FC Intern’s Dan Nerdahls reflections on the recent Haiti trip:
Well, after an eight day trip to Haiti, with an extra travel day thrown in there at the end, the Haiti 8 team has returned to Texas. In the next few days each team member will go back to their day to day responsibilities and each would probably say they are returning with a part of their heart still in Haiti. Over the next few days we will ask ourselves, “What can I take away from this?” and “When can I go back?” as well as processing again their experience on this annual trip to Haiti. I get the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you, what exactly I took out of this, when I will go back, and what my experience was.
This was my second trip to Haiti. I first went to Jacob’s Well Youth Camp last year on the “Haiti 7” trip with Frontier Camp. I knew this trip would be different in some ways but I also knew it would be similar in some ways. One thing that was different than last year was this year I was going as the intern, which really wasn’t that different other than Hans using the “intern” word to make me do stuff. (Haha, just kidding) To be honest, I wasn’t as pumped about this trip as I was last year for different reasons, but the Lord grew me on the trip and I was very blessed and encouraged to be a part of this team.
When we landed in Cap-Haitian Saturday morning it was a little surreal. I knew I wanted to return to Haiti but it finally hit that I was going to be in Haiti again for a second trip. We were greeted by the Valcins and after deciding to return for our checked luggage when it arrived we were on our way to Jacob’s Well. When we got to the camp the village kids were excited as always to see us and it was encouraging seeing familiar faces and how God has been working in Haiti the past twelve months.
On Sunday Morning we had the opportunity to go to both the Sunday morning service and the Sunday evening worship time which was awesome in both services to see the Haitians love for the Lord and their joy in worshipping Him. Even with the language barrier the entire team was blessed to be there and enjoyed the service.
One of the differences this year was the “work projects” part of the trip. Last year they consisted of long days, tough physical labor and two major projects. This year, some of the guys were very busy with the hand washing station and the welding of the metal carts while others spent a few days getting camp ready, I had the responsibility of “mowing” certain parts of camp with a few other team members which makes you appreciate lawn mowers as we used machetes to cut the grass, it was fun but very tiring.
Tuesday morning started early and was the first day of camp, which the whole team was excited for. Registration was another moment for us all to be reminded that flexibility is ok in life and it is a part of life in Haiti. We brought many of Frontier Camp’s favorite activities to Jacob’s Well which were facilitated by our team and help was given by the Haitian staff.
It was encouraging to see how much the Haitian counselors have grown and how well they are doing at being involved with camp. They are the ones that work the closest with the campers, help them with memory verses, and sharing devotions with them and they did a great job. They even were able to be the highlight of a few Bible dramas during camp.
The campers had a great time during camp. If it was a game, they played. Each day was filled with activities, Bible drama, music, a meal, and more activities. Praise the Lord we were able to have three full days of camp with no major delays. The last big thing for camp was a gospel presentation and an American campfire Haitian style.
Our last full day in Haiti we spent resting and relaxing which for Frontier Camp staff means hiking a mountain and going to the beach. Both trips were great opportunities to soak in God’s creation and enjoy some team bonding. Coming back from the beach was the highlight of the trip as the Haitian counselors led in some worship and it was a blessing to hear them praise the Lord.
Towards the end of the trip I was given my internship project for the trip. I was the lucky one who got to organize the trip back. This meant things like packing up, finding out what we needed to take back or leave there, how to use as few bags as possible and assigning bags to people. First, I am thankful that even when you are “in charge” others can give input and help. Second, I tended to see little things like wrapping up a trip easy or not a big deal, not the case. It actually took some thinking of the most efficient way to pack and get the team home. All in all it was a fun little project and I learned some things to do and some things not to do.
Each night we were there Hans Meinardus led a Bible study touching on Eschatology and the end times. No matter how much you study theology, we always have something to learn and be amazed by. Understanding Eschatology can be confusing but also very encouraging that we know the end of the story because of God’s Word.
Coming back from Haiti was a trip in itself. Due to poor weather in Cap-Haitian we missed our connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale, but Praise the Lord again in His provision. Southwest let us change our flight for no extra charge, and we were able to get a morning flight with our whole team on the flight, and willing parents to donate hotel points so we didn’t have to pay for any of the rooms. We enjoyed a nice dinner at Cuban restaurant, and a good night sleep. In the morning we made it to the airport and had no further delays, making it back to Texas Sunday morning.
What a great trip, each year I have been reminded that we should appreciate the blessings the Lord has given us and be reminded that we can and should always serve others. I don’t know when I will return to Haiti if I will, but one thing is certain, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunities I have had to be a part of this ministry and what I have learned during my trips. Hans reminded us that we ourselves cannot fix Haiti, the Lord has been at work there and it is encouraging to see. It was also cool meeting various people traveling back who had been or still are involved with Haiti. One interesting conversation with a security guard in Fort Lauderdale reminded me of a few things. Yes, people need help whether that is America or internationally. Serving on mission trips and donating financially is a great way to do that. But we need to remember that while help is great what the people we are serving ultimately need is the love of Christ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate reason why Frontier Camp exists, why Jacob’s Well youth camp was started seven years ago, and why we go on these trips. The Gospel changes lives and helps people more than money or a building ever could.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (ESV)