On Jan. 5th through the 13th a group of Eastern University students, partnering with the Beyond Borders organization, participated in a missions trip to Haiti.
“We had a really amazing experience, and we all want to go back,” senior Brittany Smith said. “I think we would all recommend sending more students down.”
The group consisted of eleven members who spent their time in Gwo Jan, on the mainland, and Mantenwa, on the island of Laganov.
The group went with the intention of learning about the Haitian culture through spending time with the people and becoming personally involved in their lives. This approach is called transformational travel, which is quite different than the usual short-term missions trip agenda.
“It was a lot different than regular missions. The focus was learning about the culture, building relationships, and setting a foundation to go back,” Smith said. “It was not about going to actually build things, but to learn.”
The group did this through holding conversations, living with families and joining in everyday activities with the people, which was very different than the trip to Haiti last year that Eastern students went on.
“Last year [when] we lived with missionaries, it was like a watered-down version of Haiti,” said senior group leader Abby Young. “This year we were living with the people, eating their food, breathing their air.”
From learning how to make peanut butter from peanuts, to getting up at 5 a.m. to gather water, the group became students of the culture.
“Haiti is so rich; we don’t need to make it like the United States,” sophomore Mike Wilson said. “Maybe there are some aspects where the U.S. needs to be like Haiti.”
During home stays, which they did for four days, they lived in the families’ homes. Some families even gave up their whole houses to the group.
“At first we were all skeptical about transformational travel, but this trip changed our minds about what a missions trip is,” sophomore Rachel Windholz said. “They don’t need us to build a school; they just need us to stand behind them.”
In looking back at their trip, the members recall a time of great blessing and learning as they spent time with the Haitian people, who they found to be extremely kind and hospitable.
“You definitely want to go back. It’s all about partnerships and relationships,” Young said. “It’s like a friendship. You don’t see them just once in your life; you have many encounters with them.”