Catey in Limbe, Haiti
Dear Friends and Family,
It has now been a month since I returned to the United States after my month in Haiti, and in this past month I have seen the impact that this experience has had on my life. When we think about missions work, we tend to focus on what missionaries do for other people, but the way it changes the missionary’s life can be just as important. I have learned so much about my Savior, myself, and the people and culture of Haiti. I would like to thank you for the support and prayers that I have received from you, and to share my experiences in Haiti with you.
Our first few days in Haiti, we spent being introduced to the culture and the city of Port-au-Prince. Seeing the city again after a year, I felt hope for the country. The first time I saw the city, I saw destruction, hopelessness, and poverty everywhere. It was depressing to think of the struggles they would be going through to rebuild their cities and their life. However, this time, God opened my eyes to the progress, hope, and determination of these people to survive and to thrive in the conditions they have been given. I saw streets that had been cleaned up of rubble, buildings being rebuilt everywhere, and tent cities that seemed to have almost disappeared compared to last time. I was impressed to see that so much progress had been made when the majority of the work has been done without the use of modern technology; these people are out there building with hand tools and the strength of their own body. Although still living in extreme poverty the Haitian people have hope, even through the hardest of situations. I am reminded by them to find hope in God no matter what challenging situation I find myself in.
During these first few days I also learned the importance of understanding culture and the role it plays in religion and spreading the gospel. Although we do not realize it, our faith and Christianity is impacted by the culture we live in. Haiti is no different. Christianity is growing at an amazing rate there and God’s presence is evident, however their faith is impacted by the fear and oppression they have felt throughout their history and the presence of Voodoo. We were in the market one day and a man tried to sell me some crosses he had made. I took that as an opportunity to find out if he knew and loved Jesus. Over the next ten minutes, he witnessed to me about his beliefs. He hardly let me get a word in and anything I did say he skewed to go along with his faith as a Rastafarian. I learned from this man that it is important to consider other peoples beliefs and culture when trying to teach them about Jesus because it is easy to discredit and dismiss someone else’s beliefs while sharing your own. This has the opposite effect we are looking for. This man dismissed my beliefs and feelings, leaving me with a good understanding of how people often feel when Christians are trying to witness to them.
Over the next two weeks, we helped at vacation bible schools in the town of Limbe. It is amazing to see how God can use you as a witness even without the use of verbal language. Actions do speak louder than words and we were able to build relationships with the children through actions and showing them love. They did the same for us. Through translators, singing, dancing, games, and lots of hugs we were able to share Christ's love with children that are so eager to hear the Word of God. At a church that only has about thirty members attending Sunday services, 160 children were in attendance at the bible school. Children and adults from the community who were not a part of the VBS would stand outside all day and listen and join in the singing, dancing, and bible stories. Seeing people so eager to hear God’s word in this country has made me wonder why the same does not happen at our bible schools. I feel that it has a lot to do with the fact that we are so blessed in this country we forget to acknowledge where these blessings come from and fill our lives with material and worldly things, forgetting God and seeking our own happiness in the wrong places. These people consider the smallest things a blessing from God and are seeking to fill their lives with Him rather than the worldly things that they cannot afford. At bible school I also got to see the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoe Boxes handed out to the children. What a blessing to see the boxes we fill every year bring joy to a child. Just a little hint for the next shoe box you fill…the children LOVE sunglasses!
In Haiti, it is part of the culture for those who have an education, even if it is just a high school diploma, to not partake in things such as cleaning or cooking, or doing laborious work. This is not true for all but many live with a superior attitude due to their education. In some instances this is practical because it requires them to hire less educated people and provide them with jobs. However, it became an opportunity for us to witness to them by humbling ourselves to work alongside the uneducated Haitian’s and to show the importance of helping others and having a humble spirit. Throughout the month, we did many projects that showed me the importance of having a servant’s heart. We cleaned dorm rooms for the pastor’s attending the Haitian Baptist Convention. Helped the cooks prepare meals for over 100 pastors in a hot kitchen with no air flow and no electricity. They were very appreciative of our help and we were blessed by their attitudes, singing and praising God all day long even in these uncomfortable conditions. We also painted the waiting room of the Haitian Baptist Convention’s Eye Clinic which provides affordable eye care to everyone, and made a Rocket Stove for a widowed lady which will save her money by not having to buy expensive charcoal to cook.
We lived in an orphanage for three days and spent our days playing with the 28 children living there; all of which lost one or both parents in the 2010 earthquake. These children formed a family with each other and although not traditional they love and care for each other as a family. I saw a lot of good things happening in the orphanage and am thankful that these children have a place to sleep, schooling, and food and water daily, and are hearing the word of the Lord. There are many issues the orphanage still struggles with and there is a lot of sadness along with the positive things. We were able to help the orphanage get a water tank to store filtered water in to better provide water for the children. I was impressed by how even the youngest of the children here were willing to share precious belongings with each other. We were able to have bible school with these children as well and they all received a Frisbee. With a small group of us and 28 kids with Frisbees, we spent hours with five or six Frisbees flying at each one of us all at once, my Frisbee skills definitely improved! Prayers and support are definitely needed at this orphanage, which is only a year old, as they seek to build structure and leadership and seek funding to provide financially for the children.
God's presence in this country is not hidden at all. Driving down the streets the majority of TapTaps (Haitian Taxi's) and businesses were painted with "Thank You Jesus" and bible verses. One common phrase that touched our whole team was the use of the word Eben-ezer, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” from 1 Samuel 7. These people rely on God every day to provide them with their basic needs. It reminded me to thank God every day for my blessings and to give my life to Him every day and He will provide for me and guide me. The Haitian word “dekole”, which means to unglue or to take off, let go of something that is holding you back, became another theme word for us. Pastor Ketly Pierre our leader and a missionary for International Ministries used this theme in the sermons she gave throughout the month. The message to the Haitian people was to let go of their fear of oppression, disasters, voodoo spirits and anything that might be holding them back from progress and love for the Lord and each other. To me, it reinforced the lesson that I was learning from God throughout the trip, in order to be a disciple of Christ we must dekole “unglue” ourselves from the things that hold us back from giving our lives over completely to God. Luke 14:33 tells us that "any of you who is not willing to give up everything he has is not fit to be my disciple." Although God did not ask me to give up everything I have to go on this trip, he did ask me to let go of many things I was struggling to leave behind and through this experience I have grown as a person. I am more prepared for what God may ask of me in the future.
Through all of these experiences we had the help of our Haitian friends and the missionaries and Pastors who are serving the Lord in Haiti. The relationships I built there were deep and I learned a lot from my new friends. We still keep in contact and I feel like a have a family in Haiti that will always welcome me back. I hope to be able to return one day and reunite with these friends and once again join them in their mission to Glorify God in Haiti.
This trip with Ignite was a blessing that changed my life and opened my heart to any call that God may have for me in the future whether it is serving Him here in the States or abroad. Once again I want to thank you for helping make this possible for me. Please continue to keep the country and people of Haiti in your prayers.
Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You),