Journey for Hope to Haiti
It's difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand something without experiencing it firsthand. This is true in every aspect of our life. Last week, I had the humbling experience of traveling for my third time to Haiti that reminded me again of the importance of experience.
On Monday, March 16 at about 2:15pm, 18 missionaries landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to share and serve like Christ and to also see Jesus Christ in those we served. Our travels around Haiti took us to several places that allowed us to serve the Haitian people in a wide variety of situations and needs.
As I think back on the week, I believe that this trip was the most rewarding and impactful of all my missions to Haiti. We were all rewarded through the amazing transformation at Ganthier, Haiti in just two short years.
During our mission trip in May of 2013, we visited Ganthier. We saw a desperate situation where the basics of food, water, and shelter were not being met by the Haitians living there. We saw visible signs of malnourished children (orange hair and yellowing eyes), and many were running around without cloths. Because there was no source of fresh water, Food for the Poor (FFP) was trucking in 5 gallons of water per week for each family. Can you imagine trying to live on 5 gallons of water per week?
Through the thoughtful support of Performance Services, Dr. Lynne Nasrallah (FFP Board Member), and a few others, 130 families were supplied with new concrete, two room homes including a separate bathroom and bathing area. The homes also included a gutter and cistern system for water.
This combined effort made for an astounding transformation. The children were running around with smiles on their faces, clothes on their backs, and hope in their eyes. The people of Ganthier gave me a new spark to continue our work in helping not just Haiti in general, but more importantly, the families and individuals in a particular community. I realized at that moment that you can make the difference one family, one individual at a time.
Impacting Gros Mangle
During our same mission trip in May of 2013, we visited the village of Gros Mangle to inaugurate their fishing village, but the first thing we noticed when we arrived was that there was only a shallow well for drinking water. When we asked about it, we were told that the water was brackish, but was the only real source of water that they had. As we peered down into the well, we could see a gym shoe and other items in the water. Like Ganthier, this was a desperate situation for people of Gros Mangle. They were essentially closed off from the outside world, with no one coming to the island without a purpose.
However, through the grace of God we were introduced to the people of Gros Mangle. Their prayers were answered, as our project, not only provided them with all the necessary boats and fishing supplies, but we were also able to give them life sustaining water. Again, the transformation was dramatic. Once the basics of life - food, water, and shelter - are met, an individual can begin to thrive. We were able to see first-hand the water flowing from the two, ten thousand gallon cisterns, and the joy on the teachers, childrens, and all of the adult’s faces in the community.
“You can’t imagine the lives you are impacting by giving the people of Gros Mangle a source of fresh water.”
Food for the poor county manager
Cap Haitien Prison Ministry
We have all heard of third world prisons, but seeing one is another experience altogether. As we walked into the prison, there was a noticeable stench in the air. The first prison cell we saw looked like a sea of humanity behind bars. There were faces pressed against the cell bars and heavy metal mesh fencing with several arms and hands sticking out of small holes in the fencing. There are approximately 40 prisoners in each 20 foot by 20 foot cell. The cell was so dense with the faces and bodies pressing against the bars that you could not see light coming through from behind the prisoners.
The prisoners were looking for some small sense of hope. In many of the hands that were reaching out, there were pieces of paper with hand written notes on them. Most of these notes included a plea for help, some money, or just a towel and bar of soap. These notes were coming from everywhere. Many were being thrown down from the second floor cells. My daughter bought two small purses from one of the prisoners made completely from gum wrappers.
The entire experience was overwhelming. The lack of hope in these prisoners’ eyes was extremely disturbing. However, if there was any diamond in the ruff, it was the reason that we were there to serve them. Through our t-shirt campaign and several generous donors, we were there to pay for the release of 18 prisoners who had committed petty crimes, but who could not afford to pay their way out of prison. Our prison ministry program included washing the feet of the prisoners, providing them a new pair of shoes through the Samaritan’s Feet, praying over them for God’s graces, and then paying for their release back into society.
The most rewarding release was the 13 year old boy who was thrown into a man’s prison for breaking a car window. The boy was terrified and did not know what to do. He told us that his father would not come and visit or help him. Can you imagine being that young in an adult prison? Even though he wasn’t one of the prisoners we were initially paying to be released, through the assistance of FFP and their connections in Cap Haitien, we were able to pay $327 for the release of this young man. Much of the money went for fixing the car window. After we returned, we received a picture of this young man smiling ear to ear. We will never forget him and I’m sure he will never forget the mission team that happened upon this prison in his time of need. God is good!
Making a Difference
The trip would not have been nearly as impactful without the amazing team that God brought together for this trip. Each of us brought our own talents and personalities, but more importantly, our love for the poor and those in need. Most of us were from Indiana and associated in some way (friends, family, Co-Workers) with Tim Thoman, Performance Services, or Food for the Poor, like Dr. Lynne Nasrallah, FFP Board Member. Three members were from the amazing non-profit organization called Samaritan’s Feet, including their founder and CEO Manny Ohonme.
As we traveled Haiti, Manny was able to relate his story of growing up in Nigeria in similar, desperate conditions. He explained that through the grace of God, he won a pair of shoes from missionaries; earned a basketball scholarship to America; received his college education, became a successful business man, and founded Samaritan’s Feet with a goal of placing 10 million shoes on the poor across the world. The hope Manny put in the hearts of those we served throughout Haiti was incredible.
As I expressed in one of our evening group meetings, the team that Tim brought together is unstoppable at serving the poor and those in need. Through God’s grace, we will continue to change the lives of those in Haiti and across the world, one family, and one individual at a time!
business development manager
To view more pictures from the trip visit our photo gallery!