What an ending!
What an ending to the Christmas Season and to the year! I had hoped that our Christmas Camp in Haiti would put an exclamation point on our year in ministry but I had no idea that our goal of serving 200 children would surpass 500 children! Our plan was to work with orphans in Cité Soleil which is a suburb of Port au Prince and our journey started here but it also took us beyond this difficult area.
We had planned on creating a Vacation Bible School experience for children in the orphanages in this literal wasteland of trash and forgotten people. We came prepared to bring the spirit of Christ and the season of Christmas to children who work hard just to survive the perils of living in Haiti and especially in this dangerous area. We came prepared to give a bible lesson, help the kids make crafts, sing songs and then give each child a present. We brought hundreds of bags of school supplies, health kits, handmade dresses for the girls, clothes for the boys, and beautifully crafted teddy bears made by women from a church in England. We were ready to have lessons and provide lots of love but the experience turned out to be a reminder how God works. In mission work, God often takes our best laid plans and has a good chuckle but by His hand the trip was a great success!
Our first stop after getting to Haiti was at a well-functioning orphanage located on the outskirts of Cite Soleil. It's important to note that in this place the kids were clean, they were getting enough to eat, and there were regular classes and rooms for them to learn in. The bottom line it is a great example how well things can work in Haiti when you have a clearly defined mission, adequate resources, and a lot of God's love.
One important lesson I can share would be if someone tells you there are fifty children at an orphanage plan on a hundred. It might start out that way but once the word is out the kids come out of the wordwork. Working with a hundred children in a small room is difficult in any circumstances but add in barriers of language and culture and it's a recipe for an unforgettable day, and it was. Somehow with the help of God it was not only an unforgettable day it was also a remarkable day of sharing God's love with kids who delighted in running relays with cups of water splashing. Watching our bible drama brought to life with young boy named David pitted against a terrible giant name Goliath. Singing songs we taught them and ones they taught us, and giving thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to share our gifts with them.
Our next stop in Cité Soleil was at a clinic at the edge of the city. The clinic is not operational at this time because the funding has run out but it is still being used and maintained to feed children and provide space for special events like the one we provided. It is an interesting story how a medical clinic has been built on top of a garbage dump. Pastor Simon Lee who founded this clinic along with supporting other orphanages in the area had a vision to create a badly needed clinic after the earthquake but land was unavailable in Cite Soleil to build on. He spotted an open area that was being used to dump garbage at the edge of the bay and asked the mayor if he could build the clinic on top of the garbage. Since this was not official land as it is not even on a map the mayor gave him permission to build. It's amazing how some dirt will cover a multitude of environmental sins but in this case it makes complete sense. The primary use of the clinic when open was to treat women for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and as well as emergency non-life threatening illness and injuries for the general population. This would include everything from gunshot wounds to cholera. When operational, the clinic served between 50-100 people per day. Our focus this day was to provide distribution of the health kits, school supplies, and delivering our modified VBS program. Our host informed us that their team would handle the distribution of the supplies and we quickly learned why. In this place the kids have little supervision and no formal education so imagine what it would be like working with the most hyped up bunch of kids you have ever seen and multiply that by a factor of 10. We had again intended to work with 70 but it went to 200 plus pretty quickly. Considering the amount of kids our event went very well but the needs of the community our overwhelming.
I am praying about how we will be working in this area of Haiti in the future, though there is no turning back because this door was opened to us by God with the expectation we would do our best to make a difference. There is much to do but careful and thoughtful planning is needed to ensure the work is fruitful.
We spent most of our mission time in Cité Soleil but our time also included visiting children on a mountain top village called Orange. To get there we rode in the back of a truck for an hour and a half ride that included many miles of winding dusty dirt roads up a mountain. We then continued on foot up a steep path shared with cows and donkeys for another thirty minutes of hiking as we carried our supplies for the 70 children that magically turned into 150. It was a long hard climb and once we reached the small clearing we found a church with no walls. In America we think of a church with no walls as an inviting place, one that welcomes people in and sends them out into the world. This church was simply a roof with poles for support but it was most certainly an inviting place as in no time it was filled with excited children who enjoyed our modified VBS experience. On this hilltop we also spent time walking house to house visiting and praying with families.
Thank you all for making this trip possible with your prayers and your support! It was a great ending to the year and more importantly a new beginning in missions.
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