Jeanette Wong sat in an outdoor worship service exhausted — emotionally and physically. One week remained in her three-week mission trip to Haiti, and Wong felt completely drained. That’s when a little girl in an oversized orange tank top turned and locked eyes with her, immediately reaching out to her. Without hesitation, Wong picked her up to hold her.
Seeking to share God’s love in the aftermath of January’s 7.0 earthquake, Wong and a team of five other Biola students arrived in Haiti on July 3, armed with musical instruments and a desire to serve suffering children. Each team member, specializing in a specific instrument, from the violin to the harp, taught music lessons to displaced Haitian children at “Child Hope,” an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. Together, they used the universal language of music as a healing tool.
Wong, a psychology major with a music emphasis, has researched music therapy.
“Music has the ability to trigger emotions allowing trauma to be processed,” said Wong before the team left for Haiti. “Trauma itself feeds instability within a person and a society. By bringing music to Haiti, our hope is to bring hope.”
The team — current students Wong, Tavia Grubbs, Sarah Quale, Evelyn-Doris Sanchez, Stephanie Lowe and Jordan McGrath — partnered with Indigenous Pitch, a nonprofit organization that uses art and dance for healing, to host a camp, held at North Haiti Christian University. They were able to create a place for the children to escape their poverty and pain, even if for a brief time.
“We were blessed to be able to witness a significant and visible change in the children, from sadness to joy, from stillness to dancing, and from darkness to life — all of which can only be explained by Jesus’ love,” said Grubbs.
When Wong thinks about Haiti, she thinks of the little girl in the orange tank top. At the point of exhaustion, she realized she could no longer love the girl, but God could through her.
“That moment with the little girl, taught me that all technical aspects of trying to give, really does not measure up to just loving God,” said Wong. “If I love people with God’s divine will and perspective, there won’t be enough people in the world for me to love.”
Funding for the trip was partially provided through a donor-funded $50,000 Haiti Initiative Grant from Biola, though each student raised money to pay their own travel expenses. A portion of the grant provided 20 violins and one cello to be donated to North Haiti Christian University. The violins given to the university will be utilized for future music camps as well as for practice instruments.
The team returned home on July 17, but plans to go back to Haiti in January to partner with Indigenous Pitch and Child Hope to create safe houses for children and pursue other ministry opportunities.
“Whatever future plans we have begin and end with Jesus,” said Wong. “This statement is extremely vague, but to us it is the clearest way to explain our hearts for the people of Haiti.”