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About Amy Umble: Amy Umble writes about religion and social issues affecting the Fredericksburg community. You can email her at

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Doing What You Can and other lessons

Good morning. It is 5 a.m. and Port-au-Prince is waking up. There’s something incredibly moving about listening to a city come alive each morning. It helps you appreciate everything that comes later–the traffic isn’t noisy yet, just a low rumble of cars and trucks. The sun is just rising and not hot.  For now, the city sounds are the background noise and the birds and rooster have center stage.

Before I came here, I asked several mission teams why Haiti was so special, why they return again and again. They all paused and said, “You really have to be there.” They tried to describe the island’s lush beauty, the stark poverty and the resilient and cheerful people. I guess I thought being a reporter, I could tell the story better. But it is true: You really have to be here to get it.

Still, I think it tells a lot that people repeatedly come to a country where you have to wear your money inside your clothes, keep your mouth shut while you shower and ride everywhere crammed in the back of pickup trucks. Haiti really just gets under your skin. I keep thinking that as hot and exhausted as I am, that while covered in bruises from the taptaps, I should be miserable. But I am not at all.

As I interview Haitians–using my very limited Creole and French and their bits of English–I’ve come to appreciate the strength of their faith. They talk about losing siblings, children, grandchildren, parents in the earthquake. And yet in the same conversation, they praise God.

But it also takes a lot of faith to come to Haiti to help, knowing it will never be enough. You can give people medicine, but they still won’t have food. You can help hundreds every day. And there will still be thousands who need the same help. But there’s something remarkable about just coming and giving what you can. And having the faith that it will be enough. That there is dignity in reaching what you can.

Daily, the mission team here prays for more opportunities to serve and to know how to best use the resources they have. They also praise God in prayer and songs–just as the Haitians do. It’s a beautiful thing to witness two groups who should have nothing in common sharing the same faith–at times singing the same hymns, in Creole, French and English.

A little more about the team here: They’re part of Grace Network of Churches, a group of congregations that come regularly to help the people of Haiti. They’ve been coming for more than 20 years and have developed strong ties with the people here. The local church is Grace Church of Fredericksburg. There are 10 people on this trip; seven from the Fredericksburg area, two from Charlottesville and one from Richmond. The trip includes people with medical training, people who speak French and Creole and people who are the “support staff.”

Watching them has been a lesson in seeing that everyone can play a part in a medical mission trip. A computer scientist has created a program to better track patient records. The logistics people play a vital role in keeping things moving through the clinic. Their experience and relationships help the clinic be as effective as it possibly can.

I have been learning so much here in Haiti.

Today, Pete and I travel to Grand Goave–about two or three hours outside of Port-au-Prince–to meet with another Fredericksburg missionary.  It will be another long day, but we’re excited to tell more stories.


  • Lindy

    You’ve captured it so well…the early mornings, the people, the resiliency, the unconditional faith…you just have to be there.

  • Bill Steele

    You have moved me to tears. Thank you. Bill

  • Fredtastic

    Wonderful! Thank you Amy!

  • Becky Paxton

    I am really enjoying your articles. I won’t be able to go back until January, but I am looking forward to heading back to Haiti. As you have found out, you really do have to experience it.

  • Francie

    Thank you for your insight Amy.It helps see things more clearly.

  • Janet

    very eloquent, amy. i’ve often thought about how people get so overwhelmed by massive needs that they become paralyzed and don’t help at all. it’s easier to help just one person than to help a whole country, right? but you said it well — there’s dignity in reaching what and who you can.