Guest reflections by: Tambi Swiney, Associate Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church
“As our truck approached the gate of the school property, I realized that I was smiling from ear to ear. On this sunny January morning, our mission team from Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville was about to visit the students and teachers at The Joseph School at their new permanent location. I had walked this property twice before when it was still undeveloped, so I was eager to finally see what prior mission teams had only been able to imagine.
When we exited the truck and saw the smiling children in their pristine uniforms, I was mindful of the years of dreaming and planning and praying that had led up to this moment. As a veteran of four previous mission teams from Immanuel that have served in partnership with The Joseph School over the past five years, I knew the stories well. The glistening white school building is a monument to perseverance.
I remember how my senses (and my heart) were bombarded on my first trip to Haiti in 2013. During the first few weeks after I returned home, I often felt tears welling up as I noted the stark contrasts between the harsh living conditions and scarcity of resources I had witnessed in Haiti and the material wealth and abundant resources that surrounded me in Nashville. On my second trip, I still took note of the poverty – in particular, the burdens faced by mothers who must walk to get water, who wash their clothes in a river, who cook meals for their families over an open fire – but I also learned to pay attention to the resources that Haitians possess in abundance – joy, creativity, perseverance, patience, compassion, and love.
In Gregory Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart, which chronicles his work with gangs in Los Angeles, he observes, “Meeting the world with a loving heart will determine what we find there.” The faculty of The Joseph School greets the students each day with loving hearts, and they are bringing out the best in these precious children, these future leaders of the beautiful nation of Haiti. I am grateful to bear witness to their work.”