By Claudia, L.I.F.E. Trip participant
What a gift I received when I said yes to going to Haiti for the launch of the Haiti Teen Challenge Women's Program. Leaving the comforts of home with 5 other women to spend time in a developing world country-thinking I can do anything for six days! We came to serve. During our visit we experienced some of the challenges of Port Au Prince by riding in a car over amazingly difficult terrain called "roads" and witnessed the struggles of a country working to govern itself as protests, burning tires and unrest brewed in the neighborhoods following the announcement of the presidential runoff elections. But we knew we had been called to come and God was with us.
Arriving at the Haiti Teen Challenge Women's home, we were anxious to meet the 12 young women, ages 16 - 22 who had just entered the new program. We entered and precious choral voices rose up to meet us. The powerful presence of God was there along with a strong belief that lives were going to be changed. But as I rounded the corner of the stairway, I was greeted with unwelcoming stares that did not seem to match the voices I heard. The solemn look on twelve young women reminded me that they had not yet embraced the safety and love of this place. They were guarded and untrusting. Few knew each other when they arrived and now, they were being besieged with women with foreign tongues.
We sought to explain why we were there, that the same God that loves us loves them. That we believed God wanted us to meet, to pray for them, their circumstances, and their future. Early one morning we gathered together around a deep hole in a simple garden under a large shaded tree. The HTC women leadership team questioned the 12 young women about their lives, their behaviors, their own free will, and asked, "Are you willing to give everything over to God so that change can occur?" Next the young women took turns proclaiming out loud their desire to give to Jesus the burdens and brokenness of their lives, and then dropped a rock into the hole as they acknowledged sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, anger, fighting, harden hearts, rebellion, rejection, and fear. As we circled these young women and began to pray over them they began to weep. They put their arms around one another, and stood over those who fell to their knees. One young girl struggled to raise her head and look into the eyes of another who said, "Look at me. God loves you. I love you."
Over the next few days, as we worked together, ate together, and worshipped together - trust began to grow. You could see a difference in their eyes. Smiles started to peek out of the strongly guarded faces. One morning my daughter shared her personal testimony that spoke of shame and guilt. The girls' heads began to bow down...they understood. In support of my daughter, I spoke of a mother's love for her child. A desire for a daughter to be healed and receive the ultimate love of God the Father, how surrendering our free will to a Father who has always loved us and will never leave us can set us free. How great is our God!
What an honor to be a part of the official launch of the HTC Women's Program! With planning already done by the Haiti Teen Challenge staff, all we had to do was step into action. The young women decorated their new home with balloons and flowers, food was prepared, and serving tables set. It does not matter where you are....as women, we gather together and do what we do best - helping each other.
Let the Grand Opening Ceremony begin!
Everyone was welcomed by Julio and Suzette Volcy. The new roommates sang newly learned worship songs and three of the young women shared their story of their past and their hope for their future. You saw many tears being wiped off cheeks, even from the men who came to celebrate. The evening closed in a ribbon cutting ceremony and circling around the entire outside of the house, lifting the HTC home up in prayer. It was quite a successful evening, and also the 40th birthday of Suzette Volcy, the HTC Women's Program Director. As far as Suzette was concerned, God had given her the best birthday present ever - the opening of a home that will not only change the lives of women, but will change the life of a nation!
Our day of departure came.
How do you say, "good bye" to a place that is making such a difference? Saturday morning, before our flight out of Haiti, we stopped in to worship with the girls. We needed to let them know we were going physically, but not leaving them spiritually, for they are now deep in our hearts. We were given an opportunity to place over them a prayer shawl that women from our church knitted and prayed over. There was one for each girl, declaring a verse that God so wanted them to claim for themselves: Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
GOD KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING...High up at the top of a mountain overlooking Port Au Prince we had exactly seven minutes to take in the view of Haiti before we caught our plane back to the states. Soaking in the people of Haiti, and now the countryside...it was as if God said to me, "I place upon you a permanent print of who I am and what I am doing in the people of the country of Haiti."
Thank you for letting me tell you some of my story and please celebrate with me the transformation that God is doing in the lives of young men and women though Haiti Teen Challenge!