Have you ever looked back at a series of events in your life and said, “Wow, God, you are amazing!”? That’s how Nina and I feel as we look back and see how God used our afternoon walks on the beach to impact the lives of some of the children in our community.
I arrived in Haiti on January 2, 2014. I didn’t know how God would use me, but I was excited for the opportunity. Nina had already been here a few years; she arrived with one of the initial teams deployed to Haiti in August 2010 and has been working in logistics since then.
The two of us connected, so walking on the beach after a long day in the office became routine. It was great exercise and a good stress reliever. Nina was already well-known in the community. As we would walk in the community around our base, we’d always hear someone shouting, “Bonswa, Nina!”
It was an added bonus was when we would meet and befriend the children on the beach. They loved to stop us and talk with us. However, our Creole was limited, so we’d simply walk hand in hand with the children for a while, smiling at them.
One afternoon, we tried to learn the names and ages of the kids we were with. Sometimes it was a challenge, but we had fun trying. A day or two after trying to learn everyone’s names, one of the girls came running to us with a piece of paper. She had neatly written out everyone’s names and ages.
Her name was Gina, and she turned out to be the spokeswoman for the group. Each day, we tried to communicate more with the kids. One day, Gina told us her birthday was in March. Nina and I thought it would be great to throw her a birthday party on the beach.
We gave Gina a Bible as a gift. She unwrapped it a little, peeked inside, and then put it away. I think she was afraid someone might take it.
After her party, Gina disappeared. We would ask for her, but the kids would just say she wasn’t here. It seemed that months went by before we saw her again. Nina and I kept walking the beach, but we were concerned about Gina. Then one day she appeared again. We suspected that she had been visiting family in another city but never knew for sure.
This time we learned that she lives with grandmother; she has a twin brother, Junior; her mother had died when she was young; her father wasn’t in the picture; and she didn’t have money to attend school. So in August 2014, we started helping Gina with the cost of her schooling.
By the fall of 2015, we had been helping Gina; Junior; and another girl, Marlie, with school for almost a year. They brought us their report cards so we would know they were doing well in school. In our limited Creole, we would ask them about church and if they knew Jesus. They said they did.
A Journey of Discipleship
In September, Gina and her grandmother asked Nina and me to go to Gina’s baptism and be her sponsor. At this point, we felt it would be good if they spoke with the pastor and ministry program manager with Samaritan’s Purse. He grew up in Haiti, and we knew he would be able to understand them clearly.
Through him, we realized that they knew about Jesus, but they did not know who Jesus was or what He had done on the cross for us. Pastor Pierre told us that the ministry program could do an Operation Christmas Child distribution, but Nina and I would need to commit to leading the 12-week Greatest Journey discipleship curriculum with them.
We were excited about this opportunity. For years, Nina and I had packed shoeboxes at our home churches. I led a couple of packing parties at my church and helped in the processing center. Here in Haiti, Nina and I had been to a couple of distributions, and now we were going to lead children through The Greatest Journey program. Everything had come full circle.
Nina and I love what we do in logistics and finance, and we understand how what we do supports the programs so they run smoothly. But being given the opportunity to share the love of Christ directly with these children was an amazing privilege.
We began with five children in the class: Gina, Junior, Marlie, Shermaly, and Yvenson. After week one, we had six. Then the following week, two more joined. Our class reached eight students. All eight children accepted Christ and graduated from The Greatest Journey on April 6, 2016. After various delays, misunderstandings, illnesses, and a terrible rainstorm just two hours prior to the ceremony, the graduation came together, and it was a great experience. It was terrific to see how so many Samaritan’s Purse staff members helped us make sure it was a special night for the children and their families and friends.
Nina and I learned a lot from this experience. We couldn’t have done it without the help of our coworker and translator, Anne Marie. I think the best moment for us was when Gina said she didn’t understand why Nina and I gave her so much without knowing her. We were able to tell her that it was because Jesus loves us so much and because He gave us so much. From that abundance, we were able to love and help her. It’s all because of Jesus. Wow, God you are amazing!