Experiences in Haiti
Today featured on the blog is Estes member Cindi Cotton, who recently returned from Haiti on one of many mission trips she has made there. Her love and dedication to Haiti are evident. In the signature line of Cindi’s emails, she has this: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”–Colossians 3:23-24. She embodies this verse so very well. She is a faithful, dedicated Christian who truly works with a servant’s heart “as for the Lord.” Take a moment to enjoy reading about her personal experiences in Haiti.
When we hear “Haiti,” we often think of extreme poverty. We think of heat. We think of people in great need of the basic necessities, such as clean water, nutritious food, stable housing, education and employment. These things are all true, but there is more to Haiti than what they need. There are fellow Christians working tirelessly to bring others to Christ.
My first trip to Haiti was in 2009, and it was overwhelming at every level. Physically, it was HOT. An additional challenge was 24 women using one restroom in the guesthouse! Mentally and emotionally it was equally overwhelming. The sights, sounds, and smells of another culture can be new and exciting, but still very different from our culture and therefore unsettling. Walking through a street and taking care not to step in sewage can make one grateful to say the least. By far the most overwhelming factor for me is the spiritual one. Meeting fellow Christians who don’t share my language is indeed challenging, but the love for God and for worshipping together knows no such boundary. Often at a worship service I would recognize a tune and be able to sing along in English. Being able to teach ladies’ Bible classes is always a special time. I like to make the class as interactive as possible, and I’m never disappointed and always encouraged when I ask questions. The ladies know the scripture!
On this most recent trip, I asked the ladies to share scriptures that give them comfort and strength during trials. I was not surprised that we had many of the same “favorite” passages.
My first trip was in 2009, so I’ve been able to see Haiti before and after the devastation caused by the earthquake in 2010. It’s encouraging to see church buildings, schools, and homes that were built with funds from so many compassionate Christians. Although it is sad that it took a destructive tragedy to bring much needed assistance, it is proof that there are always blessings in the toughest of times. Many souls have obeyed the gospel because they were shown compassion in the months following the earthquake.
On my first trip, Lana Pirtle and I met a preacher’s wife. Her name is Bernadette Saint-Hubert Felix. Her husband has been the minister at the Varreux church for many years. This is in the Citi Soleil area of Port Au Prince, one of the more impoverished areas. This couple has four beautiful daughters, and both parents and two of the daughters work in a school in addition to their work with the church. When we met that first year, we talked with the aid of a translator, of the same things people here talk about—our families, our jobs and such. More importantly, we talked of our love for the Bible and for fellow Christians. Commitments to remember one another in prayer were made.
Needless to say, when I heard of the earthquake, in addition to thinking of Roberta Edwards and the children at Sonlight Children’s Home, my first thoughts were of this precious family.
We went to Haiti in 2010 about ten weeks after the earthquake. I was hoping daily to see my sweet friend. Because of the devastation, we did not leave the guesthouse. Clinics were held on the grounds of the guesthouse each day, and people from area churches were brought in daily. When the day came that Sister Bernadette came to the clinic, I was overjoyed just knowing that she and her family were alive and unhurt. We hugged and shed tears of joy. Later that week she came back to the guesthouse along with one of her daughters who spoke some English. The daughter explained that her mother had a gift for me. It was a bag containing mangoes and red delicious apples. You probably know that mangoes grow all over Haiti, but apples do not grow in that warm climate. I was touched deeply by this gift. I know that this gift wasn’t like the gifts we give here in America. Of course we give gifts out of love, but we rarely give much thought to the cost of the gift. In other words, we share out of our excess. I know enough about her circumstances to know that this gift probably meant that other basic needs were not being met. I remember telling her that this would be the most delicious apple I ever ate, and it was.
This year I was blessed to teach ladies class at the Varreux church for the first time. We talked about what the Bible teaches about how we face trials, and how we can grow our faith during difficult times. As we shared scripture that have helped us, I shared one that is especially meaningful to me. Psalm 16:8 says “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” Each lady in the class got this scripture in Creole to use as a reminder of our lesson. After the class, I was able to give a special gift to my friend. I had cross stitched this verse in Creole and English and framed it for her. I told her I was making one for myself so that we would both have one to remind of one another.
A few days later, we had clinic at this same church. The Felix family live in a house that is on the same property, and their home is where we went we needed to use the restroom. Sister Bernadette proudly showed me that my needlework was on display in her home, and insisted that we have our picture taken together. When I asked about how her work as a teacher was progressing, Sister Bernadette told me that none of them had been paid in over seven months. This broke my heart. She humbly said, “I’m praying that we will get paid next month.” I told her I would pray for that as well, but this was weighing heavy on my heart. How many of us would keep going to work for seven months when we are not being paid? Keep in mind that FOUR of the family members work at the same school. I talked with Roberta, who said that she had sent rice and beans to them to help. We talked about what could be done. With help from generous Christians, funds are being sent to Roberta to help this precious family. Please keep them and all who do the Lord’s work in Haiti in your prayers. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to make trips to Haiti, and the friendship with a Christian sister has been by far my richest blessing.
The trips I participate in are medical mission trips, and this is a vital work. Many of the persons who come to the clinic will not receive any medical treatment any other time. They are grateful for medications. They are grateful for reading glasses, and some even will receive their first pair of eyeglasses. I usually work with our optometrist, Dr. Rachel Wyatt, and when she gets the correct lens setting, it’s a joy to see a person’s smile when they see clearly, probably for the first time in their life.
They are grateful for the nurses, nurse practitioners, and all the medical and pharmacy staff. I think they are mostly grateful for the compassion that we are able to convey. We may not speak the same language, but a gentle touch, a smile, and a hug can make Jesus real in a way that doesn’t need words. We don’t know which of the 2100+ people who came through this year’s clinics may come to know Jesus because of our trip. Seeing a medical professional and being given personal attention and receiving needed medications can lead to discussions about the Great Physician. Helping a person to see more clearly can lead to discussions about seeing more clearly what the Bible teaches.
As you can imagine, those of us who make these trips receive so much more than we give! I’ve been given the gift of new friends in a beautiful country, and as we talked on the most recent trip, Sister Bernadette and I agreed that there will come a day in heaven where there will be no language barriers. This is indeed our greatest blessing!