Post trip thoughts: From Leah

This was my first time in Haiti, but my 3rd
international mission trip and my 5th time abroad. I have previously gone on
two mission trips to Ukraine with Mission to Ukraine to work at a camp and
orphanage for individuals with disabilities. I have also studied abroad in
Ghana twice. Both times I worked some with individuals with special needs, but
this summer when I lived in Ghana I had an internship working at a school for
individuals with special needs. I love working with individuals and
orphans with special needs, and after finishing occupational therapy
school I plan to live and work abroad. I was planning on coming on this trip
for one last adventure before I start graduate school this summer, but as with
all our human plans, God had other ideas.

As I was preparing to
leave for Haiti, I was excited to visit a new country and to learn about the
disability experience there. However, I really wasn’t expecting this trip to be
as life affirming and life changing as it has turned out to be. I was so
excited when we arrived and were able to jump into playing with the kids right
away! I was a little intimidated at first, but loved getting to play with the
kids and just hold them and laugh. On Sunday, the Kimmy’s house team was able
to be apart of the church service at the Miriam Center which was
so filled with joy and true worship. I loved hearing the mommas sing while
loving on the kids. I got to hold Shama, who I had really bonded with the first
day. She was so sweet and so smart! I loved singing and laughing with her.
After church, I asked the mommas if I could help feed the kids. They showed me
where the food was and I started feeding Shama and Walden. The
mommas asked me to feed Job next. Job had been crying, and I was a little
intimidated because I had seen him spitting out most of his food the day
before. When I started feeding Job, he started crying and spitting out most of
the food I fed to him as well. I was really challenged and a little frustrated-
I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. The momma’ said he probably just
wasn’t hungry, but I still felt like I had failed a little. Job and I were both
covered in food and he was still crying. I cleaned up and had my lunch, but
couldn’t get Job’s face out of my head!

The next morning, I went
downstairs to help feed the kids breakfast. I fed Shama first, and then asked
the mommas who I should feed next. They pointed to Job, who was propped up
on some mats and soft blocks with Niaka, Bertho, and Andy in the kitchen. I was
really hoping Job had already been fed, because I was still a little upset that
I hadn’t had success feeding him yesterday and was scared I would fail again. I
hesitantly went to pick him up and to my surprise, he smiled! He burst into a
huge smile and even giggled a little bit. After getting him set up in his
awesome feeding chair designed by Autumn, I was able to easily feed him all his

Stephanie and Autumn do a
great job of creating ways for short term trips to connect and work with the
kids while we are there. One of the ways they do this through visibility boxes,
which are boxes filled with toys, therapy tools, and information about the
kids. After breakfast I still couldn’t get Job’s smile out of my mind, so I
decided to have some one on one time with him and his visibility box. Job’s
card said he liked being rocked, so I brought him upstairs and rocked with him
for awhile. Every time I tickled him or gave him a kiss, he would burst into a
huge smile and giggle. With every smile and giggle, I fell more and more in
love with this wonderful child! Pretty soon, he started dozing off. While he
was sleeping, I took some time to reflect and pray. Job is blind, has cerebral
palsy, and two clubbed feet. He can’t sit up, eat, or walk by himself. But he
expresses so much joy, especially when he is held or gets lotion massages or
therapy brush massages.

I found myself called to
spend more and more time with Job. I would go down in the morning and help feed
the kids, but always made sure I got to feed Job. I learned that he sometimes
isn’t in the mood to eat, but you can coax him to eat a few more bites if you
hold him. Sometimes the other boys would come up and help me feed job, or
Kenderson would lay on my lap while I fed him. The community in the Miriam
Center was beautiful. The boys and girls all helped take care of each other.

By the third day, every
morning I came downstairs to help feed the kids the mommas would search for Job
and bring him to the kitchen so I could feed him. Although the language barrier
made it difficult, the mommas and I found ways to enjoy fellowship and each
other’s company every morning. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting
to know the Miriam Center staff. I loved getting to observe and work with
Autumn, the occupational therapist. I also go to to know the deaf teachers and
employees and the center. I am no longer fluent in sign language, but I still
knew enough to be able to communicate with them. We had a lot of jokes and I
learned so much from them.

I dreaded Friday night. We
were leaving early Saturday morning, and it was our last chance to be with the
kids. I spent a lot of time in the courtyard, saying goodbye to Gilbert,
Steven, Jean, Carlos, and the boys. I held Roselore while she cried, laughed
with Minushe, smiled and talked with Shama, and cuddled with Walden. I waited
until a few minutes before bedtime to say goodbye to Job, who had become my
constant companion throughout the week. I had been sending pictures to my
family and friends throughout the week, and Job had become loved by all of
them. I hadn’t cried yet, but as I held Job for those last, precious 15
minutes, the tears came. I prayed to God that he would always keep Job safe and
give him reasons to smile and laugh a lot. I prayed that Job would continue to
eat well and stay healthy. Most of all, I prayed that God would allow me to see
Job again soon. I hadn’t prayed with such a broken heart in a long time,
and I felt God drawing me nearer to him.

I hoped Haiti would give
me a renewed sense of purpose to help motivate me through two years of graduate
school. I had been struggling with my faith since entering college, but didn’t
expect my trip to Haiti to have a dramatic impact on my relationship with God.
But God found and met me there. Reflecting on my trip to Haiti, God has called
me to do more than just work abroad with individuals with disabilities. He has
called me into a relationship with him and a life time of serving
him. He has called me to a life of love greater than I can imagine, filled with
smiles and laughs like Job’s. He has called me to a life of sadness greater
than I can imagine, like saying goodbye to Job. But He has promised to be with
me through all of it, and I am so excited!

I have strived to make
sure that I have carried my experiences into my daily life back at home. Job is
my phone background, and I pray for him and the Miriam Center daily. I have
joined his family tree and have prayerfully considered returning
to Haiti. After much prayer, I feel called to return for a few weeks after
graduation and before graduate school starts. I am currently working on taking
the steps to apply and fundraise for this trip, and am in need of prayer
support. Thank you so much to Shannon Neel, Laura Hutchings, Erin Drescher,
Brooke Tafinger, my parents, and everyone who has always encouraged me to
follow my passion!

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