Siblings return to Haiti

In early April, as many Cedar Falls students were just getting back into the swing of things after Spring Break, senior Anna Love and sophomore Blake Love set down their school books for 10 days to experience a different kind of learning. The siblings and their mother traveled to Haiti on a mission trip.

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“It was my second time going to Haiti. I go with a group from Orchard Hill Church, although non-members are also welcome. We go to a small town in the middle, rural parts of Haiti to stay with an organization called United Christians International,” Anna Love said. “UCI is an amazing organization whose goal is to provide Haitians with a way to take care of themselves. As an example, they are working on distributing coffee tree seedlings so the people can grow the plant and sell the produce, earning their own profit.”

Her brother, Blake Love, also went on the mission trip for the second time and helped with several projects as well.

“We did many small work projects like putting in two cement floors, started building a fence around the university and many other miscellaneous small jobs,” Blake Love said.

The projects that the Loves worked on played a significant part in improving safety in the area, especially around the local university. “We bought the supplies and worked on building a fence for the university school on the UCI campus. Security is needed because there are a lot of instances of kidnapping of college kids in Haiti because people assume that if the parents can afford a college education for their child, they can also afford a ransom. The kidnappers are rarely violent, just desperate for money to be able to live,” Anna Love said. “Four of the 50 or so college students had been kidnapped, or someone had tried to kidnap them while they went to a different college. It’s the first year for the university at UCI.”

Another experience that the Loves shared was getting to spend quality time with the local children.

“It surprised me that when I got there, kids I had met and spent time with last year remembered me right away, even after just being there for one week a year ago. It was amazing,” Blake Love said.

The Loves helped with both church-related and non church-related activities while spending time with the kids. “We also did Bible school for two different groups of nutrition center kids. These kids are there because they are in the most poverty stricken homes in the area. Many of them begin in the center malnourished. We taught them a Bible story, did two crafts, played at recess and, of course, fed them. One of the crafts was a picture of them with their photo on it that we took and printed there. That was really fun for them because they don’t have mirrors, so a picture is the way they can see themselves,” Anna Love said.

While they experienced a lot on their trip between the projects and activities with the kids, one of the most powerful memories for Blake was witnessing a baptism.

“The thing that stuck with me the most was during a baptism in the river a girl who had troubles with possession in the past started flailing around and yelling as she got baptized. They prayed over her, and the spirit left her and she was re-baptised. This struck me because I always thought that possession was just in movies, but it showed me how the Devil is trying to gain power but God will always prevail. This trip reminded me how fortunate we all are and how money and stuff doesn’t bring happiness,” Blake Love said. Anna was shocked at the level of maturity and adult-like behavior from the kids who live a difficult life of poverty. “These kids are there because they are in the most poverty stricken homes in the area. Many of them begin in the center malnourished,” Anna Love said.  “During all this time the kids acted so well behaved. There were four year olds acting like parents to one year olds, helping them eat, drink, helping them color and rocking them if they cried.”

For Anna, the hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye. “These children’s childhoods are non-existent. The only time I saw them act like kids was during the Easter egg hunt, and it was wonderful to see that crazed excited gleam in their eyes as they raced to find the plastic eggs. I felt like I was back in America again,” Anna Love said.  “As they left they each got a set of clothes, toothbrush and hat balloon made by me. It was fun to be able to bring my balloons down and make them for the kids there — they rarely see anything like that. The worst part of the entire Bible school was seeing them all walk away. The two hours we just spent with them was nothing like what they were going home to. They weren’t going home to enough food, suitable shelter and 18 people ready to play soccer and blow bubbles with them, but truly terrible living conditions. Watching them walk away was very heartbreaking for me.”

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