By Trista Soendker Nicholson
Spark@MOUMC, the college age ministry at Missouri UMC, sent a team to Duplan, Haiti January 12 – 18. The team installed 100 Sawyer water filters in the community, facilitated a hygiene training and learned from the recipients about the ongoing health struggles within the country. Because of this project, 100 families now have access to clean water, and no longer must fear that drinking water from the community well will bring the devastating illnesses caused by e-coli and cholera.
Doran Vaillancourt, a student participant, reflected, “The most meaningful thing I saw during my trip to Haiti in January was the joy and excitement that the Haitians expressed when they were learning about hygiene and receiving their water filters. I could see the self-empowerment expressed on their faces from understanding the importance of cleanliness and being able to provide clean water for themselves and their families.”
In addition to these life-giving filters, our team was able to develop new relationships that will continue long after our week in Haiti ended. Our team installed filters with the help of the Methodist Church in Duplan, Haiti. The church also serves as a host for a primary school, which we toured. We also had the opportunity to interact with a lot of the school children who wanted to learn more about our filters, and who stayed around one day to play soccer with us after school was let out. The team also prayed with the families to offer a blessing over their filter, and our prayers for their healing and wholeness continue. We continue to learn from the Haitian people, and are excited to continue to connect with ways that we can be in relationship with those from Duplan.
Another amazing part of our week in Haiti is witnessing the transformation of our team members. This experience often leads to greater discipleship, and to a commitment to continue to be in ministry in the world. While in Haiti, these college agers identified ways that they can use their gifts to be in service to God’s world and to God’s people. As one participant, Kennedy Krieg explained, “That is truly one of the best and life changing experiences of your life. It can sound cheesy, but I think until one truly experiences a trip like this, you cannot relate to just stories. It changes how you view everything. After my first trip to Haiti, I saw a change of my career plans and how I had a new desire to work with children. Seeing the Haitian children laughing and smiling in such poor conditions made me understand that children inspire me and make me happy whether or not they are trying!” Like Kennedy, many participants point to their experience in Haiti as a launching point to the new ways that they are called to be in mission and ministry with God in the world.
“What we do in Haiti is simple, but the impact we leave is greater than anything you can ever imagine,” Vaillancourt said. “Not only are you changing their lives, you are forever changing yours and your outlook on life itself.”
Another Haiti Clean Water Team from Spark is forming for a trip in June. Contact Rev. Trista Soendker Nicholson at Trista@moumc.org for more information.