I’m a little sad this week. At the time you are reading this, we were supposed to be in Haiti. A mission trip was scheduled January 22-29 for a team from our church. We have been praying and planning it for months. Tickets had been purchased, bags were being packed. Part of our group has been preparing for a vacation Bible school at an orphanage, while the others were focused on the tools and supplies needed for their construction projects. Two weeks ago our trip was cancelled.
As we made our plans, Haiti was erupting politically. An election is scheduled for the 24th and the entire country is bracing for civil war. It’s not a good or safe time for American missionaries to be there. In fact, it’s not a good time for anyone to be there.
Why is it that…? I don’t know how to finish the question. Why is it that the people of Haiti-one of the most destitute in the world-hurt their very own? Why is it that corruption prevails when their brothers and sisters are in such need?
I didn’t cry when my beloved-the pastor-told me, though I really wanted to. He was awaiting a final word from the missionary living and serving there. He was to meet us at the airport in Cap Haitien and was networking our projects. His board of directors had stopped all their mission teams from coming to Haiti.
A week later my beloved met with our team. It was an amazing one made up of two pastors, two police officers, an HR director, an awesome salesmen, a supervisor at a prison, a director of grocery merchandising, a senior analyst at EQT, a survey supervisor, a contractor, a stay-at-home mom, and me. It was a multi-talented group! As I looked around the table, my eyes filled with tears. Each one had felt a call to help. We really do want to change the world! We heard about the need and were ready to go. We had gotten our passports, saved our money, received immunizations and taken our malaria medicine. But for safety sake, it was not to be. My heart hurts still for Haiti and the people we hoped to meet.
Last year, my beloved led a team to Haiti on a construction/medical mission. He was walking through Terrier Rouge with our missionary friend Bill, when they stumbled upon an orphanage in desperate need. Seventeen children were living there. (In Haiti, parents often give their kids up to orphanages because they are unable to support them.) The woman who was the caretaker of the orphanage was known as “Manmi” (“Mommy” in English). At this place, which was better than their own homes, there was no stove. Manmi cooked outside on three rocks over a fire. There was very little food. Some days Manmi did not eat, to ensure that her children had enough.
When that mission team heard of the great need at the orphanage, they eagerly pooled their money to purchase an outdoor stove along with a large supply of charcoal. A few of the team trekked to the village market to have the stove special made. They also bought 100 lbs. of beans and 100 lbs. of rice, along with some fresh fruit. Manmi was overwhelmed. During the past year, as we have stopped to thank the Lord for our food, I have wondered about her so many times. Had she eaten that day? When we say, “…and Lord, bless those who are less fortunate…” we know exactly who that is.
As the date for this year’s trip approached, I got excited and more excited! I haven’t been to Haiti since 2009 and was very anxious to return! I couldn’t wait to hug Manmi’s neck and tell her in my Appalachian twang through an interpreter that I had been praying for her for a whole year. I wanted to hug her and all her kids!
As we planned for our VBS stories, one of the missionaries from last year told us the kids in Haiti know all about God and Jesus. “They can tell you the whole story,” he said, “but what they really need is to hear that God can see them and loves them even though they feel left out and overlooked.”
That made sense. An earthquake that hit six years ago has left the Haitian people more desperate than ever. Though millions of dollars were funneled straight to Haiti after the quake, the money did not reach the people in need. Many are STILL living in tents. Everyone in the world seems to have so much more than Haiti! We planned to share stories and verses about God being with us through difficulties and through storms. He is still so big He oversees the universe and still small enough to hear our prayers. He never leaves or forsakes, no matter what.
Psalm 46 says: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” It is a verse we clung to on the night of September 11th (I marked it in my Bible) and so many times since. It’s a verse and truth for everyone, every age, and every country.
I don’t get to go to Haiti now, but maybe someday. Until then, I can still change the world every day, right where I am.
Please, please pray for Haiti, Manmi and her kids!
Dawn Reed is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.