When I asked Mirlandat about the importance of community service, she said, “It is a great thing to share what we have with other children.” Although she is only 13 years old, Mirlandat understands Peter’s command in 1 Peter 4:10 to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV).
This year, Mirlandat and the other children living at the Greta Home and Academy in Haiti have been learning what it means to be good stewards of God’s blessings through an outreach program that provides the students with opportunities to serve their community. As the teens work to benefit others, they follow the Lord’s commands for all of us to love our neighbors and honor God through service.
Each month, a small group of teenagers at the Greta Home and Academy participate in a community service project in Macombre, the area surrounding our home and school. Since the program began in February, 31 students have served their neighbors through projects that focus on meeting needs in their community.
The first project served a nearby family after their home was destroyed by a fire. A group of students saw that their neighbors had lost everything and wanted to help. They collected several backpacks of clothes, toys, and school supplies, which they brought to the family along with a box of food. The children also had the opportunity to spend time praying with their neighbors.
“[It was] important to help because our neighbor was in a bad situation, and we took care of them,” said Louismalio, one of the teenagers who visited the family. “It was good to help.”
Since assisting their neighbors in February, the teenagers have continued to use their time and talents to bless others in their community in a variety of ways. They quickly recognized that litter is a significant issue in Haiti and have picked up trash and recyclables to clean up their community.
I had the privilege of taking students on a beach cleanup project in September. I loved watching as they eagerly waded into the water to retrieve empty soda bottles and picked up plastic bags from the shore. Several community members walked by as we worked. As I explained to one man what we were doing, he offered us a big smile of appreciation.
Together, we collected two huge bags of trash and recyclables, and the students proudly commented that the beach would be much nicer now that it’s cleaner. It was wonderful to see the students working together to beautify their community. We hope the community members who saw us will now be inspired to clean up their neighborhoods as well.
Several times over the past few months, groups of teens from the home have helped at another nearby orphanage where they tutored and played with the kids, assisting with various projects as needed. Most recently, a group of five students helped the orphanage director prepare her new Christian school for the start of the school year. The students spent several hours painting the desks and benches a colorful blue and organizing school, craft, and medical supplies before stopping to play a lively game of UNO with the children.
Education is a significant problem in Haiti, and I was proud to see our teens working so hard to paint the desks and benches and organize the supplies so that other children could experience the educational opportunities they appreciate at the Greta Home and Academy. Through the community outreach program, the teenagers have been able to recognize the many blessings they enjoy at their beautiful home and school, which so many other children in the community don’t get to experience.
Sharing Faith and Changing the World
This past spring, Mirlandat and several other students enjoyed participating in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution at a nearby school in Léogâne. The teenagers enjoyed helping the shoebox recipients open their gifts, but they also appreciated the chance to share God’s love with them. In Mirlandat’s words, it was important to tell the children “how much God loves them and how He has a plan for them.” As the children help their neighbors, God is opening doors for them to tell others about their faith, which is the most important gift they can share.
From cleaning up trash to helping at a nearby orphanage, the Greta Home and Academy students have found a variety of ways to use their gifts to bless others. They’re learning to see the needs of their neighbors and find ways to share God’s love as they use their time and talents to help.
The vision of the Greta Home and Academy is to “raise Christian leaders for the future of Haiti.” As the children work to change their community, they are discovering the joy of following Christ’s example and are growing as servant leaders. I feel honored to have the opportunity to watch these students eagerly serve as Christ did.
These young leaders are just starting to make a difference in their community, and it will be incredible to see how they continue to use their gifts to impact their nation for God’s glory. Maybe these small seeds will blossom into something incredible that will change the nation of Haiti.
Someday, one of the students will remember painting desks in a small school in Léogâne and will be motivated to enact educational reforms to provide quality education for the children of Haiti. Maybe another student will recall praying with the family who lost everything in a fire and will become a pastor who shares Jesus’ incredible love with thousands of people across Haiti.
I cannot wait to see what God has planned for His precious children, and I pray as they continue to grow and learn as young men and women of Christ that they never forget that it is, indeed, “a great thing to share what we have with others.”