Awareness: Reflection on an Immersion Trip in Haiti

By Donna Buyce

Heading home from a week-long missionary immersion trip in Haiti. Driving down the runway. Watching their houses go by. Dreaming what the people inside were doing, experiencing at that time. And crying silently in my seat as the feeling of guilt rushed over me. “I’m leaving them. I’m abandoning them. What am I supposed to do, how can I help, what’s it going to be like at home, how can I possibly have this many feelings going on all at the same time?” Scared, thrilled, guilty, loved, loving, empathy, shock.

Meditating a couple weeks later. Sitting in silence after asking God, “What now? What do I focus on? What do I do with the knowledge I’ve gained?” I continue to process the sights, sounds, people, and knowledge I acquired while in Haiti. It continues to be a struggle in my mind. Things that prior to the trip would have seemed commonplace now shock my core as I see how much I have, and even worse, how much I have wasted.

Listening to God hasn’t been a strength of mine. It took getting very sick last year before I realized the need to slow down in order to heal. I began to say my rosary and meditate daily. In doing so, listening in silence became a way of being for me. After much practice, I started to hear “Put more faith in God, believe He’s in control, and follow.” I was more attentive when I saw Pope Francis, holding a leper with his hands and kissing him, and I knew I wanted more than anything to know and be able to feel that kind of love for another person. Those thoughts and feelings brought me to Haiti, where I learned what it looks like first-hand to put God first and let Him guide me.

I saw true joy in the Haitian’s faces. I saw them caring for one another – children sharing a single piece of fruit, a man at mass reaching out to fix another man’s collar, artisans ensuring their friend’s artwork was looked at as well. I observed them making Sunday about going to mass, dressing up better than I do for the occasion, showing up, fully present and participating in the mass. I heard about them going months without pay as teachers, because they know how important education is and are willing to sacrifice for the good of others. I learned the story of a doctor, returning to his Haiti and away from the comfort of the US, to care for their medical and education needs. And I witnessed the joy received when giving of oneself and physically being God’s hands and voice.

I became very aware I don’t need as much. If I take care of others, God takes care of me. Without worry. Life continues to get easier as I let go of trying to control it. The Haitians, the people I thought needed so much help, taught me that. They are wealthy in their love for God, so really, what do I have to give them that’s better than that? I am fully aware now how the material treasures and busy schedules I thought were so important just get in my way of my relationship with God. I owe my greatest thanks to the Haitian people, who have allowed me to witness how to let go and let God. It’s the best gift I think I’ll ever receive. And I now have full understanding what’s next – sharing that gift of relationship with God with others.

Photos by G. Romeri