Haiti Trip Contest with InterVarsity Press
May 30, 2010
Here is a press release that InterVarsity Press just put out about a trip we just did together to Haiti this past week in conjunction with Kent’s book:
Haiti Partners and InterVarsity Press Have Successful Haiti Trip
WESTMONT, IL: In November 2009, InterVarsity Press launched a contest in conjunction with Haiti Partners to highlight Kent Annan’s book Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously. To enter and possibly win a trip to Haiti, contestants wrote essays or made videos to answer the question: “How would going to Haiti help you live out your calling of living fully and loving dangerously?”
“When we first thought of the trip, it seemed like an interesting way to connect people with the ideas of the book,” explains Annan, the co-director of Haiti Partners, a nonprofit committed to improving education in Haiti.
And then the earthquake hit.
After much discussion and prayer, Haiti Partners decided that the trip should still occur, and so the entries were judged in March and six winners were chosen: Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Lindsay Bonilla, Jonathan Chan, Holly Drake, Travis Dennis, and Mariana Valbuena.
From May 20-24, under the leadership of Annan and John Engle, the other co-director of Haiti Partners, the six winners plus Dave Zimmerman (Annan’s editor) spent five days in Haiti and met with various Haitian leaders and educators. Only five months after the earthquake, the team witnessed firsthand the widespread devastation in Port-au-Prince.
“We saw building after building that had been demolished, innumerable tent cities, and the ads of dozens of aid agencies and NGOs,” noted Jonathan Chan.
The first stop on the trip was the former site of a university that Enel Angervil, a Haitian colleague with Haiti Partners, had attended. He was in the 6-story building when it collapsed, killing nearly 250 people. As he shared his story, workers pulled bodies from the rubble behind them.
In the midst of these circumstances, however, the majority of the Haitians that the team encountered were filled with hopefulness, creativity, and a resolute determination to rebuild Haiti across all sectors.
On Friday the team attended an education meeting in the small village of Cabois, a couple of hours outside Port-au-Prince. The event took place outside, across from the site where a school with Haiti Partners is now being rebuilt. The educators shared their stories about rebuilding the school system and their educational philosophy, with an emphasis on instilling a sense of community responsibility among the students, parents, and teachers.
“We met creative, imaginative, dedicated Haitians, in the cities and the country, who are passionate about seeing children empowered, encouraged and set on a path to shape their country’s future,” said Dave Zimmerman.
For a few of the nights, team members split up and stayed with local families near the town of Darbonne, which is close to the epicenter.
“Holly, Lindsay and I got to spend the night with the family Kent Annan describes in his book, the one he and his wife lived with for the first few months in Haiti. It was exciting to meet the people I had read about,” said Mariana Valbuena. “They took the time to include us in their daily activities and were patient with us when we didn’t understand a word they said. With them, I didn’t see the suffering of Haiti; I saw the strength received in God.”
The team also attended a commencement ceremony for students who had finished an 8-week laptop training as a part of the “One Laptop Per Child” program. 40 children and 10 mentors from four Haiti Partner schools participate in this XO Laptop pilot project.
On Saturday the team met Andre, the principal of two local schools and the religious director of a Catholic church, who challenged them with these words: “Discouragement isn’t Christian. If you’re alive, God has work for you to do.”
On Sunday morning, the group attended Andre’s church, where everyone gathered under a tarp because the building had collapsed in the earthquake. Only the tabernacle, which holds the sacrament, remained.
“The sermon was about Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and emphasized that no matter the language we spoke, the most important one, the one the Spirit generates in us and that God expects of us, is the language of love. So after we receive more than we give in an exchange like this, then it seems we return home with the responsibility to grow in love,” notes Annan.
Upon returning home, Lindsay Bonilla describes her experience: “I’ve been on lots of missions trips in the past and when I got home I could say: ‘I helped build a playground or paint a wall’ or ‘Our team led worship services and did a Vacation Bible School.’ But this trip was very different. I wasn’t there to do; I was there to listen and learn, to be fully present and take in whatever I could.”
“It was a really good trip, with many meaningful exchanges between the Americans and Haitians we stayed with and visited. And every one of the contest winners was curious, listening, respectful, and patient. Our Haitian hosts and the people we visited with (all friends and colleagues) were incredibly gracious and hospitable. It all turned out even better than I hoped,” said Annan.
All proceeds from Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously go to Haiti Partners, as will the proceeds from Annan’s next book called Shaken: Searching for Honest Faith When Life Makes No Sense, which will be released with IVP in early 2011. Arpin-Ricci also has a forthcoming book with IVP.
For additional reflections from the participants: www.ivpress.com/haititrip