From Haiti, With Love

Christian Church of Jasper member Glenda McLean snapped this aerial photo of Haiti from the window of the airplane. Photo courtesy Glenda McLean.

A group of Christian Church of Jasper members traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from Feb. 1 to 6 to work at a church-sponsored orphanage, house of hope. The Herald asked them what about the trip will stay with them. Here are some of their responses.

McLean, left, and Holli Land of Jasper were part of a group photo at Wahoo Bay Beach on Feb. 3 with the 11 girls who live at the House of Hope orphanage. Land, the wife of Christian Church of Jasper Minister Darrel Land, got the idea of starting the orphanage after her first trip to Haiti in 2001. Herald photo by Candy Neal.

Holli Land of Jasper, making her sixth trip to Haiti:

My time in Haiti is precious. While I appreciate my blessed life, I feel so consumed by all the busy-ness that comes with it. I feel that I miss out on living life the way I believe we were meant to live.

There, I put in a hard day of work and at the end of the day there is no paycheck, but the great reward of feeling good about working for the Lord and not man. After work, there is no rushing around here or there, because there is no place to go. Instead, we eat a meal that was prepared for us, then sit on a rooftop and share our day’s experience. We invest our time in one another.

While life is very hard in Haiti, it is also very simple. It is peaceful and where I feel the most growth in my spiritual life.

McLean took a photo of herself with Wenderline Leveille, 12, the oldest of the 11 girls at the orphanage, Feb. 5. Photo courtesy Glenda McLean.

Glenda McLean of Lake Helmerich, who estimates she has been to Haiti about 15 times, eight of them with Christian Church of Jasper:

Going to Haiti is an experience that never leaves you.
I left my heart there on my first trip, visiting an orphanage in 1978. I keep going back because they say a picture is worth a thousand words and my desire is to photograph and video the emotions and experiences of those I go with, to help them tell a story of children who may not still be alive if it weren’t for the kindness, generosity and hard work of people like those of the Christian Church of Jasper.

I love the children we are raising in the House of Hope orphanage and it gives me joy to know they are well cared for, loved and sent to a Christian school. Hopefully they will make a positive difference in Haiti someday.

A girl held Shannan Volters’ mouth in her hand as they traveled to Wahoo Bay Beach on Feb. 3. Volters, of Jasper, and other church members spent the Sunday afternoon at the beach with the House of Hope girls. The house mothers regularly lead the girls in outdoor and extracurricular activities, like trips to the beach and museums, opportunities the girls probably wouldn’t get if they weren’t at the orphanage. Photo courtesy Glenda McLean.

Shannan Volters of Jasper, the church’s children’s minister:

The kids were different and yet the same. So many times I found myself smiling and saying, “Kids are kids no matter where they’re from.” One of the biggest similarities is that kids just want to be loved. Kids in Haiti love trinkets and games, and just like kids in the States, they struggle with acceptance and making the right choices, and they care about their families and helping others any way they can.

I think the biggest difference between Haitian and American kids, though, is their sense of wonder.
There is so much for American kids to see and enjoy, and they grow up with everything at the tip of their fingers. But in Haiti, everything seemed more wonderful to them. We had kids wanting to get their picture taken just so they could see what they looked like, not because they would get to keep a copy. One of the ladies on our trip had antibacterial soap and squeezed some out for the kids and they thought it was the most wonderful gift in the world. Jewelry and sunglasses could entertain for hours and something as simple as seeing my veins on the inside of my wrists could fascinate.

Haitian kids were struck by the wonder of all the things Americans can sometimes take for granted, and it reminded me how truly blessed I am.

Church members, including Kacie Shipman of Orleans, worked on covering the walls of the second floor of the orphanage with primer during their trip. Herald photo by Candy Neal.

Kacie Shipman of Orleans, accompanied on the trip by her parents, Vince and Tammy Cook of French Lick:

As time for the trip drew near, I began to have anxiety about going on the trip and missing the comforts that we have here in America. I did not know how I could go a whole week without my phone, hot water, air conditioning — and those are just a few of the things I couldn’t imagine being without. I decided to trust God and go on the trip anyway because I knew he had a plan.

When I got to Haiti, I felt a sense of peace, true peace that I had never felt before. The people of Haiti had such a joyful spirit. The little girls at the orphanage were so affectionate and happy, even after all that they have been through in their short little lives. Seeing the resiliency of the Haitian people made me rethink my own priorities.

While I was in Haiti, loving and holding the children, it was truly heaven on earth to me. I did not expect to feel such a sense of peace without all my comforts of home.

Hannah Love, 12, of Jasper, right, tried to follow Wenderline Leveille’s motions as she learned a Haitian dance at the orphanage Feb. 2.

Hannah Love, 12, of Jasper, making her first trip to Haiti, accompanied by her mom, Tammy, making her fourth trip:

My mom always told me stories of the life changes she experienced in Haiti. She would tell me what it’s like to see the big brown eyes of the young children for the first time and how happy they seemed to be even though they get by with very little. Then I had the chance to experience this.
When I went, I stayed for only five days, yet the outcome is worth a lifetime. I desperately want to go back and believe more young people should go to experience what I did.

Brandi Stiles of Jasper, middle, with the help of an interpreter, explained to a young mother how the medication she was being given Feb. 5 should be taken. Stiles, a nurse, spent a day and a half working at a medical clinic. Photo courtesy Glenda McLean.

Brandi Stiles, LPN, of Jasper, who works as the school nurse at Ireland Elementary and who spent a day and a half working at a local medical clinic:

There are many, many things I got from the experience of going to Haiti. The one thing that stands out is time. Yes, time.

First, while in Haiti it seemed like time went slower, or there was more hours in the day. I thought, “Well, maybe God is giving us more hours or slowing down time for us so we can finish the job.” We worked hard all morning, all of us thinking it was probably close to noon, and when I checked my watch, it was only 9:30 a.m.! Everyone was amazed. We had already gotten so much accomplished — and now had even more time to do God’s work. When I worked at the medical clinic, it was the same. We had seen about half the patients (about 80) — and it was just noon.

Then, on the first day that we were home, it hit me. We were completely on God’s time in Haiti — we were working for God, not for man or for a paycheck, but for God. We were sent to serve. We didn’t have “things” to fill up all our time. We just had a goal — to get the job done in Jesus’ name.
No computers, no cellphones ringing, no emails to answer, no appointments to get to and so on.

Here is the text I received from my husband around noon on Thursday (less than 11 hours after being home): “By the way, don’t forget that you need to sign up the girls for softball right after school, and Megan has a doctor appointment at 4, and your mom is picking her up at 5:30 to get her nails done for her birthday ... welcome home!”

Cassie Self of Roland gave her husband, Brian, a bite of her protein bar while he took a break from painting Feb. 2. The couple was accompanied by their two daughters, Holly and Hope, on the mission trip. Herald photos by Candy Neal.

Cassie Self of Roland, accompanied by her husband, Brian, and daughters Holly, 15, and Hope, 13:

We as a family started this not sure what to expect. We just knew we were being called to step out of our own little world and be a part of something more, to make a difference. God led us to Haiti and, for a short time, into the everyday lives of 11 little girls at the House of Hope orphanage. They had our hearts from the first hello, and by our last goodbye, it was harder to leave than we could have ever imagined.

It was hot, and we worked hard while we were in Haiti. We stepped out on faith and God provided in a big way. We saw his work from the beginning in providing beyond what we could have ever expected while fundraising for the trip. He provided us a love for 11 beautiful girls that we didn’t even know a week before, and in that an understanding that no matter how small our efforts might seem to us they can make a big difference to someone else.

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