By Brad Smith
Recently, I’ve returned from a place where I thought I’d never visit. The place is called Haiti, meaning “land of high mountains.” I knew of its existence, nestled alongside of the lush Dominican Republic, and I had heard of and prayed for the people of this land when they were rocked to their core from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January, 2010. But I never really thought about or had the desire to visit.
That was until I heard Jenny Jenkins, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, speak to the CBFVA meeting at the 2014 CBF General Assembly in Atlanta.
Her compassion and desire to be Christ’s presence in Haiti in whatever way necessary struck something within me. I thought about Jenny and Haiti on my return trip home, and decided that if God was leading our church to go to Haiti, then I would at least present that to our Missions Council. After working through the CBF Virginia Mission Exchange program, our trip to Haiti became a reality in April 2015.
When our small team arrived in Haiti, our anxieties were realized. Of course it was hot…it’s Haiti! But what we didn’t realize, was the amount of plight, lingering destruction, and copious amounts of people that were literally everywhere. While en route from Port-Au-Prince to Grand Goave, we sat quietly for two hours, taking in everything we saw. Occasionally, Jenny would say something about a particular area we passed through, but knowing the culture shock we were experiencing, she poignantly remained silent. As we rode through villages and communities, I really couldn’t absorb all I was witnessing. For two hours I thought, “Home is so very far away.”
Upon arrival in Grand Goave, we exited the van and began settling in for the week. Jenny’s staff was already hard at work making sure that our arrival would be met with hospitality and a warm welcome. Jenny and her staff went above and beyond our expectations, always there to help pronounce something in Creole or to aide in just about anything you needed assistance with.
Throughout our week, the team and I did health screenings in a local school, held backyard Bible camps for neighborhood children, taught English school, packed and distributed food bags to widows, cleaned and inventoried a medical/pharmaceutical depot, visited with homebound individuals, worshiped in Creole, and built school benches for children. Needless to say that on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours relaxing on the beach and eating lobster was a welcomed respite!
When our week was over, and we departed Grand Goave, I noticed that something had changed for me and our team. On our trek to the airport, I no longer saw the vast population, the trash piled and burning in the streets, nor the plight. Rather, I saw the beauty of the country, of the people, and of what God is doing in Haiti. For two hours, I cried and could not explain why. I’m sure the lady seated next to me on the plane wondered what sort of turmoil was going on in my life as she offered tissues to wipe my tears as we flew away from Port-Au-Prince.
Perhaps it was a new found understanding that occurred, perhaps it was a new found love of new friends, perhaps it was scripture coming to life; “I lift my eyes unto the hills – from where will my help come?” I know, and through people like Jenny Jenkins working in the “land of high mountains,” the people of Haiti are coming to know, that their “help comes from the Lord.”
As for Haiti, I told Jenny when I left… “be ready, I’ll be back soon!”
Brad Smith serves as senior pastor at The Memorial Baptist Church in Greenville, N.C.