Friday morning I woke up around 5:30 A.M. in a bunkhouse in Fonde Baptiste, Haiti. I fell asleep around 11:30 P.M. in my own bed in Chattanooga, TN. I think my mind is still struggling to figure out where I am and what I am doing. As I sit at home and try to process the past two and a half months, I am at a loss. It’s hard to encompass a life changing two months into a few short, concise ideas. So for now, I am not going to even try. What I can do is reflect back on the magnificent 9 days I got to spend serving the Lord in Haiti.
On July 30th, we woke up around 3 in the morning and left Outdoor Mission Camp by 4. We arrived at the Atlanta airport around 9 and we boarded the plain for Port Au Prince, Haiti at 11. We landed around 2 and loaded up into the back of a diesel pick up truck for a four hour car ride up a mountainous road to the village of Fonde Baptiste. We didn’t have much time to do much else than settle in, eat some dinner, and catch up on some much needed sleep.
The next day, Thursday, was market day. Before we left for Haiti we had prepared a few skits that outlined some basic tenets of the Gospel, and that was our chance to put them into action. The market was crazy. There were stands lining a narrow pathway selling all kinds of food, trinkets, and clothes. Pigs, cows, and goats roamed the market and squealed and groaned as they were led away by their new owners. Animals in all stages of the butchering process were out in the open for all to see, including the severed goat head I accidentally made direct eye contact with. Yikes. Anyways, as the only white people around the village it was pretty easy for us to draw a crowd. Without much of a formal announcement we just dove into our program. Two skits, with each of them being followed by a brief explanation and presentation of the Gospel. Honestly, this was one of the most stretching experiences of my entire summer. In general, I hate the idea of drawing attention among a big crowd of people. That, coupled with the idea of encroaching on an area we didn’t necessarily belong and my hesitant attitude towards up front evangelism, made for a very uncomfortable me. But we did it, and it was good, and it was certainly a growing experience for me!
The next two days we hosted a VBS program at two local churches for kids in the area. This was an awesome time of personal interaction and a wonderful opportunity to simply love on some Haitian children. I absolutely underestimated the difficulty of the language barrier, but it was inspiring to see the power of simply holding a kids hand or kicking a soccer ball back and forth. As hard as their living situations might be, or how dirty their clothes were, or how worn out their shoes were, their smiles were priceless. I had the opportunity to teach the Bible lesson at the VBS. Speaking with an interpreter was certainly a new experience, but I actually kinda liked the moments in between phrases where I got to think about what I would say next. I have no idea how much of what I said stuck or even made sense to those kids. All I know is that we showed them God’s love through our actions and spoke truth into their lives. It was a challenge walking away from those days not knowing what kind of difference we made, and I had to learn to trust that seeds had been sown.
On Sunday we attended a local church service. I am not sure what was said for most of the four and a half hour church service, but I know that God was praised. There was a supernatural joy among the people in the congregation, and they certainly didn’t seem to mind the length of the service. Their exuberant praise songs made the songs we tend to sing in American churches seem like somber ballads. Their singing and their dancing revealed such a heart of praise. They also spent part of their service simply memorizing scriptures and challenging each other to memorize certain verses. At one point we had the chance lead a couple worship songs and one of the SHERPAs shared a message. The graciousness with which the church accepted our offerings to the service was truly humbling. As much as my sore tush and hungry stomach disagreed, my heart was sad to see the service finally come to a close. I have rarely felt the Spirit so closely.
Monday through Thursday we spent the mornings doing work projects around the missionary base and the afternoons training and discipling a group of teenagers in the area. At some point in my first couple days there, I got bit or stung by an insect of some type, and by Monday my right leg was swollen up to about twice its normal size. Not wanting to take any chances, I was sidelined from doing any manual labor that day. I hate sitting out, and I hate not doing my part in something, so this was a challenge. However, because I wasn’t doing any physical work, I got the chance to focus on the teaching for our discipleship program that afternoon. I got to dive into the idea of 3-story evangelism and lay out the foundation for the rest of the week. It was an amazing opportunity and looking back, I am thankful for whatever in the heck bit me. It was just yet another example of God’s provision in all circumstances, and his ability to redeem an unfortunate situation. For me, the discipleship training part of the week was the most encouraging aspect of the whole trip. I got to meet some young men who were on fire for God and had a desire for the people around them to encounter God’s love. I also got to see the love of God actively filling these students with an abundant joy. Beyond that, I really enjoyed being able to invest in people who could further invest in their community. Those young men and women can do far more good than we ever can, so it was neat to play a small part in enabling them to lead effectively.
It is hard to believe that just 48 hours ago I was in a plane flying home, looking out over the concrete structures and asphalt roads that outline most American cities. I remember how orderly everything looked, and felt myself already missing the humble Haitian mountains I had so quickly grown accustomed to. I felt a sudden sadness about my summer coming to a close and the idea of going back to a life of school work and traditional ministry. Thankfully I was reminded of something I had been thinking about all summer. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, there are people all around you who so desperately need to be shown God’s love. I am thankful for a chance to share love with some of God’s children in Haiti, but I am also excited to put a summers worth of ministry experience into practice during the coming school year. This was an experience I don’t plan to soon forget, and I know that as time goes on and I continue to process I will realize even more of what God was showing me in my time in Haiti. Thanks to all who supported and prayed for my trip and my summer as a whole. It was not only quite an adventure, but I know it equipped me for whatever God has for me next.