There was a moment in Haiti when I stuck my head out the window with the window down. My hair was whipping madly in the warm wind and I wondered to myself:
“How did I end up HERE?”
Of all the places in the world, I was in depths of the Haitian mountains.
Seven years ago, I thought to myself, “I would never go on a mission trip; those are only for the crazy Christians.”
Oh how God has a good sense of humor. 6 mission trips later, I am sitting here in wonder.
I am in awe of how God fabricated a story for my life that I never would have written for myself had I not surrendered the pen. If it had been up to me, I can guarantee you that I never would have written myself into the story of God’s plan for Haiti. I would have seen such a thing as too dangerous and too much.
But thankfully, God is a much better writer than we are. History is HIS story after all, right?
So God brought me to Haiti.
I looked around and found myself in a country that American media had told me was a land of complete devastation; a land of disease, destruction and hopelessness.
But Haiti is a widely misunderstood country.
When I stepped off the plane, I didn’t see devastating statistics. I saw people.
I saw vibrant and joyful life. I saw children laughing, people praying, and yummy food being prepared. I saw personalities. I listened to stories of dreams for the future. I looked into the eyes of children and saw HOPE. I talked to 20 year olds no different from me other than their birth place. We were the same at heart. And if we are all the same at heart, would it not make sense that we all need the same God to fill them?
And yes, I saw brokenness. I saw need. I saw poverty. But that’s why God sends His people: to say, “I haven’t forgotten about you. I am here to help.”
See, people down mission trips because they believe that all the money raised to get there should simply be donated straight to the people. Why actually go?
But that leads me to my first valuable lesson God taught me in Haiti:
- // Often the message you send to God’s people by simply COMING is far greater than we could ever imagine. //
“Your presence here means a lot to us. How beautiful is it when the brothers and sisters of God gather together. We are far apart but of one God, and therefore the same heart,” said a Haitian community leader.
I think in America we underestimate the value of presence and overestimate the value of productivity.
Is it truly productive to build a school, but neglect to form relationships with whom you are building the school for? Perhaps the kind of productivity we should be most concerned with is that of hearts, not projects.
See, when your country has been ravaged by hurricanes and rattled by earth quakes, it’s easy to feel helpless and forgotten. In fact, it’s easy to think during any hard situation, even those in the United States, that God has forgotten you.
One day I had a conversation with two Haitian artisans near our work site. We had been talking a while when one of them, Eli, said something that really struck me. He had been very joyful and positive up to this point. But suddenly, his voice grew rather somber.
He said, “You are a very intelligent student. We’d love for you to come back. Don’t forget us here.” He then said it again: “Don’t forget.”
See, when no one COMES to help, it’s easy to believe that no one WANTS to help. And if no one wants to help, you end up thinking that God Himself doesn’t want to help. So when someone DOES come, their presence means so much more than a simple check from miles away.
This is why mission trips are so important.
And while I certainly believe donating money to help people is fantastic, I don’t think ONLY donating to those who are hurting is good. GOING, if you are willing and able, is what impacts people the most. This is why I am so incredibly thankful to my donors who ENABLED my willing self to go on this trip. The support helped me do what I believe Jesus would do.
Remember that Jesus did not simply donate a check to the cause of humanity; He donated His LIFE. He CAME to earth to help us fix our messes. He didn’t have to do that.
For example, which means more to you in the long run: a check to pay for your hospital bills or that PLUS someone driving miles and miles to see you in person? People are worth far more than dollar bills when the going gets tough. EVERY time.
So I learned that COMING is a powerful thing. Our presence served as a great declaration that YES, God cares about their tiny mountain village in Haiti. What a wild thought.
The second thing I learned is actually the reason behind the first lesson:
- // Reckless love is the root of restoration. //
After trekking through the depths of the mountains on foot to get to the village, I felt I was living the song “Reckless Love” by Bethel Music quite literally. The lyrics I felt the most were as follows:
“There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me”
That mountain part hit home.
So why does God conquer mountains to COME to His people? Out of a deep LOVE for them. But He doesn’t just want to come, He wants to RESTORE.
After all, that’s why He sent Jesus in the first place. And now with His Spirit within us, He sends us to do the same. He sends us to love people recklessly to the point that they find restoration through Christ.
That’s why Haiti is a parallel to the whole world. We all struggle with our own personal hurricanes and earth quakes that threaten to define who we are. We are all in need of some kind of reckless love to come and find us in the dark. We need something to restore our hearts. Like Haiti, the brokenness in our lives is often terribly mounting. We need restoration from a pure source. We need a Savior.
I wrote this in my notes about what this restoration looks like after a day of work:
“America typically devalues the power of prayer & face to face slow communication. We like efficiency. We like tangible product. But God likes a timely process. That’s how restoration happens anyway, right? God also told me this:
His glorification is most found in the restoration. In the waiting. Restoration takes faith, prayer, patience, & a position of oneself in His Spirit. Seeking after God for restoration because we realize it’s far too much to take on ourselves. The restoration of Haiti is this way. The restoration of the WORLD to God is this way.
Haiti is just a microcosm if the whole earth. It shows signs of green life, but at its core it’s dry & in need of water. It has been shaken by earth quakes & hurricanes so much that the physical world has become a source of pain & exhaustion…of heart break & devastation…of death. And yet, there are still signs of life, of hope. There is no strength to be found in circumstances here. Yet the beautiful ocean roars & the birds fly across the sky. God’s fingerprints are all around. But we often choose to neglect them. We ignore the evidence of our Creator on a daily basis. We look at our broken earthquake ravaged mess instead.
We fix our eyes not on His beauty & grace, but on our own relentless worldly chase. Yet we all will return to the ground. So why spend so much time looking at it?? Look UP child!!! God is found right where you are. Look to Heaven, not barren earth for your soul’s satisfaction. Look to Your Father for love, not a dying land. A land that wreaks of heart break & war. Look to God instead. He made You. We left Him but He still wants us. He loved us enough to let us choose what to do with our lives. But it broke His heart to see us go & pick sin over Him. Out of His great love He made a way for our sinful selves to return. He sent Jesus. Into our mess. Right in the eye of our internal & external hurricanes….a rescue mission like no other. A grand plan for RESTORATION. To restore our current lives here IN Him. & to restore our future eternities WITH Him.
What a story. What a people we are. Determined to leave God, but yet also destined to be restored in Him. That’s grace. God’s grand unmerited heart chase.
Hiking up mountains for hours in Haiti to get to villages most people have never heard of….deep in the wild undergrowth of the jungle…taught me a bit about what this chase looks like. God will go to EVERY measure to pursue the hearts of His people. He spares no effort. As I learned on this trip, the journey to our hearts is WORTH IT. Oh the beauty of saying “Jesus loves you” (in creole) to a little girl’s sparkling eyes after miles of a trek to get to her community is unparalleled. The sacrifice is always worth the heart impact. Every time.
How can we love any other way? Is love not sacrifice?
// Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. // John 15:13 //
He tells us to do the same.
Right where we live.”
This idea of universally needed love leads me to my next lesson:
- // Love is the most relatable thing in the world. //
Having now gone on 6 mission trips from Africa to Asia, I’ve found that there is only ONE thing that is the exact SAME in every culture.
No matter the language, the prominent religions, or the way people spend their time, LOVE is at the base of it all. Everyone craves it. Everyone wants to share it with others in some way….whether that be through family, friends or romance. Just turn on your television and you’ll notice it.
And if LOVE is the common theme that binds us all, would it not make sense that this same desire for love is also a desire for the One who created it? The One who DEFINES it? The ONE who IS love?
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. // 1 John 2:8 //
There’s not many people on this earth, regardless of beliefs, that would say love is a bad thing. It’s the one thing most of us can agree is good in the world.
And if we can all agree that we need love, and God IS love….it would only make sense then that what we are actually desiring all around the world is God Himself.
But lastly, I learned:
- // No one wants to give up on Haiti; not God, nor His people there. //
Now you would think in a country as broken & helpless as this that they would all just want to leave.
But I wrote this in my notes:
“My friend Eli spoke of how he struggled to pay for school using his art skills to sell paintings in the market. Another friend lamented briefly about the corrupt government. Yet when I asked him if he liked it in Haiti, he said he LOVED it. His entire face lit up and his mouth broke into a smile. He said he loved the views of the ocean and the mountains. You could tell he just loved everything about it. We shared a moment of taking in the beauty. The people are truly so hopeful & joyful here. So the message overall was clear: while they are very much aware of the brokenness in their country, that hasn’t made them want to give up on it.
They LOVE where they live. They want to make it better. They want to rise up. And as they told me in a rather somber voice, they don’t want to be forgotten. They want the world’s help. They welcome it. I saw that in the way they welcomed us…with open arms & kind smiles from all the people we met…one “bonjou” in creole at a time. We made friendships while partnering with the community to make the school’s floor. Differences were trumped by hard work & good laughter. We taught one another our languages through a series of wild pointing games.
Eli also even spoke of a greater vision for himself: becoming a doctor. No matter how broken & seemingly hopeless a situation is, people around the world set their eyes on hope. They see a better future. Always. I believe God put this desire in us…this tendency to always look forward to bigger & better things despite our messes.
And it only makes sense then that only Jesus can fully satisfy that hope in a way that never disappoints. When He is takes the place of ALL our hope, ANYTHING is possible. Our hope can be CATALYZED. A person or a job or a dream will never be enough to be all of what our hope is based on. Only Jesus can do that. He takes us by the hand & leads us out to the impossible. To the green pastures we didn’t know existed in our own hope. That’s the thing about hope: when we keep it contained in our own mind and don’t let Jesus take it, it stays stagnant and small. However, when we believe in Jesus and make him our WHOLE hope, all of our other hopes fall in comparison. We discover that His hopes for our lives are far greater than anything we could have thought up ourselves.”
So now we have come full circle. God always writes a better story than we could think of for ourselves. He writes stories of redemption, peace, fullness and restoration.
& He wrote me into Haiti’s restoration story. What a beautifully creative and unpredictable God we serve. I am incredibly thankful to anyone who donated or prayed to make this trip happen. My heart is FULL & grateful for your support in any way.