Tuesday, January 14, 2014

story from Haiti

NOTE: I’d like to share with you a letter from Amanda Elgin who is a college student from The Community.  She went on a mission trip to Haiti last month.  Our church was honored to help with funds for the trip and prayed daily for the team she served with.  Enjoy reading her letter.  Pray for the people she talks about, and ask God to help you serve others both near and far.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

Dear Church Family and Friends,

I want to thank each and every one of you for all the love, prayers, and support I have received as I went to Haiti.  From my first plane ride to dancing with some of God’s most precious angels the whole experience was a total blessing. Each child I held, each second I spent there, was part of the most life changing experience I have ever been part of aside from Christ coming into my life. The change that I experienced was God showing me the love of a child in its sweetest, pure and simple way. The contentment they had just to sit on your lap and not even really talk but just be with you it was indescribable. Of course the language barrier was difficult at times, but there was some common understanding between us and the children.  That common understanding was God.

When we first arrived I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. It was hot as Haiti and we were in t-shirts. After walking out of the airport normally you would be greeted by a swarm of taxi’s here we were greeted by a swarm of people looking at us almost begging, it was the most terrifying feeling to have in the new environment of an entirely new country. After weaving our way to the parking lot we found the car we were supposed to and in noticing the parking lot it wasn’t really a parking lot it was more of a dust lot with a little bit of gravel mixed in and cars were not in the pretty little white lines they were literally everywhere. On the curbs, double parked, everywhere and finding the main road from there was not much better. The road systems there have no rules which was slightly thrilling but terrifying at the same time.

And then the point came where I started to realize how immensely blessed I am. We were driving along in stop and go traffic and as we stop a boy comes up to the car and starts wiping it off with a towel. Confused we all asked Deleris and Moses what he was doing. Deleris told us he was a sort of a slave. He probably lost his family or was orphaned by the earthquake and turned to an old man for a place to stay who in return made the boy stand on the street and beg to pay for his room and board with the old man. My heart sank. I could not even imagine doing that, but the boy had to do it just to survive. At that point I realized God was going to show me more than just the blessings I have, but show me the whole other world that is out there struggling so much more than even the lowest class in America.

Deleris and Moses were assigned to Haiti and the orphanage by the Mission Baptist board. They are almost like supervisors for the orphanage to make sure the orphans are cared for properly which even then sometimes doesn’t happen. The orphans are cared for very well compared to some of the street children, but the lack of love and emotional support is evident. Moses and Deleris told us that many of the house parents (the adults that watch the children and some live there part time) will often take things from the kids. At one point each child had an outfit that fit them, the entire week I was there I only seen the all of the children with clothes on that fit one time. The sad reality of the situation breaks my heart but, compared to other situations the orphanage children are in a good place.

For the first few days we were there a young man by the name of Phillip was living at the orphanage and had been for the past two and half months. He had taught the children basic English and introduced computers and technology to many of the older children. To watch them learn was amazing. Each day they start school at 7:45am and get out for the day at 2:00pm which is followed by their second and last meal for the day, a hefty plate of rice. It was such a culture shock to experience the food. Everything even down to the peanut butter had spice in it and there was always some color of rice at each meal.

The guest house we stayed in was like a mansion compared to the average Haitian home. There was no air condition, but there was electricity that worked most of the time. We also had indoor plumbing that is considered a luxury. However it wasn’t to American standards, flushing toilet paper was a big no, no. Which you only forgot once and the water would stop working. Showers, cold and quick. Of course it was about 90 degrees every day so a cold shower wasn’t too bad, but taking a shower was like washing dishes. You stand under the water long enough to get your hair wet, cut the water off, soap up, and rinse. My normal average shower at home is about fifteen to thirty minutes, in Haiti my showers were less than five. Swallowing the water could make you sick. I never realized how much water I swallow in the shower until I was in danger if I did. The first hot shower after I go home was forty five minutes, so people appreciate your hot, clean, running water.

The children were amazing, I would have brought home thirty new babies if I thought I could get them through customs, but that is illegal and I really did not like the idea of spending Christmas in a Haitian prison. In the one week I spent in Haiti I was completely covered in pure unconditional love. There were days when kids would push each other off of me and my group member’s laps just to be held. It made me feel so loved but at the same time made my heart ache. These children were fighting to be loved on. Even to this day I still can go sit with my mom and be given hugs a love and feel content. The children I spent my week with didn’t have that. The did not have any type of real parent to give them love, and I thought about how many times a day do Americans children take advantage of their parents or complain about their parents. I know I am guilty of that, but I realized I need to be grateful that I have a dad to tell me to do the dishes, or a mom reminding me of curfew.

The more the week went on the closer the bond grew with the children. The first day there we painted the kitchen area in the orphanage and the older boys, Angelo, Jhon, Richardson, and Styven came in to watch. Immediately they were a sweet distraction that ended in me sitting down with them and their English book learning Creole. I loved each second spent with them and watching them try to say words in English was so precious. As the week went on I learned Creole and they learned English. One afternoon, Phillip was doing a nightly devotion with the children and he had candy to give them if they answered a questions correctly. Jhon was sitting beside me and answered the very last question correct so he got two piece of candy and gave one to me. Now to think of this, a jolly rancher is a luxury to these children. They don’t get candy unless someone from the outside brings it in. Jhon gave me that piece so willingly. Which I instantly thought of how often I have two or even three of something and don’t want to share, I felt greedy and ashamed. This wasn’t the first time the children behaved in this way, they wanted to give you everything and asked for nothing in return and that type of attitude is not apparent very often in America especially not around Christmas time. Seeing all of this and experience all of their love was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The transitional time is still happening and not a day goes by that I don’t think of their sweet faces. Even though there was a language barrier, those kids knew we were there to share the love of God with them.

On the second to last day we took the children to a park up in the mountain that was about an hour drive away through about thirty minutes of stop and go traffic. To describe the riding situation thirty children plus four adults climbed into a fifteen passenger van. By the time we got to the top of the mountain at the park four children got car sick. In the last three years this was only their third time out of the orphanage walls. Playing at the park was a new adventure for the kids. The park area was built and ran by the Baptist Mission board, so it was a safe clean place for the children to be. After play time we took the children to eat at the mission board’s “restaurant.” We got each of them fries, and they were able to share a coke. It was so amazing watching them eat and then lick the ketchup out of the small containers. Many of them had never had fries which seems crazy because at every restaurant I have ever been to when you order a sandwich they ask you “Do you want fries with that?” The children loved being there and were so grateful for something as simple as fries.

On the last day I was so tempted to conveniently lose my passport. I did not want to leave. I did not want to leave the children, the country, or even the no air conditioned living space. I wanted to stay with those sweet face and be daily immersed in loved and sweat. In that week, I was going to play with kids and work at an orphanage. In that week, God let me dance with angels, and be blessed by the pure and simple love of a child. I can’t explain the impact this trip had on my life. I love Haiti it is truly a perfect picture of the mess our lives are, but the beauty God sees. It is like beautiful chaos.

I know God has wonderful and incredible plans for my life and I can’t wait to see how they unfold. I know my heart and time is not done in Haiti and I am praying to go again soon, I have to, I left part of my heart there with thirty Haitian babies. Thank you again for the wonderful opportunity you allowed me to be a part of and I can’t express how incredibly grateful I am to have such a wonderful church family.

Thank you and God Bless,
Amanda Elgin

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