Stories

In July of 2000, an American Airlines jet touched down on the tarmac of the Haitian International Airport carrying sixteen American teenagers from a small Detroit suburb. I didn’t know then how this small, impoverished country would deeply impact my life.

By far, the hardest part about staying in a third world country is grappling with the magnitude of squalor in which the Haitian people live. Over the last ten years I have learned that one cannot see the benefits of their own society without another for comparison. I know America. I know all its shortcomings. But until I saw how much water, even rainwater, meant to these Haitian villagers, I could not truly understand, or even appreciate, my own situation. Yes, it’s true that most Haitians don’t even realize the depth of their poverty because they have nothing to compare it with, but that is not an excuse I can accept.

I go to Haiti to improve the lives of Haitians with the gift of water, but every time, I come back knowing they have given me even greater gifts: a new understanding of love, mercy, and sacrifice. I have seen men fall to their knees thanking God that we’ve come to bring them water. Women kiss us and children laugh and try to “help” us by playing with the power tools. It is not uncommon to open the clinic in the morning to find baskets of food: potatoes, carrots, sugarcane, onions, mangoes, and coffee. This food, these gifts that they give us, is their ONLY source of income and yet they give so generously. One cannot walk away from that experience unchanged.

Each year my heart becomes more intertwined with the people and culture of Haiti. Since 2000, the country has changed dramatically. Roads have been improved, the government has endured several changes, and an entire city in the Southwest rural mountains has received clean water systems. And now, the country lies decimated by an incredible earthquake. Yet there is hope in the chaos. Despite the fact that Haiti is indisputably the poorest, most neglected country in the Western hemisphere, there are thousands of people like me who cannot sit passively and watch this horror. Their blood, sweat, and tears are a part of me and I cannot deny the change they’ve made in my life.

I never thought I’d go on a mission trip. I was always quite content to live in my world of relative wealth and comfort. God had something else in mind for my life.

I met Roro Eustache in 1995 and for 14 years he asked me to come to Haiti with Raincatchers. God finally wore me down and my first trip to Haiti was in January of 2009.

I had no idea what true poverty was until I arrived in Port Au Prince. Never had I seen so many people with so little. The every day things that I took for granted like clean water, food, clothing and shelter were scarce in every area of the country. God broke my heart daily for the people I encountered.

Every day we hiked supplies for a raincatcher up or down the mountain. Quite often, out of joy, gratitude and excitement, the family receiving the raincatcher came with the widest of grins to help carry the supplies to their home. Most of the homes consist of a small cinderblock, mud and/or stone building with a tin roof. The even less fortunate people live in tiny huts covered in corn husks that keep out the rain.

After the hurricane in 2008 many children were dying of pneumonia because their crops had been destroyed and there was no longer a way to “waterproof” their homes. Raincatchers brought tarps to cover some of theses huts. At one small hut where 16 people lived a woman began to speak to me in Creole. I will never forget the words she spoke through her tears. She told me that she had been praying for God to send her a tarp. She was so thankful and told me that she would pray every day for God to bless me and my family for what we had done for her. So much love and gratitude for a $20 tarp!

My life has been forever changed by the people in Haiti. I ended up serving in Haiti twice in 2009. What an honor and a privilege it has been to share God’s love with them. My friends in Haiti have blessed my life more than I could have ever given to them. My family and I pray for the Haitian people every day. I go back with Raincatchers as often as I can and look forward to the day when I can bring my children to serve with me.

Nine years ago I had the privilege to travel to Haiti for with Raincatchers the first time. I was then a sophomore in high school and entirely engulfed in my own small world of skateboarding and the latest punk rock band. Catalyzed by sweat, smiles, hugs, songs, rooftop prayers and the grace of God I gradually and imperfectly began to see through the economic affluence and comforts of the first world and experience true solidarity, empathy, and compassion for those less fortunate. Suddenly, the world seemed large and I felt small. However, God revealed to me that despite the enormity of this world and its inequalities that the passion and commitment of one person can change lives.

While working with Raincatchers I met an American medical missionary working in Seguin. I spent a day volunteering in her clinic treating long lines of impoverished Haitians. Each patient was an opportunity to care for one of God’s children, brothers and sisters in Christ, a truth communicated by thankful smiles, gentle eyes, and broken English/Creole. Coupled with my curiosity for the sciences and the desire to serve the poor and the sick in Haiti, my life suddenly changed. I’m now in my last year of medical school. I firmly believe that my experiences and interactions with Haitians and our God who works in mighty ways there has changed me and my life goals in positive, powerful, and unimaginable ways.

See you there!

We left for the Detroit airport at 3:30 a.m. I finished packing for the week-long, University of Michigan spring break trip to Haiti around 3:00 a.m. I was nineteen years old – my sophomore year at U-M. To be honest, my biggest motivation for going to Haiti that February was to see my best friend who had moved there a few months before, on the last day of the trip. We’d be staying near his new residence.

One week passed. Our group began to board the flight out of Port Au Prince. I lingered on the runway, looked out toward the mountains, and left a portion of my heart there. In the beauty. In that place.

I returned one . . . two . . . three more times throughout the next couple years. I went to different cities and with different people and helped aide with water purification efforts and health needs. I did this, largely, because of the prompting of the Spirit of God and of Teresa Price (T). On the last night of my first trip to Haiti, T, a twenty-something year-old P.A., said this:

“When you return home from Haiti, don’t look around at your plenty, your excess, and your privilege and feel things like guilt or pity for the Haitians. Those are unproductive emotions. Those negative emotional responses ultimately allow you to – force you to – shelve your experiences here and move on. They move you toward nothing beneficial and nothing helpful – either for the nation of Haiti or for you. Instead, I want to urge you to feel a sense of responsibility. You are God’s children – you young people attending the University of Michigan – and these are God’s children – these struggling infants, malnourished kids, and ailing people in this broken nation of Haiti. God’s Church does not have state lines, national borders, or distinctions of any kind. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. I want you to return to your homes in Michigan and feel, not guilt for what you have or for where you were blessed to be born, but, rather, RESPONSIBILITY to care for and be a blessing to your brothers and sisters (and brothers-and-sisters-to-be) throughout the world. Feel empowered, feel a sense of urgency, and take responsibility.”

I have a heart for the nations – I dream that the nations would know the unfailing love of the Lord Jesus Christ and that all would be cared for, healed, and satiated in body and spirit. I am committed to living my life – whether I am stateside, in Haiti, or elsewhere – proclaiming the death and resurrection of the One Who saves, defending the poor and oppressed, caring for the widows and orphans, and living to hasten the day when all tears are wiped away and when unending joy replaces all sorrow.

I am not sorry that part of my heart lives still in the mountains of Haiti.

It is tough for me to put into words what my experience in Haiti was like. I have never felt God’s presence more in such an overwhelmingly short period of time.

I’m 32, and I celebrated my birthday in Haiti, which felt a bit like new birth to me.  I’ve never been in an environment that truly shows God’s mercy and grace like what I saw in Haiti. I now realize I live in a modern-day heaven compared to how our brothers and sisters of Haiti live on a daily basis.  When our team worked together as one to provide fresh water for people, it gave me a sense of unity with mankind and showed me we’re all here to support one another regardless of our history, culture, or status.  I saw more love and appreciation in the Haitian children when receiving a simple cereal bar and pair of shoes than I ever witness in my “usual” life.

I felt unworthy and yet blessed to be used by God as a vessel of his love in Haiti, even if for a brief moment. For those few days, the Lord used our crew to do His work, but more importantly, His vision became crystal clear to us through the lives of the women, men, and children of Haiti.  I realized I have a lot to work on in my life with regard to where my priorities are and where they should be.  God is so good, and He allowed me a life-changing and healing gift:  6 Days in Haiti.

Thank You Heavenly Father and thank you Raincatchers.

This setting is a contradiction – or at least a contradiction of everything that you’ve grown up to know. Here is clay so red that it stains your clothes, skin and heart (so that when you go home you have a little shard that will stay with you always). Here are only onions, carrots, beets but no grass. There are few trees looming on the high hillsides off in the distance – the distance that you can only see if you climb more hillsides looming closer. Here are children so short at age ten you’d swear they were only five. Here is only concrete to build with. Here is a sky so blue you would swear the ocean was defying gravity. Here is escape: no blenders, no tv, no cars. Here is Seguin.

How does it work? It seems too impossible to get these high school and college students from Michigan to Seguin. How did all the cars disappear? Where did the tvs, the comforters on the beds, and Monday night football go? Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where they don’t play football on Monday nights. There’s something extreme about just up and leaving your comfortable bed, room, and shower and traveling to a country where bugs pester you in your sleep and showers come in a bag. It takes a special sort of person; somebody with a big heart and maybe a slight touch of insanity. It’s the adventure that takes you there. There isn’t grass on the front lawns of every home; few homes even have a front lawn.  They need what you can provide:  Water. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where the water doesn’t flow from pipes in the ground nor does it come from a local well. In Seguin, water comes from locations four hours, over hillsides covered with the trees, in five gallon buckets on a little girl’s head.  Water… Who would have ever thought that it was such a precious commodity?

It rains almost every day in Seguin. Portland’s got nothing on the town. Every cloud means rain and every rain means a chance – a chance to change to the way things work. All it takes is a group of high school and college students, some PVC piping, a few zip-ties and a fifty-five gallon barrel enhanced with a simple filtration system, and you have a new source of the world’s most precious resource. Instead of being four hours away, water is inside your door.  What a change!  I still feel it now, egging me on as I write. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where you leave a part of yourself and take a new experiences home.

I remember the sun scorching my eyes as I turned my camera towards the sky. It was a gorgeous silhouette, if I could just get under the glare. Check my exposure. Ocean in the sky. One cloud, perfectly hanging. One Haitian, dignified. Click. I still remember that moment. It imprinted itself in my mind.

The red clay is all you’ll see. Welcome to Seguin, Haiti, where the soil doesn’t fade to black. You’ll go home eventually, and your room will have the same comforter on your bed, the shower will flow warm, the TV will glow, and you’ll forget what to do. Home won’t ever be the same. You’ll look uncomprehending: Why is the TV on? Why is the shower warm? Why can’t I go back to Haiti?

Welcome home; you miss Seguin, Haiti, the land of contradiction.  You’ll be back home but your heart will be so far away.

Water is life.

RainCatchers is able to help people in Haiti only because of donations from people who believe in what we do and want to make a real difference. By helping fund our efforts, you can help give life to people in Haiti. [ Donate Now ]

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