In preparing to speak to you tonight, I’ve been thinking: what can I possibly stand up and say about our beloved school? How can I accurately express in words what this school means to me and to the entire community of Jubilee? There aren’t words that can express the depths of my soul that have been touched by being a part of what God is doing in Jubilee. There is no photo that can capture the lives of the students that are being impacted. And there’s certainly no speech I can give to explain the countless Ways that God has moved mightily in the students’ situations and lives.
Before moving to Haiti, I remember seeing commercials or booths set up advertising opportunities to sponsor a child in a distant country. I was never clueless to the needs in the world, but those little dark-skinned faces were always just faces to me, faces from some far land.
And then I moved to Haiti. Those faces became my children, our children. Just like your sons and daughters here, these kids have dreams and goals and hopes for the future. That wasn’t true for many of them before the Jubilee School was built. My first year teaching, the kids struggled to even think beyond that day. “What is your dream?” I asked one day in class. “What do you want do with you life?” “I don’t want to have to eat dirt anymore”, one student said. “I want to do laundry and clean the house” another student said. Even with encouragement from me, they couldn’t think beyond that moment or that day.
Fast forward 4-5 years after lots of prayers, stories, lessons, love and hope and our kids are dreaming. Walking home with two of my first graders last year, I quietly listened to them chatter back and forth about their dreams. “When I grow up, I’m going to have a house made of concrete blocks with three rooms! One room will be just for swings. I’m going to paint the house pink. I’m going to have a pretty wife and I will buy her a gas stove – not charcoal – so that she can cook us macaroni. And I’m going to have two kids and I will buy them each two bikes!”
The faces you see in these photos or that you hear about from trips to Haiti – they aren’t just kids in a distant land. They joke around, wrestle and roughhouse, pester their parents, avoid doing chores at all costs, and laugh at bathroom humor just like your children. They are our sons and our daughters and they have been given hope and freedom to dream big.
The Lord is doing big things through our school. He’s moving in a mighty, mighty way. We’ve seen kids with illiterate parents learn to read and write in not one, not two, but three languages. We’ve watched orange hair disappear and sunken, malnourished faces become plump. We’ve had students show up on our doorstep, so sick that we didn’t think they would make it through the day – and God has miraculously healed them countless times. We’ve seen parents learn how to better love and care for the children. We’ve seen students learn to resolve conflict with love and forgiveness rather than cursing or throwing stones. We’ve seen parents and students delivered from demonic oppression. We’ve seen the kids stand, arms raised in abandoned worship and we’ve seen them fall on their knees crying out in prayer.
I consider myself blessed to be a witness to their lives. I’m waiting in anxious anticipation to see what they choose to do with all they have been given. I believe with all my heart these children will change their country for the better. I know most of us will never live long enough to see the ripple effect of the Jubilee School and these children. They are taking all they’ve learned into their homes, to their families, to their friends, and to the community. The Jubilee School has brought light to a dark place and that light and hope is being carried out to the world by over 150 little Haitian children. With love in our hearts, we’ve set into motion a Holy force that can’t be stopped. Jubilee will never be the same, Haiti will never be the same, and those of us fortunate enough to know and love these children will never be the same.
Thank you for loving our so kids well.
–By Katie Benner, Jubilee School teacher (2012-2016), keynote speaker at the 2016 Jubilee Kids fundraiser