Thursday – Northwest Haiti Christian Mission

We visited the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission today and needless to say it was a blessing to each of us, even though it became a rather emotional time. We began by piling all 15 of us into the back of a pickup truck (we apologize to our mothers for not wearing seatbelts, unfortunately they were unavailable!) and endured a bumpy ride down a mostly dirt road up to the town of St. Louis du Nord. We played two truths and a lie and enjoyed being squished like sardines baking in the Haitian sun.

They pulled the gates open for us and we came into the mission that Larry and Diana built, which their children now run. The mission holds orphaned children, special needs children, a section for the elderly, a birthing center, prayer chapel, and a Bible college. People at all stages of life and in vulnerable situations surrounded us, but what made this place different was the hope that was almost tangible in the air. Diana led us around, telling stories from the past and the process it took for them to build this establishment over the last 30+ years.

It was inspiring to see the special needs children, whose lives were transformed simply because of specified care and consistent nutrition. The old people lit up with joy when we came down to visit. They sang songs, kissed our cheeks, and exuded grace towards each of us, even though some of them were in severe pain. As I looked up and saw Rick dancing with one of the elder women, I couldn’t help but feel extreme joy and thankfulness for this program. He did not have to take this much time and effort to create this class that each of us get to step into for a semester, while he carries on for years and continues to spend his time in Haiti. Being part of this class has shown me more than any other part of Westmont how to take an education and use it to glorify God and share the Gospel.

After seeing the elderly, we headed up to the orphanage section where many of the young girls assembled and began to sing the most beautiful praise music. Complete with harmonies, their worship led some of us to tears, not of sadness, but full of joy. And then we saw the birthing center beneath the orphanage, of which they estimated over 10,000 babies had been delivered there.

All we did was see children, say hi to the elderly, and listen to singing. But the time we spent at the mission was emotional for all of us, leading some to uncontrollable tears. The depths of despair contrasted with the pure and quintessential beauty of worship, evoked feelings that only the Spirit of God can create. We spent time with the vulnerable, and through it we saw compassion from the Lord, how Jesus changes everything, and that He is the only one worth praising with our total and complete effort. To see God’s continued faithfulness was truly rewarding, and definitely a highlight of the week.

– Natalie

Tuesday – Getting Started

Tuesday began with devotions bright and early to start the day off right! As a group, we discussed what it means to see God as our day goes on. We prepared our hearts and minds to be more aware of how God is working throughout our day. It was clear to me that I needed to have a different perspective going into this day and I was excited to see what God had to show me.

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Monday – Working with Our Entrepreneurs

MONDAY – WORKING WITH ENTREPRENURS

Our day began at 8 AM—already sunny and hot. We met for a morning devotional, preparing our minds and hearts for the full day ahead. One by one, the entrepreneurs and translators arrived at our hotel. Irlaine, my entrepreneur, greeted Emily and I with a wide smile and a kiss. She was humble and shy-natured, but I could sense her joyful spirit instantly. Conversation was awkward at first—the language barrier made it disjunct and slow. But as Emily and I asked question after question, she began to warm up to us. With each answer, my respect and amazement for Irlaine grew. She spends her days selling goods around town to provide for her seven children (SEVEN!!). Her husband does not come around the house often, so the responsibility of feeding seven mouths is hers to bear alone. After about an hour and a half, she kissed us goodbye and left. That morning, the fear that I wouldn’t be able to connect with her weighed heavy on my heart. While I still sensed a little bit of distance, my fears were dissolved by her kindness.

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Sunday – Church

SUNDAY – CHURCH

The day started off with the most exciting ride to church of my life. A swarm of mopeds lined up outside of our hotel, and one by one we headed off in our “taxis”. As my driver and I zoomed through the busy city’s unpaved roads, I clenched the edge of my moped as to not fall off while dodging traffic. When we arrived at church, I entered the building as lovely tropical worship music with powerful vocals wafted out its doors. I didn’t have my coffee this morning, but it was impossible to fall asleep due to the energy in the room. Our Westmont group could not help but sway along to the music and children swarmed around us to sit on our laps and give us hugs. The adorable children kept us entertained during the forty-minute sermon that followed.

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Traveling to Haiti 2017

SATURDAY – TRAVEL DAY

The “journey” began at Westmont at 3 pm. We all got to the bus eager for the adventure that was set before us. Little

did we know that the next 24 hours would involve traveling like we had never had before. In our 2-hour bus ride to LA we talked about wedding plans, what we expected in Haiti, and our fears for the week ahead. We stopped at Panera for a place to fuel up with the last American meal we would have for awhile. At Panera Noelle and I were elated to witness Duke pull off an upset against #1 seeded North Carolina.

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Final Day + Endless Travel 

I cannot believe how quickly this week has gone by.  It seems like only yesterday that we arrived nervous about the challenges we would face in the week ahead.  In only a week’s time we have grown to love our entrepreneurs and the country of Haiti.  We have seen immense poverty but we have also seen resilient, beautiful, and joyful people.  I think it is safe to say that all of us will leave a part of ourselves here in Haiti.

This morning was spent working with our entrepreneurs and getting everything finalized so that they would be equipped to continue the businesses on their own.  Heather and I worked with our entrepreneur, Wista, to finalize her food stand.  We carried the stand over from the church and set it up outside of her house in a shaded area.  She began to organize the items on her stand: rice, beans, oil, onions, dried fish, pasta, tomato paste, spices, and the beautiful candles she learned how to make.  She got some paint and named her stand “Som 23: Dieu Qui Donne” which translates “Psalm 23: God Who Gives”.  She made sure everything was in order, stepped back, and then gave us a huge smile and a hug.  Standing before us was a proud new business owner.  This work would give her dignity and allow her better care for her seven children.  We told her how incredibly proud of her we were, purchased some of the candles that we made with her earlier in the week, and then departed to check on some of the other businesses.

The afternoon was spent playing a game of soccer.  We mixed teams to contain both Haitians and Americans and played a short match on a huge dirt field riddled with rocks of various sizes.  It was a competitive match that brought the whole community together.  After the game we said our final goodbyes to Handson and made our way to Larry and Diana’s house for our final meal with them.  We were all pretty excited thinking about everything the Lord had done through us in the past week.  Larry and Diana shared stories about God’s faithfulness in their lives and challenged us to live a life of increased faith and devotion to the Lord.

We went back to the hotel, packed up our things and then got on a bus to Port-au-Prince.  We all did our best to sleep on the bus as we drove through the night, but the dirt roads didn’t make it easy.  We arrived at the airport tired and dazed at 4:30 in the morning.  We played a few quick games of cards and reminisced about the week.  We then flew to Miami and then to LAX where we went our separate ways.  It was a shock going from dirt roads and enormous poverty to paved 6 lane freeways and incredible wealth.

The week was incredible for me.  I enjoyed working with my entrepreneur and partnering with her to start her own business.  I enjoyed playing with the children, holding their hands, and letting them know that they are seen and loved.  I enjoyed talking with the translators about what life is like in Haiti.  I enjoyed riding on the back of mopeds and was astonished that we never hit anyone or anything.  Haiti is truly a special place.  I pray that Haiti would begin to see economic progress.  I pray that the Haitian people would increasingly find their hope in the Lord and that they would stay away from the voodoo so ingrained in their culture.  I pray that our partnership has blessed the people; it has certainly blessed me.

– Ryan Council

Futbol!

Our last day in Port-de-Paix was nothing less than a surreal celebration. We concluded our small helping roles in starting these business and left control in the hands of our entrepreneurs. Beyond the businesses, we cultivated relationships that we will sorely miss. Although Ryan and I (Evan) could not teach our entrepreneur, Elon, soap-making with actual lye, we have grown so fond of his quiet diligence in learning the process and with his thoughtfulness in implementing once all the ingredients are obtained. I wish I could stay and watch him bring his business to life, but I also feel confident that he can launch and expand his soap business without us, which is a gratifying feeling. I think we are all sad to leave the people here but happy to know that the respective businesses have a reasonable shot at thriving on their own.

Before we left, we celebrated our newfound community with a game of Futbol! Small houses and shacks on hillsides surrounded the rock-filled dirt field. It was as if we were playing in an organic coliseum. As we played, the surrounding community flocked to the field. The once peaceful soccer field became a chaotic scene of kids starting sideline scrimmages, families meeting and greeting, and young men lining up to join the next game. At half time, Tommy gave a devotional, translated by Handson, about striving for the Kingdom of God like an athlete training for victory. The whole experience was a fun and fulfilling way to end a fruitful week and to wish our friends in Port-de-Paix well before we depart this evening.

– Evan Kramer