March 8, 2011

We're Back

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe … All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need … Every day they continued to meet together … They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts … And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."  (Acts 2:42-47)

As I wrote on my Facebook wall: Back from Haiti. What an awesome trip! What an awesome team! How can it be that when I leave my life of comfort and plenty and go to a country of hardship and want, my heart fills to overflowing? God is so good.

To say it was a great trip is an understatement. I left apprehensive about the situation in Haiti, unsure about what we'd actually be doing, and questioning whether this was really where God was calling me to. I returned awed and amazed at our almighty God who's orchestration, protection and provision defined this trip completely.

This trip to Haiti was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and certainly the most impactful mission trip I've taken. Even though friends have asked what made this trip so special, it's hard to find the words to adequately express what's been imprinted on my heart and spirit. I'll try to paint a broad overview. (In the days to come I'll be working on a series of more detailed stories.)

Our ten days followed a mission trip model set up by the Foundation for Peace. It included five days on the work site, a medical activity day, three worship services with local churches, two VBS's and one (much-deserved) beach day.

Our team of 18 came from coast to coast (PA, NJ, MA, RI and CA), including six from my church. We'd all never met before. (I didn't even know most of the folks from my church very well.) We ranged in age from 20's to 60's and brought with us a wide range of talents, faith journeys and life experiences. The way that God weaved these disparate strands together as a team—unified, and singular in heart and purpose—was a beautiful display of His craftsmanship and creativity.

One incredible team

We spent every waking hour together. We toiled together—working harder than many of us had ever worked before. We praised God together in morning devotions, frequent prayer, enthusiastic Haitian worship and late night singing. We talked, ate, hung out, recreated, rode the bus together. And no one tired of anyone's presence. No one got on anyone's nerves. When one was weary, another came alongside to lift up. We became attuned to one another's needs and gave from our excess. It was community in the most wonderful sense of the word. And we all recognized it as something extraordinary.

Group back rubs

The work we did was hard. It basically consisted of digging trenches for a vocational school. Lots and lots of trenches (each about 2 feet wide by about 4.5 feet deep). Working with our Haitian friends, we used pick axes to break up the hard packed, arid soil. Then we shoveled out the loose dirt. This task pushed every one of us to—and past—our physical limits. Yet, we pressed on, determined to make our mark, knowing that this school represents the future of Haiti in this part of the country. 

 There's much more to tell...and I will...but the most meaningful experience for me was visiting Camp Hope (the camp I worked in after the earthquake). God really moved in me when I was there last year. Our group had made friends and I was anxious to see them again. But the person I most wanted to see was Jude, the teenage boy I worked with and befriended last year. There's something special about Jude. And even though we don't speak the same language, our hearts are connected. I've kept tabs on Jude as my friends have traveled to Haiti in the past year and knew he was OK. But I was dying to see him again.

We first arrived at Camp Hope on Friday to visit the school (that FFP built last year). I looked for Jude in the classrooms and found him quickly. When Jude spotted me standing in the doorway of his small classroom his face lit up with excitement and he jumped out of his seat to see me. We hugged for what seemed like a minute. It was a precious moment filled with such love that I could have left Haiti right then, satisfied.

There is so much more to tell...our day of worship, visiting, VBS and soccer at Camp Hope...our "50-minute" hike up the mountain to distribute aqua-tabs to people in a remote village...a relaxing day at the beach to restore our weary bodies...the worship services at local church...early morning devotions on the rooftop...the family we formed, Haitian and America, bonded together for all of eternity...and so much more.

There is something about Haiti that's so special. I see God there in the people and the country. I feel His presence in the worship. And I find rest in my spirit that is so absent as home.

Thank you for your prayers for our trip. They were most definitely answered. I am so thankful for the experience and hope our ten days in Haiti planted seed that will bear fruit for a long time to come. I pray that all we encountered, and all of us Americans, are forever changed—because in Haiti we met Jesus.


Regina Gordon said...

This was so beautiful Kelli! What an amazing story to tell and even more amazing that we were able to experience it firsthand. I was blessed by you daily and look forward to our paths crossing again!


Runner Mom said...

Wow! I hope that one day I will be called to go on a mission trip like that one! So excited for the love and fellowship that y'all had.

Nanette @momneverstops said...

God used you as well as the Haitian people to bless each other. What a wonderful opportunity for you and your fellow servants. Praise God for all you accomplished while there and for your safety back home.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Look forward to hearing more. Now to process those deep emotions that will linger for a lifetime. What to do with such fullness?

It's yours for the holding, sister.


Terri Tiffany said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes--I'm so glad you were able to see that young teen again and that he is ok. Haitti has been through so much this past year and needs so much help.

Julie Gillies said...

Wow, Kelli, you went back to Haiti! What an amazing trip (what an amazing God!). It sounds like it was exhausting yet exhilarating at the same time. Oh, the precious, precious people of Haiti! *tears forming*

I believe God is honored and blessed because you honored and blessed the people of Haiti. Your heart must me overflowing, Kelli!

Cheryl Barker said...

Sounds like an awesome mission trip, Kelli. I know what you mean about the sweet spirit within a mission team. God is so good to bless his workers with that.

I have to confess that I forgot about your trip so didn't get to join you with my prayers. Will look forward to hearing more about it. Blessings to you!

Sue J. said...

Such an awesome Scripture verse to have chosen, because you really discovered the true Church! Communion like you experienced is deeply fulfilling, and you truly know God in your midst.

I would feel as you, then, in coming back and wondering if you will experience the same here.

What a blessing to have found Jude, and how marvelous his response to your presence! You have made a real connection there, and I'm glad you have the means to check up on him. It really is all about relationship....

Again, welcome home, and thanks for sharing from the overflow of your Spirit-filled heart!

Sassy Granny ... said...

Power packed! I can only imagine the "toil", but I have no trouble imagining the everlasting effects of love's outpouring. I especially enjoyed that last picture; love's embrace. So precious.

Thank you for living your life out loud.



Sounds like an amazing trip. As you have time to process and rest . . . I would love to hear more.

Welcome home.


p.s. I always think on a good/well planned missions trip with good leaders and a good team, you experience the Body of Christ . . . the way God intended. Was that your experience?