Haiti has been on my heart since January and I never understood why I had such a desire to go to this third-world country when I have never even set foot on a plane, let alone go somewhere where English is not the dominant language. I had been praying for opportunities to go and tell and I couldn’t get away from Haiti. After I had accepted the job at Shocco, my boss told me about their international mission trip they take every summer. They were going to HAITI. Okay, God. I think this is an answer to my prayer to go and tell. I was super excited and of course I said I would go! Little did I know what would happen to me while I was there and what I would see.
All of June and July was devoted to prayer for the trip, planning for the day camps that we would host at a local school, church, and for a brand new church in Peredo, Haiti, and stress. LOTS OF STRESS.
You may be thinking “But Amber, you’ve been praying for international opportunities to share the Gospel. You know that everything will work out according to His plan.”
Yes, I know that. My flesh stresses over every single thing that could go wrong or that things won’t come together. I was stressed over how I would raise the money to go out of the country when the purpose of me having a summer job is to help pay for college expenses. I prayed and God answered. I prayed for the support of my family and friends as I was preparing to go to a third-world country where voodoo is EVERYWHERE and even though I know the Lord protects me, I prayed that my parents would be okay with letting me go [yes I know I’m a legal adult but I love and respect my parents so much]. I prayed for financial support–THE LORD PROVIDED. I prayed for an open mind and to get rid of all expectations that I could have. I spent a large amount of my summer with the Lord and He has strengthened me so much and He is the ultimate provider.
I was never nervous for my first plane ride, my first time out of the country, or for being in a place that is filled with evil and where I had to rely on translators. It was because I knew that whatever happened, it was in God’s great plan and I know that His plan is good.
Side note: Before my freshman year of high school, we registered for classes and to graduate, we had to take two years of a foreign language. I off course signed up for Spanish, but I was put in French because everyone and their mother wanted to take Spanish because it is a language spoken in quite a few places. I never understood why I was in French–When am I EVER going to use and speak French!?!? Spanish is everywhere!! I’ll tell you what. In Haiti, the people speak FRENCH and Creole. The Lord started preparing me FIVE years ago for this trip. [also, shout out to Mrs. B, my French teacher!!!]
Okay, back to the story. I slept about four hours the night before we were leaving Shocco at 4AM [but I love going places early because that means less time to toss and turn out of excitement when I should be sleeping! So basically the night before we left for Haiti was equivalent to Christmas Eve]. The summer staff came to see us off and pray for us before we drove to the Atlanta airport. We arrive in Atlanta and I started to get so nervous for my first plane ride I thought I was going to throw up [sorry for the image, but hey, give me a break!] Eventually I settle down and we check our bags and we get breakfast and lunch and wait for our flight. We boarded the plane and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun on a piece of machinery [fun fact: I really wanted to go to Six Flags because taking off and landing are my favorite parts]. We arrive in Haiti and gather our bags and head onto the bus that would take us to Jacmel. The bus ride was really long [I slept, oops] and it really gave me a run for my money.
Let’s just talk about the driving. Remember the Little Ceasar’s commercial about there being no rules? YEP. THERE ARE NO ROAD RULES AND I WAS FREAKING OUT MAN, FREAKING OUT. Cars were zooming past us and they got so close sometimes that I could probably reach out the window and touch their nose [okay I really wouldn’t do that but you get the idea]. Aside from the insane driving, I was able to see how a portion of the people in Port-Au-Prince [the capital of Haiti] live. I cannot even describe to you how bad the streets looked. The faces of the people in poverty. The lost souls because the do not know The King. My heart was breaking and I had only been in Haiti for one hour. We continue to drive through the mountains and I’m pretty sure we were on a roller coaster and not on a bus [p.s. I thought we were going to flip off the mountains a few times EVERYTHING’S FINE]. Eventually we make it to Children’s Hope and we were greeted by the missionaries who live there and serve. We get everything unpacked and we rest for the remainder of the day so that we would be able to wake up and do camp!
Our daily routine consisted of waking up and eating a wonderful breakfast, coating ourselves in bug spray and sunscreen, and loading onto the Tap Tap [a truck with a cover on the bed and seats inside–it was SO MUCH FUN to ride in!] We rode the Tap Tap out to a little church where we picked up about 15 to 25 kids and headed over to the school where the day camp would take place and the rest of the kids would meet us there. After corralling everyone into the classroom, our AWESOME translators engaged the kids in fun songs before we would start the day. The kids were presented a devotion on how God is all-powerful and all-knowing and that He is love. It was amazing to see how these kids were interacting with us and they understood what was being presented to them. After the devotion, the kids were split up into groups to go through the rotations we had set up: recreation, wacky science, and arts and crafts.
I was part of the wacky science rotation and I think it was the hardest part of the day. It was difficult to keep the kids’ attention for the short time it took us to do a science experiment. It was definitely a cultural difference in that these kids aren’t exposed to the same things I was as a kid. I LOVE science experiments but these kids didn’t. Now, some of them were entertained, but it was difficult to explain how the experiment was relevant to the Bible story because of the language barrier. Our translators helped us lead fun songs like “Father Abraham” and this Creole song about a pen, but it is SUPER fun because it is very fast and I was able to learn in and sing along with the kids!
The kids went through the rotations and then it was time for lunch a.k.a the best part of the day! For a majority of the kids that came to camp, this was their only meal of the day. It was hard to keep the kids under somewhat control before, during, and after the meal because it was free food. Honestly, I got very discouraged by how the kids were acting and I did not and still have a hard time understanding it. I was still in the mindset of the South and we use manners. I was holding these kids [who may not personally know Christ] to American and Christian standards and that is not right or fair. They acted like lost people because they are lost. It is so hard to go from a life where if I didn’t use manners as a kid, I got in trouble [and maybe my mouth washed out with soap but that was only once !!]. I was already in the process of learning so much and it was Day 1 of camp.
They enjoyed the meal and then it was time for us to head back to Children’s Hope. We went back to Children’s Hope and refueled before we went to the local church just down the road for another day camp. This camp was not as long as the other, but we were still able to pour into the kids and get to hang out and play games with them. After our second camp of the day, we went back to Children’s Hope to play with the kids who live there and we ate dinner and were able to rest and fellowship with each other as a team.
On our last day of camp, we were able to go to Peredo which was about an hour away. We went to a recently-built [like a week ago!] church and had a one-day camp there. Peredo is filled with voodoo and while we were there, a few of our team members, including myself, felt a dark presence there. The Gospel is greatly needed in that area and it was such a blessing to go to that area and see how the Lord is working through this brand new church.The kids were so different and it was a great reminder of why we were there. There were some women who came to the church and seeing them smile despite their hardships–having nothing, infections [which a two-month old baby had as well], and being surrounded by evil. Their smile moved me to tears because how many times am I happy when things aren’t going the way I want them to? Seeing the strength of these women caused me to stop and wonder why I am so concerned with the things of this world which WON’T last because my time on earth is so small.
On Friday night, we were able to go out to eat at a hotel restaurant and it was delicious! I even tried Haitian chicken and if you know me, trying food is a BIG DEAL!! We had a great time laughing and talking at dinner but the meal had to come to an end *tear*. On the way to dinner, it was sprinkling a little bit but it was no big deal. BUT, on the way home, out of nowhere, it straight up MONSOONED!!! We were riding in the back of the truck getting soaked, rain stinging our skin, laughing the ENTIRE ride home. Now THAT was the best car ride I’ve ever had in my life. We made it all the way to the compound and get onto the porch and it stops raining. We were not bitter at all!! We go inside get dry and ready for bed and the power goes out. It was the second time that happened but that’s just generator issues. Through the night, it stormed AGAIN and the thunder was so loud I even woke up.
I THOUGHT IT NEVER RAINED IN HAITI BUT IT STORMED FOUR TIMES IN THE WEEK WE WERE THERE.
Onto the next day, Saturday was our fun, beach day! We went to the beach about 45 minutes away from the compound and it was BEAUTIFUL. The water was so blue and it felt SO GOOD since we had basically been baking in the sun for the week. We had so much fun in the ocean and enjoying God’s beautiful creation.
Overall, I learned so many different things and the Lord was and is definitely at work in Haiti.
A lot of what I learned while we were in Haiti was how to serve the Lord and forget about myself and be focused on the purpose of why I was there. A few of the girls and I came across Romans 1:18-21—
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
This verse was what brought us back to the reality that even those who have not heard the Gospel will still be held accountable for their eternal death. Honestly, we were shocked and we were encouraged to be obedient to the Lord and to go and tell others about Him no matter where we are. Whether it is at our schools, our workplace, in Alabama, in another country, wherever.
I also came across 1 John 4:7-21. Love has definitely been a huge topic of what I have been learning over the summer. I have learned so much from God. I am learning to trust Him fully and completely with everything because I know He is there wherever I am. I am learning patience [the key word here is learning]. I learned that nothing is the same everywhere–except God’s love and grace He gives me. I loved seeing the faces of the people when we smiled and waved at them. It’s small things like that that can change their day and show the love of Christ. God is love and we love because He first loved us and He sent His son Jesus to pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross. His love for me is so great, I can’t even grasp it because I am a sinner and I in no way am worthy for the God of the universe to love and forgive me. But He does. I still can’t grasp everything, but I am not God and I appreciate that! He really is a good, good Father and He knows everything about me–yet He still loves me despite my sin and flesh. I know that the Lord is always watching over me and protecting me no matter where I am and I can rest in that.
On our way home, instead of taking the bus back to Port-Au-Prince, we took a 20-minute 6-passenger plane ride! It was so much fun even though I cried before take off, but once we were in the sky I forgot all about how scared I was. We got on our plane back to Atlanta and made it home safely.
We were so blessed to be able to serve this amazing ministry and we are praying for Children’s Hope and for the hearts of Jacmel—that they are open to hearing the Good News of our Father and that missionaries will train them to go out into their communities to share the Gospel.