We are finally here!! Both me and Courtney wrote a section for this blog. Courtney’s is more interesting so i will put her’s first. Mine just talks a little more about what we are doing here.
Winner and Losers
Today is the 2 week mark for us living in Haiti. It has been 14 days of adjustment with many days of adjusting ahead of us. There have been good days, there have been hard days, and there have been days that have held a mixture of both. Today was physically difficult for me due to some “stomach adjustments”, but nothing too rough. I’m not sure at this point that I’m able to fully articulate what this process and experience has been so far so I’ll write what I can and pray it conveys logic and understanding, but most of all, Christ’s transformative work through our human frailty.
I’ve titled this short blog “winners and losers” because of a Twitter hashtag I’ve recently learned about. Let me preface this by saying, despite being 24 years young, I do not use Twitter, nor would I know how to use it if I had Twitter. With that said, I’m going to write as though all who read this are as Twitter illiterate as I am so to avoid any confusion, and hopefully without offending anyone’s intelligence. Twitter users often use hashtags to further express whatever it is they are Tweeting about. A hashtag is marked by the (#) symbol. For example, if I wanted to Tweet about a sunset I may say “what a beautiful sunset” #beauty. Once you hashtag something that hashtag becomes a link that can be clicked on and others can see how you and other people may have used this hashtag. Get the idea? I’m sure you do, my apologies for being so elementary in my explanation. Anyway, a few days ago a previous GO Fellow, who still lives in Haiti, came to Jumecourt because she was going to give a team we were hosting a tour of the organization she now works for. A group of us were sitting around talking and she was allowing people to ask her questions about life in Haiti, Haitian culture, etc. Amidst the conversation she told us about the Twitter hashtag called #haitiwins. It’s become a joke in the Twitter world and a way for people to share funny (or not-so-funny) stories of how Haiti “beat” them that day. This previous GO Fellow joked that everyday Haiti wins in some way. This is a catchy phrase and the trip team members loved the idea of using it, especially to express funny or hard situations. For example, this particular team was riding in their open taxi truck, which is called a tap-tap, when someone from off the street walked up to their truck and stole a young girl’s iPhone directly out of her hands – tough situation that you can’t really do anything about. Haiti wins. I started thinking about this phrase and Brian and I even found ourselves jokingly using it (the internet is out, we can’t correspond with incoming teams, Haiti wins, etc., etc.). Now allow me to backtrack for a moment.
We had our first team that we led come in this weekend. They were a youth group from Florida so they were a lot of fun and brought great energy. It’s amazing the energy that teams bring and how it completely changes the mood of our compound. The teams generally arrive on Thursday and depart sometime on Monday, so it’s 5 days of going hard. Friday went really well. I loved getting to explain so many things and answer all the team’s questions. I particularly loved getting to play at Laogone with a group of 4 girls who never left my side. We were all exhausted but we returned to the hotel with full hearts. Saturday we got to visit the village that this particular church sponsors and that went well, too. Sunday we took the team back to attend church with the village they sponsor. Pastor Kesnel, who is a wonderful man with a heart for kids and an incredible story, pastors the church. His church shares a compound with the orphanage he oversees so the children who live there are free to roam wherever they please during the service. I was excited for this service because we actually had a translator and could be engaged with the service, which isn’t always the case. As I’m listening to Pastor Kesnel I notice kids appearing around me. One sat with a team member behind me. Then another one came in and sat with another team member behind me. Then one came and sat between Brian and me. Before I knew it, a little boy came and crawled into my lap. I’m usually excited to have the kids approach me, but this day they were being particularly disruptive and kept fighting over trying to steal our pens (this is after a kid had already stolen our pack of gum I had sat on top of my Bible). The little boy in my lap was even more so disruptive for me because he was still being potty trained, which means that he doesn’t wear any pants or underwear so as not to soil what few clothes he has. This pantsless wiggleworm picked already annoyed me out of the crowd and turned monkey as he endeavored to climb on me anyway he could. After numerous attempts to have him sit on the wooden bench beside me I finally gave up after realizing that his determination to be held and loved by me was greater than my determination to cease my discomfort. Even more annoyed and now no longer able to focus on anything besides not having him urinate on me, I began to pray. Want to know what I prayed? Did I pray for this sweet boy’s salvation or that he would fall in love with Christ? Nope. Did I pray that he would find family in the other children he lived with and within the church in his village? Nope. Surely I prayed for God to bless him and allow him to grow beyond the age of 5 (more than 10% of Haitian children die before age 5). Nope. Instead, I prayed for myself. I was hot, annoyed, hungry, uncomfortable, and ready for the 3-hour service to be over. I recognized how uncomfortable I was and had to ask for forgiveness. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be in air conditioning and eating a delicious home-cooked meal after the service. Sunday, I was tired and just not “feeling it”.
After the service when we returned to the hotel I went and hid in my room. I was done. Cooked. And this was just week 2. In my quiet and alone moments I got real honest with God and told Him what was really bothering me. I missed comfort. I missed being able to eat 3 meals a day. I missed cereal (yes, cereal). I missed my family. I missed reliable electricity. I missed hot showers (ok, I REALLY miss hot showers). I missed being clean. I missed not smelling burning trash all day. And the list keeps going. Lying on my bed with my eyes burning hot from tears I was trying to fight back, I thought it…Haiti wins. “Today”, I thought, “Haiti wins.” Brian recognized that something was bothering me and came to see if I was ok (thank goodness God asked me to do this as a wife to Brian and not as a single American girl!). As I was processing all my thoughts with Brian I could hear God whisper, “Haiti doesn’t win. I win. And I’ll win everyday if you choose to let Me.” After Brian and I prayed together we rejoined the team and the rest of the day was really enjoyable, but I didn’t forget what God had said.
The next morning we dropped the team off early at the airport and made our way back to Jumecourt. Since it was so early, the few people left on the bus slept on the way back, which gave me time to be alone with God as we drove through Port-au-Prince and Croix des Bouquets. I looked out our bus window and watched Haiti pass me by. From crippled-looking cinder block buildings to tin sheds to tents, I took in all the homes we passed and considered the people who lived in them. I considered the trip goers we had just dropped off and all the future trip goers we will encounter. Then I considered some scripture God had given me over the weekend. I’m in the process of reading through 2 Corinthians and I can’t believe how good God is to give me such an encouraging book on what genuine ministry should look like.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart…For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ…So we do not lost heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
(2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-6, 16)
“Having this ministry by the mercy of God…” Paul recognized that he was able to live out ministry only by the grace of God. He recognized the gift, though at times tiring, that is ministry. I’ve read and re-read those first few chapters of 2 Corinthians several times now. Letting God’s Word pour over me and spending time talking with God has provided more comfort than any of those other comforts I was missing so much. Granted, I still miss my family and am daily frustrated with not being able to frequently talk with them because of our internet. But what God is teaching me in these first few weeks is that, if we allow it, Haiti (aka circumstances and situations) will beat us, which producers losers. When we allow things outside of our control to disrupt our day and sideline us, we lose. Whether we’re wearing the jersey or not, we lose by riding the bench. God asks us to be in the game. He asks us to surrender all – not some, not half, not most, not even 99% – all . All of our selves, all of our circumstances, all of our problems, all of our victories, all of our worries…everything. “And He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).
My prayer for this next season (and I earnestly ask that you would join me in this prayer) is that my life would be poured out for those coming to Haiti. While it is the beautiful orphan children who brought me here, I am learning that it is the trip goers who will be my ministry. I pray that when they see Brian and me they wouldn’t praise us for our “radical obedience and faith” (which has already happened), but that they would see our hearts and see that our hearts are after a God who radically transforms everyone who meets Him. I pray that we would continue to remember that Haiti doesn’t have to win, but that everyday we get to choose to allow God to enter into our circumstances and claim the victory for us. I pray that we would have an eternal perspective and that we would be about helping trip goers navigate the soul stripping and pride breaking that happens when you come here. I pray that each person who comes here would meet God and would encounter His transformative power. I pray that revival would begin in the local church and that trip goers would be a catalyst for this revival. Mostly, I pray that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, [would be] transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Amen.
I realized that some of you might not really know what we do in Haiti. Courtney and I are the “Go fellow’s”. I know it’s a strange name. We live at Jumecourt Inn which is a hotel that serves as the base of operations for Global orphan project. Our primary responsibility is to lead private “vision” trips that come to Haiti (this is what we took our Shelterwood kids on). A vision trip is generally five days. The team will land sometime on Thursday and then they will leave sometime on Monday. On Friday and Saturday the team will travel by bus to visit the various villages (place where the orphans live) that Global Orphan partners with. Then on Sunday we take them to a Haitian church service in the morning and then a village in the afternoon. They don’t build anything, they just get a chance to experience Haiti in all of its beauty and all of its brokenness. The motto of Global Orphan is “Transforming lives through orphan care” and this really is the purpose of these trips. It was difficult to understand before I went on my first trip back in 2011. I remember someone explaining the trip to me and I think in my head I said “Wow that’s kind of stupid, and so we don’t DO anything? We just play with kids?”. And more or less the answers is yes. As you have already heard God used the two trips to Haiti to do incredible things in the lives of our students at Shelterwood. Anyway back to what we do. We help to lead these vision trips. We communicate with the teams before they come down, figuring out which villages they would like to visit and what other things they would like to do. Then once we get a schedule lined up we type it into a document that says where we are going on each day. Then we have a trips meeting with our Haiti field director Mike Rounbehler and Bertrand the hotel manager and Charmelle who also is responsible for making room assignments and knowing how much food to have ready etc. We work out all of the logistics for the trips, for example “Ok Friday we are going to Laogone, so we will take the 28 passenger bus, Jonny will be the driver, Odines will be the translator, and Kenson will be body guard. And we work out which Haitian staff goes where on what day and make sure we have enough room in the vehicles. We also work out a cash request form for any cash money we might need which for the vision trips in Port au Prince are pretty easy. All we use is 500 gourde(about $11.5) for airport parking and then keep emergency cash on us. Finally we call or email all of the villages and the church that we will be visiting to let them know we are coming on that day (unless the pastor does not speak English in which case we ask the translators to call). Quick side note there are three different regions that vision trips can visit. Vision trips that want to see Port Au Prince stay at Jumecourt Inn which is the hotel owned by Global orphan, and they visit any of the 5 villages in the port au prince region (Laogone, Hinch, Ebenezer, Calix, Source de la Grace). There is also a northern tour where the team will drive to Gonaives and stay in the hotel and visit villages that global sponsors in the northern region of Haiti. And then same idea in the southern region with teams basing out of Les Cayes. I have only done the port Au Prince tour.
That is all of the pre trip work that we do. Then there is work that we do while the team is here. That starts with picking the team up from the airport. Jumecourt Inn is in Croix Des Bouquetes only 15 miles east of the international airport and you take national highway 2 (Route de Malpas) pretty much the whole way. In America this would be a 10-15 min drive going highway speeds but it can take anwhere from 45 mins to 2 hours.