As a group of Wellington missionaries arrive at an orphanage in Haiti, the reason for their 2,000 mile trip becomes evident.
"When we first got there -- as soon we pulled up -- there were kids all around us, swarming us," said Quentin Newlin, a Wellington High School sophomore. "They wanted us to pick them up, hold them, and carry them around."
A group from the Wellington Free Will Baptist Church raised money for this Christmas pilgrimage -- a trip to help several orphanages around the impoverished capital city of Haiti.
While most teenagers were spending time with their families this past winter break, these teens were experiencing the holidays on a hot, unfamiliar terrain.
"I really just wanted to change a kid's life," said Jace Bruns, also a sophomore at Wellington High. "I felt like I needed to go there for me. I was going through a tough time, and I just realized this was just a great opportunity. Maybe I just needed to put a smile on someone else's face."
Ravaged by an earthquake in 2010, Haitians are still recovering. The drinking water is unsafe, trash lines the streets. People still live in make-shift shelters – living day to day.
"It wasn't uncommon to see people using the street as a bathroom," said Newlin.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake left 316,000 dead, 300,000 injured and more than one million Haitians homeless … many of them children.
Outsiders have come to help, but their presence is unsettling to many natives. The people of downtown Port-au-Prince are hesitant to trust outsiders.
"They looked like they didn't want us there. You could see it on their faces, 'Why are you here? What's your purpose?'" said Bruns.
An interpreter and two armored bodyguards take the group from orphanage to orphanage, where the foreign faces are more accepted.
The mission of the missionaries is to provide these lost children of Haiti with something unique – Christmas.
"When the interpreter said, 'We have some Christmas gifts for you,' the kids were jumping up and down, smiling like crazy. They were just so happy. The expressions on their faces were priceless, said Newlin.
Gift bags and dresses are given to the boys and girls. Their smiles speak an international language of gratitude.
But the orphans gave these Wellington youth a present they'll never forget.
"I learned to hold what I have close. Other kids out there don't have as much as I have. I learned to respect what I have and to enjoy what I have," said Bruns. "I didn't want to leave. The kids really touched my heart, I just didn't want to leave them."
Quentin's mother Cristy has seen a change in her son and others.
"They say, 'I've taken so much for granted. I will never be the same.' Quentin has grown up so much in such a short time."
A testament to his maturity lies in Quentin's socks.
He returned on his flight back without them, bearing a pair of flip flops to the cold Wichita winter.
He didn't forget to pack them. He gave them to a child in Haiti. Newlin came to the island on a mission, and found something unexpected.
"I came to bless the children of Haiti – in the end – they blessed me."