La'Wana Harris is an author, a speaker, and a missionary to Haiti. She's led multiple trips to Haiti, focusing on education, health, orphanages, evangelism and more. Here's how she got started.
Name + Contact Info
Where and what people do you primarily serve?
How do you serve those people?
Children's Ministry, Medical Clinics, Teaching at Orphanages and Schools, Evangelism
When did you begin to realize that you had a heart for missions or ministry?
I began to realize that I had a heart for missions as a child. My grandmother and I would serve as domestic missionaries in our local community. I loved to serve the people of our community more than anything else. I remember my grandmother buying an empty cargo van and having my uncle go to the salvage yard to pull seats out of old school buses. He bolted the seats to the floor in the van and I painted the church name and address on the side of the van. I would make corn beef hash and egg salad sandwiches for the children.
That was the beginning of our youth ministry which included weekly bible study, vacation bible school and meals.
How and when did God lead you to this? How did you recognize His call?
God gave me a spirit of compassion at an early age. He allowed me to care deeply for the needs of others around me. His love also motivated me to action. I felt compelled to help those that were hurting, in need or without a relationship with Jesus Christ. He called me to Haiti during a church service. God had been speaking to my heart about going on a mission's trip for months.
One Sunday during praise and worship, God spoke to my heart letting me know that I should go serve in Haiti. Our church announced a short term mission's trip to Cabaret, Haiti the following week and the rest is history. I answered God's call and I know in my heart that I am serving in the way he created me to serve.
Did you have a clear and measurable goal for ministry?
Initially, I did not have a clear goal for ministry in Haiti. I just wanted to go serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in any capacity that I could. The needs in Haiti are so great, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
After the earthquake in 2010, there were thousands of orphans due to the tragic loss of life. Some children were placed in orphanages and no one even knew their names. God gave me a clear vision to help the children of Haiti. I started with a large scale project to build on orphanage in Leogane, Haiti, the epicenter of the earthquake.
I partnered Samaritan's Purse on a construction project for the Greta Home and Academy. Our team dug ditches, poured concrete and tied rebar. This was my first construction mission and it was very hard work in the tropical heat of summer.
The orphanage has been completed and the program is having a tremendous impact on the children in Leogane.
God has shifted my focus to sharing the gospel through children's books. The access to quality books is very limited in Haiti. And access to books in Haitian Creole is even less.
My goal is two fold: To fulfill the great commission by sharing the gospel with children's books and to help eradicate illiteracy to break the cycle of poverty for sustainable impact. The goal for 2017 is to provide 10,000 books to the orphanages and schools in Haiti. We officially launched our “10,000 Books for Haiti” campaign in February.
What would you do differently if you were starting today?
If I were starting today with the knowledge that I have gained over the years while serving in Haiti, I would take a different approach as to how we get items to the children. It has been painful and quite heartbreaking at times as we travelled to Haiti with supplies for the children. Unfortunately, there have been incidences of corruption that intercepted mission's teams at the airport and confiscated donated gifts or held them in customs for extremely high fees.
Most teams have now learned to work with 3rd party carriers to help ensure that the items go directly to the intended orphanage or school. The shipping and transportation process is quite expensive due to this complex dynamic. The extra effort required to get the items to Haiti is well worth it and often forgotten when we see those little faces light up with joy! Where God guides, He provides.
How do you connect with new partners or supporters and stay connected with your existing partners?
Staying connected with our partners and supporters has been made easier by the various social media platforms. We use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and other platforms to stay connected with our partners.
We also use more traditional approaches such as our monthly newsletter. That said, nothing beats getting face to face with our partners. I try to attend as many church services, conferences and sit down discussions as possible to share our progress and God's vision for our ministry.
What books, tools, or resources that are important to doing what you do?
My ultimate resource to guide our mission's ministry is the bible—God's instruction manual. There are also a number of books and ministry tools that help guide our path based on lessons from pioneer missionaries. Some of my favorite resources are from the Live Dead ministry lead by Dick Brogden. “To LIVE DEAD is to live life wholly for Jesus. To die to self, know God will do a greater work through you. To announce the life of God among those who are unreached.” I also enjoy reading and learning from Charles Spurgeon's writings.
How do you get ongoing training and coaching?
Ongoing training and coaching is extremely important for sustainable ministry that gives glory to God. I attend mission's conferences, participate in online trainings and spend time with seasoned missionaries to learn from their journeys. I am also a Rapid Response Chaplain with the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. BGEA offers excellent training programs and courses in collaboration with other Christian organizations. Lifelong learning is a vital part of lifelong ministry.
What first steps or training would you recommend that others just starting out?
I highly recommend the Live Dead 30 day journal for those that are starting out in their mission's ministry. I also recommend reading “Operation World” by Jason Mandyrk. I remember Pastor George Daniels of Hope Fellowship Church in Raleigh, NC giving that book to me as a gift when I was getting started in mission's ministry. It was such a timely blessing, and I am sure that it will be a blessing to others. The Live Dead journal helps us with our inward look and “Operation World” helps frame our outward look.
I also recommend that new missionaries connect with a seasoned ministry team or missionary couple for mentoring, prayer and accountability.
What is a critical mindset or perspective regarding listening, teachability, flexibility, grace, etc?
It is of utmost importance that we enter the mission's ministry with an open heart and a willing spirit. We must surrender our preconceived ways of thinking and working as we yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We've all heard the expression, “Life happens.” Well that saying is greatly amplified on the mission field.
Many times we are serving in underdeveloped areas with non-existent or minimal infrastructure. Timeliness and structure may seem to be figments of our imagination. We must have a teachable spirit that yields to the spirit of God and the local leadership in the country where we serve.
Believe it or not, there are very different approaches to do just about everything in underdeveloped areas. Our ability to remain flexible, listen to understand and demonstrate limitless grace will enable our ministry to flourish in the face of unsurmountable challenges. We will see the hand of God perform miraculous deeds when we embrace the “Surrender all” mindset.
Knowing what you know now, would you do it all again?
Absolutely! Being a missionary is what I was created to do. My very existence is validated when I am surrendered to God, guided by the Holy Spirit and serving the children of Haiti.