Haiti. When people talk about this country, so many things come to mind. Poor. Earthquake. Voodoo. Hurricane. Sadness. But when I hear that word, I think of so much more… Generosity. Love. Future. Smiles. Hope. I was privileged to lead a trip (hopefully the first of many) to Sonlight Academy in Port-de-Paix, Haiti. I have a deep love for Sonlight and Haiti, which goes back to my time before coming to LCA in August of 2008. From 2005-2008, I was able to teach and love on 1st graders at Sonlight Academy for 3 years.
God changed and rocked my world when I lived in Haiti. I was pulled out of my comfort zone and shown that God has big plans for those that follow and believe. I was put into a classroom where I felt comfortable, with a bunch of Haitian children, whose culture was VASTLY different than mine. I experienced so much over those three years, and I couldn’t even tell you how thankful I am that God called me to Haiti. Since coming home from Haiti, I have been praying for God to open up the door to helping in some way, and He did that, this year!
I led a team of five other teachers and administrators (James Jaeger, Jennifer Hurst, Addie Pulliam, Mary Beth Kindred, and Grace Julien) from our school with the sole purpose of assisting and encouraging the teachers at Sonlight Academy. The teachers at the Preschool-12th grade school were called by God to be there, and many of them don’t have a background in education. This is how we were able to help! For 4 days, we were in Haiti teaching, helping, and assisting the current teachers with ways to help their students continue to grow and succeed. Going in, I believe we all thought that we weren’t sure what WE could do to help them. Why did He call us to go? But of course, God is awesome and he taught us ALL (missionaries and LCA teachers alike), so many things.
We were each inside the classrooms of Sonlight, and we were able to experience firsthand what their teachers do each day. The classrooms have between 20-36 students in them – each child coming in with a different background. As the students arrive, many with full bellies from a big breakfast and many others with hungry tummies, yet all ready to be filled with hugs and lots of love. We were an extra set of hands to hug on and love these sweet students. We taught lessons to help the teachers and so they were able to see a different teaching style. We worked on organizing and setting up Math Tile sets so they could provide more problem solving in their classrooms. We taught them fun new ways to get their students’ attentions and watched as they implemented these beautifully. Teaching teachers can be LOTS OF FUN!
Walking away from this experience, we all came out with the same thought… Only 4 days? Can’t we stay just a little bit longer? But we are excited and thankful for the beginning of this wonderful partnership between LCA and Sonlight. Thank you for praying for our trip, for being a part of this vision and reaching out to help others in the world. Thank you for contributing financially and giving supplies to send down to our new friends. We are so blessed to be supported by fantastic families and we know that God has some big things in store for this partnership! -Ashley Ford, Trip Leader & 2nd Grade Teacher
“Everybody needs the opportunity toexperience Haiti. We are a blessed people and speaking for myself, I take so much for granted. Experiencing worship during their church service was powerful. The walls shook as they sang to the heavens. When you worship with all you have because that is all you have, powerful worship takes place. The teachers at Sonlight Academy want to provide the best possible education to the students of Haiti, and were very open and excited about the professional development we provided. The conversations continue even now with the teachers of Sonlight. Thank you for your prayers and support. God is so Good!” -James Jaeger, Elementary Assistant Principal
“There is a weird feeling I have been having since returning from our mission trip. Like, my "normal" is no longer normal. My life feels a little bit wrecked since visiting Haiti for just a short time. I’m told that's supposed to happen. This was God’s perfect opportunity to turn my world upside down. In Haiti, the abundant joy of the people we were serving was inspiring and humbling, especially due to their circumstances. The Haitian people and the missionaries we served are the true meaning of JOY! I am so thankful that God called me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experience all of the amazing things happening in Haiti and Sonlight. I cried leaving my family in Kentucky and then cried leaving my new friends in Haiti. This trip has reminded me that our agenda isn't always God's agenda. Words can’t express how incredibly thankful I am to have this opportunity to travel to Haiti with this team. I can’t wait to see what big things He has planned for the partnership between LCA and Sonlight. -Jennifer Hurst, Elementary Assistant Principal
“I am incredibly thankful that I was given the opportunity to travel to Haiti with this team. This was my first mission trip. I can’t adequately put into words how shocking, eye opening, and life perspective changing this experience was for me. It was incredibly sad to see a condition and way of life that is so vastly different than our own. We take for granted so much. The missionaries and students at Sonlight were a highlight for me. To know and see firsthand the sacrifice these missionaries, and their families, are making on a daily basis was inspirational. They embody that the Lord doesn’t call the equipped, but He does equip those He calls. They were remarkable teachers, with or without training. I felt honored to be in their classroom. I would go back in a heartbeat!” -Addie Pulliam, 3rd Grade Teacher
“Besides being a mom, this was the most rewarding adventure of my life. I went to Haiti thinking about what I could do to make a positive difference in the people’s lives there. What ended up happening was that they made a difference in my life even more. The Haitians have so little, yet they love so big! They aren’t searching for happiness, they have it. Our lives are so different, yet we want the same thing; love, compassion, happiness, etc. Haitians love Jesus like we do. It just makes the world not seem so big.” -Mary Beth Kindred, 6th Grade Teacher
“It was an honor to have been asked to join this team. Having never been on a mission trip before, I wasn’t sure what to expect on our short term trip. When we first got there, there were moments of exhaustion and feelings of discomfort & insecurity. I doubted that the Lord would really be able to use me to help the teachers at Sonlight. Pressing into the Lord, I was reminded of his faithfulness to his children, in every part of the world. I will always treasure the time we got to spend in Port-de-Paix at Sonlight Academy. What stood out to me the most was the value that the students put on their education. It is not something they take for granted. My hope and prayer is that I will get to return one day soon.”
-Grace Julien, 3rd Grade Teacher