One of the coolest parts of our trip was seeing Compassion International at work in the country of Haiti. They have a ton of projects in Haiti, but we only had time to visit three of them. Days two through four were spent doing just that. Along the way, we learned that almost thirty years ago, Compassion moved from doing their own thing in the community to being based in the local church. So, each project we visited was attached to a church.
The first project had what is called a Child Survival Program (CSP). This is a fairly new venture, where Compassion is reaching out to young mothers, helping them take care of their babies. Often, this involves walking with the mother from the pre-natal time until the child is able to join the regular Compassion program. During our visit to this project, we spent time with the mothers and babies. We got to talk with the mothers and hold their babies. At first, I wasn’t sure how this would go. I’m not a huge baby person. I don’t have much experience with them at all, and I’ve only held a few in my life. However, it was really important to show these kids and their moms the love of Christ, so I went for it. While I may have felt awkward holding the babies, it was great to spend time with these young mothers, who were often around our age or younger.
The next two days were spent at other projects that do not yet have a CSP. So, we filled our time hanging out with the children. While part of our group led craft times with the little ones, my wife and I gravitated to the older elementary-age kids and the teenagers. At first, we got out the bubbles. Wow! They went crazy over them. They were climbing over each other just to blow the bubbles, pop them, or even try to take them from our hands. We were often pulling back and telling them to be patient. I had no idea they would like the bubbles that much. Eventually, this got to be a bit overwhelming, and I grabbed a football, instead. This was all right, but the young ones didn’t get the concept that I just wanted to play catch with them. They kept trying to get the ball from each other.
Finally, I grabbed a soccer ball and the teens began to get excited. As soon as we figured out the teams, with some help from a translator, all the language barriers went out the window. This was soccer, and I was at ease. I love times like this, when you can find something that totally crosses language barriers. The game of soccer is one of those amazing things. It doesn’t matter what country you are from or what tongue you speak, soccer is soccer. This is how I bonded with the Haitian teens, and I could have probably done it all day. However, while my mind was ready, my body was not. The hot Haitian sun was brutal, especially while wearing jeans. It took me a long time to stop sweating at lunch. It is times like this when Coke tastes so good!
The afternoon each of these three days was spent visiting local people in their homes. The first day, we spent some time with a grandmother, who was the primary caregiver of her home. Her daughter was practically deaf, so she took care of her and her grandchildren in a one-room house. We asked her where they sleep, since there was only one bed. She said they would often sleep on the floor if they couldn’t fit in the bed. All the while, she kept talking about how blessed she felt. She knows that God continues to watch out for her and her family. The other two families we visited were very similar. While they had two rooms, instead of just one, they were still cramped, based on our standards. Nonetheless, they were always incredibly grateful to have us there, thrilled that they could open their homes to us, and always spoke about how much God had blessed them. We learned a big lesson from these people.
As we headed back each day, I was more and more overwhelmed with what I saw and experienced. We were greeted with so much enthusiasm in the projects. The children loved to play with us. The project staff seemed like they were doing an excellent job. They often gave us gifts. The families seemed like they had nothing, but they were so grateful. On our way back, watching all the needy people on the side of the road, I just sat there, thinking about this. One day, in particular, I didn’t talk much at all. There was just so much to take in and process. To be honest, I’m still not done processing it all. I don’t yet know what God wants me to do with all that we saw. Until I figure it out, I’ll keep thinking, praying, and writing.