Last June, we visited La Beyi, Haiti for the first time! There’s so much engrained in my mind about the experience, and their final parting words still haven’t left me: “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.” In the same way, I remember the immense respect and belief I had in their ability to lead their community’s own defined development initiatives. Because of this belief, I remember deciding I’d like to walk this journey alongside them, and my final parting words were, “I’ll be back to see you”.
Upon returning home, I shared stories about their incredible, faith, joy, grit, ingenuity, determination, love, and care for their community. I shared how 410 Bridge is unique in walking alongside communities and I detailed how we can be part of that work! Many of you have embraced the opportunity by following along, joining our “Friends of La Beyi” initiatives, supporting financially, and for a few, even traveling back to La Beyi with us this year!
For new readers or simply for a good refresh, I encourage you to first read, “Haiti: Finding Joy & Hope” to better understand why we wanted to journey alongside La Beyi, and then read, “Empowering Nations with The 410 Bridge”. This second story details how 410 Bridge partners with communities and the unique opportunity we have to walk with La Beyi. These are written in chronological order and they’ll take you back to the very beginning!
Helpful side note: An important distinction of 410 Bridge is that they help to establish a leadership council comprised of community members to lead their own development. In this way, 410 Bridge comes along side those living in material poverty to do with them, rather than for them as a way to restore dignity, purpose and freedom. Within 7-10 years they’re able to leave the community, self-sustaining on its own! Our intent for visiting is to learn from, encourage, and build relationships with people in La Beyi. More about this model can be read in “Empowering Nations with The 410 Bridge”. To see how IT’S WORKING, read here. 😊
If you’ve read “Haiti: Finding Joy & Hope”, you know their raw and humble prayer requests from last year, and you can imagine our immense joy when we were welcomed with stories and a community tour seeing many of these prayers answered!
Prayer Requests 2018
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.”
Upon arriving this year, we met the leadership council at their church to learn about stories of the past, progress in the community, and their vision for the future. We were greeted with such welcome and hospitality! “We hope you feel like this is your second home, because when you are in Haiti, you are at home.” “Your love is from Jesus. We are worried about the country, but you came anyway.” “Thank God, because He has helped you arrive safely.” “We hope this week is a week of blessings for you and this community.” They shared the story of the devastation Hurricane Matthew left behind, progress they’ve made since, and where they’d like to go next. They said, “It’s important to have a vision to know where we are going, so God can help us better”. They then proceeded to explain that through the power of prayer, so many of their prayers have already been answered in their community! They detailed that their church and school have been rebuilt, as well as some houses. They also said, “God has sent us a drinking water system, and we know there is a lot He can do.” “If we continue to pray there are a lot of things coming.” To hear them give all the glory to God for answered prayers I personally heard exactly a year ago in that very church, was pure joy!
After our meeting, they took us around the community and gave us a tour. Now, I have to stop here, because this is where we saw so many of the physical changes that have taken place throughout the year! It was a huge surprise to see so much change and this is what I’ve been waiting to share with you! Here we go!! 🙌
For starters, they had BENCHES in their church and a SOUND SYSTEM! Not to mention it was beautifully decorated all around! Benches were one of the projects we initially considered building with the community during our trip, but it turned out we decided to focus on water, business training, and pastor training instead per The 410 Bridge and the leadership council’s direction. To see these benches right away was so exciting! We learned the community started building the benches themselves, and then they finished them with another organization in April!
As we left the church and started on our tour, we immediately came upon the water well and to our surprise, it was already being built! Before we left for Haiti, we expected to maybe visit the land where it would be built or see them just beginning the early stages of building, but it was so much farther along! Even more exciting, as we happened to drive by throughout the week, we saw the community members building the well all by themselves with no outside organization to be found! To me, that’s a true testament of the empowerment The 410 Bridge offers communities and it shows the ownership and pride community members take in their own development. We were so excited, we hopped off our van and took a quick video (not the best quality, but in the moment and so cool!).
As we proceeded on our tour, they showed us a beautiful community area on the beach and near a river. The river looked cleaner this year, free of debris! People were swimming in the clear blue water (still not drinkable though), they were hanging out in gazebos, and there was a DJ playing music! This is significant, because last year they shared stories about how beautiful La Beyi was before Hurricane Matthew, and they continue to express their desire for the community to grow in beauty over time.
Next, we came across a home and as we walked by, one of the leadership council members pointed to it and told us it used to be her home before it was destroyed by the hurricane. With a huge smile on her face, she then proceeded to tell us we were on our way to her new home! We walked up the mountain and there it was!
Other homes have been built over the past year too, and many homes had new roofs! Previously, many had tarps and it was difficult to keep their homes dry when it rained. It sounds as though another NGO was involved in building some of the homes and roofs. There are still many homes to be built.
As we walked towards the end of the community we saw the road was being rebuilt too! Last year, they shared the story of how the hurricane washed out the road and they were praying the government would help fix it - and they are!
And now for the Business Start-up Training! We had the opportunity to meet with women who are part of a Women’s Business Association already established in the community. The intent was to share impact stories, learn about each other’s work, and discuss challenges of working in business. Many women shared what they do: selling soap, cosmetics, clothing, and cooking staples such as flour, sugar, and rice. One lady has had a sewing business for 40+ years and another cooks food and sells it in the community! We shared about our work too, and towards the end, started to discuss challenges we encounter in our work. The biggest challenge they shared was that they haven’t had any formal business training, which affects their ability to grow their business. As an example, they mentioned they’ve run into issues when they didn’t keep their personal and business finances separate. Ready for the exciting part?! They then proceeded to share they will be starting a Business Start-up Training (BST) at the end of July and many of them are hoping to apply to the program! 🎊 Cue the Hallelujah bells! 🎊 It was such a heart-warming moment! We didn’t know when the training would be starting and we didn’t even know if the leadership council had shared it with the community yet. To hear them identify the need and then gleefully share about the training was a very special and profound moment for me, personally. 😁
And remember Joubert? We saw him again! His father is a member of the leadership council, so we had the opportunity to visit his home and family. Read last year’s story about Joubert!
There you have it - Eight tangible updates we saw in the community of La Beyi, but perhaps the greatest “progress” isn’t really material at all. I knew coming back to see our friends again would offer encouragement to us both, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of visiting again until we spent the week together. The fact we returned meant a lot to them, which made it all that more meaningful to us! They recognized us and we knew their names. We remembered the memories shared from last year and built upon those, creating yet a stronger connection. We got to witness with our own eyes the prayers that were granted over the past year and hear their immense faith and thanksgiving for what God is doing in their community. It’s true, the community leads their own development through vision, planning, labor, daily stewardship, and more - and at the same time, in part, those prayers came true because of the funds we’ve raised together too. Each person who’s supported La Beyi’s current initiatives was called to do so, just as each leadership council member is called to lead their community and The 410 Bridge is called to their ministry. We’re all part of His plan, and to see, feel, and hear it orchestrated in such a way is truly beautiful. Thank you for answering the call and taking part in the incredible work being done on the southern coast of Haiti!
Yet again, I’ll leave you with La Beyi’s raw and humble prayer requests of 2019.
“We want the community to become more beautiful” – Described as having more trees and community spaces for the youth to play
“That parents can have the opportunity to send their kids to school”
“We have land, farmers and water, but our biggest problem is irrigation” – They want to find a way to irrigate their crops to grow food to eat. They also want tools to till the land.
“The ocean holds riches for our community and we have fishermen, but we need fishing materials.”
“Pray for this church to find instruments to play.”
“Pray families can find the means to build their houses again.”
“For the Women’s Business Association to know how to manage their businesses better and have funds.” – They’re talking about the BST!
“As the leadership council we ask you to pray for all these groups (referring to widows, elderly, disabled, children), and that we will have more leadership skills and wisdom.”
I hope you feel the joy of being part of something much greater than yourself, because YOU ARE! And I hope reading this helps you to better understand the journey of where the community has been, where they’re headed, and how we can all be part of something that’s creating lasting change!
Where, how, or when will more initiatives happen? I’m learning that being part of this journey teaches us patience. To truly allow the community to lead their own development, we have to let them lead the pace and let God orchestrate in His timing. True development takes time, but it results in lasting change!
Want to continue walking alongside La Beyi?
A Facebook group was created 4 years ago for supporters and friends to share updates about what’s happening on the southern coast of Haiti. If you’d like to join, let me know and I can add you to the group!
Interested in visiting La Beyi yourself? Let me know, and we’ll see where it leads! ☺️
We’re only $2,700 away from our initial $93,000 goal - for water, Business Start-up Training (BST), and pastor training - which means we’re still raising funds! Join our “Friends of La Beyi” fundraising team! You can join as an individual to help raise funds or even give a one-time donation too! Once the remaining amount is raised, they’ll be able to start making preparations for the pastor training (remaining initiative to be fully funded). We’re so close!
Don’t forget to invite others to join you in walking with La Beyi! Share this hot-off-the-press update and help us fund pastor training!
Want to see more photos? Watch a short video here!
*Information contained in this story is solely based upon my own experiences in Haiti and I do not formally represent The 410 Bridge.