook food (what little they have). And despite this misery that caused each one of us to wonder how the world could let human beings live in such inhumane conditions, there is hope….
The Apparent Project an incredible non-profit organization that helps keep families together and lift people out of poverty by training parents a specialized skill like jewler y making, bookbinding, sewing, etc. Parents have been able to make a sustainable living by making and selling exquisite and beautiful bead bracelets, necklaces, and children’s clothing. The proceeds from the sales go toward the building of pre-fab, hurricane safe wooden houses. And for every child’s skirt or dress that is bought, another is mad e f or a homeless child in Haiti. In addition, The Apparent Project’s founders,Corrigan and Shelley Clay provide a safe place for parents and children to stay, work and be family.
The Clays write about their experience in Haiti at The Apparent Project Blog. I am grateful for the ministry they do, the stories they live and share and the way they make Christ’s love apparent every moment of every day.
The Sisters of Charity (Mother Theresa’s Orphange) where orphans are fed, nurtured and loved, and the children who reached out to our hearts and pulled us into moments of unadulterated grace.
The Good Shepherd School where we helped build classrooms, taught Vacation Bible School, fed the children, played soccer, painted murals of Bible stories, and built friendships. In doing so, we saw a glimpse of the kingdom of God. I am also thankful for the people at the school and in the surrounding village of Pele…
Our Haitian interpreters, Timothy, Woobie, and Noyo who exude faith, compassion, hard work, and dignity in everything they say and do, and who are exemplary fathers, teachers and leaders in their community.
Teens like Jimmy and Angelo who are filled with a love for God and God’s people, young men and future community (and even possibly spiritual) leaders who will make a great impact in people’s lives. They’ve already begun by making a profound mark in ours with their advice, hospitality, kindness, and willingness to share their joys, their sorrow, their achievements, their difficulties, their hopes and dreams. Even as things have progressively gotten worse in Haiti since we left (heavy storms and a cholera epidemic) Jimmy tells me in weekly emails that he continues to study hard so he can help his country and people.
The children of The Good Shepherd School and Pele who greeted us with open arms. Their starvation for attention was overwhelming at times and there were occasions where I (an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test) had to go off to a secluded part of the school to be by myself. But their bright eyes, wide grins and silly demeanor managed to always draw me back to Godly play and re-creation.
The mission team who went way out of their comfort zones to serve God’s people in Haiti. The trip was as one member said “a kick in the pants” (even for folks who had been on numerous mission outings to Honduras) and one of the most eye-opening journeys. It was a privilege to work alongside each team member. I learned so much about what it meant to do for “the least of these.” And I saw the powerful love of God in so many aspects of the week:
A group of girls singing Justin Bieber songs with Brigid; Haitian workers and team members (like Patrick, Rob, Margo, and Mike) working side by side or having deep conversations with one another; Duane bandaging up a kid who cut his foot on a piece of glass; Jennifer translating songs and stories for a crowd of energetic children; Margot and some older middle school youth painting the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 on a large canvas; the school’s cooks preparing a meal of rice and beans; Jeff S’s excitement as the new classrooms became more and more of a reality; Kim playing soccer with some of the boys; Meg handing out letters to the kids from students at elementary schools in Duluth, Georgia; Erik handing his sandwich to a hungry child; Mary showing her photos to kids who have never seen what they look like and who now know that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made”
Brothers and sisters in Christ embracing love, mercy, justice and…hope not for tomorrow but for now, always for now.