I am more than thrilled to announce that my classmate Kellaura Johnson and myself received two grants to travel to Haiti for three weeks in January. We received grants from both the Episcopal Evangelical Society and The Seminary Consultation on Mission. We leave for Haiti on January 4th and will return on January 23rd.
In February of 2007 I was attending the Diocese of Alabama’s convention and I heard and Episcopal priest named Fritz Valderma speak, Pere Val as he is known to many. The Diocese of Alabama was beginning their long and deep relationship with the Diocese of Haiti and the Bishop of Haiti asked us to work with Pere Val and his wife Carmel, a nurse. In that moment of listening to Pere Val, I felt God screaming at me. Go, be with, and learn from the amazing people of Haiti. On that day, I started a lifelong journey with Pere Val and Carmel. So far the journey has included an incredible friendship, lots of hard work, and so much love!
In January I will be making my fifth trip to Haiti and I could not be more pleased to be able to spend so much time with people that I love deeply. As everyone will remember a massive earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. I was able to be with my friends just two months after the earthquake and it was a week I will never forget. The images are still so vivid of mass destruction and many broken hearts, mine included.
I am excited to show my friend Kellaura the place I love so much. We have several goals in our time in Haiti. Below is information that Kellaura wrote for our grant application. I think it gives a great picture of what our mission will be with our time spent while in Haiti.
Our vision is to communicate the stories of the Episcopal Church in Haiti in a manner that magnifies the mission of the Church in Haiti and inspires people to view the Church in a new light. Part of this vision is to use multiple media to express these stories in a way that reaches people interested in social justice, the arts, and social media, but who may not know have knowledge of the Episcopal Church and the stories that make up the Episcopal experience.
Our desire is to spend three weeks in Haiti working alongside, listening to, and forming relationships with Episcopal Haitians. During that time we will be using social media to communicate our experiences in real time. Upon our return we wish to engage in a reflective process that will allow for maturation of the stories with which we have been entrusted. The fruit of that reflective process will be tangible communication tools with which we may share the good news of Episcopal Haitians with the Church and with the wider community. Our hope is that our experience and the stories themselves will dictate what sort of tangible communication tools will be most effective and appropriate to impact as wide and diverse an audience as possible. Communication tools may include: published text and images, audio recordings, video, photography exhibits, social media, events and gatherings, teaching tools and lesson plans, public speaking, and resources for campus and parish ministry. Finally, we envision that the communication tools that we produce can be put to use both by the Church in Haiti and by churches and ministries in the U.S. to share the Episcopal story in a manner that encourages people to hear the gospel in a new way and invites people to reshape their understanding of what it means to be an Episcopalian and a Christian. We believe that effective evangelism often means sharing the stories that matter to us in a manner that encourages all people to view their own stories as part of the story of salvation.
Please watch this blog for updates about our trip. Ask us questions, help us spread the word, share the work that is being done in Haiti, and most importantly pray that our time in Haiti will be spent basking in the glory of God’s love.
Mary Balfour Van Zandt
Me, Pere Val and my Dad, Polk Van Zandt