As I am being challenged lately to write I had a fortuitous event. While commenting on an excellent blog post by Pastor Nate I accidently logged into this well-intentioned but never-started blog. So here goes, post #1
I have been spending some time reflecting lately on the regrets I seem to dwell on from the past. I have a lot of “shoulda, woulda, couldas”. Mostly when I think about Haiti, I often beat myself up over the risks I haven’t taken, the things I haven’t done, the help I could have provided. But I rarely take time to reflect on the good that has happened in nearly 20 years of serving my dear friends in Haiti. It’s easy to wish we did more or did better, but tough to honestly reflect on the good. Obviously I have personal successes and failures, but I’m talking specifically about Hut Outreach in Haiti.
In 19 years we have sponsored a total of 6 college students’ tuition, both here in the US and in Haiti. But, more importantly, many more students have been sponsored through friends and family of ours. This happened as a direct result of people we know taking the risk to go to Haiti on a mission trip. As I think about this, more and more faces come to mind as I realize the impact that going to Haiti has made on so many lives. An agriculture student who now plans and oversees the famous gardens of a major US city, another who has a wonderful job on the East Coast. A successful manager and family man living in Canada, a medical student, an entrepreneur in Toledo… the list goes on. These lives are completely different because of prayer, support, and the opportunity for education.
In Haiti, Hut Outreach owns a beautiful 2.5 acre plot of land on a major road, it’s easy to find and centrally located to serve many people. Many people don’t know this story but buying that land was an incredible exercise in faith. Our teams had walked past the run-down property for years, it never even caught our eye. Then about 5 years after our first trip we noticed it and walked around. We started to dream. The property was a hotel but had been vacant for over 20 years. The buildings had been vandalized and looted. Tiles, plumbing pipes, conduit and fixtures had all been stripped. All that remained were dirty concrete shells where buildings once were. The property was overgrown and needed serious TLC. A man approached us and introduced himself. Romanis had worked as the property manager years before and continued to live there long after the hotel closed. He was in touch with the owner and knew that he had family in Detroit! We began to seriously look at this land as the future Hut Outreach youth center, a dream that my dad had since the very first trip.
We went home and contacted the daughter of the land owner. Yes he wanted to sell, but there was no price set at that time. Months went by and when we got back to Haiti, our dear friend Toto explained that he had spoken with the owner and Romanis and he had the asking price, $160,000. At the time our donations were about $15,000 per year. Later that night we sat around talking, dreaming, but also talking ourselves right out of the dream. It was too risky, too big, too many unknowns. I had pretty much written off the whole idea as too crazy when our friend Pierre arrived. Pierre is a Haitian pastor who leads a big youth group in Les Cayes. Pierre had a typed out paper that he gave us. It was big, it was risky, it was just dreams. He said that God told him he needed to type it up and give it to us, on that day.
The list described his dream, a place for the Messengers of Hope (his youth group) to meet, preferably on Charpentier because it was a good central location. The land was on Charpentier. He wanted a big meeting room, check. Space for gardening and animals, check. Space for soccer and other recreation, check. Rooms for visiting youth to stay, check. This dream started to look very much like ours. Aaron, me and my parents just looked at one another, stunned, we had to do it now.
When I think back to that day I remember the fear of $160,000. Knowing we did not have donations to cover it, we didn’t have personal money to spend either. But we had faith that God sent Pierre that day. Pierre was the catalyst that made the dream of the center come true.
You may be wondering what is sakpala? My favorite Haitian proverb is “Sak pa la pedi sou pa yo.” It means if you aren’t there you will lose what was set aside for you. We use this proverb often in Haiti when someone shows up after dinner and all the good stuff is gone, “sak pa la” we tell them, laughing. But it’s true in all our lives, isn’t it? If we don’t show up we will never know what we miss. If we don’t risk everything we will never know what it feels like to have a dream come true.