From their very first trip to Haiti, they knew they would never be the same.
It was in 2011 when Haley Harrison, Paisley Bell and Madison Smith took their first trip with a group from Walthall Baptist Church to the small country that had suffered so much destruction. Just a year before, on Jan. 12, 2010, the country of Haiti had suffered a 7.0 earthquake, that left 220,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and rubble everywhere.
The three girls have returned to Haiti every year since, including a special trip over the Christmas holidays this year to stay at The Good Shepherd orphanage.
Haley Harrison is the daughter of Trent and Penny Harrison and she is currently a junior at Mississippi State pursuing a degree in Elementary Education. Every year for the past four years the three girls have worked at the same orphanage and bonded with, not only the kids in the orphanage, but the kids from the surrounding neighborhood. Harrison said she heard about the Christmas trip when she was in Haiti this summer.
“When Paisley and I heard Sister Mona talk this summer about the huge Christmas party they have on December 25, where they feed the surrounding kids from all over the island, including more than 2,500 kids, we knew we wanted to be there to help,” Harrison said. “As soon as we got back in the States, we called Madison and told her that we were going back for Christmas and she was on board.”
Harrison said this trip was a lot different because they did not go through a missions organization. The girls stayed at the orphanage for the week, so unlike all of the other trips, this one involved no manual labor, only bonding with the children and preparing for the big Christmas party that took place on Christmas Day.
“Staying at the orphanage was different for us because we were always used to a time schedule and this time it did not matter when we woke up and we always had our meals at different times,” Harrison said. “We got to spend a lot more time with the kids, since we were staying in the same place as them, and that’s really where my heart is, around the children.”
Harrison said this Christmas trip made it even more apparent that there are so many blessings people take for granted in the United States.
“The children that came to the orphanage on Christmas were getting a piece of beef, and this would most likely be the only meat they have seen all year,” Harrison said. “These children come to The Good Shepherd knowing this is where they can receive clean water and a plate loaded with food on Christmas. Here in Mississippi, on Christmas morning, most families wake up to presents from Santa. They are not worried about what food or water they will be drinking.”
Madison Smith is the daughter of Jan and Rusty Bowen and Steve and Laura Smith. She is a sophomore at The University of Mississippi. Smith said by the end of their first trip to Haiti, she knew her heart would forever hold a special place for the people there. She said the trips to Haiti have made an incredible impact on her life and faith.
“I think one of my setbacks as a follower of Christ is not wanting to step out of my comfort zone,” Smith said. “So many times I think about how different my life would be if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone four years ago to serve in Haiti. I think about all the lessons I have learned and the many blessings that were a result of just one step of faith. Then I think about all the times in my life I fail to take those difficult steps of faith because I am too comfortable with my life as it is, and I don’t want to mess anything up. What all am I missing out on? How many lessons could I have learned from just one step out of my comfort zone? How could He have used my life for Him? We don’t have to leave the country, or even the county, to step outside our comfort zones. Although for some, that may be what they feel led to do. There are so many opportunities to serve and take that step of faith. I encourage you not to pass up that opportunity.”
Members of Walthall Baptist Church worked hard to help the girls make the Christmas trip happen.
“Ever since our very first trip in 2011, we have known and loved Sister Mona from Good Shepherd Orphanage,” Smith said. “When I found out we had an opportunity to serve in the orphanage for Christmas I was ecstatic, and immediately we all began planning how we were going to make this trip happen. We were shown so much support while we were fundraising and collecting donations to take with us which was a blessing, and was a huge part of making the trip successful.”
Paisley Bell is the granddaughter of Jimmy Ray and Charlotte Caffey. Bell just graduated from Hinds Community College and will be leaving July 14 for the Air National Guard. She enlisted Oct 22. When she returns, Bell plans to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing so she can deploy as a nurse for the United States Air Force. Bell said she is blessed to belong to Walthall Baptist Church.
“They gave us a lot of money and donations and they have sent up a lot of prayers to make these trips possible,” Bell said. “(We also need to say) thanks to our families who understand our hearts and weren’t bitter about making special arrangements this holiday to still make us feel included.”
Bell said a lot of people thought they were crazy for going on this trip at Christmas and leaving their families during the holidays.
“But we went (to Haiti) to make Jesus’ Birthday special for children who don’t have a family to show them the love that we take for granted,” Bell said. “…No matter what small sacrifices we give up to go it is nothing compared to the blessings we get back. You can’t out give God. Just a smile on a child’s face, just the pure joy it gives you, is a feeling that’s indescribable. It shows us that love has no boundaries —not distance, age, language, race, or color.”
Luke 10:2 says, “And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Harrison said in light of the mission trips to Haiti and the mission opportunities all around us, this verse has always been her prayer.
“We all know what is expected of us from the Lord and there are lost people all around us,” Harrison said. “Whether it is overseas to Haiti or right next door, are you delivering The Good News of Jesus Christ?”
For more information about the next mission trip to Haiti, contact Walthall Baptist Church at (662) 258-3259.
See this story in the March 25, 2015 edition of The Webster Progress Times at http://websterprogresstimes.com/2015/03/25/these-girls-have-haiti-in-their-hearts/