God’s love in Haiti
by Emily Grooms
On the cover: TMC Student Stephany Lozano plies her musical talents, serving God and ministering to others in Haiti.
During spring break, TMC’s chapel worship team and three staffers ministered in Haiti, serving in an orphanage and with local churches, leading Bible studies and Vacation Bible Schools. Said one team member: “I was shocked by the way our Haitian brothers and sisters praised God. They sang and shouted praises from the bottom of their hearts even though they had nothing, and probably didn’t even have any food that day.” More than 30 people made professions of faith in Christ.
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – Sitting in her high school sign language classroom, Stephany Lozano never dreamed she would use such a skill -- much less in ministry to a deaf child in Haiti. But she did.
Lozano and 15 others from Truett-McConnell College’s chapel worship team ministered in Haiti during the school’s spring break, Feb. 23 - March 2.
The mission team served at the Children of Hope Orphanage, a ministry of Baptists 4 Haiti, which is associated with the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief team.
That’s where Lozano met a deaf, 8-year-old boy, to whom she taught sign language. She said it was a huge blessing to see the smile and glow on his face every time he learned a new sign.
“In high school I took three years of American Sign Language, and always thought I would never use it,” Lozano told TMCNews. “I was very wrong.”
A band of believers
James Dollar -- TMC’s chapel worship leader and music minister at Concord Baptist Church -- led the team along with Harriet, his wife, and TMC’s co-directors for student development, Jonathan Morris and Andrew Gailey.
“My family and I took a trip to Haiti with Concord before the earthquake in ’09,” Dollar said. “We developed a heart for the people of Haiti then and always desired to go back.”
Having previously visited Haiti, Dollar connected with Stuart Lang, the Georgia Baptist State Missionary to the Georgia Baptist Convention about the possibility of taking the TMC worship team on a similar trip. “With a lot of help from the GBC we were able to go,” Dollar said.
A new kind of ministry
While in Haiti, team members experienced ministry in dissimilar ways, said Dollar. “As a team, they mostly sing everywhere they go. I feel that this group realized that ministry involves a lot more than just singing.”
Because of the size of the group, the team members in ministered in several places, Morris said. “Half of our group went to a church on the mountain and the other half headed to a flat-land church, where we presented Bible schools for children each morning during the week.”
The mountain church group had a 30-minute hike up steep roads. “They worshiped in a church building made of a wood frame covered by tarps or tin in an area surrounded by hundreds of small houses,” Morris said.
The flat-land group were “driven to the front door of the church where they only had to make a 15-to-20 foot walk,” Morris laughed. “The church building had unfinished concrete walls with a tarp covering one side and a roof over a portion of the worship area.”
Their time spent at each church was devoted to crafts and sharing Bible stories about creation, Noah’s ark, Daniel and the Lion’s den, and the birth and resurrection of Jesus.
“The people were very attentive to hearing the Gospel,” student Nikki Cross said. “They soaked up every bit of the stories and the crafts that went along with it. It was touching to see how they all responded to Jesus dying and how He rose from the grave.”
While most of the team spent time with the children in the orphanage, Dollar and a group of five young men moved a 2,000-gallon water tank. “We poured a slab, moved the rack, and in a crazy way moved the tank on the roof of a truck,” Dollar said. “We made them official Haitian rednecks,” he laughed.
“We pray that God will use our labors for His glory. Whether we planted an initial seed, watered a growing branch, or helped to harvest a crop, we know it is all in vain without God’s grace,” Morris said. “We are thankful we serve a gracious God who loves these people far more than we ever could.”
By the end of the week, the team witnessed more than 30 people make professions of faith in Christ, helped local churches reach out to their communities, and saw believers growing in their faith.
A new perspective
“One of the ways this experience impacted my life was in seeing the poverty these people live in every day,” said student Mary Hammack. “We were told that a little 12x6 room is considered to be a nice house in Haiti.”
While worshiping with the Haitians, God taught Lozano, a member of the mountain church group, something about true worship: “When we reached the church, I was shocked by the way our Haitian brothers and sisters praised God. They sang and shouted praises from the bottom of their hearts even though they had nothing, and probably didn’t even have any food that day.”
“All they could say was ‘Messi Senor,’ which means ‘Thank You, Lord’ in their language,” Lozano said. “They worship God for who He is and not for what they have."
Each team member was deeply impacted by the week’s experiences in a personal and unique way; however, one thing they all continue to reflect on since returning to the States is the faces of the people they left.
“In the faces of the people you could distinctly see the difference between the Christians and the lost because the Christians had hope,” student Thomas Johnson said. “Even though they came from a different culture than I did, they were still the same in the fact that they either knew Jesus or needed to know Jesus.”
Lives changed and hearts renewed
On their last night in Haiti, the group sat in a circle discussing the events of the week and how God had been working in their individual lives. “Privilege, restoration, confirmation, peace, joy, freedom”: these words described the emotions of the week.
“It was apparent that God had been speaking to each person in a unique and special way,” Morris said.
Johnson said the greatest thing he learned throughout the week is that he needs to be more thankful: “I smile more,” he said. “I am more thankful for everything I have, and I am now heading firmly in the direction God has called me.”
Others, like Lozano, became aware of the growing need of sharing the Gospel: “The need is something real,” she said, “and this experience has given me a greater heart for missions.”
“God did a work in everyone,” Dollar said. “I believe every single person came back with a new perspective.”
Given the opportunity to go on a similar trip, each member of this team would not only sign up themselves, but would encourage others to do the same: It’s not something to be done half-heartedly, Hammack said, “Give it everything you’ve got, and then watch God work.”
Reiterating the words of the great commission in Matthew 28.19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” Cross asked this important question: “How else will they hear if no one goes and tells them?”
Emily Grooms is a Truett-McConnell senior English major and a freelance writer for the college.