BSM group building relationships in Haiti

February 1, 2014

PLAINVIEW – Ashley Teague remembers attending a Girls in Action camp at Plains Baptist Assembly, near Floydada, when she was in the fourth grade. The worship team left a lasting impression on her as they used sign language to communicate their message, stressing the importance of reaching out to the hearing impaired.

“Deaf people are hard to reach because no one takes the time to learn their language and tell them who Christ is,” said Teague who has a deaf aunt with whom she communicates. “My heart really broke for deaf people in a spiritual sense. I never thought about who is talking to them and who is reaching them.”

Years later, as a freshman at Wayland Baptist University, she recounted her story while applying for a leadership position with Baptist Student Ministries. When an opportunity came up for the BSM to work with a group in Haiti, her story piqued the interest of BSM Assistant Director Kenny Lydick.

“One day, I was sitting in my college algebra class and Kenny texted me. I got really worried,” Teague said, not knowing what Kenny wanted to talk to her about. “He said he would see me at work because he needed to talk to me in person. I was wondering, ‘What did I do?’”

In 2012, the BSM, led by Director Donnie Brown, made a trip to Haiti to build rubble houses for the country that had been decimated by a hurricane. While Brown said the trip was a good opportunity for his student group, they had little contact with the people of Haiti. A year later, Brown connected with Grace So Amazing Ministries and agreed to lead his team to Mirebalais, Haiti, to assist in ministry efforts and start a church. Part of Grace So Amazing’s purpose is to build an orphanage that will assist deaf children. When Brown and Lydick heard Teague’s story, they thought she would be a good fit for the mission trip. Lydick approached Teague and asked her to go with them to Haiti.

“I was just real excited. … I called my mom and said, ‘Mom! I’m going to Haiti!’ She said, ‘Hold on!’” Teague said. Her mother’s reservations were soon reconciled and Teague was off on her first mission trip to Haiti.

On Jan. 5, Teague and a team of students, alums and other, led by the BSM returned from her second trip to the Caribbean country. While she has yet to work with the deaf children, as the orphanage is still in the building process, Teague says the trips have really opened her eyes.

“Just getting to see that community and being there and loving that community, I know God called me down there for a reason,” she said.

Brown took a group of 18 people on the trip, including students, BSM staff and members of First Baptist Church in Hale Center that included Wayland alumni Kris and Sharla Knippa and James and Christy Soder. Kris was called as pastor of the church last June and said the church’s participation in the mission trip was very insightful.

“You get a picture of how much of the world lives,” Knippa said. “You get a picture of how Christianity is growing in the rest of the world. Their faith is a vibrant faith. It is very genuine and very central to the lives of the followers there.”

Brown said the group’s mission was predominately two-fold as they were tasked with leading Vacation Bible School for the children in the mornings and a Bible study for the adults in the evenings. He said, however, that the evening sessions became more of a revival as people of all ages attended. During the week-long trip, the men in the group took turns sharing the Gospel with the congregation through an interpreter.

Brown said they also had a lot of interaction with the people of Haiti.  Wayland students connected with children, some of whom remembered them from their previous visit. Teague said she didn’t really expect them to remember her, but having pictures of them and having written about them in her journal she definitely remembered them. She said it was a pleasant surprise when some of them remembered her and called her by name.

“It was nice because it wasn’t like I was going to see ‘these people,’” Teague said. “I was going to people I know; people I love; people I have known for a while. It was really neat to be able to have that kind of connection and bond with them already.”

Brown said the group also had to chance to truly show Christ’s love to the people. While there, the house of a church member’s sister was damaged in a fire. The group, along with the Haitian church members responded by repairing and thoroughly cleaning the house to reduce the smoke and fire damage. The woman was suffering from AIDS and hadn’t eaten in several days so church members took care of her. The next day, Brown said she was taken to the hospital.

The Monday after the group returned home, Brown received a phone call from the church pastor. The man of the burned house had attended church the day before and made a profession of faith, saying he had known about Christ and had heard about Jesus and now he had seen Christ’s love.

“We never really talked about Jesus while we were there,” Brown said. “We prayed with them before and after, but that is all we did. Just those acts of love kind of turned his heart and he knew why we were there and who we were representing.”

Later that Sunday, the mans’ wife died, but, Brown said, now he had a church family to care for him.

Knippa said the experience gave him the desire to really encourage his church to be involved in these types of ministries and to possibly build an ongoing relationship with the people of Haiti.

“It gives me great sympathy for global concerns and a heart for those in the world who suffer and we don’t acknowledge,” he said.

Teague echoed that sentiment, saying one of the things Brown teaches the groups upon returning from trips is that there is a chance they will feel guilty for having so much when other people have so little.

“There are times that I do feel that guilt,” she said. “Every time I go and come back, I have this time where I sit and prayerfully think about what I really need. It’s OK to have nice things. We live in a place where we are blessed to have nice things. But sometimes I try to think about the reasons I am going to buy something.

“They have so little and we have so much, and we are willing to give. They don’t take for granted what they have. It kind of reminds you of the way you should look at things sometimes.”

Brown said the BSM will lead another trip to Haiti at the end of 2014. He also is working to help raise funds for Grace So Amazing. The ministry has received a $20,000 matching grant to complete the orphanage. Anyone interested in joining the trip or donating to the cause can contact Brown at 806-291-3595.