I had the privilege of joining Project 117 on a team trip in October 2015. It was my first trip to Haiti and my first mission trip. I went in with eyes and heart wide open, and boy-oh-boy were they filled up.
As I began the journey from Port-au-Prince to our Haitian partner, Ephraim Orphan Project where we stayed throughout the week, I was in awe of the countryside. So many emotions were running through my head. It is interesting to me how quiet a van of 9 people can be when everyone is processing the environment on their own.
I was able to see a few of our students that evening as 11 of the 14 orphans are also our students. What I immediately noticed was a deep devotion to God and I was amazed at the reverence these children have. Their lives are so blessed, and they seem to know it.
The afternoon of our first full day was filled with one my favorite adventures of the week. We walked up to the village behind the school. I loved how we were welcomed so openly. Chairs were pulled out into front yards as we were encouraged to just sit and visit, which was funny to me since Curtis was the only one of us who could communicate with them - such simple signs of hospitality. As we continued on through the village, people came from all over to greet Curtis, our director. It is clear how much he is loved and trusted. He has made an important impact here, all by listening to God’s calling and doing what some might have thought of as impossible.
When I left the village, I began thinking about how connected all human beings are in our desire to know and be known. Here are folks living on a Caribbean island in dramatically different circumstances from my life back in the U.S. However, our desires are basically the same. They are happy, loving people who want a better life for their children. They are not reaching for anything remarkable, just better. They want to be safe, and to know their children and grandchildren will be safe. They want to be healthy, and to know their children and grandchildren will be healthy. They want to be known, really known. By inviting us to sit and visit with them, they were inviting us not just into their homes, but into their lives.
The rest of the week was filled with more examples of humans being humans, children being typical children, men being strong men, women in traditional, nurturing roles. We really are not that different from people living in developing countries. We are all united with a need for something greater, for a love of the same God (in most instances), for a commitment to our local community, as well as a yearning for service to others.
I am left now with a connection to another part of the world that doesn’t make it seem so far. These beautiful people may be 1,700 miles away from me as the crow flies, but not so far from my heart. I read and reread my journal just to remember the essence of each and every day. I continue to peruse my pictures to remember the laughter of children playing, to feel the heat of the afternoon chores, and to taste the love served every evening on my dinner plate. Part of my heart has a new home, and I’m very happy with that.