|“They came to realize that, to be truly fulfilled and happy, all you need is God’s love,” said Chelsea Gheesling, founder of Good Girl Comeback.|
“How many times have I complained that I don’t want
to go to confession?”
This is the question Chelsea Gheesling asked
herself as she watched Fr. Aaron Smith LC give the
sacrament of healing to four dying women in Haiti.
so beautiful to see how grateful they were,” she said.
“It made me think how we take the sacraments for
granted. We should see the sacraments the way they do.“
and a group from her Michigan-based Good Girl Comeback
(GGCB) program took a mission trip to Port-a-Prince, Haiti, from
Aug. 2-9, 2013. (Click here for the previous article
about the trip on this website.) The group included young
women ages 16 to 20, and four parent chaperones, four
members of the local community who joined the group for
the trip, as well as Fr. Aaron and Regnum Christi
consecrated women April Pickett and Jana Crea.
“We started out the
week feeling sorry for the Haitian people, but we ended
up looking up to them and admiring them,” said Chelsea.
“They are caring and kind. We forget to be like
that in the US. The people there are happier than
we are in our big houses with all our wealth.”
Schedule of Service
The group was kept busy by the sisters
of the Missionaries of Charity, whose centers they worked
at while on the mission trip. In the morning, the
girls would wake up at 6 pm and celebrate Mass
with Fr. Aaron at the simple, small hotel where they
were staying. They then participated in a “morning of reflection”
led by one of the consecrated women, and afterwards, would
help serve at one of the centers. The three centers
they worked at included the children’s hospital, the food center
and the House of the Dying.
Chelsea said the Missionaries’ children’s
hospital also functions as an orphanage because parents often don’t
return to get their children once they bring them there
because they cannot adequately care for them. The GGCB group
helped there with whatever was needed, feeding the children, changing
diapers, playing with them, and holding the babies. Chelsea said
much help is needed since the sisters do mostly medical
work, and there are usually only enough Haitian employees to
have one woman per hospital room. This is not even
taking into account caring for the orphans on the second
|Chelsea Gheesling with a Haitian child.|
“While we were there, the sisters’ told us to tend
to whatever was the first need we would see,” said
The Poorest of the Poor
The group also helped with the
rush of daily recipients at the Missionaries’ food center. They
served about 200 different families each day, who receive a
coffee-can-sized amount each of rice, pasta, beans and some olive
oil. This monthly food allotment goes to approximately 3,200 families
who qualify for the Missionaries’ aid.
So many people in Haiti
are in need of assistance, and the Missionaries have only
so many resources, Chelsea explained. “They have to closely guard
their mission to serve the poorest of the poor,” she
She said the sisters made quite an impression on the
young women in her group.
“One of the sisters gave us
her testimony and vocation story and let us ask her
questions,” said Chelsea. “We asked how she deals with seeing
such poverty day after day. She said that in Haiti
the people really value each other, their children, their families.
They value life.”
The sister told them she used to work
in the city of Miami, Florida, where she saw countless
homeless people sleeping in the streets. She explained that in
Haiti, few people sleep in the streets because someone always
takes them in.
Growing in God’s Love
The young women from GGCB
were not only inspired by the nuns, but by their
own experiences of service. “To see the growth of the
girls during this trip was beautiful,” said Chelsea. “They came
to realize that, to be truly fulfilled and happy, all
you need is God’s love.”
During the evening the girls would
participate in a special reflection called “Light in the Darkness”
asking Fr. Aaron questions about their faith and any other
topic they could think of. “They would spend hours,” said
“It was a blessing to get to spend so much
time with a priest like Fr. Aaron,” she said. She
remembered watching him, perspiring in full vestments while saying Mass
twice a day in the heat, and listening to confessions
for several hours, while exhibiting joy and without complaining.
Chelsea herself said
she was deeply affected by her own experience. Two incidents
|Seeing the Haitian orphans, Chelsea's cousin was grateful to God and the adoptive parents who took her in.|
stand out in her mind. One took place in the
House of the Dying, when she saw Father Aaron administering
“I was most nervous to go there, but it
was also the most moving. There these people could die
with dignity. It was clean. They were fed and comforted,
She said while she was working there, she felt
great peace. “I experienced what it was like to be
Jesus for someone else – to be His hands and
Chelsea said the nuns told them to do whatever they
could to comfort the dying women, rubbing lotion on them
or painting fingernails. Chelsea said the girls would also play
with the children whose mothers were dying.
Another experience she remembers
took place at the children’s hospital, when she was standing
near the door and listening to a sister speaking Creole with a
mother. The woman started wailing. When the sister came back
inside, Chelsea asked her what had happened. The sister said
that the woman’s daughter was well enough to go home.
would think that would have made this mother happy,” said Chelsea. “But
she knew her child had a better life at the
One of the young women in the GGCB group was
Chelsea’s cousin, who herself had been an orphan in Russia.
“Seeing the children in the Haitian orphanage, it made her
grateful to God and her adoptive parents who took her
in,” said Chelsea.
Bearing God’s Gifts
The GGCB members came to Haiti
not just to volunteer their services, but to offer what they
could to help in an economy that has not rebounded
much since the devastating earthquake three years ago. They brought
with them about 200 pounds of donations for the children’s
hospital, including clothing, diapers, formula, teething toys and other items.
and her group learned some 30,000 people still live in
the tent city, temporary housing that basically has become permanent.
She explained that the Haitian government offers about 500 dollars
(worth about $5000 in US money) to families to leave
the tent city, but that will last them only 6
or 7 months. And there are few if any jobs
to be had.
The GGCB group met one woman named Holly,
also from the state of Michigan, who is trying to
do what she can to help boost the local economy.
She makes use of a most plentiful resource – the
local refuse that fills the city streets. With paper and
other similar materials, she teaches those who are willing to
create bracelets and necklaces coated with a resin. She then
takes the product back to the US to sell, and
sends the money back to the Haitian people who made
“We bought a lot of the jewelry to bring
|GGCB brought with them about 200 pounds of donations for the children’s hospital.|
home to sell,” said Chelsea. “Let us know on our
if you would like to buy some!”
Visitors to the site can also see more pictures of
their Haitian mission trip.
Click here if you would like
to hear Chelsea’s interview about the Haiti mission with Teresa
Tomeo on Ave Maria radio.
For more information on participating in
a Mission Youth mission to Haiti, or other locations, go