CCM Magazine: Say we actually went down to Ikondo today. Not to belabor that earlier caller’s questioning—but, seriously—can you give us an idea of what that looks like?
Mark Stuart:
So, we realize we can’t just run a resort with some jet ski’s. We have to provide a full, kind-of smorgasbord of meaningful experiences, if you will—serving in a way that really opens up more questions. We’re not abandoning service projects. Coming to Haiti isn’t about your week-long service project, and at the end of it you get to “check-off the box,” that you built a wall for an orphanage. That doesn’t do anything for Haiti. We can hire Haitians to do that better, faster, and cheaper than you coming in and doing the same work.

You will have opportunities to plug in and serve. But coupled with that is the strong message of why that isn’t the crux of your visit here. In fact, this is one of the broken pieces of engagement. So, yes, we’re going to try to steward great opportunities for you to engage in service, but it will be married with the fact that it’s not particularly moving the needle. It’s just a way that allows you to work with our Haitians, to give you an experience and a perspective on what’s going on here.

Additionally, we hope to build relationships between our guests and the people that are serving on our hospitality staff. Our kids that have grown up in our children’s villages are potentially going to be your hosts and your leaders while you’re here. Which, in turn, creates more jobs for them. But through that, we want to build Christ-centered, healthy relationships where there’s a more equitable exchange—where, when you leave Haiti you’re not taking the dignity of the Haitian people with you.

Ikondo, CCM Magazine - image

Pic: Alexandria Davie

We want your visit to be an opportunity for you to prop them up, to say, “Hey, Haiti’s a really cool place to visit. I can go there and be inspired. I can go there and be ministered to by the Haitians. I can go there and actually be served by Haitians.” And then, all of a sudden, we’ve created a place and a space that’s safe for Haitians to be employed and with a meaningful, dignified job.

CCM: So, why is this such a difficult idea for people to grasp?
MS:
It’s not super complicated. But it is different than what you are expecting. The problems have included thoughts like, “I’m going to go to Haiti and visit an orphanage for the week and love-on kids that need to be loved-on.” The problem with that is you’re leaving in a week. You’re not going to build a long-term relationship with a child in a week. We’ve actually learned that’s a harmful thing, because at the end of the week you’re gone and that child is looking for you to be in a relationship with… But you’ve checked-off your box of, “I feel good. I’ve hugged-on a child for a week.” But, now the kid’s left wondering, “Where did they go?” or, “Where do we go from here?”

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