Caylene Brown, 27, recently returned to Haiti for her second mission trip to that nation within six months.
On that trip in late March and early April, Brown, who lives in the Sedgefield neighborhood, took 11 members of Forest Hill Church's Ballantyne campus - including her husband, Russell - with her.
During her first trip to Haiti in September, Brown volunteered at the Mission of Hope orphanage called Village of Hope.
Since 1989, Mission of Hope has built the orphanage, currently home to 60 children; a school where the organization teaches approximately 2,600 local children; a medical facility; and a church, as well as building housing in a Haitian village.
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"When I went in September 2010, I fell in love with Haiti, and with the people especially," said Brown. "I caught the vision that Mission of Hope has and saw that they were really changing lives.
"So this time around, I wanted to introduce Forest Hill to Mission of Hope and bring a team with me so they could also see the side of Haiti where people have a lot of hope and resilience."
Forest Hill Ballantyne is set to become a global partner with Mission of Hope.
According to Brown, Forest Hill Ballantyne hopes to facilitate one or two group trips to Haiti per year through Mission of Hope. Trips will involve work in construction and children's ministry and offer opportunities to specialize in medical treatment.
The most rewarding part of Brown's trips , she said, has been seeing progress in the lives of two children at the orphanage: Angelie and Pierre, whom she met during her first visit.
When she met them, Angelie, then 3, had under-developed bone structure and muscle function in her legs, and doctors predicted she would never walk. The orphanage staff made her a little scooter so she could be mobile with the other children.
Pierre, then 1, had been dropped off at the orphanage with malnourishment and multiple sclerosis. He was expected to live only one more week.
"Coming back, I got to see both of them again," said Brown. "The little boy is almost 2 years old, chubby, alert and smiley. I held him and played games with him for about two hours, and he was laughing.
"The little girl, in January, was playing with the other kids, pulled herself up and started walking. I got to see her running around," said Brown. "I had prayed for them for six months and to see them again and see what God is doing in their lives was the best part for me."
For the second trip, in March, Brown and her group took part in Mission of Hope's housing construction project, called MOH500. The goal of MOH500 is to build a community of 500 homes within the next two years for people displaced by last year's earthquake and currently living in temporary, tent-like shelters.
The group painted the outside and inside of 70 houses. The cinder-block houses, consisting of a living room and two bedrooms, now are finished, along with community latrines and a community well for access to drinking water. Cooking typically is done outside the house.
Community plans also include a garden where families can grow their own food and food to sell at market.
Families will receive the houses free. After paying a monthly fee ($50 Haitian, the equivalent of $6.25 U.S.) for waste removal and maintenance for five years, each family will receive the deed to their home.
Brown's group also spent time with more than 100 children who live in the villages adjacent to the MOH500 project. "We also brought 22 suitcases with us full of donated children's clothing, shoes, basic medical supplies, toiletries for basic hygiene and children's games," said Brown.
The most difficult part for Brown, she said, is leaving.
"It's never easy seeing the poverty and it's always a mental hurdle to get over the fact that we can't help everyone. We do what we can, but we're only there for a little while," she said.