Archives For Haiti

Haiti, at last

Meredith Flynn —  April 24, 2015

Texas youngster visits the school she —and Illinois mission teams—helped build

After four years of prayer and giving, it was all hugs and smiles as Mackenzie (right) visited a community school in Bigarade that her missions giving helped build.

After four years of prayer and giving, it was all hugs and smiles as Mackenzie (right) visited a community school in Bigarade that her missions giving helped build. Photo by Bob Elmore

Bigarade, Haiti | Several years ago, this community in Port-au-Prince was just a flood plain. Now, more than a hundred
homes dot the landscape, and children run down the dirt roads to their very own school.

Recently, there was a new face at the school, though one who’s very familiar with its story. At nine years old, Mackenzie Howell has been working to renew hope in Haiti since 2011, when she saw a documentary about the devastating earthquake that rocked the country the previous year.

Four years after she started raising money to help kids and families there, Mackenzie visited Bigarade and the school she helped build. “Seeing the kids” was what she looked forward to most before the trip, and was also her favorite part of being in Haiti, she told the Illinois Baptist.

“She really does care about this,” said Mackenzie’s mom, Alison, who also went along on the trip led by IBSA’s Bob Elmore. The Howells, who are from Nederland, Texas, met Elmore through International Mission Board missionaries working in Haiti
after the earthquake. Mackenzie sent her first donation—$1,400 raised through a coin drive at her preschool and a bake sale at church—to the missionaries to help with construction projects. They connected her with Elmore, who facilitates IBSA’s short-term mission teams in Haiti.

First she had a bake sale. Then, in 2013, the Texas girl wrote a book to help children in Haiti. File photo

In 2013, Mackenzie wrote a book to help children in Haiti. File photo

Since her first project, Mackenzie has raised more money with several other initiatives, including sales of “Leila’s Big Difference,” the book she wrote and published in 2013. Elmore, several teams of volunteers, and Haitian workers have turned Mackenzie’s gifts, along with other donations and resources, into a school for more than 100 children in Bigarade.

Instant community
The school property was vacant in November of 2011, when Elmore first saw it. “It was a goat field then…we just kind of wrote it off,” he said.

When he returned the next spring, a local Christian man named Thomas had gotten permission to put up a tarp and bamboo school on the site. People on Elmore’s mission team were asking, “What can we do?”

That fall, after receiving an anonymous donation to purchase the land, Elmore took a team to Bigarade to start construction on the school. At least eight Illinois churches and associations helped with the project. The facility now doubles as Gosen Church.

Bigarade is an “instant community,” Elmore said, a product of the earthquake that drove people from where they were and forced them into new living situations. Before the school was built, kids were either walking to another community or not going to school at all.

Mackenzie's mission team prepared lunch for kids at the school in Bigarade.

Mackenzie’s mission team prepared lunch for kids at the school in Bigarade.

Working in the school was one of the main objectives for Mackenzie and her team. They came prepared to do a two-hour
lesson each day with crafts, and to provide lunch for the kids on three days.

“Our ultimate goal is to start a feeding program where the kids can have lunch every day,” Alison said a few days before her
team left for Haiti. It just seems like something God would want them to do, she said, to feed his children. The team took with them enough money to start construction on a kitchen for the school, and also a classroom for the youngest students.

Thomas, who put the early school on the property, is now headmaster, and students arrive every morning in blue and white uniforms. Once a goat pasture, the school now employs seven teachers, and has 114 students. The feeding program will employ two or three cooks and purchase food from local sources, Elmore said.

On a recent mission trip to Haiti, Mackenzie Howell, 9, worshiped in the church she helped build after a massive earthquake.

On a recent mission trip to Haiti, Mackenzie Howell, 9, worshiped in the church she helped build after a massive earthquake. Photo by Mary Russell

Complete God
“Why don’t we dance at church, Mom?” That was Mackenzie’s question after her first Haitian church service, where lively singing and dancing was a big part of the worship experience. (Alison’s response: “I don’t know; why don’t you talk to the pastor about that one?”)

“…It was such a blessing to watch her,” Alison said of her daughter during the trip. “She really grew throughout the week.” And Mackenzie’s not finished with Haiti, not by a long shot. She wants to go back—soon. And she’s planning a second book.

“It’s going to be about Leila [meeting] a white girl that came from the U.S. to visit her school and help out with the school and do crafts and stuff, kind of like how I did.”

Recently, she shared about Haiti with kids in her church’s Awana program. Mackenzie’s grandmother, who also was part of the March trip, came out of the room crying, Alison remembered.

“Whatever you do, don’t practice with her,” was the grandmother’s advice for Mackenzie’s future speaking engagements. “…She had them laughing and crying,” Alison said. “It’s because it really does come from her heart.”

In Haiti, Mackenzie taught her new friends a dance she had choreographed in honor of their country to a song with special meaning there, “I Am Not Forgotten.” Watching, Alison said, “It was just such a beautiful picture of how complete God is.”

“So many times, we give to missions or do this and that…but we don’t always get to see the fruits. I just continuously thank God that’s he’s allowed us to see so much of the fruit of his work.”

Reported by Meredith Flynn for the Illinois Baptist newspaper, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org

Click through the slideshow below for more photos from Mackenzie’s trip to Haiti. Photos are by Bob Elmore and Mary Russell, Mackenzie’s grandmother.

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Volunteers from Illinois are serving this week near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. One team member is Alison Howell, whose daughter, Mackenzie, wrote a children's book to raise money to help re-build the country.

Many mission teams from Illinois have served in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake. This photo was taken during a one-week trip to the country last summer; read stories and see more photos here.


HEARTLAND | Mackenzie Howell
was just five years old when she saw a TV program about the massive earthquake that destroyed parts of Haiti in January 2010. The young Texan decided immediately she needed to do something to help.

Mackenzie_Howell_blog

Volunteers from Illinois are serving this week near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. One team member is Alison Howell, whose daughter, Mackenzie, wrote a children’s book to raise money to help re-build the country.

Since then, she’s raised thousands of dollars for re-building efforts in the country through several different enterprises, including a book about a courageous Haitian girl named Leila.

Mackenzie’s projects connected her with IBSA’s Bob Elmore, who facilitates mission trips to Haiti. Mackenzie’s mom is on one of those trips this week, writing letters to her daughter every day from Haiti. Alison Howell hopes to learn more about the country this week, in preparation for when Mackenzie is ready to go herself.

In her first letter Aug. 3, Alison talked about how God sometimes calls people to do hard things.

“Remember last week in Sunday School when we talked about how God asked Paul and Barnabas to do some difficult things, but they always obeyed Him because they knew that they could trust Him. You and I can trust Him too.

“I can trust Him to take care of me in Haiti, and even more importantly to take care of you, brother and Daddy while I’m gone. You can trust Him to give you the courage to do what He is asking you to do too.”

Follow Alison Howell’s mission trip at her blog, “Letters to my daughter from Haiti.”

Hobby_Lobby_prayerTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is calling Christians to pray for Hobby Lobby as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments this week in the government’s case against the craft retailer and another company, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation.

At issue is the businesses’ refusal to cover abortion-inducing drugs for its employees, a measure required of for-profit companies by the Obama administration’s healthcare plan.

“This case will set the tone for the next hundred years of church/state jurisprudence in this country,” ERLC President Russell Moore wrote in a blog post March 23.
“One of the reasons we oppose this sort of incursion into free exercise is that we want neither to be oppressed nor to oppress others,” Moore wrote. “We do not ask the government to bless our doctrinal convictions, or to impose them on others. We simply ask the government not to set itself up as lord of our consciences.”
The ERLC has created a “Pray for Hobby Lobby” avatar for use on social media, and is asking Twitter users to post with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Read the ERLC’s news release about the Hobby Lobby case here.
Other news:
Southern Baptist Convention First VP candidate named
North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley will be nominated for the office of first vice president at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this June in Baltimore. Pressley pastors Charlotte’s Hickory Grove Baptist Church and currently is vice president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference.

“I love the Southern Baptist Convention,” Pressley told North Carolina’s Bibilical Recorder newspaper. “I’m thankful for the work of NAMB and IMB, and I want to keep supporting the convention. I want to see more younger guys getting excited about the work of our convention and how we do missions – whether it’s in North America or around the world.” Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Westboro pastor Fred Phelps dies
Fred Phelps, whose Kansas church made headlines for years with their incendiary protests, died March 19. LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer suggests how Christians should respond to Phelps’ death, including taking the opportunity for some self-examination.

“Let’s be careful to avoid our own self-deception,” Stetzer wrote on his blog, The Exchange. “The Phelps family, and the Westboro clan they started, are full of people that need Jesus. Let’s not get Pharisaical here – the Phelps family and the people they lead in worship of a false god are sinners, but so are we. The people who spew the hateful words of Phelps’s hateful god need the love of Jesus just like you and me. Pray for them to find peace in Jesus and love as he has loved.”

Former Haitian prisoner tells his storyA Baptist volunteer recounts his experience in a Haitian jail four years ago in this story on BPNews.net. “They were difficult and perplexing and complex days, but God ordained them,” Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told BP. In 2010, he and nine other Baptist volunteers were detained and charged with kidnapping after trying to move children to safety in post-earthquake Haiti.

Barna: Who’s watching what at the movies
Sequels were big in 2013, according to data compiled by Barna Research, although the average American only saw 3.3 movies at the theater. The study also found 11% of people saw a movie in the last two years that made them think seriously about religion or spirituality. Read more at Barna.org.

“Leila’s Big Difference” is 7-year-old Mackenzie Howell’s latest project to help Haiti. Photo by Kristi Burden

“Leila’s Big Difference” is 7-year-old Mackenzie Howell’s latest project to help Haiti. Photo by Kristi Burden

NEWS | August 26, 2013

On the first page of “Leila’s Big Difference” by Mackenzie Howell, a little girl stands with her arms crossed as the words “Too Little” float around her.

As the baby of her Haitian family, Leila sometimes feels held back by her youth. But when a teacher tells her class the story of a young shepherd who kills a giant that’s been menacing his community, it inspires Leila and her schoolmates to band together to make a difference.

First-time author Mackenzie likely can empathize with her main character. The 7-year-old Texan started trying to make a difference in Haiti when she was just five years old. The book is her latest project to raise money for relief efforts in the country where hundreds of thousands were displaced after a massive earthquake three years ago.

The first 400 copies of “Leila’s Big Difference” are nearly sold out, and Mackenzie has spoken at two local churches about the project. Her story was also featured in the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper. She has already sent $1,565 in book sales to the Illinois Baptist State Association for continued work in Haiti.

“When you hear about missions in action, Mackenzie is a true example,” said Bob Elmore, IBSA’s short-term missions coordinator, who has led several mission teams from Illinois to Haiti since the quake. “Her heart was touched by a need, she determined what she could do and didn’t limit herself. Her efforts are truly making a difference.

“This is commendable for anyone, but astounding for a 7-year-old.”

It started two years ago, when Mackenzie saw a TV show about the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and told her mom she wanted to do something to help. The Howells organized a coin drive at her preschool and a bake sale at their church. They raised more than $1,400 and sent the money to International Mission Board missionaries Jo and David Brown, who were instrumental in the re-building process.

The missionaries then connected Mackenzie with Elmore and IBSA’s continued work in Haiti through short-term mission trips. She sent IBSA the proceeds from her next project – selling homemade sidewalk chalk, playdoh, crayons and finger paints through a local mall’s program for enterprising kids. Her donation helped build a church in Port-au-Prince that doubles as a school.

This summer, with a 15-month-old brother in the house, Mackenzie decided she needed a project he couldn’t get in the middle of. “So we decided to do a book,” she said.

She enlisted the help of Jace Theriot, a 9-year-old in the Sunday School class her mom teaches at their church, Hillcrest Baptist in Nederland, Texas. Jace illustrated Mackenzie’s story, giving life to Leila, her kind-hearted teacher Mr. Bertin, and her lush homeland.

The two recently had a signing party where they autographed 150 copies of their book. And ate pizza and cookies, Mackenzie added.

Watching her daughter “gives me such an appreciation of the Lord being willing to use us,” Alison Howell said. “Because for her, the calling is so clear, and we could see how genuine it was, that it reminded me that the Lord really wants to use us.”

Mackenzie corresponded with Elmore as she created the story, e-mailing him questions about Haiti. Alison said he asked the questions of a young boy and girl in Haiti, so Mackenzie could use their input too. The young writer also researched the country online.

“She was so adamant,” Alison said about her daughter’s will to write the book. “And that’s been the really neat thing in this process, that she has wanted to do this. She has had the passion. Not one time has she said, ‘Mom, this is getting old,’ or ‘I don’t want to work on this story.’”

And while the book has made Mackenzie a bit of a local celebrity, her parents are careful to remind her of the spiritual lessons she’s learning.

“One of the things we’ve learned…is how blessed we are to live in America, and how much we have,” Alison said. “And so we’ve tried to teach her that when much is given to you, much is expected from you.”

“Leila’s Big Difference” by Mackenzie Howell is available for order here.

Coming home

Meredith Flynn —  August 26, 2013
Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Re-entering my everyday life American life after a week in Haiti, I was reminded of

something Mark Emerson said: “We’re pretty good at going away on mission. We may not do as well with coming home.”

Emerson, who leads IBSA’s missions team, said we need a how-to about coming back from a short-term mission trip. Because the emotions run so high during a week in Haiti or inner city Chicago or Bulgaria or East St. Louis, it’s inevitably an adjustment to come back to our normal houses, routines and lives.

It’s not just mission trip participants that are prone to a letdown. Any spiritual mountaintop experience is wonderful when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s hard to come back down to earth. On our last night in Haiti, our team leader Bob Elmore talked about how to come home well. He and others who had been on previous international mission trips cautioned us newbies about the challenges we might run into, and how to counteract a bumpy re-entry. Their counsel focused mostly on how we should interact with people who weren’t on the trip.

One volunteer laughingly told the team about a message she’d received from her parents, gently reminding her that they were going on family vacation the day after she returned to the States and that they would like her to be in a better frame of mind than last year – when she got back, walked into the house, and promptly burst into tears.

The lesson is that others who weren’t on your particular mountaintop may not full grasp the emotional connections you formed with a place and a people in just a week or two. We ought to be patient, speak well, and remember God gives us unique experiences so that we can magnify how great and creative He is.

When we come down from the mountaintop, we also have to be responsible in the stories we tell. It’s tempting to focus on the spider you saw, or how hot it was, or how delicious soda is when it’s made with cane sugar. Say those things – details help people remember and pray – but say them quickly. Get them out of the way so you can talk more about how God worked to transform you and your team, and how He’s at work in parts of the world you rarely or never thought about before.

Make Him the main character in your stories – after all, He’s the one who took you to the mountaintop.

Port-au-Prince | The Illinois volunteers are back home, but still thinking about their experiences in Haiti. Check out the images below, and pray with us for people who heard the Gospel last week, for Haitian pastors and leaders, and for Christians in the country who are reaching their families and friends with the truth of Jesus Christ. And read more about the trip in the August 12 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

We spent our first night away from home in the Miami airport, waiting to catch an early Sunday morning flight to Port-au-Prince.

We spent our first night away from home in the Miami airport, waiting to catch an early Sunday morning flight to Port-au-Prince.

New Life Children's Home, our oasis and home away from home for the week.

New Life Children’s Home, our oasis and home away from home for the week.

New Life's guest house coordinator, Lisa, shares the rules with the team. (The bus behind her was our transportation from the airport to the children's home.)

New Life’s guest house coordinator, Lisa, shares the rules with the team. (The bus behind her was our transportation from the airport to the children’s home.)

Moses, our first new friend at New Life. The kids there loved to interact with the team, despite our language barrier.

Moses, our first new friend at New Life. The kids there loved to interact with the team, despite our language barrier.

Abby Fleischer speaks a universal language - funny faces - with a child at New Life.

Abby Fleischer speaks a universal language – funny faces – with a child at New Life.

"Jesus Loves Me" in English and Creole painted on an open-air classroom at the children's home.

“Jesus Loves Me” in English and Creole painted on an open-air classroom at the children’s home.

Autumn Wetzler from Waterloo makes a new friend. (This photo was taken right before he colored her face with a blue crayon.)

Autumn Wetzler from Waterloo makes a new friend. (This photo was taken right before he colored her face with a blue crayon.)

New Life takes care of several kids with special needs, including Christine, pictured here with Illinois volunteer Chris Flynn.

New Life takes care of several kids with special needs, including Christine, pictured here with Illinois volunteer Chris Flynn.

Our first day at our work sites: Kids were waiting at the church in Bigarade when we arrived.

Our first day at our work sites: Kids were waiting at the church in Bigarade when we arrived.
Last November, volunteers from Illinois helped build this church.

Pastor

Pastor Estaphat, who leads Gosen Church, led us in a few songs before we walked to our construction sites.

Pastor Estaphat, who leads Gosen Church, led us in a few songs before we walked to our construction sites.

singing_church

Bob Elmore, our leader.

Bob Elmore, our leader.

Many of the houses in Bigarade were built by Baptist Global Response after the January 2010 earthquake.

Many of the houses in Bigarade were built by Baptist Global Response after the January 2010 earthquake.

Late last year, Hurricane Sandy caused this river to flood, damaging homes in Bigarade and sweeping away some of the land built up around the river.

Late last year, Hurricane Sandy caused this river to flood, damaging homes in Bigarade and sweeping away some of the land built up around the river.

damage

To make mortar, we sifted soil to get rid of the largest rocks and mixed the remaining material with concrete and water.

To make mortar, we sifted soil to get rid of the largest rocks and mixed the remaining material with concrete and water.

Our Haitian bosses and their helpers ran the construction sites during the week.

Our Haitian bosses and their helpers ran the construction sites during the week.

Thomas Ogens, who helped coordinate the building projects and deliver supplies, with Pastor Estephat's daughter.

Thomas Ogens, who helped coordinate the building projects and deliver supplies, with Pastor Estephat’s daughter.

The kids loved to fix the volunteers' hair...

The kids loved to fix the volunteers’ hair…

...and play clapping games.

…and play clapping games.

And look at pictures of themselves.

And look at pictures of themselves.

The team also had the opportunity to read the Bible and a discipleship book with our Haitian friends.

The team also had the opportunity to read the Bible and a discipleship book with our Haitian friends.

reading_2

One day after lunch, Sarah Harriss led worship songs with her guitar.

One day after lunch, Sarah Harriss led worship songs with her guitar.

And the team walked through Bigarade singing praise choruses and hymns.

And the team walked through Bigarade singing praise choruses and hymns.

Riley_walking

Some of the great faces we met in Haiti.

Some of the great faces we met in Haiti.

Preparing to put a roof on one of the new houses.

Preparing to put a roof on one of the new houses.

roof

One of the homeowners standing in his new doorway.

One of the homeowners standing in his new doorway.

Bob Elmore leads "Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty" during worship and prayer time on our last morning at the job sites.

Bob Elmore leads “Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty” during worship and prayer time on our last morning at the job sites.

Each morning, we had one prayer in English and one in Creole.

Each morning, we had one prayer in English and one in Creole.

On our last full day in Haiti, we visited Pastor Evens and his church in the rural mountain community of Blanquette.

On our last full day in Haiti, we visited Pastor Evens and his church in the rural mountain community of Blanquette.

Blanquette_2Blanquette

 

On our last day in Haiti, the team shares their most memorable moments:

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Autumn Wetzler, Waterloo, first trip to Haiti: It’s hard to pick one. Probably whenever I was out evangelizing and asked an elderly man about what God was doing in his life. He said he accepted Christ in 1981 and that his children were healthy and he was healthy. It was just neat to see how faithful he was throughout his life and how God was faithful to him. Or when we went to the orphanage and were rocking all the kids and they all feel asleep in our arms.

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Courtney Fallon, Columbia, first trip to Haiti: I found it just really beautiful how everyone lives their lives every day, and how they support each other and love each other. It amazed me how happy the children were, because in our American minds, we think you have to have stuff to be happy. But it’s not true. Sometimes I think they’re happier here than we are. It was also awesome to see the team interact with everyone the kids, even though we’re different from one another.

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Harli Tracy, Robinson, third trip to Haiti: I think on this trip, I’ve gotten closer to the people on my team and the people in Bigarade (where we worked) than I have before, and I’ve built more relationships this time. All the trips were really special in their own way- every time I’ve thought this one was the best. I don’t know, I think they’re all equal.

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Tad Arndt, Columbia, first trip to Haiti: The most memorable thing was probably the fan club of kids that followed me around. Even though language was a little barrier for us for a little while, we still connected. And it was really neat to see that you don’t need language to connect with people- God can connect us.

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Bob Elmore (left), Springfield, has led multiple trips to Haiti: Watching Americans and Haitians share the Gospel. Not us presenting the Gospel and the Haitians translating, but together sharing Christ.

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Emily Ebert, Carlinville, second trip to Haiti: I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of love and trust I was given on this trip by the people of Haiti. Within the first three minutes of meeting a child, I have completely exhausted my conversational Creole, yet the children stay around all day, just to be with me. At the end of the day when I get on the tap-tap, I know that tomorrow their smiling faces will greet me, ready to spend another day playing clapping games. And that is when it hits me: I love these people. I love every hot and smelly, wonderful and beautiful part of this country, this culture and these people. And even on Sunday when I leave Haiti, I know I will see them again, because eternity starts now.

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Lynzie Emerson (left), Springfield, second trip to Haiti: This year I just felt like the team got along like one big group. I think I built more relationships with the kids this year. I love the fact that they’re so content with just the littlest things we give them, like dolls. And even though they’ve gone through a lot of hard times, thy just smile at us, and just appreciate any type of love that we show them. They don’t know us, but they just come to us and cling to us like they’ve know us their whole lives.
Lindsay Wasson (right), Harrisburg, second trip to Haiti: It’s waking up every morning with the feeling that I’m doing exactly what I was created to do. It’s the look in a lost soul’s eyes when you tell them of the hope found in Christ. It’s when a handicapped orphan says, “I love you too Lindsay.” It’s the love shared between believers in Christ that goes beyond all words. But best of all, it’s tearfully saying, “I’ll see you soon,” upon departure.

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Chris Flynn (right), Springfield, first trip to Haiti: Our first ride through Port-au-Prince may have been what I expected, but it was still astonishing to see. Desperately poor quality of roads, trash and traffic control, infrastructure in general. Yet the people I met this week remained kind and patient, willing to both learn and teach. For me, Haiti exposed the gifts I keep for myself and still take for granted. And the relationships developed this week, and the truths shared, proved once again that real joy comes not from the gifts, but the Giver.

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Cara Atienza, Robinson, first trip to Haiti: What I’ll remember the most is the amount of trust that they put in us even thought they don’t know us. Having children fall asleep on your lap that have never met you and that you’ve never talked to, means a lot. It’s an irreplaceable experience.

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Sara Harris’s, Columbia, second trip to Haiti: Getting close to them is harder because it hurts to leave, but it’s more fruitful, because you know you’ll come back to friends you’ve made here. My dad had been here in November and shown some of the kids a picture of me. One of the little girls ran up to me this time and said Sarah, Sarah! I couldn’t believe she remembered my name.

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Brian Harriss (second from right), Columbia, third trip to Haiti: Reading the Bible with guys at the work site. We started with a Christian book in Creole, and I had an English copy of the same book. There was Scripture in it, which gave me an opportunity to get out my Bble. Not only was I learning Creole, but they were learning English. It never hit me before: what a way to learn a new language…reading God’s Word.

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Jacob Mays, Herrick, first trip to Haiti: Awesome. It was an amazing experience to see things that not many people get to see, and witness to people and share the Gospel. It was just a really great opportunity, and I had a lot of great moments. I’m going to miss the team.

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Alex Hancock, Bethalto, first trip to Haiti: The most memorable thing for me is how humbled I was by this trip, and how different things around here are compared to America. It really makes a difference in how you think about the things you have at home.

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Levi Doty, Benton, first trip to Haiti: My favorite part of Haiti would have to be that even though these people have next to nothing, they seem to be happy. Even though they don’t have a clue who some of us are, they are willing to let us come to their home and talk to us. One day, some of the group went around and sang, but Brian and I went with an interpreter under our tarp on the work site, and they started to read Scripture in English and then Creole. By the time they were done, there had to be at least 20 Haitians and Americans under the tent. It was awesome.

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Matt Kountz (right), Belleville, first trip to Haiti: The regenerating and transforming power of the Gospel in the lives of the Haitians and Americans was what I have been blessed to see every day. I was able to see God work in faithful men to preach the Word in the face of death threats from voodoo practitioners and priests. I was able to see the light of Jesus cut through darkness and the Word of God transform hearts. There is nothing more beautiful then seeing the work of God’s grace on man and I was blessed to be able to witness God working mightily in Haiti.

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Riley Tullis, Columbia, first trip to Haiti: Probably my most memorable moment was when we went to one of the houses in Bigarade. I went through the Gospel with three kids about my age. They seemed like church kids. I shared my testimony with them, which was about me coming to Christ as a church kid. It really touched them, and I could see God working. It was like staring the Holy Spirit in the face. We prayed with them and they accepted Christ; I really hope they find a church and grow in Christ.

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Abby Fleischer, Carlinville, third trip to Haiti: A common misconception about mission trips is that they are solely about meeting physical needs; however, truthfully and biblically, there is much more to it. In Romans 12:12-13, we get a glimpse of biblical love, something which is clearly demonstrated on a daily basis here. The Haitians and the Americans learn more from each other daily how to love genuinely and sacrificially. We also experience 1 Corinthians 4:20, which states that the Kingdom of God is not of talk, but of power. Language barriers can prove to be a benefit when they show both parties that God often shows His love through other forms that we often fail to recognize.

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Meredith Flynn, Springfield, first trip to Haiti: Leading up to our week in Haiti, I was completely focused on how uncomfortable I might be. And even on our first day here, a week seemed like a long time to be this hot, this dusty, this out of my element. But at some point during the week, it became less important for me to feel comfortable. And I know without a doubt I didn’t muster that on my own. It could only be the Lord who helped me get over my American ideals of cleanliness and comfort, and to be patient when a thousand little hands are grasping at my camera for the rare opportunity to see their reflections. Can’t wait to be here again soon.