Last night the band and I returned home after spending a week in Haiti. My mind is reeling with the places and the people I saw there, so I wanted to share with you some of our experiences in an effort to save these memories.
We arrived at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on November 3rd. There we met Tom (pictured above), a local missionary who lives with twenty two Haitians in Bon Repos, most of them boys he's adopted from a local orphanage and surrounding villages. He's trained them as local leaders and they work for him as an interpreters, ministry and outreach coordinators and teachers. When we arrived at Toms compound (a walled off property containing 3 houses) we were met by the boys. Their ages range from around four to the mid-twenties. We greeted them in the courtyard and as we shook hands their faces beamed with excitement. It was clear that they enjoyed visitors, and even more clear that we looked a little different from the usual church groups. After playing some basketball we were escorted to our rooms, which the boys usually sleep in but give up to visitors whenever they arrive. Over the course of the week we learned the names, stories and dreams of these guys, and after a week I can honestly call them my friends. Never have I met more sincere, loving and driven group of people, each of them are concerned with bettering their community. They truly are the hope for Haiti. On top of all that many of them have a great sense of humor, and we spent much of the week laughing with them.
The average long-term missionary lasts about two years in Haiti, Tom has been there for over fifteen years. His goal with his ministry is to replace himself, and not with white folks, but with Haitians. Haitians who would otherwise have been orphaned and abandoned, left to live in poverty, he gives them the opportunity of an education, a job and a better life. Coupled with a lifelong dream of sharing the Gospel, Tom is driven to meet the needs of the poor. Food, water, shelter and love are among his top priorities. He believes you can't successfully share the Gospel with someone who is sick and starving unless you first show love by meeting those basic needs. I couldn't agree more. Missionaries are often times portrayed as folks who go into third world countries with the priority of making converts, ignoring the basic needs of the people. Jesus Himself served the poor with his life, commanding us to do the same, but we sometimes hear stories of missionaries ignoring verses like this: