Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Last fall, Pastor Ben Windle and mission trip organizer Aubrey Balmer announced to the congregation of Discover Church in Franklin an opportunity for women to serve in Haiti through an orphanage in Port au Prince and at an annual women’s conference. Within a few weeks, nine women committed to the April 1-8 short-term mission trip.
The political climate in the third world country was, at the time, tenuous but significantly stable. Then, in mid February, Haitians took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. The protests practically paralyzed banks, schools, businesses, and fuel stations, and the rhythm and flow of commerce was disrupted. In fact, for a few weeks, the State Department issued a “do not travel” alert for Americans.
However, as is the case in many third world countries, tensions flair like a flash fire and then die quickly. As a result, the group of Discover women have been watching closely the situation in Haiti, reading daily U.S. government travel alerts, and relying on Haitians in Haiti as well as permanent missionaries to provide input.
Such is the predicament often plaguing an intended mission trip. Yet, Quashona Antoine, a Discover worship team leader and mission trip team member, said she is not overly concerned about the current Haitian political climate. “I’m not nervous because I know the Lord’s got my back,” she said, adding, “I’m just excited to get to know the other team members better and to see how the Lord is going to best use each one of us.”
Although there is a common debate that churches should send money to struggling countries and not people, many disagree. Pastor Maxeau Antoine, Haitian women’s conference organizer who will also be the primary Haitian guide for Discover’s mission team while in Haiti, said, “It is important for you to make relationships with people here, to see the needs, and to share with others back home.”
And, the director of the children’s home in a suburb of Port au Prince, the main city in Haiti, where the Discover women will serve mostly handicapped children, told the team leader, “You can’t send them love, attention, and affection.”
Last Thursday evening, March 7, the Discover mission team gathered for a planning and packing session. Many in the community have donated children’s clothing and shoes, including Steve and Patty Raby, who operate Kaylee’s Closet. Mountain Made Soaps, a local family’s side business, is donating 100 bars of hand-made goat’s milk soap. Amy Manshack State Farm in Franklin designated the Discover Church Haiti April mission trip as its March fundraiser focus; all monies raised during the month-long promotion will be donated for the trip so that items such as fruit and school supplies can be purchased for orphans in Haiti. And, Mountain Advance Practice is donating a variety of needed items as well. A total of 15 rolling suitcases were packed March 7. Items the Discover team still needs to take to Haiti in April include medicines, toiletries, and non-perishable foods, such as protein bars and peanut butter.
Michelle Graham, who is one of the nine women on the Haiti mission team, said she has enjoyed getting to know each team member better during the planning process. “I like the diversity of our team and the talents that each lady is bringing.”
Added Helen Gentry, also on the team, “In preparing for this trip (watching videos about our destination and seeing photographs), I have seen that the people and the landscape of Haiti is truly beautiful and there are inspiring and hopeful stories unfolding in this country as God is at work there. My understanding has been expanded in a positive way, even though we haven’t even left yet. Supplies that we take for granted every day are so needed in Haiti, and it’s amazing that every donation will make a difference. I can’t wait to be there in person, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.”
Haiti is in the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It is located south of the island of Cuba. Although there have been attempts to establish a stable government and a working infrastructure in the past several years, especially since the 2010 earthquake caused the deaths of at least 230,000, Haiti continues to carry the designation as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living in poverty.
Generally, individuals interested in becoming part of a short-term mission team should:
– make sure passport is current;
– check the destination area and determine if vaccines are needed (in most places, even for short-term mission trips to areas in the U.S., an updated tetanus is a good idea);
– check baggage rules/restrictions for airlines;
– learn what types of items are needed for the specific trip as well as clothing that should be worn, etc.
– find out if donated items are needed; and,
– make sure to determine protocol regarding taking cash (in some countries carrying cash puts the traveler in a dangerous position, while in others a different currencies is required).
Besides Haiti as a mission focus, Discover Church supports various efforts in Honduras as well as full-time missionary Molly Hornsby, of Franklin.