I’m sitting here trying to describe my experience in Haiti, but I can’t seem to put it into words. Maybe it’s because nothing I write seems to do justice to how amazing the people and the country were, or maybe I’m just afraid no one will understand how special it became to me in just a short amount of time. Then I realized they won’t unless they experience it too, or at least see a glimpse of what I saw… so here’s my best shot at what it’s like to be there, who you meet, and what got me to Haiti in the first place.
First of all, I'll give you a little backstory. I’m not sure how many of y’all are Christians or what your relationship with Jesus is like at the moment, but let me tell you a little bit about mine. I was raised in a Christian home and have always considered myself to be a Christian. However, it wasn’t till I was in college until I started to develop a real relationship with Christ, trying to actively pursue Him. It was at UT that I realized one of the things I wanted to do was serve and spread the Word in Haiti at some point in my life. So flashback to November of 2017... This was a rough semester for me. School was stressful, and friends and relationships that I thought would last came and went. Right before Thanksgiving, I needed to talk to someone about life; I needed someone to give me encouragement (we all have that one person we go to). So I called one of my best friends from high school, Lindsey Peak. She was on her way to a doctor’s appointment, and when I asked what it was for, she told me she was getting shots to go on a mission trip to Haiti through an organization called Mission of Hope. I immediately told her that I had wanted to do one for a while, as somehow we had never talked about that before. Of course the paperwork for the trip had been due two months ago, but she contacted her trip leader anyway. Just like that I was sent paperwork, and my flights were booked by the end of the day. Forty-five days later I arrived in Port- au-Prince, Haiti, and boy did I have no idea how much the next 7 days would impact my life.
So now let me tell you a little bit about Haiti in general. It’s a beautiful country. There are mountains and palm trees everywhere you look, and the ocean is crystal clear. However, the poverty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Trash lines the streets wherever you go, houses are falling apart, and people live in conditions that I couldn’t even imagine. They don’t have air conditioning, electricity, running water, and often have to walk long distances just to get water that’s unhealthy to drink in the first place. They don’t have much to clothe themselves or shoes to wear; many have infections but not enough money to treat them. They don’t know when their next meal will be or when their next paycheck (if even) will come in.
I stayed in the main campus of Mission of Hope near the town of Cabaret. Throughout the week, my group of eight, along with a translator, went to multiple villages including those of Leveque, Transformation, and my personal favorite, Fovo. We gave families water filters to purify their water, planted fruit trees, held kids clubs where we served hot meals (kind of like Bible School), and visited schools and orphanages. Additionally, each morning we got the chance to go into someone’s home, get to know them, ask what their relationship with Jesus was like, and pray for them as a group. Could you imagine doing this in America? How weird would it be to walk into someone’s home, and after having 30 minutes of conversation about life, ask them what their relationship with Christ is like… It simply wouldn’t happen, and I wish it would. That is one of the reasons I fell in love with these people and country. They are ecstatic to talk to you. They want to know about your life, and they want to tell you all about theirs. These people are some of the most joyful people you’ll ever meet, and it blows my mind because I know they have nothing but are so much happier than many of us. Most importantly, these people are so open to hear the Gospel, and it is evident God is doing amazing things here, as our teams got to witness 5 salvations over the week (HOW COOL IS THAT?!!).
Kids are a whole different story. They flock to you and follow you from village to village (there is no such thing as stranger danger here). Their smiles are contagious, and all they want to do is love on you. Your arms will get tired from holding them, but once you pick them up you won’t want to put them down. You won’t stop smiling, and I promise you will fall in love with one or more of them. This is what happened to me. On Thursday January 11, we were hiking to one of the kids’ orphanages when a little hand grabbed mine from behind. I turned around to face a little boy in a bright yellow shirt, smiling from ear to ear. For the rest of the trip he was stuck to me like glue. He clung to me all the way down a dirt road, through a river, and up and down a hill to the orphanage and back. This was my hardest goodbye. We got back to the buses that afternoon, and I realized I wouldn’t see him for a while, maybe not ever again. I gave him a hug and whispered “orevwa,” (goodbye in creole). He just smiles, hugs me back, and waves as I walk away because he doesn’t know I’m leaving Haiti. As I write this, I wonder where he is and what he’s doing, and I desperately wish I was back holding his hand, laughing because he’s trying to do my hair, or jam out to my music, or take a selfie with me.
So to say the least, this was an experience I’ll never forget, one that I will always hold near and dear to my heart. Not only did I get to see God transforming the lives of the Haitian people through us, but he also worked in ways that transformed me. If I’m being completely honest, heading into the week I was discouraged from previous events of the semester, and I felt spiritually unprepared to be going on a mission trip. However, I can confidently say that during this week I’ve not only learned a lot about myself but have grown in my relationship with Christ. I have never been filled with so much joy and love, and I hope each and every one of you can experience the same feeling.