The harvest is great, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). What a challenge!
Haiti is a beautiful country, rich in history, but with many needs both materially to survive and spiritually to thrive. A small five-member team from Indiana and Michigan embraced the challenge of fulfilling the Great Commission to the rural village of Balan on Haiti's northern coast near Cap-Haitien.
The purpose of this trip was twofold; lead VBS at a church, which had never experienced the excitement of vacation bible school and improve the conditions of an orphanage by bringing smiles through fresh paint!
Anticipation was high among the team as we worshiped on Sunday at the church we would serve at during the week.
An announcement was made during the service that ninety children were expected, even though only sixty had initially registered. With our small team, we knew that God would need to give us strength to make this an experience that the children would never forget. We had an overwhelming sense of peace going into the week that God had all the details worked out for those who were meant to be there.
That sense of peace was needed because on the morning of our first day, over 130 children were waiting for us! We were so excited…remember the harvest?
In addition to spiritually feeding the children, we were able to physically feed them. Each day of VBS, the ladies of the church prepared a typical meal of rice and beans for the children. The provided meal is why many of these children come to VBS. Each day the meal was the same. Yet no one said, "Beans and rice, again." "I don't like beans." "He has more than me."
What child hasn't complained when dinner is anything but their favorite dish? But in Haiti, they are content just to be fed, and they ate in silence.
We noticed that many of them pulled baggies from their pockets and filled them with food to take home and share with their families. It was a quiet and painful reminder of where we were –– the poorest country in the western hemisphere. The scene became even more difficult as we observed many children who came but couldn't be fed because there wasn't enough food.
The excitement of having so many come to VBS turned to sadness and frustration. Our hearts broke and our despair turned to resolve. We must bring more people with us next time and provide more food. We can do more, but we need more help. While physically we felt that we came up short, spiritually we were encouraged because nearly thirty children asked Christ into their hearts by the end of the week!
Afternoons were spent bringing a splash of color to an otherwise drab orphanage. We painted a kitchen, a bedroom, and visited with the children. The biggest impact to the team was made at the end of our time there by a little girl, new to the orphanage, who asked if we could paint her room.
How quickly we were reminded that our time in Haiti was too short and our resolve had to be strengthened so that we would not consider our work finished in this beautiful country.
Not a day has passed that we don't think of those that we met and the team with whom we served. The Lord is working in Haiti, using those who have answered His call.
We were blessed to join in fellowship with some of these servants who are in the field on short term trips, as well as those who have dedicated their lives for the Great Commission.
Over dinner one evening, one of those long-term missionaries shared his story with us. While serving in Haiti for nearly forty years, he and his wife often dreamed of a comfortable retirement spent walking the beach collecting seashells. But well past the age when most would be retired, they continue to serve. We asked, "Why don't you retire?" With a broken voice he simply replied, "When I get to heaven, God won't ask me, 'Where are all the seashells?'"