By Bailey Kalvelage | Director of Mobilization
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of blogging. While reading blogs can be fun, I’ve never been one for thinking that people actually want to know what I think or about my life. So, naturally, when it’s my turn to blog I feel both a sense of privilege, to tell the stories of our trips, but also a sense of dread, in the vulnerability that is blogging.
This blog is particularly personal for what follows is the story of my very first trip to Haiti and my first trip with World Orphans while being on staff: my thoughts, feelings, and simply what I saw. I run the risk that you might not care, which I totally get, but in a world where I’m constantly reading how unnecessary and harmful short-term mission trips are, for once I feel compelled to tell my story. Because my trip was beautiful…
A little background: I traveled to Haiti and teamed up with my co-worker, Kevin (top-notch teacher, discipler extraordinaire), and a group of young adults (also top-notch) that formed a team from Temple Baptist Church of Mississippi, to serve alongside Pastor Thony of Eglise de Dieu de la Bible. My goal was to experience one of our teams, church partnerships, and trips in action, so that World Orphans can continue to guide and improve how we send short-term teams.
During our first day at Pastor Thony’s church, the leaders of this partnership met in 95-degree heat, underneath an overhead tarp held up by a few wobbly posts (watch your head!), and kids running around everywhere. I watched as these leaders laughed, cried, and shared their hearts. The US church listened as Pastor Thony shared the joys and struggles of the past year, including a 2,000 person revival, the need for a bigger building so that more people can be discipled, the pain of having to abstain from visiting the sick, and hurting for lack of resources.
As I listened, I realized that I was the only one not crying. Now before you think too much about that, let me explain: All of the sudden, I realized that in front of me was the bond of partnership that had been cultivated and deepened over YEARS of ministering together. It hit me that these churches are one in the Lord, so much so that they share each other’s joys and sorrows, laughter and tears.
What started as a partnership aimed at helping 20 kids has turned into so much more! Now, the gospel is impacting hundreds of kids, families, and their entire community. Medical care is being given to those that may have never seen a doctor in their life. Spiritual discipleship is happening in the church, restoring hope. And yes, kids are being fed, educated, and loved in families!
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Yes, what I saw was this in action: a beautiful partnership.
Sitting inside a concrete building with a tin roof, this particular Sunday was unlike most for me. Shoulder to shoulder, and sweat-bead to sweat-bead with my new friends from Mississippi, we were the guests of honor at Eglise de Dieu de la Bible, or easier said, Pastor Thony's church.
As I sat swaying to words I didn’t understand, two kept being repeated over and over, “Merci Savior! Merci Savior!” (Or thank you Savior!) My mind raced as I retraced the ride to the church: houses made of tin, concrete and cardboard, no clean or running water, people drinking water from tiny plastic pouches with no relief from 95 degree heat. Yet nevertheless, “Merci Savior!”
As the service continued, we straightened a little as the pastor began the offering, which was followed by a community offering. Many team members didn’t hesitate to reach into their bags for a shiny new bill. The physical need around us was not hard to see and feel.
As I looked up, though, my eyes instantly swelled with tears. Slowly, bent over with a slow gait, a woman in her 60’s, wrinkled yet in her best Sunday dress, walked to the front and dropped money in the basket. Her love for her community was palpable in this moment. “This is the woman of Mark 12:41-44,” I thought. “Am I willing to give, to the point of not having what I need for myself, for the needs of others? For the Gospel?”
Micah 6:6-8 says, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,with calves a year old?Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.”
Thank you beautiful woman of God for being a testimony to us of how to love selflessly; thank you for teaching us how to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
I have to admit that coming into the trip I was a bit skeptical. First of all, anyone who knows me can easily see that I look like I’m 13-years-old. So, hanging out with 17-20-year-olds has never been my preference; and second of all, I’ve read the criticisms of short-term missions and was crossing my fingers, hoping I wasn’t joining a team that would be perpetuating the problem.
My fears could not have been more misplaced. The plan for the week, done at the request of Pastor Thony, continued to unfold: three days of hosting a medical clinic, fun in the sun for kids to play and learn Bible stories, and English classes. And needless to say, I quickly became wrapped up in the warmth, love, and passion of these young adults. I quickly saw that in this trip God’s beautiful plan was at work.
As I listened to my new young friends talk in their distinctive southern draw and watched them serve, I learned that many had been to Haiti two, three, even four times because they love the Haitian people and want to be part of sharing God’s love with them. I met a young man planning to study business and was eager to learn about Haitian economics to determine whether starting a business in Haiti to support its stability and livelihood might be a good, helpful thing to do. I met three young women that spent a month just living with and learning from our friends in Haiti about their culture and how God is at work in their lives. And as I started putting all of these puzzle pieces together, I began to understand that there is a greater plan than just being part of a one week short-term mission to Haiti.
God’s beautiful plan is at work. God’s plan was at work as Pastor Thony opened the doors of his church to welcome his community in for professional care, prayer and medicine, and His plan is at work now as Pastor Thony continues to disciple his church long after we have returned home. God’s plan is at work in these beautiful young people as they continue to learn and grow into full adulthood with careers, friends, and communities within their reach. And God’s plan is at work as this partnership continues to seek Him in caring for children, their communities, and each other.
“Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you’… The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow” (Jonah 3: 1-2, 5).
Sometimes God’s plan unfolds quickly and sometimes it takes years, but after watching the bonds of this partnership in action, I’m confident that God’s beautiful plan is active and the Gospel is alive in hearts and minds as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work through this unified toiling.
So, if I could put it in a rather large nutshell, this would be it: this was my beautiful trip. World Orphans continues to book airline tickets for and assist teams just like this one to go and see their friends across the world. Please join me in praying for our World Orphans partnerships and their 2014 visits with one another. Please pray we will be unified in the Gospel, laying ourselves down for the cause of Christ and for the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, and beyond.
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Do you have a story to share from a short-term trip that’s impacted you?
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