Return from Haiti
It’s been a little over a week since our return from Haiti, and quite honestly, it has taken every bit of that time to understand some of the stories and experiences to adequately represent the trip. Here are a few snapshots of some lasting impressions:
We love World Relief.
As many of you know, one of the purposes of this trip was to more fully understand the international work of World Relief, a church-centered relief and development organization that, until now, Chapel Hill has only worked with on a local level. We were so impressed! Every World Relief staff person is Christ-centered, relational, and very competent in their missions thinking and area of expertise. You know how you feel when you go to a museum and fall in love with a specific artist because the docent shares with such passion and conviction? THAT is how we all felt about our friends at World Relief. We fell in love with Haiti because of their great love for and commitment to their country. We all felt encouraged in our faith because of the time spent with our World Relief hosts.
This will be a slow, good work.
More than anything, the churches in Haiti are looking for encouragement and partnership from their brothers and sisters in America. They are not looking for “American saviors.” Again and again, it was reiterated that the church in Haiti needs to reclaim its initiative and belief in itself to care for its community and advance the Kingdom of God. Or as Joseph, the National Director for World Relief, said again and again, “We, in Haiti, are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Not your YOUNGER brothers and sisters. Our work is to believe anew that we have something of value to share with those in the States. It is your job to come with a heart to learn and to recognize that money is not always the answer to our problems.” In other words, our partnership in Haiti will center on the work of building relationships and mutual transformation. It will require trust that is built up over the course of years, not days. And it will fly directly in the face of the dependency that has come to define much of the Haitian national identity.
We can’t wait to go back
In time, we will begin bringing small groups from Chapel Hill to visit our partners in Haiti. You read the earlier blog post about the hope and dignity being grown alongside the coffee trees in the Haitian mountains. It is very easy for me to imagine Chapel Hillians pruning coffee plants alongside farmers on some future trip. Imagine the stories that would be shared every time a team member sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee for the rest of their lives! Or what about the Nightwatch Prayer Services that are held on most Friday nights in churches throughout Haiti? Thousands upon thousands bring their pillows and blankets and pray THROUGH THE NIGHT until the sun rises. Doesn’t that sound like an amazing opportunity in which to participate? And we are so eager to see what comes of the training that World Relief is doing even now with a Church Empowerment Zone that we visited. 46 of 47 churches in the area are participating “seed project development” where ecumenical teams in each community identify and implement (with their own resources) small projects – reroofing a widow’s home or helping with a community garden – to test out what it might look like for the people of God to begin caring for their communities in word and in deed.
Please feel free to ask more questions of Julie, Betsy, or me in the weeks ahead. Thank you for your prayers for the team. Now join us in continuing to pray as the Lord knits this partnership together. It was our joy to serve as a thread to tie these communities of faith together. We look forward with anticipation to all that is ahead.