Haiti Go Team
Our Haiti team departs this Thursday. Although every team we send out is special, the sending of this team feels particularly sweet. This team started training last fall for what we all thought would be a November 2016 departure. A year earlier, World Relief had invited us to be a part of the Church Empowerment Zone (CEZ) in Pichon, an area known for coffee farms and agriculture. Because of the history of dependency on foreign aid in Haiti, World Relief works very hard to uplift the local church. They want people in the CEZ to know that it is their local church that is meeting the needs of the community. To that end, World Relief asked if we would come and visit them, learn about Haitian culture, and encourage their staff and program directors. And they asked if we would visit the area near the CEZ, but not actually go to Pichon so that our visit might not inadvertently undermine the local church’s sense of authority to help meet the needs of their local communities. As an action-oriented church, it was a little difficult to plan a trip that was less about doing and more about being. But the team was ready to work through the training and respond to the request of the partner.
It was a bittersweet moment when we made the call with World Relief to postpone the trip last fall due to Hurricane Matthew. As Chapel Hill watched the island we had grown to love be blown and tossed by the wind and waves, we found ourselves wondering what God might be doing. The team was quick to say that they were willing to wait and adapt. Members of our church were quick to respond with funding for emergency relief. And World Relief was quick to empower the local church to be the key player in the hurricane relief work. As they stated in their initial report: “When international aid organizations respond to disasters, they usually get the credit. When the church responds, the God they serve gets the credit. Matthew 5:16, ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’” We began to hear reports of churches working in villages to repair roofs and provide aid to their communities. We began to hear reports of communities turning to their local church. And in God’s mysterious way, the hurricane that left destruction in its wake, also helped break some of the dependency on international intervention. In fact, the hurricane accelerated the work within the CEZ.
A few weeks ago, Betsy Hunt, who is leading the team, was on a skype call with the World Relief Haiti Director, Joseph Bataille. They were putting the final touches on the itinerary for the long-anticipated departure. And Joseph extended the invitation for this first team to attend a graduation ceremony in Pichon for the church leaders. I don’t know that I can properly express to you how incredible this is. In Fall 2016, we hoped our Fall 2018 team might be able to visit the CEZ, but there were big questions marks if this could be accomplished without undermining the work and authority of the local church. We never could have imagined this first team would get to visit the CEZ.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God used a hurricane for good in the Church Empowerment Zone in Haiti. His name was lifted up because the local church worked to meet the needs of their community. And the long journey to departure is allowing our team to go deeper in relationship, fellowship, and encouragement with our friends in Pichon. We eagerly anticipate the commissioning of the team this weekend. It has been a long time coming.
Director of Missions
P.S. Our youth are taking over this Sunday! I’m always excited to see what they have up their sleeves for Family Greetings.