Regular readers know that I often make references to Haiti. Whether it is as part of a mission presentation in a school or parish, or thanking the people of Boston for their donations, Haiti never leaves my radar screen. This is because my first mission trip for the Pontifical Mission Societies was to Haiti.
My heart never came home.
During that trip, Haiti was much as it is today: profoundly poor and struggling. It has a low literacy rate (about 61%) and an even lower per capita income. According to the World Bank, more than half of Haitians live on less than $2.41 a day.
Some people would call a place like this hopeless. The missionaries I met and worked with call it fertile ground.
My host during that life changing trip was Fr. Tom Hagan, OSFS. His mission house was our base as we worked at the schools, orphanages, clinics, and feeding programs he coordinates through his organization called Hands Together.
My duties were to help where I could. I bandaged and helped stitch patients in a "Wound Care Clinic" for the homeless of Port-au-Prince -- which was simply an alley stoop where people knew they could get basic medical care. Other than kissing my children's scraped knees, I had no training. In that dirty alley, I received more than I could ever give: the opportunity to serve Jesus in my brothers and sisters.
In an orphanage, I fed and cleaned babies who would be dead long before the earthquake of 2010 could claim them: victims of HIV/AIDS, TB or simple, but no less deadly, malnutrition. After a long day of moving from crib to crib in an endless routine of porridge and rags used as diapers, I asked one of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, "How do you do this day after day knowing they won't survive?" Her beatific smile came quickly with the simple truth: "Only by the grace of God, my dear!"
The people of Haiti have many needs, as do so many we serve in the missions. This Lent, Father Tom and his co-founder, Doug Campbell, are encouraging all mission-minded people to sign up to receive short daily email reflections, (some penned by yours truly) and promise to pray for just five minutes each day for the people of Haiti. I would add, for all people in the missions, too. You can find the link to do so on our website: www.propfaithboston.org.
Take a prayerful, daily trip to the missions this Lent. And please, leave your heart there.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.