Ministry is Hard…But Sometimes It’s Easy
Pastor Carlos’s church is also a school, and when we arrived this morning, the kids were separated into 3 classes: 3 & 4 year olds, primary one (ages 5-6), and primary two (ages 7-9). They were all smartly dressed in their school uniforms and were practicing French vocabulary when we arrived. Altogether there were only about 35 kids there (only half of what we had on Monday). Immediately, I could tell this would be a much more organized day!
Pastor Carlos welcomed us graciously and told us that whatever we needed, he would serve us (even though we’re there to serve him). They first sang a few songs for us to welcome us to their school. They also recited John 3:16 in Creole which was pretty cool. Then we started leading songs with them, which THEY LOVED! They could not get enough of the song “Deep and Wide” which in Creole is “Fon e Laj”. We sang it probably 2 dozen times, and they still kept singing it over and over! It was so sweet to see them all doing the motions and singing it with such joy!
Since there were so few kids, we didn’t break into crafts and games separately, but we did everything together. It was nice to get to experience all of it with them! After worship time, we did crafts. We made the salvation bracelets, and we did pipe cleaner glasses! Those babies were SO CUTE with their neon pipe cleaner glasses! Of course we took a photo op break where we just took tons of photos of kids in their glasses. Then we played fun games like relay faces, limbo, and duck duck goose.
Throughout our entire experience today, I could not get over how well behaved these kids were, and how structured everything was! If you’ve ever been on an international mission trip, specifically with kids and VBS type activities, you know that structure and organization are almost a laughable concept. But these kids stood in lines, were quiet when told, and played together very nicely. Even when we got out the soccer balls and bubbles, they were kind to one another and SHARED. Sharing is another laughable concept when dealing with kids who have almost nothing to call their own. Heck, even standing in line has been a foreign concept to kids on my previous trips. I was REALLY REALLY blown away by kids’ behavior and overall organization. There was more planned free time today than on Monday, so it gave me the opportunity to learn kids’ names, sit and hold them, and just love on them.
When it was time for the kids to go eat lunch, we were just about to break out our regular meal of packed snacks (crackers, beef jerky, peanuts, etc.), when Pastor Carlos told us that he was providing lunch for us! Wait…aren’t we here to serve him?! And y’all…that lunch…oh my it was good. They made us lasagna and chicken, both of which were A-MA-ZING! Like seriously…amazing. And they also had COLD DRINKS, something we haven’t had all week! It was so refreshing to drink something cold in the heat. We just could not get over Pastor Carlos’s generosity and his huge heart. He told us that it was an honor for him to have served us lunch and eat together as one. If only we had that same hospitable, servant mentality.
During lunch, we talked with him about his life, his ministry, and this school that he runs. It’s a special school that is only for orphans, vulnerable children, and restaveks (children used as house slaves). It was really cool to once again hear about the difference that World Orphans is making in this community. You’d never know it from those sweet, well-behaved kids we saw that morning, but most of them are living in the worst conditions imaginable.
After lunch, we visited a couple homes, one of which was in a tent city. This location was far worse than what we saw on Sunday and Monday. Those homes had some structural integrity to them and were made of cinder block or tin, with makeshift doors and windows. The tent city is just tarp tents with no ventilation, where it often stays well over 100 degrees inside if the sun is shining. This particular home we visited had a mother and 7 kids living inside. They had lost their father in the earthquake and had nowhere else to go.
Today I saw two very different sides of ministry. First there was our super easy, super successful, super fun morning, complete with an unexpected gift of lunch. It’s easy for a short-term mission team to do what we did this morning and walk away with a very skewed version of what life is like for these kids. When you are only visiting a country for a short time, it’s hard to see the whole picture. That’s one reason home visits are a good idea. Seeing that tent city opened my eyes to how hard Pastor Carlos had to work to get his school to where it is today. The kids in his school live in horrible conditions and some are literally living as slaves. They did not start out smartly dressed, practicing French vocabulary, and standing patiently in lines. I cannot imagine the prayer, the strife, and the heartache that Pastor Carlos has endured as he attempts to give these children a better future through education and through the Gospel. I pray that our two days serving at his church make an impact and that it supplements the ministry he is doing there each and every day.
Thank you for praying for us. Our trip is going so smoothly, and it’s thanks to your continued prayers! Tomorrow we will be doing a medical clinic at Pastor Carlos’s church. Please pray that it goes well and that we will see as many people as possible! Pray that we will be able to minister to these people in a spiritual way and not just through providing medication.