As I walk the roads and trails of Gressier, without fail, I hear a child scream. Wailing in pain. In fear. If I can find them, I try to stop it…to talk to the adult that is beating them.
So often I walk past children “playing” games together pretending to beat each other. Pretending to throw rocks at each other and hurt each other.
Every day as I walk past the trash piles in Gressier, my heartbreaks at how this country, God’s beautiful creation, looks because people don’t know how to pick up their trash.
Many days we play games counting how many people we will see peeing on the side of the BIG main road without regard to people, children passing.
It’s not cultural to fight, to beat and abuse children, to pee in public, to throw trash on the ground – those have been negative behaviors that have been learned, ACCEPTED and NEVER challenged or rerouted.
Respire Haiti is here to CHALLENGE and CHANGE these negative behaviors and to help point people to Christ so that they can learn to love, respect and honor each other.
I am humbled to say (finally and after struggling over the last 6 weeks with this realization) that our “Feeding Program” is not working anymore. It was successful in the beginning, over 300 meals were served every Saturday- we succeeded in bringing children together. We succeeded in children getting to know their neighbors. We succeeded in sharing Christ with these children, teaching them about their identity and loving them. But as our program has grown, so have the problems—children disrespecting other children, hitting, fighting, throwing trash on the ground. Now the easy thing to do would be to just end the program. And to be honest after I was just fed up with the children fighting (and play fighting) on Saturday I DID cancel it one weekend. But then, the Lord reminded me-
He NEVER said this would be easy.
As my heart softened, I knew we had to change this program. We had to grow with the needs of our children…
Two weekends ago we piloted a new program- changing Respire Haiti’s feeding program to a Mentorship/Discipleship Program. We separate the children by age, put them in classes (on our school campus) and then teach them about a topic. The first week we taught on respect, the next tolerance, last week we taught them about respecting the environment. We are eager to talk about violence, hitting, loving each other, kindness, compassion…………
We read stories, give them examples, explain the importance of the subject, CHALLENGE their behavior and show them in scripture where the Lord calls us to do this!
MANY of the kids in this program don’t go to school. And Now, we have all ages in this program, young children to mid-20’s. Challenging.
There are times when visitors come and ask, “Why don’t you just tell the older kids to go away so the young children can eat.”
I wish my first answer would be, “Because the Lord calls us to FEED the hungry….not just the hungry CHILDREN.” But to be honest…I usually go into an explanation about how we don’t have a wall around our school…about how we started construction without a wall around our property…about how we don’t have the ability to just say, “Get off our land!” without any closures around.
The reality is, the Lord has USED this for HIS Glory. The Lord has USED this to teach me, mold me and show me HIS way. Respire Haiti has never felt obligated to put a wall around our school property. We’ve been busy working and kept buying more land, so it didn’t make sense. And the truth is, that God has used this to FORCE us to open our eyes to ALL the needs. We CANT close the door to our gate. We CANT turn our eyes.
Now This program is MORE tiring, difficult and frustrating. But it’s right, good and how we believe Jesus wants HIS Kingdom to be furthered.
What this situation has also done, is shown me how DESPERATE these children and young adults are for SOMETHING, ANYTHING. For opportunity. For guidance. For mentorship.
Now with our plan of separating the children into age groups…we are able to reach them at their own level. To teach them at a level they understand. To GIVE them responsibility and an opportunity for Leadership in their country and in their community. And the chance to share a meal together.
Everything was really tied in together this past Saturday…mentoring, feeding, meeting the needs. There was a little boy that one of our interns saw that kept passing out…at first they thought he was falling asleep but then they realized he wasn’t sleeping. As they brought him over to me, his eyes were glazed, he was lifeless and he was just staring into the distance. As I tried to ask questions he wouldn’t respond. Finally a little girl a few years older than him walked up and said, “He’s hungry.” I looked at her, looked at this precious 4 year old and then asked when was the last time he ate….as she looked at me and said “Yesterday.”…I looked at my watch….4:57pm. My heart broke as we grabbed a plate of food and Alex began feeding him, shortly after, one of the older children in our program came and took over feeding the little boy. A little while later, I felt a tug on my shirt and turned around to have my leg embraced by this beautiful, now lively, child of God. I was reminded…THIS is why we do this. We are FEEDING. We are TEACHING. We are LOVING. We are GROWING with this community.
To find out more information or to partner with us in our Discipleship/Mentorship Program please email firstname.lastname@example.org