Day 3 – “God Showed Up”

Scott Hempy, Senior Economics & Business Major 

“So they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything, and followed Him,” Luke 5:11.

Today was inspiring to see God work in such powerful ways. We started the morning with a devotional in which Professor Ifland expressed his concern that our partners in Haiti were not on the same page as our group from Westmont. The language barrier, cultural misunderstandings, and differences in expectations had brought us to a point where we were unsure about our plans for the program. We didn’t know if translators had been lined up for the week, we didn’t know if the entrepreneurs knew to come to our banquet that evening. We though that some sort of formalized training for the entrepreneurs had taken place: it hadn’t. Needless to say, our morning devotional left us with a pretty grim outlook for the day and week ahead, or at least, not the outlook we expected.

In Luke 5, you have to think that Simon Peter, James, and John thought their day was going to turn out differently. No doubt they expected a hard days work, ready to cast their nets into the Lake of Gennesaret and try to earn a modest day’s wage. When Jesus showed up and told them to put down their nets and follow Him, not only did their day change but their lives changed as well. They left everything and set out to follow Him, COMPLETELY trusting in Christ, a man they had just met.

As we finished our devotional time three Haitian men cast their nets into the ocean behind us. During our prayer, these men pulled their net behind their rickety wooden row boat, hoping that their catch might be fruitful. Their catch was meager, but the image was powerful. In hindsight it is easy to see God was using that image as a reminder to our group. We needed to leave everything and trust Him.

God began to work from the moment we closed our time in prayer.

The group of translators showed up (though there were less of them than we thought there would be) along with Handson, Simone, and Maxim. The morning consisted of Professor Ifland describing to the translators the purpose and idea of microfinance loans. The group instantly seemed to understand the magnitude of the impact these loans could make. Guy (pronounced G-E-E), one of the Haitian translators, walked over to Professor Ifland after the meeting and said: “I think this could really work. It’s a great idea!”.  God was providing translators who understood our mission.

We spent the morning in our respective groups learning via the translators about the businesses, finding our about the business owners’ lives, and building relationships.

In the late afternoon the entrepreneurs and their families came to the hotel. We had a large feast of food and spent time in conversation, continuing to get to know the entrepreneurs. Smiles were present on both sides of the table and relationships began to be formed. Following dinner was a ceremony to congratulate the entrepreneurs and to explain the task set before them. Again, as Professor Ifland talked, the entrepreneurs seemed to catch the vision. Loans are given instead of handouts in order to create a long-term, sustainable program. Once the loan is paid back, another Haitian can receive the loan. The entrepreneurs began to understand this system. The ceremony concluded with the giving of “Honorary Entrepreneur” certificates, given from Westmont College to each of the entrepreneurs. Tears flowed and smiles were everywhere as the entrepreneurs and their families celebrated with each other and bonded together in their ventures and hope for the future.

One of the entrepreneurs approached Professor Ifland after the ceremony and (via translator) told him: “this was a miracle from God”. We were in the midst of God answering 7 Haitian’s prayers; prayed for years and years. We were in the midst of God performing a miracle.

Handson, Simone and Maxim understood what our purpose was, and knew that a celebration would be the best way to kick off the program. And were they ever right.

The night ended with a sunset over the ocean, hugs, and joy. God had showed up and blown our expectations away.

Simon Peter, James, and John knew when they left their boats there was still work to be done. But they trusted Jesus and left their plans for their day and for their lives to follow Him. There is still work to be done this week and for many years to come. Haiti is still impoverished; 7 jobs didn’t change that fact. But by admitting personal defeat, giving up our plans, and letting God show up, He showed us that bigger things are possible through Him.

Day 2 – Church

James Sievers, Senior Economics & Business Major

Sunday morning I woke, took a half-cold, half-warm shower, and dressed for
 church. I grabbed a Clif bar, my guitar, and my sermon notes. Our
 group hopped in the bed of a truck to head to church. It took around 15 minutes to cross town, and many people walking around were dressed 
very well on their way to church. The nice clothing wasn’t much different
 than our formal wear, and I was encouraged by how many people seemed to set
 aside Sunday morning for church.

We arrived early to Waves of Mercy, so we listened to
 Pastor Handson lead a Bible study for a group of young men and women. Handson plays a key role in the central infrastructure for the businesses we are starting, and it was wonderful to finally meet him after two months of video conferences. The Iflands have an established relationship with this church community and it was 
a joy to see them received enthusiastically by their Haitian friends.

The church building was small and full of people. I have no idea how long
 the morning service lasted, but it was full of wonderful singing and prayer. Many of the
 tunes were familiar to us, including How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, and
 Great is Thy Faithfulness. I am amazed to realize that I regularly worship 
alongside these brothers and sisters, we are just usually separated by 
several thousand miles. Fil Kozachuk led a few songs in English for our hosts, and I
 accompanied him on an oddly-tuned guitar. Leading worship in foreign contexts always comes with a few curveballs, but we managed to produce a chorus of joyful noises nonetheless.

Then came the message. Handson insisted that someone from our group preach 
a sermon for the church, and I was asked a couple weeks ago to do so. As a
 student who had never been to this church before—let alone this country—I 
was humbled by the great task of preaching the Word in a culture unfamiliar 
to me. A great deal of my preparation involved praying for the strength, 
courage, and words of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the effort would mean nothing if He did not show up. I used Acts 3 as my main text, telling the 
story of the lame man who was healed outside of the temple in Jerusalem. With Handson translating for me, I shared the deeper spiritual need that
 was addressed alongside the visible healing. Through the power of the 
Spirit, Peter healed the man’s legs. Yet the true miracle was the
 revelation of the saving knowledge of Christ, as Peter explains in the
 subsequent sermon to the temple crowd. I heard this passage preached at Santa Barbara 
Community Church earlier this month and felt it was the right message for 
this occasion. Our physical needs are very real, but they point to a
 greater need for reconciliation and spiritual healing.

Later that afternoon we sat in on a youth group meeting. They had a talent show
 of some kind with singing, stand-up comedy, and a humorous dating game. In between that service and evening worship we went next door to see the
 bridal boutique, which is one of the businesses our group is helping launch. A young boy named William
 grabbed me by the hand and spoke to me at length. Wishing I could communicate more
 than a simple hello, I watched him cling to my arm with undeserved
 affection. He took me across the street to meet his papa, all the while holding my hand tight. He kept smiling at me, and I wondered what he 
thought of the white people who came to visit.

We joined in on a total of seven hours of church that day, and were very
 tired and hot by the time it was over. We each shared a verse and a word of encouragement in the evening service. I read Psalm 51:1: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions,” and shared how God is 
teaching me that we approach him based only on his love and mercy, and by 
no credentials of our own. I see the love of God reflected in these kind Haitians
 who greet us and love us simply because we showed up. Many don’t know who we 
are or what we are doing, but it is enough for them that we are here.

Day 1 – Traveling to Haiti

Student Perspective 1 – Jonathan Breneman, Senior Economics & Business Major

Finally the day was here. After so much anticipation spread across several months, it seemed surreal that we were actually leaving for Haiti. The trip had been so far off for so long, the realness of what we were about to undertake began to hit me as we packed the 15 suitcases, ourselves, and our carry-ons onto the Westmont shuttle. At 4:30 in the afternoon our group led by Rick and Neile Ifland was heading from one of the wealthiest areas on the globe to the poorest nation in the world. I would be lying if I said there was no creeping fear in the back of my mind when I thought about trying to bridge this gap of wealth and successfully improve the lives of seven individuals through business. We knew that we were prepared as possible, yet that left more to the imagination than one would hope for as the situation on the ground in Haiti could honestly be anywhere. We all knew that in order for this to be successful God would have to make his presence felt in our work there, and as I am writing this back in beautiful Montecito, California, I can emphatically say that He did more than we could have hoped.

We arrived at LAX roughly around 7 pm, leaving us plenty of time as our flight had been pushed back from 9:30 to 10:30 due to pilot staffing issues. This unfortunately put our group in an incredibly tight spot regarding our connecting flight as we calculated we had about 25 minutes to get off the plane in Miami and get onto our connecting flight to Haiti. I don’t think any of us thought seriously about this at the time, but this would inevitably turn our first day of the trip from just any old long travel day to a certified adventure. The red eye flight was just as bad as all red eyes tend to be as most of us struggled through uncomfortable sleep while the others stayed awake enjoying Disney’s latest hit “Frozen”. After a little over 5 hours in the air, we landed in Miami and got our running shoes ready. We bolted off the plane and sprinted through the airport as our gate naturally was on the opposite side of the terminal. Finally reaching the gate and gasping for breath, we learned that they had decided to sell off some of our tickets as we had shown up later than they apparently thought we should have. Neile had been there telling them we were coming, bet because American Airlines overbooked the flight, there was no longer enough seats on the plane for our entire group. Professor Ifland and Spencer Dusebout stayed behind to catch a later flight, and as I was already on the plane I do not have the details of how that conversation played out, but I can guess that it was not the way that anyone involved wanted to start their morning…

The wheels of the plane screeched off of the runway as Miami, our professor and our classmate quickly shrank behind us. It’s often said that a trip is not a true adventure until everything goes wrong, and we seem to be well on our way!

Student Perspective 2 – Spencer Dusebout, Junior Economics & Business and Religious Studies Double Major

The travel day I experienced was somewhat unique to that of my colleagues. Upon departure, we all shared mixed expectations, but were unified through mutual excitement and a common understanding that had been ingrained in us from the first class: “God must show up on our trip.” A delay in LAX meant we would barely make our flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince. In Miami, we heard the “last call” twice as we sprinted to our gate. We made it on time, but the flight was overbooked leaving Professor Ifland and I stranded in Miami. We were able to get on the next flight, but unfortunately we would miss our connecting flight with the group from Port-au -Prince to where we would be working in Port-de-Paix. This meant we would have to drive, which normally is a fine alternative for a distance of 102 miles, but I would soon learn that it isn’t that simple in Haiti. As we drove away from the airport, our driver informed us that the drive would take about 7 hours (3 on the good roads, and 4 on the bad roads). Driving is different in Haiti; there are no stoplights, stop signs, or turn signals. They simply drive and use the horn to convey their position to other drivers. Travelling on the smooth road presented an enjoyable way to see much of Haiti and to get a glimpse of the poverty and socio-economic framework in which Haitians live. It also was a great opportunity to hear from Professor Ifland about his heart in using business in a sustainable fashion to further God’s kingdom, which was the goal of the trip, and is the goal of our class. The smooth road did not last forever, and within about 5 minutes of driving on the “bad road” I had a good understanding of what it would entail. The bad roads consisted of dirt and potholes, which meant a bumpy ride, constant maneuvering, and dust. Due to the bumpiness, talking became nearly impossible, and sleep could only be enjoyed in 5-minute intervals. It soon got dark, which slowed things down even more because weak headlights can only illuminate potholes a small distance ahead. While the ride itself was rough, and left me sore for a few days and blowing dust out of my nose, it was seven hours of my life. Seven hours in a week of my life that was not about me. In that car I felt proud to be a member of Westmont College, a college where opportunities to engage and further God’s kingdom across the disciplines are plentiful, and many students engage in them. When we finally arrived in Port-de-Paix there was no triumphal entry, but we were certainly glad to put our travel day behind us and see what God had in store for our week.

Westmont in Haiti

We are officially under 48 hours away from leaving for Haiti!

On Friday, March 7, fourteen Economics & Business students from Westmont will travel with Professor Rick Ifland ’83 and his wife, Neile ’84 to Port-de-Paix, Haiti to launch 7 small businesses over their spring break using tools of microfinance and microcredit. Westmont is partnering with Waves of Mercy, a small mission run by Larry & Diana Owen, who have been missionaries to Haiti for over 35 years. Working with a small executive team of local Haitians to oversee the planning and training of local entrepreneurs, Westmont students will help train seven individuals identified by Waves of Mercy and community leaders in Port-de-Paix to launch seven small businesses over the course of the week.

Throughout the week-long trip, students will be helping develop business plans with the entrepreneurs, training them in concepts such as scenario planning, loan repayment, and savings.

Students will be updating this blog throughout the course of the week as Internet access is available, adding photos of their work with the entrepreneurs whenever possible.