The following is a reflection by Kara Zimmerman, a member of the Sully, IA team visiting Gonaives, Haiti, on January 12-17. This was Kara’s first trip to Haiti.
Ever since I can remember, I have had a love for little kids and babies. Playing with them, caring for them, loving them and learning from them. About a month ago I began focusing my prayers on God’s purpose for my life. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything in my day-to-day that was making a difference. I wanted to do something more. Well, about three weeks after I started praying, I was given the opportunity to go to Haiti with Rick and Cheryl Nikkel and work with kids from Silentor’s after school program. I was getting excited. My prayers then became a little more focused on Haiti and that God would send me there if He willed that to happen. After speaking with my pastor and my church and getting their financial blessing, I was able to go.
I have been on many other mission trips before, but I know I will never forget this one, especially the first day. We landed in Port-au-Prince and had about a three hour drive to Gonaives where we would be staying. When we drove away from the airport and on through different towns, I was overwhelmed with sadness. There were tent cities, mud huts, and little houses made out of tin where people have to live in 90-100 degree weather. There were people everywhere, driving, walking around, or just sitting. Upon seeing all of this, I was told that there are hardly any job opportunities in Haiti, that 80% are jobless. There were little kids running around, some with ratty clothes, some with no clothes at all. I was heartbroken and overwhelmed. What could I, a 20-something girl, do to help make a difference for these people and this country?
That night, as we finished our first dinner and everyone else headed up to the roof to chat, I headed to my room. I wanted to keep a journal of the week so that I could remember everything we did, but mostly I just wanted to take a breath and talk to God because I was so discouraged. I started praying and wanted some reassurance that I was supposed to be here and that I could help. My thoughts went to my phone. I was actually pretty excited that I could turn it off for a week and not worry about it. But, I remembered that I always have a verse on the main screen and I couldn’t remember what it was because I had just changed it before leaving for this trip. I turned it on, read the verse, and had an instant peace and reassurance that I was supposed to be here. The verse was Joshua 1:8-9. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I knew that it was on my phone for a reason. I remembered Silentor’s starfish story and that we can help, even if it’s one person at a time. I then prayed with a renewed excitement and strength that I would have the energy to work hard, bless the people of Haiti, and be blessed in return. There are so many lost people in this country and God died for them just as much as He died for me. He has a purpose for their lives, and I could be the one to reflect Christ’s love to them.
The rest of the week went by way too fast. We were busy doing crafts and games with lots and lots of kids that seemed to come out of the woodwork, helping paint the latrine, experiencing the loudest church service ever, feeding the people after church, visiting schools, and mostly just seeing the joy in the eyes of these people. Often just because we would take pictures with them or give them little gifts that they were so proud of. The most memorable moment of the trip was when Cheryl Nikkel and I were painting the latrine. We had a group of kids that were watching us and it was really windy. These two young girls began to pull Cheryl’s hair back and gently braid it for her so it wouldn’t blow in her eyes. When she got off the ladder, one of the girls grabbed Cherly’s paint covered hands and began to clean them. After she had cleaned all the paint off, she used her own shirt to dry Cheryl’s hands. We were both in awe of this little girl, and she was the image of Christ that day. She used her drinking water and her own shirt to bless us with the example she gave. We may have blessed the people of Haiti, but every time I go on a trip to help others, it seems as though they are the ones teaching and blessing me. I’m so excited about the work Many Hands for Haiti is accomplishing, and Lord willing, I hope to continue helping in whatever ways I can.