Laurel, North Georgia
July 14, 2015|
By Dedra Key de Chavez|
For years I had heard stories of my best friend’s experiences in Haiti. I saw pictures of families living in conditions that were impossible to wrap my mind around. I think sometimes we cannot wrap our mind around things/situations until we’ve actually seen first hand for ourselves. Pictures show a tiny portion, one angle, and leave out the sounds and smells. In the United States we are so blessed and it’s almost as though have blinders on that make it impossible to see outside of our comfortable little bubbles.
I had been praying about making a visit to Haiti for quite a while and in November 2014 I finally felt a peace about going to see first hand this place that had stolen my friend’s heart.
February 1, 2015, was my first day in Haiti. Even though I had a peace about the fact I was there in God’s timing, I have to say I expected to feel fear as I crossed over the border for the first time. Instead, a peace like none I’d ever felt before washed over me and I knew for once in my life I was right where God wanted me to be.
As we drove through the streets to the main school, I was literally speechless. I still cannot find words for the conditions these people live in, yet I saw smiles on their faces. After we made a quick stop at the school, we headed to church. I’ll never forget what I heard as I stepped out of the vehicle. It sounded like thousands of angels lifting up praises to God. I couldn’t understand a word but it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. As we entered, we were welcomed with open arms. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the faces were that surrounded me. It broke my heart to see the dirt beneath each pair of shoes in the building. They had walked through mud and trash in their “Sunday Best” to get to church and worship our Savior. How often do we shrug off the blessing, the great freedom, of going to church because it’s raining outside and we don’t want to walk 30 steps to our air conditioned car to DRIVE to church. This truly convicted me.
The remainder of our first day was spent separating the food we would hand out to families later that week. We were able to meet the amazing ladies who cook for the children every day and their families, the principal of the school, and many others from Love and Grace Ministries, who made our trip so wonderful. Again, everyone welcomed us with open arms and I was blown away by how “at home,” how safe, I felt in this place that until now, had just been stories and pictures. The thought that kept turning over and over in my mind was, these people have nothing but yet they have everything. We have “everything,” yet truly have nothing.
As if day one was not wonderful enough, day two was the day my heart was forever changed. We were welcomed by a sea of the most beautiful children I’d ever seen. They sang to us, gave us gifts, and welcomed us with the love of Christ. It was amazing! We were blessed with the privilege of helping prepare the meals for the children and pass those out. As each child received their plate, not one little finger touched it until every one had theirs and they bowed their little heads to give thanks for the meal before them. It was precious. Kids in the states who get more food on a daily basis than some of these children get in a week would have been diving in the moment the plate hit the table and complaining about the fact it was chicken and rice AGAIN, but these babies, they were truly thankful for the meal before them and it showed. At recess, I became a jungle gym (haha) and loved every second of it. I had a kid on each arm, each leg, some playing with my hair, while others studied my white skin, it was hilarious. As I looked down I saw a little one standing in front of me. When we made eye contact I saw the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen, my heart melted into a puddle…and not because of the heat. I reached down for his hand and he immediately hopped up in my lap and planted himself there for the remainder of their recess time, intently studying my face as if he was looking through to my soul.
As the kids hurried back to their classes to end their day we headed out in the back of a truck to deliver lunch to the remaining schools. Again, each school greeted us with open arms, a song, and smiles. It was so precious and to say I loved every second of it would be a total understatement. Everyone that we came in to contact with was so thankful and so welcoming. I felt like I was home, like I was making a tiny difference in their lives, and like I was doing exactly what God had put me on this earth to do…love others. That was the day that Haiti stole MY heart.
Our final day in Haiti was again spent, feeding the kids at the schools, and then handing out food to families as we drove through the streets. To put into words the feelings I had that day would require a book. What we were doing was surely only a drop in the ocean but if we all took the time to add our drop this world would be a much better place. God can and will multiply our efforts and I trust that was the case of our time spent in Haiti.
I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to come home to the states. I had no desire to go back to my everyday routine. I selfishly wanted to stay where I felt I was making a difference. I wanted to remain in the place where I felt God could use me. Love and Grace Ministries, made my first (of many I hope) trip to Haiti one that I’ll never forget. I felt safe, I felt loved, and everything flowed so smoothly. I know trips like that don’t just flow smoothly without enormous amounts of hard work behind the scenes and for that hard work and dedication I am forever grateful.
There are many individual experiences that I did not list above, but again to list them all would require a book. I left a piece of my heart in Haiti and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I was blessed with to be able to travel there. I know that the timing was right for me. If you are considering a visit, I would say first and foremost, pray, pray, pray. God will show you, give you peace, and provide for you to be able to make the trip. God can and will use every effort you make, no matter how large or small. It seems I recall a story about a couple fish and some bread ;-). Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise to try to keep you from doing what God has called you to do. “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody.” God bless!