Ever had the thought, “I was meant to do this”? I think we all have those moments where we think that; some are more profound than others. For me I had my most profound “I was meant to do this” moment back in 2008 when I felt like I needed to travel to Haiti. I kicked around the idea in my head for about a year before I set a date and bought my plane tickets.
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect when I got there. I knew I would be surrounded by people who didn’t speak my language and would probably ask me for money. I knew that Haiti was poor, that most of the city of Port-Au-Prince would look like the worst slums in the US. My experience working in inner city Indianapolis and my level understanding of global poverty prepared me for what lay ahead.
While I was in Haiti I worked mostly in Port-Au-Prince with an organization called Christian World Outreach (CWO). They sponsor several church plants throughout the country and run two feminine training centers that help women aquire they skills the need for employment. While I was there, CWO held a pastoral training conference at their main feminine training center in Port-Au-Prince. When I wasn’t helping out with the conference, I found myself doing small repairs around the center, playing with the children, and touring Port-Au-Prince and the neighboring town of Mirebalais. I have a thousand and one stories I could tell about my experience, but I came away with one important realization that stood out among the rest.
I’ve always been thankful for the clothes on my back and the roof over my head and I do a pretty good job not taking those things (and many other blessings of mine) for granted. However I never really realized how much opportunity me and so many other Americans have by living in the U.S. In Haiti, there is really no such thing as public school, there certainly aren’t employment agencies or career fairs, a scholarship is as elusive as a pink diamond, and a now hiring sign is impossible to come by. Truly, Haitians have very little, but what they do have is an undeniable thirst for opportunity and unbelievable optimism. Most Haitians go to sleep telling themselves that even though today was hard, tomorrow will be better. I realized that if I personally wasn’t working my hardest and doing my best to take advantage of the opportunities I have been afforded as an American, I am taking those opportunities for granted.
When I returned from Haiti, I assumed that my work in Haiti was pretty much done. I would tell others about what I saw and maybe encourage them to travel to the country themselves, but beyond that my involvement with Haiti ministry would be rather limited. But I was very wrong. A mere three days after I had returned to the U.S., Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed 230,000 people. When I first learned of the quake, I realized right away why I had gone to Haiti.
Upon hearing the news of the earthquake, I called my friend Dean, who runs Christian World Outreach, and asked him to keep me posted as to how I could effectively help Haiti. I wrote numerous letters to local newspapers and civic leaders urging them to aid Haiti in ways that are long lasting. It’s easy to write a check to the Red Cross and while their immediate response was absolutely necessary, they would leave Haiti as soon as another disaster hit another part of the world. I believe wholeheartedly that the best way to help Haiti is to support organizations that operate in Haiti with a long-term perspective; that their work will never truly be finished. I organized a relief drive and filled an entire cargo van with food, medical supplies, clothes, and sleeping bags through the help of some local churches in West Lafayette. Those supplies went to CWO, who in turn, distributed them to Haitians in need.
I knew at that time, it was important to act fast because the eyes of the global community would only be fixed on Haiti for a short while. However the reality is that thousands of Haitians still live in the tent cities of Port-Au-Prince. Millions have limited access to clothing, food, and other supplies and are absolutely poverty-stricken. Therefore it is incredibly important to look for ways to continue to help Haiti. I realize that it can be difficult to identify a way to help Haiti, so I would encourage you to consider donating to Christian World Outreach by clicking the button below.