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.
As 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 before 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