Cumberland University kicks off their leadership conference with a great start, and experience the beautiful and humbling opportunity to wash the feet of Haitians.

Catch up on Cumberland’s day 4 here.

By Adrienne High

These last few days have been major eye openers.  They have been breathtaking and powerful in several ways. Every single emotion has been felt during this trip, some I had never experienced like that before. Before coming to Haiti, I grew to love our group and connected with them, but after getting here we have all grown to love one another, support each other, and connect with one another more than I ever have with any group before. Even now we are continuing to grow closer together each and every day we are here and it is sad to think it will soon come to an end.

The people here are amazing, loving, kind, passionate, and have taught me so much about myself. They have shown me there is more to life than what we experience everyday as Americans and there is more than one way to get things done. I have grown to love them just as much as I do family and friends back at home. Kenedy is the first person that I had a connection with on this trip.  He has shown me that even in tough situations, like the ones here in Haiti, you can still be a goofball and have fun. We just hit it off like two people that have known each other for years and pick at each other non-stop.

Preparing for this leadership conference I was about ready to have a heart attack because I am not good with presentations and public speaking.  We started the conference out by humbling ourselves and washing the Haitians’ feet which was a really amazing and powerful experience. It was as if you could see and feel, in their feet, where all they had been. The foot washing became a very strong spiritual connection for us all. Singing followed and the Haitians were just so passionate in their songs.  You can tell it in their voices, they mean every single word they are singing and saying. You don’t see that a lot in the States.  To be able to see that in them really made me appreciate and be thankful for all of the blessings I have back home.

Foot Washing

Appolon, the director of the leadership program, told me my session outline was amazing.  As he did with all of us, he told me not to worry about messing up and just not to be nervous. This didn’t really ease my stress until today which is the first day of the conference. When I began my session I could feel my legs weakening beneath me.  But Bildad, former student at Cumberland University in Tennessee and Haitian translator, helped me in my weak spots. He filled in the blanks and explained things where needed.

Ally and Bildad and Mme DInrose

My stress slowly started to fade and then the audience started responding and reacting to my presentation on servant leadership. This really hit home for me because I was so worried what I wanted to say was not going to be easily translated and understood.  When I realized they were getting it, all my doubts and worries went away. At the end of my session, the leadership conference participants divided into groups and I provided a few questions for them to discuss. This allowed the participants to talk among themselves about the problems they were having in their communities and how they could improve or help find solutions to some situations. The groups were really able to grasp the meaning of servant leadership. I gave them the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and how he stooped lower than anyone ever had to show them love. Bildad, our main translator, then asked “If Jesus could do it, what about us?” in hopes that it would make them want to go out to figuratively wash the feet of those in their community, to serve them.

Worshipping Team Building Exercise

Everyone just did absolutely amazing with their sessions and gave most of them peace about presenting tomorrow. All the activities went well and the participants really reacted well.

After the conference we were able to load up and go visit the suspension bridge. On the way I was excited and nervous all at the same time because I am not very good with heights when I am not safely strapped in. Kenedy ran across the bridge in front of me and I followed behind him really fast, screaming all the way, because it was all I could do to not fall.  Other than that, it was really fun! I enjoyed the view.  The sunsets here are gorgeous and the scenery altogether is just beyond words. I finally was able to ride the motorcycle back to Many Hands. I had been looking forward to that since we arrived four days ago.  It seems there also no road rules, such as speed limits, stop signs, or traffic lanes, so it seems everyone is just all over the road doing whatever they feel like doing. It was exhilarating, especially on these roads with more bumps and holes than you could even imagine. Maybe this creates a natural set of rules for the road.

Riding in the Tap Tap We ran across that!

We ended the night with the celebration of overcoming the first day of the conference with this amazing feast fixed by Beatris and Evenie, the Many Hands cooks. It was delicious and just a bit spicy. The last few days have been so full of adventure and surprises that I have picked a word to symbolize each day. Well today it was “fun.” The leadership conference was a blessing and we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. The day was packed full with just every part of the day being a blessing.  It was fun in all possible ways, and I cannot wait for tomorrow. To describe it all would require me to write a whole novel.  I have already decided that I am coming again next year and am so ready for many more adventures with my new friends, American and Haitian.

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By Ally Suite

Day 5 in Haiti on my third trip, and everyday is a blessing here. I do not know how the Many Hands for Haiti staff does it, but they make times speed up and slow down. With the amount of work that we have done, it seems like we had been here for two weeks. It is just amazing; I know the Lord is fueling our energy because we are not getting enough sleep to do the work we are doing.

Today we did the second half of our leadership conference that has been centered on trust. The first half went great! The crowd was zeroed in on what we were saying. I could feel their eyes on us. Our group started out with discussing “trusting yourself” which led to a contest in which the groups got to see who was the best in some area, including strength, mathematics, architectural or mechanical ability, and Bible knowledge. The groups responded well.

The next conference topic was initiative, and then we moved to discussing the levels of trust and the process of trust. This is the section where the Haitians really got into it because we did a human pyramid and the zigzag circle. The zigzag circle was an activity that the Haitians never really understood, but we did it anyway, with about 85 people. This is where I got to meet a wonderful lady. She fully understood what we were trying to get at through the conference. Even though during the activity she started to slip from my hands, she fully trusted me to keep her from falling onto the ground. This really showed me that we were not wasting our time here in Haiti that the people were listening and would apply it to their lives and their communities.

Human pyramid with all participants cheering them on Human pyramid Human table shows teamwork

After that activity, it was my time to present my topic on “valuing your relationships.” I was worried the Haitians would not understand because we had that difficulty yesterday with a term that did not translate into Creole. However, I quickly felt that they understood and were interested in what I had to say. Close to end of my section, Blida, our translator, gave a personal story about his relationship with his father in which he longed for words along with actions. His story touched the hearts of every person in the place. Then I challenged the group to take a few moments to say thank you to people around them. Their answer touched my heart. I shook hands with the people in the front row, and everyone told me “thank you for being here and teaching me so much.” My ears were blessed to hear this and I quickly thanked them for being here and said that I learned so much from them as well.

Then we broke for lunch, and the other group presented their topics. They did so well with their presentations. The audience was so in-tune with what they were saying that no one really cared that we went over an hour. However, the truly touching part came at the end of conference. The Haitians blew us away when they asked if they could pray for us. They started with a song, and then began praying for us. Even though I did not understand what they were saying, we could feel God in the words, and in the wind. It was so humbling to just feel the love and care that we were receiving from the Haitians. Then after the prayer ended, many of the Haitians came up to give me hugs and told me thank you for coming. This is the first time in three years that any of the Haitians came up and told me thank you. It was such a humbling experience. I really felt like I have made a long-term impact on Haiti, just like it has done for me.

Lunch being served We worshipped together

And prayed together

 

Catch up on Cumberland’s day 4 here.

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