A missions team can be made or broken by the trials faced in the field. Close living quarters, lack of sleep, culture stress and the heat and humidity as well as the spiritual stress of seeing the kind of poverty and tragedy that you don't see in the US can all contribute to the degradation of a mission team. Our team was made up of volunteers from five different churches who all came together in unity in Jesus Christ. We tackled each new day with no personal agendas but only the desire to bless one another and share the love of Jesus Christ to the people of Haiti. Each of us put on the armor of Christ each day and stepped out of our comfort zone. For some of us that was communicating without having a language in common, or traveling through areas that would be considered unsafe or unsanitary by American standards. For others it was being away from home and their loved ones or not having the security we have back in the states as we travel around.
Each team member brought valuable gifts to the table was an integral part of the mission's success. Experience with children and VBS programs, medical experience, and construction and electrical knowledge were just as vital as the gifts of prayer, wisdom, gentleness and compassion embodied by each team member. God took a group of strangers and created a harmonious team of soldiers prepared to step into the unknown to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' - Matthew 25:23
The culture in Haiti varied in small ways from place to place. Some were more shy or less likely to agree to being photographed while others were more outgoing and approached us and asked to be in photos and were excited to view the results. With political unrest in the city the tension was high as protesters congregated and crowded the streets. In the country the atmosphere was more relaxed and slow. Cows and horses roamed through rice fields and homes were spaced out. However, we found that most people were consistently kind and hospitable and despite their poverty they are exceedingly generous.
Although much of Haiti would be considered unsafe for us to travel alone, the culture places such a high value on its women and children that rape, molestation and physical abuse are almost unheard of and when one of these things happen "Haitian justice" is swift and unmerciful. Alcohol and drug abuse are also rare due to the high cost of purchase and lack of import. Even cigarettes are not common although they are more socially acceptable. The people have immeasurable pride in their families and accomplishments. Even their homes which are typically bare floored, cinderblock and concrete are shown off to visitors. Jobs are scarce and the men and older boys will work long hours in the heat and humidity to provide for their families. Women are rarely seen doing construction work or driving motorcycles. Instead, they typically sell small household items, cloths and food in small stands or lean-tos along the roads and work as cooks and laundresses. Higher paying office jobs and government work are open to both sexes.
Haitians are an industrious and innovative people. Children make toys out of tin cans and bottle caps and the men and women make tools and supplies from odds and ends they can salvage and repair. In a world oversaturated in media and social climbing these beautiful people find joy in the simple things, their families and in Jesus Christ. They sing to Him with enthusiasm and even in the face of persecution they are unashamed of their faith.
Whether it be at the churches we visited, the grocery stores we shopped at or the people we waived to as we were driving around a majority of the people we came in contact with were friendly and approachable. Their laughter and joy were contagious and was only amplified as they played practical jokes and goofed off with each other and the team members. The children would come to us and grab our hands, sit in our laps and hug us even though they only just met us. They were hungry for love and affection and so open and honest with us as we shared with them.
Despite having to battle political corruption, natural disasters, a history of oppression by the voodoo religion and a lifelong struggle with poverty their faith in Jesus Christ doesn't waiver. We went to bless them and instead we were blessed. They taught us the joy of singing to the Lord without shame, being truly excited about the Word of God and believing, body and soul in Christ's provision and love for us. Saying goodbye this morning was bitter sweet. This trip was a defining moment for each us, one that we look forward to sharing with you all soon.