Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stories from Friends: Brenda in Haiti

Brenda, a friend of mine and a reader of this blog, recently traveled to Haiti on a short-term missions-trip. She graciously agreed to share a bit about her experiences there.

Tell a little about yourself.

I’m 24 years old, have a business degree, and I have lived in the same small town in Michigan, on the same farm, for almost my entire life. 

A couple years ago, God gave me the opportunity to travel the world on a trip called the World Race. I was able to serve in 11 different countries in 11 months on 3 continents. I have had a heart for missions since I was about 12 or 13, but that was my first experience overseas. I have also wanted to go to Haiti since the summer of 2008 but never had the chance to go until now.

Where did you go and for how long?

In August I took a small group of teen girls from my church to Carrefour, Haiti. It’s about an hour outside of Port-au-Prince proper. We were there for about a week. In October I had the opportunity to return to the same place, with a different team, for a week as well. 

Describe Haiti.

Haiti takes up about 1/3 of the island of Hispanola, sharing it with the Dominican Republic. It is a tropical climate – hot and humid. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. There are about 1 million people still living in tents (about 250,000 were there before the earthquake) and there are just beginning to be signs of cleanup and repair work done. When we were there, there was trash everywhere. The new president is making an effort to rebuild the island, but he is dealing with the politics of centuries of corruption and apathy.

With what organization did you go?

August’s trip was with Adventures In Missions, based in Gainesville, Georgia, and October’s was with Church at Chapel Hill, Douglasville, Georgia.

What was the purpose of the trip? What kinds of things did you do while you were over there?

The team in August was there to work specifically with a church. We did VBS every morning and helped with some clean-up at the church. We also visited people in a tent city to pray for them and visited an orphanage.
The purpose for October’s trip was to work at the orphanage we visited in August. There are about 25 kids at Odascat Orphanage. It is a home and is cramped; the kids really have no room to play and just be kids. 

We cleaned out a bedroom – and saw more roaches in there than I ever want to see in my life again! 
We also gave them some new mattresses. We taught the kids how to brush their teeth and talked to the people in charge about basic hygiene and cleanliness. One of our team members was able to treat some infected surface wounds on the kids. We played with them, told them Bible stories, and just loved on them. One thing any kid needs is someone to hold them, hug them, and show them that they are important.

Part of our purpose was also to establish an ongoing relationship with this orphanage and, by doing so, to be able to help them create a better life for themselves and the children there as we continue to visit and teach them. While we spent most of our time at the orphanage, we still had time to visit a couple of tent cities to pray over people and meet some practical needs. 

What is your favorite memory from the trip?

My favorite memory from the first trip was that both of the teams worked so well together. I had three teenagers and there was another group of one adult and three teens, along with our leader, Angie. Everyone got along and we had a lot of fun serving together and spending time with our translators.

I have two memories that stand out from the second trip. First, on our first day at the orphanage, when we were assessing needs and beginning the medical work, I met a little 2-year old who had some sores on her arm. Angie, our leader, told us that when her other team came in August (after our team left), this girl, Cassandra, cried the whole time. She let me pick her up and hold her on my lap as her wounds were being dressed and she didn’t even fuss at all. Later in the week I was even able to get a picture of her laughing. Definitely a different little girl! 

Second, a little boy named Jean (John), also about two, "adopted" me. He always wanted to sit on my lap or have me carry him. He has the most beautiful smile and I didn’t want to leave him there.

What surprised you most?

What most stood out to me was that, no matter where we were, whether during VBS, at the orphanage, or in the tent cities, the kids want to know that you care. They want to touch you, to be hugged, to have you play with them, and show them that they really are important and special, to you and to God.

What was the most significant thing that you learned?

James 2:14-17 says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what
use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (NASB)

When we practically meet someone's needs and then share the message of Christ as the foundation for why we care about them, they will be much more likely to listen and respond.

What is one other thing that you want to share?

One thing Angie mentioned the first time I was in Haiti is that God has placed us where we are for a purpose. We can feel guilty about living in the U.S. while others are in far worse circumstances, or we can use what God has given us to serve those He calls us to help, however He asks. It is our decision to use what He’s blessed us with for ourselves or for Him.

On my first trip to Haiti we met a little boy named Sebastien, in one of the tent cities, who had been born with club feet. He is about 8 years old now, and had only been fitted with braces for his legs about a week before we came. It looked painful and was difficult to see, but the only reason he even had them was because there were Red Cross workers nearby doing work because of the earthquake. It really shook me up, though, because I had a similar problem when I was born, but it was fixed before I was old enough to walk. Unlike me, this boy has never walked.

On my return trip we were able to meet his mom and one of his brothers. He has been “adopted” by an American couple and has had surgery on his feet. His braces will be removed in December. God is so good! He knows us each by name and, no matter where we were born or where He is calling us to, He has a purpose for our lives: to bring glory to Him.

1 comment:

Momofnine said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for the inspirational interview.