Bringing hope to a drought-stricken area of Haiti
Mason Murawski noticed a young boy with Down Syndrome wasn’t wearing a colorful bracelet, meaning he wasn’t going to participate. Mason was part of a short-term team from the U.S. that was putting on a vacation Bible school (VBS) for children in a remote area of northwest Haiti.
Since Mason could speak Haitian Creole, he asked the local leaders if the boy could participate with the other children. His teammates knew how to work with special needs kids and felt comfortable incorporating him into the activities.
Throughout that week, Mason, his mom, Sandi, and other members of the Denbigh United Presbyterian Church in Virginia loved on Haitian children as they led VBS at two separate churches west of the Port-de-Paix area. That young boy ended up learning the dance movements and some of the worship song lyrics, in both English and Creole. He was not shy about dancing and singing with the entire group.
The Denbigh church has been sending teams almost every year since 2008. They started with building projects and then began doing VBS. “Providing Bible lessons, crafts, recreation, scripture, love, food, and relationships are all reasons we go,” says Sandi.
The group also pays for a generator and brings a portable printer so they can print out photos of the children. A professional photographer, Mason takes a photo of each child, and then the kids make a picture frame during craft time so they can display their photo at home.
This past summer, the team was surprised when they held up each photo and waited for the appropriate child to claim it. No one responded. Turns out they had never seen their own reflections because they don’t have mirrors in their homes. Having one is a luxury their families can’t afford.
But while the kids had never seen themselves, God sees them, and knows each one by name. At every VBS He was calling more to be His own. This past summer some 30 children were added to God’s forever family.
Roadblocks to Grace
This last trip could have been cancelled because the country was assigned a “Level Four” warning by the U.S. State Department—the highest warning level. The Embassy was basically saying, don’t come.
Exorbitantly high prices for food and gas are putting Haitians in desperate situations. A gang had shut down the road between Port-au-Prince and Port-de-Paix, making travel by road impossible.
“You need to be sure that you are called by God to come,” said longtime Crossworld missionary Bruce Robinson to the Denbigh church team. “And if you do come, the only way in and out is with MAF.”
Bruce is the connection to the Denbigh church. He grew up in that church. So it makes sense that they would adopt and engage with his ministry. Bruce and his wife, Deb, have lived in Haiti since 1983, coming alongside local pastors and building schools and churches and the infrastructure to support them: latrines, long-gravity drinking water systems, cisterns, irrigation systems, and wells. These serve an area of more than 100,000 people.
This area is one of the poorest in this impoverished country. The people survive by farming—when there’s rain, that is. Haiti is currently experiencing severe drought. The fact that children who come to VBS are fed breakfast and lunch is a big deal.
Every year the Robinsons rely on MAF to bring in short-term teams to help with building or water projects, and to run VBSs and sports camps. Typically, it’s 10 teams per year, or 60 to 100 people who come. A 45-minute flight replaces a grueling 10-hour road trip that can be dangerous, if not impossible.
“In a country where things aren’t all coming together yet, [MAF] it’s the only way you can get to where we live,” said Bruce.
MAF has been key to Bruce and Deb weathering other difficult periods in Haiti, like the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew.
When Bruce thinks of MAF and its supporters, he says, “They don’t see the direct results of their ministry—the people coming to Christ, the people that get water, the people that are able to grow food for themselves. But they need to know that we can’t do that very well unless we have the backup of MAF, making it possible for us to logistically do all of this. So MAF’s donors and staff are basically doing this thing on faith, knowing what they’re doing is a really good thing, but they don’t get to see the results. I get to see the results.”
And visiting teams like the one from the Denbigh church can also see a reflection of God’s transforming love.
This year Sandi caught a glimpse: “When you see children eating part of their lunch and then walking to the fence and giving the rest to the kids who didn’t get to come, you know they have the love of the Lord in their hearts.”
Story originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here:
I served in Port-au-Prince, Haiti from 1981-1983; I was a teacher at Quisqueya Christian School while my husband worked at Grace Children’s Hospital. I was inspired to go on overseas missions in the first place, by the life and death story of Jim Eliot and Nate Saint.
Although we had to leave “fulltime” missions in Haiti, we did take many shortterm teams back to work there in the following decades. MAF could have made a big difference for us traversing those narrow, dangerous roads to get from P-au-P to the North! The stories I can tell!!!
Loved “Ends of the Earth”! What a privilege we have to be poured out daily for His work!