By Tari Holtorf, Regional Director of Advocacy - Mountain States A few months ago, I had the privilege of experiencing my first trip overseas since joining World Orphans. With all of the preparation and anticipation of going on a trip, much of that is preparing your heart for what you will see and experience. I have experienced many other mission opportunities throughout my life but was curious to see the WO church-to-church model in action.
Upon arriving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we piled ourselves like sardines into our van and made our trek across town which sometimes took hours in the hot, steamy day. Driving over potholes, through puddles and narrowly avoiding several collisions, we were stepping into the daily life of a Haitian.
Streets were filled with men, women and children finding a means to survive for the day. Whether that was selling mangos, icy sodas or shoes, there was no question in my mind about their work ethic, commitment to care for their families and desire to live a better life.
Finally we arrived at Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan, the church of Pastor Wilson Chery near the epicenter of the devastating earthquake. This church partnership is unique in that after the earthquake, Lakewood Church in McAlester, OK, contacted the WO office and asked what they could do to help. They immediately developed a partnership with Pastor Chery's church and now after almost a year, the Lakewood team was finally getting the opportunity to meet their Haitian church partner face-to -face.
After gathering chairs from around the property, we formed a circle and sat down with Pastor Chery and our interpreter and country director, Ron Watson. Pastor Chery began to share his heart. He said “like a mother patiently waits and anticipates the birth of her new baby, they also have been patiently waiting and anticipating the arrival of the Lakewood team. Now that day has finally arrived!” In that moment, I realized the value of the relationship between church partners. It is real. It is meaningful. It is beautiful.
We experienced an incredible week of ministry with the children and the church members, including wonderful hospitality even though they didn’t have much. The week was full of relationship-building between the children, parents, teachers, and church. On the final day, we said our teary good-byes and, with anticipation, they asked when the Lakewood Church would return to Haiti. Both churches were already looking forward to their next visit!
The next morning, we met downstairs in the Haiti guesthouse to leave at 6 a.m. for the airport. To our surprise, standing in the dining room was a smiling Pastor Chery! He had left his house at 4 a.m., caught a ride with a friend, and travelled on a tap-tap (their public transportation) to arrive at the guest house. All to send us off one more time!
We are shocked and teary as he presented the Lakewood church with gifts to bring home; a Haitian flag, a beautifully stitched banner with both churches names on it to hang in their church in Oklahoma, handmade hair ties and decorated linens. We had seen several women all week working on these for hours but we didn’t know that they would be presented to us. They demonstrated so much love and appreciation to us all week and this was a humble final blessing to the team.
I am still overwhelmed with the beauty of a church partnership lived out. There are many benefits of this relationship all over the world and they each look different. That is the beauty of the church. In each community, in whatever country, we can all come together in partnership to live out the cause of Christ and defend, care and rescue the orphan. This is our mission.