Keith Martin, 24, of Bethel Twp., was asked while on a mission trip to Haiti in 2010 when he was working in a medical tent by a little boy, “Are you going to be like everyone else and forget about us?” That question has stayed with Keith who spends most of his time living in a small town on near the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic called Fond Parisien.
Keith’s younger brother, Austin, 22, of Bethel Twp., also spends a majority of his time in Haiti as well.
“Through that whole experience, I knew that’s where I’m supposed to be,” said Keith, who moved back to Haiti in 2011 with the purpose of ministry and personal work.
Austin never thought that he would end up in Haiti, but after visiting his brother in 2011 he too decided that Haiti was where he needed to be.
“I was looking to do some type of ministry,” said Austin. “I went back as a mechanic. They asked in October and I was there in December and committed for six months. Not sure yet what my future is in Haiti.”
Keith teaches English and ministry. He is with his home church River of Life Fellowship in Ohio while Austin is part of International Faith Missions and lives on a compound while Keith has his own place right in town.
“Living in town with everybody is the biggest classroom I’ve ever been in,” said Keith.
“Our purpose is to model Christianity in everyday life,” said Austin. “Keith and I both share that burden in modeling everyday life.”
The brothers are working on establishing an identity in Haiti and taking part in the culture. They want to learn the language and understand the culture which will help them in connecting with the people there and teaching them as well as learning from them. Both Keith and Austin went through training with Equip International where they learned from people with decades of experience in missionary work.
“The training brought me to the point where I see value in living in the community. You can’t work with people if you’re not connecting,” said Keith. Prior to living in Haiti, Keith worked in Reading in a very financially secure job. “The relationships I’ve built are worth more than the W2s I was getting.”
“I know what it’s like to be the foreigner,” said Austin. “I can decipher the good in other cultures. I’m not there to fit my culture into them. What can I learn from here? It’s about stepping into their life.”
Austin explained that language, culture and religion go hand in hand. He used driving as an example. While the way people drive in Haiti may seem scary to Americans, if you understand the culture you can understand the way they drive. That is one area that he catches himself having trouble adjusting to while in the States. Austin catches himself beeping the horn when he comes up to a multiple stop in the road as in Haiti it’s a way of saying “I’m here” rather than the reprimand that it often is here.
The brothers have a dual type of residency for the United States and Haiti because as they explained without residency one cannot own land or a car in Haiti.
Hearing Keith and Austin talk about their work in Haiti, it is obvious that they are where they were meant to be.
“It opens up your mind,” said Austin. “There is a lot of good in what you know, but it opens up the way you look at things.”
“I felt very strongly called by God,” explained Keith. “That’s where he wanted me.”
One of the things that both brothers did emphasize is that you do not have to go international for missionary work or to help a community.
“If you can’t do it domestically, you can’t do it internationally,” said Keith.
Though they are spending some time back home in the United States, both are returning soon to Haiti to continue doing their work that is very important to them and as they had both said, right where they are supposed to be.