From The School at Mariani, Haiti
By Michelle Bonville
Ever since I was a young girl, I have dreamed of being a missionary. I remember when I was in the third or fourth grade, one of the teachers asked us to describe our dream house. Mine was a grass hut with dirt floors in Africa. Toward the beginning of my senior year of high school, I went on my first mission trip. I went to the very compound at which I am now serving. At that time, I did not feel any type of long-term connection. I knew the compound belonged to our church, and I wanted to see it succeed, but I had no desire to be here. That all changed in the summer of 2013.
At a ladies’ meeting in the spring of 2013, they announced that they would like to take a group of ladies to Haiti, and we would be ministering to the women here.
When someone asked if I wanted to go, I automatically said yes. Honestly, I didn’t say yes because I felt the call of God. I said yes because I have the heart of a missionary, and the last trip I had taken was in 2005. The missionary in me was willing to go anywhere.
During the week we were here, I fell in love with the people. I went home expecting for everything to be the same, but my heart had changed. I constantly was thinking about Haiti and praying for the people. When I was here, I hadn’t seen a need for me, so I didn’t think there was a reason for me to come. I spoke to my parents, and we all began to pray. They knew my heart was in Haiti, but I also had a friend asking for my help in Nicaragua.
After about three months of praying, I asked my pastor to pray. I told him my heart was in Haiti, but I didn’t see where I would fit. I asked him to pray about Nicaragua. This conversation, unknown to any of us, was happening the same day that Sister Debbie Landers was in Haiti telling Pastor Emile she really wanted to send me here the following school year to help implement a new curriculum in the school. The following week, she told me that Pastor has spoken to her about my wanting to move to the mission field. Right then it was decided. I would come to Haiti for the 2014-2015 school year.
Being in Haiti for a year was, obviously, a much larger commitment than the week I had been here previously. When I first arrived, I found myself battling emotions that I had not really expected. I missed my family, church and community so much those first few weeks. It got easier as time went on. I was able to get connected to the internet and get to know the people.
The first couple of months was mostly a time of planning, learning and preparing. The most important things I began to learn were the language, the laws and the customs of the people. Things in Haiti are so different than the United States. Something that takes 10 minutes in the U.S. often takes days to accomplish. When someone tells you something will be done tomorrow, that doesn’t necessarily mean in 24 hours. For example, our generator was supposed to be fixed “tomorrow” for three months. The violent manifestations that occur quite often are usually led by “thugs” paid by people with political power who don’t want to lose it or by the opposition who desires to have that power. The sight of a policeman isn’t something that is welcome here, as they are known to be corrupt and just after your money. Currently there is a lot of political uproar. If the reports on the radio are correct, the only thing keeping them from having a coup d’état is the presence of the U.N.
Our mission is located in Mariani, which is considered one of the slums of Haiti. We have a church and a Christian school and are currently in the process of opening a professional school. Our school accepts children that many other schools will not because of how far behind they are in their schooling or because of their lack of ability to pay. Our students live rough lives. During school, they are required to wear uniforms, but afterward, they can be seen running barefoot, with dirty tattered clothes on (many of them with very little clothes on). Many of them live in a small tent made of tarps with their entire family. When storms come, their homes are often flooded.
Death and violence are a way of life here, so many of the kids have become very hardened. Our desire is to see those children come to know the love and peace of God. We want to not only give them a good education through the regular school, but also give them
the chance at a better life by giving them job skills through the professional school. The children often come to school hungry and can’t afford to bring food, so we want to provide a meal every day for them. God has been blessing us by placing it on the hearts of people back home to help pay for a food program. For $2.25 (about the cost of one soda), we can feed a student one meal every school day for an entire month! It is amazing how so little will go so far here.
We also have a desire to open an orphanage. There are many orphanages here, but very few quality ones. I recently went to a church meeting on a property where there is an orphanage. I was appalled by what I witnessed. There were so many children, but none of the adults were watching out for them. There were little boys about two or three years old who were crying because they were thirsty. They had snot running down their faces and their eyes were drooping because they were tired. Finally, a couple of the other children (around age five) came and did their best to take care of them. It broke my heart to see these children wandering around with no one caring where they were.
This is why we would like to open an orphanage, so that we can take care of little ones like this. We want to give them a true home. A home where they are loved, well cared for and are given a good education and job skills. No child should go unloved and without care. Michelle Bonville is a teacher from Hohenwald, Tennessee and is currently on a one year mission trip to teach in Haiti. To learn how you can help feed a child, at a cost of $2.25 per month, call General Assembly & Church of the First Born at 931-796-4368 or visit our website here.