Heartbroken, humbled, loving, and thankful...these four simple words captivate my experience here in Haiti so far. Being in this foreign country is already a step out of my comfort zone, a daring one at that. Traveling to this gorgeous place all on my own has definitely been a challenge (eighteen years old with no family or friends and having to fly alone from Pennsylvania), but without a doubt the best decision I have ever made in the span of my life. It was a difficult task to so openly say "yes" to God's calling and take this leap of faith. I was hesitant at first, but knew that this is where God wanted me.
After distributing water to the families of Cite Soleil on Monday, we started Tuesday by visiting Grace Village. A community so focused on bettering the lives of the children within Haiti. A community that cherishes the gift of education and providing it to those kids in need. For someone who is currently studying to be a teacher, it profoundly moved me to see how much these kids loved going to school and enjoyed learning. Which, in America, is rare to see, especially among older students. It is striking to see how education can impact the lives of these children so tremendously. Only consisting of tight quartered classrooms of 20-30 students with a single chalkboard and a library with a small number of books, these students and staff of Grace Village viewed their education with so much importance and reverence. The students who are days away from graduating have pride radiating from their smiles as they exclaim that they have made it this far, which is rare for many Haitian children. It is an accomplishment like no other, and truly changes their lives for the better.
The most impactful part of the day for me, to say the least, was visiting the elders. Initially, I was expecting to see a small congregation of older Haitian citizens who lived in a building similar to the ones back in America. Ones that cared for them daily. I was surprised to find that instead, we were visiting the individual homes of these elderly people. My heart broke as we walking into these homes that consisted of nothing more than a cement wall, broken and dirty, with a single tin plate covering the top. It was the most shabbiest shelter that someone could be living in, with minimal protection from any sort of weather. And even though it was nothing in our eyes, it was everything to the elderly woman and her family that lived there. We began by singing worship music with this woman and engaging in conversation (with the help of Smith for translation, of course). Paullette then extended an invitation to anyone who would be willing to wash the feet of this elderly woman. Apprehensive at first, but realizing that God was asking me to do this, I quickly volunteered myself, along with Ava (another team member). As I bent down on my hands and knees to wash the feet of this woman, I instantly was covered in goosebumps. This specific word, in fact, was the word I used to describe this entire day. Why? Simply because with everything that I did today, I constantly felt goosebumps all over my body. In past experiences, when I felt goosebumps, it was a sign to me that God was present and the Holy Spirit was pouring grace over me. This act of service was not just to clean the dirty feet of this woman, but instead was to signify the same actions that Jesus did, when he washed his disciples feet only a day before his sacrificial death. It was an action that mimicked the selfless giving of Jesus and radiate his love to them. It was amazing to see how overjoyed and thankful this elderly woman was to me and Ava for taking the time and effort to care for her tenderly and love on her. I will forever remember the gratitude on that woman's face, as well as the goosebumps that spread across my skin as Jesus was working through me.
This was yet another day where I was unable to wipe off the smile from my face. I could undeniably feel God working within me and the other group members. He used our individual gifts in order to touch the lives of the Haitian people, while also impacting our lives at the same time. I am learning so much more about sacrifice, love, joy, and faith within these experiences. Coming here has already begun to open up new relationships with people and open up new opportunities for the future. Only day three into our trip and without a doubt I know I will be coming back. God has put it on my heart to potentially come back to Haiti and teach the children here. Many years back this was a tiny idea I had, and was something I never imagined actually formulating into a plan. However, this country and these people are things that I do not want to part with. God has called me to come on this mission trip, and I truly believe that it was to lay the building blocks for my future here in Haiti. I now view life a little differently. With more vibrance, passion, and understanding than ever before.
I look forward to what else God has in store for me and all of the group the rest of this week. As we embark on day four of this trip, I am excited to see how God continues to move within us and within the Haitian people to spread love and joy to all.