Honor & Trust
When a massive earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, people everywhere began to ask, “What can I do to help?” For people like Doug Bradbury ′87, the answer is simple: Start to fall in love with Haiti.
Doug is a professor of student ministries at Geneva College and a co-founder of Haiti H2O, an organization that works alongside Haitian pastors and communities to create lasting change. One of the primary ways they build these partnerships is through sustainable short-term missions.
“We try to create opportunities for our teams to fall in love with Haiti and with the Haitians themselves,” Doug says. “If you have family members you love, you will continue to do whatever it takes to care for them. We are looking for people to commit to Haiti because they love the people and have allowed their hearts to be deeply impacted by their story.”
In reaching out to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Doug says it′s easy for many short-term mission groups to think their job is to “give, give, give.” But instead of seeing these people as bankrupt—as a problem that needs to be fixed—Haiti H2O encourages teams first to see Haitians with dignity, as image bearers of God, and then to come alongside and join them in their struggle.
“We teach some Creole to every team we take down,” Doug says. “If you just ask, Kisa sa? (What is this?), you can just start pointing to things and a conversation begins. The Haitians love when you try to speak Creole. It demonstrates that you respect them and love them enough to try to learn their language. In the end, it′s about honoring the people. It′s about positioning ourselves in a way so we can best hear them and learn from them.”
Doug fell in love with Haiti in 1985, traveling with a team from Geneva College. “Literally, that experience changed my life,” he says. “I have my journal from back then where I wrote, ‘Someday I′m going to come back here with my family.'”
That dream came true this summer when Doug and his wife took their four children, ages eight to three, to Haiti for six weeks. They traveled to rural villages with no electricity and no running water, living, eating, praying and sharing stories with the Haitians. Their purpose in all of this was to build relationships with their local partners in order to establish a Haitian leadership team. But something else happened that they didn′t expect.
“Suddenly there was this new, profound sense of trust that I had never experienced before,” Doug says. “I love the Haitians, I love these communities, but the Haitians communicated that bringing my family to live with them showed them that I honor them and trust them. They were not a project I was trying to fix, but rather a deep, loving people who in return cared for me and my family.”
As Doug continues to labor along with Haiti H2O′s Haitian partners, he shares his vision for short-term missions and service with his students at Geneva College.
“The gospel is a multidimensional expression,” Doug says. “It′s not just ‘Here′s a Bible, come to Jesus.′ Instead, Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing those who are naked, showing compassion to those who are the marginalized and alienated. We have to recognize that the good news includes economics, debt relief, restoring friendships, forgiveness and reconciliation. It′s not just one without the other. Every day there′s an opportunity to share the gospel—and our actions and demonstrations of love should stir others to ask for a reason for the hope that's within us."
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast states, Babette (Balla ′87) Watterson and her family left everything on the altar and moved to New Orleans. Read her story, and those of other Geneva College alumni, in the Winter 2010 issue of Geneva Magazine.
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