By Jordan Gardenhire
Special to The Texas Catholic
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
As we encountered the community members on our FOCUS Greek Mission spring break trip to Haiti, these words echoed deep in my heart.
Our group of three Fellowship of Catholic University Student missionaries, a chaplain and 12 Greek students from across the country went on a FOCUS Greek Mission trip to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, March 16-25. We served with the Missionaries of the Poor, a religious community in the heart of Cap-Haitien who attended to the abandoned, neglected, and forgotten individuals of Haiti.
On a daily basis, the Brothers operate four unique residencies; a home for children with HIV/AIDS, one for orphaned and abandoned healthy children, one for children with disabilities (predominantly Cerebral Palsy), and one for the homeless and abandoned elderly. As a group, we followed monastic life, beginning our days at 5:30 a.m. with Mass, adoration, and Liturgy of the Hours.
We spent the days serving the community by cleaning the complexes and landscapes, as well as bathing, changing diapers, feeding, clothing, shaving and walking with the residents. Our day ended with a rosary, examination of conscience, spiritual reading and Stations of the Cross. It is through this great devotion to prayer that grace and the Holy Spirit were able to flow through us to the residents. Through our service that we were able to affirm the dignity of the human person by offering true charity that is given to us first by God. Upon arrival to Haiti, many of the students would have claimed that they were present to witness to and serve the people of Cap-Haitien. Although this indeed happened, students also had profound encounters with the Risen Lord themselves. In fact, the people of Haiti were witnesses to our group. The sights and experiences with the residents left the majority of our group in awe.
The beautiful people we served have been rejected, forsaken and mocked by the world. Many of them cannot speak, eat or move. Each person in our group felt privileged to serve the body of Jesus through them.
Our encounters with Jesus in the poor were also transformative for the Greek students. After a few days of prayer and service, one girl from Kansas State University was able to identify her need to invite the Lord into every aspect of her life. She has now committed to daily prayer and joining a Bible Study back on campus.
In addition, two other women said after the trip they planned to begin a Bible study in their Greek chapter on campus. One male student declared that this was the first, true encounter he has ever had with the Lord, and it will alter his life forever. These incredible experiences called our entire group into a wider worldview and a greater sense of the poverty back home in America: the poverty of the spirit.
This mission trip not only allowed us to extend love to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, but also raise up student disciples who have grown in zeal for fighting in this daily war for souls on college campuses.
Encourage young adults in your lives to consider taking a trip. Info on FOCUS Missions is at http://focusoncampus.org/missions/trips.
Jordan Gardenhire, who grew up attending St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell, is a FOCUS Missionary at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.