When most people sign up to go on a mission trip to a place like Haiti, usually a big part of their motivation is to build or fix something. Whether it's medical, construction, or some sort of outreach/ministry, the goal oftentimes fits into those two categories:
"What are we gonna build?"
"What are we gonna fix?"
Even when I first started going on mission trips, it was always about the projects we were doing. "Are we going to finish on time?" "Do we have everything we need?" "Does everybody have a job?" "Okay, let's get to work." With trip themes like Whatever it Takes and Let's Do This, we were singing the praise of Rihanna with our "work work work work work" attitudes. Now, I'm not saying that is all bad, but it certainly isn't the full picture.
Today was such an interesting day for me. We were running all over the place, went to two different schools, met with families, played with kids, painted nails, played soccer, prepped for some more sponsorship profiles, and quite a few more little things. Or at least they seemed little. But, as I'm reflecting on today, I'm thinking about all of those little things and how they really do add up to one big thing, and that's relationship.
We didn't build a house today. We didn't save anybody's life. We didn't fix any "major" problems.
We were just present.
We played a lot of slap hand, we kicked the soccer ball around, and we held babies. We painted nails, told stories, and heard about everyone's day. We visited a family's new home, taught kids how to skateboard, and learned a few Creole phrases (kijan ou rele?). The kids felt James' arm hair, put on funny sun glasses, and held our hands for as long as they could. We had the chance to meet and talk with our sponsor kids and hear about how they're doing in school. We found so many ways to communicate, have fun, and connect with people and we barely even needed a translator.
Relationship. Is that what I signed up for? The short answer is, yes. That's exactly what we signed up for. It's not always flashy, it doesn't always feel productive, but it makes a bigger impact than anything we could have built or fixed. God will open your eyes to way more through a conversation with someone then he will based on how much pipe you lay in the garden or how many walls you paint. And we were able to see that so clearly today. We met and built relationships with so many amazing people.
The girl that Jenny is holding in the picture below with those freshly painted nails? She first came to the WWV medical clinic extremely malnourished. Look at how chunky that baby is now! (In a good and healthy way) The boy on James' shoulders? That's his new sponsor child that he had gotten to know and play with over the last few days. The girl in the sweet shades? Her family has been sponsored by, and known, this American family for years and years, and I've never seen so much joy in a conversation as I did when they were catching up together. I just can't help but think about all of the people, conversations, smiles, laughs, and connections I would have missed this week if I had only been focussed on what we could fix or build.
The truth is, we're not going to fix Haiti in a week. But thankfully, that was never our goal. I think a lot of times we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short-term, and underestimate what God can do in the long-term. We put a lot of effort into seeing short term results when in reality, the world needs more long term development. That's done through education, growing local businesses, investing in the family unit, and most importantly, pointing people towards Jesus. These are things that organizations like World Wide Village and others are doing year round in order to provide a better future for Haiti and allow people and families to provide for themselves in a healthy, Christ-centered community; and it's all done through relationship.
I've definitely fallen in love with Haiti over the last couple of years. I mean how could you not? Have you seen these kids?! And to continually see how the staff, the translators, and the families in the community build each other up, care for each other, provide help to one another, and see the value in things like education, business, and the Gospel, it just reminds me that Haiti has such a bright future. It's not going to be fixed tomorrow, but over time, as we continue to build relationships with each other, work towards a common goal, and pray like crazy, we'll be able to see Haiti thrive.
This week has definitely flown right by. I feel like we just got here yesterday, but tomorrow we're headed back home. It's always hard to say goodbye. We've made so many new friends and don't want to have to say goodbye so soon. Please be praying for our travels tomorrow, that we would make it to the airport safely and on time, that we won't be too crunched for time at our layover in Atlanta, and that we would make it home safely. Also, be praying for WWV. They have teams coming for the next 6 weeks straight. Pray for energy for all of the staff, for all of the teams that will be coming, and most importantly, that the name of Jesus would be lifted high for all to see. We'll see you back home tomorrow!