Kaely Klipa was excited to visit Haiti for the first time recently with a group from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Aiken that included four teenagers.

“But it was hard to see all the tent houses and the earthquake damage as we drove past them,” the South Aiken School senior said. “When you see how people live there, you really feel blessed.”

The group, led by Bill Blosser, spent the week in Haiti working at the Village of Hope Lazarus Project, located about 15 miles from Port-au-Prince. Blosser is a Board member who coordinates mission teams to Haiti.

The program includes a school and a health center. Another facility serves handicapped children and adults. The school educates 640 children, of which 50 are supported by St. Paul.

“This is my fourth trip and it gets in your blood,” said Bob Rogers. “Usually on mission trips, you expect to perform tasks and come home, and there's never any follow-up. But the Lazarus Project is like a continuation. You get a chance to know the teachers, the principal of the school and the missionary families. There's such a feeling of pride.”

The team also visited the Village of Hope's health center and The Little Children of Jesus – an orphanage that serves 95 cognitively and physically challenged adults and children.

“Our team,” Blosser wrote during the trip, “interacted with those that could participate with kicking soccer balls, blowing bubbles and balloons. What joy everyone shared, even with the small activities.”

The St. Paul team members had the opportunity to see the Earthquake Memorial. Thousands of people who perished during the 2010 disaster are buried there. So many families have ongoing needs. The Lazarus Project also operates Food for the Poor, and the team served 800 to 1,000 families a day, a tiring, but rewarding experience. Those families are not random. They have to apply to get rice and a soup and bean mixture in a facility that impressed the Aiken residents with its cleanliness.

“I felt they needed more and they did, too,” Rogers said. “But they were appreciative of what they received. They would stand in line at 6:30 a.m. to get the food at 10.”

A security staff was in attendance to check the applications – in part “to determine if a family got one bucket of food or two,” said Sergine Schneider. “I could see where that could get out of hand.”

She and others on the team discovered Bible verses that were located on Haitian vehicles such as buses. The teenagers used their phones to photograph the verses and would hold Bible studies. The verses included Psalm 118, which in part describes taking refuge and finding strength in the Lord and his right hand.

Schneider speaks enough French to communicate with the Haitian families in Creole. They are so appreciative of their government and mission teams that come to help them.

Callie Traver, Blosser's granddaughter, enjoyed meeting and playing with the school children and was delighted and surprised at their joy. So many things have gone so terribly wrong in their country, “but they are so happy,” Traver said.

Everyone should have a chance to participate in a mission trip, said Schneider – getting that opportunity to see the challenges the people of Haiti live with everyday and how they cope with them.