Tag Archives: youth ministry advance team: haiti

the story of marassa

i’ve written about the haitian tent community of marassa many times here (most thoroughly here), because it impacted me so deeply. it’s one of those experiences i will remember, in fine detail, for the rest of my life. it looks like i’m going to return to haiti at the end of may, and my prayers are daily for the people of marassa, and what i will find when i return (their tent community was built on a broad, dry riverbed — but the month-long rainy season has hit since then).

but, as ian robertson, our brilliant team videorapher (seriously, if you need a videographer for some freelance work, this is your dude), recently sent along this longer video version of our experiences in marassa. and, while the memories and feelings were never very far away, the force of them came flooding back watching this (and seeing the faces of the people — people i met, people i want to see again).

i’m sure some of you are tiring of me posting about haiti. to modify a quote from bono, from one of the u2 dvds (can’t remember which one… rattle & hum?), “am i buggin’ ya? ’cause i mean ta bug ya.”

i have two last videos to post in the days to come. but if my tentatively planned return trip really happens in late may, you can count on hearing more from me on this subject — these people — that i don’t want us to forget. i spent 30 minutes on the phone last night with a senior pastor whose youth group are planning on going to haiti this summer with adventures in missions. he’s a local pastor, who just happened to know that i went with AIM, and that i would have opinions both on haiti and on AIM. he wanted his youth team to go, but was getting a bunch of resistence from adults in the church who thought it wasn’t safe, or wasn’t good stewardship (“they should just send the money”). my response was that, going with the right organization (like AIM), haiti is as safe or safer than a short term trip to any american urban center. add to that that god’s spirit is clearly moving in haiti; and, well, anywhere god’s spirit is moving is the best place to be, safe or not. as for stewardship, my experience was that haitians (and haitian church leaders) are not used to droves of short term missionaries coming to them, like so many mexican border towns. so the impact on going drives deep into needed encouragement. and hands are still needed, as well as hearts. i think it’s good stewardship to go.

a story from haiti: michelle and her husband

i wrote, a few weeks back, while in haiti, about meeting michelle. she was in a hospital we stopped at just over the border into haiti. she shared her horrendous story with us, of having her twin 17-month old sons die in her arms when her house collapsed on top of her. but there’s more to the story than that. ian robertson, our amazing videographer, just put together this video, which both shares the story, as well as some of our reflections later that day.

connecting haitian pastors and american churches

adventures in missions has some very cool stuff brewing along the lines of a meaningful connecting between american and haitian churches. but, for now, here’s a wonderful video from our first trip to haiti (with the youth ministry advance team: haiti), talking about the strength and movement of god stirring in the haitian church.

pastor christian prays for our team in haiti

one of the many moving moments of our haiti trip was this one. we’d spent some time with pastor christian, a 74 year-old wise and humble pastor of 11 churches totaling 10,000 people. later in our trip, he hosted a pastors meeting for us attended by 260 pastors, representing about 1000 churches. this is the cross-denominational group adventures in missions is hoping to work with for hosting groups and developing church partnerships. but this moment, when we asked him to pray for us, and he started singing… well… i just started weeping. you won’t be able to understand the translation, but it’s hardly the point.

youth ministry advance team: haiti – day 3

if the theme i sensed yesterday was hope, then the theme today was joy. while suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance to character, and character to hope, i think there must be a sense where hope leads to joy.

in the midst of such devastating heartache and desperate need, i witnessed joy break out multiple times today:

1. first, as we were driving through the city, we saw a church service taking place on a street. there was a stage set up at one end, and the street was packed with thousands of dancing haitians, giving praise to god. it was the kind of shear unpolluted joy that i have very rarely seen in my life. seth barnes, the adventures in missions director, has been traveling the world for 25 years, and has never seen anything like what we saw in port-au-prince yesterday and today. i’ll post a video of this at some point,when i have better bandwidth.

2. minutes later, we spent time in a small community where one of the pastors we’re working with is trying to bring some help. adam mclane and i spent an hour with the pastor of a small church (well, the building was small — it looked like it should hold about 100 people; but he said there are about 1000 people coming every sunday). he was a wise and grace-filled older gentleman, who’s own house had been damaged, causing him and his elderly wife to sleep in a tiny cube made of sheets just outside their house. the moment of joy came when we gave him a few packets of toiletries and supplies, as well as a few large bags filled with little bags of drinking water. he started to hand them out, and it felt like pandemonium. adam and i were both concerned that things were going to turn ugly. but then i saw the pastor’s face: he was grinning from ear to ear, filled with absolute joy at the opportunity to bless people with provisions they so desperately needed.

3. the third outbreak of joy came in a tent community we visited, which i posted about here.

4. shortly after this, i was in another tent community where some of our other team members were meeting with the newly formed community leaders to consider how we (and other groups who follow) could help. and as i jumped out of the truck, a guy came running up yelling, “marko! marko! marko!” i was a bit disoriented as to how someone here could know my name. but it turned out to be johnny, the young man i’d connected with at an outdoor prayer service the day before, showing him my tattoos (at his request) and explaining the spiritual signicance of them. lars rood, one of our team members, said later that i’m a “walking evangecube“. :) what a joy to somehow reconnect with this guy in a city of millions.

5. finally, as we were driving back to the missions compound where we’re staying, we got stuck on a street as a massive group — a parade, really — of dancing, shouting, and praising believers moved past us with banners that said: “christ for haiti, haiti for christ”.

wow, what a day. i have a new reference point for joy.

the cry of haiti: “please help us”

today, a few of us were in one of the hundreds of tent communities that have sprung up in and around port-au-prince. we met with a group of about 40 people (though thousands live in the community and the one next to it), listened to their stories, hopes and needs. even in the midst of such great loss and devastation, they possessed joy. they mentioned that no relief had come their way — no water, no food, no tents (their “tents” were sheets hung on sticks and wires). when i asked how they were surviving without food and water, the pastor i was speaking with said, “we’re not.” they are starving and desperate, yet still hopeful.

at that point, i had a crazy idea. i asked the pastor if he thought it would be ok to have the group of 40 shout “please help us” in english for our video camera. he turned to them and asked them, and they all loved the idea. they started practicing how to say “please help us” in english, which was actually another great moment of joy amidst the hardship.

later, we were able to bring them some water and a small amount of bread. but we’re trying to connect with NGOs and american news agencies in haiti to see if we can do something to help the people in this one-of-many situation where no help has arrived.

please link to this, tweet this, facebook this, and help us get the word out that there is still SO MUCH need in haiti. we’re asking people to call out @andersoncooper on twitter, imploring him to show up at 9am tomorrow (monday, feb 15) when we reconvene at this community. join us, and let’s see what happens!

hope in haiti (youth ministry advance team: haiti – day 2)

Romans 5:3-5 – not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Today, my 2nd day in Haiti (and first full day), I was relentlessly pursued by hope.

On a human level, this seems completely illogical. I witnessed so much pain, so much loss, so much destruction. I saw miles and miles of downtown Port-au-Prince streets with every other building smashed to pieces, the streets piled high with rubble (many of the rubble piles doubling as temporary graves). I saw trash overflowing in every stream.

And the squatter villages. I’ve seen squatter villages in other countries; but they’ve always had a sense of semi-permanence to them, having developed over years, with shacks poorly cobbled together with solid materials. But the squatter villages here are different. They’ve sprung up all over the city – hundreds of them – each with hundreds, if not thousands of temporary homes. All built in the last few weeks, they’re built on wobbly scrap-wood frames and wires, with sheets and blankets for walls, and tarps (at best) for roofs.

I listened to story after story, and they started to blend together. Everyone knows someone who died in the quake – most know many. And even if their home didn’t collapse, it’s broken enough that it’s not safe to re-enter. Little kids accepted power bars and bottles of water from me as if I’d just handed them the keys to the kingdom.
But this suffering is producing perseverance, which is producing character, and hope is overflowing in a way I’ve rarely seen.

Today was Haiti’s first-ever National Day of Prayer. We originally had other plans for the day; but when we learned of this beautiful expression of hope. As we drove into the city center, we passed dozens of churches overflowing (literally, out onto the streets) with people singing and praying (and fasting, I understand). The main gathering at the city center is reported to have about 60,000 people at it.

We stopped at one of the large gatherings (not the one at the city center), and I sat in the scorching sun near a few young adults. One of them – Johnny – noticed the tattoo on my leg (the cross of St. Patrick), and asked me about it in broken English. He and his friends were fascinated by it, and by each of my three other tattoos. Since each of my tattoos represent Christian themes of life and re-birth, we struggled gloriously through a conversation about spiritual things. Johnny, and another guy named Junior (pictured with me here), both spoke some English, and translated everything I said to their friends, as well as translating questions from their friends for me.

Later, after driving through the heart-wrenching city center, we visited a large prayer gathering at the church of Pastor Christian, one of the pastors we’re hoping Adventures in Missions groups will be working with. I’d guess there were about 3500 people at this site. As we made our way into the crowd, I realized I was in observation mode. I realized my post yesterday had been more of a travelogue than a reflection of what was going on inside of me. And I knew I had to move into co-participant mode. So I broke from our group and wiggled my way deep into the crowd. When I got to a place where I couldn’t proceed further without being rude, I stood and prayed in the midst of the crowd. When they suddenly all sat down, I realized I was the only person standing. I looked down, and the woman next to my feet was making a place for me to squeeze onto the blanket she and several other women and children were occupying. I sat, looked around, and realized I had somehow ended up in a section that was all women and children – but the welcome was palpable. Throughout the next hour of singing, dancing, prayer, preaching, leg cramps and back spasms, I participated with these Haitian women and children, calling out to God on behalf of Haiti. It was a profound, tangible experience of hope being birthed out of suffering.

Later in the day, after many stories I don’t have space to share here (including a beautiful conversation with a group of young men constructing a tent-home for someone, all of whom had decided to follow Christ on the day of the earthquake, as they heard others crying out to Jesus), we met with Pastor Christian. A 70-something man of deep wisdom and grace, he pastors a group of 11 churches totally about 10,000 people. We talked with him about bringing groups to help, about his vision for Haiti, and about how he saw his country responding. At one point, Pastor Christian was sharing something about all the work to be done, and he let out a very deep sign. We could all see, in that moment, the immense burden he was carrying, and how tired he was (he hadn’t been showing this). We gathered around him and prayed for him, while he sunk into the grace of Jesus. About 10 minutes later, he asked if he could pray for us. As we bowed our heads, he began singing. He was singing a prayer over us, and it was truly one of the most beautiful things ever to enter my ears and soul, even though I couldn’t understand the words. I instantly started crying – but they were tears of hope: hope born out of seeing a man, and a hundred thousand others, place their hope-born-of-suffering in a Savior who brings redemption. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite Bible verses: Zephaniah 3:17, which describes God “rejoicing over us with singing.”

I’m emotionally and physically spent, and a little bit sunburned. So I’ll leave you with this:

Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.

youth ministry advance team: haiti – day 1

this morning, we left santo domingo at 5:30am, and began our trek to haiti, with a handful of stops along the way. our team is getting along great — such a cool mix of people.

our first ministry stop was on the dominican side of the haiti border, where a complete hospital had been set up in tents on the compound of a ministry organization. the hospital was being run by “u.s.aid”, a u.s. government funded agency. the nurses and docs were wonderful — all there as volunteers. a highlight was sitting with a haitian man who was healing from a broken femur, and listening to him sing bob marley’s “redemption song” (watch a video of this moment here). the man had taught himself english by listening to english-language music, and he had a beautiful voice. all of us, including the nurses, were in tears by the time he finished.

our first stop in haiti, just barely across the border, was at a church that is housing 30 refugee families, and also runs a hospital. with so little medical care in port-au-prince, thousands of haitians have made their way to these care facilities outside the city. yesterday, the place had 6000 people on their grounds fasting and praying! the place was just not that big — so that must have been an amazing thing. we toured the hospital, and prayed with a couple of the patients. one woman told us her story through an interpreter. she’d been trapped in rubble for 24 hours. when the ground started shaking, she grabbed her twin 17 month-old boys, holding them to her chest. but when she was pinned under the rubble, she could tell that one had instantly died, and the other only lived for the length of a few cries. the story got worse than that, but i don’t think i’ll share all the details here. but she talked about calling out to jesus, and how she was rescued. when we asked if we could pray for her, we discovered that the man sitting in a chair nearby her was her husband, and he came up and sat next to her on the hospital bed. as we laid hands on them and prayed, her husband began crying and shaking, speaking out, “why, jesus? why, jesus?” of course, it was a heartbreaking story, and i felt a small bit of the pain this couple must have been going through. i was thinking of my own two children.

after a flat tire on one of the cars, and then the donut spare going flat also, we had to rearrange things; but we made it (a little late) to a meeting with about 40 pastors. we were meeting with them to explore the possibility of setting up church partnerships between their churches and u.s. churches. there was lots of story sharing (including some painful ones of pastors who’d lost family members). we handed out lots of packages of supplies (everything from toiletries to medical stuff to diapers), as all of these pastors are housing or taking care of families who are now homeless and without resources. we filmed short videos of each of them, for the potential church partners, and took photos of them, and prayed with them. the whole time we were meeting in the church, there was a youth group meeting in a little shed-like space on the other side of their yard. it was awesome to hear the youth group singing “you’re all i need” to jesus, especially when they all clearly have so many needs.

we’re staying at a mennonite guest house in port-au-prince, where we just made our team dinner and had a good time of sharing. i only got about 2 hours of sleep last night, so am looking forward to a bit more tonite.

to see posts from the rest of the team, check out our facebook group (where posts will be linked in the next 24 hours or so).

“plans” for the youth ministry advance team: haiti

tonite i fly to miami, where i’ll overnight, then join the rest of the team for our trip to haiti tomorrow. i’m full of expectation, trepidation, anticipation, and disbelief. all of this came together so quickly (though not without a great deal of work and forethought) that it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s here and now. friday morning, i’ll be in port-au-prince.

to review: our team (the youth ministry advance team: haiti) is traveling to haiti for two reasons:
1. we want to serve
2. we want to report back to the tribe of youth workers on the feasibility and wisdom of bringing groups of teenagers on short-term trips to haiti in the coming year.

i put “plans” in quotations in the title of this post, because there is so much in flux in haiti right now that we fully expect re-directs, disappointments, and divine interventions. i’m super comforted by the reality that our adventures in missions leadership have a prayer-filled, discerning approach to trips like this. they want to serve where god wants us, and will be actively listening (and engaging our team in that process) to the spirit throughout the trip.

that said: our “plans” at this point are anchored off on working alongside and under the cover of a handful of haitian pastors. each day we’ll be working “for” a different pastor, doing a variety of relief tasks (and anything else we’re asked to do) as an extension of these church’s relief efforts to their communities. we’ll be staying right in port-au-prince, but will also spend time in some of the surrounding towns and villages, where so many who formerly lived in the haitian capital are fleeing. we’ll be assisting in medical relief work, helping with food and water distribution, and a host of other tasks that call for willing hands and hearts. we’ll also be praying with and for these haitian churches and their leaders, dreaming of the spread of the gospel during this national re-birthing.

we also “plan” on blogging every day while we’re there, sharing stories and impressions.

i do covet your prayers. to that end, it would be wonderful of you, my fantastic blog readers, would follow one or more of these means of communication, in order to be more fully informed:
1. this blog
2. the team facebook group (where posts from all the bloggers will be posted)
3. the team twitter page
4. the team prayer update email list

my next post will likely be from the dominican republic, after i’ve met the whole team, and the night before we drive into haiti.