Note: H.E.L.P. founder Chris Marlow is leading a team on a pilgrimage trip to Haiti the week of November 2-9. Thomas E. Ward, one of the members of this mission team, will be sharing his experiences here on the H.E.L.P. Blog. You can also follow along Jacob Vanhorn‘s updates on Soma Austin Community Church blog.

Our days have been jam-packed.

And they start early.

The rooster—which must make its home just outside the window nearest to my bed—starts crowing at an ungodly hour, usually at around 4:30 AM, and the house begins to stir just after that.

Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of Haitian roosters.

They wake up way too early, and they don’t care who’s still sleeping—sort of like toddlers, only different. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. (No, really, I’m not.) There’s something about waking up with the rest of Haiti that makes this whole experience much more authentic.

In fact, one thing I love about H.E.L.P.’s approach to mission trips—H.E.L.P. actually refers to them as pilgrimages—is that H.E.L.P.’s leadership works really hard to respect the rhythms of the local culture, and I find that posture to be far more helpful than the alternative.

As we learned yesterday while listening to a young Haitian leader tell us about the failures of missionaries and NGOs, you have to understand the context before you can even begin to address the problems endemic to it. And no one understands Haiti better than a Haitian, which means that if you really want to help Haiti you have to start by talking to someone who lives here.

H.E.L.P. does this really, really well.

By being good listeners, H.E.L.P.’s been able to establish an incredible network of local leaders that shares H.E.L.P.’s passion to end extreme poverty, and, honestly, they’re nothing short of amazing.

Pastor Gaetan Alcegaire, Pastor Jean-Alix Paul, Junior Batille, and Pastor Jean St-Cyr get extraordinary things done on the ground, serving tirelessly—and I do mean tirelessly— to make this small, island nation a better place for countless men, women, and children.

Without them, H.E.L.P.’s work in Haiti would be impossible.

In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m really impressed with H.E.L.P.’s Haitian partners. They genuinely love God and the people of Haiti, and that becomes apparent from the first moment you meet them.