Since returning home from Haiti, I have been thinking about what I want to share and the lessons learned while there.
The main purpose of the trip was to update children in the His Hands for Haiti sponsorship program. The team visited six schools and interviewed, measured, and photographed 661 students. Three of us took turns with the photography. It was such fun to see each child, speak to them, and try to make them smile. Sometimes it was easy and other times not so, –at least not until we were done and gave out a piece of candy. Then we saw smiles!
Many have asked about what we saw in terms of the Jan. 12th earthquake. The area we visited was not directly affected, but many people have moved away from Port au Prince to be with family in other towns. One new student we saw was a 15 year old boy, a survivor of the Port au Prince earthquake. He lost 7 siblings and both parents. He is now living with a relative and attending school in Terrier Rouge. One of the ladies on our team has become his sponsor.
The joys of sponsorship were made evident to me. I was able to see two of my children and give them hugs. I was so please to see one looking happier and healthier that he had last year when he first went into the program. I also saw the boy my church sponsors. He remembered me from last year and wondered if I had a card for him! (I did, but it would be given to him by his pastor in a more private setting so as not to cause other students to have hurt feelings because they didn’t get anything. Letters and cards are special to them.
Another purpose was to deliver funds for relief efforts which were given to those in positions who would best know who to help and how. One recipient we know of was a young woman whose husband was killed in the earthquake. She now faces delivering her first child in May as a single parent. She is currently living in Cap Haitian with missionaries.
One of the most exciting things we were able too do is to deliver funds to Pastor Noel for his church to start a permanent orphanage and home for abandoned children in Terrier Rouge. There is currently a house mother and 12 orphaned or abandoned children living in a rented building. The goal is to build individual houses; rather than a large complex. Each one would have a house mother and 10 children. Once the first house is completed, and more money comes in, the next house will be built. It is my understanding that they will share a kitchen and courtyard. It is an effort that entirely relies on faith in God’s provision and timing. We were blessed to see the land with nothing on it, have a dedication service there, see the first strike of the pick/hoe, and then to see the work that had resulted by the time we left. The foundation was already about three feet above ground.
Since the earthquake, I have heard many reports about revival taking place in Haiti - people turning to God, and praising him for their survival. Interestingly, some of the Haitians we talked with believe that the earthquake was indeed a sign and a judgment from God. We were able to see one of these “revivals” when we visited Cap Haitian. On a main street there was a long procession of people singing and carrying signs referencing 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The group stopped in the middle of the busy street, and with UN peace-keepers present, a man preached on the same Scripture. Afterward, they continued on their way, singing and praising God, passing right by us. It was a special event for all of us to observe.
Each morning we started the day with team devotions, where we were challenged by God’s Word and then ended the day with a team time in which we discussed the day and a reading from a book on short-term mission trips. These were two very important times of each of our days there.
One thing I learned is that I don’t want to be a “monkey”. In one chapter, the author told a story about a zealous and courageous monkey who tried to help a struggling fish trying to swim upstream in a typhoon. His way of helping was to remove the fish from the water and place him safe on the ground! He was unaware of the true needs of the fish, thinking what would be “safe” for him, would be OK for the fish, too.
How often do missionaries and well-meaning Americans go into a country thinking they have all the answers? They think that what works in America will work elsewhere too. We have to be aware of cultural differences and be willing to be humble, to listen, to learn and to work with the nationals who know best the true needs of the people.
On this trip, I learned even more of the importance of not giving money or a gift directly to a person. At first it seemed a little harsh and unloving, but now I understand so much better. We think it can be a good thing, but in actuality it could mean harm to that person (or self) or chaos and confusion. Why do we think we must give something to someone personally? The Bible says not to let your left hand know what the right hand is doing. (Matthew 6:3) If we insist on giving personally to someone, what is the benefit? The benefit is only to oneself ~ feeding our pride and feeling good about ourselves. When we allow what we have brought to be given to a person in leadership, who can disperse as needed, then we allow someone else to share in the blessing, too, and the focus is off of ourselves!
Which brings me to giving…….. why do we give? Are we giving for the sake of giving (Oh, look at me and what a good thing I am doing.”) or are we giving for the sake of serving Jesus, and giving not just what we don’t want, but that which is just as good, or better, as what we want for ourselves. These are some lessons God has been working on in my heart.
One of my favorite authors, Michael Phillips, wrote about this very subject in his book, Dawn of Liberty. He says that many times western Christians go into a country looking to do a work that they can put their name on. They aren’t interested in working with or under an existing ministry. They are too busy trying to do their own thing that they don’t take the time to sit with, listen to, pray with, talk to, help or support their Christian brothers and sisters –- they very thing they need!! Many times they arrive with boxes of stuff and with an attitude of “Just look at what we brought you! Aren’t you grateful to us?”
Phillips writes, “It’s not a giving of sacrifice, but a giving of pride. There is ‘giving’ and then there is ‘giving.’ There is pretended sacrifice, then there is sacrifice. There is the appearance of servanthood, then there is servanthood. Appearance counts for more in many people’s estimation than they even know themselves. What does it cost - what real personal price is there in the way of death to an individual’s self to serve another? That is the question.”
I don’t want to be a monkey, and I don’t want to have only an appearance of giving and of servanthood. One of my prayers in Haiti was, “Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear….” I want to be aware, I want to be a help, not a hindrance to those I go to work with. I want to keep an open, compassionate heart and not become hardened to the poverty and injustice I see. God is teaching me more and more about humility and what it means to die to self.
The goal in going on a missions trip is not to be so task and agenda oriented that we miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others. We need to take the time to build relationships. In order to do this, we must humble ourselves and allow those we seek to serve, to also serve and bless us. In doing so, we will be obeying Christ’s command to love one another.
There were many other things that I saw or experienced that made an impression on me, but if I shared them all, I’d be writing a longer book!
holding an orphan...
Love is color blind....