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A last-minute opportunity affirms HU student’s calling for ministry

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“I had to go with my gut. I prayed about it, and I knew if I didn’t go I’d regret it.”

Twenty-four hours is all Emily (Swartz) Morris had to decide whether she would leave school and her job for a week for a last-minute opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip in Haiti.

The Huntington University missions and youth ministries double major, who will graduate in 2012, was approached by her senior pastor while at a children’s conference the day before a team from North Webster Church of God was set to depart for Titanyen, Haiti.

Emily had never left the country before and was excited by the opportunity. Her mom, Shaila Swartz, who serves as the director of children’s ministries at North Webster Church of God, also was asked at the last minute to go on the trip.

Shaila had told Emily stories from her earlier trip to Haiti in January, and after hearing them, she wanted a chance to share in those same experiences.

“I had to go with my gut,” Emily said about making the decision. “I prayed about it, and I knew if I didn’t go I’d regret it.”

The team stayed at a Mission of Hope Compound run by Huntington University graduate Brad Johnson.

Emily and the team took part in hosting medical clinic activities, putting roofs on houses, painting walls, traveling to local villages to play with children and tell them Bible stories in Creole, sharing the Gospel with children through a translator, visiting an orphanage and providing people with the supplies they needed.

She said in the Haitian culture kids are basically abandoned and have to make their own way from about two years on. They may sleep in the same area as their families, but that may be their only interaction.

“The love and attention we gave them had an impact,” she said. “It’s a time when it’s crucial.”

She said most children had never heard the Gospel before.

“They called Jesus J-Z,” Emily said. “They asked who ‘J-Z’ is. It was a cool experience to have the translator tell them who he is.”

It was her first experience outside of the country, and she saw poverty like she had never seen it before.

“It opened my eyes,” she said. “You would think they are hopeless, but they have a resilience and determination about them. They are pushing through. The people with Christ in their lives shine.”

As Voodoo is Haiti’s prominent religion, Emily said seeing the way the Haitians worshiped at church Sunday morning as they sang “Our God” by Chris Tomlin was a goose-bump moment.

“It was the first time it was real to me that God conquered all the darkness in their lives,” she said.

Emily said the spur-of-the-moment mission trip to Haiti got her excited for her future and her career.

“It affirmed my calling in life,” she said, “And now I have a passion behind missions.” 

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