On January 12, 2010 the small Caribbean country of Haiti was hit with a cataclysmic level 7.0 earthquake sixteen miles west of its capital city Port-au-Prince near the city of Léogâne. The world was shocked as reports came in of an estimated 316,000 dead and over 1 million now homeless. As the people of Haiti stammered to put their lives back together aid from numerous countries started to pour in.
Two and a half years later Haiti still struggles to get back to normal. This past month my wife and I traveled to Léogâne to help Samaritan’s Purse with the construction efforts of an orphanage that will eventually house and school 100 children. We helped complete the sanding of concrete walls, painting, poured a wall around the playground area, and a few other odds & ends. It was a lot of hard and extremely hot work, but as a former contractor of ten years, I’ve always enjoyed being able to stand back at the end of the work and see a difference.
We also got to meet and play with the future tenants (the kids), make new friends, and experience a place where I believe God is definitely at work. While visiting the temporary orphanage we met a nine year old boy named Adley. Adley was one of the greatest kids you’d ever meet. Full of promise and hope Adley took us to a make-shift chalk board outside under a tarp and showed us a picture of the new orphanage that he had drawn. His eyes beamed as he showed us the detailed windows with their arches and cornice molding, the central courtyard between the two wings of the building, and the balcony that encircled the entire second floor. You could tell he couldn’t wait until they were able to move in.
Now, if I was honest with you, this was not my most favorite trip. The days were filled with frustrating moments for both Deedie & I. I’ve been on similar trips to Africa and South Asia but I struggled with what God wanted to teach me during this time. As we continued to visit with the kids and work on the new orphanage it became clear the lesson I’d learn again. Whatever we do in life or ministry, whether it’s as a leader, preacher, treasurer, janitor, or car salesman, whether we work directly along side of others or spend our time sanding and painting walls, it’s the people behind the task and those it impacts that matter most. People matter most to God and I think we often get caught up in the task and forget the purpose.
A quote from E.M. Bounds kept going through my mind in which he says the Holy Spirit doesn’t flow through machinery or methods, He doesn’t anoint plans, but He works through people. God anoints people. He cares about and loves people and “He desires for all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:4). Whenever our church takes time to serve our community, whether it’s a ‘Family Movie Night’ or our ‘Fall Family Festival’ I try to take time beforehand to remind everyone not to get caught up in the work, but to stop and take time to talk with the people. If we serve but never get to know the people we’re serving then it was somewhat pointless. If we work 70 hours a week but never have time for our family or others in our lives then our work was in vain. People matter most. So as our arms ached sanding the concrete walls on the orphanage in the scorching Haitian sun, as others seemingly forgot why they were ultimately there, we simply reminded ourselves, “Don’t forget Adley.” God loves him, and YOU, too.