Shay just returned from a life-changing trip to Haiti. She was so full of joy when she came back that I asked her to write out the things she learned there. Today and tomorrow, she will share what God did through her, and to her, as she followed Him in Haiti. You will love her stories.
I just got back from a mission trip to Haiti, and I don’t really have the right words to relay that experience to others who weren’t there. But I’ll try to give you a little picture of the last 9 days of my life. After 3 flights and a long, and relatively sleepless, night at the airport, my team of 17 arrived in Haiti. As soon as we got off the airplane we knew we weren’t in America any more. A group of men with guitars and maracas greeted us as we walked in the very hot Haitian airport. We were the spectacles of Port-au-Prince that day as the native Haitians watched 17 very tired, hot, and confused white people walk in the airport in their matching bright pink t-shirts. We finally made it past immigration and to the van and truck that our gracious hosts had prepared for us . For the next three hours we bumped, honked, and swerved our way past the Haitian countryside. As I sat with my eyes glued to the window (that is, when I wasn’t sleeping), I saw goats, dogs, donkeys, pigs, and chickens roaming the streets and open fields. I saw piles of garbage filling every available ditch. I saw women carrying very impressive amounts of cargo on their heads, children that were naked and underfed, and tents, made from tarps, that these people called their homes. Over the next few days I grew to love this country and these people that seemed so different than my own. When I came home and my mom asked me why I loved this dirt, poor, and very hot country so much, I could answer that question in so many ways: the beautiful children, the majestic scenery, my wonderful team, the fresh mangos, the list goes on and on. But these are my top three:
First off, Haiti is very poor. Some go days without eating or have to be satisfied with one meal a day. I saw one-room houses made of dirt that held families of 7, 8, or 9 people. Children were naked because they had no clothes, little boys begged for water on the streets, and most children that do not get the chance to go to school are forced into child labor…and yet these people are full of joy. They are perfectly satisfied with the smallest gifts. Two stories illustrate my point perfectly:
Every afternoon we hosted a VBS camp for the kids in the community. Our second class each day was a class of older guys; many looked to be my age. Some were younger, and some maybe even a little older. I was concerned that many of the crafts we brought were far too elementary to entertain a class of this demographic. On the third day we were scheduled to decorate picture frames and draw a small picture for the inside. I wasn’t sure what to expect. In America, I would probably either get laughed at or watch as the teens did a half-hearted job so they could get on with their life. But here, I was completely wrong. For the entire half-hour that these boys had art, they carefully and skillfully made the wooden Popsicle sticks into works of art. Many of them wrote names on them, with the intention of giving them to someone else. Even our adult translator sat down to make his own; they were so thankful and satisfied with four wooden sticks.
My second story takes place on our last afternoon in Haiti. Our team had packed up many Ziploc’s full of rice and split into groups. We then went out to bless the community with prayer and a physical gift of rice. After stashing the heavy bags of rice into our backpacks (so as not get mobbed), we wove our way through the streets. On our way, dirty children reached for our hands, every eye turned to the out-of-place white people, and we had to carefully navigate the path so as to not fall in a puddle of mud or trip on a nearby wondering goat. Our translator led us into a yard, and an older frail lady in a blue dress was sitting at a sewing machine. I regret that we never did get her name. After the usual greetings, we told her why we were there and, through our translator, asked if she had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Her face lit up as she told us how she came to know Christ when she was sick and pregnant with her first child. Then she called out and a healthy looking teenager came into view from behind the mud hut. This was the child that she had been pregnant with. We then gave her the gift of a small bag of rice. She smiled wide and repeatedly said thank you! Thank you! God bless you! Her smile was radiant. She had so little, yet such great joy. I will never forget the smile on the nameless woman in the blue dress.
(to be continued tomorrow…)