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haiti

I Got Sick in Haiti But You Should Still Go

I was accidentally prophetic. In February I wrote a post called Zika and Haiti and Why You Should Still Go:

This is the great advantage of working with the local church in Haiti through Praying Pelican Missions. You will be the guest of local ministry leaders, people who are living with zika every day, who will go above and beyond to make sure that every detail of the trip is well thought out and safe for you. This extends far beyond mosquitos! Where you sleep, what you eat and drink, where we travel… all of these things are done in a way that manages the risk for you.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick.

And you know what? I got sick with Zika [or something just like it.] I started feeling ill on my flight from Miami to San Diego last Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning I was feeling very sick. And by Wednesday afternoon I was so sick and delirious that Kristen made me go to Urgent Care. From there I spent Wednesday through Sunday recovering to the point I am now.

Did I have Zika? Was it something else? What was it? The truth is we’ll never know for certain because I wasn’t tested for anything because I’m not high risk for complications, only pregnant women are. I had most of the symptoms of it but among my symptoms are a bunch of other possibilities, all with the same treatment of rest and hydration. Frankly it doesn’t matter!

Getting Sick Isn’t the Point

Going is the Point. 

You could get sick with the flu at home. You could get food poisoning on a cruise. There will be places in the United States to contract Zika (or worse) soon enough. The simple fact is, for me, that getting sick on a mission trip bears no consideration from future involvement. I wasn’t thrilled with being sick, I certainly don’t recommend it as a way to lose weight, but all-in-all I’d rather go in obedience than accept the risks of disobedience.

We don’t do missions because we want to see the world or try new foods or experience new cultures or take risks.

We do missions work because God sends us to be His hands and feet.

About that Trip

17 ministers from 15 North American ministries spent last weekend visiting with church leaders in Southern Haiti.

Together we explored the possibility of ministry partnerships that may manifest itself as a short-term mission trip or even deeper, like a church-to-church partnership that conjoins two sister churches to walk together in common purpose, we even saw one team member returning feeling a call to begin a non-profit to help fund teachers in rural schools where teachers regularly work without payment of any kind. (The going wage for a professional, certified teacher is $125/month!)

The headline to this story isn’t that I got sick.

The headline is:

Six Years After the Earthquake God’s Mission to Redeem Haiti is Running Full Speed Ahead and You Are Invited!

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haiti

Zika and Haiti and Why You Should Still Go

In April I’m going with a group of youth workers from around the United States who are interested in bringing teams from their church to Haiti… but need to go check it out first.

Since that last post, the zika virus has become a front page news story. The impact of the virus itself, from what I understand, is relatively mild as far as viruses go. (Malaria is more common, dengue is more dangerous, chikungunya is more painful.) But the potential impact on unborn children has the potential to be absolutely devastating. There are governments encouraging families to not get pregnant if they live in an infected area, even the Pope weighed in this week, relaxing the Catholic Church’s strict prohibition on contraception: ” “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one [Zika], such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

As of right now there is not a travel warning for Haiti related to the Zika Virus. But there is a Level 2 travel notice from the Centers for Disease Control providing travelers to infected areas with information on how to avoid contracting the  virus. These precautions get personal… sexual even… and that, I’m sure, is bringing about caution on traveling to anywhere that might be infected.

We Will Be Cautious

This is the great advantage of working with the local church in Haiti through Praying Pelican Missions. You will be the guest of local ministry leaders, people who are living with zika every day, who will go above and beyond to make sure that every detail of the trip is well thought out and safe for you. This extends far beyond mosquitos! Where you sleep, what you eat and drink, where we travel… all of these things are done in a way that manages the risk for you.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick. But as someone who has been to Haiti a number of times I’m much more worried about a participant getting sick from dehydration than I am anything else. (Kidney failure is a big deal!)

We Must Go Because We Are Sent

When it comes to risk and the American fascination with risk abatement, I like to keep things in proper perspective. We don’t do missions work because we want to. We don’t do missions work to see stuff or to check off a box that says “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” We do missions work because we are sent by God to be the hands and feet of Jesus. When we lift up the local church by providing encouragement (and empowerment) for a pastor’s vision we are also partnering with the God who is big enough to see the big picture, powerful enough to prevent harm, and wise enough to allow us to trust that His ways are much safer than our ways.

When I think about doing something risky in response to His calling, I think the risk is not going.

There’s still time to join the Haiti Vision Trip in April. Click here for more info

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haiti

Go to Haiti with me this April

I have remembered. 

The earthquake of January 12th, 2010 brought the world’s attention to Haiti. The Western world had become comfortable, casual even, in referring to Haiti as a place of political instability and extreme poverty. Phrases like the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere rolled off the tongue easily and most Americans had very little working knowledge of Haiti’s rich history, culture, and importance.

And yet the volume of destruction on January 12th kept the media’s attention much longer than a typical news cycle. With an estimated 100,000-150,000 killed, many more injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and an entire nation impacted in some way, the world wanted to know what to do.

Governments responded.

Large NGOs responded.

And in February 2010, I joined a group of youth ministry bloggers on a trip to begin seeing how North American churches might respond.

Since that trip, tens of thousands of North American’s have gone to Haiti to do short-term missions work of one variety or another.

As I reflect back on that very first trip the thing that has stuck with me, the phrase I heard as much as any other, was: “Don’t forget about us.”

So I’m pleased to report that we’ve not forgotten. While I can’t speak for anyone other than my house we have remembered Haiti. 

Friends, the Haitian Church is Strong

IMG_1723.JPG

Much more has awoken in Haiti since January 12th, 2010.

In the immediate aftermath, in the hours, days, and weeks between the terrifying moments of the earthquake and when the emergency aid began to arrive from around the world, the church sprang to action.

Several Haitian pastors have told me that this was a seminal moment for them. The church in Haiti had largely been silent, meek even. It was active but under the radar. But when God’s people saw how He worked through them to meet the needs of the masses they were encouraged that they didn’t need to be quiet anymore. As I’ve written about over and over– when the walls crumbled thousands heard the call of Jesus on their life. Many gave their lives to Jesus because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And a Haitian culture who had long depended on voodoo priests and priestesses to keep them safe were quite aware that while the church took care of people, loved everyone, voodoo was largely silent.

Those forces combined to unleash what we see today. A strong, growing, and vibrant Haitian church.

Haiti is Beautiful

Just felt like sharing this moment with the people back home…

Posted by Mel Trollman on Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Over the past six years I’ve made several trip to Haiti. I’m there just enough to see the progress unfold. Mission work in 2010-2012 mainly focused on post-earthquake relief and restoration under the direction of the local church. Beginning in about 2013, short-term mission work shifted it’s efforts to helping local churches meet the needs of rapidly growing congregations. Churches grow and divide to plant more church, grow and divide, grow and divide, and so on.

And just like my trips to Haiti have witnessed this project I’ve had the opportunity to push further and further out from Port-au-Prince to see more and more of God’s work.

And everywhere I go I’m left with this reality: Haiti is beautiful.

The geography is beautiful.

The culture if beautiful.

The people are beautiful.

The language is beautiful.

The food is beautiful.

The church is beautiful.

I’m trying to tell you… it’s beautiful. 

Come With Me

As I’ve been involved in Haiti for the past six years I’ve met lots of church leaders who are intrigued, who feel a tug to get engaged with Haitian churches, but are just stuck in knowing what to do next.

That’s why I continue to put my time and energy into vision trips. I believe that partnering with Haitian churches will transform you, the people who go with you, and your entire church. (I’ve seen it over and over!)

But I also know that Haiti is a place you’ll probably need to visit for yourself before you can approach your church (or youth group parents) about going.

So that’s why I’m inviting you to come to Haiti with me on April 2nd-5th, 2016. Together we’ll travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to check out ministry opportunities. My friends at Praying Pelican Missions will handle all of the logistics.

Literally, your only responsibility will be:

  • Show up at the Port-au-prince airport on Saturday April 2nd around noon.
  • Come with a willing heart.

They’ll take care of your transportation, housing, and together we’ll spend four days visiting local churches and exploring what a short-term trip might look like for your church, young adults, youth group, or even a group of families.

Are you interested? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email or leave me a comment and let me know.

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haiti

Haiti is Beautiful

Forget this narrative:

Haiti is a dangerous, politically unstable, corrupt, and voodoo worshipping country. It’s the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, a virtual pit of foreign aid, and a place to be avoided.

That’s a pre-2010 narrative. That’s like saying you shouldn’t go to Tijuana because of gang violence. There’s truth in the claim but not context to validate that opinion.

There is a new narrative in Haiti that I want to ask you to consider: Haiti is beautiful

Last week, I made my 8th trip to Haiti since 2010. And in those trips I’ve actually never seen the pre-2010 narrative validated with my experiences.

“Haiti is Dangerous”IMG_2986

On the local level I’ve never heard of a violent crime against a Western visitor. I’ve heard of a few petty crimes like pickpocketing or even getting yelled at about something. But I can’t think of an incident where I experienced being “in danger” anywhere in Haiti.

For a North American visitor, particularly accompanied by a Haitian, Haiti is no more dangerous than where you live in the United States. (It’s probably safer)

I would counter the “Haiti is dangerous” narrative with “Haitians are generous.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed the generosity of my Haitian friends… and even strangers. I have a terrible habit of setting things down and forgetting them. (Water bottles, backpacks, camera equipment, etc.) These things are always returned to me!

“Haiti is politically unstable”

IMG_2961Like other developing nations, Haiti has experienced military coups. Several times in its history the United States has sent troops or occupied parts of Haiti, really the U.S. has a weird history with Haiti. But it’s been 11 years since the last serious bout of instability.

Right now, the parliament in Haiti is dysfunctional but not unstable. Some elections didn’t happen on time, the majority of members of parliament had their terms expire, which left the parliament unable to operate properly for a period of time. But there are parliamentary elections coming very soon.

So unstable isn’t the right term– and definitely not dangerously so. I mean, have you seen the U.S. Congress lately? I’d say we’re equally dysfunctional.

Haiti is definitely different than the United States in the size and function of local government. Things we take for granted just don’t exist. But I wouldn’t label any of that as politically unstable, more like the local government is severely underdeveloped.

Rather than the “Haiti is political unstable” narrative I would challenge you to accept a new idea that “Haitians are hard working, industrious partners.” Yes, billions of dollars in foreign aid have been wasted at the government and agency level. But locally? A new breed of church-to-church partnership is strengthening the local church and meeting localized needs.

“Haiti is corrupt”

Pastor Jean Delcy - Photo by Sang Peiris
Pastor Jean Delcy – Photo by Sang Peiris

I’ve never seen evidence of this in my trips there as I’ve worked with church leaders.

Everyone in Haiti is aware that the vast majority of post-earthquake foreign aid never went to address the needs of the people. “Where is the money?” was a question asked by everyone. There have been protests and inquiries and all point to corruption. But, again, I would challenge you to look at the local level where you’ll see another story.

Instead of allowing the narrative of “Haiti is corrupt” I would encourage you to think about “Haitians encourage strong local leadership.” As we saw last week with Pastor Jean Delcy, a local leader has the ability to get things done with or without government aid by establishing healthy long-term relationships.

“Haiti is a voodoo worshipping country”

Yes, voodoo is an active religion in Haiti. Like other areas in the world it is somewhat syncretized with Catholicism. Whereas, in  the United States most Protestants would have no problem lumping Catholics together to say we’re together “Christians” this isn’t normally the case in Haiti.

Since the 2010 earthquake Protestant Christianity has seen a dramatic increase in Haiti whereas voodoo has taken a hit. So you can replace the “Haiti is a voodoo nation” narrative with a more accurate “Haitians know Christianity brings good news.” One pastor said that the earthquake provided a wake-up call to the Haitian church. They didn’t have to be shy, they just had to serve people and that’d open doors for the Gospel to spread. I find this correlation between acts of service as evangelism refreshing!

“Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere”

IMG_2964OK, this remains true. If you are talking about economic development Haiti is absolutely the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

As Americans we equate economic poverty to all kinds of poverty when that’s not the case. As if our “having it all” somehow addresses every deficiency.

A first time visitor is usually overcome by the visual signs of poverty. But as you get on the ground you realize something quite quickly– while Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, there is something here which reveals great wealth among the Haitian people.

I would encourage you to replace the “poorest nation” narrative with “Haitians are proud to be the first independent nation made up of former slaves.” In Haiti, I don’t see poor people. I see a proud people.

“Haiti is a place to be avoided”

Photo by Sang Peiris
Photo by Sang Peiris

When you combine all of these narratives most people seem to put it all together in a nose crinkling way, “Haiti is just a place to be avoided.”

Americans like things to be pretty simple. Most of us want to travel to places that make sense to us, that fit within our existing framework of understanding. This is why people go on cruises to other countries instead of just traveling to those countries. They want the illusion of having been somewhere without… you know… actually leaving a cruise-line owned compound where everyone speaks English and their all-inclusive wristband is a form of currency.

Haiti isn’t the microwaveable meal that a trip to Puerto Vallarta can be. You aren’t going to get a guide book and rental car and just figure it out. It’s more like the first time you tried sushi– you’ll need some help understanding what everything is and what you like. It’s full of juxtaposition. You’ll meet people who live in a home with a dirt floor but don’t have a spot of dirt on their clothing. You’ll spend a day volunteering to clean up a beach full of garbage, rancid seaweed, and human waste— then go 20 minutes down the road to discover the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen in your life.

Haiti isn’t McDonald’s traveling. It’s harder than that. But there’s a richness to Haiti that you won’t find anywhere else. When you hang out with people who go back again and again you’ll discover that Haiti is kind of addictive. It reminds me of a local fisherman who started selling sea urchin ceviche at our farmers market a few years back. At first, he had to give it away because it was outside of our American palette. But when you tried it you discovered something. Sure, it’s a new flavor. But when you tried it you discovered a new delight.

I want to challenge you to reconsider the “Haiti is a place to be avoided” narrative with a new one: “Haiti is beautiful.

It’s time for you to see for yourself

If you follow this blog you already know I’ve got a deep love for Haiti and what God is doing in Haiti through His church. I want to invite you to consider going on your own or even taking a team of students or adults. I’ve invested tons of time and resources in vetting the ministry of Praying Pelican Missions and their work in Haiti. I know them, their leadership, and their philosophy well… which is why I recommend them.

If you want to know more about their work please fill out the form below. Also, feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment here. (My next open trip will be in April 2016. Join me!)

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haiti

The Remarriage of Physical to Spiritual Renewal

One of the great sins of Western short-term ministries is bringing our bad habits and presenting them somewhere else as healthy.

In the United States, the local church has largely recast itself as a place of spiritual renewal. The message of Jesus Christ in our cities and towns largely remains in the 6 inches between our ears. We preach about renewing our hearts, our minds, our relationships, our marriages, and investing in the spiritual lives of our children.

Yet we’ve largely abandoned our larger, more holistic mission whereby Jesus renews all things, bringing “Good News to the Neighborhood”. (John 1) Instead we allow and depend on the State or the individual to meet our physical needs to the point where we’ve forgotten that the churches greatest movements of growth in the early church were because we became known as the people who looked after the sick, the poor, the widows, and orphans. It wasn’t bold preaching that took the Gospel to the ends of the earth in less than 75 years, it was meeting the physical needs of others.

The North American church is seen as successful if a lot of people show up, they have a big staff, and a big building.

Allan helping a young lady make a bracelet
But that’s like saying the Cleveland Cavaliers had a great season. Sure, they won a lot of playoff games… but they came up short of winning the championship… just like our churches come up short today.

We’ve divorced our ministries from meeting physical needs to the point that when we go on short-term mission trips we place meeting spiritual needs above physical needs.

And just like in a divorce, both parties eventually carry on. Things might be different but they’re never the same.

What Marriage Looks Like

Pastor Mario and his wife Amelda are experiencing their first trip in Haiti. I have a feeling they will be back.
One of the great reminders and great teachings of visiting Haiti is seeing a church who is still married to the full work of Christ.

The other night Jean Delcy told us about his ministry here in the Les Cayes area. After a successful career in a camp ministry and some other things, he moved about 20 minutes west of the city to a rural village of a few hundred people along the sea to create a beautiful place for Haitian families to come.

American’s come to EdenHaiti and are instantly drawn to the sea. When I arrived there was a magnetic pull, I had to see it. You can hear the waves crashing as soon as you open the car door and our ears are finely tuned to connect to the sea.

PPM staffer Caroline hanging out with the little girls during our construction project
What Jean Delcy learned when he got here was that the needs of the people were great… and since he was seen as a person of means… the people of the village started coming to him for help. Sometimes it was a small request, like a ride to town, or other times it was a bigger request like a 2 AM hospital run with a mother in labor only to have her deliver a baby in his backseat.

But these are his neighbors and he knows he can’t just ignore their needs. As he lived here longer he recognized more of their more basic needs. Such as,

  • Though the local fisherman can catch a lot of shrimp– enough to support their families, when they catch a lot they are at the mercy of the local buyer’s prices since they can’t freeze their catch. And since the buyer knows they can’t store the catch he pays a terrible price. There’s an urgent need and a huge opportunity for the community to freeze and store their catch so they can sell at a better market price.
  • Jean Delcy has started a school for the children, but the community is largely unable to afford proper education for all the kids, which puts them at greater risks for other issues. There’s simply more need there than he can currently reach.
  • Family planning is a major problem. It’s not unusual for a young woman to have her first baby at 14 years old. The average woman in the community has 6 children in her lifetime. In this case, he can see the problem and knows it’s impact on his community but lacks the resources needed to help in a big way.
  • While there is access to clean water in the community, there is virtually no sanitation for human waste. He has built 3 latrines, which is a start, but there is need for at least 27 more to meet the basic needs of the community to keep human waste out of the water, beaches, and oceans.
  • The communities greatest asset for fishing revenue and even the possibility of long-term investment by way of tourism or a related industry (condos, etc) is the beach and coastal access. They don’t have a pier for larger boats and currently the community is using the beach as their town dump and community bathroom.
  • Lastly, Haitian culture looks down on this community because it’s next to the sea. Haitian traditionally “turn their back to the sea” and use it as their dump. The villagers are mocked by others because they smell like the sea. Pastor is helping his community members see that what their culture sees as a liability is an asset to the rest of the world… Westerners LOVE the sea, coastal access, etc.

Steve Miller helps with beach renewal
And then, about 18 months ago, the local community saw the need for a church. After trying unsuccessfully to convince a Les Cayes pastor to take on this community as a satellite or church plant (of sorts) the community recognized the obvious: Jean Delcy was already their pastor. He was caring for their physical needs and influencing the community for good to the point where it was obvious that he could also be their spiritual leader.

It’s Time for a Remarriage

A pastor is just a fancy church word for a shepherd. This illustration of the sheep and the shepherd is the most often used descriptor of the role of the church leader in the Bible. (If we want to divorce something, we ought to divorce ourselves from the idea that a pastor is a profession speaker or CEO… there’s simply no way to twist the New Testament enough to get to that mindset, though many are so deeply intwined in it they’ll defend their role to the death.)

And in our churches, beyond a shadow of a doubt, our pastors love their “sheep.” They care for their families, they teach the word of God, they create and foster programs to reach more people spiritually and a whole lot more. Sure, there are bad pastors out there. But the vast majority are amazing people trying their very best.

But… but… BUT… we can’t forget that a shepherd does more than love the sheep… he looks after their needs.

This is one thing that’s missing. Most of our churches don’t really look after the full needs of our flock, we care far more about spiritual neediness than we do physical neediness. Church leaders aren’t trained to even access a communities needs or the physical needs of people in their church because they have a false assumption that there are other entities already doing that.

The Best of Short-Term Missions

Let’s be frank. Over and over again I hear short term-mission maligned because it’s seen as some form of tourism. And I stand in full-acknowledgement that there are bad short-term mission trips out there. But you simply cannot toss out the baby with the bathwater in this instance because we have more to learn than to give.

Yes, we have stuff to give. But we, as a tribe of leaders, must get out of our own ethnocentricity to learn from the success of Jesus’ church elsewhere.

Learn More

This week I’m in Les Cayes, Haiti sharing stories from a mission trip. Want to learn more about Praying Pelican Missions’ work in Haiti or explore bringing a group? Fill out the form below.