FAQs for taking a youth group to Haiti

During my past two trips to Haiti I met an Adventures In Missions staff member named Benny. He’s kinda the head guy for AIM’s efforts in the country. He recently wrote a series of misconceptions about Haiti on his blog. They’re definitely worth checking out if you want a real perspective of someone who’s been living on the ground there for the past several months.

Since returning from Haiti and now planning another trip to go back this fall and spring, I’ve received a lot of questions from you guys about Haiti and how it relates to your youth groups. First of all, if you’re thinking about going to Haiti yourself or with a team from your church, make sure you read Benny’s misconceptions series above.

Video about taking a youth group to Haiti

While in Haiti, I sat down with one of my high school youth group girls and another youth pastor and talked about tips and FAQs for taking a youth group to Haiti. We discussed the experiences teenagers will have in Haiti, the safety concerns, what God is teaching us, and a lot more. Here’s a video of our discussion.

[Download this video in iTunes.]

Here are my thoughts on some of the other common questions I receive about Haiti and youth groups.

Can teenagers really make a difference in Haiti?

Absolutely. It’s easy to look at the big picture of all the devastation and think, “There’s no way we can put a dent in that. Let’s leave it to the experts.” While the experts are definitely needed, there’s also a need for normal every-day people like you and me to be there and serve. The experts can operate the big heavy machinery and provide medical expertise — we can minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of the Haitians.

Although you and your teens might not make a big dent in the lives of every Haitian, you will make an incredible difference in the lives of some Haitians. And if enough believers step up and do it, that can add up. It certainly matters to the individuals who you are able to help.

Can I go by myself?

Yup! Just go to, select the date and trip you want to join, and sign yourself up. In fact, there was tremendous value in me going to Haiti that first time without anyone from my church because it allowed me to come back and authoritatively share what I saw and experienced. People trusted my judgement and jumped on board very quickly after that. If you have the time and resources to go ahead of your youth group, I highly recommend it.

Is it safe?

Benny addressed some of those concerns in one of his Haiti Misconceptions posts above, so you can read that for his perspective.

My perspective is that it’s totally safe! Yeah, there’s a kidnapping here and there, but nothing more than what’s happening in cities across America at this very moment. Sure, there’s also violence in pockets of the country among certain people, but again, nothing more than what happens here on our own turf every day. The domestic issues are so common here at home that the media doesn’t cover it much anymore and many of us forget that those things are even happening at all.

Just like taking your youth group through unfamiliar urban territory in the US, there’s places of the city you’ll want to avoid, certain allys you don’t want to explore, and sections of town you want to avoid after dark. It’s no different in Haiti. Use common sense and you’ll be fine. And when you’re not sure what common sense is in Haiti, the translators AIM hires have excellent instincts. They know their people very well. Just follow their lead if in doubt.

It’s worthy to note that, as we shared in our Haiti testimony video, many Haitians feel that the world is looking down on them right now. There’s been a couple small cases of bad things happening and the rest of the world focuses on that and blows it out of proportion from all the positive things happening there. Several Haitians told us to tell Americans back home that they are good people with good hearts, and from my two weeks there, it is absolutely true.

We talked more about the safety concerns in the video above. If safety is a concern you have, I encourage you to hear about it from the perspective of Brook, the high school girl in my youth group.

What will my kids experience?

I don’t think this is a question I can really answer because everyone’s experience will be different. In the video above, Brook talks about her experience in Haiti as a high school student. Also the stories in my last trip’s recap video shares a lot about what we experienced.

Generally speaking…

  • They’ll be challenged to take ownership of their faith, to live it out instead of just talk about it.
  • They’ll see the power of prayer as they listen closely for Him to lead them.
  • They’ll see spiritual realities at work all around them.
  • They’ll develop a burden for lost souls and people struggling through hardships.
  • They’ll have a hard time entering the United States again. In many ways, that was the hardest part about each trip for me.

What did you think about Adventures In Missions?

I did both of my trips to Haiti through AIM and I highly recommend them for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest two distinctives AIM has that are very important to me is their emphasis on discipleship and listening to God in prayer. They make the missions experience become one of the most intense discipleship experiences you and your teens can go through together. And everything they do is saturated in prayer, so much so that some of our teens spent all morning and afternoon praying and walked away totally energized by it. For most of them, it was one of the most meaningful times on the trip. They had never spent more than 5 or 10 minutes praying before, so 4 hours was a pretty big jump for them that totally rocked their prayer life.

I plan to do all my future trips to Haiti through AIM. (And no, I am not getting any perks from AIM to say any of this. It’s my honest opinion.)

Do I need to go right away or will my visit still be helpful a year from now?

While there is an immediate need for help in Haiti right now, most of us cannot go there on short notice. Yes, there’s a sense of urgency right now, but the relief work in Haiti will be ongoing for a long time. They need help now. They’ll also need help a year from now. Go when you can and consider a long-term relationship with a Haiti church through the Church To Church Program.

Posted on May 25, 2010

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