Yesterday was World Hunger Day. I read the articles and heard the statistics and I used to think I could somewhat understand what hunger was. But I didn’t come close to grasping that reality until I went on my first mission trip (I went to India a few years ago) and saw poverty for myself. Even after traveling to a third world country and seeing real hardship first hand, I still will never fully understand because for me, there was never a day in my life when I wondered when or how I would get my next meal. Of course I’m thankful for this, but I’m also so thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to live outside of myself for even just a few days.
Part of the ongoing ministry of Highlands is in partnership with Feed my Starving Children. This amazing non-profit organizes feeding programs in many different countries around the world. One of those countries is Haiti, and this past winter I had the privilege of being a part of one of their mobile packs. A group of volunteers gathered at Highlands and packed hundreds of packets of food to ship to Haiti. I volunteered for this project before I knew I would be going to Haiti just months later and I’m still reeling from how amazing it has been to come full circle. Being able to be a part of the packing process, to hear the stories of malnourished children who are now being fed on a regular basis, and then to see with my own eyes those children who received the food, is a blessing I will not soon forget.
The journey down the dusty, unpaved road to L’Artibonite mirrored how I was feeling that day. We were on our way to help distribute one of the feeding programs. With each bump the fluttering of my heart was magnified and with each dip the sinking feeling in my soul deepened. I tried to prepare myself for what we would see in one of the poorest communities in Haiti, but no amount of prayer could have shielded my heart. We finally arrived after what seemed like hours and the group of children who were a part of the feeding program in the village had already gathered.
The wide, beautiful, and expectant eyes that looked up at us were enough to instantly bring tears to my eyes. We didn’t know the last time every person in this village had eaten a full meal. But at least we knew that this program was feeding these children regularly. The children held on to our hands so tightly from the moment we reached out to them; not to mention the firm grip they had on our hearts. We were ushered into the dimly lit, incredibly hot building and the children quickly rushed to take their seats on rickety wooden benches. Before serving the food, we were able to share with the kids how much we loved them and more importantly, just how much God loved them. We also had an opportunity to sing with them. Upon hearing so many tiny voices lifted up to God in praise, I could not hold back the tears. They wore tattered clothing. They had dirt caked on their feet. But oh how they sang.
We began distributing the food and again I could not hold back my tears. In giving the first plate to a little girl, I paused and looked into her eyes. She smiled back at me, seemingly confused as to why I was crying, and quickly diverted her attention to her plate and began earnestly eating. We also had the opportunity to give them cups of clean, fresh water. I’m not sure what they were most excited about, the water or the food. Their only source of water was a cloudy canal we passed by on our way into the village where we saw people bathing, animals drinking, and people washing clothes. Clean water on this day was a blessing indeed. Watching everything unfold, observing the process, and being pulled in different directions from kids who wanted their picture taken; was an overwhelming experience. One of the most incredible acts I witnessed in that room was when a child offered what was left on their plate to another child, as if they had food to spare. There is so much we can learn about God’s provision.
After the children had eaten, they wanted to take us on a tour of their village. They were so proud and excited to show us where they lived. As I was walking, a little girl latched on to one hand and with the other, I was able to snap a few pictures. She watched me do this a few times and eventually she started pointing to things that she wanted me to take pictures of. She pointed to a few stray pieces of rice on the ground, she pointed to a mother and child taking a nap on a tattered blanket, she pointed to hut with a caved-in roof. And I took it all in. I wasn’t just able to capture what I saw but I was so humbled that she allowed me into their space, to capture the village through her eyes. I thought the joy might burst right out of her.
As we were leaving, through blurry, tear-filled eyes I watched out of the van’s back window as the kids chased us and their silhouettes grew smaller and smaller. God is doing amazing work in Haiti. But as we made our way back down the bumpy dirt road, I didn’t feel like patting myself on the back. I didn’t feel like rejoicing for the good deeds that were done. But rather, I had an intense feeling of determination to leave behind the selfish inclination to live for myself. God pressed on my heart that day that I can be doing so much more and I’m so excited to see where He leads. God is good. All the time.