Students use gifts to serve, train Haitians
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – The week of spring break, Southwestern students and faculty traveled around the country and continent on mission trips, including a group of 23 who served in Haiti, March 6-17.
Haiti, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic and is about the size of Maryland, is an impoverished country that has yet to recover completely from a devastating earthquake four years ago.
Thirteen students, most from the College at Southwestern, along with faculty spent more than a week serving the country through sports clinics, medical care, and workshops on leadership, discipleship, music and crafts.
“It was very good,” said Greek professor Matt Sanders, who led the trip for a second year. “We did everything we wanted to do and so much more.”
On any mission trip to similar areas, Sanders said planning out every step is impossible, but that leaves it open to God’s direction.
“Here we’re a little more bound by our schedules and obligations—things we have to do,” said Bachelor in Humanities student Trevor Hanson. “But there it was nice just to have ministry as our focal point. … It gave me a good perspective coming back here and trying to make some changes that would allow me to do that better here.”
Sanders said their goal was to share the Gospel as much as they could and in as many ways possible, utilizing the different skills students brought to the table, from craft skills used to help the local church’s sewing ministry to handyman skills that led to the repair of generators and sewing machines.
Hanson, who spent much of his time leading soccer clinics with the children they met, said their aim was not to bring creative, new plans and ideas but to continue the work already started by the church there.
“Our mission there was to partner with the local churches and do everything we could to be a part of their normal evangelism and discipleship process,” Hanson said.
The team spent much of their time working with a church—whose pastor is father of a Southwestern PhD student—in Creve, a city in the mountainous area of the country. Over just a three-day span, about 330 people received medical care and more than 300 made professions of faith.
The team not only focused on evangelism but also trained church leaders how to disciple new converts—something Sanders said very few know how to do.
They also visited orphanages a couple times in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to minister to the children there. At one of the orphanages, a child was asked to voice a prayer, and Sanders said his prayer of thanksgiving for the team there to help and for God’s presence in the good times and bad impacted the Southwestern group.
“It just showed that we doubt God sometimes here in what we think are hard times,” Sanders said, even when those struggles are nothing like what those children face.
Hanson and his wife now sponsor a child at one of the schools in Haiti—an opportunity Sanders says greatly helps those children in need of a formal education as well as a spiritual one.
Southwestern students also had opportunities to preach. Hanson said he did not expect to have that chance and had not prepared a sermon, but he ended up getting to preach for just the fourth time, saying God used it to impact the listeners.
“It wasn’t the message that I had that would change anybody, but the message that [God] had,” Hanson said, noting that this truth also applied to leading the sports clinics. “We say that God is the one who really does the work in the hearts of the people and in your heart. It was just God really showing that to me in a practical way.”
Both Sanders and Hanson say they look forward to returning to Haiti next year to continue investing in the church and communities there.
“I think there needs to be a lot more awareness that Haiti is there and a lot of attention in terms of missionary work,” Hanson says.