Morris on a mission
It’s summer and it’s hot. Imagine living without electricity or running water in 90 degree temperatures.
Stevana "Stevie" Morris, 21, a 2009 graduate of Ephrata High School, will be trading the comforts of home this Friday for the rural mountains of Haiti to work for the next four months with New Life Mission, an extension of New Life Fellowship Church, Ephrata.
From July 20 through Nov. 10, Morris will be working with Haitian missionary Zacharie Estime to start a children’s ministry in Charrier, Haiti, a mountain village two hours north of Port-Au-Prince. Morris expects to work with 50 to 100 children every day–teaching English classes, telling Bible stories, making and serving meals, leading craft times and visiting orphanages.
In addition to working with children, she will be helping other missionary teams host a soccer camp, provide medical support and work on building the New Life mission house.
"The goal is to spread God’s love to as many people as we can," she said.
Charrier was not hit directly by the massive earthquake that struck the impoverished Island in 2010, but has certainly felt the long term affects of the disaster.
Scores of children orphaned by the earthquake and by outbreaks of diseases like AIDS have been transplanted to this country town and others like it to be cared for by rural relatives. Those children are often neglected by their new families, said Morris, and are forced to do the extra work of the family.
"And so those are especially the kids they want to reach out to," Morris said of New Life’s goals, "and they want to make them feel loved because a lot of these kids feel like they are not important in any way."
Morris will be living with a Haitian host family, cooking over a fire, using a cement hole as a bathroom and pouring water from a bin to shower. The self-proclaimed "picky eater" expects to be challenged by her new diet of rice and beans and beef stew.
"I’m really excited," she mused, "because at least they have peanut butter!"
And yes, it will be hot. It’s also summer in Haiti, with temps reaching to the 100’s. Learning to tolerate and sleep in the heat will be one of her greatest challenges, she said.
On weekends, Morris will retreat to the beach town of Mountrois, staying with her translator’s family, to relax and prepare the next week’s lesson plans. A generator will provide electricity to recharge her cell phone and allow her to communicate with family and friends via the internet.
Challenges aside, Morris is drawn to Haiti and its people, whom she describes as the "the happiest people that I’ve ever met."
She has been struck by the intensity of their faith in the midst of stark poverty.
"They are forced to trust God completely," she said. "I want to learn how to appreciate God as much as they do and to trust in Him."
Morris also hopes to gain perspective.
"I was going to buy my toiletries," she said, "and realized, I’m not going to be able to buy any of these things over there. At the same time I was like, ‘Do I really need all of this stuff?’ I think it’s going to help me learn what’s important and what I really don’t need."
The Haitian people first captured Morris’ heart when she traveled there for a week in January 2011 with a group led by New Life Mission director Cindy Zimmerman.
Morris recalled that at the last moment, she got cold feet and wanted to back out of that mission’s trip, but it was too late–she had to go.
"I went and it changed my life. It was 100 percent worth it," she said. "I knew that as soon as I left (Haiti) that it was on my heart and I wanted to go back."
So as soon as Morris graduated from California University of Pennsylvania this past May with a physical therapy assistant degree, she contacted Zimmerman again, who came up with the idea for the four month mission trip for Morris.
Morris was very excited, but remembers thinking, "This is impossible. I’m never going to raise $5,500 in two months."
Estime, who has been staying with Zimmermans for the past two months, encouraged Morris often, saying simply, "God will take care of it."
Two months later, she is well over her goal, having raised over $8,000, which will enable her to help the Haitian people directly with the additional funds.
"It’s so awesome to see the Ephrata community come together," she said. "Ephrata seems to really have a heart for Haiti, and so I think that has increased my ability to raise funds."
Morris has heard from former Ephrata classmates, old family acquaintances and pure strangers.
"Honestly, I’ve never felt God calling me to do something so strongly in my life before," she said. "Just the outpour of love from people–it’s just completely confirmed this is what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m so excited."
Morris hopes to start a blog recording her experiences in Haiti. Interested readers can find more information and a link to Morris’ blog at the New Life Mission Haiti Facebook page. More MISSION, page A15