WESTMONT, IL: In November 2009, InterVarsity Press launched a contest in conjunction with Haiti Partners to highlight Kent Annan’s book Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously. To possibly win a trip to Haiti, contestants wrote essays or made videos to answer the question: “How would going to Haiti help you live out your calling of living fully and loving dangerously?”
“When we first thought of the trip, it seemed like an interesting way to connect people with the ideas of the book,” explains Annan, the co- director of Haiti Partners, a nonprofit committed to improving education in Haiti.
And then the earthquake hit.
Eventually, however, Haiti Partners and InterVarsity Press decided that the trip should still occur, and so entries were judged in March and six winners were chosen: Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Lindsay Bonilla, Jonathan Chan, Holly Drake, Travis Dennis, and Mariana Valbuena.
Under the leadership of Annan and John Engle, the other co-director of Haiti Partners, the six winners plus Dave Zimmerman (Annan’s editor) spent May 20-24 in Haiti and met with various Haitian leaders and educators. Only five months after the earthquake, the team witnessed firsthand the widespread devastation in Port-au-Prince.
“We saw building after building that had been demolished, innumerable tent cities, and the ads of dozens of aid agencies and NGOs,” noted Jonathan Chan.
The first stop on the trip was the former site of a university that Enel Angervil, a Haitian colleague with Haiti Partners, had attended. He was in the 6-story building when it collapsed, killing nearly 250 people. As he shared his story, workers pulled bodies from the rubble behind them.
In the midst of these circumstances, however, the majority of the Haitians that the team encountered were filled with hopefulness, creativity, and a resolute determination to rebuild Haiti across all sectors.
In the small village of Cabois, a couple of hours outside Port-au- Prince, the team attended an education meeting. The educators shared their stories about rebuilding the school system and their educational philosophy, with an emphasis on instilling a sense of community responsibility among the students, parents and teachers.
“We met creative, imaginative, dedicated Haitians, in the cities and the country, who are passionate about seeing children empowered, encouraged and set on a path to shape their country’s future,” said Dave Zimmerman.
On Sunday, the group attended a Catholic church where worshippers gathered under a tarp because the building had collapsed in the earthquake. Only the tabernacle, which holds the sacrament, remained.
For a few of the nights, team members split up and stayed with local families near the town of Darbonne, which is close to the epicenter.
“Holly, Lindsay and I got to spend the night with the family Kent Annan describes in his book, the one he and his wife lived with for the first few months in Haiti,” said Mariana Valbuena. “They took the time to include us in their daily activities and were patient with us when we didn’t understand a word they said. With them, I didn’t see the suffering of Haiti; I saw the strength received in God.”
“I’ve been on lots of missions trips in the past and when I got home I could say: ‘I helped build a playground or paint a wall’ or ‘Our team led worship services and did a Vacation Bible School,’” reflected Lindsay Bonilla. “But this trip was very different. I wasn’t there to do; I was there to listen and learn, to be fully present and take in whatever I could.”
“It was a really good trip, with many meaningful exchanges between the Americans and Haitians we stayed with and visited. Every one of the participants was curious, listening, respectful, and patient. Our Haitian hosts and the people we visited with (all friends and colleagues) were incredibly gracious and hospitable. It all turned out even better than I hoped,” said Annan.
All proceeds from Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously go to Haiti Partners, as will the proceeds from Annan’s next book Shaken: Searching for Honest Faith When Life Makes No Sense, to be published by IVP in early 2010.
For additional reflections from the participants: www.ivpress.com/haititrip For more on Haiti Partners: http://www.haitipartners.org/
Founded in 1947 as an extension of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA , InterVarsity Press serves those in the university, the church and the world by publishing thoughtful Christian books that equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, InterVarsity Press is made up of three lines of books: IVP Academic, which includes texts, commentaries and dictionaries by leading Christian scholars; IVP Books, made up of general titles on a wide variety of topics such as Christian living, prayer and evangelism, and also the Likewise and Formatio imprints; and IVP Connect, comprising over 150 unique Bible study guides, as well as resources for group leaders. InterVarsity Press resources are sold worldwide and have been translated into dozens of languages. Visit IVP online at ivpress.com .