After spending the five days in Port-de-Paix, our group ventured out of the city and travelled to the Northwest Haiti Mission in St. Louis. We got to the mission by pickup truck, rumbling and tumbling in the bed of the truck through the scenic countryside. When we rode into the mission, it was unlike anything else we had seen all week.
When Larry and Diana (our missionaries) first got to Haiti, one of their first projects was building a central community center for the city of St. Louis. The town had nothing of the sort (like many cities in Haiti), and Larry and Diana envision it as the primary hub for the city’s needs. As Larry likes to explain, they built this huge campus “one bucket of cement at a time.” When we got to tour it, the complex atop the hill had an orphanage, a special needs center, a senior citizen home, a birthing clinic, a hospital, a cafeteria, and more. As Larry and Diana’s Northwest Haiti Mission grew, so did the economy and health of the city.
That said, it was still a desperate landscape that we got to drive through. The entire trip, I made a concerted effort to keep my emotions reined in. The last thing I wanted to do was make the trip about me and how Haiti made me feel, because it was truly about the Haitian entrepreneurs we were working with and God’s movement in Port-de-Paix. That didn’t hold up as we entered Heaven’s Waiting Room.
A small wing of the mission is dedicated to Haitian children with special needs, both physically and mentally. Most of them were orphans, abandoned by parents who just couldn’t afford to take care of a child who couldn’t care for him or herself. Getting to sit with this population of children, stroke their backs, tell them they were loved, was incredibly powerful. The somber name of Heaven’s Waiting Room seemed appropriate, as that was the hope that the children and workers had for them.
At the other end of the spectrum, the senior citizen center housed a group of elderly orphans, Haitians who either lost all of their family or couldn’t be taken care of anymore. They were more interactive, but still just as desperate for love and affirmation of their life. We sang and danced with them (except Ryan Anderson, whose advances were humorously rejected) and got to celebrate their life.
I broke down after these experiences. I couldn’t hold in the emotions anymore. When Jesus talked about us caring for the ‘least of these’, there could not be a more accurate depiction of His vision. Already living in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the Haitians living in these two parts of Northwest Haiti Mission had been abandoned and left to fend for themselves when they were clearly unable to do so. My heart broke for them.
And yet I was incredibly filled with hope. There are people like Larry and Diana in the world today, acting as God’s hands and feet in some of the darkest places in the world. God has used their lives, along with a special group of Haitians, to bring St. Louis a little bit closer to looking like God’s New Kingdom. I have no idea how God is going to use my life, but I can only hope that God uses every ounce of me like He used Larry and Diana.
I know this trip wasn’t about me, and I sincerely hope that we were able to positively affect the lives of the Haitians in Port-de-Paix and St. Louis. I think with our unique approach and through God’s movement, we were able to do so. But I know for a fact that my experience in Haiti and at the Northwest Haiti Mission significantly impacted my global perspectives, my faith, and my life.
– Chad Sykes