Reflections on Haiti

Shelterwood Mentors dedicate a year of their life to serving our teens as they journey towards restoration. These young adult men and women disciple our students — but it’s a journey for the Mentors as well. While Mentors help develop teens, they are growing in their own spiritual walk. Mentor and Assistant House Director Stephen Green shares his reflection on how God changed his heart during the Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

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“As I got on the plane and began the final flight to Haiti, I felt my emotions begin to rise up into my nasal cavity and over take my face like a fever. I played music to distract myself but it only aided in turning the knobs that unlocked the waterworks. I felt the Spirit move in with His scalpel and all I could do was sit and let Him cut me open as I began my ascent to 30,000 ft. Despite my resistance, God had called me to go to Haiti and in my reluctant obedience He was able to put me right where He wanted me. Haiti was His seven-day project on my heart and He wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.

That night, I chatted with various members of my team, including the students that we brought along with us. I still felt the heaviness of the Spirit doing his work on me, and it was anything but pleasant. I was approached by a beloved friend, Kyle, who expressed the desire to speak later concerning what was going on with me. Little did I know that he would be the instrument by which God would begin to really remove the junk out of my heart and then also be the stitches that closed my open wound.

Looking back, I can only say that the moment was one of providence. I had been set up through circumstances and various different elements of my life leading up to that conversation. My journey to that moment could not be limited to the afternoon flight and orphan visit. No, it had been in progress over the course of many months. Everything was somehow connected. The healing I sought was not what I thought I wanted, but was more than I could have asked for. It was irony. It was inconvenient. It was Haiti. It was friendship. Lastly, it was unbridled and courageous confession.

With each orphanage we visited, I found the Spirit drawing me out and doing something in me. On the second day we went to a town called Hinch where I met this beautiful little boy named Miguel. He stayed with me the entire time and, unlike several others, didn’t care that I had nothing to offer. He wanted to be loved and he wanted to show love. We met each other exactly where we needed. We gave each other time and we spent our time being grateful that we had someone else that existed to spend time together.

Haiti Reflections Image 683x1024 Reflections on Haiti

In Les Miserables there is a line stated multiple times that “to love another person is see the face of God.” The next day I met Brianna. That precious girl that I had the privilege of pushing on the swing went out of her way to find me and be with me. In a time when I felt unloved and unlovable, God sent me two beautiful, innocent little kids for me to love and love me in return. In the midst of my darkness, God brought me a little light.

I want to love well. That is my heart’s desire! I am, however, tainted by sin and by suffering and lack what is needed to truly love well. Haiti broke into a part of me that had been walled up. Even though I still suffer and I still struggle with all of my insecurity, I long to love others and to bring them to a place of healing and show them there is more to life than sitting in their pain and suffering. There is life that lies beyond their circumstances. There is healing.”

Serve the Community

IMG 2617 300x225 Serve the CommunityIn less than a month, a group of our students and staff will be traveling to Haiti to serve through the Global Orphan Project. Not only do we serve when we’re in Haiti, but also before hand, in our efforts to raise support.

Our most recent efforts to serve the community include some of our boys pulling shrubs at a local business for nearly four hours! Together, our boys really got into the work and service. They were excited to step back at the end and look at the efforts of their labor! Our girls were actively involved in serving dinner at a local church that hosted a fundraiser for our trip. Not only did they serve dinner, but they also had an opportunity to spend time getting to know families in our community.

Daniel Schlenker, Shelterwood’s Volunteer Coordinator, has planned these service project fundraisers. He noted, “It’s been really neat watching the students having fun while working so hard to serve”.

Maggie Grumieaux, Shelterwood’s Case Coordinator, has been on four Haiti trips, this will be her fifth. She states, “ Our students don’t expect to get out of the trip what they do. Many expect to just go and hang out with kids, but they end up coming home changed”.

When I follow up with students about their experience serving in Haiti, they are quick and eager to point out the love they felt in the midst of their service. One of the girls spoke of her trip and exclaimed, “Serving in Haiti made me experience pure love and it was awesome!”

In serving our community now, we are gaining experience and excitement for our service trip to Haiti. Serving locally has also been an awesome way for our school to watch our students to open their hearts to others and give back. Please join us in prayer as we quickly approach our service adventure to Haiti!

 

 

Service Project in Haiti

%name Service Project in HaitiThe Haiti Service Project exceeded our expectations again!   Trips like these leave behind some enduring memories.  I have many, and I will share a couple with you.

Our trip to Haiti started out with a special gathering in Ft. Lauderdale where we had to stay overnight in order to make our 6:00 AM departure to Port Au Prince the next morning.  So, that first evening, Lili Chaves and her family hosted us for a wonderful meal, and a great time of sharing.  Lili had served at Shelterwood as a mentor for our teens the previous school year, and she and her family are missionaries from Brazil who live and work in South Florida.  It was a wonderful evening of fellowship, and hearing her story blessed our teens, showing them how the Shelterwood family continues to grow and crosses geographical and cultural boundaries.

These trips are primarily focused on spending several days at a number of different orphanages in Haiti.  And our kids have one assignment: to devote their full attention to the children at these orphanages for as long as we are there.   Our teens did a marvelous job and were not disappointed. They played ball, colored books, sang songs, played tag, jumped rope, blew balloons, held babies, comforted toddlers, dried tears, laughed, cried, and gave 110% to the children.  They loved well, and they were loved right back. They were full days, and very tiring, and even in spite of the heat and the bugs, our teens slept well.

On our last full day in Haiti, we like to visit a Haitian church, and then drive a couple hours to enjoy lunch and an afternoon at the beach.  Even with the heat, humidity, and a three-hour church service, our teens often describe the service as one of the great highlights of the trip.  The passion of the worship is so vibrant and real that our teens push through their discomfort and fully enter into the worship experience.  After the church service, we take the team to the beach.  However, this year, several of our teens asked if we would cancel our plans to go to the beach, and “Go back to an orphanage instead?”  While I could not honor their request, I will never forget it. We bring our teens to Haiti in the hopes that they will have a paradigm shift in their thinking about what is really important in lives. These young men and women wanted to spend their last afternoon in Haiti loving the orphans even more.   I am so very proud of them.

%name Service Project in HaitiAs it turns out, I am very glad that we went to the beach for an entirely different reason.  Prior to leaving for Haiti, one young man approached me and told me that he wanted to be baptized in the Caribbean on the last day of our trip.  By the end of the trip, fourteen of the twenty-two teens we took on this trip had asked me to baptize them.   It is amazing how loving orphans, and receiving love in return helped our kids experience the love of the Father who has adopted each of us.  Our kids really do encounter Jesus on these trips.  I think it has perhaps been the greatest evidence of the power of love that I have seen at work.  I get to see hard hearts melt, and witness the beautiful transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our kids.

Prior to their baptism, I met with each teen, and they all told me in their own way that they wanted to follow Jesus with their whole heart. For example, one young woman said, “I want to set California on fire for Jesus.”   My best friends’ son, said “I want a fresh start and to bury those things from my past that I used to do, and to begin to live for Jesus.”   Another young woman said, “I was an atheist %name Service Project in Haitibefore I came to Shelterwood, and I didn’t want to serve someone else’s god, but now I know Jesus is real, and He is mine.”  One of our young teen leaders who serves on our Leadership Council said, “This was the next step in my journey of faith and I want to serve Jesus with all my heart.”   Another fifteen-year-old girl said, “I really love Jesus and I want to serve Him with my whole heart.”  A young man said, “I want this to be a reconfirmation of my life and a determination to put my old ways behind,” and one teen proclaimed, “Jesus is dope!”   They all stood in front of their peers on Sunday as they were baptized and proclaimed their love for Jesus.

I love my work here at Shelterwood.  There is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than to watch hearts transformed and to hear kids unashamedly proclaim their love for Jesus.

Jim Subers, CEO

Human Trafficking

Here at Shelterwood, we love exploring creative and engaging ways for our students to be involved in the world around them. Currently, we have a small group of committed staff and students that meets weekly to discuss the problem of human trafficking. The group has watched a corresponding documentary and has been involved in different awareness raising events and projects on campus and in the community.

It is exciting and encouraging to watch students eagerly participating in the group and learning more about the issues related to human trafficking. We have also seen a therapeutic benefit to the group. According to our staff member who facilitates the group, “[the group] allows them an open, but safe environment to talk about the things in their own pasts, which have lead them to be passionate about the issue”. Being able to connect issues in community and world with their personal experiences has been tremendously insightful for them. The insight they have gained into their own situation further motivates them to become involved in becoming active participants in the group. The group members are currently looking into even more opportunities to raise awareness within the community.

Check out this amazing video one of our students created on the subject.

Parents Respond to Haiti Trip

Parents respond to the Haiti trip and appreciate the changes their teen made after gaining a new perspective.

“Jake will never be the same from having been in Haiti with this team….thanks for leading!”

“I want to thank you personally for all you have contributed to Nick’s journey… not just the one to Haiti, but to his acceptance of the fact that God created him with a purpose in mind… and to his belief that it’s a good one! Thank you for your support of our family on this very long and rocky road, for your prayers on our behalf, and most of all for never giving up on us as family nor on our son as a man. We believe in miracles because we’ve lived a few! We pinch ourselves in light of the constant reminders that we are never too far for God to reach us and that He is in the business of restoring the years the locusts have eaten.”

“I’m not sure of what I’m all feeling right now, except that it’s making me weep and laugh at the same time! Nick holding that little girl just slays me. I can only repeat my wife’s message. We are humbled, grateful, and can’t wait to see the whole gang next week!”

“Thanks so much for the wonderful pictures of Drew on the Haiti Trip, I guess it is time for me to end the pity party I’ve been on wondering if I did the right thing by sending him to Shelterwood.  I know now that this is the best experience that he will ever have in his life and that he is really happy.”

“THANKS so much for this good report!  We see compassion ministry in Jake’s destiny; your missional leadership and Shelterwood’s emphasis on relationships have been powerful in Jake’s spiritual formation!”

“Thank you so much for sending this! I am in tears of joy and awe of what God did and is doing in Romans life. I think that it was a miracle that he even went! Thank you, thank you, thank you for trusting Roman and allowing him to go! Thank you for the pictures; look how happy he looks. This is our Roman. This is a blessing.”

Self-Centered Behavior is no match for Service Work

haiti 2 199x300 Self Centered Behavior is no match for Service WorkHere at Shelterwood, some of our students are excitedly getting ready for a short term missions trip to Haiti with Global Orphan Project . We have been on eight different trips with students to Haiti since 2011.

What’s our passion behind taking a group of kids to Haiti? We have seen drastic changes in the lives of some of the students attending the trips. Stepping outside of their comfort zone helps them gain perspective in different areas of their lives. Students are faced with questions of what joy, happiness, and satisfaction mean in light of the situation in Haiti. They are able to see themselves as helpers, and practice empathy in action. We’re not the only ones seeing benefits in short-term missions. In 2008, Barna Group released data on short-term mission trips and their affects on teens. According to that study: A majority of those who have participated in mission trips said it changed their life in some way. The most common areas of personal growth that people recall – even years later – include

-Becoming more aware of other people’s struggles (25%)
-Learning more about poverty, justice, or the world (16%)
-Increasing compassion (11%)
-Deepening or enriching their faith (9%)
-Broadening their spiritual understanding (9%)
-Boosting their financial generosity (5%)
-Others mentioned the experience helped them feel more fulfilled, become more grateful, develop new friends, and become less self centered.

For six years we have seen this study confirmed time and time again. Being self centered is something that is present in our teens’ lives. Our trips to Haiti have been amazing opportunities for us to introduce students to other ways of living and thinking. We are thankful for chances to expose our students to global awareness and a broader perspective whenever we can and excited to see what’s in store for this upcoming trip.

Students Serve

wk pro 5 199x300 Students Serve Students serve for the eighth straight Thanksgiving.  This years Serve Project was a huge success! Here in the Ozarks and down at the Gulf Coast, the teams worked so hard! I am so proud of the whole Shelterwood team and all that was accomplished last week. These “service trips” are all about reaching out and loving people.

We divided everyone on campus into three work crews. The teams served on three projects: the “food basket team” delivered food baskets to 50 families that wouldn’t have had a meal otherwise. The “raking team” raked and cleaned yards for elderly. The “building crew” helped get a new church ready for construction. We rotated the crews each day, so everyone got to experience each project. Everyone did a great job!

A fourth crew of 15 spent the week cleaning up debris from Katrina and cutting down trees that might do damage in the next hurricane. We flower plant 300x225 Students Servestayed at the Retreat center in Kiln, Mississippi, helping clean up debris there. We also sent a crew into New Orleans and cut down damaged trees.  Part of the team stayed at the home of Skip and Barbara in New Orleans. We painted their house and helped clean their yard, damaged by Katrina.

Whether a “Service trip” in New Orleans, Africa, or right here, it’s been a great “classroom” to make us all a little uncomfortable, get our eyes off ourselves and serve the Lord.
Thanks for your prayers and to those who gave financially, thanks for making this trip possible.