On Jan 12, 2010 Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. The estimated death toll was nearly 300,000. Around 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, and almost 4 million people in total were affected by the earthquake.
As a response to the widespread devastation in Haiti, Jesus Youth America undertook a small Haiti Mission exploration in March 2011, an initiative under the leadership of Sunil Nadarajan with the help of Caritas InVeritate International. The mission began with simply visiting families, praying with them and distributing food and basic supplies. Over time, JY started serving the Church in Haiti along with the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo (Scalabrinians) and their Parish Mission St.Thomas in Camp Corail. The mission of Jesus Youth has evolved based on the needs of the Church there and deepening relationships. During the past 8 years, Jesus Youth has had several fulltimers placed in Haiti, organized numerous mission exposure trips – short term and long term, healing missions and even a JY wedding in Haiti.
As much as the movement has given her time, effort and prayers in Haiti, the Lord has returned tenfold. Haiti is a country where the Lord is felt and heard so clearly. In encountering the people, the poverty, the missionaries and in so many others, we meet Christ. In as much as Haiti needs Jesus Youth, the truth is that the movement also needs Haiti.
Haiti Healing Mission
In 2013, Dr. Anup Skaria and Dr.Sajith Joseph visited Haiti with the intention of providing health care to the people of Haiti and exploring possible mission opportunities. Since then we have had nearly 20 healing missions to Haiti, taking place once every 3 – 4 months. Nearly a dozen professionals from the US travel to Haiti and provide accessible and affordable health care for a week to various communities in Haiti. In addition, the healing
mission also gives health education and catechesis for the people coming to avail the medical services. The goal of the mission is that each person who comes to the healing mission encounters Christ – with a healing of the body, mind and soul. Each healing mission has been able to provide care for nearly 300- 400 people during the week!
Youth Mission Exposure trips
Since 2014, Jesus Youth from the US has had various youth mission exposure trips during summer and winter months, where they would join with the youth in Haiti in prayer, worship and fellowship. The mission exposure trips has been beautiful for many of young adults from the US, who were able to encounter Christ in their brothers and sisters in Haiti, finding Christ intimately in the poor. The mission exposure trips mainly take place for young adults and college/university students for a period of a week up to a month.
Haiti Outreach Child Support and Lumen Vitae
Education in Haiti is among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and is far below other Latin and Caribbean countries.
In 2015 an initiative called Haiti Outreach Child Support (HOCS), similar to the OCS project in India, was begun by the then JY Full timer Donna Pinhero. Seeing this desperate need for education amongst the children, 25 students were enrolled and had their education supported by Jesus Youth benefactors in the United States. While education was the primary focus, Donna closely followed up with the children and their families to encourage a holistic growth that included spiritual support and regular family visits. The work of HOCS continued through the efforts of Anthony Kunnumpurath, Jimmy Kavil & Brian Mundackal during the subsequent years.
Witnessing the positive impact HOCS was having in the lives of its student beneficiaries, Jesus Youth in the U.S. decided to formalize this project by creating Lumen Vitae, a non-profit subsidiary with a specific focus on supporting the poor and marginalized through education. Brian Mundackal serves as the Executive Director and works with staff in Haiti to help create further opportunities for growth in the lives of these children.
As of September 2019, Lumen vitae supports nearly 600 students across 5 zones around Haiti. Apart from financial support, Lumen Vitae organizes summer camps, mentorship programs, service projects, spiritual accompaniment as well as curriculum development for teachers. Once students finish high school, Lumen Vitae also provides a University Scholarship program for them to try and seek advanced studies.
Witnessing Catholic communities
Throughout the years, Jesus Youth has had the privilege of supporting, working with and learning from numerous missionary communities in Haiti. Missionary congregations from all over the world come and work together in a way that makes us see the true “Catholicity” of the Church. The Scalabrinian Congregation, especially through Fr. Isaia Birollo and Fr. Guiseppe Durante has provided a home and sound guidance over the past many years in Haiti. We have had the opportunity to work closely with the Missao Belem Community from Brazil who live and minister to the poorest of the poor in the slums of Warf Jeremie, Haiti. Also, the priests and brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor, who serve nearly 80 residents
with mental and physical handicaps have been instrumental in their witness, as well as sacramental and spiritual support.
Evangelizing the Youth of Haiti
Jesus Youth has now been serving in Haiti for around 8 years. Along the way, we have had considerable challenges – of entering into a new culture, learning to speak Creole and understanding the pain of the people of Haiti. Yet, through the different full-timers and the sacrifices of various Jesus Youth over the years, our relationship with the youth of Corail has blossomed into beautiful friendships, building the foundations of a deeper trust, so essential in a culture that has suffered much. From this, the youth have shared a desire to understand the Jesus Youth lifestyle. In recent months, the Haiti mission team has reflected on the experiences of the previous years and discerned a stronger focus on evangelizing the youth of Haiti.
The Haiti mission team has begun organizing a monthly one-day program for about 30 youth that we have accompanied over the past years. During these gatherings, missionaries from JY US share about faith, the Church, and JY pillars and spirituality, accompanied by examples of service, fellowship and prayer. These gatherings led to a 4-day live-in retreat in July 2019. The retreat was blessed by the presence of Fr. Reubens Sylvain (Missionaries of St.Charles Borromeo) and Bishop Pierre Andre Dumas of Ansa-e-Veau and Miragoane Diocese. The retreat and its participants were truly blessed, with many of these young people experiencing Baptism in the Holy Spirit, as well as gaining an awareness of the steps needed to embark on the path to holiness and a deep desire to grow in discipleship.
In the future, we hope to continue these monthly gatherings with a dream of having small groups, that would eventually grow into committed Jesus Youth’s, living their call as missionary disciples in the Church. We ask for your fervent prayers and if you have a change, invite you to visit this beautiful country and our loving JY brothers and sisters!
Testimonies from the participants of the retreat
Jeudline – I did not know why I came for the retreat to be honest. I liked coming to the one-day gatherings because my friends were there. Right before the retreat my friend (Fifi) asked if I was coming. I didn’t know what to say, but I just said yes and came along. When I came here, I didn’t know why I was here, but I heard them preaching – everyone is here for a reason. God wants you to be here for a reason and he has called each one by name here. After the first day, this thought was in my heart and finally on the second day I said “Lord, I don’t know why I am here, but you brought me here, so please tell me why”. On the second day I had an inspiration to go for confession since it had been very long. After confession the priest said, “God does not remember your sins anymore.” When I went back and prayed in the chapel, I was able to feel the overwhelming love of God. It was an experience like no other and I cannot express this in words. I then understood, this is why the Lord brought me here, so that I can feel loved like no one else.
Peter Richardson – Everyone knows how the situation is in Haiti. We have a very bad political and economic situation. And in Corail (my home), the situation is even more difficult. We struggle every day to find means to live. There are no jobs in the country. When I came for the retreat, I came with a lot of these worries but I also understood the many things I was doing wrong. So, I went for confession on the second day. After confession and during adoration, I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament and I just could not control my tears. I don’t know how to describe this, but I just kept on having tears and tears before the sacrament. I realize after this retreat, there are many personal things that I need to change and I hope with God’s grace that I would be able to make these changes. I am now sure despite what’s going on in this country; the Lord will be with me.