From HTF Executive Director Erin Murphy to her home congregation, Epiphany Lutheran Church in Suwanee, GA.
Since 2010, Epiphany youth and adults have led and participated in a summer camp for the poorest children in the Jacmel area of Haiti sponsored by the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF). That camp has grown to include participation from multiple congregations around the country and has served between 250 and 350 Haitian children each year. This summer, after years of dreaming, HTF and its partner Chemen Lavi Miyò (Haitian Creole for “path to a better life” or CLM) made plans for young people and their adult guides to walk alongside and partner with CLM for their summer camps. Last week, Epiphany’s team of eight youth and two adults, along with 19 others from Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Haiti, served as monitors at four different camp locations throughout the central plateau region of Haiti, collectively serving almost 1,000 children over a three-day period.
Epiphany, your team of servants poured themselves out in the hot classrooms and grassy soccer fields in Mirebalais. There were physical challenges to overcome - camp days extended eight hours and temperatures hovered just below 100˚F - and each of us found our emotional fortitude tested as we loved on the children who attended camp each day. These boys and girls, children of the members of CLM’s ultra-poverty eradication program, are living at or below poverty levels that many of us have only read about in National Geographic. Their parents - their moms, alone, in most cases - have been struggling just to provide a meal for them every few days. Many of the children have never attended school, and they have never heard from loved ones or from strangers like us that their lives have value. They did last week. We showed up each day with smiles, hugs and words of hope and dignity. We told the children and their mothers that their lives matter. We told them that, even though they are young, they have the right to food, clean water, safe shelter and education. And we moved beyond words to action. The theme of the camp was Timoun Se Lavni Demen - Children are the Future - and we sang, we danced, we played, we learned, we ate, all of it TOGETHER, in solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters. One of the four Haitian college students serving with us last week begged us, through tears, to never stop showing up for our partners in Haiti. He told us that he never heard words of encouragement as a child. He’s 23 now, and said he cannot hear enough that he has value and rights and a future.
In this Sunday’s Gospel text, we hear Jesus say “I am the bread of life.” He goes on to explain that the living bread - Jesus - is the bread that will sustain us for eternal life. You will hear from our team in worship this Sunday, as they share with you their stories of hope and transformation from this past week. I know you will hear and see glimpses of Jesus’s vision for the world - that ALL may have life.