LiveBeyonder Spotlight | Dawn Overton

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How many LiveBeyond mission weeks have you served on?
I have served on two Kè Pou Timoun mission weeks. My first was in April 2016, and I returned in July 2016.

Share how you got involved with LiveBeyond.
A friend of mine served on a mission week in October 2015. When she returned and began sharing about her experience, I was immediately interested. Serving the poor and oppressed has always been something that I have had a heart for, but I never knew exactly how to get set up on a mission trip. I went to the LiveBeyond website and loved what I saw. That week I registered for a mission trip, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

What's your favorite part of the mission week?
This one is tough. There are so many things I love about the weeks spent in Haiti serving with LiveBeyond. From taking in an amazing sunrise from the rooftop to watching the sunset from the back of the Jack while heading back from community visits. The beauty in Haiti is absolutely breathtaking. At any point and time you can look around and find yourself so caught up in the natural beauty of God’s creation.

However, the beauty of the landscape is not what I love most about Haiti. It’s the beauty of the people that is most attractive to me. The smiles, the hugs, the love. So much love. Each person you encounter is just waiting to be acknowledged. To be smiled at, waved at, hugged, anything. Whether it is the staff, the children, or the people living in the villages, they long to be loved and they long to be acknowledged. My favorite part of Haiti is being able to show that love and see the smiles that follow. In each of those smiles you see Jesus. You see a person so beautifully created by our God. You see a child who may not have a parent to hug them or kiss them goodnight, you see a woman who feels broken, unworthy, you see a man who wishes he could offer more to his family. You see the pain but then, with one simple act of kindness, you see immediate joy. That is my favorite thing about Haiti.

Share one of your most memorable experiences or encounters in Haiti.
On my last mission week in Haiti we headed out on a community visit following a full day of summer camp. The sprinkles began to fall as we rode along, all piled in the back of the trucks. Very soon after the sprinkles began to fall, the skies opened up and the sprinkles very quickly turned to rain. Lots and lots of cold, hard rain. We made the walk to one of the homes in the village and as many people that could fit joined under the tin roof on the porch and presented the certificates to each child who lived in the village. The rest of us attempted shelter under a nearby tree which actually offered very little shelter at all. But in this moment, in the midst of the rain storm, I was given a quick reality check. As we stood there, in the rain, soaked to the bone, I looked around at all the small children. The children with very little meat on their bones, minimal clothes and bare feet. This rain was cold. They were cold. One small girl stood, wrapped in the arms of another member of our team and she shivered. Another young man stood next to me and he shivered. I looked around and so many children were wet and cold and here we were, also wet and cold, standing in the middle of a rainstorm in Thomazeau, Haiti, and I got a small (very small) taste of what life is like for them daily. As I put my arms around the young man next to me and made my best effort to warm him just a little, I was thankful to be there. I was thankful for that taste of their reality. The reality that they don’t always have protection from the rain or anyone to wrap their arms around them to help warm them up. Although I know we won’t be there in every rainstorm, I was thankful for the chance to be there in that one.

What keeps you coming back to Haiti with LiveBeyond?
The people. The love. The gratification. The opportunity to truly make a lasting impact on the life of someone who needs it. All things that took me back to Haiti only three months after serving on my first trip. All things that will keep me going back. There are very few greater feelings than that that you get when you are serving out the calling that God has put on your life.

I have been called to Haiti to make a difference in the life of someone there. Or to make a difference in multiple lives there. I am not a doctor or a nurse or a teacher. It would be easy for me to think I have nothing to offer to the people there in Haiti. But what I have found during my trips to Haiti is that I have the greatest gift that I can offer to them, and that is the love of Jesus Christ. I go back because they need that love. They need to know that they are worth coming back for. And, quite honestly, as much as I know they need me, I need them. I encourage anyone who truly wants to see Jesus and to share Jesus to find a mission trip that you can participate in and make the trip to Haiti. I know that it was not by accident that I was joined with LiveBeyond. I believe that we serve an intentional God and he purposefully and intentionally sent me to Thomazeau.

A quote I read on my trip home from Haiti says this “When God puts love and compassion in your heart toward someone, he’s offering you an opportunity to make a difference in that person’s life. You must learn to follow that love. Don’t ignore it. Act on it. Somebody needs what you have.” I will continue to go back because God has put love and compassion in my heart toward children like Luckson, who have been abandoned and walked out on and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to make a difference.   

Tell us how the people of Thomazeau have changed your life. 
My life was forever changed in Haiti. My heart was broken, my eyes were opened. It is such a humbling experience and I don’t see how anyone could go and not be changed. As a Christian I do not have the option to ignore what I know the reality is in Haiti. I must act on it. I must pray daily. I must be the voice for those people who can not share their own story. I have had my eyes opened to God’s true purpose for my life ,and I am forever grateful for that. I have learned to really talk to God. Not just to pray, but to hear his voice in return. I know that he will direct my paths. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I hear this voice daily now. I read so much more in this verse than I ever did before. I realize that this verse does not only apply to us in America. I understand that this verse is applicable to each and every person in Thomazeau, in Haiti, and around the world. I have heard God say to me that in order for the people in Haiti to receive the plans he has for them, I (and many others) must be obedient to the plans He has for us. If we do not follow our calling, then they miss out on what God has for them and their lives.

How have you seen LiveBeyond expand our work and impact since you got involved with our work?
My involvement with LiveBeyond has really just begun, so I haven’t seen a huge expansion in my time with the organization. However, I have seen some before and after pictures of the children. I have seen the children in the villages who are not part of the Kè Pou Timoun program. I have seen the homes of the children so I know where they come from. I can imagine what their lives were like before LiveBeyond. I know the difference that LiveBeyond has made for these children because I see it in their smile. I am certain that if I am asked this question again in 1-2 years I will have lots to say because God has great plans for the Vanderpools and LiveBeyond. I’m blessed to be a part of it.

Dawn lives in a small town in Kentucky with her husband, Jeremy and children, Ava (6) and Jaxten (4). She works as a Business Support Representative.