Is It Worth It?


Please help us to walk through this open door together to serve with The Hands & Feet Project. Click on the photo to find out how. Thank you!

In January 2014 I joined a short-term mission team to serve with The Hands & Feet Project in Grand Goave, Haiti. I’m headed back there, again, in July for another week and, because my wife has decided to jump in this time around, we’re having to dig deeper and reach out further for help to get there. So, yesterday I spent some time setting up a fundraising site that features a convenient link for kindhearted donors to contribute through and indicates the amount of money we still need to raise in order to make the trip.

It was during the process of putting the fundraising page together that I realized, upon typing the total amount of money that we have yet to come up with, that some people might question whether or not it is worth investing this amount of money into a week-long trip. Wouldn’t that amount of money better serve the needs of the people there if it was sent directly?

It’s a fair question and, after pondering it for myself in relation to my own experience there, my growing familiarity with the kids, mission staff, Haitian staff, and American staff of The Hands and Feet Project, I can state with confidence that your investment in our trip will not be wasted.

Sorting shoes by size for the younger kids at the Thozin site in the storage depot

Sorting shoes by size for the younger kids at the Grand Goave Hands & Feet Project Children’s Village in their storage depot

A significant percentage of the cost to make the trip benefits the work of The Hands & Feet Project directly. The Grand Goave Children’s Village of The Hands & Feet Project is still in the process of building and providing safe structures and buildings for the long-term American missionary staff, short-term mission teams, local Haitian staff and, most notably, the orphaned and abandoned children to live in. Measures are being taken to ensure that the new buildings are built to resist damage from natural disasters like the one that brought Haiti to its knees just five years ago. Donations that the Hands & Feet Project receives go directly toward providing, not just a safe place to live, but, also health care, a balanced diet, an education, and a staff to provide spiritual guidance.

Short-term mission teams bring various skills to provide manual, on-the-ground support and elbow grease to tackle projects ranging from construction and maintenance to recreational and educational activities for the kids that live there. In addition Hands & Feet Project mission teams engage with the local Grand Goave community by assisting with community outreach programs.

Happy to have some new shoes!

Happy to have some new shoes that our team delivered in January 2014

Mission teams coming to Haiti to serve are sent wish lists for supplies (ranging from toothpaste to tools and clothing), by the long-term Hands and Feet Project missionaries, a few weeks prior to their scheduled departure so that they can gather much-needed items and bring them to Haiti as part of their baggage. Because of Grand Goave’s rural location in a third world country where neither the U.S. Postal Service or UPS deliver, incoming short-term mission teams serve as a lifeline to the children and staff on the ground with The Hands & Feet Project in Haiti.

The Hands & Feet Project understands the importance of taking a responsible big-picture approach to addressing the orphan crisis in Haiti. The directors and long-term mission families that lead The Hands & Feet Project on the ground in Haiti have a deep knowledge and respect for the history and circumstances that have made Haiti the poorest country on the western half of the planet. They understand the importance of respecting the dignity of the people and they provide a means to prevent future children from being abandoned by providing sustainable employment through their new and developing Haiti Made initiative. In fact, this trip, for us, isn’t just a one-and-done effort. We sponsor two children that are a part of the Hands &

Kettia is one of the two children we sponsor that live at the Hands & Feet Project's Children's Village in Grand Goave, Haiti

Kettia is one of the two children we sponsor that live at the Hands & Feet Project’s Children’s Village in Grand Goave, Haiti

Feet Project family. This trip will allow me to build upon the relationship with Kettia that I started a year ago, and it will give Angela a chance to start hers. We truly desire to be like long-term family members to Kettia and the other children of the Hands & Feet Project and develop bonds that, though miles and time may separate us, prayer and return mission trips to serve at their Grand Goave Children’s Village, can grow for eternity in Jesus.

Last, but, certainly not least, your monetary support for our participation in this mission enables us to serve Jesus, himself, directly. James 1:27 states that, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” Jesus himself explained in Matthew 25:31-40:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I learned about and became involved with The Hands & Feet Project by walking through open doors that I had no plan or ability to open myself. Now my wife Angela is ready to step outside of her comfort zone, too, and I know that this trip is going to have as profound of an effect on her life as it has on mine and I truly believe that this trip will have a profound and positive effect on our marriage, too.

The work of The Hands & Feet Project and their vision to fight against the orphan crisis in Haiti are sound and sound and sure. Please help my wife and I to both walk through this open door and serve in the work of The Hands & Feet Project, bringing hope to the orphaned and abandoned in Haiti, together.

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Afterthought: Are You Looking For A Hero? I’ve Found Some…


For reflections about my experiences when I spent a week on a short-term mission trip to Haiti with The Hands & Feet Project in January 2014:  Part 1 click here.  Part 2 click here.  Part 3 click here. Part 4 click here.

I’m sitting here on a Friday evening at the tail-end of my first full week back at school (since last week was pock-marked with snow days) after returning from a week spent in Haiti with The Hands & Feet Project. At this point, the Haitian dust has settled a bit and the black sneakers I wore most of the week are now, almost, black again, as opposed to the tan hue they took on as a result of the dry, dusty conditions in Grand Goave.

The view of the mountains, just to the right, outside "Grandpa Rockwell's Kitchen"

The view of the mountains, just to the right, outside “Grandpa Rockwell’s Kitchen”

The beautiful view I had when I walked out our bedroom door each morning, just after waking to the sounds of roosters, however, left a huge impression on me. I’ve got photos of Haiti cycling through as a screen saver on my desktop at home and even the computer screen image of those mountains rising up, even further than the height on which the Hands & Feet Project’s Ikondo mission village is being built, makes me pause and sigh whenever I catch it out of the corner of my eye. It is a very, very special place, indeed.

Today as I was working toward the end of a particularly stressful week I made the comment to more than one person that, while I was in Haiti, I worked harder, physically, than I normally do during a day’s work and I ended up falling right to sleep each evening in Haiti, despite the heat, because, quite simply, I was tired. But, throughout that whole week I wasn’t stressed in even the least bit. It was a joy to be there. I knew that, though, my contributions were relatively small, in comparison to most of the other guys who had a good deal more experience with contracting work, every single thing I did was helping to advance the development of the Hands & Feet Project Children’s Village at least a little bit. Having the chance to be there and to contribute, in even the small manner that I did, to the beautiful work that The Hands & Feet Project does in an area where the need is so desperate was a distinct and humbling honor.

Hands & Feet Project co-director Andrew Sutton's shirt: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." -Acts 20:24

Hands & Feet Project co-director Andrew Sutton’s shirt:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” -Acts 20:24

Quite honestly, it has been a challenge to make the transition back to working in a public school in the U.S. where even the most economically disadvantaged students have it far better than the average Haitian child. The adults, too, are all too often, too tangled in their own webs of stress, career goals, and politics to stop and realize just how fortunate we really are to live in America. Though, I should say that it isn’t really a matter of realizing how fortunate we are to live here, but, instead, to realize how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to consume here because, really, that is what we do.

The U.S.A., it seems, is much more characteristic of the moniker: United States of Consumerism. Too many of us, because we haven’t had the chance to step out and see the big picture, aren’t really living. As teachers we work so hard to write lesson plans that will “engage students” (teacher-speak for holding the interest of over-stimulated American children for several minutes in a row), employ technology in the classroom as much as possible, raise district test scores, and placate all of the public stake-holders in an increasingly political occupation that we lose touch with the idea of connecting with humanity. Some of us, it seems, don’t even know what it is anymore. I can say this because these are the conditions that I teach in and I feel the pressures each day, hence the stress.

But, the fact that I’ve had a chance, now, to, not just view a news clip or read an article, but, to actually be in the poorest country on this half of the earth and see just how wide the gap is between the haves and have-nots, has made it truly difficult for me to reconcile, not only the luxuries of my daily life with knowing the profound needs in theirs, but, also the disproportionate amount of energy, time, and stress that goes into trying to “race to the top” in public education with the seemingly little good that it actually does for American kids, let alone the ones who really need the most help.

With Angie and Andrew Sutton, long term American missionaries and directors of the Grand Goave/Ikondo Hands & Feet Project Children's Village sites

With Angie and Andrew Sutton, long-term American missionaries and directors of the Grand Goave/Ikondo Hands & Feet Project Children’s Village sites

Don’t get me wrong. I have some wonderful kids in my classroom every day and being there to witness connections being made, goals being achieved, and confidence being built is an awesome privilege and responsibility, but, it really seems like the cost to benefit ratio is becoming more and more expensive when I know that, dollar for dollar, thought for thought, and pound for pound, there is such a serious and desperate need for investment elsewhere.

What this means for me and for my family, only God knows. Maybe not much in terms of any significant shifts. After all, these are just the typed-words of a middle-aged school teacher at the end of a rough week. But, I can say, for sure, that I am truly inspired by and I have the utmost sincere respect for those who drop their own security, get up, and move to where the need is in order to help address it. That, perhaps, is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about who the heroes of this world are: modern missionaries who give it all up and go to be the Hands and Feet of Christ to “the least of these,” where the need is greatest.

If you are the praying kind of person, or even if you’re not for that matter, please prayerfully consider supporting the work of those who don’t just visit for a week and then fly back to the comforts of home in the U.S., but, the ones who picked up and moved everything in order to live and serve where the need is:

The Sutton Family – the directors we worked most closely with while in Grand Goave

The Mulligan Family – the directors we visited for a day while visiting the Children’s Village they oversee in Jacmel

Find out how you can give a gift of support to the Suttons, the Mulligans, the Moores, or Hands & Feet Child Advocate Michelle Meece