It didn’t take long for our team to feel out of place and to begin recognizing the immensely different cultural context we were entering. We were walking down the runway to enter the airport terminal, baking in the hot sun, hearing a band playing in the distance. Once we entered the terminal, we were among the few speaking English and we were ushered into a crowded line to pass through customs. We had made it. We were in!
However, our joy in being through customs was short-lived because now we had to navigate baggage claim. In the United States, baggage claim is fairly organized and calm, but this was quite the opposite! We were thrust into a steamy room full of chaos, and we virtually climbed over others to lay hold of our belongings. We were sweaty, uncomfortable, and stressed out.
Finally, we all got our bags and exited the building. At this point, we had to find our ride while mobs of people offered to help us carry our luggage (for a small fee, of course). We eventually boarded the back of a large flatbed truck with wooden benches sitting on either side of the bed. Some of us could sit, but many of us had to stand for the ride to where we were staying. Fortunately, the ride wasn’t too long!
We had met at the Columbus airport at 5:00 a.m. and we were finally arriving at our final destination at 5:00 p.m. after hours of travel and several seriously uncomfortable situations. We were patted down, had our bags searched, stood in the scorching heat, and fought to get through the airport doors. But we had arrived!
Why would 15 people make a journey like this to spend a week in a foreign country? Why would our team endure the heat, the limited use of toilets, the lack of electricity, and the risk of Zika, Malaria, or Typhoid Fever? What was our motivation?
As you can imagine, we all understood that we weren’t embarking on a cushy vacation. We were spending a week in Haiti for the sake of the Gospel. We wanted to show the love of Jesus to many and share the message about Jesus with everyone we could. We wanted to help those we encountered understand that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, and we entered Haiti as His ambassadors.
Sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel is natural for someone who truly understands what happened on the cross. It was there that Jesus took our sin upon himself and paid the full penalty on our behalf. He suffered a death He didn’t deserve so that those who put their trust in Him could have true, undeserved, eternal life. Jesus gave everything so that we could be reconciled to God. It was because of this that we so willingly laid down our lives in order that others might hear and know that good news!
While in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, we spent time playing with kids and shared stories from the Bible with them. We also helped build a new dormitory for the young women living at the House of Hope Orphanage. Finally, we helped serve at a medical clinic operated by Three Strands.
However, the most important, impactful, and lasting thing we did while in Haiti was build relationships. We made friendships with men, women, and children who will remain in Haiti long after our departure date. We learned their stories, we were mutually encouraged, and we prayed for one another. No project we could complete in a week could have anywhere near the impact of meaningfully pouring into lasting relationships that strengthen and encourage our Haitian brothers and sisters.
What made going to Haiti worth it? Knowing that we have the opportunity to build into people, make new friendships, and encourage others by showing and sharing the love of Jesus. All those discomforts become insignificant when we consider the eternal blessing of being an ambassador for Christ in Haiti!
Dustin Speaks is the Mission Mobilization Pastor. He and his wife, Lauren, arrived in Columbus in the fall of 2012, after several initial ministry experiences. Dustin previously served as an associate pastor in South Dakota and as a missionary to university students in Berlin, Germany. Dustin studied history at Ohio University, where he met Lauren, and was involved in campus ministry with Cru. After graduation, the Speaks went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago) to complete a degree in Intercultural Studies. He enjoys playing nearly all ball sports—basketball, golf, and soccer are his favorites. Dustin and Lauren have three young children.