Meet Kelsey Vrooman: she followed God's call to serve in Haiti and fell in love-- with the culture, the people, and her husband.
You and your husband have some big plans in mind for this coming summer. Care to elaborate?
My husband and I are leading a trip of 10 young adults to Neply, Haiti, with myLIFEspeaks in June 2018. myLIFEspeaks builds and maintains a Christ-centered community through orphan care and prevention, rducation, and public health. They believe that every child deserves to be raised in a family. While they are not an "adoptable orphanage" for children, they provide homes called Campus Families, each with two Haitian house parents raising both special needs and typically developing children together. In a county where children are put into an orphanage because families can't afford to raise them, myLIFEspeaks sees their calling as working with these families to offer services and programs to allow children to stay with their family members.
myLIFEspeaks is also passionate about creating a Christ-centered community through education. They believe that their integrative school, LIFE Academy, will create the confidence and opportunities that both general and special education students need in order to transform their future and their generation.
Public Health is changing the culture of Neply when it comes to seeking help for medical issues by providing education on preventive health measures as well as easy access to healthcare. myLIFEspeaks also incorporates Public Health initiatives with the orphan care and prevention efforts to not only provide medical care but also educate parents on caring for their children so families can stay together. Their clinic not only treats patients but also teaches them about staying healthy through good hygiene, proper food and water intake, and more.
Although each week is different, our team will be immersed in the community and serve in any area in need. Whether is playing with babies during the "Mother's Day Out" program, helping locals with their laundry, or planning/executing programs for the 2,800 person community, we have the opportunity to come alongside the myLIFEspeaks staff and be the body of Christ for a village in a third world country.
How did the Lord first call you to Haiti?
My husband and his family have been involved with short-term missions to Haiti since 2003. During these trips, it was clear Haiti would mean more to his family than a short-term missions destination. Their call to help the people of Haiti was strengthening everyday. In 2014, the Wilson family (3 biological sons, 2 adopted Haitian daughters and 1 adopted Haitian son) sold everything and moved to Neply, Haiti, to start myLIFEspeaks and work alongside the community. I (Kelsey) went to Haiti in 2016 with an organization in Port Au Prince, Haiti. God grabbed a hold of my heart and spoke to me while in the country; I knew Haiti would be a big part of my life. By God's divine intervention, He placed me in Neply, Haiti, for one day while on my trip where I met my now husband, in-laws, and friends.
Although my husband and I do not live in Haiti full-time, our hearts will always be connected. We speak at churches, youth groups, and small gatherings about trips to myLIFEspeaks regularly.
You had a pretty specific design in mind when creating your shirts through Fund the Nations. Can you tell us a little more about your shirts?
Our t-shirt is very special to us. First, the blue and orange colors are the colors that represent myLIFEspeaks. In Haiti, it is very common that cities and villages paint trees or posts to differentiate what village you're in. One day, the Wilson family was surprised when the entire village got together and voted to paint the trees posts blue, white, and orange because they loved the work that myLIFEspeaks was doing in their village. It was a beautiful act of appreciation.
The verse on the back of our shirt is 1 Thessalonians 2:8, "..so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." myLIFEspeaks truly believes that living our lives alongside our community and sharing the gospel daily with our brothers and sister is the call for our lives no matter where we live.
The "Speak Up" on the back of the shirt is a common phrase we use at mLs. It is short for Proverbs 31:8, "Speak up for those who can't speak for themselves." This is because we work with children with special needs, many who cannot speak. In Haiti, children and adults are considered "cursed" if they are born with special needs. Much of the time, babies are thrown in dumpsters, rivers, or even scarified in voodoo ceremonies because of this "curse." myLIFEspeaks knew change needed to happen. So they came alongside the community and provided programs and support for parent's with children who have special needs. Essentially, this support group has evolved into a Haitian-run group where parents teach and comfort other parents on how to joyfully live life with their child, either with special needs or typically developing. It is amazing to see the change happening in the relationships between parents and their special needs child/children.
What made you decide to focus your trip on young adults?
Although my husband's immediate family lives in Haiti full-time and we have gone to visit on personal trips, we truly felt the spirit of God telling us to lead this trip for young adults whom have never been to Haiti before. God is currently using us as a voice to speak about Haiti to those who have never seen or heard about it in depth before. God is using my heart for organization and attention to details to plan the trip, and he is using my husband's passion for Haiti to help light the fire in our team's hearts to serve to our fullest potential while we are in Neply.
As always, I am looking forward to seeing friends and familiar faces in Neply. But I am truly excited to see my team experience Haiti for the first time. God truly used my first time to Haiti as a way to grow my heart for a culture and people He loves so much, and I am excited to see what God does in the hearts of my team while we are there. I can't wait to see miracles happen in Haiti.
What advice would you give to others looking to serve short term this summer?
My advice for other short-term missionaries is to be completely adaptable while in the country. Serving isn't always rainbows and sunshine, it can sometimes be hot, dirty, smelly, tiring, and downright hard. I would encourage missionaries to pray through every situation - before, during, and after. Although it can be difficult, being moldable and willing to work hard is not only glorifying to God but also very helpful for those who serve there full-time.
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