This is a great recap of Angela Mendise’s time in Haiti with our team in November! Not only does it share insight into her journey to Haiti but also to how God uses each one of us if we let him.
Things I Learned in Haiti…
If you don’t already have a heart for the people of Haiti you will immediately when you arrive.
I decided to go to Haiti because I felt God was calling me to stretch myself, get out of my comfort zone, and do something that really ‘took some faith’ in Him. Going to Haiti wasn’t the only way but A way to do this. I’ve always had a heart for the people of Haiti. I remember as a small child listening to sermons of a visiting pastor from Port-Au-Prince. Pastor Point, tall, dark and with a thick French accent was very intriguing to me. He left me wanting to know more about this world he came from. During my teaching career I had many students that I loved from Haiti. They enlightened me with stories about their family and culture. I learned I was pregnant with my first child while my husband was in Haiti serving on a medical team. So, throughout my life, God was introducing me to this country he loves and capturing my attention again and again.
But…all it really took was that first Haitian smile and “Bonjou” in the village of Bercy. They had me at hello…
God honors our faithfulness not our effectiveness.
I signed up for a medical mission trip, with no medical education or background. Many questions from many people about why I would do such a thing. I could not diagnose a disease, prescribe medication, mend a wound, or save anyone’s life. I could, however, show up in a time of struggle, and show the people of Bercy that I see them, I see their pain, and they matter. To me and to God. I could pray over them, hold their hand, I could help set up the clinic, I could hold their babies, entertain their children, have a conversation with them. I could share Jesus with them.
Ruth is one of my favorite servants in the Bible. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, has lost her husband and two sons. She feels God has turned his back on her. Naomi dismisses Ruth to live in Maob with her fellow Maobites. But no… Ruth clings to her. She had nothing really to offer Naomi- no wealth, status, skills. Only her friendship. She vowed to go with her to a foreign land with foreign customs and walk alongside Naomi in her grief. And they would both be greatly blessed. I think God calls us to be Ruth’s to Naomi’s. To simply love and walk alongside people in pain and hardship. We are not their savior but we can show them that they have one. A savior that will never leave them or forsake them.
God is so BIG.
Jesus is not an American thing. A western thing. A thing for people financially blessed or the educated. Jesus is everywhere. Even in the darkest corners of Haiti. I could see the light of Jesus in the eyes and on the lips of hungry children, passionate teenagers, welcoming mothers, dusty, hardworking fathers, the hopeful elderly, and even the former voodoo priest. And more than a physical hunger I saw a thirst for righteousness. I saw worshipping and praying and preaching like nowhere else.
A broken heart allows for new growth.
“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness upon you. “ –Hosea 10:12 NIV
A friend shared this verse with me when I returned. It helped me make sense of some of the broken heartedness I was feeling. Your heart will break when you catch your first glimpse of Port-au-Prince. When Grandpa asks you to hold his malnourished, 6-month-old granddaughter with rust colored hair while the doctor sees him. When you see children wading in a garbage-filled stream. But also in your own times of doubt and frustration. Things don’t always go as you plan them in Haiti. You are physically and mentally exhausted, and sometimes feeling tapped out on faith and love. But “ unfailing love” will shower on your broken up ground-IF you seek the Lord -and you WILL bear fruit. Your heart will grow.
One of the best ways to disciple someone is to let them serve alongside you on a missions trip.
I decided to take our 12-year-old daughter on this trip. Going to Haiti was on my heart, and without prior conversation, my daughter also mentioned a desire to go. She, like most adolescents, was experiencing some “identity crisis”. She was seeking ways to stand out amongst her peers. She wasn’t a stellar athlete, a straight A student, or even the class clown. She seemed to be struggling to define herself. Perfect time to dive into serving an know her identity comes from Christ. Sports and grades aren’t the only things to get passionate about and not necessarily what she was created for. Even in preparation for the trip, she constantly asked, “But what will I do? How can I contribute?” Admittedly, I struggled with this question myself. The short answer—begin by doing what no one else wants to do. Do the paperwork, clean the VIPs (latrines), make the Haitian nurse a tuna fish sandwich, do the dishes, exterminate the obnoxiously loud cricket in the sleeping quarters, eat the goat stew… and tell the cook it was delicious in your best Creole.Then, look for little opportunities. Hold the children. Let them braid your hair. Paint their dusty toenails. Go to their home and enjoy their amazing hospitality. Pray for their loved ones. Sing to them when they serenade you. Help the children carry the five gallon buckets of water back to their house. Celebrate with them. Cry with them. Get righteously angry with them at the injustice they suffer. Listen to them. Read God’s word with them. I’ll always treasure the quiet conversations in the kitchen about our day over banana sodas and pop tarts. Stories about new faces, discoveries of hidden gifts and strengths, but also of weaknesses and regrets. Questions about what next. Answers about our purpose there.
I’ll never forget the look on her face when I agreed to share my testimony during church. Wide eyed. “What are YOU going to say?” Weeping on the plane home trying to sort it all out and her comforting me with her newfound confidence. Loving our new friends from our team and from Haiti. She didn’t see me share a testimony that was particularly moving to the audience, she didn’t see me as an expert in the Bible or shine in the field. She saw me vulnerable. She saw my ground tilled…
God is working in Haiti.
We plant the seeds. We might not ever see the plant or reap the harvest or even know about it this side of heaven. Sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming and you question if anything you did mattered. Haiti is a country that is so impoverished in so many ways. It’s easy to feel hopeless. One of my favorite verses that one of our host missionaries shared with us is from Habakkuk.
“Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” -Habakkuk 1:5
One of the exciting things about going to Bercy is knowing that the few days you spend there are part of a bigger picture, an ongoing relationship between Grace Church and the village. I’m looking forward to returning there some day and standing in amazement of what God has accomplished. We can’t even imagine some of the ways God is changing hearts in Haiti. But I do know the ways he’s changed mine.
I’ve learned to love people more like he does. He handcrafted a team of people that were complete strangers to me before this trip. I learned to love my team, appreciate their unique gifts and understand them through their stories and working alongside them.
My heart was filled with His love for me. Not a love that I earned but a love that he freely gave when I felt challenged or afraid or discouraged. I felt His presence and that I was in his hand-not only for protection but also so he could mold me and shape me through this experience. I was in a place where I needed to depend on him and he showed me that I could. I could see the people of Haiti as he does. He’s passionately pursuing their hearts and desires healing for their country. And I’m humbled he allowed me to be his hands and feet in his glorious work there.