Three women from The Sanctuary recently returned from a week-long missions trip to Haiti. They were part of a group of 14 people from Illinois and Virginia who taught enrichment classes at a school outside Port-au-Prince. Liz Hyerdall writes about how God worked, her experience and how her life was changed.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Haiti.
We got off the plane at the airport and went to claim our baggage, at which point we began to feel the first of many beads of sweat from the Haitian heat. Little did we know, but at this point we were also about to witness one of the first of many works of God.
While waiting for our baggage, a Haitian man came up to one of our teammates and asked him, “Are you Patrick?” We were stunned that this man knew his name. As we looked down into his hands we noticed that he was holding a wallet.
This wallet was Patrick’s. It had apparently fallen out of his pocket on the plane while he was changing seats with another teammate. The man returned the wallet to him, and there was not a single dollar missing.
Through events like this and so many others, God showed me that he truly holds every event and every person in the palm of his hands. He loves and provides for all of his children, and he will never ever leave us or forsake us. Not only will he never leave us or forsake us, he will provide our every need.
Sunday was the first full day we spent in Haiti, and we started the day by going to church in the chapel at the Village of Hope. The Village of Hope is the school where we taught our enrichment classes for the week.
Painted on the wall of the chapel was the verse John 15:5, which states “I am the vine, You are the branches; He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit”. It was the first thing to catch my eye as we walked into the open-air room with a chalkboard, wooden pews, and a layer of dust.
I immediately began to think about what this verse must mean to the Haitian people. They have been torn down and devastated by earthquakes and poverty. Their homes are in ruin. They use broken glass bottles to line the tops of the walls surrounding what’s left of their homes in order to keep out any who wish them harm.
Many of them are alone, and many of those alone are children. Some wonder on a daily basis where their next meal will come from. Yet in spite of desolation, destruction, and death, they know how to bear fruit. They understand what it means to abide in Him, for apart from Him they can do nothing.
In a place where there seems to be no place to turn, they choose to look up. They look up and see the living God who holds each one of them under his wings of protection. As I listened to the children sing during church, the sound of hope arose. Through the love of Jesus Christ, those who have nothing and no one have it all. They are firmly connected to the God of the Universe and the lifter of their heads. As long as they abide in Him, they will always have hope. Of this truth, they are certain! Hope is what guides them, and hope is what allows them to turn it all back to God.
This hope allows people to walk and live by faith. Friday, the last day of classes was a precious day in my life. I was able to hear the testimonies of many who walk by faith each day of their lives. In Haiti, you don’t take anything for granted. It is all blessings. What we consider bad events are moments when people see God’s goodness and faithfulness.
Jorel, a Haitian man who also translated for our music class, shared with us the stories of God’s provision in his life. Here is just one of the many he shared:
In Haiti, schools are not public, and therefore you have to have a lot of money to go to school, or someone has to sponsor you in order to enjoy the privilege. Jorel had neither. He was nine years old, and convinced of his need to go to school. He did what he had to do and worked as hard as he could in order to save up enough money to afford school.
Eventually he earned enough money to pay for books, a uniform, and school supplies, but he was still missing one thing… shoes. His village was a four-hour walk from the school. There was no way he could go to school without a pair of shoes on his feet.
He went to his pastor, who was also a mentor to him, and told him about his predicament. The pastor told Jorel: “Jorel, I only have one pair of shoes… but I will let you borrow my shoes Monday through Friday so you can go to school. However, you have to bring them back to me on Friday afternoon so that I can preach on the weekend at church.”
For a year, Jorel and his pastor shared a pair of shoes. Finally, his pastor saved enough money to buy a new pair of shoes, and instead of buying himself a new pair, he bought Jorel a new pair.
God also provided tremendously in another way for Jorel. When Jorel finally started school, a teacher made an announcement in class. He said, “If any of you needs a place to stay so that you can come to school, I have an extra room that you can use.”
Jorel heard this and immediately approached his teacher. He told him, “I need a place to stay. I walk four hours to and from school in order to get here,” and Jorel no longer had to make the trip on a daily basis. He stayed at the teacher’s house Monday through Friday, and on Friday afternoon for the first year he made the four-hour walk back to his village in order to return his pastor’s shoes.
Jorel tells this story not to bring attention to him and what he was willing to go through in order to get to school. He tells this story to glorify the God who made it all possible for him. He emanates gratitude for our Savior who gave him exactly what he needed when he needed it.
Just as God provided for Jorel, he provides for the orphans, for the crippled, the lonely, the hungry, the lost, and the needy. As long as we abide in Him, we have no need to fear or be anxious. He has it all under control, and he is working everything together for good.
Earthquakes and poverty cannot stop the beautiful plan of our Lord, and through everything he brings Himself glory. Because of Haiti, I am able to see God more clearly, to trust him more fully, and to hope more fervently. Each day is an opportunity to turn back in praise, and for that I am truly grateful.
A verse I found myself praying for the Haitian people…
“The Lord is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed. Save your people and bless your inheritance; Be their shepherd also and carry them forever.”