haiti: meeting people
During the first week of August, Chad and I were in Haiti on a mission trip with 14 students and 4 other adults with Adventures In Missions. As I've mentioned, it was the most powerful and meaningful week of my life. Because of what God accomplished in, around and through our group, I've been processing and writing my response to those experiences here on my blog. This is response #3 of 9. You may want to start from the beginning if you're just jumping in.
As I let on in previous posts about Haiti, there was an overwhelming need for basic essentials by pretty much every Haitian we met. However, what would seem the easiest place to assist—meeting basic, felt needs—actually proved to be more difficult than we expected. You see, we began to quickly recognize that although those "things" would help for a few days, the depth of Haiti's complex surrounding circumstances was extremely troubling.
The greater, looming needs of Haiti were regarding their political unrest, physical and emotional pain from the aftermath of the earthquake (death, loss, destruction, etc.), children walking long distances to get water for their family, sex slavery, difficulty in finding work, funds for education, lack of medical treatment available and absence of any kind of civil infrastructure (electricity, water treatment, mail system, security, garbage removal, clear routes for transportation, etc.). After seeing the effects of these issues first-hand, it was common for thoughts like "What could I possibly do that would make a difference here?" to cross our minds.
The best way we found to kick those doubts was to simply build relationships with Haitians and to genuinely love on them, showing that we cared. Some of those aspects of ministry played out by getting to know people on the streets, playing "futbol" with kids, praying with people in the community, leading Vacation Bible School in the local church, visiting an orphanage, singing with them, sharing inspirational verses from the Bible, meeting families in the tent cities, encouraging other Christians in their faith, sharing our testimonies with church members, and by praying with people who were sick / hungry / in need.
More often than not, instead of us offering hope to them, they were really the ones inspiring us. I have never witnessed such BIG faith, such TRUE joy, such LOVING hearts. And we think they are in need, huh? Here are just a couple examples of their character as a people:
We did many "prayer walks" around the area where you just walk the streets, strike up conversations with people and get to know them. If possible, we prayed with them. Usually, the Haitians we met invited us right into their homes (regardless of what form their "home" was in) and asked to pray with/for us. Perhaps one of the most memorable stops during this time for me was at the home of Yvrose where her 8-yr-old neighbor, Angel (pronounced on•jel), sang "Avèk ou" (a beautiful Haitian praise song) to us and recited the entire Psalm 100. He's the little boy in the orange/blue hooded shirt above. Cutest thing ever! He seemed to be aptly named, as he had the little voice of an angel.
Angel was a twin to his brother Angelo (pictured above in stripes), but was much much smaller than he was. We didn't believe at first that they were actually twins—wondering if maybe we had misunderstood due to a language barrier. But it was true—they were born only minutes apart. He never allows his physical size limit his capabilities. Little Angel has great faith, even at the age of 8, and is not afraid to share it.
Later in the week, we ran into Angel again, this time in the street with his Father, Lino. When Lino introduced himself and realized we had already met his twins, he invited the 5 of us into his home and we were able to meet the rest of their family. There were two other children—the oldest brother Crisito (pictured above in the soccer jersey), and a little sister who was nestled in her mother's arms. Lino said the pictures I took of them were the first photographs that had ever been taken of his sons together.
We met at least 6 of the people who were living in this very small home. You see, in Haiti, you never really knew who actually lived in a home you were visiting until you asked… sometimes more than 10 people. They did whatever needed to be done so that every neighbor had a roof—or at least some sort of covering—over their head at night. Before we left, we were able to pray with this special family and even bless them with some rice and beans. I think we left feeling more blessed, though.
The general joy of children everywhere was irrepressible. They got a kick out of our skin color, calling us "blanc" (or "tre blanc" in my case, meaning "very white"). Haha! They schooled us in soccer—as fast as you could toss out a ball, there were 10 little kids running after it. They gave amazing hugs and loved to be picked up—they craved affection. They seemed to have permanent smiles on their faces.
Although they are not used to getting their pictures taken, as soon as I would turn my camera around to show them the image I had captured of them, their faces would just light up. Instantly, they'd strike a new pose with another smile. This quickly became the "Foto! Foto!" game they loved playing with me. At VBS, Deja (pronounced day•ja) was my favorite little "model" (pictured above in the 3 blue stripes). She just ate it up. She'd have me take her picture, run to look at the result, then run to get more friends to join in for the next one. I could have taken their pictures for hours! Just precious.
For these children, it wasn't about the physical photograph at all. In fact, the whole "photograph" concept was outside of their understanding. It was truly about focused attention in each and every moment. The "frozen image" on the back of my camera was simply proof that we had shared those moments together. In life—especially life in the States—it is easy to let moments pass us by. Easy to forget that each one is a gift from God. It's extremely easy for us to become distracted by all that surrounds us. I challenge you to soak up your moments this week. Pay close attention to the people you get the privilege of sharing them with and choose to make them special.
Wednesday afternoon, our entire group visited an orphanage. Miraculously, it had been virtually untouched by the earthquake. There were around 70 children who lived there, ranging in age from toddler through 18 years. The owners were Christians, and it showed—they had truly taken each child under their wings as one big happy family! The love & respect amongst them all was clear, they were treated equally, and the children treated each other like blood siblings. The coolest part of this visit was how quickly the kids latched on to our students (and adults!). As soon as we got there, they grabbed our hands, introduced us to friends, sang with us, played games, soccer, basketball, braided hair, and swapped life stories.
Chad made special friends with Nishka and Ronaldinio (pictured above in blue and yellow). They even had a secret handshake! It was amazing how much could be communicated without a common language (Haitians speak Creole, which is a dialect of the French language). Deep, meaningful friendships had been formed in only a few short hours. Those friendships bridged any difference in age, skin color, language, background or circumstance. They were deeply rooted in the love of Christ.
Leaving that orphanage to go back to our house was extremely tough. Some of the children, including Ronaldinio, had tears in their eyes as we parted ways. One of our students, Kara (pictured above in purple), rests in the fact that, "Although we may never see each other again here on earth, we will definitely see each other again in Heaven." Amen.
Here are a couple videos of the girls singing with our group at the orphanage. Loved it!
Read the next response (#4 of 9).