Words by Rebecca Greenfield
As we piled into the 31-passenger school bus, drove away from the airport, and headed to Grand Goave, Haiti, our ten-day mission trip with Lifeline Christian Mission began. What started as a small conversation with some church friends around the dinner table months earlier was now a journey my husband and I were embarking upon with those very same friends. These friends had been to Grand Goave before. Now, as my husband and I sat on the bus, we were getting a front-row seat to the experience our friends said was like no other. Through Lifeline, we all would get the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who had very little.
Sights, sounds, and smells bombarded our senses. We looked out the window of the stuffy bus in both amazement and solemness. One solitary traffic light and a small car dealership near the airport were the first and last signs of infrastructure we would see on our entire trip. Soon the mountainous backdrop of depleted forests turned into miles of tent-like homes and broken down metal huts. It was both a scene of mystery and disbelief. The stench of burning trash penetrated the thick and humid air, enveloping the bus with its scent.
About halfway through our drive to Grand Goave, we entered Port-Au-Prince. Here, our school bus got stuck in traffic. Our bus was stop-and-go in a peculiar sort of traffic jam caused by a combination of civilians, motorcycles, scooters, cars, buses, and Tap-Taps (a type of truck designed to transport multiple people). Honking horns and animated yelling added to the chaos. Haitian after Haitian lined the sides of the road, aiding in this abrupt slow-down in our commute. This was their marketplace. For many, the marketplace was the only place they had a chance to make a living. Unfortunately, eight out of ten Haitians make less than two dollars a day. One out of two Haitians barely makes even a dollar a day. As we sat on the bus, breathing in the smog, cringing as we watched vehicles nearly collide with our bus, stunned at how many people could fit into a Tap Tap, and listening to the natives barter, I began to feel the weight of the poverty of this land. Blankets full of cabbage, used old American clothes laid out like a garage sale, fruit sprawled out next to sewer wells—all bearing witness to the desperation of what it took for a day’s wage to be earned. Men carrying large baskets of bagged water walked between the narrow spaces within the traffic, peering in our bus windows as they tried to make a sale. Heaps of trash were piled near the streets and in dried-up water canals. Broken and mud-splashed vendor umbrellas, torn tarps, and random tires littered the road along with the graffiti and sewage.
So much filth, so much struggle, so much need. I realized how far I was from home, but this was what daily life looked like for most Haitians. Yet, looking out my bus window, I saw more than just that smog-ridden, stench-thickened space. I saw a sacred space. I saw that the people in the marketplace–as much as us in the bus–needed to be loved and forgiven by the God of the universe. They were not just Haitians, and we were not just Americans. God’s love transcends nationalities. We, all of us, are humans loved by God.
About an hour after we left Port-Au-Prince, we pulled into the gated Lifeline Christian Mission campus. We settled into our rooms and prepared for a week of service. Little did we know how much more we would be blessed by the Haitians than our small token of service could even begin to offer them. They didn’t need us, but they welcomed us. In many regards, we needed them more.
Haitian after Haitian invited us into their lives. We met mothers who walked miles to pick up formula for their children at the Lifeline clinic. We prayed with a young man who had been recently hired by Lifeline and used that money to support his whole family. As he invited us into his home, which was nothing more than a tent-like shed, he explained how every time it rained, it would flood all that he owned. Yet, he had hope in God to provide for his needs. We played with children from the villages who wore nothing more than tattered pieces of cloth and had ring-worm on their bodies caused by sleeping on dirt floors. Although each man, woman, and child were in so much need, somehow their faces still shined with unadulterated joy. They were rich in hope despite being poor in possessions. They showed us strength through their trust in God. Each story, each Haitian, each orphan child, reminded us that nothing is entitled but that all things are a gift from God.
Our week-long stay consisted of a tour of the city, prayer walks, giving formula and other essential supplies to help growing infants, hurricane-proof home building, worship at church, food distribution, and visits with the children. Due to political corruption, earthquakes, hurricanes, lack of clean water and sanitary conditions, high unemployment, and deforestation of their natural agricultural resources, Haitians often remain in a cycle of poverty. Through Lifeline’s churches, clinics and schools, many Haitians have received jobs, food, and education, empowering them to break through some of the poverty barriers. As we toured the Lifeline campus, we met numerous staff hired by Lifeline and trained with a skill. Some were welding bed frames together, while others were teachers. In addition, there were translators, preachers, and cooks. Thanks to Lifeline, many of these people who would be subjected to extreme poverty within the city were now learning a trade and making a wage that would provide for their families.
The Lifeline schools were securely held on the Lifeline campus. Children would walk from city and rural locations to attend school, sometimes walking several miles in 100-degree heat. Due to kidnappings, human traffickers, theft, and other city violence, the gated Lifeline campus provides a haven to the children. Over 1,000 children attend the Grand Goave Lifeline school, while an additional 700 children attend Lifeline schools throughout other parts of Haiti. The curriculum consists of typical classes like math and English classes, but most importantly, Bible classes are the main focus of their education. Midday, the children take a break from class for lunch. This afternoon shuffle was something we all looked forward to during our stay. Hundreds of little ones poured into the campus courtyard and swarmed us with their infectious smiles. All they wanted was love. We found ourselves in the center of giggling children, many trying to climb on us simply so they could be held and loved. Others begged us to play or jump rope with them. Soon, our arms were covered in little Haitian hands as innocent-eyed, toothy-smiled, ribbon-haired, green-uniformed children clung to us, all of them seeking our love and affection.
One day in the courtyard, a sweet little girl latched on to me after I picked her up. Her legs wrapped around my waist tightly as she nuzzled her head into the side of my neck. Her friends tried to pull her off me because they wanted attention, but her grasp only grew tighter. My heart filled as her tiny, thin arms hugged me with every ounce of strength she had. She would not let go. All she wanted was love, and it was my joy and honor to hold her securely in that love. There I was, an average human, just simply wanting to provide a safe embrace to this little girl. It was a reminder that our loving Heavenly Father longs even more so, to hold us securely as we cling to Him.
The children received a Lifeline meal every day—a soup-like mixture of rice, vegetable-based protein, vitamins, and veggies. For many children at the school, this is their only meal all day. Food scarcity is a prevalent issue within Haiti. Between inflation, exploited land, and government corruption, hard-working civilians often do not have adequate resources available for regular meals. According to the UN’s World Food Programme, “Haiti has one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world. 4.4 million Haitians – nearly half the population – need immediate food assistance, and among these, 1.2 million suffer from severe hunger. Over 1 million people are in a situation classified as emergency.” Even the cows and chickens are noticeably thin; the food scarcity has left livestock hungry. Through volunteers at churches and Lifeline centres in North America, Lifeline can package dry ingredients of these nutritious meals to send to Haiti and other countries in need. Once in the country, these meals are reconstituted with water and used for school lunches, as well as prayerfully distributed to families. In Haiti, children not enrolled in the Lifeline program often have orange hair, a sign of malnutrition. These school lunches and infant formula distributions provide the nourishing vitamins that hundreds of children so desperately need.
Many children brought a bowl or portable container, saving a portion of their daily meal to share with their families after returning home from school. One particular day, I was walking past two small boys during their lunch. Due to language barriers, I could not say much, but I made efforts to joke with them by making a munching sound to pretend as though I was eating too. Without hesitation, the little Haitian schoolboy stuck out his spoon to offer me his meal, his only meal. My heart melted at the pure generosity of a child. He was willing to give me his lunch even when it was his only reliable meal for the day. Here I was coming to “bless” the Haitians when this child was actually teaching me. With his simple bowl and outstretched spoon, I was reminded that this boy knew the gospel so much better than me. Just as he was willing to give up his only meal to share life-giving sustenance, so was our God willing to give up His only Son to grant us life apart from sin.
Later that week, our group walked into our dorm meeting area. There were pictures posted of Haitian children enrolled in what Lifeline now calls their Together Youth Partnership program. These children needed partners who would relationally, prayerfully, and financially support them. Some of the children were orphans, but many had parents who could not afford to care for them. These children needed to be reminded that Jesus loved them and is with them through every trial. Together partners receive updates on the children and learn of specific prayer requests. They can also send care packages to help meet some basic hygiene and school needs.
I recounted the worshipped-filled church service where trash was repurposed as instruments all used to make a joyful noise to the Lord. I thought of the families we prayed with who waited in the pavilion to receive Lifeline food packs. There was so much packed into our ten days, yet I would later find out this was only a sample of all God had been doing through Lifeline. Haiti had forever touched a piece of my heart. And although I knew how powerful our trip was, I did not realize how much Lifeline would continue to impact my life personally. Two and half years after our mission trip, I found myself at a Greek restaurant sitting across the table from a Lifeline member, being asked if I would be interested in a job. My heart was about to explode from my chest with pure excitement at the opportunity to get more involved in such a Christ-centered organization. Lifeline had not only changed my life but truly was a “lifeline” to thousands around the world. Now, I was being invited to play a small role in the Kingdom work God was doing through them. I humbly and excitedly accepted. Once I began working for Lifeline, I learned how Lifeline was ministering to people all over the world and not just Haiti. I am so grateful to work for an organization that is improving people’s lives worldwide.
THE ORIGINS OF LIFELINE
Lifeline Christian Mission began over forty years ago out of the home office of Bob and Gretchen DeVoe, near Columbus, Ohio. Although Lifeline Christian Mission began with one church and one school feeding the children of Grand Goave, Haiti, God had even bigger plans for them and their mission. They acquired land to erect an open-air pole-barn for people to meet for church within the first year. After that, there was enough support to add additional classes for children. Soon they expanded to other villages in Haiti beyond Grand Goave, and then they expanded to other countries in Central America.
Within six years of Lifeline’s start in Haiti, it was clear that God had big plans to expand His outreach through Lifeline’s impact. God opened the doors for Lifeline to establish a ministry to Honduras through a church, school, and Christian radio program. Today, Lifeline has numerous churches, house churches, several schools, a children’s home with vocational programming, clinics, and the Bible Institute to biblically train future leaders.
Over the past 40 years, Lifeline’s reach has grown globally. Today, Lifeline Christian Mission is located in 11 countries worldwide while sending food to numerous additional countries. Lifeline has churches in Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, and El Salvador. Some of these locations also have sports ministry programs to serve the youth and even a Bible Institute. Over the years, other ministries have joined in partnerships with Lifeline, resulting in a school in Ecuador and community empowerment in places like Uganda. Additionally, Lifeline does mission work in North America through schools and churches in the Navajo Nation of Arizona and Calgary, Canada. Throughout the United States, Lifeline Centres serve as a beacon of hope within their communities, where people of all ages and walks of life can gather together to pack meals for international and local hunger needs.
Lifeline’s vision is as follows: “Spark a life on mission for God. Everyone. Everywhere.” Through planting churches, partnering with youth, mobilizing the local church to serve, providing health and nutrition to impoverished communities, and creating sustainability through economic empowerment, Lifeline makes every effort to show the love of Christ by meeting physical needs and providing Christ-centered support. Lives on fire for God bring lasting positive impact to a community. Lifeline ministries have been a source of hope and help to many who have desperately needed Jesus’ love in tangible ways.
With the onset of COVID, many mission trips were abruptly canceled, yet God remained at work as only God can. Despite the lockdowns and restrictions worldwide, Lifeline Christian Mission, with the help of God and volunteers, was able to pack over 7 million meals to distribute to the ministries locally and globally during 2020. But Lifeline was not only busy feeding the hungry. Through all the money raised this past year, Lifeline has helped with crisis relief from the two hurricanes that pummelled Honduras last fall, provided micro-loans to small business startups in developing countries, expanded the Youth Partnership program to reach more children, opened additional Lifeline centres, mobilized thousands of people nationwide to live a life on mission for God, and supported Haiti after the most recent earthquake with immediate assistance as well as a long-term plan for community sustainability.
Because of the prayers, generous donations, and tender hearts of supporters, God has displayed His glory and love to the marginalized. “Our ministry work would not be possible without the faithful support of those who invest in the ministries of Lifeline. Thank you!” expresses Ben Simms, President and CEO of Lifeline Christian Mission.
You can join in the work God is doing through Lifeline. Please pray for Lifeline as God opens more opportunities and locations to minister. Pray for the children in the Youth Partnership program that they may grow up in the Lord to lead their communities in a brighter tomorrow. Pray for the boldness of the gospel to be shared as physical needs are met.
Lifeline believes that God works powerfully through the power of prayer and hearts moved towards compassionate generosity. Time and time again, Lifeline has witnessed the outpouring of God’s provision, blessing, and outreach through the support of His people. If you want to learn more about ways you can partner with a class of children needing love, support future mission work, pray for the ministries, or provide meals to those in need, visit: Lifeline.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a note to Lifeline Christian Mission, Attn: Advancement Team, 921 Eastwind Dr # 104, Westerville, OH 43081.
HELP PACK MEALS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES!
Are you interested in packing meals for the hungry? Perhaps you, your family, church, or neighbors are interested in feeding the poor locally and globally. Visit the Lifeline Centre nearest you. Addresses and locations can be found at: Lifeline.org. Or call Lifeline to schedule a time to pack 614-794-0108, ask for Cheri Hubbell.
Is the Lifeline Centre too far? No problem. Lifeline can come to you. Nationwide, Lifeline helps churches, businesses, and families experience mobile meal packs. The entire meal pack experience can easily be set up in your community. Contact Cheri Hubbell at 614-794-0108 or email email@example.com to schedule a meal pack in your community.
Would you rather support the children? Become a Together Youth Partner by visiting Lifeline.org/together. There are classes of children looking for the loving, prayerful support of someone who wants to invest in them. Choose a class to support at lifeline.org/together or by calling 614-794-0108.
Whatever you do, however you help, your prayers and support are making an eternal difference. Thank you!
Rebecca Greenfield is a certified Nuclear Medicine Technologist who carries a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies. She is blessed to pursue both of her passions, science and theology, by working in nuclear medicine and at Lifeline Christian Mission. One of her deepest desires is to create spaces and places where people can experience the presence of God through the power of written art. She is the author of five books including, RAW Inner Workings of a Reawakened Soul, The Prayer Crossing Personal Devotional, and her most recent release, a children’s book called Dusternuffle. To order a copy of any of her books, visit www.Rebecca-Greenfield.com