A mission to give back
By Brian Lazenby
Cody Powell gave a pack of peanut butter crackers to a group of poverty-stricken and hungry children on a recent mission trip to Haiti. What they did changed his life.
One child took the top cracker, and another scraped off the peanut butter. A third took the bottom cracker. They made sure everyone got some.
“This is the poorest of the poor,” Powell says. “But these people have so much love in their hearts, and it is a pure love like I had never seen before.”
Jared Witt also made the trip to Haiti. He says he went hoping to change the lives of the Haitians, but in the process realized how they had changed his.
“I told myself I was going to take the love of Jesus to these people, but I found out that the love of Jesus was already there,” Witt says.
Powell and Witt are two of about 28 from Jackson County that traveled to Port-de-Paix, Haiti, on a mission trip this year to help feed and clothe the poor and teach them about Jesus. They both recently made a second trip to the Caribbean island, and they plan a third trip in the summer.
“I think about those kids all the time,” Powell says. “I look forward to seeing them when I go again.”
A life’s mission
Drucie Brown owned a beauty shop for more than 40 years, but standing on her feet all day caused her to have back problems. She was forced to give up the business, but she knows in her heart that it was the Lord’s way of directing her to more important work — helping others.
Now, the 70-year-old woman operates a jail ministry and teaches Sunday School to both men and women inmates. She helps feed the poor in Jackson County, and she has made multiple trips to Haiti.
“I really think you have to have your home missions as well as your international missions,” she says.
Brown made her first four trips to Haiti with a large, established mission organization, but she and the group began to have different ideas about the work they were doing and where their help was needed most. She formed her own mission group, and that is where she met Powell and Witt.
“I’m for helping the poorest of the poor, and I go where the poor are,” she says.
She formed the Austin Messiah Haiti Mission, named after her severely handicapped grandson, which made its first few trips to the poverty-stricken country with only a handful of participants. But after speaking at area churches such as Bond Baptist Church in Annville and Gray Hawk Baptist Church, Brown’s mission group has really grown. She also says local officials have been very supportive.
“I give a lot of credit to Jackson County,” she says. “They give us a lot of help.”
Goats and weddings
Witt recalls an orphanage in Haiti where about 20 children had been abandoned. He says when the people running the orphanage realized they could no longer feed everyone, they simply left, and the children were forced to fend for themselves.
By the time the mission group left, the orphanage was stocked with several months’ worth of food. The mission was also working with a pastor in Haiti who is now helping care for the children.
Once the mission group returned, Witt says they found sponsors for the children from local churches and funds to support the pastor that is there caring for them.
“Just a little money here goes a long way over there,” Witt says. “If people understood the need and helped just a little bit, it is amazing to think of what we could do there.”
The group isn’t just providing food and clothing. They are offering the Haitians an income and a chance to improve their future.
Brown says the Austin Messiah Haiti Mission buys about 100 goats and gives families a male and female. There is only one catch: they must give away the first offspring. After that, what they do with the goats is up to them.
“They can eat them, they can sell them, or they can raise more goats to sell,” Brown says. “It helps them form their own business, and they can support their families.”
Witt says the goat ministry is a big help in Haiti, where the economy has collapsed and there is not much hope for improvement.
“There is very little opportunity for them to make any money,” he says. “We didn’t want to just feed them for a day and leave them. We wanted to give them a future income.”
In addition to filling them with food, the mission also helps boost their emotional wellbeing. Brown says the group helps pay for many marriage licenses because at $23, it is an expense most cannot afford.
And in spite of all this, she never loses sight of the real purpose of the trip.
“The main reason we go is to tell them about Jesus,” she says.
For more information about the group, or to get involved, call Drucie Brown at 606-813-2728.
Volunteers Cody Powell and Jared Witt took part in a recent mission trip to Haiti. They helped improve the lives of many in a poverty-stricken village, but say their own lives were enriched by the experience as much as those they went to help. Both say they intend to return to the village in the future.
Drucie Brown’s mission group, Austin Messiah Haiti Mission, seeks out “the poorest of the poor.” They provide clothes and food to the local residents and teach them about Christ.