I was determined to not make this trip about me, rather to give more to Haiti than they would give me.
I had it all figured out and coordinated a fund raiser to buy building supplies. People could experience giving without any personal satisfaction or reward and imagine a world they had not witnessed and be compassionate enough to answer the call. Hands Against Hunger donated 420 meals, and we purchased vegetable seeds for gardens, soccer balls, basketballs, aprons for cooks, cash for vendors, treats, and a portable printer to give hard copy photos to children that had never seen images of themselves. This was going to be our best trip ever!
The trip was amazing, beginning with loving the children at the orphanage. The children welcomed everyone with open arms and hearts. Despite the heat they hung on tight and loved on us. Even though it's short term, this is what they know. Riding in an open bed truck to the job site, sweating, and working hard to build a house in 100 degree temps, is a sacrifice we hardly felt. To meet the homeowners and pray over them as they shared their stories with us, was truly spiritual and humbling.
After we decided which orphanage got our food and who would get the lights, the seeds, the balls, the photos, I realized I felt empty. Giving did not feel good that day because the gifts are never enough. My gifts were not sacrifices, and the blessings poured on me felt undeserved. I was not worthy of their gratitude. God deserved the glory! So in typical Haitian style, after I gave them 'things', they thanked us and immediately offered God’s blessings on us, but they knew the real gift is God’s love.
I learned that 'gifts' are different from service. We give gifts to each other, quickly go home, shut our garage doors, cook, and take care of our own. In Haiti, there are no doors. Their relationships are bonded through service. One carries water for neighbors, one picks vegetables for the group, and one gets meat; everything is shared. They greet each other daily in their routine chores and smile as they work side-by-side. I see Jesus working in each and every one of them in their communion of life.
We all thirst for connectivity through sacrifice, service, and love, which Jesus shows us every day. He offers everyone a servant’s heart full of compassion and love. It is simple in Haiti—no material distractions and no extremes of excess.
So, it's not about Haiti changing us or whether we change Haiti. It is about God teaching us and using us to love and serve each other every day. Mission trips teach us to open our doors, ask who we may serve, who needs us today, with whom may we share God's blessings. We have the gifts we needed all along. God is just waiting for us to use them!