My original plan for a guest post involved mostly talking about the teacher training sessions at Lemuel that I facilitated in August. But then I figured you’d be wondering who I am, who my husband is, and how we got involved in Lemuel in the first place. So this is the first in a series of blog posts by me. So in the interest of providing some background on who we are, my name is Taylor and here is what I have to say:
My husband, Derek, and I moved to Haiti in September of 2016. Prior to our move, I had been working as a professional translator of technical manuals (riveting, I know). I had given up on finding a job teaching after I graduated in 2013. Derek had been working as a heavy equipment mechanic. We were moving to Haiti to work with a small ministry that hoped to create jobs for Haitian people living in extreme poverty.
Derek and I landed on the stifling tarmac of Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. We were totally disoriented, having said goodbye to the lives we knew only a few days before. We had no real idea of what we were getting into when we moved to Haiti. I’m not sure anyone ever truly does.
Our sending agency, Crossworld Canada, had connected us with Lemuel prior to our arrival. We had no real clue about what they did, who they were, or where they were located. However, since we were going to be the only foreigners working in a very small ministry, we were thrilled to have some support in Haiti as we would need (serious) help getting acclimated.
I can remember calling Judy shortly after our arrival and planning to take a trip up to the Plateau a week or so later. I mentioned that it looked like there could be a hurricane headed our way. And then Hurricane Matthew hit.
Several weeks later, once the roads were passable, we made the trip up to the Plateau. The farther north we got, the more we realized that this part of Haiti was nothing like what we were familiar with down south. It was dusty, beige, and overflowing with cacti and thorns. There were very few trees. We could hardly believe we were in the same country as we watched marchands making their way down the dusty dirt roads with their donkeys in tow. Life was different up north.
We entered the Lemuel campus, which was overflowing with its trees and flowering plants. An oasis in the desert. Judy and Krischelle greeted us and got us set up in our room. The next number of days were mesmerizing. We learned so much about the Plateau and how far Lemuel had come throughout the years. We learned about education, reforestation, water crises, and holistic development on the Plateau. Lemuel works in so many areas on the Plateau that it can be difficult to explain what they do. The best way I can think of is that they invest in people, no matter what that looks like.
Lemuel became our refuge and the people of Lemuel became members of our family while we lived in Haiti. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on the campus. We laughed and we cried there. When we realized that we could no longer continue to work for the ministry we were then working for, Lemuel was there to help guide us and encourage us as we moved back to Canada.
In the summer of 2017, it felt as though all was lost. We never wanted to leave Haiti and we were questioning why God would have us move to Haiti for a year only to have us back home. It didn’t make sense. We were still in contact with Lemuel and offered whatever support we could from back home.
I got a job working in an office handling some social media accounts and Derek went back to work as a heavy equipment mechanic. We still remember that year, 2017, as being one of the worst years we have ever had. We couldn’t wait to slam the door of 2017 and start afresh in 2018.
In January of 2018, I was hired at the local school board and started substitute teaching, mostly in French Immersion schools. Judy and I began planning for me to come and run some French and English as a Second Language courses that summer. The days were long but it was refreshing to have my God-given skills be useful at Lemuel. I was thrilled to be able to do something for the people who had done so much for us when we lived in Haiti. Once I got back home, I was already planning my trip the following summer.
Looking back on our time living in Haiti, I can see that we learned a lot the hard way. We bore witness to extreme poverty. We saw the value of education. Most importantly, we saw how aid can strip away the dignity of the very people it tries to help. We saw how paternalism and dependency can totally destroy the social fabric of a community.
We also saw a model of development executed extremely well at Lemuel. The Lemuel team does things differently because they focus on the dignity and the worth of their fellow members of the community of which they are also a part. They are not outsiders coming in to find solutions to problems without so much as asking the community what they think the problems are. They are people living in community, coming up with solutions for the way forward together with a focus on the gospel, human dignity, and development. They are different. And that’s why I am so proud to be able to be a part of what they are doing on the Plateau. Stay tuned for part two...