I have officially made it through what I thought was the hottest month, July, only to find out that August is actually supposed to be the hottest month! Wish me luck!
A few weeks ago, I had the sweetest treat with some visitors coming to Gonaives. Renee, who is the lady who I went on my second trip to Haiti with and the one who introduced me to Kathy to begin with, brought a team of rising college freshman to Gonaives for 2 days. I knew since they were from my home town of Knoxville and involved with Young Life, I would probably get along well with them, and I was right; they were truly such a great group! Since we don’t host mission teams at 2nd Story Goods, this was my first experience helping a team plan out their time; other than them being left at the hotel restaurant alone trying to order 10 pizzas, not knowing that a catered meal was on its way, it went surprisingly well! Having them here enabled us to bring several people who had been laid off back to work for the day which was such a blessing to us; since the team was mostly girls who found plenty of stuff to buy, it also really positively impacted our sales for the week!
Explaining the group’s time here will give you a taste of what your time might look like if you ever come see me in Gonaives! We had homemade Haitian spaghetti and fresh juice ready for them when they arrived, which was a huge hit since their bus took 4 extra hours to arrive due to breaking down; while they ate, Beaver shared with them the vision and story behind Much Ministries. They did a Make and Take session, which is when people get to work side by side with our artisans to make their own piece of art to take home. I ran around trying to help where I could as everyone enjoyed making bracelets, Haitian paintings, and shirts.
In the evening, we went to play soccer at the local stadium against a group of Gonaives Young Life kids. I was thankful to finally get to meet the guy in charge of Young Life here and am planning on visiting one of their Young Life clubs when the school year starts; Young Life was a huge part of my life in the US and something I really miss, so I’m really excited about that! It was my first time playing soccer since high school (over 5 years!) and man, I had appreciation for how in shape I was in high school until that day. I had such a hard time keeping up, but it was so much fun. I have missed playing soccer so much, and this incentivized me to try to find more opportunities to play here (last week, I shared this with a Haitian friend and she has already me invited to play with her and some friends soon!).
After the soccer game, the group checked in at their hotel, which also has a restaurant that is my favorite place in town and pretty much the only other place I go rather than work and home. We call it “Narnia” because it feels like a magical land that is a stark difference from the city, filled with lots of trees, greenery, silence, and peace. The next morning, the team woke up early to go on a bike tour with Pedale. Pedale is the official name of the new biking group that my friends run. It has developed into it’s own branch under their photography company, We Do. Renee’s group was there first official tour group! We rode to our favorite spot by the river, which we have coined “Flamboyant Beach”, named after the beautiful tree with red flowers- yes, the plant’s real name actually is Flamboyant! We swam in the river and ate a wonderful breakfast that included fresh pineapple and mango.
We headed back in town for everyone to get cleaned up. Over lunch, I told the group how I ended up in Haiti and how meaningful it was for me to have them in Gonaives. I explained that the centralization of Port au Prince makes what’s already a struggling economy struggle even more, and that’s why at Much, we are committed to the development of Gonaives. Having visitors coming to Gonaives to see the beauty it has to offer and to partake in the economy here is such a big deal! After lunch, the group got to do some quick shopping before they went to tour Benson’s leather workshop. Benson is our leather artisan who employs over 20 people in Jubilee, the developing community on the outskirts of town where 2nd Story Goods started. He is incredibly intelligent and inspiring. His favorite thing to tell groups when they come to see him is: the way you keep poor people poor is by giving them everything they need. I love to watch the awe-inspired faces of visitors as they meet Benson and hear his story of approaching MK with a Bible he had rebound in leather himself over 8 years ago, and then get to look around at his workshop and see what he has built in that time. It is so incredibly beautiful. His workshop truly feels like a sacred space.
Having this team come was honestly an answered prayer for me in more ways than one. Obviously, with our struggle with sales and people being laid off, it was such a blessing to have them come and lessen that burden a little bit. Additionally, showing them the best parts of Gonaives also gave me such an appreciation for my little slice of Heaven here; it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to live this life. But most importantly for me personally, it really helped my view of short-term mission teams. Since living here, I have found myself having an unexplainably hard heart toward those who are here on these types of teams, and I have been praying about it a lot, because I know that is a toxic mindset that is not of the Lord. I think that knowing what my mindset was on my first two short term mission trips to Haiti- mostly comprised of a white savior complex- before I know what I know now is what causes me to cast unfair judgements on others. That is ridiculous because first of all, I cannot assume that everyone is thinking the same way I did on my first few trips, secondly, no one knows what they don’t yet know, and lastly, even if they are coming in with a similar mindset, they are just in a different part of their journey than I am- a part that was crucial for me in learning what I have since then- and when I was in that part of my own journey, I know I needed a whole lot of grace in order to keep journeying! Having this team here humbled me and filled me up. They wanted to learn just as much as they wanted to serve, and their open minds and hearts opened my mind and heart back up, too.
Update: everyone will be back at work this week at 2nd Story Goods! Thank you to everyone for your prayers, purchases, and words of encouragement. and please, keep them coming!