By Jonathan Gramling
Part 2 of 2
It’s a funny thing about the charitable concept of giving. Sometimes while your intention is to truly give something that you have — whether it is a material
good or something within yourself — you end up receiving so much more in return, oftentimes a greater understanding of yourself and the world around you.
The act of giving itself is oftentimes a personal journey that takes one clear around the world and then back home again.
Twice in the past year, the Fountain of Life missions group has gone to the city of Ouanaminthe, Haiti to volunteer at the Institution Univers, a school funded
by Hugues Bastien. While obstensively the mission was to help the children at the school by teaching classes and helping out with the school’s activities,
the members of the mission team also received something in return. Haiti was definitely a lot of food for thought.
For Gloria Zeller, who organized the mission team, it’s about the people. “Missions is more than when you send money,” she said. “It is more about
and having relationships. Relationships are what it is all about.”
The human connection was also very important to Shantelle James. “I looked at all of the different things that we offered, on a small scale and on a large
scale,” James said. “We come with our gifts and talents and things, but theway we serve is done in so many ways that we overlook. It can be something as
simple as visiting a nursing home. That’s a service. It’s something that impacts the life of another individual.”
“On a Sunday, we got to visit a nursing home, which was something new to me,” James continued. “The oldest resident was a 103 year old woman.
She had a dream before we came and she shared it with us. She dreamed that visitors were coming and they brought her two different kinds of plantains.
There were green and yellow plantains. The big part of the dream, we got. ‘Oh yeah, we’re here visiting, so we have to bring the plantains too.’ Hugues told us
the interpretation of that dream is not that we brought her some plantains. It’s who came. The plantains represented the different people who came. They were
both White and Black who came. And that’s what the plantains represented. So we’re all a part of the fulfillment of that dream. Sometimes when we do
something, we think it has to be on such a large scale. Well we have opportunities to serve everyday and that’s what stood out to me on this mission. Mission is
constantly changing me in ways that I didn’t anticipate, but it is awesome. Missions is not just what we do; it’s who we are and the things we embody within us
and how we share those things within us. It’s not just the physical tasks we perform. You can go give medical care and still not connect to the community.”
And for James, what the Haitians gave to her was a sense of community. “To me, they aren’t poor,” James reflected. “To me, they are richer than we are
because of what they have there. I’m not saying we can’t find it here, but it is rare. It’s really rare.”
For Deborah Farlow, the Haitians’ sense of community can be found in parts of the U.S. “I know that where I’m from in rural Georgia, we have that sense of
community,” she said. “Everybody knows everybody. If something happens to one person, it happens to that whole community. But the people from the
community where I am from are all older now and the younger generation that moved back still has that sense of community, but they don’t do anything else.”
And for Farlow, traveling to Haiti was as much of a spiritual journey as it was a physical journey. “The reason that I live my life is because I love God,” Farlow
reflected. “When I think of his relationship with me personally, I wonder sometimes if I as his servant embody that here on earth because the scriptures tell us
that ‘How can you love Me whom you have not seen, but hate your brother who you see every day.’ When you think about that, when you think about hating your
brother, you think about malice and things like that. But it is far deeper than that. When I see my brother in need and I turn away, then I am hating my brother.
Watching this community made me reflect on whether or not I do embody community in my own community. Am I concerned with the people whom I interact
with at the workplace, the grocery store or the school? I believe they administered to me more than I Love in its purest form, you can see it there. We don’t see
that much of it here. So I had to reflect and ask myself if that is what I do. Do people see that in me? I had to do a self-evaluation. I think that is what changed
me the most. If I get bent out of shape because someone cuts me off driving, and I just lose my mind, then there is something wrong with that. That was
probably the biggest change in me.”
All three of them — Zeller, James and Farlow — intend to go back to Haiti someday. “I’ll be going back again,” James emphasized. “I’m already plotting.”
Farlow wants to have a deeper experience than what Fountain of Life’s trip had to offer. “I want to go back when I can stay back,” Farlow said. “I really want to
go back for two years and teach. But that will be a while because I still have a child in school and things like that to consider. I wouldn’t want to do that to her.”
For Zeller, James and Farlow, the way they look at the world will never be the same. In that way, there connection to Haiti is forever.
|Deborah Farlow (l-r), Gloria Zeller, Shantelle