Impacted ForeverRich Stigall
Below is a collection of photos and stories from a recent vision trip. Their leader explained, “The fact is, we need to talk about the experience to help us understand the culture shock between the life we live and the lives we visited. Enjoy – and may your heart be touched just a little!”
I started going to Haiti in 2011. With each trip I realize that I am given much more than I gave. It’s a feeling in the soul that keeps me going back. In fact many who have been there say that “Haiti is good for the soul”. I love to worship Jesus with the Haitian people. People in our eyes who have nothing yet give everything to the Lord. It’s powerful to experience and I always come home with the Holy Spirit jazzed in my life. I have become a leader of trips over the last year in order to take others on this journey with me. To change their vision of the world near and far from them. It’s a privilege to experience it all through their eyes and hearts. What God prepares them do with it when then get home is the exciting part.
Experiencing Haiti with my children was positively life changing! I am so thankful God brought Brandy into our lives and gave her a heart for Haiti. The trip to Haiti exceeded my expectation in so many ways. I had no idea the level of widespread poverty that exists in Haiti. I also had no idea that people can be so happy with so little.
Watching Nathan and Andie play with and love on the children still brings me great joy.
Brandy warned me that the Holy Spirit is very present in Haiti, especially present in the church service. I could not stop the tears I was so overwhelmed with joy. Watching and listening to the beautiful people in Haiti praise God with their arms raised high and their angelic voices was one of the highlights of the trip.
Haiti was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. I knew it would be going into the trip, but nothing can really prepare you for the true experience. It was a beautiful country from the air, but the lack of trees on the hilly terrain was very apparent. We landed and made a relatively smooth transition to the bus. The next hour or two on the road going through Port-au-Prince to our hotel was so fascinating. The way the Haitians drive is remarkable in how chaotic it seems but also in that no one gets hurt. There are people and vehicles everywhere and it seems to work out somehow.
The reason I wanted to go to Haiti was to spend some quality time with the children there. It is difficult… almost impossible for me anyway to describe those experiences. What I can say is that I had a great time with them and felt like I made a real connection with a special few. The picture here is me with a boy named Mark. (I think.) They are difficult to understand sometimes. He and I met on Saturday and had some fun together and then met again on Sunday at the church service. It was like playing with my own son, Noah. He ran me all around the church and we laughed and tickled each other and played some soccer and it was fun and joy in its purest form I believe. We communicated with thoughts and feelings and emotions…we did not need words to express ourselves. It all stemmed from love. He will always be with me from then on.
The last thing I will mention here was the church service we went to. That almost made the whole trip worth it by itself. It is very had to describe. It is one of those things that you just have to be there to fully capture the experience. First, the people there were better dressed than most Americans at church. Second, the singing brought tears to my eyes, seriously, and on more than one occasion. I feel more emotions with music than anything else, but with is it was on a new level. I could not understand any lyrics but that was unnecessary. The passion and emotion that the people sang with was incredible. They praise God with their entire spirit, their entire being. It is impressive really and makes me think I could do more sometimes. The service was literally all morning, about 4 hours or so. We got there late and sat up front. I also had a kid sleep on my lap for about half of the service, it was awesome and very uncomfortable at times because I did not want to move and wake him up. Lastly, I want to mention a man who was praying. I think he prayed out loud for about 20 minutes. But what stood out more was the passion and emotion that he had while praying. It got stronger and stronger as the prayer went on. I would give just about anything to be able to understand what he was saying during this prayer. I tried to imagine it as it was all I could do. The whole service made me think that I have a lot more to give to God…to praise Him and thank Him and celebrate Him.
Two years ago, I was set for a trip to Uganda to work with Aids Orphans. Due to unforeseen tragic events that trip was called off. Since that time, God has been softening my heart for orphan children around the globe. When Brandy spoke on Bold Women’s Sunday, I knew it was time to answer God’s call in my life.
I was totally unprepared for what I experienced in Haiti. The hardships these people endure day after day, the deep poverty and living conditions blew me away! I’ll be honest, I was pretty anxious during the trip, but once I met the children and found their joy with the simplest of things my fears were gone. I spent time in two of the villages visiting with the Pastors who answered God’s call to them: to take in and protect the orphaned and abandoned children of their community! What brave souls they are! Starting with nothing but a calling and prayers these two men are now responsible for over 80 children. They are committed to clothing them, feeding them, educating them and keeping them healthy. The hardest thing for them to do is to give each of them individual time for hugs, love and games. Pastor Issac at Marmelade said “If I had all the money in the world, I would use it to bring people in to love on these children”. And that is where we came in!
Loving the children is easy – in fact they pick out who they want to be with before you get off the bus and through sign language they communicate that you are theirs! I can’t begin to tell you how much more love I received than I was able to give. Simply sitting in the shade and rocking and hugging a little seven year old changed my life forever. I will never be the same.
Now I have a burden of love to fulfill, I am praying every day for God to continue to open doors so that collectively we can have an impact on individual lives, and through that – change the world.
Lastly, one of my best memories is of worship in Marmelade Church – four hours of worship – worship like I have never experienced! At one point, the congregation stood to sing Amazing Grace; and at that moment it hit me – the Hatiations singing in Creole and the “Blancs” (we white folks) singing in English. We were at that moment one people worshiping the same God and He heard our voices! We went to the mountain top in Haiti and there we found God waiting for us!