Hear The Cry – Haiti
I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I kissed my husband goodbye at the airport then left to spend a week in Jacmel, Haiti. I was going with a team of eleven people from Westside Church, working with an organization called Restore Haiti. I hadn’t met any of the other team members prior to signing up for the trip, and had never been on an international mission trip before. I only knew that I felt a tug on my heart to go to Haiti, and I hoped for the best.
Landing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, brought on sensory overload. The city is still recovering from the devastating earthquake that struck in 2010, and the poverty and despair among the people made my stomach turn. Our team traveled three hours by van over the mountains to the town of Jacmel, a more rural area that’s been heavily influenced by Christian missionaries. Our team had an instant sense of peace and hope as we pulled into town. We were greeted warmly by dozens of children who ran to the road waving and smiling as we drove by. We were struck by the joy of the people. Many of them were living in small homes without running water or electricity, and yet they seemed so much more content than your average American.
During the week, we spent our mornings working at two different construction sites. At one site, team members built the foundation for the addition of a second story on a school. Over the course of three days, the project was nearly completed, and it was very rewarding to see the progress that was made. The other work site was a new home that was being built for a local family. In Jacmel, resources are limited, and all materials are truly made from scratch. We sifted dirt to remove all of the stones, and used the stones as fill where the floor of the home would be. We sifted the dirt again to separate the sand from the coarse dirt so that the materials could be used to make concrete and stucco. The home was not on a main road, so construction vehicles couldn’t access the site; all materials were transported using shovels and buckets. It felt good to get our hands dirty and work hard, and the tasks were simple enough that everyone could be involved regardless of their background (or lack thereof) in construction. It was eye-opening to see how much Americans take for granted in terms of having resources and equipment readily available.
Each afternoon we served at Restore Haiti’s feeding program. Every day, hundreds of sponsored children arrive at the church for a hot meal, clean water, and vitamins. For many of them, this was their one meal for the day. On our last day, the team purchased a special meal of chicken legs and milk for the kids (to compliment their typical meal of rice and beans). This was a big hit, and it was awesome to see the smiles on their faces. During the week, our team helped with meal preparation, washing children’s hands, serving the meal, washing dishes, and, of course, playing with and loving on the kids. The kids are so fearless and so happy! They showed us instant and unconditional love by holding our hands, sitting on our laps, playing with our hair, and inviting us to play with them. For many of us, this was the most rewarding part of the trip. The children showed us that our language barrier was irrelevant when you communicate with smiles, laughter, and hugs.
In between projects and meals, we took every opportunity to “do life” with the Haitians (playing soccer, visiting their homes, taking them to the beach, including them in our evening devotion time, etc.). Many of the older children have learned to speak English in school and enjoyed conversing and interacting with our team. Giving them our time was such a simple way to show them Jesus’ love, and in return we were able to experience their culture and form friendships.
The evenings were such a sweet time for our team, when we gathered together on the roof of our hotel for worship and bonding. The nights are so quiet and peaceful in Jacmel, and the night sky was so bright and beautiful. We would share our “highs and lows” from the day, and pray for and encourage each other. It was amazing to see how a group of total strangers with different backgrounds and life experiences could become like family in just eight days. It was exciting to watch each person grow and thrive over the course of the week.
Returning home was as overwhelming and surreal as my arrival to Haiti. I was grateful for the wave of e-mails, text messages, and pictures that came from my team members as we supported each other through the transition, and for the enthusiasm of family members and friends who wanted to hear about my trip. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I had to travel to Jacmel and serve with Restore Haiti.
I went to serve and to bless only to find that I was the one who had been blessed.