By Tom Kautz
I just returned from my second trip to Haiti. While there we led several VBS programs, brought gifts to the elderly, delivered personal care items to a prison, helped with a feeding program for poor children, taught English to interested youth, gave baby clothes to women at a clinic, gave clothes to children (the cloths were donated by Dress A Girl Around the World), and assisted workmen on the new church building.
For those of you who don't know me or my background, I owned a Pepperidge Farm bread distributorship until a year and a half ago. When asked if I would ever go on the Haiti trip, I answered that I couldn't consider it until I sold my distributorship. Two years ago, my wife and I accompanied the Hortonville band on their trip to Hawaii. I reasoned then that if I had the means to take an exotic trip like that, the next year, I would strongly consider the Haiti trip. I was aware of a verse that said something along the lines that for those that have been given much, much is expected. (“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48). I reread the verse, “demanded?” It doesn't say “expected?” That took on a whole new meaning.
I know that I have been given much, and if you saw what we have seen in Haiti, the poor in our country are kings in comparison. If you ask the average person if they are rich, they will probably say no. My tongue in cheek definition of rich is anyone who has at least one more dollar than you do. I have seen what people live like in Haiti. Many have a home the size of our lawn mower sheds. Sometimes it's four walls of some scrap wood patched together, rusty corrugated sheet metal for a roof with a dirty bed sheet hanging over the doorway. Every year we met people who don't know if they are going to eat that day.
I have the privilege of being born in the richest country in the world at the time of instant food. I think of my parents growing up during the depression. A farm family then probably spent most of their day preparing meals. They would milk cows, churn butter, maybe butcher a chicken, pick some berries, go see what is ready in the garden, and do some baking. I can go and pick up a ready to eat meal in minutes. It is possible to buy a pair of shoes that have pump up soles and I can get a pizza delivered to my front door.
I received several gifts this year on our trip. Our security guard, Peterson, gave me a bracelet that he was wearing. He told me that since he had two and I had none, he should give me one. He said I should remember him when I wear it. I'm sure he was referring to Luke 3:11 “If you have two coats, give one away.” He said, “Do the same with your food.” It is humbling to receive gifts from people who don't have much. I have several winter coats, and my closet is full of more clothes than I could ever wear out even after purging my closet last year to make a Goodwill donation. Our cupboards and refrigerator contain enough food that we wouldn't have to make a grocery store trip for a long time even though I am sure we will be back there soon.
I am not going to tell you that you need to go on the Haiti mission trip. I don't know what you are capable of financially or physically. It does cost some money to go and everyone can't take off of work or come up with the funds.
I will tell you that you already have the skills to go. I recently worked for my successor on my old bread route so he could take a vacation. While working along side one of the guys from another company, I mentioned that I would be taking a trip to Haiti. He thought that was cool, he said his aunt was a nurse and she had taken a couple trips there. The next day, he told me that he had called his grandmother and probably being hard up for conversation topics, he mentioned that he knew a guy that was planning a trip. She immediately became interested and started asking about the trip. She wanted to know if I was a doctor or some other medical person and what we would be doing in Haiti. He answered, “Uh, no, I think he is just a bread guy.” My point being, if a bread guy can go and make a difference in Haiti, I'm sure you are also qualified. I will also tell you that of the eight people on this trip, none of us were going for the first time. Three of us were there for the second and the rest have been there three or more times. Everyone of us felt the desire to return.
If you can't go to Haiti but you have a desire to help, I can give you some suggestions. We did ask the congregation for donations this year for some medicine and baby clothes. There was a very generous response and we were grateful for all your gifts. Dress a Girl Around the World is a great organization that will gladly accept donations to keep them going. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1735780770050354&id=1488172841477816 . Half of the clothes were boys shorts and shirts so it wasn't just girls getting new clothes.
Perhaps you believe like I do that in a world of abundant food that no one should go hungry. We asked our host Sydney, how she chooses the children for the feeding program. Twice a week she takes a very large kettle of beans and rice to one of the poorest parts of town. Kids show up with any container they can lay their hands on and get a good portion. They show up with dirty and tattered clothes and not much more. She said she looks for signs of malnutrition by looking at their skin and hair.
I mentioned before that we visited some elderly. We gave them rice and beans, pasta, oil and some other personal items. In that bag was a small granola bar. Trust me, as granola bars go, it was one of the cheaper ones. They traveled in luggage that had been tossed around two planes and on and off of the van to the guest house. They also have been laying around in 80 and 90 degree temperatures for a few days. By the time they made it to these elderly, they were not in the best shape. Yet, several times that granola bar was the first thing out of the bag and was eaten while Pastor Chad was sharing a devotional with them and we were singing to them. The visit was usually wrapped up by our very talented quartet who sang the song, “Go Out and Serve Him”. It was beautiful every time they sang it. One couple asked Sydney to wait a minute, she returned from her house with a handful of greens. She said that this is all they had to eat today. They had prayed and prayed that somehow more food would show up. Their prayers were answered by our visit.
Sydney gets the money for this food for the children and the elderly from Ministry in Mission. (http://www.ministryinmission.org/) Since our team had bought the food for these elderly visits, I asked Sydney how often the elderly get food when no mission team is there and she said that she goes weekly. I asked her if the money ever runs out and she said sometimes and then she just has to tell them, there was no money, she can't bring them anything. Maybe you would like to make a periodic donation to Ministry in Mission and designate for food for these programs.
Perhaps you don't agree with the Haiti mission. I would suggest other programs. Food for the Poor says they can feed a person for $3.65 a month. Lutheran World Relief would be another. I won't tell anyone what they should do. But I would ask that you ask the question that I ask myself….”Is God demanding anything from me?” If your gift isn't financial, there are other ways to answer this question. Every Sunday, needs are mentioned for any number of areas in our church. I'm sure that Emily and Hannah could use anyone offering their gifts of music or working with youth. I know that Highway Cleanup is scheduled and there is usually a spring cleanup of our church grounds.
A verse recently came to my attention. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4 ;10. The song keeps running through my head that was sung by our talented ladies. “Go out and serve him, serve him. Go out and serve him today.”