Editor’s Note: Adam Jackley, a pastor for nearly 15 years, is currently is the young adult pastor at New Community Church in Pittsburgh, where he leads mission trips to Haiti. He is the brother-in-law of Reza Aslan, host of CNN original series “Believer.” The views expressed are his own.
Jesus once said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”
I have been given much. And so, I believe I am on the hook to serve those who have not received as I have.
This belief of mine first took me to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, when I was a high school senior. Nearly 20 years later, as a pastor of 15 years, I am planning my ninth trip to this beautiful country.
On each trip, our goal is to help. The material and physical help we provide manifests our faith.
But – like many Christian organizations – mutually shared faith is not a prerequisite for receiving our help. Need is the primary qualifier.
Mission trips are not exclusively a means to the specific end of getting people saved. They emerge from the blessing of having much, seeing need and trying to meet it.
Unfortunately, many attention-grabbing headlines concerning Christian missions often focus on misconceptions concerning the plight of the Haitian people. Making assertions that Haiti is suffering because of divine retribution is not helpful nor true.
God is not getting back at Haiti. I believe the primary work of God concerning Haiti is mobilizing Christians to help unleash the incredible potential of that country and its people.
Like me, many Christians feel like they are on the hook and act on that belief through serving in Haiti.
Here’s a look at five things Christian missionaries are really doing in Haiti:
1. Building homes
I’ve been to Haiti eight times, but on my last trip, I experienced a first. My team and I gave away a house to a disabled woman.
Our church raised money to build a modest home. Rather than do work that many capable Haitians can do, we hired Welcome Home Haiti. They employ Haitian masons and carpenters to build the structure months before we arrive.
On the final days of construction, they graciously let us slow them down and help with building the roof, assembling furniture, and painting the exterior of the home.
Then, even more graciously, they allow us to pray for future inhabitants to whom we hand the keys.
2. Providing clean water and sanitation
Organizations like Water Mission provide clean water solutions to Haitian people. Water Mission also provide sanitation solutions in a country that has seen severe cholera outbreaks over the years.
They approach their work with urgency and excellence, and as Christians. They seek health and dignity for the people they serve because they believe in their inherent dignity and worth.
3. Taking care of the sick
Many Christian organizations are providing Haitians with both preventative and intervening medical care. The Pittsburgh Kids Foundation is nearly finished building a medical clinic that will be run by Wislyn Avenard, a Cap-Haïtien native.
Hope Health Action provides “life-saving health and disability care to the world’s most vulnerable, without any discrimination.”
4. Building friendships
Building friendships is not simply some ploy to produce a soft target for conversion. This commitment to building friendships stems from the worth of the people living in Haiti.
The plight of many people is easy to ignore. But individual lives catalyze actions.
My friendships include specific Haitian people I have met face to face and care about intensely. This relational ethos has been at the core of my visits to Haiti. Many organizations, like the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, Espwa, and The Joshua House help mission teams invest in the lives of people who have grown up in orphanages like EBAC and IDADEE.
5. Trying to figure it out
I am a pastor. I have spent higher education years studying science and then theology and philosophy.
I am not many things that Haiti needs.
But I am moved by this country and its people. I am compelled to keep traveling back and each time I bring new friends to see a place so different from their own home.
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Each time I travel to Haiti, I find myself experiencing as much confusion as clarification. On every return flight home, I don’t ask if we helped. I ask if we helped in the best way possible. I ask if we helped in ways that are sustainable.
Over the years, I have answered those questions with both yes’s and no’s. But I am committed to learn from my friends in Haiti, every trip. I am committed to asking tough questions about if and how we helped.
And I am committed to going back and bringing more people to see this place and these people that need help.
For I am among those given much. I am on the hook.