Storytelling and Mission
I visited with my friend Cindy Corell who is a mission co-worker in Haiti with the Presbyterian Church USA.
Years ago I sat down in a coffee shop with Cindy and listened to her share how her life was changing from being a journalist to answering a new call in mission.Cindy has the faith and the skills to not only capture a story but to retell that story with passion and hope.
May Cindy’s words of faith in God and hope for Haiti direct your life’s purpose in mission.
"Good afternoon, it is so good to be here with you all today. Thank you April for having me a part of this video series.
Story telling and mission, those are two parts of my life that have always been there. Though the mission part did not come along until year later. I grew up in a family that loved to tell stories and our stories usually involved the people that we met on our journeys throughout the day. I was a journalist in Staunton for almost 28 years. I was a reporter and an editor at the News Leader in Staunton. I enjoyed my work. It was good work. I could see myself doing that work until I retired or until something else came along.
In 2009, something did come along and it startled me a lot. I had become very active in my church at Tinkling Spring Presbyterian since 2004 and by 2006 I was very active working with the youth mission. It was not something I had planned. It was a God thing. Before I knew it, I was a youth advisor, going on mission trips, going into cities, going into rural areas, going into disaster areas, with all things teenagers. That was a beginning for me. My job, my task, before me was to lead teenagers into the idea of mission and how mission can be a part of their life, but what I didn't know, and the teenagers didn't know, and the other folks on the trips didn't know, I was gaining the most. I was understanding mission from all the people we meet throughout our days, from the people in the grocery store, at work, when out on a walk. Mission is when people come together with kindness, with compassion. If there are needs that are shown to be and there is a solution that comes from that, that is mission. Mission is finding a way to be the hands and feet, eyes and heart, of Jesus Christ. Not everyone is a Christian. Not every believes that, but kindness and compassion are what makes mission work. It is the fuel of mission.
By 2009 and into 2010, I realized that my whole trajectory of life was going to stay in the idea of mission, the realm of mission, but it was going to involve leaving Staunton, Virginia and moving to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I was as startled by that as you might be. I could not believe that someone who had spent most of her life working twenty-five minutes from the place where she was born, was actually going to get up and move to a developing country and live with people that I did not know, strangers. And I was going to work with the Presbyterian Hunger Program in advocacy. It has been a remarkable change for me. It has been one of the most fluid and most wonderful parts of my life. When you are open to God's word, and open to following Jesus Christ. And when you believe in Jesus Christ and God. And you believe that you will be taken care of, there is nothing that you cannot do. Sometimes, we forget that. Sometimes, I forget that.
As a matter of fact, I have been living in Haiti since 2013. I am back in Augusta County because there is a lot of trouble in Haiti such as the constitutional and political uprising. COVID is still raging. I am out of the country for my safety, but also so that I am not taking resources from the people who need it more.
My work in Haiti is with rural farmers. I work with farmer organizations. The work includes some projects but not entirely projects. We are actually doing something different than the traditional mission work, we are looking at the root causes of the problems in Haiti. Why is Haiti so poor? What are the reasons? How can we attack the causes at the root, so future generations can handle problems without going over the same reoccurring issues.
The history of Haiti is a remarkable one. It was the first freed black republic. There was a slave uprising from 1791-1804. The former slaves beat the French army. The Haitian slaves took over their country as citizens as the first freed black republic. They became a nation trying to build on the wealth, but racism, white supremacy, and other nations that cared more about their slaveholding and about their wealth than about the goodness of human beings made sure Haiti stayed where Haiti was. Haiti has never recovered from that. But what we find in Haiti, is the strong, irrepressible, Christian, loving, faith building people in Haiti. It is my joy and my privilege to be with them. I miss Haiti. I miss being with them. I am very worried considering all the crisis Haiti is going through right now, but my work continues. In addition, my work continues here.
Like I said, mission can be where you are and who you are with. Mission can be reaching out to someone and stepping outside your comfort zone. Mission can be making sure someone who lives next door you have not seen in several days is okay. Mission can be stepping in when there is a fire in your neighborhood, or when there is a lonely widow that needs someone to talk to.
Or mission can be packing up, making sure your passport is renewed, and moving to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Mission is what gives your life focus. Mission is what gives your life the fire and fuel to love God and follow the lessons Jesus Christ. It brings the joy and though there is sadness, troubles, and so many problems that we will never, ever solve; together there is nothing that we cannot do.
And maybe in the meantime, the striving is what matters most."
Take a simple step in mission this weekend by determining why you serve. Then align the stories you live and tell with the God that you love and serve.
Cindy is available for zoom meetings and preaching. Learn more about Cindy's mission work in Haiti at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/cindy-corell/