This blog post was written by Women's Basketball sophomore about her summer trip to Haiti on a mission trip.
All I can say is that I have such an amazing God. My name is Emily Hafemann and I am a sophomore member of the Women's Basketball team at Concordia Wisconsin studying nursing. This past summer I was blessed with the incredible opportunity to travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti as a member of a short-term mission team. When people ask me about what that week was like, I can honestly say that the trip was more of a blessing to me than I could ever be to the people of Haiti.
Upon leaving Haiti, my heart was and still is overflowing with joy and the love of the Lord. Our journey began long before our flight left Milwaukee very early in the morning on June 20th, as we spent weeks preparing ourselves with important conversations, vaccinations, planning and advice. As a member of my church, Hales Corners Lutheran, we sent a team of 20 individuals down to an orphanage that we help sponsor in Haiti. At this orphanage, there are 30 kids, aged between four and 18. While there, we spent hours upon hours loving them and did any construction work that was needed around the orphanage. We also planned and ran two different sessions of Vacation Bible School (VBS).
The first session was for all of the kids in the surrounding community, outside of the orphanage. More than 300 kids showed up every single day! We are reaching out to these children in the community to expose them to Christianity, something they have never even heard of before. The second session that we ran was for our 30 kids in our orphanage. The primary religion of Haiti is Voodoo, so teaching the young children about Christianity through a language barrier was a very difficult task. We had a couple of translators who helped us communicate with and teach the kids, which was such a blessing. Each day we sang lots of songs, taught them a Bible story, and played games and did crafts that related to that story. We made crosses and bracelets with the kids and played games like Freeze Tag. The kids loved a game we created called "Jumping Limbo", where they would jump over streamer instead of climbing under it.
Some of my favorite memories come from the children and their love of being held. Their favorite word was "potem," which in English means "please pick me up." They loved going for rides on our shoulders and just being in our arms. I had one little boy who would fall asleep while sitting on my shoulders! Another thing that I loved was singing Christian songs with the kids. Their main language is Haitian Creole, but our kids know several songs in English, so we were able to sing along to these songs with them. They, in turn, taught us some songs in Creole. As they so often sang, "Jesus is not dead, no! He is alive! I feel it in my hands, I feel it in my feet, I feel it in my whole body!"
The kids love sports as well, so I played tons of basketball and soccer while I was there! Whenever either team would score a goal or make a basket, every single kid would run up and hug you, yelling and screaming so excitedly.
While in Haiti, I learned many things not only about the country, but also about myself. First, love speaks in every language. Despite the language barrier, the love between our kids and us was felt constantly. Love truly knows every language. Second, happiness is not a matter of belongings, but a matter of belonging. Despite having so little, the people of Haiti constantly remained some of the happiest and most grateful people I have ever met. The people of Haiti have a lot to teach us: to share what you have, that there is always room for one more, and finally and most importantly – how great is our God! The team I served with while there taught me so many things about our Lord and my journey in my faith.
No matter what we go through, there is a reason for all of it. Every high and every low, every hardship and tribulation has a purpose. God's plan is bigger. God's plan is greater. And while trusting His plan may be hard, it is the most important thing that you can do, because His plan is the greatest of all.
God works in very mysterious ways and all of the hearts that I came into contact with throughout my week in Haiti were living embodiments of God's never-ending and unconditional love. Overall, we didn't go to Haiti to fix it, end poverty, or to save the world, but to bring the gift of God's love through our presence there. Impact is incremental and personal, not immediate and global.
I am humbled and incredibly grateful to have been so privileged in this opportunity. God has lit a fire in my soul and I cannot wait to see where He takes me from here. We were safe and happy (and very very sweaty) in the Haitian sun all week long thanks to countless prayers and the security God assured for us. A piece of my heart will always be with our special children in the orphanage and the beautiful country of Haiti. Thank you Lord for this trip and the people who served alongside of me - I will never be the same. My life is changed and I will forever be grateful. I truly cannot wait to return and see our kids again someday. To anyone who is questioning whether a mission trip is a right step for you, if you are ready for your life to be changed forever, I highly recommend it.