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A team of 30 high school students and leaders traveled to Haiti July 15-22; this week our student bloggers are sharing their experiences with us.
by Trever Carter
After a 2 a.m. start to the morning and some restless hours of anxious, suspended consciousness—you could hardly call it sleep—I awoke with the most excitement and eagerness I have had about anything … ever. My heart has always been drawn to missions, and after we climbed onto a beat up, stick-shift bus, with the cushions falling off and the metal rusting, all while sweating in the 100-degree heat with humidity unlike I’ve ever felt before, my mission was now real. Haiti to me had seemed like something you would only see in a movie, and I couldn’t even necessarily believe it was real. It’s just not something you can comprehend—and if you have never been to a third-world country, you would have a hard time believing it if I explained it to you. It’s almost like you have taken a time machine and traveled hundreds of years into the past. We were driving for quite some time, stopping so our Haitian guides could do something to the bus to keep it running … until they couldn’t anymore. Eventually, we were found on the side of the mountain for fifteen minutes, then an hour, then eventually 3 and a half or four (I truly don’t even know how long exactly). The only thing that kept our bus from rolling down the mountain was a rock that one of the Haitians placed under the wheel. And it began to get dark. And the clouds rolled in and it started to lightning and eventually rain. Haitians were coming out of the forest to see what was going on. It was pitch black. Our leaders were waving flashlights behind us so cars wouldn’t hit us if they whipped around the curve. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, really. And I was scared. Scared because I was uncertain, never had been outside the country, it was the first day of our trip and it was not starting well. But some members of our team decided to bust out their guitars, and we just started to worship. And I began to notice Haitians listening to us sing praises to our God. Then, as we were singing God You Reign, it hit me that He truly does. His plan is greater than mine, and He is using everything in my life now to pave the way for my future. So after 23 hours of travel and hanging mosquito nets to avoid malaria and chickamonga, we fell asleep, quite easily for the circumstances I might add, ready to attack our first full Haitian day.
Each night during the week we would go to a park in the center of Pignon, which to my knowledge was not opened often at all in fear of the people ruining one of the jewels of Pignon. It was beautiful. A basketball court with a volleyball net in the middle, concrete bleachers on either side, two bridges on opposite ends, grass and trees … but the most beautiful part was the people there. We played soccer and basketball, hand games, and just laughed with these kids all afternoon. And the amazing part was we couldn’t talk to them. Despite not knowing creole, I felt like I could communicate with them on another level because love is transcendent of those things. In two minutes, someone would be your best friend. And this is where I met my two best friends for the week (beside the kids on the compound, we all had the biggest and most special bonds with them). Abidal and Bebatu, ages 9 and 13. Every day they would come back to the park to see me, and Bebatu even began to attend church with me. I continually pray for them because I left my heart with them.
My favorite part about this day was certainly the VBS. There were just so many moving components of it. The first day, the worship team attempted to sing songs in English, but by day two they were translated into Creole. Imagine the happiness of more than 150 Haitian kids singing Your Everlasting Love in their native language, dancing and loving the three right to left hops. I also saw a kid who I was told was the witch doctor’s son but has come to VBS for a few years now. When he was in crafts with me, he was reading all the Bible verses without even looking at the paper. He was singing. It was so moving for me to see a child whose parents are of totally different faith living out what he thought was the right way to live his life. We also fed them each a plate full of beans and rice, for some of them their only meal for the day, or a few days. Small children were putting down entire plates of beans and rice, and it was just really intense and powerful for me to see. In America, we glorify eating food. We post pictures of it, eat more than we have to or probably should, anticipate our next meal or pair it with our emotions. Kids here literally eat to survive, no more than that. I can never get the image of these kids eating out of my head. For the rest of the week at the compound when we would eat meals, I learned to eat slow, be thankful for it and eat just enough so that I would be alright and the people behind me could eat as well.
After VBS, we partnered with the team of Haitian youth that had been helping us all week at VBS. We grew so close to them too, it was awesome to see youth of the same faith live it out in a totally different circumstance. We were preparing for a youth rally (a Haitian impact if you will) that we were doing the next day. We started by worshipping under the big tree on the compound, and it was the first time I got emotional and cried over the trip. We sang Shout to the Lord and Here I am to Worship, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. We were singing the same songs, to the same God, but in a completely different language. Erik would say “Just the Haitians now!” and they would sing loud, proud, unashamedly to our God in Creole, and then we would take over, then sing together. God is so much bigger than me, than Gurnee, than the Midwest. He has world-sized view for all of us, and it hit me so hard that God’s plans are so big and for His Glory.
The Youth Rally went off without a hitch. My favorite part was the ice breaker games that we played before more powerful worship and an awesome message. We played a circle game to learn a everyone’s names, and then improvised and played one of their games … hot potato, also known as tock tock tock boom. I’ve never seen more laughter and cheering and yelling and just sheer happiness, another testament of the transcendent power of love.
There are two favorite stories from today. The first is that I got to lead a team to a couple micro-loan families and interview them to see if the micro-loans they are receiving are benefitting their families and moving them toward self-sustainability. One of the women we met was named Isman. After talking for a while, we found out that she sells rice and charcoal, and only can still feed her family once a day. After that, while talking to her, we found out she sells a lot more than just rice and charcoal, and had a very good, multi-faceted business. And the micro-loan was benefitting her. She not only sends her 7 kids to school, but pays for 10 other kids to go to school and also pays for immediate need medication for sick kids in their village. She saw that her family’s needs were being met and didn’t need anymore, so she naturally wanted to give back and help others. She thought it was something she needed to. That was incredible—she was incredible. The second story was when I got to share my testimony in front of a bunch of Haitians and my team as well. It was awesome for me just to be able to rearticulate my faith in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know. After, someone I had gotten close with throughout the week (his name was Waldy) came up to me and told me he was praying for me and my family. Someone in Haiti who has literally nothing was praying for me. Tell me that’s not incredible.
Day seven was the most rough for me. The whole week, as well as the whole next year hit me at once. Just with youth group changing a little over the next year, I think we all got a little emotional. I won’t really elaborate on this, but just know that God left me charged to come home and make where I am my mission field. I realize that I can’t be in Haiti all the time like I would like to be. But God charged me up so that I can come home and make this place my mission field, because in reality the people here need me just as much.
God moved in my heart and in my life throughout the trip. He encouraged me, empowered me, charged me up. I can’t wait to go back, but I am also happy to be here. I know for sure that I am supposed to be going to other places that need my help to help them.
Trever Carter is a junior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.