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.

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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.”

Why we go to Haiti

Each day at Shelterwood focuses on restoration for our students — but sometimes, the greatest transformation for Shelterwood students happens off campus. Sometimes, the biggest paradigm shift occurs on our Shelterwood mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti.

“I’ve seen our students come alive on this trip,” says Jim Subers, Shelterwood CEO. “Our kids are giving 110% to love and serve Haitian orphans. This is a unique mission trip unlike anything these kids have done before and what happens in this dramatic act of love is transformative for our kids and the orphans.”

This spring marked the ninth trip Shelterwood has taken to Haiti, in partnership with The Global Orphan Project. “We use domestic and foreign mission trips, as well as special retreats, as an opportunity to go after the hearts of our kids. Changing their environment and getting them out of the normal, day-to-day routine is an opportunity for their hearts to be impacted.”

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With the average student spending 11 months at Shelterwood, the twice-yearly Haiti trips provide a unique opportunity for each young person who chooses to go. As they serve and love these orphans, they receive love too. “Our kids experience unconditional love from these orphans,” Jim says. “It is beautiful.”

The goal of the trip is to love the Haitian orphans, spending time with them and playing with them. Jim points to a Bible verse in Matthew 25 — whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. “When we love on orphans in a very real way, we are loving Jesus,” Jim says. Sharing this love has a life-changing impact on Shelterwood students.

The median income in the United States is $50,000 a year — and that income level represents the top 5% of the world’s population, Jim always explains to Shelterwood students. “When they arrive in Haiti, they’re immediately confronted with this reality. Students begin to reflect on what living in the United States really means, and what responsibilities they have along with this opportunity and privilege.”

The week long trip begins on a Wednesday, with students returning to the United States the following Tuesday. Each day concludes with the group processing the day’s events. “Students get to practice giving a word of encouragement and affirming each other every night. Our kids get to bless one another every day, and this is a highlight of our trip.

On Sunday, students attend a Haitian church service. “We get to watch another culture worship with fervor in what would be oppressive conditions for us in America — no air conditioning, high humidity, flies, hot temperatures. This causes our kids to really reflect . . . these people have nothing, but they are full of joy.”

The group spends their last day seaside, allowing students to experience the contrast in the beauty of the Haitian beach. Monday is the day that students have the opportunity to be baptized. Jim estimates that, over the course of Shelterwood’s nine trips, 50 students have been baptized. Nine students — including Jim’s own son — were baptized on this recent trip.

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“We want to provide the opportunity for young people to have a paradigm shift in their thinking. Many of our students don’t realize how uniquely blessed and privileged they are,” Jim says. “When they go to Haiti, our students come back with a much deeper appreciation for the choices, experiences and opportunities they have. This trip shows students who they are, who they want to be and how very loved they are.”

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.