During October 27-November 3, leaders from 5 different Central Texas Conference churches joined Water to Life on a mission trip to the village of Mellier, Haiti. Participants included Murray Allen (Ovilla UMC), Keith Bierley (Keller UMC), Erin Jackson (New World UMC), Tina Schramme (FUMC Mansfield), and Trudy Smith (Aledo UMC). A separate Keller UMC team completed the mission November 3-10. The purpose of the CTC trip was to train ministry leaders how to lead future mission trips to Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world. A critical part of the mission included learning how to be in mission service to others in a way that is decidedly not “Toxic Charity,” but instead empowers the people of Haiti in a healthy, life-giving ways.
In Robert D. Lupton’s book, Toxic Charity, there is an “Oath for Compassionate Service,” similar to a physician’s HippocraticOath, that begins with “Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.” While this concept sounds simple, oftentimes, even the most well-meaning missionaries do more harm than good when they serve on mission trips and want to do all the helpful work themselves. In fact, one of the hardest things to do is to serve on a mission in a way that empowers local leaders and the clients being served to do their own work. As it turns out, when you want to jump in and help, sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is cheer others on.
On the surface, our mission was to distribute close to 200 water filters to provide clean, safe drinking water to 750 people who did not have this resource. What made this mission trip unique is that we intentionally did this work through employing Haitians to recruit clients, translate, teach classes, cook, draw water, drive, and more. While on our mission trip, we helped at least 10 Haitians get a fair wage for the work they performed along with our team. In addition to distributing water filters, we played soccer and created crafts with Haitian children, built friendships, and worshipped together. We even provided the gift of laughter as the village watched us Americans as we tried to balance jugs of water on our heads, or as we walked muddy trails through the rain.
The vision of this CTC Mission Trip to Haiti was to train leaders the nuts and bolts of how to lead future mission trips to Haiti in a healthy way, and that vision was achieved. It is exciting to see the potential transformation that healthy ministry partnerships like this will bring to our conference.
Written by Rev. Erin Sloan Jackson (New World United Methodist Church)