catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 7 :: 2010.04.02 — 2010.04.15


Planting trees

Let’s start in the present: can you describe your family, your home and what kind of work you’re doing now?

My husband, Mike, and I have four kids: Sam (12), Sophia (10), Tessa (8), and ‘Riah (short for Zechariah, age 6).  We are living in an area called L’acul west of Port au Prince about 25 miles.  Our project’s guest facility and our apartment are next to the ocean and it’s very beautiful.  The earthquake in January has had a big impact on the area, but our home survived intact.  We work with CODEP/HFI (COmprehensive  DEvelopment Project/Haiti Fund Inc.).  CODEP/HFI has been working in Haiti doing soil restoration and reforestation for over 20 years.  We moved to Haiti last September to begin working in the capacity of co-directors.

What other work have you and Mike done that’s led and equipped you on the path to Haiti?

That’s a toughie!  I can definitely look back and see the many ways in which we have been prepared for this role, especially considering the timing of everything that’s happened.  What I mean is that our background is in campus ministry (11 good years working with the CCO in Pittsburgh!), education and construction.  While CODEP is an agricultural project, the project is now in a season that requires a lot of the same skill sets we used in ministry like networking, team building, shaping organizational culture and managing diverse priorities.  With the earthquake, our job right now is even less about agriculture and more about responding to need and networking with the UN and other relief agencies to ensure the best outcome for the zones in which we work.

How did you discern whether to move your family to a new country?

It took us a long time to make that decision.  My husband believes that there should be pre-nuptial disclosure about any thoughts or childhood moments that go anything like this: missionary speaks at church, bored ten-year-old girl sits in row three and thinks, “Dear God, don’t ever ask me to go work as a missionary in foreign country.”  We were not on the same page about serving overseas for a long time, but waited (almost 13 years) until we really felt unity about taking such a huge step, especially with children.  Our extended family is not super-happy about our choice, but we feel a sense of peace about the risks and challenges.  We prayed a lot and invited our church and the intentional community where we lived in Pittsburgh to join us in prayer and discernment. What finally sealed it for us was when we came to see the work that CODEP was doing.  We were amazed at the quality and impact of what CODEP had done and wanted to be a part of what God was doing here.

What practices help you cultivate a spirit of working with, rather than for, the communities you serve?

Always, always, always viewing the Haitians as partners allows us to, “work with” not “for.”  In a partnership, there are privileges and responsibilities, and by maintaining that view we keep our role in perspective.  It is also important to neither idealize nor demonize people groups.  People are people everywhere; with a great capacity for creativity and goodness and an equal capacity for destructiveness and sin.  Finally, the whole ongoing conversation about the negative impact of “relief” and “aid” is a reality in Haiti that is tangible.  We have Haitians asking for us to spread CODEP-style development into their zones.

What do you expect to achieve during your time in Haiti?  What does “success” look like?

Success for us is to keep sane, raise our kids well and continue to nurture and grow CODEP for the sake of Haiti.  The earthquake has not changed those goals.  Reforestation is a huge issue for Haiti and CODEP has been incredibly successful with over six million trees in the ground in the last ten years alone.  We want to be good listeners, using our connections and access to facilitate true restoration for Haiti.  Perhaps the greatest expression of the gospel in Haiti is hope.  With so much tragedy and hardship, Haitians are an incredibly hopeful people, so maybe success is to not be out-hoped, no matter what happens next.

Nicole Carlin will be contributing a regular column to catapult, chronicling her family’s experiences in Haiti.

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