This is a long post! Brace yourselves & hang in there!
Last night, I think the enemy was trying to have a field day with us. Someone decided to host a street party directly outside of the Grace International walls, blasting club music at maxed-out speaker volume from 9 pm all the way to 4 in the morning. We all fell asleep praying, and God granted us sweet sleep nevertheless.
We woke up and watched the sun rise this morning at around 5 am to get ready for church. We had the pleasure of sitting in on a special worship service where choirs, youth groups, and worship teams from all over Haiti had traveled to Grace International’s Church to minister to the congregation with their gifts.
We were invited to give our greetings from Maryland on stage in front of over a thousand Haitians, who send their love and prayers to everyone back home. (PS: Thank you to Corinne Heiliger for making us beautiful head covers for the ladies in our group to use at church!)
After a few hours into the service, our team got out of our seats to make room for the out-of-town visitors (some who had traveled on foot and by Tap Tap bus for 7 hours) and sat at the church’s outer walls with a bunch of the children from the Boys’ and Girls’ Home.
We had a ton of fun and fellowship with one another! (Plus, any extra time spent with those kids was a huge bonus in our books!)
Before we knew it, it was already 1:00 pm and we jumped back onto a van back to Grace Village.
After lunch, our team split up once again to serve in different ways: the women went back to the Girls’ Home to draw with the young ladies and the men went above and beyond in fixing the rest of the toilets and showers in the staff’s bathrooms as well. In addition, they catalogued all of the medical supplies and donations for Grace International! What a haul!
Once we gathered back as a group, Madame Jeune took Stradine and I aside and shared with us a very exciting opportunity for the Haiti Team to partake in: next year, our team has been invited to join Grace International for their annual Christmas event. This is a HUGE deal. This event ministers to 20,000+ children in providing them a Christmas meal, gift, and time to learn about Christ.
Madame Jeune herself explained her history being a byproduct of missionaries investing in her life. As a child, a missionary from the States would visit Haiti every year during Christmas and (due to the size limitations of the largest gathering space at the time) would invite 10 orphans out of every local orphanage to participate in a Christmas Banquet, complete with food and a Christmas gift. When her time came (being one of 80 at her orphanage) to go to the banquet, she prayed to God that (if He would only provide) she would host a Christmas banquet that all orphans would be able to attend.
And since the mid-90′s, she has hosted a banquet every single Christmas, where no child would be turned away. What started as 5,000 children gathering grew exponentially to 20,000 since last year. Children from orphanages all over Haiti were invited, and would receive a catered dinner (full of chicken, rice and beans, salad, dessert and a drink) and a box with a toy and toiletries for them to have…
…and those children would open their boxes of food, sit down, and cry with relief, joy, and gratitude.
Some of these children would have never seen so much food in one sitting in their lives. Some would ask the volunteers in disbelief if the food was just for them, or if they had to share with the children around them. And many came to know Christ because of the love that had been shown to them by Grace International and the volunteers that helped make it happen.
Next year, our charge and goal is to fund the 20,000 toys for these kids. Fortunately, there is a church (state-side) that annually donates whatever it takes to feed every single child that attends. Last year, they wrote a check for $100,000 to cover the 20,000 meals, and I pray that our church can one day be generous enough to make a difference in those many lives!
After dinner, we gathered as a team to worship one more night together in Haiti. Colin and Angel led the group to share in a time of testimonies of what they experienced, and here are each member’s takeaways from our trip:
Angel – God’s Call to Action
Angel simply had two powerful Scriptures to share with the group:
Psalms 82: 3-4
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
These words clearly lay out God’s call to action on our lives as followers of Christ. As a church, it is time we rise up to be more than just a church that helps ourselves, and instead becomes a defender and provider for those in need.
Colin – A Father’s Heart
While searching for a Word, Colin found a copy of his daughters footprints from when she was born, tucked in between the sheets of his Bible. It immediately made him think of all of the children in Haiti who did not have those kinds of mementos, baby books, or even parents to call their own. He felt incredibly blessed to have all of these things, and to have been able to give them to his own children…and it also challenged him to do something in order to pass that blessing onto the children in Haiti. He said that he would be unable go home and look at his own possessions and needs the same way again, and shared that he would not waste this trip. Though he originally did not want to go to Haiti, he saw God move in ways here that were supernatural in terms of the opportunities God provided for us to serve. Colin knew that God was in this trip, and that he was called to go. “Wherever you see God move, you need to run in that direction.”
Stephania – Thirsty for Change
Tearfully, Stephania thanked God wholeheartedly for the opportunity and experience to be able to love on and feed the children in Haiti. It was a charge that she had felt on her life for 10 years, but only recently felt released to pursue. She shared that she had her 3-year-old daughter in mind during the trip, and that she could not imagine her little girl fighting for food every day and not knowing where her next meal would come from: it was not right for these kids to have to live this way, and something had be done. She prayed that the team and the church could continue working together for many years to come, and that God would continue to keep this thirst and hunger to help the Haitian people alive.
Cara – A Messenger for the Children
It was Cara’s first time down in Haiti and her first time witnessing the depth of poverty that exists there. For her, it was heartbreaking to see people living in sheet metal shacks with garbage at every turn: simply put, she had a hard time imagining how people could even stay alive in Haiti. “People take so much for granted,” while there are so many children that can not even eat every day. She has been praying for God to move her to action and not let her become complacent or comfortable in the busyness of life. Cara expressed her desire to keep that fire of passion burning inside of her, and she does not want to fall into the temptation of making excuses or going back to any old ways. She had initially thought that God would use her through her background in audiology, but after what she had experienced, she wants to be able to use this trip to tell others about what she saw in order to turn their hearts towards Haiti. She understands the importance of being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and wants this to happen again.
Stradine – Emboldened to Ask
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
For Stradine, this was her second year doing this missions trip. And after this year’s trip, God has pushed her to lose her fear of asking. Due to differences in religious backgrounds at her school, she had harbored a fear of asking those she knew for funds/supplies, despite them knowing her faith and background. Now, God did not want her standing in the back in fear, and has pushed her to move forward in faith and boldness in asking. In addition, Stradine witnessed how the people in Haiti were very content with their life, despite their situation, and how they continue to be a very strong people. Meanwhile, she commented on how those of us in the States are so discontent, despite having so much. The kids just wanted to be loved and touched and shown the fact that they existed. Humility and dignity: all these children want and need is to be respected and treated with dignity. They just need 3 meals a day and clothes on their back. Stradine noticed that so many people had a negative reactions towards missions trips, but concluded that they will never truly understand how important missions work is until they witness the work that is being done here first-hand.
Regina – Saving the World
When Regina was called to do missions, she was in the middle of fasting in 2013. She had always volunteered and done what God had called her to do through community service and work. But when she heard God call her to missions, she was very confused: she thought she was doing a lot already back at home, but did not realize that there was a bigger need elsewhere. Tearfully, she explained that she had never imagined being here in Haiti. Once her daughter went to college, her only thought in the beginning was traveling the world. But now she understood that her desire to travel around the world is to be used for a different goal. Her desire for vacation transformed into a desire for vocation in her life, and she was filled with joy with what God has called her to do. Simultaneously, her heart was heavy because she had no idea how much we all took for granted. In the village yesterday, two of the kids she had bonded with had gone to get their bowls and stand in line for the Lord’s Kitchen. When she realized that they had gone, she felt a mother’s heart for them and kept an extra eye out for them, concerned when there was uncertainty there being enough food. She was so thankful that on that day, even adults got to be fed. She was not ready to leave, and wished she could pack up all of the kids and bring them home. For Regina, it was important not to just get involved, but to get family and children involved in order to carry on and continue blessing those who are not as fortunate. Though people have told her that “You can’t save the world,” she declared that she would die trying to save as many as she could, one by one if necessary. If she was not sure before, she is 100% sure now, and can not wait an entire year. “Haiti has my heart.”
Chike – Bringing One’s All
As a second-timer, Chike clearly identified with what everyone had shared that night. It was so overwhelming, and he was overjoyed to see the transformation and changes he laid witness to since his last trip. He wanted to be engaged and was amped up to see God moving while the team was there. He had even bought and brought specific items in faith, and God had arranged for specific children who had wanted and needed those items to cross his path. Haiti was on his heart, and he was moved to see some of the kids remember him by face and name. One of the older kids even approached him separately to sincerely thank him for what he was doing, and it moved him to put in his best with everything he did for Haiti. “Praise God and all glory to Jesus!”
Justin – God’s Hands and Feet
Justin was very thankful that he could come on this trip for a second time. Lots of things had been going on in October, so he was worried about having to potentially cancel his ticket. For him, it was great being able to see a difference in the Hospital, the Church, and the campus compared to what he had seen last year. God visibly chose to do something here in Haiti and it truly blessed him. While this was not his first country that he had performed missions for, it was very different: In Japan, the people were wealthy, but spiritually dead. In Ecuador, it was impoverished, but nowhere near as extreme as Haiti. Justin did not want to come just because he felt bad for the kids, or off of an emotion, but because God wanted him to be His hands and feet there. While the team could have just sent money, money was not the same as being able to love on people first-hand. Even though he had always felt “not really good” with kids and did not know how to play with them, kids would flock to him nonetheless just to be with him and hold his hand. And he wants to continue: not only with Haiti, but around the world. As someone not ruled by emotions, Justin confidently sensed that God had placed a mission on his heart to love on His children. He prophecised that even if changes (which are not always bad) come in the future with the team, that things will still be great because God is in it.
Grace – Encouraged and Expectant
Simply put, I was very happy to see how God has taken Grace International from glory to glory with every single trip. It had been a pleasure traveling with this particular team, especially alongside of my amazing husband! I prayed that God would continue to bring people with hearts to serve the orphans to Haiti, and that a spirit of generosity, love, and a desire to serve the under-served would come upon every person we meet. Next year’s trip is one that will make history for the glory of God! If you can, you should get involved and be a blessing for these kids before the opportunity passes you by!
It’s not too late to DONATE! If you give now, you can take part in helping our team support this year’s Christmas Banquet!
Though I had a couple more things to write, another black-out happened and the power just came back on, so I’m posting this ASAP. There’s also a gigantic flying cockroach staring at me from across the room, and I’m trying very hard not to gag as I type this. I’ve never seen a 2″ long cockroach in person before, and it’s not very pleasant.
Anyways, please pray for our safe return tomorrow! Love you all!