In May, I had the opportunity of traveling to Haiti for the fourth year in a row. What started out as a mission opportunity to change the world, has become a journey home to see family. Wings of Hope, established in 1994, “provides a safe, happy, loving, caring, and hopeful family environment for children and young adults with physical and mental challenges.”
The home currently houses about 30 individuals with disabilities ranging in severity, but all of whom have incredible hearts for God. Each day, you can hear the sweet sounds of prayer and worship bursting from the house as the staff and residents make a joyful noise during all activities. Wings of Hope is a place where you can’t help but experience the presence of God. It’s a place where you understand that you are a divine masterpiece who is loved, not because you can do, or say, or make things, but because you are His. In a society that is faced with governmental corruption, extreme poverty, earthquakes, and disease, Wings of Hope stands as a beacon on the hill inviting all to be a part of the abounding love that Jesus offers.
I visited Haiti for the first time, about a year after the destructive earthquake in 2010. My friends at Wings had been displaced into a new home that is not exactly the best for them. Many of the children are in wheelchairs and the home they have been in for the past five years is very inaccessible. The home is on a hill and is a three-story building. Children are carried down the stairs by staff or they are ran up a ramp made of a regular set of stairs and some plywood. Even still the smiles on the faces are bright. Their new home is currently being finished, and they will be moving in this Fall. So exciting!
Every year, I go down with a group of folks to put on a camp for the residents. We do crafts, talk about the Bible, put on puppet shows, sing songs, play games and do mission projects. We invite the staff to take a break from their normal schedules, and we invite children and adults from the community to come join in the fun. Several of our helpers come from the orphanage down the street. It is one of the most incredible things I have witnessed. We so often assume those who are on the margins- the poor, the lame, the widowed- have nothing to offer, but I think they have the most precious gifts to offer, their hearts. The week is focused on building loving relationships and experiencing God. While we do a lot of things, the most important aspect of the camp is being fully present with each person. It is amazing how in our country we have gotten so far away from that. I don’t have many encounters in my daily life where there is no agenda other than just to be with one another and with God.
It has taken me months to finally write a post about my travels because it is so hard to capture with photos and words. I have experienced great sorrow and also great joy during my time in Haiti. There are a lot of injustices in the world, things don’t always make sense either. My heart is overflowing with love for the children that have been discarded by their biological families and it makes me want to cry and yell all at the same time. But I must experience the internal struggles in order to experience all the good that the world has to offer. There is nothing sweeter than singing songs with Pierre and Erique while watching the sunrise on the porch, or watching Peterson, the gentle giant that he is, hold his stuffed panda with great care, or watching the tender moments shared between residents. I hope to one day take a group of folks from First UMC down to visit, because that is the only way to experience Haiti. I would love to share a million stories about my trip, so if you want to learn more please ask. If you would like to travel down there with me, send me an email. I know a place that will welcome you with open arms!
Kelly McRell, FUMC Family and Outreach Minister 704-333-9081 x102 Kelly@charlottefirst.org