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Where I Found Hope in HAITI

Posted: August 06, 2017

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by Michele Stutzky, 2017 Haiti Trip Coordinator
from the July 30, 2017 Bulletin

Last month, six parishioners spent seven days in Haiti with Sister Luvia Joseph, whom we support with our Master’s Mission Tithe.  Their reflections will be shared at various times through the summer.

This was my second trip to see Sister Luvia Joseph.  My first was about 18 months after the devastating earthquake of January 2010. I left Haiti feeling overwhelmed with the poverty and devastation these wonderful people had to endure. Yet, I was also impressed with their faith and love for Jesus.

      Since that visit, our parish has continued its 20-year ministry of helping Sister Luvia feed and educate children. We also raised enough money to help her to purchase a beautiful and safe home for orphan girls. While I knew what we had helped Sister Luvia accomplish, I feared seeing the same devastation and despair we had encountered in 2011.

      Upon arriving in Port-Au-Prince, I was impressed as we deplaned into a well-organized airport. Six years ago, we departed in the middle of the airstrip surrounded by chaos and confusion.

      Another sight that gave me hope came during our travels through the capital city. The tent cities were gone. The people who had survived the earthquake were now living in other areas or back in restored neighborhoods.

      Sister Luvia has also been busy. She opened another school in Port-Au-Prince. Fellow parishioner Bill McInnis and I were fortunate to work with 50 of the students in this school.

      Bill had connected with a Grand Rapids artist who wanted us to gather artwork from Haitian youth to incorporate into a larger piece for this fall’s ArtPrize competition.

      Our afternoon at the school was a very hot sultry sultry one in the high 90’s and a heat index that I wouldn’t want to know. All 50 of the students were packed in an open classroom with a tin roof over our heads. There Bill and I stood with very eager eyes upon us,  awaiting this activity.

      Our interpreter, Jean-Paul Polynice translated the artist’s instructions. The students were very quiet and listened very closely. 

      The artist wanted them to draw a life-changing event they had experienced. They had nothing to share. We gave them examples: the earth-quake, Hurricane Sandy, parent’s loss of income, sickness, etc.… Still, the students remained silent.  As a schoolteacher, I knew we needed to change the lesson plan.  Bill and I decided to go with the second part of the artist’s request: draw something that has given them hope.

      Their eyes lit up and they came up with many ideas. One student drew a picture of his dad’s head—explaining “my dad is always there for me.” Many students drew pictures of agriculture, saying it is important for them to plant for the beauty and to protect their environment. Many students drew their own homes, saying their house makes them feel safe, and keeps them dry and out of the sun. Others drew pictures of church saying that they love Jesus, “He died for me on the cross,” and that they like to be able to worship God. A few students drew the Haitian flag saying that they love their country.

      I left Haiti feeling much more at peace than I did after the first trip. I saw progress, hope and dreams coming to fruition.

      Many of the people have a deep dependence on God. For some, God is all that they have. Although you still see great poverty, the Haitian people have beautiful spirits of trust and hope.

      It is in God’s timing, not any of ours, that he will restore the brokenness. God’s work was evident to us in the hope we found in Haiti.

Michele teaches first and second grade at Century Park Learning Center and is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at St. Pius X.