Lessons from Haiti


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I recently returned from a mission trip in Haiti with Mission Youth Missions I attended the mission with my amazing wife Donna and my 2 awesome daughters Katie and Aly. We had a group of mostly Benedictine College students that my wife and youngest daughter helped organize.

This was my second time in Haiti. It was very encouraging to see the progress that has been made in the country since 2013. There are more paved roads.  Businesses like Toms shoes have started factories in Port-au-Prince and there are lots of construction projects going on.

Haiti was thoroughly unprepared when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit on January 12, 2010. The earthquake devastated the island, leaving millions homeless. Death toll estimates vary anywhere from 220,000 to 316,000. Over one million people were initially displaced, and about 500,000 remain homeless today.

The country was devastated by the earthquake. Experts say that it will be another 10 years before “serious results” can finally be seen.
86% of people in Port au Prince are living in slum conditions
80% of education in Haiti is provided in often poor-quality private schools
Half of people in Port-au-Prince have no access to latrines and only one-third have access to tap water

Haiti is an extremely poor country that I would call a 4th world country. The average wage is $3 (US) per day.
Even though it is a poor country in terms of world economics, it is a wealthy country in other ways.

The sun rises in Haiti every morning just like it does everywhere else in the world and it is truly beautiful. The people in Haiti value relationships, they are happy, they dress very well and dress up in their best clothes on Sunday. They put the U.S. to shame on how they dress on Sundays to go to church.

The ocean and mountains provide fantastic scenery. It is a country that given the right government and opportunities could thrive. The country has all the natural resources needed to succeed financially.

Here are some lessons I have learned.

Be Flexible. Schedules can change at any time. The game plan on any mission trip can be to be at someplace tomorrow only to learn that it is not going to work out and a new plan needs to be made.
Be Adaptable. Can you imagine scraping paint off baby cribs with a steak knife? This is exactly what we did at the Missionaries of Charity children’s home. You don’t always have the best tools to do a job. You make do with what tools you have available. I am sure when the sisters got steak knives donated to them they thought how can we use these?
Gratitude. It is hard to not be thankful for all that we have in the United States. To be born in the U.S. is like winning the genetic lottery. We don’t realize how fortunate we are to have all that we have. We can turn the faucet on and have hot clean water. We can go to a grocery store and obtain anything we want to eat. Even our poor are rich in countries like Haiti.
Selflessness. Humbly taking care of someone you don’t know with human compassion. You play with kids, feed babies, change diapers, clean wounds, rub someones back or lotion their hands and feet. Haitians speak French Creole, we speak Enlgish. You can only communicate with them through the language of love. You look into their eyes or use hand signals and immediately you understand one another.
Sacrifice. This takes on many forms. There is sacrifice of not eating the foods you enjoy, taking cold showers with unclean water, sleeping in uncomfortable bedding, sleeping on floors, laughing geckos at night, ants in your bed, roosters crowing at all hours, 3 inch cock roaches in the shower and lots of mosquitoes. This pales in comparison to the people of Haiti that are living in tents and makeshift housing every single day.
Choices. Like many things in life there are choices. It usually boils down to two. You can complain about the circumstances you are in or you can make the best with what you have and just move forward.
Pray Hard. It takes a lot of prayer when you are on a mission to give you strength and to help you to make it through the day sometimes. It can be extremely emotional to see children die and to see children and adults in pain when you are unable to do anything to help them. The only thing you can do is pray for them.

These are just some of the lessons I learned. Every time I go on a mission trip I learn more from the people and am given much more than I give.

Be Great!

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