So much was accomplished in my 10 days in Haiti. In my last post, I was unable to figure out which details to share and which to leave out and so I ended up just writing a brief overview. Now I am going to attempt to share the main points of interest in a few posts without turning this into a 47 part series! So many things happened that I want to share with you all, that it will be an exercise in restraint.
My first priority for the trip was to meet with every child who is sponsored through The Bridge. I had asked our sponsors to provide me with a note of encouragement for their child, a picture of themselves and if possible, a small gift of some sort.
Ronaldina loves her new doll!
I know our sponsors truly care about the children they sponsor and I wanted the children to be able to connect with them; to understand that they are a real person who not only is paying for their education, but also thinks about them, prays for them and truly cares for them.
So, my first two days in Haiti consisted of meeting with the children and delivering those gifts to them. It was a joy to watch the children open their gifts and to see their smiles!
Monel was excited to have his own flashlight.
However, this was also one of the parts of my trip that I struggled with. I never intended to become Santa Claus to these children, but I am afraid that that is exactly what I set myself up for. As fun as it was to actually deliver the gifts, throughout the time that I spent in Carrefour Poy, children were asking me for things- a “machin” (toy car), “poupe” (doll), or “one dollar”. I felt like I was causing greed and selfishness to come out in their little hearts. And it was heartbreaking not to be able to give a little something to each and every child. In the interest of luggage space, I had only brought gifts to the sponsored children. (We actually brought another gift for the whole school, but I will write about that in another post.)
I am keenly aware of the fact that what these precious souls truly need is food, water, an education and most importantly the Gospel of Christ. These are the reasons The Bridge exists. I guess my hope and prayer is that somehow the love of Christ will shine through the generosity of our sponsors in the gifts they sent.
Claudel, Sander and Alix helped the children write thank you notes after they received their gifts.
After meeting with all the children who were available in those first two days (there were just a few who were away or sick), I visited a few of the families at their homes to invite them to a meeting for the families of The Bridge kids. As I didn’t have time to go to everyones’ house, (well, really I quickly became worn out from walking around the village in the heat and humidity), Claudel invited the rest of the families.
This household consists of a father, daughter and 3 brothers who are either cousins or friends of the family.
Several months ago, I was praying over this trip & asking the Lord to clarify the things He wanted me to do. During that prayer, I had the thought to invite the families of our sponsored kids to a meeting to talk to them about The Bridge program. Along with that thought came a very brief outline of four points to share with them. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE to speak in front of people! I wasn’t sure if this was really what God wanted me to do, but besides that, I wasn’t even sure it was something I could do! Nonetheless, I wrote down the four point outline & kept it to pray over. Eventually I asked a couple other people to pray about it also and I mentioned it to Gilbert and Claudel as something we could do if we had time while I was there.
As the time drew near, we scheduled the family meeting into the trip, but I still didn’t know what I was going to say about the 4 points that God had originally given me. Finally, 3 days before I left for Haiti, I sat down at my computer & filled in some details about those points.
I woke up the morning of the family meeting feeling paralyzed with fear. I emailed a few friends to ask for prayer and then I prayed, read scriptures, and reviewed the message I would be giving, but my nerves would not calm down. During the whole long drive to Carrefour Poy that day I felt sick with anxiety. The youth group team prayed for me also before I left them in Bellanger where they were teaching VBS that day.
Claudel helped to serve the meal after the meeting.
And then, when I got out of the car in Carrefour Poy, I had a minute to check on the cook who was preparing the meal we were serving the families before I was taken into the main church building and it was time. In that moment, my nerves calmed, and I was able to share the message I believe the Lord wanted me to share.
It wasn’t a long or particularly deep message. It was all about the fact that we, as sponsors, love their children because of Christ’s love for us. I talked about the importance of the children for the future of their community & the beautiful country of Haiti. I talked about the importance of their role of influence in their children’s lives, the importance of education, and that we all- the children, their families, the teachers and the sponsors are all a team working together toward the goal of helping each child reach his or her potential.
Somehow I had the presence of mind to snap this picture of my audience right before I started speaking.
Then I reminded them that we do this because Christ first loved us and I shared a short and simple Gospel message. I had just finished sharing the Gospel and was about to finish my message when one of the fathers who was there stood up and began talking loudly while flailing his arms around.
I have met this man a few times before and he is one of the local voodoo priests. I don’t know if he had ever been in a church before, so I was so glad to see that he had come. I don’t really know what he was saying, perhaps he was just talking nonsense, because pretty quickly after he stood up the rest of the audience was trying to shush him and get him to sit back down. As I watched him, I thought for a moment that maybe he was calling curses down on me, and yet I felt completely safe and at peace, knowing that God was protecting me.
I ask that you join me in prayer for this man and his family. Specifically, that the Gospel message would take seed in his heart and that he would respond to God’s call.
The voodoo priest with two of his children, both of whom are sponsored through The Bridge.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
After the voodoo priest settled down and I finished my talk, I asked the families if they had any questions for me about The Bridge program. Several people raised their hands, and although there were a couple questions, most people simply wanted to express their thankfulness to those who are sponsoring their children. I wish you all could have been there with me to see the gratefulness in their eyes as they told stories of not being able to afford books or uniforms or even tuition, and the hope that they now have for their children’s future thanks to your generosity.
From the children and their families, from Claudel, the teachers, Pastor Gilbert, and from me… Thank you.
We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19