Wayland students, alumni build relationships in Haiti

Kris Knippa, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hale Center, and his wife, Sharla, with volunteers from the church before departing for Haiti.

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PLAINVIEW—The burden God placed on the heart of a fourth-grade girl to share the gospel with deaf people led to her involvement as a college student in mission trips to Haiti.

When Ashley Teague attended a Girls in Action camp at Plains Baptist Assembly, near Floydada, as a child, the worship team made a lasting impression on her. They used sign language to communicate their message, stressing the importance of reaching out to hearing-impaired people.

wayland ashley haiti425Wayland Baptist University sophomore Ashley Teague talks to Haitian children during a recent mission trip to Haiti. Teague and a group of Wayland students, alumni and community members traveled to the Caribbean country to conduct Vacation Bible School and Bible studies.“Deaf people are hard to reach because no one takes the time to learn their language and tell them who Christ is,” said Teague, who has a deaf aunt with whom she communicates. “My heart really broke for deaf people in a spiritual sense. I never thought about who is talking to them and who is reaching them.”

Years later, she recounted that story while applying for a leadership position with Baptist Student Ministries at Wayland Baptist University. When an opportunity arose to work with a group that plans to build an orphanage for deaf children in Haiti, BSM Assistant Director Kenny Lydick contacted her.

“I was sitting in my college algebra class, and Kenny texted me,” she recalled. “I got really worried. He said he would see me at work, because he needed to talk to me in person. I was wondering, ‘What did I do?’”

An orphanage to help deaf children

In 2012, the Wayland BSM made a trip to Haiti to build houses for an area devastated by a hurricane. Later, the BSM connected with Grace So Amazing Ministries and agreed to send a team to Mirebalais, Haiti, to assist the group’s ministry efforts there. Since Grace So Amazing Ministries eventually plans to build an orphanage to help deaf children, BSM leaders thought Teague would be a perfect fit for the mission trip, and Lydick invited her to join them a year ago.

“Just getting to see that community and being there and loving that community, I know God called me down there for a reason,” she said.

Last month, she returned to Haiti with 17 other students, BSM staff and Wayland alumni, including Kris Knippa, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hale Center, and his wife, Sharla.

Vibrant faith

“You get a picture of how much of the world lives,” Knippa said. “You get a picture of how Christianity is growing in the rest of the world. Their faith is a vibrant faith. It is very genuine and very central to the lives of the followers there.”

The mission team led Vacation Bible School-style activities for the children in the mornings and a Bible study for the adults in the evenings.

Wayland students connected with children, some of whom remembered them from their previous visits.

“It was nice because it wasn’t like I was going to see ‘these people.’ I was going to people I know—people I love—people I have known for a while,” Teague said. “It was really neat to be able to have that kind of connection and bond with them already.”

Tangible love

The group had opportunities to show Christ’s love in tangible ways, BSM Director Donnie Brown said. While the team was in Haiti, fire damaged the home of a church member’s sister and her family. The mission group and Haitian church members cleaned and repaired the house.

The woman, who has AIDS, hadn’t eaten in several days. So, church members provided her meals.

Soon after the mission group returned to Texas, Brown received a phone call from the pastor of the church in Haiti. The woman’s husband had attended church the day before and made a profession of faith in Christ, saying he had heard about Jesus before, but now he had seen Christ’s love.

“We never really talked about Jesus while we were there,” Brown said. “We prayed with them before and after, but that is all we did. Just those acts of love kind of turned his heart, and he knew why we were there and who we were representing.”

Building relationships

Knippa noted the mission trip gave him the desire to encourage his church to be involved in missions and possibly build an ongoing relationship with the people of Haiti.

“It gives me great sympathy for global concerns and a heart for those in the world who suffer and we don’t acknowledge,” he said.

Teague echoed that sentiment. When student groups return from mission trips in developing nations, Brown warns participants they may feel guilty for having so much when other people have so little, she said.

“There are times that I do feel that guilt,” she said. “Every time I go and come back, I have this time where I sit and prayerfully think about what I really need. It’s OK to have nice things. We live in a place where we are blessed to have nice things. But sometimes I try to think about the reasons I am going to buy something.

“They have so little, and we have so much, and we are willing to give. They don’t take for granted what they have. It kind of reminds you of the way you should look at things.”

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