Haiti: A Week to Remember
Rachel Cordaro joined ECM on the last Service Trip to Haiti Feb 1-8. Her experience reveals the world that opens up when fear is set aside and we invite the unexpected. She shares that "Each day had its own beauty in pushing me to my limits from the lack of earthly comforts and new experiences to downright raw adventures."
"We prayed together and an unsaid impact was visible on all our faces after we lifted our heads and opened our salty wet eyes. We exhaled as we climbed down the mountain and another day was a notch on the belt.”
Ordained By God Written By Rachel
I guess to properly tell this story I have to start at the beginning. It was July and my sister Faith was throwing a birthday party for my nephew Dominick who was turning 6 in the back yard. Naturally all our friends and family would come be a part of the celebration and pool party. What I didn't know was there on that hot summer day full of bounce houses, face painting and jungle themed cardboard cutouts God would begin a work in me. As we sat painting the kids faces "
A foreshadowing of the trip I didn't even know yet" An eager conversation arrived...Jake Fabry a long time friend and part of our church was telling Cordell about his recent trip to Haiti and the beautiful opportunity it has been in his life to be involved with Elevating Christian ministries. Their purpose is to be a Light for Jesus by breaking the cycle of poverty with income-generating projects. It is as simple as that! Jake gushed that he would be taking his next journey in August!
That was only a few weeks away and while Cordell and I agreed that was to soon to go he also mentioned that someday in the future Cheryl his wife was going to go. Standing at the edge of the deep end next to Cheryl I proclaimed "When Cheryl goes I'll go to Haiti." Cordell felt strongly that even tho we couldn't go on the quickly approaching trip to Haiti he wanted to do something to be a behind the scenes part of the trip in August. He worked diligently and created a small gospel comic and printed out about 100 and sent them along with Jake to be handed out!
Months passed and I got involved in a woman's book group through church. The book, Armor of God By Priscilla Shirer. It too was a puzzle piece to the calling on my heart to take the trip to Haiti and I didn't even know it. October came and Cordell and I decided to take a trip to Scotland for a week, It was a once in a lifetime opportunity his cousin was living there and he would be able to show us around and be our familiar face in an unfamiliar land! Again an unrecognized foreshadowing dropped down by God to be later understood. A large breathtaking prominent mountain named Arthurs Seat was the pinnacle of views in Edinburgh where we stayed. A popular climb for the tenacious tourist...The Scotts make it look so easy! The peek is approximately 823 ft. High and we climbed it! My armor of God book came along with me and even the cross-referencing of studying Ephesians 6:10-19 was beautifully woven into being placed in Scotland, a land where real armor was worn by knights and kings standing on legit battlegrounds of so long ago was under my feet.
Miles and miles Cordell and I walked unaware that God was preparing us then to be the hands and feet of Jesus when the day would come we would be walking miles on top of miles surrounded by quadruple the number of mountains in Haiti.
In Scotland, we both agreed the mountain was a symbol of God. A constant steadfast fortress that is always there visible and unmovable he will always be to any and all who call on him.
We arrived home safely from Scotland and the book was still not finished We would read a chapter and meet every Tuesday morning to watch a dvd session study to take away for the next week of reading! Week 5 was here and the chapter was called The shield of Faith. This is the point in my story when God switched gears in my heart and spoke to me so clearly. A video text came through to Cordell and I from Jake it was of the Haitian children reading the little book Cordell had made from the trip and we were delighted to see the fruits of the book touching them from so far away! We responded back expressing that sentiment and Jake replied "I sent that video back in August when I was there, that sure took a while to get to you!" In other words that video didn't arrive to us until almost a month late, no coincidence it was like God was prompting us to keep the trip to Haiti in our minds and we heard and were blown away by his intentional hints! Soon after that Jake told us that him and ECM would be planning the first mission trip to Haiti and said Cheryl was going and it would happen in February of 2018. That was 4 months away! It was clear Cordell and I had a decision to make. Or rather God had a decision to make because you see when God places something on your heart the act of obedience and the step of Faith is the end of you and the beginning of his blessings and thats when you see him work and I didn't want to miss that.
CLEARLY a mission trip to Haiti isn't quite as easy a commitment to agree to as say... a Target run or Starbucks for a grande misto.
But I felt so strongly that I wanted to be obedient to Gods calling and take a huge step. Faith is acting like God IS telling the truth and what God has called us to he WILL equip us for. By nature I don't volunteer myself to step out of my comfort zone... a worrier, anxious fearful tendencies sure Ive got those...But I knew that with God all things are possible and I felt him tell me this is the next step and I go before you. Cordell and I had a peace and a fire in our hearts to step out so we shook on it and texted Jake YES!!!! We didn't have the money figured out but we knew that if our hearts were willing God would supply the rest. Immediately after we agreed to go a text came through on my phone, it was a huge wholesale order from a stockist in Maine! Praise God he was already at work! An ECM fundraiser opportunity came to raise money for out trip and Cordell and I donated our artwork.
No surprise there God showed up and we hit our exact goal to cover our trip cost. The common thread that runs through this story is God can use anyone all you have to be is willing and he doesn't only call the qualified people who know all the fancy stuff or have credits in bible theology. He qualifies the called. Thank you Steven Furtick for quoting that little jewel! I have to be honest this trip was not like me, when I told my family we were going they were shocked and supportive. the Bible mentions a man named Gideon who was called to serve God, he was afraid and unsure he saw only his limitations and weaknesses. God told Gideon my strength comes from me choosing you.
WOW that was impactful. We were eager and ready.
The familiar jolt of plane wheels touching down gave me butterflies in my stomach we had arrived in Haiti. While getting our luggage we were greeted by James and Sarah the founders of ECM they are a beautiful couple who have been to Haiti several times as they do the work God has called them to. Here's a few things they have been blessed by completing so far.
Feeding 3,000 children daily nutritional meals
Building Kitchens & Bread Ovens
Building of Schools and Church Buildings
Local Jewelry assembly facility and employment
Teacher training and support
Building local income through a commercial grinder business
Water Well Repair and Installation
Solar Energy Initiative in remote villages
Local church outreach programs
Pastoral support and training.
James and Sarah quickly felt like a Mom and Dad on this trip calm cool and down to earth they stand in the background and don't want the spotlight, James told us his testimony on the first night and said "never to look at the man because humans can let you down always keep your eyes on the mission." I believe that James and Sarah's success comes from their obedient hearts to doing everything with that anthem and to bring honor to God first and foremost.
Exiting the airport we stepped onto Haitian soil for the first time. We were ushered through a walkway with tall fences on both sides and layers of curious spectators watched as a sea of white people passed through. It was hot and chaotic the sounds of Haitian music curled around us and my eyes began collecting snapshots of their culture and I experienced for the first time ever being the minority. Port a Prince is the capital and the largest city in Haiti in 2015 the cities population was estimated at 987,310 with the metropolitan area estimated at a population of 2,618,894. We arranged our group of 26 Americans and jumped in two pick up trucks and one van and headed North for the beginning half of out trip Gonaïves. The first thing I saw that hit me dead between the eyes was how different the culture was.
There was no order minimal if any traffic lights. In Haiti the largest vehicle has the right of way your horn is your blinker and you need to be vigilant behind the wheel! No infrastructure, gravel and potholes the size of ditches came up without warning under us. Garbage everywhere, livestock even seemed to be staring at me. Tiny huts and stands stationed all along the roads selling anything and everything. What I saw was poverty and garbage and a broken country what I also saw was strength.
We reached our hotel and quickly settled in. The morning greeted us with a distant or not so distance rooster call. Each day 7am. Was breakfast and the coffee was the best I've ever had! We piled into or should I say spilled out of the pick up trucks and got the open air experience as we sat on coolers in the back of our trucks giggling and wiping our dusty windswept hair from our mouths and eyes. Sun beating on us and the joyous comradery soon became our language it was the best! We were exposed to spectacles to the brown faces roadside. The words I claimed throughout this whole trip was "His Grace is Sufficient" I couldn't have done this on my own. He gave me the grace and strength to get through every moment.
Our group was such a blessing we were like a tight knit unit each person offered a unique and precious personality that God hand picked. Like the Avengers we all carried a special talent to offer the orphans that always greeted us warmly and accepted us and we played together laughed held hands and in return they filled our hearts. We gave them food and they gave us so much in return. I will never forget the first stop was St. Martin a school. When we arrived you wouldn't even know there were children there It was so quiet. Little by little the sounds of children came to a crescendo and the sight of beautiful lively faces came pouring out of the concrete frames of the school rooms! White ribbons and barrettes caringly sat atop the sweet girls hair and the green and white plaid dresses twirled all around us! The boys where equally stunning in their similar green and white collard matching uniforms. A textile I will never forget! They excepted us and we were fortunate to be in their presence! I couldn't find Cordell and I stepped up into a quaint cool classroom of tiny faces all at attention there was Cordell standing at the front of the square room leading a prayer to bless the day and Arlin one of our translators echoing it to the sweet attentive faces.
That first day we made things with our hands together like beaded necklaces, coffee filter and pipe cleaner butterflies, flowers and glasses. pretty much anything and everything you could make with such divers materials. We painted hundreds of tiny finger nails, at the end of each play time we were usually covered in sparkles and our hands blue and purple from face paint. All the while making sure to lock eyes with theirs with my hand on their chest to whisper "Jezi renmen ou" Jesus loves you. The guys put on a show with high stakes soccer. Lots and lots of soccer!
Saturday was the day on our itinerary that we would drive a long dusty dirt road in a remote rural place called Drouin. Jake and Mike our leaders explained It was one of the most poor villages. The night before we had filled big ziplock bags of rice and beans to hand out. "Mesi" (thank you) rang out from their parched lips, some danced rejoicingly that they would have food that night. While others bashfully sent there offsprings up to the edge of our truck to receive their portion. Aero dynamic lollipops landed at their feet and hand made dolls placed in there cupped hands as they approached our trolling vehicles. As Saturday came to a close we flopped on our beds and fell fast asleep.
Sunday was here and this was the day we would take our two trucks and big 18 wheeler we named "The Douse" up the huge mountain to Terre Nueve. Did I mention it was a huge mountain? This was quite the trek complete with steep winding rocky paths, tight turns that you would rather cover your eyes for and steep drops of soaring views of the land below both nerve-racking and breathtaking.
We finally arrived at the Church service that sat so high up on that mountain. A large white and blue brick church. We had the privilege to worship the same God in one voice but different languages together. My brother got to speak over the congregation and It washed my dusty cheeks with content speechless tears. Outside the church a looming tree grows with very large roots an eerie tree is an understatement. We learned the people refer to it as the "devil tree".
Every Sunday the village men who don't believe in God or practice voodoo will nestle in the roots and sit cursing the church. These men didn't seem to be casually chatting or even resting, they were spectators perched like crows watching us and the church. I looked right into their eyes un afraid and without judgment we did what we came to do, We served the whole church a meal, played with the children and helped build benches. We brought food to the men on that tree because they are loved as much as the tiny baby laying across his mamas lap inside the church by God.
Monday was prayer mountain we climbed up a peek that had a large cross and triangular tin roofed shelter that looked like a sculpture the way it stood with such a purpose against the stoic mountainous backdrop. We crawled up one by one finding the proper footing amongst the pink and white shale rocks. A sweet melody paired with non comprehendible words rang from their mouths with hands held high these people had claimed first dibs on the holy Realestate! They made room for us and we shared the sky sending out praise to the heavens! We prayed together and an unsaid impact was visible on all our faces after we lifted our heads and opened our salty wet eyes. We exhaled as we climbed down the mountain and another day was a notch on the belt.
We transitioned to our next hotels and woke up Tuesday ready for the next mission! We arrived at another school this was one of the locations that James and Sarah had just put in a bread oven and was showing the people how to work it and make the bread! As James grinded up the wheat into fine flour and mixed the ingredients lovingly our group did what we do best...loved on them orphans! At this point we had been low on materials to entertain with and I saw the truest form of creativity that day!
As I looked around in the speckled shaded courtyard full of youth I saw games being made up using rocks and sticks like hop scotch and toss the rock in the square, duck duck goose and volleyball. I taught the children how to say our alphabet and how to count in English with chalk in hand as I stood in front of a class. My brother Jesse told bible stories as Cordell sketched it out on the chalk board while Arlin exclaimed it in Haitian Creole to the pupils! The three of them worked as a team and went from room to room sharing the stories!
Wednesday was here a hot one for sure! We drove to a river and saw primitive wooden boats bobbing in the water with men holding very long wooden sticks. Without batting an eye we climbed in! We crossed the river with goats in tow yup I just said that! The goats were to give to people in desperate need and there on the other side a Donkey would carry our bags of rice and beans to also hand out.
We walked through the woods of palm trees and banana trees and open clearings of crops lovingly tended too. A man stood off in the distance his silhouette looked frail and beaten down by the hard life he led drenched by the days heat and never expecting what followed. Just then my brother bent down unzipped his book bag and pulled out a pair of sneakers, he ran over to that man and fell at his feet placed the shoes on his worn feet and stood to meet his eyes. The mans gaze welling with tears and red said it all. The verse that Matt Fabry quoted later that night was Matthew 25:40 "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, Ye have done it unto me. When you do an act of kindness to the poor and needy you are doing it unto the Lord! That is the bottom line right there! To show the love of God to all.
That evening as the sun was low in the sky we relaxed poolside and ate a delicious meal made by Nikaisson's mom Claudette! The last of the trips magic was sprinkled on our group as we sat poolside taking turns reflecting on the trip sharing special moments we encountered. Laughter and sweet tears took turns as each sweet personality expressed their experiences. God produced fruit that trip in each one of our hearts a fitting realization as we sat under an abundant thriving mango tree.
Thursday was the closing day we packed up our rooms and left our translators our brothers behind and headed to the airport. We all communicated the same sentiment without even speaking as we bobbed around on the last bumpy ride through the country we now made room for in our hearts. We left a piece of us there and decided it is merely impossible to leave Haiti without a dream!
As I sit here at my laptop in America days later I can finally articulate what this trip was to me. Each day had its own beauty in pushing me to my limits from the lack of earthly comforts and new experiences to down right raw adventures.
I felt myself stretching on all accounts emotinally, physiologically and physically an uncomfortable but necessary ingredient for this trip. I soon caught a pattern in my handling of the things I witnessed... I adapted. I'm telling you I couldn't have done it without God. I give him all the honor! Sometimes I would cry from Gods goodness as our team sat together every evening and sang worship songs to the strum of a soft acoustic guitar. While other times I would cry from a broken heart seeing the conditions of life in Haiti, hearing from our translators and their stories and what they want for their country in the future. I felt for them and was made stunningly aware of the strength Patrick, Arlin, Nikaisson and Osner had. With sweating palms and shaking voices we prayed over them and asked for a revival in their country. They had been living in poor conditions their whole life and they were the ones giving me strength and encouragement.
They are my brothers and I will never forget them.
Rachel Cordaro's story comes from her personal blog where you can read more, see her artwork, and join her adventures.