I know, I know. It has been almost 2 months since we went to Haiti, and I have yet to share about it with many people, and have showed pictures of the trip to even less than that.
It wasn’t because it wasn’t a good experience. Quite the opposite, I couldn’t really write about it in the very few sparing minutes that I’ve had here and there because, well, I wanted to have the time to do it justice.
Here in this rare quiet hour, I’m going to try. At least try to describe what this experience meant to me.
Since I didn’t write about it much beforehand, let me give you a little background on the trip:
Last year, my church started a partnership with Fond Baptiste, Haiti, with an organization called 410 Bridge. 410’s philosophy is that it is not helpful, in the long run, to do mission work in a developing nation by giving them a bunch of stuff and doing a bunch of work for them. This is proven to create a dependence on “the white people” coming to do mission work, and local people still, once the missionaries have gone home, don’t know how to support themselves. Instead of doing that, 410 tries to come alongside hurting communities. They appoint local leaders in the community to select and carry out mission projects. Missionaries can come in and assist with projects, but the local leadership has to do the bulk of the work. In this way, the community will develop a lifestyle that they can sustain on their own.
(Let me interject here that I think God has used all sorts of missions over the years, including the kind that “give a bunch of stuff.” If that is the kind of organization that God has led you to, awesome! I personally believe that the most Christ-like approach to mission work is probably smack dab in the middle of the two extremes. As usual.)
What this means is that, when we partner with a community, the most important thing that we set about doing is to build a relationship with the community. Building relationships takes time, which makes regular trips with at least a few recurring people important.
Our church took their first trip to Fond Baptiste last October and Josh went with them. Between the fact that, when arrangements were being made for the trip, Egan was still nursing, and the fact that Josh had NEVER had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip ANYWHERE, it was the right time for him to go. It was a great experience for him. And when he came back, one of the first things he did was announce that, next time, I would be going with him.
Now let me take the time to confess some things. Although I went on a number of mission trips in the U.S. as a teenager, I had never been out of the country on ANY kind of trip. At the beginning of this year, I didn’t even own a passport! And the closer the trip got, the less excited I felt about it. Although the kids were at an age that I felt comfortable leaving them, making the plans for them to be taken care of while we were gone really put me on edge. We had friends and family who graciously agreed to help, but since we were both going, we had to be very thorough in our preparations, all the way down to signing a Power of Attorney for medical care. And then there was the emotional stress of worrying about how they would behave while we were gone. Would we still have friends when we got back??
And then there were irrational fears. I guess you could say, in Southern Baptist vernacular, “the enemy was trying to get into my head.” You see, I’ve always had a passion for missions. I don’t think I could help it if I wanted to; I am a Missionary Kid! (Did you know that? I am! My parents planted a church in Philly, and that’s where I was born!) (That would be Philadelphia. The locals call it Philly. At least, I think they do. I kind of moved away when I was 18 months old.) Not only was I raised by missionary parents and in every church missions program possible, but when I was 18 I worked at a GA camp and taught kids about foreign missions in Ecuador for a whole summer. After we got married, Josh and I tried to get plugged into our church, and I started helping with GAs. Much to the surprise of the ladies who had been doing it, I think, by themselves for 20 years. I’ve prayed for friends and family on foreign mission trips, and Josh and I have even hosted a few commissioning services for some special friends before going on their trips. In more recent times, I’ve written camp curriculum that focuses on missions, and for a year and a half, I taught Mission Friends for our current church.
But here’s the thing, although learning about and even teaching about foreign missions my whole life, I had no experience. And here is where the irrational fears crept in. What if I’m not needed on this trip? What if people are wasting their money by supporting me? And, the biggest, most common fear of all: WHAT IF I’M NOT GOOD AT BEING A MISSIONARY? After spending my whole life giving special attention to foreign missions, I was afraid I was going to find out I was some kind of missionary farce.
As you can see, I was in a wonderful state of spiritual peace and wisdom when I got on that plane.
But here’s the thing that I knew already. Because, to quote Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” It’s really not important if I’m a “good missionary.” What is important is that I represent a good God. A God that loves Haiti. A God that loves me. And the fact that I got to have a teeny, tiny part of spreading that love in a hurting nation that He loves so much…well, it was nothing short of an honor.
So, to answer the question that so many of you have graciously asked, How was your trip to Haiti? …
It was amazing. As you can see by these pictures, the scenery is incredible. The people are beautiful. And despite the fact that they, on our standards, are living in poverty – they are so much more content than we are here.
We did a Vacation Bible School. At the point of our highest attendance, we had 260 kids. 260 children. For our tiny church that rejoices when we can get 15 children to attend an event, 260 kids in one room is impossible to even consider. But it happened. In Haiti. Were there challenging and frustrations in a room of 260 kids that can’t even speak the same language? Absolutely. Was it still amazing? Absolutely. (Although it didn’t feel amazing when were we cutting craft supplies in halves and thirds in order to have enough for everyone, while children were sticking their hands in our faces from all sides. Full disclosure.)
We met some amazing, godly leadership from the community. Pastors and teachers. Their faith is so strong and beautiful.
We bounced up and down the mountain every day. I’m not kidding, we bounced. Roads are different there.
We attended an incredible church service. These people don’t have a lot of instruments, but they sure can SING. And there’s something so special about hearing people worship in a different language.
We walked the dusty streets. We saw (from outside) the Unicef tents set up for Typhoid patients. We saw the market, complete with donkey parking lot. And, from many points on the mountains, we saw the glorious sea.
Our translators had all been affected by the earthquake of 2010 in Port au Prince. They took us to the mass grave on the way back to the airport and told us their testimonies.
We had the privilege of getting to know our pastor’s family (above, with a Haitian brother,) that much better. There’s nothing like sweating together for bonding!
And I hope to be able to write some more specific stories on here in the future. But hopefully this will suffice as an answer to the question, How was your Haiti trip.
And one of the things I learned in Haiti? Alleluia is the same in every language.