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Turn to Jesus (Article)

I Saw a Blue Butterfly
A Canadian college student shares his experience as a missionary to Haiti

Canadian Mission Youth group
Matteo's Mission Youth group

Following are excerpts from the testimony about a Haiti mission trip in early 2014, written by Matteo Tessaro from Guelph, Ontario, a master’s student in chemistry at Ontario’s McMaster University. (Click here to listen to the song “I Saw a Blue Butterfly,” written by Matteo following this experience.)

There is an inspirational poster on the wall at my school with a picture of a blue butterfly that I think about often. It reads: “Change is the essence of life; you must be willing to surrender what you are to make room for what you can become.”

I wonder if I’ll see any blue butterflies in Haiti.

It is not often that I see the sunrise or that I fly. Take-off is something special. This February morning in Toronto, there is a rainbow sky on the left, and city lights on the right.


My first glimpse of real poverty is framed by the Haitian mountains and illuminated by the hot evening sun.  On the drive from the airport to our residence, it is like nothing I’ve ever seen. We drive in the back of a white pick-up truck, through rugged roads, past rows of huts made of recycled garbage. The slums are referred to as tent cities and are home to 147, 000 Haitians.

Children, seemingly as amused by us as we are by them, run at the side of the littered streets in their bare feet.  I wave to a man sitting on his rooftop and feel surprisingly welcome in this foreign place. 


Today we are heading to an orphanage. I feel a buzz in the morning air, as my fellow missionaries are getting ready to face the day. The orphanage is run by the Missionaries of Charity. The grounds for the orphanage, surrounded by ten-foot stone walls topped with barbed wire, are fully sustainable. They consist of gardens, pens for rabbits and birds, a chapel, a home for the nuns, a kitchen, an outdoor furnace for burning garbage, large rooms for the orphans who are separated based on their health and age, and a play ground and a large sheltered classroom. It is a sanctuary in the city, a light amidst the darkness.

We walk into a nursery room, where the children are first accepted into the orphanage.  It is here that the children are most sick. Many of them come in on the verge of death because of severe malnourishment or illness. In their cribs, most of them are crying and reaching out to be held. I stay in this room holding one girl on each leg for most of the morning. One is a seven-year-old named Mauri, only recently taken in.  Malnutrition renders her hair white, and she is no bigger than a three-year-old.  Sitting on my right leg is a girl named Remi, who is skin and bones. Neither child makes a sound the entire time I hold them. It is when I look into their big, black eyes that they speak to my soul.

At lunch I go out of the complex into the Haitian streets. To the left are rolling hills of tropical trees and simple concrete houses, and to my right is the stone wall of the orphanage. I walk only to the end of the street, talking to people lined up along the wall, and sit down. I observe the busy street in action, with people selling coal or fruit, school children walking by in colored uniforms, an old man pushing a wheel barrel, young women leaning against the walls, drivers honking their horns as they come to the locked intersection, and the smell of diesel fuel, rotten fruit and garbage. A boy wearing his green school uniform winks at me as he walks by and runs off with his friend over the hill and out of sight.

In the afternoon, I spend most of the time with the older children on the top floor of the orphanage. I meet Samantha, a bright young girl who is helping with the younger children. I play with Olivier and his three friends up on the rooftop.

The children did not want us to leave that day, and they made this clear by crying and holding on to us tightly. I cannot help but wonder what will become of these children I met today.


This morning we drive in the back of an army green vehicle as we head to the ‘home of the dying.’

For 50 minutes, our missionary group watches the streets of Port au Prince -- a city in ruins. Yet it is packed with people everywhere on the side of the streets. The diesel vehicles spew black smoke and the air is saturated with pollution. Driving on these roads is chaotic. Everywhere people are honking to pass, driving on the wrong side. Pedestrians are trying to cross the road everywhere or trying to sell things to us by coming to the back of the truck.

The image that sticks with me the most is the garbage. Plastics are accumulated everywhere in the streets and in the rivers and streams. We pass an organized mess of a market where thousands of people are gathered to trade fruit, coal, and clothing. Again the smell of diesel fuel and rotten fruit dominates.

When we drive into the Missionaries of Charity grounds, I see a man with a tumor the size of two legs covering his entire right leg, trying to walk with the help of others supporting him in the ditch. His countenance is pain itself.

At the hospital, there is a pavilion and a school room where young women are learning how to sew. Across a rocky field there stands a sky-blue concrete structure, bordering a chapel in the center. On the first floor are men sectioned according to their illness. A group of us visit the men with tuberculosis. One by one, we rub lotion and massage their arms, legs, backs, and chests, and we sing and dance with them.  Fr. Thomas (Murphy LC), Nick and I sing and play the ukulele in
Blue Butterfly
I Saw a Blue Butterfly
the open hallways. The men sit on the benches, all coming out to watch, clapping and smiling and some dancing.

Later we have a soccer game with some of the sick children. They come out to the dusty field in their blue clothing. A young boy named Franz plays on my team. He is great player. He scores a goal, and I say “c’est le but.” As he runs back across the field in his blue clothing, I see him flutter gracefully in the tropical air across the rocky field.  Like a blue butterfly...

May 2014

As I finish writing this story, I think back to the quote on that poster at school. I urge the reader to keep his or her eyes wide to the blue butterflies of this world…. 

Click here to see of video of Matteo’s mission trip:

In the video is a song (Matteo is playing the ukulele and harmonica) written by Matteo, Fr. Thomas Murphy LC and another missionary, Nick Continisio.  Here are the lyrics:

In this airport for so long, so we thought we´d write this song
On our way to Haitian land, givin´ the good Lord the best we can
Ooo wee, ooo way, bless our efforts Lord we pray
Ooo wee, ooo way, guide our souls everyday
I don´t know Creole, the gift of tongues would be useful
Trust the Lord with all your heart, and he for sure will do his part
Ooo wee, ooo way, bless our efforts Lord we pray
Ooo wee, ooo way, guide our souls everyday

For information on the next Canadian mission to Haiti in February 2015, go to the following link:



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