By Brian Mateer
In January, I had the chance to go to Haiti for the first time. I had been longing to go lend a helping hand in Haiti since the devastating earthquake in 2010. A few days short of the five year anniversary of the earthquake, I finally had the opportunity to fulfill a calling to reach out to the “least of these” in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Having been to several countries in Central America and having visited the Dominican Republic the year prior I felt Haiti would feel similar to other countries in this region. As expected, I witnessed extreme poverty, an economy lacking infrastructure and people in great need. Also, as expected, I found Northern Haiti to be beautiful, having wonderful people with a deep faith and seeking opportunities to better their lives and the lives of their family.
On the second day in Haiti we were scheduled to visit an orphanage and monastery operated by several brothers from India and the Philippines. Upon entering the gate of the orphanage the first thing I noticed was a young man on a motorized wheelchair with a GIANT smile on his face. The young man’s name was Weldon. Our group was told that this was the first time that Weldon had been out of his room on his own for years. Weldon had no use of his legs and very limited use of his arms and hands. Before receiving the wheelchair, Weldon had to be carried anywhere he went. With such little use of his hands this was the first time in his life Weldon was able to experience the freedom of going where he chose to go.
Continuing past Weldon to the areas where other individuals were housed, we passed adults and children of varying degrees and types of disabilities. The deeper we went in the compound the more uncomfortable I became and the more difficult the situations. One such wing in the monastery was reserved for children with HIV. Another area was designated to older adults. Finally, the last room we toured was a room for infants. Wall to wall were cribs of children housed in the orphanage. Some with disabilities others without. I did not get far into the room before I became overcome with emotion and left the room.
Walking back toward the gate through which we entered we were shown the cafeteria, chapel and we toured the guest house reserved for individuals and groups that volunteer at the monastery. As I walked through the common area in the guesthouse I glanced down at an end table and noticed a children’s book. As I looked closer my knees became weak as I read the title of the book-“Guess How Much I Love You” written by Sam McBratney. This very same book I have read numerous times to my daughters.
Since this day I have been processing this experience and have been asking God to reveal to me what I am to learn and share. I can’t help but think about God’ grace. Grace is God’s gift of FREE love and it extends to all people in all places. The awareness of grace can be experienced anywhere, but this has most frequently be revealed to me on missions trips or through programs like the 30 Hour Famine when I have a greater awareness of the blessings of my life.
In Haiti I was once again reminded that whether you live in the United States, Haiti or anywhere else in the world God’ grace reaches all. If you are a rich or poor, God’s love is within our grasp. If you are able-bodied to participate in God’s work or if you are like Weldon and rely on others for most everything, you are equally loved by God.
The last words of “Guess How Much I Love You” are “I love you right up to the moon and back.” Jesus extends this same love to me, to Weldon and to you also.