On our first full day in Haiti, Missy Wilson, co-founder of myLifeSpeaks, told us that at their organization, we were not there to serve the people of Neply, we were there to be with the people of Neply. I didn't quite understand what she meant by that statement. I thought we all came there to serve and work. The Lord filled our hearts with compassion and a desire to "fix" the problems we would encounter. But Missy's words really struck a chord with me.
Personally, as a medical student, I rarely have time to just be. There is always something else to study, another test to take and another meeting to attend. Even when I have time to provide a service, it usually has the slight ulterior motive of just adding it to the resume.
But this week, I just got to be. When I worked in the clinic with Dr. John, I was not serving. I got to be a part the community clinic. I held the nurses’ babies when they were with a patient. I comforted the victims of a motorcycle accident as I cleaned and dressed their wounds. I got to witness the pregnant mothers program and the bond it fosters while improving the health of moms and babies. We did not come in and run the show, so to speak. We got to be a small of part of the good work that is already happening in this community. It’s a place where the people of Neply are facilitating a positive change in their own village.
I got to be a friend, a teammate and a rival, not just an American. Nearly everyday, I played soccer with teenage boys on the road next to our complex. One of the things I love about soccer is that it truly is a universal language. My new friends were a little hesitant when I showed up that first day asking to play (Not many girls play soccer in Haiti). I quickly learned their rules and was treated like one of the boys. No fouls in Haitian soccer. You score by hitting the big rock that had to be moved every time a truck drove by. If the ball hit the first row of palm trees, it was still in play. But it may or may not have been out if you made it to the second row. Also, it was possible that a game was paused if a goat ran through the field. After that first day, when I saw the boys around the village or during programming, they would call out, "Soccer! Soccer! Soccer, today?" I got to just be with these boys and be a part of their community.
I had the time to just be when we played “Duck, Duck, Goose” and laughed with the kids at VBS while Scott and Andy demonstrated the three-legged-race. Sure, we cared for the orphaned and fed hungry children Haitian spaghetti (a local favorite of noodles, ketchup, Mayo and a boiled egg). But we just got to be with the house children who had special needs and shared a smile and a high-five with the kids in the feeding program. We shared a Coke and some ice cream with our neighbors on the front stoop, and we shared fellowship and the Word of God with our brothers and sisters in Christ under the Mango tree on Sunday morning. We did laundry, washed dishes and babysat in our neighbors’ homes. As we walked around the village and prayed for those who lived there, we were not treated as outsiders but as friends. We were blessed to be with these people.
Ultimately, in my five days in Neply, I didn't "fix" anything. No one can fix the very real problems of poverty, hunger and lack of resources these people face every single day. What I can do, however, is just be. Be a part of the myLifespeaks organization that works daily to make fisherman, not just give out fish. Be a part of the Neply community, eat with them and work with them. Be a light in this world, shining the hope of Christ even in the darkest corners, not just to a small village in Haiti but in my home as well.
John 4:13-14 was painted over the water jug. It said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." I read it every day as I filled up my water bottle. Every day, I was reminded that Jesus's love overflows not just for me but also for the children in the feeding program, the orphans, the people in the clinic and the boys on the soccer field. What a beautiful reminder, on the eve of Christmas Eve, that God's love for us overflowed into human form. This was not the trip I thought I was going on a week ago, but I am thankful that God let us be exactly where he needed us.
Written By: Kelsey Lloyd
Day five started with prayer and a delicious breakfast of eggs, pineapple and mango.
After breakfast, we sent three of our team members to run the medical clinic in Neply for the day. The rest of the group broke into four-person teams to work at homes in Neply. Each group went to the home of someone in need in the community. Jojo led our group of fine strong men to the home of Joel, pronounced Jo-el. Joel is a 64-year-old man who recently had a foot amputated due to diabetes. We washed clothes Haitian style in a tub, making sure to get the right “squish, squish, squish” sound (that's how you know you're doing it right). We took the clothes to the river to rinse them and then hung them up to dry. We spent more time with Joel before praying with him. After saying bonjou, we went on a prayer walk through the town. We stopped at homes and asked for specific prayer requests. Then we prayed Haitian style, which means you hold hands in a circle and everyone prays out loud together at the same time. Awesome.
We made sure we stopped at the town gym to get some reps in on the various car parts set up like Nautilus equipment. Our translator, Fred, showed us how to get it done completing 21 pull-ups. A couple of us, I believe, pulled muscles just watching.
After our typical lunch of PB&J, beef jerky and power bars, we spilt up for our afternoon projects. Several got together and wrapped Christmas presents for the Haitian staff. Our group of strong men (and Scott) went to the roof garden to put a roof on a shed.
In the afternoon, we helped with Redemption 72:14 (based on Psalm 72:14) which is a youth program. Then we participated in the feeding program for children. The latter was quite a sight. We fed about 120 children. They ate Haitian spaghetti which consists of noodles, ketchup, mayo and a boiled egg. They literally scarfed it down! We were told that it's quite the popular breakfast meal.
Sometime during the afternoon, Scott may have gotten the group of fine strong men distracted with some creative Mango picking. There are rumors that pictures and video might be available for a price.
At the end of another incredible day of blessings and hard work, we got to enjoy an absolutely terrific meal of Haitian cooking. The ladies in the kitchen whip up some amazing meals. It’s really some of the best food I have tasted.
It's sharing time after dinner and planning for tomorrow, which, in this case, will be the trip home. For a trip that wasn't supposed to happen, God has shown each of us how powerful and loving He is. To experience this, all you need to do is what we like to talk about so often: step out in faith. I am so glad I did. I have a place in my heart for this community of people called Neply. I haven’t just served in this place for a week; I have lived in this community during this time. That, after all, is the example of the staff here at myLIFEspeaks. God's love abounds in this place, and His greatness endures forever.
Written By: Tim Gipson
As someone who works with teenagers in the States, humans under the age of 12 don't really get me. Most of today, I found myself either carrying a baby around, playing hide and go seek or rocking a baby to sleep. So maybe only Haitian children understand me!
During Mother's Day Out, myself and three other team members watched infants so Moms could spend a few hours alone. At the same time, myLifespeaks held a program for the elderly. The campus was full of snuggles, laughter and Bingo calling!
We know that with the journey it took to get here, God had this whole trip planned all along. Two great examples of that today are the need of construction jobs at the MLS campus, and our doctor and Med Student were able to help in the MLS Medical Clinic.
We ended our day with two awesome experiences. The first was participating in MLS' feeding program. Five days a week, they feed 125 children in the village who are unable to eat at home. I watched these children enjoy every last bite, and they were so grateful.
MLS is known for taking care of their community over the last four years. That love and compassion has passed down to the people of this community. I saw with my own eyes these malnourished kids feeding other kids with leftovers because "they needed it more."
The second experience was spending time with the "house kids." MLS has 15 kids who are either orphaned or abandoned and they are a part of the Orphan Care/Prevention program. These kids live with families in the community and are provided support by MLS. (The closest thing to compare would be long term/forever foster care.) We played, laughed and loved on these kids. We also ate dinner with them. One of the cutest girls, Eva, fell asleep in my arms while sitting down for dinner. I ended up holding her in one arm while eating with the other. See---Haitian babies love me!!!
Today has been a jam-packed day, but our team wouldn't have it any other way! God has protected and guided us every step of this trip. We are thankful to be filled with the Holy Spirit to share Christ's love!
Written By: Maria Williams
Last night was a good night of sleep, and we woke up to some strong coffee, French toast, and fruit. After breakfast, the kids from around the village gathered in the community center for children's church where we worshipped and told them the story of Jesus' birth. Following the story, they assembled a craft of the wise men following the star to Bethlehem.
After children's church, everyone gathered under a beautiful, shaded mango tree at the entrance of the campus. Under the tree, we sang some songs in creole and some in English. It was very cool to hear the songs we sing all the time in a different language. After worshipping, Pastor Mike delivered a great message comparing the gift of our Savior to a roll of toilet paper (you had to be there, but he tied it all together quite nicely).
The afternoon consisted of splitting into groups while we completed various projects such as organizing the clinic, kitchen, and storage area. We repaired window screens and painted. After we finished the projects, we are all in need of a serious, freezing cold shower.
Tonight is taco night, so we are pretty stoked about that! After dinner, we will attend a concert at church. Lights out is at 10:00 pm, but everyone starts getting ready for bed about 7:30 pm. A good night’s sleep is crucial to having a joyful smile and heart the following day.
Bonuit (Good Night)
Written By: Rachel Lackey
Today was a morning we were extremely grateful for coffee and the little compact creamers we brought with us! The morning started with the rooster crowing at 2 am and 5 am and 6 am. Although we love all of God's beautiful creatures, we are all fairly certain the rooster’s life is limited.
After rising, Andy and Scott suggested to the kitchen staff that they should make the coffee. Breakfast was served and the mango was definitely the fan favorite. After breakfast, we split into teams to plan for an afternoon of activities for children. We worked on a Bible story, craft, games and songs, all centered around the Christmas story. Fun fact: the Haitian children don't hear the Christmas story nearly as much as our children do, so it was a great opportunity to share the miraculous birth of Christ with the children in the village.
After plans were set for the afternoon, we walked the entire village and met many people who lived in the area. We invited children to attend the afternoon activities. During our walk, many of the ladies held a day old baby. We also were able to visit with many special needs children, as well as a two-year old girl who weighed 8 pounds. The village has been compared to the "Mayberry" of Haiti. It feels very safe and friendly.
The village walk ended at a beautiful beach with breathtaking views as well as two pigs.
After returning to the myLIFEspeaks campus, we had a quick lunch and setup our stations for the incoming kiddos. We played, sang, preached, danced and laughed with kids for two hours.
Dinner was served. Jesus was praised. Baths were needed and our bodies are resting.
Written By: Amy Dennis
A miracle took place the other day...
For months, our team of 14 has been preparing mentally and spiritually to spend a week in Haiti on a medical mission trip with an organization. Two days before we were supposed to leave, we got an email stating that our trip was cancelled due to security risks at their compound that would put our team in danger. After our team received this information and processed through some grief, a few people were going to make alternate plans (including three who cancelled their flights).
Rachel, our Missions Coordinator, wanted to contact another organization in Haiti that ClearView works with to see if they could have our team at their site. She knew the leaders were currently in the states, and it was only two days out, so she decided not to contact them. However, that was not God's plan! Later that evening while eating at a restaurant, Rachel ran into those organization leaders. Through a conversation with the three of them, it was decided that they would go home that evening and talk with their coordinator to see if this trip to their campus was a possibility. They were also returning to Haiti the same day as our ClearView team!
The next morning, Rachel received an email at 8 am sharp stating that the second organization looked and didn’t see any risk in their area (on the opposite side of the island). They wanted our ClearView team to come to their campus! Immediately, Rachel got on the phone with Scott Koon, team leader, and made a plan to call the entire team to see who would sign up for this adventure. After a couple of hours and MUCH prayer, we had TWELVE commit to going (2 dropped only because alternate plans were made)!
In the meantime, Rachel continued to make a ministry plan with the coordinator and found out that our doctor and med student were greatly needed in the clinic for the week. They also had construction projects (Our construction king Tim Gipson, is with us). Others will be used in their weekly classes, feeding programs, and infant and pregnant moms programs (We even have our professional baby holder, Kathy Koon)! Finally, remember those three who cancelled their flights? Two of them called the airline company, and they reissued their tickets for free! What a miracle. It definitely has been a wild 36 hours, but we are supposed to be in Haiti! There is absolutely no doubt the Lord had his hand on this trip. Please pray for our team as we serve in Neply, Haiti this week.
Written By: Rachel Powell