Note: This story often references God, as He is the foundation of the work in Haiti. In order to properly honor the people of Haiti, I want to share their immense faith and love for our Lord. Yet, if you are not a believer, I’m certain you too will be able to connect with the incredible work happening in Haiti through this story. These people are so intelligent, hardworking and determined that they’ve entirely shifted my perspective on life and it’s my hope to share a little bit of that with you!
On October 4, 2016 Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew, leaving their homes, livestock, and land completely destroyed. In fact, water flooded halfway up the mountain, completely covering everything they knew. Despite the relief and recovery efforts over the past 2 years, little improvement has been made for those living on the south coast of Haiti. The locals described their community as being beautiful with coconut trees and pristine white sand, but the hurricane took that all away leaving them struggling to survive. My husband, Sam, was talking to a women who described their shelters of sticks and tarps as not being acceptable living standards. They used to have homes and now, in her words, they “live like goats”.
This breaks my heart.
We spent our week in Labeyi, Haiti focusing on community development with 410 Bridge, through a GlobalX program. 410 Bridge believes we all have poverty at some level, whether it be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, materially or in our relationships with others. Those in Haiti happen to have material poverty. Yet, they have many gifts and assets they can use to rebuild their community. An important distinction of 410 Bridge is that they help to establish a leadership council comprised of community members to lead their own community. In this way, 410 Bridge comes along side those in poverty to do “with” them, rather than “for” them as a way to restore dignity, purpose and freedom. This is why you won’t see us building houses or painting schools for them. Instead, we spent time learning about the gifts our friends in Labeyi already have, encouraging them to use those gifts, and building fellowship with each other and our Lord. Our desire was to build long-term relationships within the community of Labeyi, so we can support initiatives they lead over time. 410 Bridge’s goal is to eventually work themselves out of business, so Labeyi can be self-sustaining! Now that’s a vision I can get behind!
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1:Peter 4:10
While we traveled to Haiti to build relationships with Labeyi’s leadership council and community, I had no idea how deeply we’d connect and encourage each other. This is where I become speechless. I’m at a loss for words to describe how incredible these human beings truly are. They are the epitome of what I believe God created us to be: filled with ingenuity, grit, faith, determination, love, and care for their community around them.
As the week continued to unfold, I felt love for them like Jesus must’ve felt for us when He walked the earth. This is why.
- They put God before their most urgent needs. The leadership council profoundly shared their greatest need is to first ensure everyone in their community knows God. Second, they hoped for all of their houses to be rebuilt. They requested, “I hope the work you do here will make the people understand this vision and will take part”. They were asking us to be a light for their people in helping them come to know the Lord through our actions and words. That’s a tall order! The sequence in which they listed their needs struck me to my core. It shows their immense faith and trust in God that through knowing Him, their other needs will be met. Again, Speechless.
- They welcomed us in a way I’ve never been welcomed before. They first greeted us by singing a Haitian Creole spiritual song with energy that brought us to tears. It’s hard to describe the conviction and faith in their eyes, but, let me tell you, it was there. It was loud. It was strong. Each of the 13 council members then proceeded to welcome us individually one by one. I’ve recounted some of what they said here: “Even though we have different colors and languages, God put us together with his love.” “You did not leave your country; you are at home.” “Don’t worry, because you are at home.” “When Haitians and Americans get together it’s like the universal church.” “There are many beautiful stories you have to learn.” “The gate of Labeyi is open widely for you.” “We know you left your families and traveled far to see us. God bless your families in the U.S.” Hearing this was beyond humbling. Here in the U.S. we still struggle with the differences between us, but in Haiti, they made us feel as though world peace had been conquered long ago.
- Their leadership council has incredible potential. During our first encounter with the leadership council, they commented, “If there is life, there is hope.” I was so touched by this profound thought. They displayed immense leadership, skill, knowledge, and faith. I was very impressed with their entire being throughout the week - in their thoughts, the way they acted and reacted, and even in how they held themselves with such a strong sense of executive presence. I’m certain Labeyi will successfully lift themselves out of poverty through their leadership. Seeing their strong capabilities makes me hopeful for Labeyi, longing to help in all the ways I can!
- They have immense joy, hope, and faith. Prior to leaving for Haiti, our team decided the Bible verse we’d focus on for the week would be Philippians 4:4. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice!” It turns out this was the verse the leadership council greeted us with as well! They included the full line of verses in Philippians 4:1-6. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” They find peace in knowing God will take care of them. They are thankful for what they do have. They cherish each other. It’s hard for me to conceptualize that level of faith, hope, and joy. They live on the beach in shelters and live off the land and sea. Yet, they have such joy. It blows me away!
- They work so hard! We were on the bus by 6:00 am on our travel days and everyone was already out working. They were in the fields, selling goods on the street, carrying water jugs, fishing, washing clothes, cleaning the streets, and carrying anything and everything on their heads! I was humbled to see 5-6 year old children tilted sideways as they tried to carry jugs of water home.
- They shared their knowledge with us. They showed us how they milk a cow and boil the milk to drink, how to make cassava patties (it’s at least a 4 hour process), and how to make a Haitian meal (another 4 hour manual process). They spent half a day cooking a meal for us with their daily wage of fish they caught fresh from the sea. They brought us into their homes and through their fields. They taught us how to fish using nets woven by hand and boats made of mango trees. They even make the tool they use to sew the nets. They sew and repair the nets daily, and anytime they have a surplus, they use the money to buy more string, so they can make a bigger net! Their nets usually last over 50 years and it takes 2 months and 25 men to make a boat!
- The children were beyond sweet. Many times I had 6 children holding on to me - my arms, shirt, belt loops, anywhere they could find! They poked and pinched me, laughing in fascination of my white skin. At one point, they took my hat off and I had 5 little hands petting my head laughing and saying, “Blond” (spelling in Haitian Creole). I could truly see God in the eyes of these children. They are so loving and happy!
As it was time to leave, the council shared their farewell…“Tell your family we love them. Don’t forget we can’t stop thinking about you in this community. We won’t forget you and we will miss you. You are in our hearts. We won’t forget you. I ask you that you won’t forget us. This community needs lots of prayers.”
One of my most joyful moments was when they said, “We are going to help you, and you will pray for us too”. At this, I knew what we hoped to establish that week had been done. We grew together in trusting relationships. Not only do they believe they can help themselves, but that they can also help us! They see the areas where they are rich. They believe in God’s power and are asking us to pray.
So, what do you say? Do you want to pray for them too? I’ve listed their raw and humble prayer requests below.
- For everyone in the community to know God
- “Everyone needs a house. This is our biggest problem in our community. We are going to pray for this problem, because nothing is impossible for God.”
- Materials for fishing
- Wells and a water system to provide purified water in the community - There is 1 working well, but it is not purified, so the water can still make them sick. They also get water from the river to drink, which is the same place they bathe and wash clothes.
- Benches for the church - Their church was leveled in the hurricane. They’ve just rebuilt a concrete structure and are currently sitting on 2x4 planks held up by cinder blocks.
- “We want a sound system in this church to better worship God.”
The way I see it, now that I understand their needs AND I have the ability and desire to help, I have a responsibility to do so! As I learn ways to help provide for their above needs, I’ll share them with you too! Considering child sponsorship? Sponsor a child here. Want to experience the beauty of the Haitian people for yourself? Sign up for a 410 Bridge mission trip, or if you’re in Atlanta, sign up for a trip through GlobalX. Interested in other countries? You can also visit Guatemala, Uganda or Kenya with 410 Bridge.
Want to see more photos? Watch a short video here!
Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice!