Today may have no significance to you other than the fact that it is the dreaded first day of the workweek… Monday! On the other hand, it may be special to you because it is your birthday or the birthday of a loved one.
To me, it will always be a day that has significance in my life. It is the anniversary of my first meeting with the country I now call HOME!
(I joked this morning on Twitter about how appropriate it is that today is my anniversary with Haiti and I have been sick and running to the toilet all day. I love you too, jerk!)
One year ago, on November 12, 2011, for the first time, my feet stepped on Haitian soil. I am amazed when I consider all the work God did in my life to get me to that day… and it is amazing to look back on the past year and see where He has brought me since that moment.
I had been attempting to physically get to Haiti since the earthquake in January of 2010. It had taken nearly two years to make it happen… two years complete with a broken heart disappointed by trips that had fallen through followed by a joyful heart at finally finding a ministry to travel with in addition to the spontaneous and generous donation of a couple that offered to pay my entire way (read about that miracle HERE).
I set off to Haiti for the first time not knowing a soul that I went with… and came away with family. Part of the frustration of working or living in a third-world country is that when you arrive back home, there are few people that can relate to the new perspective you have. They can try to imagine the poverty and heartache… and you can attempt to explain what you have experienced… but there truly are no words that can take the place of how the Lord touches your heart when you serve him in such a desolate land. It is for this reason that the people I traveled to Haiti with (Brent Gambrell Ministries, led by now-CEO Mike Wilson of myLIFEspeaks) quickly became my family. We shared something that no one else could understand.
Not only did I set off for my first trip to Haiti with no one familiar, I also went with the mindset that God would call me to live there full-time. As I look back on that thought now, I can’t recall why I went with that mindset. I suppose it may have had something to do with having recently read David Platt’s book, Radical, which challenges believers to ‘radically’ follow Christ, which means to give up everything and serve Him selflessly. Moving there at that time wouldn’t have made sense… I was locked into a full-time job for another 9 months, and was dating the man of my dreams and the guy that I was 100% sure I would marry. I went with an open mind and heart, however, for God to show me if He wanted me to live there.
I was quite confused at this answer.
I thought to myself, Lord… I am willing. Do you not want me in Haiti?
The only response I could seem to understand was NOT NOW.
That’s fine… I thought. I couldn’t bear to leave the man I love, anyway.
I’m not sure that even if I had heard from God that He wanted me to move that very day that I even would have listened! I was in love and determined to marry my boyfriend and serve him the rest of my life.
God laughed at that.
6 weeks after returning from Haiti and a couple of devastating phone calls later, I found myself single. Shocked.
Initially, I was more heartbroken than I think I had ever been. I considered the heartache more severe than even when my husband had abandoned me. At least then I had warning. I knew the marriage was horrible and life-draining. But this relationship was the most God-honoring relationship I had ever had. I had grown so much since we had dated. He was the spiritual leader I needed.
After the initial shock and nose-diving into a pit of self-loathing and pity, however, I reached out to my Father to hold me. And He did.
I recall being shocked at how much peace I felt, even with a broken heart.
I knew God was up to something big and that He was whispering promises to me… He was telling me that I could trust Him… that He had plans for me… that He would care for me.
He began a new work in my heart. He had planted a seed of love and compassion for the people of Haiti, and, with other obstacles in my life stripped away, I was able to see what He had planted. The seed had germinated and was beginning to press through the soil into daylight.
He was saying YES to me moving to Haiti.
I could hardly stand the thought without springing to action, so I scheduled a meeting with Mike and Missy Wilson, the Founders of myLIFEspeaks. I had met Mike on my first trip to Haiti and during that trip, had learned about the vision of myLIFEspeaks. Their passions for orphans and children with special needs were the same passions that my heart beats for. They weren’t on the ground yet in Haiti but they were days from stepping forward in faith and making myLIFEspeaks a reality in this desperate land. The evening I met with them, I came straight home and wrote this in my journal:
January 23, 2012
Jesus, I don’t even know where to begin. I am overwhelmed and all I know to do is to run to You. I WANT to run to you. You are my comfort, my source of strength. My source of joy. You make everything make sense! Tonight, as I got home from this very important meeting with myLIFEspeaks, I wanted the first thing I did upon arriving home to be to come talk to you.
I know that you have been orchestrating today a lot longer than I was even aware. But moving to Haiti… WOW. I still can’t believe it. This is my LIFE?!
Jesus, I want EVERYTHING I do to be about YOU. I am not moving to Haiti for me. I am going because I believe without a doubt that it is where You want me.
I don’t understand all the pieces yet, but I trust you. When You gave me such a quiet peace about (boyfriend’s name) and me breaking up, I knew You were up to something. I wanted a marriage with him so badly… what could You have in store that could possibly be better? Now I am understanding. You are SO SO good.
Thank you so much Lord for this opportunity. You are so much bigger than I can even imagine. I know that you love me and have big plans for my life!
Lord, I just ask that you strengthen me during these next 7 months leading up to my departure. I know that gives lots of time for doubts to grow, for adversity to arise, for Satan to scheme.
But I also know it gives me time to grow and prepare. For you to provide resources and to grow in me the courage, bravery, & boldness I need to take on such a challenge…
God, please bless this time and provide the peace I deeply desire about all the details. I know you will provide.
Make me more like you and may people come to know you through this amazing work you’re doing.
I love you so much.
Thank you for always providing all that I need and more.
I was wise in assuming challenges would arise during the time leading up to my moving date of September 1st. I was stuck in a job that I hated, and to make matters worse, I kept getting injured on the job, which contributed to my already-awful feelings of being unappreciated and not living out my purpose. I ignorantly dated guys that were wrong for me, and Satan won as I spiraled into depression (which I wrote about HERE).
I reached a point so low, that the staff of myLIFEspeaks actually reached out to me to make sure that I was spiritually healthy enough to take this huge leap of faith for the Lord. I had needed a wake-up call. Fortunately, I had recently realized my pitiful disposition and had taken some time to just shut out the world and seek the Lord. It was what I needed. I said NO to depression and YES to trusting Him.
Shortly after, I finished the last day of my contract with my job, took a vacation, soaked up as many cuddles from my Golden Retriever as I could, and set out early on September 1st to MOVE to HAITI!
Since moving to Haiti 10 weeks ago, I have experienced more about LIFE than I ever knew possible. There is LIFE that I never knew existed. I have realized that LIFE all over the earth frequently looks more like my surroundings here — hunger, starvation, desperation, disease, struggle, survival — than it does in the United States. We see our surroundings and assume that the rest of the world is similar to what we know.
I have loved on unlovable children. I have performed CPR on a dying child… and lost him. I have seen a village changed through that child’s death – a child once treated like a dog… but buried like a king. I have held newborn babies while their mothers were still recovering from giving birth in a hot shack made of sticks. I have seen mothers repeatedly attempt to give up their babies… and then find courage to keep them. I have seen children abandoned… and adopted by new families. I have seen children beaten but refuse to give up… children who keep smiling. I have seen child slaves laboring in the heat of the day, fearful to even say hello to a kind stranger. I have seen the same children, when away from watching eyes, love fiercely and bravely. I have heard personal testimonies that encourage me that the Lord is moving here through changed minds and hearts. I have personally struggled against physical ailments and heartache… but have experienced more JOY than ever before in my life.
When I first stepped foot on Haitian soil one year ago today, it was a scary moment for me. The horrible smells, the frightening sights, and the fear of the unknown were all challenging. But that first step was just a small moment in a huge new beginning.
Funny, isn’t it… how one moment of courage can change your whole life?
I made a commitment to live in Haiti with myLIFEspeaks for one year. At this point, I can’t imagine leaving even then, but if I do, it means I have 10 weeks down, 42 to go! As illustrated in this blog post, numerous changes can happen in just one year.
I pray that over the course of the next year (assuming the Lord doesn’t take me home before then) my life will not only be changed, but that the lives of countless others will be made completely different as well! My heart aches for people to turn away from their sins and turn toward Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I pray that children will be released from the bondage of slavery. For the handicap to walk. For the deaf to communicate.
I pray for the Lord to make Himself known in the small village of Neply… in the country of Haiti… and in the whole world.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14