A Journey of listening and learning
A small group from Alpharetta Presbyterian Church made their first visit to La Gonave Oct 5-9th. What follows is a collage of impressions and lasting memories.
“When we landed the island was indeed beautiful, full of absolute beauty. Then I saw the overwhelming poverty. But as we met Haitians, I saw unbelievable thankfulness in their hearts. No hate or bitterness. Looking around I saw tremendous possibilities with Haitian spirit and talents. They are very proud of their country, coming out of slavery, being the first black sovereign nation in the world.”
“What an amazing journey we had to Anse-a-Galets, La Gonave Haiti. The intent of the trip was to visit the partnership work which includes healthcare, education, economic development and water/sanitation. Our primary mission was to be a “Ministry of Presence”, given the opportunity to listen and to learn from our fellow Christians, about their lives and needs and how the projects address some of their concerns.”
We began our journey by worshiping at Saint Francois Episcopal Church of Haiti and celebrating the Feast of Saint Francis. Following the service, the parsonage was full of friends enjoying a wonderful spread of Haitian food prepare by Pere Vil’s wife, Ketia. We were charmed by their daughters Myriam and shy Sephora who just celebrated her first birthday.
We continued with visits for the next few days visiting other partners in Ticotelette and Nouvelle Cite. The chance to hear the concerns of the people in the communities and to speak with the leadership and staff of the Bill Rice Clinic, the goat project, the schools and the churches leaned heavily on our minds and spirits.
“Listening to the mothers in the community speak about the need for clean water and the concern for the education of their children, was especially moving for me. Can you imagine the hardship of having to walk three hours for clean water or not having the basic needs for the children’s school?” Mothers shared their concern about their children’s headaches and stomachaches due to hunger and thirst. We learned how important the school lunches were in filling their empty stomachs and improving their attention to their studies. “A flashback to seeing a child-sized coffin carried on a young man’s head earlier in the day reminded me how real this is”.
We were able to share that we will hold their situation and needs up before God in prayer and that He may strengthen them and the partnership. It was profoundly touching to hear these parents say they would pray for us as well.
We were able to connect our children to theirs through gifts that our APC children made for them during Vacation Bible School. The VBS mission theme was learning about Haiti. We shared games, friendship knots, jump ropes and teaching aids. There were lots of smiles and giggles as they tried out their jump ropes. In turn, some of the children drew pictures to share with our students.
On the first day of school for the new year, scores of students crammed the Saint Francois D’Assise sanctuary in praise of God and in thanksgiving for school. Pere Vil noted in gratitude that 10 schools of the Episcopal Church on La Gonave opened this day. It was exciting to hear the power of student voices joined in song and saw typical first day moments with tearful, overwhelmed 4 year olds or a late arrival looking for their classroom. We saw eager children everywhere wanting to learn in schools that had so few supplies. Yet their faces told the story that they were so very happy to be there!
“I found it moving to witness our church’s youth director, Kelly Edwards, in discussion with Pere Vil and Adrien Pierre-Louis, the principal of Saint Frances discussing ideas for a youth trip. They recognized the power of both Haitian and US youth learning from one another in sharing what they had in common and in their differences.”
“Before visiting La Gonave I could only imagine the conditions through pictures and listening to the passion of the La Gonave partnership from Sydney. Now La Gonave and our brothers and sisters in Christ there, has become a place that will live and dwell in my heart. These few days opened a whole new part of God’s beautiful world and this mission has touched my life in ways like no other.
In the PAP airport waiting for our departure home, energetic Cynthia made social rounds visiting the various mission teams from other parts of the US. She was struck by the number “of missionaries with many wonderful refreshing ideas to help God’s people…. Haiti is untapped, isolated, forgotten it seems, and not given a chance. God is touching His people there. God needs us to help Him love them too.”
“We saw unbelievable hardships everywhere that just don’t easily compute for Americans. Just for basic living needs, Haitians struggle every single minute. And I returned home to fully running water, a car to ride in and lots of food whenever I want to eat. Makes me humble and not want to complain anymore, about anything. I can endure if they can.”
It was a wonderful visit to La Gonave to listen and learn. It has captured our hearts and imagination and our desire to return.