Twelve years ago, I had the privilege of getting my world rocked by experiencing, first-hand, what life is like in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I was 20 years old and joined the WMPC summer mission trip as a “chaperone” for a week and then stayed for another seven weeks working as a summer intern for Haiti Outreach Ministries.
Anyone that has ever been to Port-au-Prince remembers their first ride from the airport to wherever they are staying. Whether it’s 10 minutes or 3 hours, it doesn’t matter. It’s your first glimpse of Haitian life and it sticks with you forever. Even to this day – I can smell it, taste it, hear it, and feel it. I love getting in a tap-tap (Haitian version of taxis) with someone who has never been there before and watching them take it in. How to describe it? Shocking. Overwhelming. Scary.
I can remember, during my first 24 hours there, feeling as far removed from my comfort zone as I had ever been up until that point in my life. Completely in awe of the poverty and desperation in front of me. How do they live like this?
But then a day goes by. You play soccer with some high schoolers who you realize aren’t that different from American teenagers. You smile and wave at elderly ladies carrying fruit or water above their heads down the street as you zip past them on your tap-tap. You have lunch with a Haitian construction team and everyone giggles when you practice the two or three phrases of Creole you memorized on the airplane. You attend Sunday worship with them and they make you feel welcome. It doesn’t take long before you fall in love with the place. You fall in love with the people. You fall in love with the children. And the mission. They need our help.
There are so many things that I love about White Memorial, but nothing makes me prouder than the way our church embraces outreach. Haiti is where my loyalty lies, but it’s only a small piece of the pie in relation to the broader reach of our church. Poland, Santuario, Habitat, StepUp – the list goes on and on. We find different missions, we develop relationships and partnerships, and we truly make a difference. None of this is possible without your support and generosity for people that need our help, both near and far.
I’ve been back to Haiti five more times since 2010. We’ve recently had to pause our mission trips there because of the pandemic and civil unrest in Port-au-Prince. But in no way does that mean White Memorial’s support has tapered off. WMPC continues to show up, year after year, because you the congregation make it possible. Trust me, the need on the ground in Haiti isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But the impact we are having down there is real and measurable, and again, that doesn’t happen without our congregation’s commitment to love and serve our mission partners.