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  • Laura MacNeil Smith

Dream Big

Lately, each day God's been teaching me how to listen for his voice better and what He wants to show me. More often than not, it's the unplanned spontaneous moments in our lives where God has the opportunity to move the most, if we're listening. There have often been times when I've had to step away from what I was working on when I recognized the Lord was encouraging me to move in other ways. Sometimes it looks like things left on the to-do list when a friend really needed to talk instead. It also looks like going on hikes or spending time outside the walls of The CAMP and being available to sit and talk with neighbors and friends. A huge part of our community work here in Haiti isn't just our planned activities and scheduled programs--it's also simply living in community together. Encouraging one another day in and day out. It's continuing to build relationships. When I think of the ways God can move unexpectedly, I'm reminded of one particular day we delivered food kits a few months ago.


It was a hot day, and we found ourselves already exhausted before the day began. It was a day we really didn't want to hike up the mountain...but it also happened to be the day we met Ashnael.


The last food kits to be delivered are always to the families on the top of the mountain behind The CAMP. The hike to the top and back can be pretty grueling, especially with 35lbs of rice and dried spaghetti on your back. Selfishly, I kept putting it off all week until Thursday morning when I couldn't procrastinate anymore, so Matthew, Roossevelt, Gideon and I packed up the dried food good and began the trek. It never fails that every time I get to the top, although I am tired, the smiles of the families we visit are worth it all. We stand and talk in courtyards as the proud grandmothers show off their grandchildren and we chat about whatever is going on in the country at the moment.


The last house we always visit on the mountain is Andreline and the twins. I wrote a little bit about their story awhile back, and how their mother had died shortly after giving birth to them. The babies' aunt who also helps take care of them couldn't stop talking about how healthy and happy they are. I couldn't agree more, as I peek in on the baby boys--a mess of dark hair sleeping peacefully together in the middle of the bed. They are continuing to grow and thrive so beautifully with the support of their family and the Family Food Kit program, with which they also receive formula each month.


Soon, we heard giggles and scurrying above the courtyard of the house, as someone was spying on us: a little girl. Her name is Ashnael. When we first met, she ran straight into my arms and hung off me in a big hug. It probably had more to do with her being terrified of our dog more than anything, but as I've gotten to know her I also understand that this is how she likes to be near people--half hugging, both holding on to each other. She is smaller in size than most 12 year olds, but her energy and curiosity is contagious. Ashnael has special needs, a mental and physical handicap, which was why she was home during the day while most other children are at school. She can hear and understand what is being said, but she has difficulty communicating. Her words don't always come out clearly and she has a hard time speaking. As we stood together in the courtyard, her father explained that she went to a special needs school for 1 year when she was younger, but it soon became too expensive for both her and her mom to take a tap tap taxi everyday to the school in Jacmel, 40 minutes away.


Matthew and I locked eyes immediately. God spoke pretty clearly and quickly to the both of us. If Ashnael wanted to return to school, we wanted to make that happen. This is exactly why The CAMP was started--to be able to make long term impacts like this. We knew that God brought us up the mountain that day perhaps just to meet Ashnael. We asked her parents if they could meet with us at The CAMP later that week so we could talk some more.


There are many times in my life when I've pleaded and prayed for God to move, yet I have sat and done absolutely nothing. I've wanted him to renew and refresh my life, yet I kept my life so full of hustling and to-do lists that it didn't leave any room for him to move at all. Wanting God to do a new thing in our lives requires us to give Him the space to do so. Every time I feel like my faith has grown enough, the Lord brings me to a new place of dependence on him. Every time I think The CAMP has reached its capacity to help, the Lord presses another need on our hearts and gives us clear direction. It is always HIM who makes a way.


I sat down with Ashnael's mother, Yimene, and asked what her dreams were for her daughter. She said she dreams of her going back to school. She dreams of her being able to take care of her parents when they are old like they take care of her. She dreams of Ashnael learning how to speak. I can't think of a dream more beautiful than that.


Ashnael, along with 6 other high school students in our community will be a part of The CAMP's new scholarship program starting this September. We're ecstatic about the opportunity to support these well deserving students who desire to complete their secondary education. They dream of one day being teachers and doctors and engineers. We wholeheartedly believe in each and every one of these young people, that they are the future leaders of our country and our community. We can't wait to see them succeed.



 


The CAMP's newest ministry project is a Scholarship Program which supports the educational needs of 7 youth in our community ranging from ages 12-22. Each year around September, we are approached by families in our community to help with the cost of school. As the majority of schools in Haiti are private, it can be very expensive for families with multiple children. Often this can lead to families borrowing money at very high interest rates to afford schools with quality education. As this is a continual need our community, we look forward to growing the Scholarship Program each year. This scholarship of $350 usd will be used towards school tuition, uniforms, supplies and transportation for each student. In return, the students are required maintain a passing grade point average in all of their classes, provide updates for their sponsors and volunteer in their community through The CAMP, 5 service hours a semester. We are so excited to reach out to our generous donor base to find sponsors for each one of these students. In the coming days, we will be highlighting our Scholarship students and different ways that you can get involved.


-Laura



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