LAF recently awarded a Love, Action, Faith Scholarship to Bob Ford. The scholarship was used to help buy Sawyer Water Filter Buckets for families in Haiti.
Bob said the following. “The poor and the homeless are desperate for water, their tongues parched and no water to be found. But I’m there to be found, I’m here for them, and God of Israel will not leave them Thirsty.” Isaiah 41:17
The past several years Lufkin FUMC has been involved in a collaborative effort with other churches, the Thomas Food project and the HAPI Women’s program in Mizak, Haiti to help provide items and services to Haitians. Through these efforts, 600 Sawyer Water Filters has been distributed and provided clean water to 10 schools, 4 health clinics, 4 churches and several small Haitian businesses, as well as filters to several hundred families. In the next four months, six additional mission teams will be going to Haiti. They will be distributing 650 filters, along with other services.
Below are the words of Emily Collins, a student at Texas State University, who has gone on several of these mission trips to Haiti, with the last one less than a month ago. She will be going back in December and we are honored to give her a LAF: Love, Action, Faith Scholarship for her trip. We look forward to hearing more about her experience afterwards.
I don’t think that I could say it any better than Jen Hatmaker in her book 7: “For whatever reason I was born into privilege; I’ve never known hunger, poverty, or despair. I have been blessed, blessed, blessed—relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” In the weeks leading up to our trip to Haiti, my mind is usually focused more on what has to be done before I go and right when I come back than what I am actually preparing myself for… I’m worried about the small things that seem like top priorities. I am stressed about what items I should pack and hope that I hadn’t forgotten any of my snacks. As we sit in the Miami airport waiting for our flight to PAP (Port-au-Prince), platinum cards, careless spending, overpriced items and the reality of how good (and bad) Americans have it surrounds us. Once in PAP, we are thrown into the reality of those who actually know despair. Any problems, issues, stresses that were once on your mind, are gone. Because compared to these people, our problems are NOTHING. For those of you who say, “There are poor people in need here, in the US. Why are you not staying here to help them?”
Well, the US provides governmental services for those in need. If they are in need of water, there are public fountains, water hoses, etc. While in Haiti, you see no governmental aid. They are expected to fend for themselves. To avoid a rant, I will explain what we do in order to provide relief to those who truly are in need. Once in PAP, we travel to the coast of Haiti to Petit Goave, where we load our belongings, filters, and buckets onto a time-worn, hand-built sailboat. Enduring a rough five-hour boat ride is the least of our worries due to the excitement overwhelming you as you approach the island of La Gonave. We docked at Source au Philip, where Bob Ford has arranged multiple prior trips. The villagers are ecstatic to finally see us again and some small children who are still unsure about the “blahs” arrival.
(Blah… blanco… white) Our days consist of sweating, laughing, playing with beautiful children, attempting to understand the elderly, and exploring the dry lands of the island. Lack of rain has brought more devastation to these villages in the recent months. Crops are burnt and cattle have suffered from lack of vegetation.
The children come to you with open arms and hearts. Their innocence and love for others are apparent in all they do. If we have dirt on our legs, they try to brush it off. If there is hair in my face, they try to push it behind my ears. They play with our hair as they exclaim “bel” (beautiful). You try to fight back tears because all you can think is how these young souls are truly “bel.” You look at the lack of clothing they have and you are ashamed of the full closet of clothes you never wear. You look down at your chacos, knowing your feet are protected… while seeing a young Haitian boy trying to pull a large thorn from his bare foot. You don’t understand why they must suffer through the hardships while you are blessed to be an American… raised with everything yet still wanting more. You may think that these people are upset, depressed, etc. due to their living conditions. However, these impoverished people are filled with joy and hope for they believe the best is always yet to come. To make sure our mission is understood, we gather those who receive filters into a pavilion and allow our interpreters to go over basic sanitation and hygiene information. Without proper education, our mission will never be fulfilled. Rodney spends hours with the group making sure they understand the importance of sanitation and how to properly maintain the filter system. Simply put, the filtration system we use is produced by the Sawyer company. With each filter purchase, a filter, filter hose, filter cap, instruction sticker for bucket, hanging hook, and back flushing syringe comes included in the package. With this package and a five-gallon bucket, a family of four can have clean water for up to 10 years, as long as they maintain the filters by back washing as demonstrated by the interpreters. We drill holes into the bucket on the side about 2 inches above the bottom so debris can settle into the bottom of the bucket without blocking the drain hole. The hoses are easily assembled to the hole with the use of washers, followed by attaching the filter. Simply put, that’s it… drill a hole, attach a hose, attach a filter. Clean water. However, for most of the Haitians this is an entire new concept with things they have never used or even seen before… so it can be a struggle to make sure Grandma understands how to assemble the washers on the hose and to know which end to back flush from. If they do not understand how to use the filter & bucket, they will not go home with one. We are to make sure these buckets are being used, properly. Each filter/bucket costs $60. So, for $60, you can go buy a new shirt… pair of pants… or you can provide a family with clean water for 10 years. The best part of it all though, is seeing the excitement of those who have received their filter and participated in assembling it themselves. They are proud of that filter and what that filter means for their family. They exclaim, “Bob’s water, Bob’s water.” Bob Ford simply shakes his head saying, “God’s water, God’s water.”
Things can become overwhelming while in a third world country, you are NOT in your comfort zone and what you expected is probably not what you are going to get. Dirty streets with roaming hogs, dogs, donkeys and chickens. If you are blessed with a toilet, you sure don’t put TP in it. You learn to answer to “blah.” You become accustomed to seeing nudity. You don’t judge, because that’s not your place. You respect their culture and what it means to be Haitian. You sing their prayer songs before each meal and you are thankful for the rice and beans prepared. In a world where we always want more, they just want enough… enough food, enough shelter, enough money to buy government controlled water cisterns. As a student at Texas State University, I feel like I’m always listening to students ‘bitch’ about what they don’t have or just how bad they have it. However, they have most likely never involuntarily missed a meal or went days without water to drink or a home to provide shelter. It’s not about your Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Nike’s, and smart phones… it’s about your relationships, your character, your future, your hopes and dreams.
Thank you Emily for sharing your journey and giving us a glimpse of the life in Haiti. You are right…we are truly blessed to live in America…the land of “more than enough”. Thank you for heeding the call…through Love, Action and Faith…to show Christ love.