Haiti mission trip changes local lives

She’d traveled the world, she’d lived abroad for years, but until she visited impoverished and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Bridget Kasper’s middle class world hadn’t changed.

Bridget Kasper and fellow Healing Haiti teammates hoist Haitian children into their arms. Photo courtesy of Bridget Kasper

Bridget Kasper and fellow Healing Haiti teammates hoist Haitian children into their arms. Photo courtesy of Bridget Kasper

“What I saw there changed my world – it changed my life,” said Kasper, a resident of Ramsey who grew up in Coon Rapids and currently serves as account executive for ECM Publishers, Inc., Coon Rapids.

Kasper traveled to Haiti with a team from Eagle Brook Church for a week-long mission trip Nov. 12-19.

The 12-member team assisted Healing Haiti in delivering food packets and fresh water, visiting the sick and dying, caring for the elderly and the injured, playing with orphans and loving God’s people there, Kasper said.

“We shared this unconditional love, this joy… Our team working together, letting God work through us helping his children. I feel like I got so much more out of this experience than what I gave,” she said days after her return.

Kasper spoke of the great need she saw in Cite´ Soleil for food and clean water, of disheveled tin shacks and dirt floors, of filth and desperation, of infected wounds, sickness and death. But she also spoke of the relentless hope and optimism, the laughter and deep-seated joy so freely shared by the Haitians.

Haitian locals walk past one of the devastated country’s many tent cities which serve as home to some one million people displaced by the earthquake that hit the Mediterranean country in January 2010. Photo courtesy of Bridget Kasper

Haitian locals walk past one of the devastated country’s many tent cities which serve as home to some one million people displaced by the earthquake that hit the Mediterranean country in January 2010. Photo courtesy of Bridget Kasper

“They have such joy, such gratitude. It seems they have so little, but they still have such great joy,” Kasper said.

“They live in these little shacks in tent cities. There’s sickness all around… but they seem optimistic that things will get better.”

Kasper told the story of helping a blind man.

“We were able to give a blind man a mattress and pillow, some sheets,” she said. “We laid the mattress down on the floor of his shack – a dirt floor in this tin shack with a tarp for a roof. He just couldn’t stop running his hand along the mattress, along the sides and along the top. He had this great smile. He was just so grateful.”

Other contagious Haitian joy that Kasper witnessed came child-sized.

As the Healing Haiti team arrived at tent cities to deliver food packets, Haitian children would smile and wave, calling out “Hey you! Hey you!” in lyrical sing-song voices.

Then, as the team wound its way along the narrow paths through the tent cities, the little ones pulled them along, dancing toward their families’ tin shacks and urging generous delivery.

“You could feel their desperation, but you couldn’t miss their joy,” Kasper said.

The spirit of the Haitian people coupled with the spirit of God, she said, fuels her daily life still.

While she’s always appreciated the things her middle-class life allows, Kasper now happily gives up some of those “luxuries,” keeping a tally of the dollar amount saved and then donating that money to help those in need.

“I really feel like (going to Haiti) has completely changed my life,” Kasper said. “I’ll never look at anything the same way again.”

Kasper is determined to return to Haiti on another mission trip, she said.

But first, activating her new life and new perspective into action in the U.S., Kasper is giving money to help homeless youth in Anoka County, and she volunteers her time and donates money to Coon Rapids-based Feed My Starving Children.

And it’s all the result of a week spent working and serving in Haiti.

“I never worked so hard but got so much out of it. I came back feeling so renewed. It was life-changing,” Kasper said.

To learn more about Healing Haiti, visit www.HealingHaiti.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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