During the first week of August, Chad and I were in Haiti on a mission trip with 14 students and 4 other adults with Adventures In Missions. As I've mentioned, it was the most powerful and meaningful week of my life. Because of what God accomplished in, around and through our group, I've been processing and writing my response to those experiences here on my blog. This is response #9 of 9. You may want to start from the beginning if you're just jumping in.
I want to thank you for joining me on this journey in my blog. I hope you have enjoyed the last 8 posts. It has been a joy, really, for me to re-hash the memories, experiences and lessons. I'm so glad I kept a journal while in Haiti, as most of our group did. It's surprising what you can begin to forget even after just a month and a half!
On August 7, the day after we had returned, I spent some time writing a "wrap-up" in my journal. After having the most overwhelming, culturally and spiritually intensive week of my life, there was TONS to process. I know this post will be long, but I want to share the random, raw tidbits I jotted down.
- The main lessons or themes that our group learned throughout the week were 1) God is good 2) Be bold 3) "Remain in My love" 4) Prayer is real 5) God is powerful.
- There was SO much hope in Haiti, despite the fact they having nothing at all. I expected there would be more hope than what we read/heard about in the media, but seeing it physically in front of me and experiencing it first-hand was beyond belief. They are so resilient. They depend more on God than anyone I have ever met—because they have to! That's exactly what Jesus meant when he spoke about the difficulty for the rich to get into Heaven (easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle).
- Their love for each other was deep and real. It was genuine. They cared for each other. As a whole, Americans seem only to care for themselves, worrying about "number one" first and foremost.
- They were like the church you read about in Acts: The Spirit was moving! They seek Him in everything. Healings are common. Because of their active faith, the Devil sees them as a threat—evil is around them attacking—there is clear spiritual warfare. They share their possessions, homes and money rather than feeling entitled to anything or having ownership over anything. If they have two of something, they automatically give one away—you only need one.
- I was inspired by their total dependence on God. There was no other option! They don't hold back. They praise him and ask/pray expectantly. If there's someone with a headache—pray. There isn't medicine as an option to fix it. If you need food—pray.
- America's gods are safety/security & independence. To the extreme. Where is our faith? We believe we can accomplish things on our own and don't need God until we have tried it our own way first and failed.
- Prayer is intended to be an everyday, all day thing. It's real! It works! Seriously live out 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says "pray without ceasing" or "never stop praying".
- JOY was everywhere in Haiti! True joy. You could see it on faces; hear it in voices.
- Age, circumstance, color, and location mean nothing to God. We are all his children and he sees us equally. The fact that we have more "stuff" than Haitians does not make us better than them. God doesn't care about infrastructure, money, or stuff—only the condition of our hearts.
- Listening prayer is VITAL: do it more; don't be intimidated. It's required for seeking and doing God's will. If you don't ask the Creator, how will you know what to do? Where to go? When?
- My complaints are stupid. I'm missing the point! Any time negative flies out of my mouth, I am smearing the reputation of Christ I built up. If I am not for Christ, I am against him. If I wouldn't say it to Jesus' face, than I shouldn't say it.
- Extend grace & treat everyone like brothers and sisters in Christ (because they are). Don't gossip.
- God is a personal God. He loves us individually and knows our needs; feels our pain. Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Deuteronomy 31:6 says, "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you."
- The language difference was rarely a barrier. Sure, it made it difficult sometimes (and occasionally frustrating), but we all quickly learned how to communicate without words. Those connections were powerful. Of course, we did pick up on a tiny amount of Creole :)
- Singing together felt like we were one, united voice. I loved singing the same song in both languages together. Beautiful!
- A normal Haitian conversation usually transitioned into what God was doing in their life or some kind of prayer request. It's too bad we shy away from those topics so often in America for fear of "stepping on someone's toes". Ever think about Jesus' toes? We dishonor Him when we avoid talking about Him. Don't be ashamed of Christ in everyday life! If I shy away and downplay the Gospel, he'll do the same to me. See Matthew 10:33.
- There are a few things I really couldn't understand while in Haiti. It's been a year and a half since the earthquake, yet most sites still look virtually untouched after the destruction. Money and lack of machinery and tools (even shovels and hammers) make this very difficult, but what about general clean-up? It must be so hard for them to be constantly reminded of "what used to be" since the broken structures still remain lived-in and used. Painful memories…
- So many people (all ages/education/abilities) had Scripture close to their hearts and memorized. I need to make that a priority and cling to it!
- I LOVED serving in another country! The perspective gained was life-altering. I'll be praying that God reveals his next plan for me regarding this. I also loved the chance to use my photography and to be a storyteller. I can't wait to do it all again—hopefully in Haiti!
In closing, I want to quickly share another lesson. Gyver, a 14-yr-old preacher who lived with his family in the tent city, spoke to our group one night and was clearly in-tune with God and His voice. Very moving! One of the things Gyver said is still sticking with me and convicting me. He said, "Don't negotiate the Gospel because you choose the gifts of the world." Gyver wasn't being snide or poking at American wealth when he said this to us…he was referring to a challenge for himself, too. He was pondering what "gifts of the world" he was taking advantage of that were "in excess" to living out his faith. Really?? I didn't notice any "gifts" in excess for anyone in Haiti. So what does that mean for us Americans? What gift of the world do I seek? What do I give importance in my life, that inadvertently distracts my efforts to live out (or share) the Good News of Christ?
These are heavy questions. Believe me, they are not easy to consider. Change—in action, thought, routine—isn't usually easy. Yet, knowing what I now know, how can I continue to live the same way I did—choosing not to change? I would be a fool.
I find encouragement from others from our group who have also been responding. They, too, are pondering deep questions and changes to their perspective. Devin, our youth pastor, wrote a really amazing response about "American Christians" on his blog. You should definitely check it out. One of our AIM leaders, Rebecca, has an incredibly inspirational blog that tracks her ministry and life lessons she picks up along the way (several past entries on Haiti). Jenny, another one of our amazing AIM leaders, is beginning to blog as well, as she continues on her unknown journey of ministry to the world. Ask any of our students about their experiences, too. I was so proud of them—they were obedient to God's call in their lives and did some quality ministry in Haiti. Their boldness inspired me.
Going on a mission trip to a third-world country does not make us better than anyone else or more spiritually mature than anyone else. I am truly grateful for this experience that has expanded my world view and my perspective of who God is. It has challenged me deeply. But at the end of the day, we are all seen equally in the eyes of God. We all have equal potential to do great things. The question is, will we choose to?
God bless your journey!