We returned home safely and without event last week. This is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write some of my thoughts. This time of year is what I’ve dubbed “the RED ZONE.” This is the busiest time of the year for us, so time is a precious commodity.
I’ve been reflecting on the recent trip to Haiti, and with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I just wanted to share something that happened to me and a couple of the other guys on the trip.
One of the deep honors of being a short-term missionary is-you become an ambassador of hope. When we Americans come to a land like Haiti, we are generally attempting to bring hope to a place that needs it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we don’t have great needs here in the US, but in Haiti, the needs are too numerous to count. The children at the orphanage are there because they have no place, or no one to take them in. For starters, that’s really hard. They live in an impoverished land where food and clean water are a challenge, at best. Then there’s the living conditions, it is a tropical climate, so they don’t have to worry about the cold. However, when it rains in Haiti, it turns everything to mud. In contrast, when it’s dry it’s extremely dusty. It’s an extremely hard place to live. The life expectancy in Haiti is about 45 or so, likely due to disease and living conditions.
As a short-term missionary/ambassador, we get to take supplies, gifts of food, money, medical supplies etc. into Haiti. It is indeed a blessing to be a blessing! It is also an honor of the highest sort, to represent Christ, the Church, and all of you that sacrificed and prayed.
We carried in several extra suitcases this trip. They were filled with hygiene kits, new undies, flip-flops, food, and some goodies too. We had not had a chance to give the supplies to Yvrose (the director of the orphanage) to distribute to the children. So, on Friday I asked if I could bring in the supplies we brought and leave them. Yvrose and I made arrangements for Friday after dinner. So, after we had dinner that evening, Ray, Ken and Terry and I, lugged the stuff across the street to Yvrose’s kitchen. Yvrose immediately started gathering up all the kids, about 72 of them, ranging from 18 months, to 18 years. The children all gathered around in a semicircle, smallest in front, and the older ones in the back, and most of them were seated. Yvrose placed her chair in the middle of them, told us to have a seat at the dining table, then she said, “this is Christmas for us!” She passed out the kits to the older children, then to the smaller ones. I could tell that some of them didn’t quite know what to think, maybe not sure what some of the items were, (shampoo and toothpaste would be an extreme luxury there). Then she opened up the next suitcase, and there were dozens of flip-flops. I saw some smiles, and I couldn’t help but notice a gentle push forward hoping to get a new, (perhaps first) pair of flip-flops. Yvrose calmly picked up a pair, checked out the size, then called out a name. The child would step forward, she would set the flip-flops on the floor and the child would try them on, usually a perfect fit. It took a while to hand them all out, there were likely 4 dozen pair. It was amazing just how orderly the whole thing was, not a tear, or a whine, but a gratefulness is what I sensed, I’m sure.
Then she broke out the undies, and much to my surprise, she handed a pair at a time out the same way. I think it might have embarrassed some of the older ones more than the younger ones, but I couldn’t even imagine how that scenario might play out here in America. “Black Friday” we’ll put away our “thankfulness” and knock anyone down who beats us to the best buys at 4am...(I digress).
After Yvrose finished handing out most of the stuff, she asked if there was anyone that didn’t get a gift, she made sure that everyone got something. Then she turned to us, and said, “Thank You.” She also said, “God Bless America, you’re the only nation that’s helped us. Thank you Church! God bless you!” As best I can, I pass that along to you! Thank you for praying, giving and making the sacrifice!
Then she quieted the kids down, and they sang for us. The first song they sang, was unbelievable! To think about what we just experienced, and the intense need there, here’s what they sang!
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!
I inhaled really hard several times, attempting to not go to pieces. They sang in Creole, but when they got to the chorus, I knew they were singing the same words, Jesu, Jesu...
I haven’t really taken the time to totally unpack all that we experienced in Haiti this trip. It is a lifetime of memories squeezed into a week. But, how do we let it change us? What difference will it make in us this year? My hope is to be thankful for the real stuff! The things that really matter. (Jesus, Jesus! precious Jesus!) Be thankful and find real ways to love my family and friends. To continue to grow in love for my God and savior, and to love my neighbors. I’ve got a ways to go, still a work in progress.
Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!