Haiti changed my life. I had always dreamed of going on mission trips and really being a part of something meaningful. I honestly can’t write exactly what happened to me there, but to use the cliche it “completes me”, almost comes close. I went on my first mission trip to Haiti in 2013, my husband and I went with our church (which we had freshly joined only 9 months prior). From the time we were landing and I could see the tattered tarp homes lining the runway, I knew I would never be the same.
There really is no way to describe the atmosphere there. Physically, it is so broken and to wrap your head around the reality that they live in the conditions they do now (years after the earthquake), is just incomprehensible. They live amongst the hardest conditions on Earth, and still smile and wave as you pass by. They work hard and long days, attempting to provide for their families from any necessary means. Even before the earthquake, Haiti was one of three most impoverished countries in the world, so to see the condition they are in now…can seem hopeless. How could they ever prevail? That question really rolled around in my mind the entire trip.
Through the mission trip, I experienced the most intimate moments I’ve had in my life with Christ. I felt His presence when we were working side by side Haitians and it brought a full picture of God’s intentions for His people. Part of our trip was physical labor (building the foundation of a church), which literally required digging and filling with small sized boulders (mainly the men from our trip handled this part), and through this the group experienced an amazing ability to communicate through different languages and feel the love God created for one another. It was surreal. Not being able to speak each others’ language did not hinder any ability to communicate God’s love.
The other portion of our trip was having a Vacation Bible School and First Aid Clinic in what can mostly be compared to as a refugee camp, a place called Canaan. Canaan is an area on the side of a mountain that essentially became a squatters’ domain for the thousands displaced from the earthquake. Here is a place that is in even worse condition, with people who literally beg for water as you pass (more than heartbreaking). The most influential experience of my life. I know I’ve told the story before to my family and friends, but I would like to share again….
One day, during our week long VBS, we portioned out time for the moms to come and talk to us about any health concerns or questions they may have. It was important for us to keep this session private, so the women would feel comfortable to ask personal questions (they are very private and proud). During one of the breaks, I walked over to the window to watch the children playing outside. Three little boys walked up to the window and began trying to talk with me. They were playing with rubber-bands and were making neat shapes using their fingers. Immediately, they wanted to include me. They were putting rubber-bands on my hands and were taking my fingers and bending them the different ways to make the shapes. They were giving me thumbs up and were so excited when I got it right (finally 🙂 ), I was high-fiving them and tried to use the little bit of creole I had learned to tell them “thank you”. They were so happy to be interacting, and sharing something they knew. They were so sweet spirited and were reaching in the window to give me hugs. As the break ended, I pointed and tried to explain I had to go back. As I was telling them “bye”, I took the rubber-bands off and handed them back…but they wouldn’t take them. They put them back in my hand, and were gesturing that they wanted me to have them. I was trying to be insistent on giving them back, but could tell they really wanted me to keep them. I didn’t want to seem rude or not appreciative, so I gave them big hugs and told them “thank you” a bunch. We high-fived a few more times, and I managed to turn around before I began to cry. It took all I had to not sob, as I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself. I saw God’s smile in theirs, and I was overcome by this seemingly simple gesture. Here were these precious, loving, beautiful children with swollen bellies from malnutrition, giving me something of theirs. I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend the pure love and joy they had in their hearts despite their circumstances. It reminded me of the story in the Bible of the woman who gave all she had to tithe. It was self-sacrificing, something they really found happiness in giving away, even though they had so little.
Every time I think of that moment with them (which is still very often), I cry and smile and just remember their sweet faces. In that moment, I feel like I experienced a miracle God gave me to see what He sees in everyone. I will never forget that as long as I live. Since that mission trip, I have been a second time and plan to go again this year. Missions are unrivaled opportunities to reach levels of understanding not otherwise encountered. Simply, its indescribable. God expects us to share His love and experience it too. It doesn’t have to mean going to a third-world country. You can go to your neighbor’s house and do His work. Sharing the Gospel is a gift to the receiver and giver. Please take any chance you may have to share with someone God’s love, we are bright lights intended to shine for Him! Please share with me your experiences sharing God to others, I would LOVE to hear them.