On my first trip to Haiti, I remember being told to find a set of eyes. Look deep into those eyes, imagine what his or her life is like, and pray for that person. I knew that I may never know the people behind those eyes, but the Lord reminded me that He sees them, and He knows them. All I was asked to do was go to Him on their behalf and ask Him to break my heart for what breaks His.
Every time I would find a set of eyes, I noticed that I was always drawn to the women of Haiti. They all had different stories, and although I often only saw that at a glance, I began to connect with them. I began to have compassion for what they felt, and I prayed that the Lord would show me more.
As a newlywed traveling to Haiti with a small group of young people, the goal was to be open and willing to love, serve, and be poured out daily. Little did we know what that meant as we prayed that the Lord would bring people to us that needed to be cared for and loved.
On one of our last days in Haiti, Brad and I were asked to visit a sick child in a nearby village. When we arrived at their house, I saw the eyes of a desperate mom who could not settle as her little girl labored to breath. There was a heaviness in their home that is hard to describe. It was like they knew too much time had passed, that they had missed God in all the mess of their decision making. It felt heavy and hopeless!
I remember picking up that little girl and feeling her limp, hot body. I refused to believe it was going to end. I cried out to God to have mercy on this little one in spite of her parents’ choices—in spite of them having a lapse in judgment and clinging to a voodoo priest’s empty promises that he was the only hope for their family.
I remember thinking “this isn’t going to happen on this trip. That would be cruel, and it’s not how this story can end.” But God in His sovereignty and infinite wisdom took baby Guerline home to be with Him in heaven that day. It was surreal and daunting as we had to face the reality of what happened.
All different kinds of eyes were staring at me that day, but the eyes that I remember the most are Guerline’s mom as she looked at me in desperation to save her daughter—as she looked at me with a glimmer of hope when I prayed with her, believing that God would restore life—as she looked at me with panic in the urgent moment when she saw her daughter’s life slipping away—as she looked at me with agony when see realized she would never hold her little girl again.
That day marked me forever. It was the turning point in my life where I started to realized that the enemy was out to kill, steal, and destroy any view of the hope that God offers us. I began to read Jeremiah 29:11 in a more profound way and began to claim that same hope and future for every single woman in Haiti. I claimed it not just for them in that moment but for their children, and their children’s children, that they would walk in the truth and choose God’s blessings rather than curses.
In 1998 Brad and I moved to Haiti and committed to be faithful to whatever God called us to do. Guerline’s death was the catalyst to everything that was started at Mission of Hope. The circumstances that surrounded her death and her mother’s eyes of hopelessness burned a desire in my heart to fight for women and to make an impactful, lasting change in their lives through a Christ-centered education, a nutrition program, and a church with children’s ministry that was focused on welcoming people to come as they are. All these things can help a larger, general population, but they have specific and profound impact on the life of a mom and her children.
The outreach has been broad and has helped many over the past 20 years, but now as we launch our new Women’s Empowerment program and enter into a partnership with New Life Campaign, we have a strategic plan to directly impact the broken, abused, and hurting women who, at the end of the day will do whatever it takes to provide for their children.
Our heart has always been to bring true hope to the nation of Haiti, and our desire is that there will be thousands of women whose eyes show restoration, redemption, hope, and new life!
About the Author: Vanessa Johnson
Born and raised in Ontario, Canada Vanessa grew up with a desire to be involved in missions.
She attended Huntington university and during her junior year went on her first mission trip with a team Brad Johnson led to Haiti.
Vanessa graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in music education in 1994.
Brad and Vanessa were married in 1996 and moved to Haiti in 1998 where they lived full time for ten years. They have four children, JD, Georgie, Beau and Jaima who where all born in Haiti and are all proud to call Haiti their home.
Vanessa is passionate about education and the issues that mothers in Haiti face when trying to provide for the needs of their family.