Meeting Them Face to Face

by | Feb 7, 2020

Emily meets her sponsor family in Haiti

Emily Van Gent, Event and Volunteer Coordinator for Many Hands, was recently able to travel to Haiti to see our operations and meet her Haiti-based co-workers. Read below as Emily shares her encouragement at seeing how God is loving his people worldwide through the actions of everyday people.

For the past year, I have had the privilege of working with Many Hands, splitting my time between our office in Pella and one of our thrift stores located in Grimes. I’ve worked closely on fundraising and awareness events which provide opportunities for people to get involved in our mission, use their gifts to further God’s Kingdom, or simply be encouraged by God’s global heart. By making trips to our thrift stores, I have seen to impact that store has on the local community, volunteers, and staff.

Yet, there were many things I had yet to see firsthand because I hadn’t been to Haiti. I have seen the pictures and heard the stories, but had never been able to see it for myself. This past week, that has all changed. I took my first trip to our campus in Haiti. It has been really special this past week to be in Haiti with our team.

“It is one thing to hear stories about all of these people, but it is a whole other thing to meet them face to face…”

Within the first few hours of being in Haiti, I met many of the faces of people our organization partners with. I got to meet Cherika, who our organization has walked with as she has battled cancer. I got to see her joyful face and loving affection towards our staff. Just a few minutes later, Anika walked up. Anika is a little girl who has had health issues with her leg and again, Many Hands has had the honor of walking with her through that. It was a joy to see her walking well and in good spirits. At staff devotions, I got to meet and hug my Haitian coworkers, whose pictures I have seen on the wall in our office back home. I have been encouraged by my American coworkers who live in Haiti full time, serving God through their work and daily life. During our food distributions, my group went to the home of Mirè, one of our seamstresses for our Bundled Bottoms program. In the states, I have been with many groups as they work on Bundled Bottoms’ kits, and now I have seen firsthand where those kits are sewn in the final stages. 

Staff meeting for morning devotions

Seamstress Mirè working on Bundled Bottoms diapers

This only scratches the surface on the stories I have heard over this past week. Yes, there were many things and stories I knew before, but there are so many stories yet to be told, both of heartache and joy.

Not only have I been able to connect with people, but I have also seen our programs in work. I watched as mothers and children came to the First 1,000 days program and received lunch, education, and community. During the days, I have heard the laughter and voices of children playing and learning in our preschool and fundamental school. Our group visited the community gardens and Goat Land, where families can learn skills and have tools to provide for themselves.

Caregivers and their children at the PMJ program in Sylvain

It is one thing to hear stories about all of these people, but it is a whole other thing to meet them face to face, to see their smiles, hear their voices, give them hugs, to pray for them and also have them pray for me. It is one thing to have the head knowledge, and know the ins and outs of our programs, but it is a whole other thing to see them in action. It has been a surreal week seeing everything I know about Many Hands come to life.

Part of Many Hands’ mission is to be love in action in a broken world. I love how it says ‘broken world’, not just one broken country, city or people group. Because the truth of the matter is, our whole world is broken and needs God’s love put to action. Through my work, I have seen Many Hands be love in action in the United States. This past week, I have been able to see this same love, through different actions in another location. I am really encouraged by how God is loving his people worldwide through the actions of everyday people.

Emily Van Gent works at Many Hands as the Event and Volunteer Coordinator. In her role as Volunteer Coordinator, she manages volunteers and volunteer events across the organization, including volunteers at our Many Hands Thrift Market in Grimes. As event coordinator, she plans and executes Many Hands’ events, helping to raise community awareness of our work. Emily has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies.