“Go and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:19-20 (MSG)
Bienvenue a Haiti! What a start to this incredible, transformational journey! This is Sam Taylor, one of the Charlotte folks and part of this Crosspoint Ministry team, coming to you live from the Choukoun at our guest house in Haiti. The Choukoun is a large, Haitian style gazebo (quite common across the country as a common area to gather), and it’s where we’ve spent and likely will spend a lot of our mornings, evenings, and down time while here. And if I could show you the view and let you feel the breeze, you’d know why. Granted, the occasional almond nut hits the roof of this place like a meteor from the Asteroid Belt and registers about 136 decibels, but other than that it’s quite tranquil. Oh, and then there’s the insect that’s the size of a small Volvo which has terrified Dawn, but I digress…let’s get back to the purpose at hand, shall we?
Day One (Fri, 21 July): Every Saga Has a Beginning
This was the travel day, and for Team Charlotte it constituted 15 consecutive hours of travel. We weren’t the rock stars, however - that award would go to Team Atlanta, who had a FOUR HOUR wait in Port Au Prince due to our flight being delayed out of Fort Lauderdale (but apparently that did afford them the opportunity to try Haitian spaghetti, which is a mixture of pasta, ham, mayonnaise, and ketchup…which is apparently amazing…). I do have to mention that the travel came with some “hiccups” - a name incorrect on a ticket (Kristyn’s “y” is tricky), two bag searches (who knew peanut oil was flammable?), one explosives search (not sure I would trust Dawn Moyer either), and a descent into Ft. Lauderdale that felt like something from Star Wars when they flew into the Death Star. However, it was all worth it, as one of the members of our team prayed the prayer of Salvation with the person sitting beside her on the flight!
Once we cleared customs, picked up all 14,789 of our bags, and smiled politely to the customs agent, we were ready to depart. The teams quickly met each other - 12 strong plus Angie (our missionary on the ground), and we then began the 2 hour drive from Port Au Prince to Grand Goave. The drive was INCREDIBLE - no other way to describe it. Passing through several sections of Haiti, the team was blown away by the scenes outside our windows.
Rivers completely clogged with trash. Markets with heaps of garbage strewn out in front. Houses made of cloth and corrugated metal. It was a lot emotionally to take in, and the bus ride was fairly quiet. That being said, it was also a fantastic opportunity to realize how incredibly blessed we are and how much suffering and hardship the people here endure on a daily basis. It also served as a frame of reference for what life is like here in Haiti, and we know that grounding will be crucial to our ability to connect with the locals.
Arrival at the guest house saw 11 girls packed into one room while the lone male (that would be me) had his own bathroom, fan, and double bed just down the way (please insert appropriate joke about suffering for the Kingdom here). We had a great welcome meal, introduced ourselves to each other, and called it a night about 10 PM or so (the power went out just as we broke for the evening - that was a bit of an adventure!). Luckily, we run on solar power during the day and use a generator at night, so we were back in action within minutes.
Day Two (Sat, 22 July): Inner Peace and Organized Chaos - both fruits of the Spirit
This morning kicked off about 7:15 with Alison’s #1 request - COFFEE (I’m happy to report it was plentiful and all was soon right with the world). The team had breakfast followed by 20 minutes of private, silent devotional time, reading God’s Word and speaking to Him directly as the Spirit led each of us. Sitting under the Choukoun in our rockers, watching the sun break the clouds and listening to the waves roll onto the shore, it was quite easy to settle into a peaceful mood, thereby allowing God to speak to each of us. While hot, the morning was breezy and actually quite pleasant, and I certainly came away from that reflection period centered and ready to start the trip in earnest.
Sawyer and Nicole (who really should sign a record deal somewhere because they are BOMB DIGGITY singers) then led us in worship. Again, this was a wonderful experience, as the team worshipped, sang, prayed, or just responded to the Spirit as the breeze blew through. It was a moment to “Be Still and know that I am God,” and coming out of it the team was energized and ready for the day. I had the honor of leading the first devotional, and after that we threw ourselves into organizing for the week. 60 minutes later - all the supply bags had been unpacked, sorted, resorted, and then repacked based on the location and date of use. This also gave us time to prep our Vacation Bible School plan, as that was the first featured activity of the day.
We then had a bit of downtime, and folks spent that hour either in a rocking chair or walking along the beach. I was one of the strollers, and I must say that the view was simply spectacular. Rounding the corner of the beach and seeing the cliffs drop into the ocean…simply majestic and powerful, a reminder of God’s canvas and how small we are. We met three little kids on the beach, filling their water jug and washing some clothes in the river runoff before it fed into the ocean. Some of the girls fell in with them to help wash, and the kids found that quite fun. While I’d had a few emotional moments already, that moment certainly resonated with me. I am a father of 2 girls, 1 four years old and the other seven months (today, actually). Watching those kids, barefoot and by themselves on a rocky beach in 90+ degree heat and doing chores, I realized again how blessed we are in the States. It was also an awakening for me, and a very appropriate one heading into 3 VBS appointments this week. To that point I’d always looked at this missionary journey through the lens of a prayer warrior, a soldier for God, and the hands and feet of Christ. However, I had always looked at those from the perspective of a “man finding his place.” When you look at those as a father, it’s a very different picture. That moment softened my heart and hardened my resolve to do everything we can to maximize our time in country, and I feel certain that was prevalent among the group.
After lunch, we made the 15 minute trek to the main campus in Grand Goave, where we kicked off this mission trip properly - with a 2 hour VBS!!! Let me tell you - THAT was an adventure.
So first off, let me praise Allison Mobley for laying out a fantastic plan (stations - that was the key). We rolled up to find about 80 kids (we were expecting 30) waiting for us, and it was GO TIME. So we immediately started pumping up balls, laying out snacks, laying out supplies, and finding space to do everything. What followed next was nothing shy of organized chaos, but it was AWESOME.
In one corner, you’ve got Allison and Amber teaching children the invaluable lesson that God’s thoughts for them are more numerous than the grains of sand. In another corner, Sawyer (who was also the photographer and looked like she was straight out of Nat Geo - well done) and Nicole were teaching the kids a dance to “This Little Light of Mine.” Roll another 15 yards, and you’ve got craft bracelets (run by Jaz and Dawn Miller), and beside that you’ve got Alison and Dawn Moyer passing out all the goldfish you can handle for the snack station). Hop over the wall (all of this is within about 20 yards, mind you) and you’ve got Madison and Kristyn at the sports station. And lastly, you’ve got me and Emily running the “games” station, which was code for “Sam throws balls in the air while children tackle him as Emily blows bubbles with one child on her hip and another on her back.” It was a beautiful sight, and the kids were so wonderful. The smiles they had could have melted glaciers.
Church that evening was a special service at the Thozin (main) campus of MOHI (Mission of Hope International, the group we are staying and serving with), and it was an incredible experience. For me, it was the first time ever worshipping in either an open air church or in another language, and the experience was an amazing first worship here on the island.
After some music (they sang quite a bit in English, which certainly helped me!), we shared two testimonies, had some music, and then a message. As a first timer in the mission field, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. And now, having witnessed and evening like that in the presence of God, I now know what to expect but will honestly struggle to describe it.
Dawn Moyer was up first sharing her testimony, and she set an incredible tone for the evening. Dawn is a very special person to our family, and after those 10 minutes, I have no doubt that she’s a very special person to the people of Haiti. The message was real, raw, and powerful - build your house on the Rock. As she spoke, the congregation started to come to life, and there were a few “amens” in the back as she wrapped her story of how God delivered her family from addiction, strife, and financial difficulty.
Next up was the future Grammy winning duet Nicole and Sawyer, who sang Amazing Grace. Initially, they had planned to sing something else, but while leading worship earlier that morning, Angie (our local missionary here) told us that, as we sang Amazing Grace in English, one of the housekeepers was singing along in Creole. With that knowledge, we thought it might be a great way to connect with the people there, and as always God did not disappoint.
Perhaps the most powerful moment came next, as Jazmin - her first time on a mission trip, first time out of the country, and first time to Haiti - crossed off another first in her life: sharing her testimony publicly for the first time. Her story hit home, and those present absolutely responded to it. It was a message that strife, hardship, and brokenness can occur in any country at any point, but Jesus can (and will) deliver you. Just call on his name and walk in faith. For those of you in Charlotte reading this, find Jazmin when you are next at Freedom House and ask her to share this story - it WILL change lives.
Lastly, Alison preached a sermon that rocked the house. I had never heard this lady speak, but let me tell you: “LOOK OUT, HAITI! You have a female Paul in your midst, ready to give you the Word!” Alison delivered an incredible message about the difference between believing in Jesus and making him your Lord. It was a fearless message about serving the true God and dispelling traditions that separate you from the Creator of the Universe, and it resonated. As I told her later - it was worth the trip just to hear her preach!
We were blessed to count 5 salvations that night at church, and the team had the chance to pray for the congregation as well.
It was back home for a late dinner and then bed by about 10, as it was an early call for church (7:30 start - it’s gets hot down here early!). One VERY cool thing to note - Angie said that Haitian congregations were normally very quiet and rarely spoke up during service, so the fact that the group present was so vocal was rare and spoke volumes for the messages the speakers carried.
Day 3 (Sun, July 23): This is what Heaven Sounds Like
Breakfast was 6:30 this morning, and we were on the bus about 7:15 or so to head to church. We actually didn’t roll up to the church until after 7:30, but we’ve already learned that start times are flexible in Haiti. Case in point - last night’s 5:30 service didn’t start until 6:30 or so!
The church was full (about 300 people), and the music was AMAZING!!!! For me, I have always found God in the music of the church, and hearing these voices - these soulful, amazing, passionate voices - singing harmony in a language I didn’t understand was indescribable. As I closed my eyes, listening to the worship, all I could think was “this is what Heaven sounds like.”
The service itself was a real blessing, as was the drive to the campus. Watching all these folks step out of their homes in pressed shirts, ties, and slacks was truly a sight to behold. Some of these folks had a good walk to get to Grand Goave, and they were making it with a smile on their faces and a Bible in their hands. Alison delivered another knockout message, and 8 people gave their lives to Christ. We then had another chance to pray for the people in the congregation, and I was blown away by the number of folks who came forward for prayer. As with last night (and obviously as will be the case all week), we had no idea what these people needed or why they had come forward. However, the Holy Spirit was ABSOLUTELY at that altar, and as people came forward, you could feel what was drawing them out of their seats. With some, you could feel sadness. With others, you could feel pain. With others, you could feel a desire for confidence. And with the children, you could feel the need for anointing. It was humbling to pray for them, and even more humbling to be a vessel for God to speak through and bless these brave souls who had taken a step in faith.
After that, it was home for lunch and some team time. We split into groups of 2 (or 3 in one case) and talked openly about what each of us needed prayer for. We then prayed for each other before lunch, and as I type this, I can hear laughter from the beach as some of the team goes for a dip in the ocean. We’ve got a few others napping, some journaling, and others just resting. And as I sit here alone under the Choukoun, all I can think of is how blessed I am to be sharing this journey with such an incredible group of strong, talented Christians. I am amazed at how strong the younger team members are in their faith, blown away by the stories of deliverance people are sharing, impressed by the knowledge of the Bible these folks exhibit, and honored just to be part of this little family. All of you reading this blog know at least one of these people, and I’d encourage you to hug them very tightly when they get home, as each of them is a true blessing in your life from God.
Okay, that’s us in a nutshell through the first 48 hours. I wish I could give you a running tally on the number of liters of water which have been consumed so far, but I don't know how to type exponents on this computer. :-)
Love to all back Stateside - holler at you soon.
Sam (aka “The Dude”)