By Julie Cole
group of athletes from Briercrest College and Seminary recently shot for a different kind of goal – to bring help and hope to the people of Haiti.
The team, made of men and women Clippers in the volleyball, basketball and hockey programs, recently spent 11 days in Haiti. They conducted sports camps, helped build homes, distributed rice and shared their testimonies.
Chad Romanuk, Briercrest gym facilities coordinator, led the team. This was his fourth trip to Haiti.
“Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere,” he said. “(This outreach) seemed like a practical way of providing for a very real need.”
The team partnered with Haiti Arise, a Christian ministry near the capital of Port-au Prince that seeks to spiritually strengthen Haitian people and expand their skill base so they can bring influence and change around them.
The generous giving of many people helped the team to raise $7,500 more than they needed for their personal needs on the trip.
Once in Haiti, the athletes used $2,500 of the excess funds to buy 117 50-pound bags of rice. The team then separated the rice into smaller bags and distributed them at the church and two other neighbouring locations.
There was still $5,000 to spend.
“We came across this family,” Romanuk recalled. “(They had) 11 kids and their mom had just died of cancer. We went to visit them and prayed with them. We decided we’d like our $5,000 to go toward building them a house.”
Haiti Arise has a building program geared toward constructing 1000 new houses for local Haitian families who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake. The $5,000 the team donated provided half the cost for a new home.
The athletes were touched by the Haitian people’s ability to vibrantly worship God in spite of their extreme poverty.
“Church was amazing!” Romanuk said. “Haitians aren’t afraid to show their emotion. They have a reliance on God and a love for God. It breaks you.”
Volleyball player Shauna Regier was also challenged by the Haitians’ passionate worship.
“I think we up in North America have so much to learn. We looked like the odd ones in church for NOT being as outgoing in worship as they were. I was actually poked by an old woman, who told me to dance and raise my hands! They truly love God, and aren't reserved in how they show it, and it is an inspiration to me. I think these people helped me out as a Christian, more than I feel I helped them.”
“It was encouraging and inspiring to recognize that Jesus can transcend all cultural boundaries,” volleyball player Colin Kubinec stated. “Watching the Haitian believers worship the Lord certainly uplifts the soul and seeing the passion they express in prayer stirs up my hunger for intimacy with Him.”
Since their return home May 12, team members are realizing the blessing they received from participating in this outreach.
Brianne Schenderling, women’s volleyball player from Langley, B.C., says the trip was “the most life changing experience” she’s ever had.
“It was so amazing to be able to interact with the Haitian people and share my love, but more so God's love for them. I learned so much about God and He revealed things to me that I may never have gotten to experience elsewhere.”
“To see the kids smile at the sports camps was also something I'll never forget,” said hockey player Nathan Wiebe. “Just to give them that little time of play and happiness, with their willingness to learn a bit, made the time very rewarding."
It’s for experiences like this that Romanuk plans to keep bringing teams back.
“I feel like my ministry is to bring teams down here … and have their lives changed,” Romanuk stated. “It changes the way you think. It’s softens your heart. It changes the way that you worship. It’s amazing!”