I have to admit at this writing that I have been a wee bit discouraged of late. Transparency in ministry is essential for one’s own personal peace as well as the confidence of those who support it; especially in a work as ours. In this type of work, we make no product and thus have no profit margin to work from. We rely completely on the generosity of others. While our organization is still in its infancy, needs do not wait for our growth; they are already there.
Every day, 42 children at Voice of the Children, need rice, flour, beans, water, shelter, education. The need continues, even if the funds do not. They didn’t ask to be born to a family that cannot afford to keep them in their own home. They didn’t ask to be born in the poorest country in the world. I am certain, given the option, almost all of these parents would have these beautiful children playing in front of their own home. “Western” minded people, cannot absorb this idea; this cultural phenomenon. It is entirely foreign to us. We live in a nation with so many opportunities for children to succeed. While there are many problems with our nation, we do set high value and priority on children as our most precious resource. I do not believe for one moment Haitian parents feel any different. It is just that their culture has other methods to dealing with their family issues. Instead of getting food stamps, welfare or other social programs paid for by taxpayers, they try as long as they can to provide for their families, finally making the difficult but inevitable decision to allow an orphanage to help them allow their child to survive. They have faith that charitable organizations like ours, at least the children eat and go to school.
This is life in Haiti.
Learning to take off my “western” mindsets to adapt to the cultural learning curve has been so difficult. At times, I have been so frustrated I could scream. But then the compassion of Jesus comes over me and I am washed new with the unconditional love of Jesus. I am so glad that His love comes without any conditions. Developing countries have infrastructure problems that make those of us in a developed society scratch our heads. But Jesus still continues to love whether we are “developed” or not. I have had to fight off being hard and jaded. I have had to constantly remind myself that I need to love Haitians as Jesus loves them and attempt to understand them. A great deal of my current frustration is trying to do that spend most of my time in the U.S
It is easy to forget where we came from and how much we accomplished this year. The constant looming need of 42 children, the difficulty of life as Haitians know it, combined with the ever-present desire to make a difference in Haiti, makes for occasional consternation. Thankfully, Michelle and I have an overwhelming passion for this work and are determined to see it through. God’s continued faithfulness is our constant companion. We have been upon a deadline with a seemingly insurmountable need, and somehow, some way, God touches people’s hearts and the need is met.
Our journey to becoming an organization is an interesting tale. Without diverting too far into the details, we had seriously considered becoming missionaries with 2 different organizations, only to feel that neither were the right thing for us. SO, we moved to incorporate in February and by July we had received our 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS. Story after beautiful, amazing story continued to inspire us to continue moving forward. We currently have partners from more than 6 states that have supported us and many continue to support us.
In reviewing the accomplishments of the past year, we have spent about 9 weeks in Haiti this year over 6 trips. We have had many volunteers help us doing amazing things. We took 4 groups to Haiti this year and I know our kids loved every one of them. I believe every person had a life-changing experience in Haiti. In those trips, we have managed to rebuild about 75% of the orphanage. We have been able to feed these children every single month since February. We have put clothes on their backs and shoes on their feet. We have purchased school uniforms and paid almost half the fees and tuition costs for school. We cleaned the facility, installed a gutter system to catch rain water for cooking and cleaning dishes. We purchased beds and mattresses for every child in the orphanage. We have set up cost containment systems for the food. We established a database for monitoring the children’s health and growth. We paid the arrears of license fees for the government for legal purposes. We poured concrete throughout the entire facility. We added two new sleeping quarters. We added a new social worker to the staff to represent the children. We have taken medicine for everyday illnesses. We provided a huge Christmas dinner of goat and all the trimmings (sorry Americans, no turkey or ham here) and EVERY SINGLE CHILD received Christmas gifts (which they had NEVER received before)!
In summary, we have laughed together, cried together, planned and dreamed together. We have organized together. We have shared Christ with them. We have painted their toenails (girls only, of course). We have played marbles and a card game called cow (which every Haitian girl cheats at) and dominos! We have spoke to them about the future, settling their past, how to relate in a godly way to the opposite sex. We have asked them to take pride in their facility and to love and consider each other above themselves. We have ate together, sweated together and most of all…we have loved. Even as I write this I feel the warmth of their love. Yes, we feed them and do a lot of things, but we feel their love. The way they embrace us is an indication that they now know we are not only there for a short time. In this they find hope.
Hope is a rare thing in Haiti among the predominantly poor. There is a saying in Haiti, “Behind the mountain, are mountains”. I interpret this to mean that today is likely the best day you will have, because after this difficulty will be another. Together, we have given a bit of hope to 42 children. I say together because the “we” in this writing could not be possible without YOU! Our name (Helping Hands 4 Haiti) was chosen because we have no intentions of “taking over” the orphanage. We want to be hands that help. We want to be facilitators of hope. With God’s help and yours, we continue to press on and do exactly that. With the compassion of Christ compelling us, we forge onward.
So, many thanks to you for allowing us to represent you. The scripture says in layman’s terms, when you give your gift, you are represented when it reaches those in need. You are actually there in spirit presenting that blessing! (2 Corinthians 9:10) We look forward to partnering with you again in 2014. We have a LOT to accomplish this year. We will be sharing more of that in the coming days. God bless each of you and we at Helping Hands 4 Haiti wish you a very Happy New Year!
Bonye bien ou! Mesi anpil!