Serving God and the People of Haiti
By most accounts, spending a week on the earthquake devastated island of Haiti doesn’t sound like a vacation the majority of Americans would dream of taking. The Kerber family, however, were motivated to take such a trip by a higher power.
“God’s timing had put it in our hearts. We felt we needed to go to Haiti,” shared Robin Kerber.
Missions trips abroad aren’t new to the Emmetsburg family. Robin’s husband, Jeff, and son, Justin, went on such a trip to Mongolia several years ago as part of Athletes in Action, a fellowship of Christian athletes.
“Since then, my daughters and I have been wanting to go [on a missions trip], so we started to research the Internet for short-term missions trips,” Robin said.
That search lead them to Adventures In Missions, a U.S. group that offers short-term and long-term trips for youth groups, college students, high school students, families, and adults.
The Kerbers signed up to travel to Haiti on a “relief trip”, June 20-26. Robin and her daughters, Jaimee, 20, and Jordan, 17, as well as Jaimee’s college roommate, Brenna, flew out of Des Moines and landed in Miami, where they met up with team members from Texas, Ohio, and Florida. The team next boarded another plane, taking them to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Once they arrived on the island, the team was struck by the heat, humidity, and the overwhelming smells. The Kerbers saw tent communities where tents were crammed together just inches apart. They saw women cooking with pots on open fires and women washing their clothes in tubs or in the dirty water in the streets. Laundry was hung to dry on any available line.
“We had heard that Voodoo is prevalent, but we saw a huge revival of Christianity after the earthquake,” Robin said. “We saw Haitian taxis, called ‘tap-taps’, which were brightly colored and often had Biblical messages and scenes painted on them.”
The team members were escorted to their home for the next seven days—a concrete pad where they could set up their tents outside the administrative offices of Adventures In Missions. The offices are located inside a gated community, providing a secure home-base for the volunteers. The Kerbers ate their meals there—granola bars for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and an authentic Haitian meal at supper-time.
“For our evening meal, they had a Haitian cook prepare rice and beans and chicken or goat,” Robin shared. “We drank bottled water and brushed our teeth with bottled water, too.”
While some relief groups in Haiti deliver food and water supplies to the people, the Adventures In Missions group was focused on ministering to their emotional and spiritual needs. As part of that goal, the Kerbers taught Vacation Bible School activities at a makeshift school, provided children’s ministry, and went into some of the tent communities to share God’s love with the people.
Every time the team went out into the community, three adult men accompanied them—one in the front, one in the middle, and one in the back.
“They were there for our protection, but we never had a problem,” Robin explained. “There were concerns about being mobbed if we had tried to distribute food and water. Fortunately, we did get to hand out some supplies in a controlled environment at the school and orphanage.”
That orphanage, known as the Son of God Orphanage, is sponsored by Adventures In Missions. A staff of seven adults cares for approximately 125 children who call the orphanage home. The older youth assist the adults in looking after the babies and younger children.
“Often, we would play simple little hand games with the children. They have so little, but they have so much joy. The people of Haiti were so welcoming, so very warm and loving. They trusted us and were open to our love and help,” said Robin.
Since most Haitians speak Creole, language was an issue, but with the help of translators assigned to each group, that barrier was overcome.
“We really bonded with our Haitian translators,” Robin noted. “One translator, Carl, had a wife and two children with a baby on the way. He was educated and taught school before the earthquake. Now he and his family live in a tent because their home was destroyed. We gave Carl our tents and flashlights when we left.”
The family also became close to the children they met at the school and interacted with each day. Her daughters fell in love with the babies at the orphanage and longed to bring them home. When the time came for the family to head back to Iowa, they knew that they had been deeply affected by the experience.
“My daughters were so glad that they had did it, and they want to go back,” said Robin. “They really bonded with the children. For them to see the joy of these people with so little, living amongst the devastation, makes us all appreciate how good we have it in America.
“It was such a blessing to go there,” Robin smiled. “Our main purpose was to serve God and the people of Haiti, and we feel we were blessed more than we blessed them. It was just heart-wrenching and amazing and awesome all at the same time.”