In November 2019, I was blessed with the opportunity to make my fifth trip to Haiti, this time to serve as part of a team dedicated to listening to, and encouraging, community leaders.
On each return to Gens de Nantes I would notice small signs of progressive change in community life and general well-being, mostly due to increased access to resources, technology, and available work. This time, however, I could sense community life was different. There was less activity going on with fewer people on the road heading to market, or anywhere for that matter, and the ‘motos’ were almost silent. An audible and visible difference from 2 years ago. The ongoing unrest in the country has had major consequences on the economy, impacting everyone’s ability to live and earn a living. The effects of supply shortages, unemployment and poverty are daily struggles.
Since my first journey to Gens de Nantes in 2013, one common thread of each visit has been the privilege of getting to know the people of the community and building relationships. I was anxious to see some of those special faces again and hear how they have been getting on. During our few days in the community we focused our connections with the clinic, school and some community visits.
An afternoon at the clinic allowed us to re-connect with Dr Emmanuel, Nurse Ketley, Portelus the Lab Tech, other committed long-term staff, as well as meet some new staff and students in training. Dr Emmanuel shared about some of the challenges the clinic faces in providing care, and was appreciative that we had come to listen and encourage them. They knew they were not alone in their mission and were being supported in prayer.
The AEM elementary school is open but operating with a much smaller student population. School is not free in Haiti and many families simply have very little money. Teachers also are in short supply as there is no money to pay their wages. Because of their dedication to the children, some teachers still report to school everyday without the hope of a paycheque. At the school we were greeted with smiling young faces singing a wonderful song of welcome for our team. This was an emotional visit for me as my heart was burdened for the children of the community. I stepped away from the group and God led me to a quiet vacant classroom where I tearfully lifted before Him the lives of each student, current, past and future. Praying that He would guide them and their families through the difficulties of their daily lives and what currently seems a dim hope for the future. As I rejoined the group, my lamenting spirit was lifted as I engaged a classroom of primary students in some fun songs and an impromptu chalkboard lesson. Those children were a wonderful reminder that joy still lives in Gens de Nantes.
Our walk through the community re-connected me with Tanis, a previous student of my English classes who had a desire to become a nurse. While I was glad to see Tanis again, my heart was troubled to see that she was now a teen mother, living under her aunt’s roof and caring for her child. Her dreams of becoming a nurse now seeming almost impossible. I have been praying that God will make a way forTanisand her son to know His care and provision for their future.
Calex, a young boy with severe physical challenges, had made his way into the hearts of team member Lindsey, and several others, with his bright smile. Following the death of his mother in 2018, we had lost track of him and were unsure if he was still in the community. I was excitedly surprised to spot his face in a small crowd in the town square! I quickly called for Lindsey to come and then stood aside as the two of them enjoyed a tear-filled moment of recognition and reunion. His smile told us that he was deeply touched to be remembered by us.
Peti is special boy whose curiosity, intelligence and polite spirit caught my attention several years ago and we have enjoyed a special rapport ever since. Even as a young boy he displayed visible leadership qualities and was looked up to by the other boys. The last time I saw Peti, he was a young pre-teen. I now wondered if I would even recognize him as a teenager, or if he would feel any awkwardness towards me? We enjoyed a reunion of smiles as we spotted each other along the road – there was instant recognition and no awkwardness to my hug! My minimal Kreyol language skills failed me as we tried to chat, but thanks to a translation app on my phone I was later able to leave him with a written message of encouragement reminding him of the God-given gifts I have seen in him and the promises of Jeremiah 29:11, along with the assurance of my ongoing prayers.
These young people are representative of the future of Haiti, they are the ‘nouvelle generation’. Just like our young community partners Herlynda and Hernso were a few years ago, some of them may be the ones we will be partnering with in the years ahead, God willing. They are a precious resource in the community. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with their community leaders, as we partner not only to encourage each other through immediate challenges, but to work together towards a hope-filled future for these young people.
I have since traveled home and don’t know if God will ever take me back to Haiti, but I do know that I can trust that these young people and leaders are not forgotten by God. He knows each of their situations and their lives are in His hands. I remind myself, “God knows” and prayerfully anticipate how He may use each one.
GDN Leaders: Hernso, Herlynda, Dr Emmanuel, Nurse Ketley, Fre Richard, Pastor Macienne, Pastor Abdon