Lora Brunner, of River Valley Community Church, plays with children from from Grace Orphanage. (Submitted photo)
Lora Brunner, of River

Valley Community Church, plays with children from from Grace Orphanage. (Submitted photo)
Samantha Watkins never liked traveling very far away from her home in Hanover, and she never thought of herself as someone who would go to a foreign country on a missions trip.

Watkins barely liked going to downtown Madison because of the "big city" atmosphere - and the alleys. She thought traveling abroad would be dangerous and something bad might happen while she was gone.

In fact, the only reason she went on a trip to Haiti last summer was to make sure her friend would make it back home.

That trip changed Watkins' outlook on a lot of things.

"It was life changing," she said. "It was like the light came on for me."

Watkins described a total change in her attitude - a change even others have noticed, she said - and she doesn't mind venturing away from home as much now.

After returning home, Watkins shared her experiences with her church family at River Valley Community Church. She even surprised herself by admitting after the missions trip that she wanted to return to Haiti some day.

Within the year, Watkins had another opportunity to travel to Haiti. This time, two other members of River Valley Community Church - Cheryl Scroggins and Lora Brunner - went on the week-long trip from Feb. 19-26 after hearing Watkins' presentation last year.

Scroggins had decided after Watkins' missions trip presentation that when and if the opportunity arose, she'd like to go help and do what she could.

"I've always felt like I've had a calling," Scroggins said of the missions field.

She had been on a mission trip as a teenager to Mexico and shorter mission trips in the country, yet this trip was different.

"They just love you beyond," Scroggins said of the people she met during the trip.

Lora Brunner didn't really give much thought to going on the February trip to Haiti. She had helped Watkins and Scroggins prepare and pack for their trip, but she wasn't planning to go.

Yet 10 days before the trip, she decided to join the group after being encouraged to go by her church family.

With passports in hand, the three travelers left the United States bound for Haiti. The group also took seven 50-pound bags of donated supplies - including clothes, shoes and other items - with them.

Watkins, Scroggins and Brunner stayed at Kaliko Beach near Port-au-Prince, but each day of the trip was spent venturing to an orphanage or village with 17 others as part of Mission of Hope: Haiti to visit with children in mission orphanages, help tear down old buildings or paint new bookshelves used in schools.

The group saw the beauty of the island - and the poverty - during their travels to the different locations each day by bus. Their stay at Kaliko Beach offered views of the beach and the beautiful landscape of the country. But just a few miles away were homes consisting of dirt floors and tarps or blankets over wires and ropes for roofs.

Several of the houses had holes in them, and most of the homes weren't large enough for the family that was living inside.

"When I was a kid, I played house like that," Brunner said. "That's how I played, but that's how they live."

Still, each person the group met and visited with was welcoming and giving of whatever they could, Watkins said.

"You can give to Haiti," she said, "But you can never give as much as Haiti gives back."

Each mission team with Mission of Hope: Haiti has a theme for the week spent in the country. The group's theme was "More Than Enough."

Time and time again, the group saw several instances where they did have more than enough to help with the needs in Haiti.

"Our church gave more than enough," Brunner said.

All of the funding allocated for the trip needed to be used while they were in the country to provide for their stay and for additional items for the people they met along the way. Yet, at one point, the group wasn't sure if they'd be able to find enough ways to spend the funds.

"It was a great problem to have," Watkins said.

In addition to monetary donations for the trip, the church also provided clothing and additional items that the women took to a Haitian orphanage sponsored by Mission of Hope: Haiti. Watkins, Scroggins and Brunner had shopped for 20 girls who live in the mission's orphanage prior to the trip.

The women had names and ages to purchase dresses, sandals, shorts, shirts and other items for each girl, yet being able to put a name to a face when delivering the items remained with each of the three Americans even after returning from the trip.

"They're imprinted on your heart," Brunner said.

The group also took other items to provide for needs of other residents of the areas they visited. Scroggins always packed extra items in her bag during travels just in case the group would come across someone they could help.

During one of their outings, the group saw a little boy without any clothes. Scroggins had packed three pair of underwear for children that morning, and offered the article of clothing to the little boy.

The group also saw two little girls without clothing and was able to provide for them. Yet when the group saw another little girl without clothes, Scroggins worried that she wouldn't have enough.

At the bottom of her bag, she found two pair of underwear that she hadn't put in there that morning. She saw it as yet another way the Lord had provided "more than enough" throughout the week.

Watkins agreed.

"It was more than enough the whole trip," she said.

All three women described their trip as a life-changing experience, and one they aren't likely to forget. They say they're already looking forward to the next missions trip.

Even though she was once hesitant to go far from home, Watkins said she's ready to serve wherever the Lord may send her after traveling to Haiti twice so far - even if that may be some other foreign country.

"Every time I go somewhere, I heal just a little bit more. I want to be that healed person that heals people," she said. "You feel so complete when you're in the mission field."