Make me an Instrument of Your Peace

On my last night in Haiti, I was sitting on a bench at Wall’s Guest House in Port au Prince reflecting on the week that had just past.

Before I left, my mom gave me a locket to travel with. Inside the locket was a prayer that read: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.” I read this before I left and thought it was nice. But when I read it again on my last night in Haiti, it had a whole new meaning.

This is why we came to Haiti. We did not build a building that could crumble, or a road that could be destroyed. We did not plant trees that could fall, or crops that could die. We did not do labor that would take away jobs from the people who need them so desperately. We were in Haiti to show love, to bring light, to strengthen faith, to give hope, and to spread joy.

We danced, sang, and played with the little children. Because of the language barrier, we did not exchange many words with them, but we held hands and shared smiles and laughs and learned the love is a universal language. These children have so little, yet sang loudly, songs of praise and thankfulness. With the older children we saw a fierce hunger for education. The older children sought us out to practice English. They shared their hopes and dreams with us. Many of the older children asked questions about faith and thirst to be closer to God. We were able to share our faith with them, and exchange words of encouragement and hope. Again, these children who’s only meal is the one they get in school, who play soccer with no shoes on a dirt and rock field, who walk up to an hour to get to school, who live in small mud homes, sang songs of praise and expressed how thankful they are for God’s love.

On our last morning in Bayonnais I spent time with the younger children, dancing and singing, but was called over by a group of the older children. They wanted to say goodbye to me and get some last minute English practice. With just minutes before our departure, one of the boys in the group, Edmond, spoke up and started to tell me that he was thankful God brought us to Bayonnais. He told me his parents passed away and he was an orphan at 14 years old. He was scared and did not know how he was going to have clothes, food, go to school, or go to church- but God provided. He told me it was okay that he did not have a father, because he has a great one in God. And he told me that he loved me, because God made us brother and sister, and that he knew I’d return to Haiti, because he knows I love it.

I did not know what to expect in Haiti, but sitting on the bench in Port au Prince, reflecting about my week, that prayer in my locket and those final words spoken to me in Bayonnias pretty much summed up my experience. I had no idea I would feel so much love for people I would only spend a few days with. I had no idea I would look into the face of God and hear him speaking directly to me. I had no idea I was capable of changing lives. And I had no idea my life was capable of being changed so much. Edmond was right, I do love Haiti.

Last Morning in Bayonnais

This morning we had one last chance to spend time with the children in Bayonnais. I danced and sang with some of the smaller children, then was called over by the older high school kids. They spoke with me more in English. Then Edmond spoke up and started to tell me about God in his life. Edmond has lost his mother, father, and a brother. He was orphaned at 14 years old and did not know where he would get food, clothes, or who he would go to school. He says that God had provided for him and it is ok that he does not have a father, because God is the best father he could have. This was one incredible 20 year old and I am so thankful I was able to hear his words. I know I will miss all of the children I met. These kids have so little, but are so appreciative of what they do have. American children could really learn from these kids.

Day 4

We had a 5:00AM wake up call today. We rolled out of bed, made 1185927_10101266143066307_1148096413_nourselves some PB&J sandwiches, packed up our backpacks with 200 pillow case dresses and headed to the near by village even higher up in the mountains, Nicolas. Even 6:00AM is hot here. We had our flash lights out and we crossed streams, walked through farms, and headed up the mountains. We watched the sun come up over the mountains 10010846_10101262101979677_384947333_oand it turned dry and even hotter.

The terrain turned from green farm lands to dry dirt paths. The higher we got the more narrow the path got. Instead of children, we were joined by pigs, goats, and cows on this trip. A little over an hour and a half into the hike we started to have children in uniforms run past us over the hills and 1926927_10101262104499627_1019679579_nrocks. I looked around and noticed them coming from all directions in the mountains. These children are what we would consider, “hill billies.” They live up in the remote mountains and their parents are probably substances farmers. Two years ago these children had only a grass hut to call school, before that, nothing. The people of Nicolas
and Bayonnais carried the building material through the same path up the mountains as we were walking to build a school. Cinderblocks, wood, tools, and other supplies were carried on heads of mostly women for the two hour hike up the mountain. Today, the school these people built has 236 students and 8 teachers. Some of these students are sponsored by people in our church. One of the members of our gr1891276_10101262103626377_486049376_noup was able to meet the little girl he sponsors.

We emptied our bags of the dresses and the 30 bottles of children’s vitamins we took up with us and principal was very grateful. The children in Nicolas were great too. They we so curious of us and followed us every where. On our way out they followed us singing songs and saying goodbye. It was so cool to make that hike. Our presence there let these little children know that they are not forgotten and that they are loved.

After a little over 4 hour round trip, most of us took very long naps when we returned.

We ended the night in the English club. The club was in a tiny cinderblock building. The kids who want to learn and practice their English formed the club and they meet every Monday night after school. During this session, the club members stood up and “presented” theirselves, “Hello my name is….I am this old. I live in Bayonnias. I have this many brothers and sisters. My mother and 1959849_10101262112688217_861167761_nfather are living (or passed).” Some others stood up, shook hands and had a conversation with each other. “Hello, my name is…how are you? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What are your dreams?” They were great! We stood up and presented ourselves and they were able to ask us questions. Their favorite question for me was, “Are you married?” In this English club, when I answered “no” they all asked “WHY?” It was very funny. When the class was over we all sang “Lord I Lift Your Name on High.” This was another moment that gave me chills. All of these high schoolers singing this song together, in this tiny cinderblock room, in the middle of no where in Haiti. Another one of those “God sightings.” They would have stayed there for hours and hours with us. They LOVE learning and really enjoy practicing their English.

This was our last night in Bayonnais, and I could feel that difficult goodbye breathing down my neck. I didn’t want to face the morning, I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to these amazing kids. When we got back to the house we shared some of our favorite moments from the trip and got to know each other better. This being such a long day, I took my shower and hoped to crash…but knowing what tomorrow morning would hold, I did not sleep well.

Day 3

10001357_10101262049963917_2101611624_nWe woke up and got in our Sunday best today…well, the best of what we had and got ready for church. When we walked out of the guest house we saw families coming down from the mountain, up the mountain, and from the village all dressed in the best clothes they own.  The girls had their best dresses on, with frilly socks, nice shoes, and their hair up in ribbons. The boys had their best button down shirts, nice pants, and good shoes on.  We all gathered in the cement, open-air church and sat on makeshift benches to join about 300 people for worship. We were immediately immersed in loud, joyous music. The kids were dancing in the aisles, babies were crying, and the adults were singing and clapping. It really was amazing. There was no choir, but they did not need one. Everybody belted out the songs at the top of their lungs with so much passion a1544464_10101262050926987_1201495132_nnd love. During the sermon, things got quiet and the adults listened intently while some children fell asleep. We noticed an usher walking around waking kids up- something you don’t see in American churches, we found it amusing. We have been mostly surrounded by children and that is who we had been interacting with mostly- but when the two hour church service was over (yes, two hours in 90 degree weather with no AC) the adults went out of their way to shake our hands and thank us for being there. That really meant a lot to us.

1897913_10101262058736337_1195224634_nWe stood outside of the church admiring all of the colorful clothes and interacting with the adults and children. After church, lunch was ready so we gathered in the house and reflected on the church service. It did not take long for us to hear many little voices outside of the guest house- when we went out to see the children on the porch they had already gone home and changed back into their play clothes and out of their good shoes (for many of them, these would be their only shoes and their play clothes have been the same 1517541_10101262061011777_1171705609_nall week).

We found a “guide” to walk us down to the river. This way we were able to get a closer look at the life in the village. Many people were out sweeping the dirt off their dirt floor homes, taking bathes in the river, selling things in the market, and just hanging out. It was fun to gain more and more children in our group-most of them did not speak English, they just held our hands and guided us to the river. The older boy who was our “guide” was named, Gaston. He is 19 years old and in 9th grade. He is very intelligent and wants to go to college to study religion so he can 1661898_10101262065043697_303301797_nbe an Evangelist. He has a beautiful voice and I loved singing “Open the Eyes to my heart Lord” with him again and practicing his English all the way down to the river. He protected us from oncoming scooters and older village people asking for money.  After exploring the river and seeing the sites we headed back to the guest house. Two of the little boys with us had each of my hands. One kept saying things in Creole and all I could do was look at him and smile and squeeze his hand to let him know I heard him. But all of a sudden I recognized some words he was saying, Jesus and light. After trying to make sense of what he was saying the other little boy joined in and together they said “Jesus is my Light.” I got chills up and down my body. This was such a beautiful moment. They said it one more time to me, then took my hands again and continued walking. I love these kids.

1619414_10101262094235197_391603291_nWe spent the rest of the day playing Uno, doing flash cards, practicing writing English, and more singing. My friend Presline found me and we played Face or Nose, or as we call it, Heads or Tails, for a long time. It has been so cool, watching these children thirst for knowledge and how quickly they pick up on everything. This was a Sunday afternoon and they are coming to us to study English. Think about what your children do or what you did as a child on a Sunday 1184913_10101262094993677_631757368_nafternoon…I bet you were not studying. Most of the older students can speak four languages- Creole, French, English, and Spanish. I tried to explain to them that they have such an advantage knowing all of these languages. I told them in America we usually only learn one other language then forget it when we are out of school because we do not practice it.  One boy asked if we could learn Creole in America, and I said I never heard of a class to learn Creole.  He wondered why they spoke Creole, but had to learn English but we speak English but do not have to learn Creole. I told him that was a very logical question- I explained that there is not a large population of Creole speaking people in America, so I think this is why they do not offer it in school.

I just have never seen a drive for learning as these kids have. They have great questions, they are always wanting to study, and they have big dreams. I am just sad that most of them will finish “classical school” (high school) and not go any further. Such brilliant minds- wasted because there are no opportunities for them. Very few of the children will be able to attend college-they just cannot afford it.  I haven’t found out yet- but I am pretty such the government does not have scholarship programs to help these children.

The kids stay on the porch of the guest house as late as they can and beg for more instruction and play time. They have amazed me more and more every day.