I really can't believe how quickly it went and yet how strange my normal life feels after a week in a third world country. I have a lot to process, and know it will take me time to sift through everything swimming in my heart and mind. And I pray that it won't stop there; I pray that this trip and the things the Lord has shown and will show me will be folded into the fabric of who he is creating me to be. I still think of Brazil often, and pray Haiti stays as well. In the meantime, I thought I'd go ahead and get my processing started. I'm allowing my stream of conciousness to flow out of me, so this may seem disjointed. But I'm going with it.
The title of this blog means "thank you God." It was a phrase heard often on the Mission of Hope campus and among Haitians throughout the week. And it is certainly the theme of the week. (Side note: I encourage you to look on Mission of Hope's site to learn more about what they do; they certainly explain better than I can. And maybe watch some of the videos in Orphan Care and Education...we met the featured kids and many of the others in the video! So fun)
I spent most of my time with Haitian kids, which was an enormous blessing and yet so challenging. Never before have I seen the level of poverty and hunger as I saw in Haiti. Yet never before have I seen joy amidst those types of circumstances. Mission of Hope is solely focused on bringing life transformation in Haiti through the power of Jesus Christ. Read their vision here. Not the same as hearing it live as we did, but I hope it still gives you a picture of their purpose and goal.
Our students were rockstars this week. They didn't complain or avoid kids even if they were naked (quite common) or dirty or sick, and they served with their whole hearts, in spite of what may have been asked of them or how menial the task. They challenged and encouraged me with their faithfulness to serving the Lord! It is a blessing to be a part of this ministry.
For me, I was never tempted to complain about the conditions. Regardless of how hot, smelly, weird, or hard. Don't get me wrong, I sadly complain in America too frequently, but when you're surrounded by such poverty, a little sweat seems very meaningless. And for some reason it seems easier to face the challenges as I knew they were opportunities to learn about God's people and his character. This is something I'm working on carrying over into my normal life here at home as I believe this mentality should not be exclusive to international service! I think it's much harder to serve without complaining at home, though, so this will be a daily act of dying to myself.
Another thing I'm working on is fully rooting my identity in Christ. For most of my life, I have felt unvaluable and easily forgotten. I'm not really sure where this stems from, except that perhaps it's just folded into me. Anyway, one of my dear friends was also a leader on this trip and she has a contagiously fun personality. I was tempted on many occasions to believe that, because students were drawn to her (who wouldn't be, she's fun!), it meant I was irrelevant and unimportant. There were other circumstances that further excentuated this, such as my group was staying in a place apart from the rest of the team which made bonding more challenging, and feeling separated from other leaders.
One day while serving in a village (in my next post I'll explain more about what we did each day :)), I was surveying the ramshackle living conditions of it's inhabitants. Many of it's children went without shoes and clothes, the "streets" were muddy, there was a stench from the outhouses and the skin-and-bones livestock, and many adults had a slightly pained look on their faces as they worked. As I looked around, I thought about how the poor are often blamed for their situation and how many people think they are unvaluable. Yet they did not choose to be born Haitian, poor, and hungry no more than I chose to be born a middle class American. God placed them there as he placed me here. And God does not mess up.
I am no better than the poorest of the poor in this world. And I am no worse. We are all broken in spirit through sin. We are all God's children who he gave his Son to restore that broken relationship, if we would only accept the gift of grace and follow after him. I thought, these Haitians are valuable because God says they are. And again, he doesn't mess up. And I love them because he first loved them.
A few days later as I battled my own feelings of being invaluable, the Lord sweetly and gently laid a question on my heart: how could I so easily see the value and importance of these Haitians and yet refuse to see or accept it in myself?
This is a question I will likely wrestle with for a while, and thought at church yesterday I may seek-out a specific female-focused study on identity to really dig into this truth intentionally. I want to believe I am valuable in Christ. Not to be prideful, but to grow closer to him and be more free to love and serve others in Christ.
Merci Seigneur for the truths you are teaching me now and the ones to come. Merci for allowing me to meet your people, to serve and love them. I pray I will be able to see them again on this earth. Merci Seigneur.
Next up, well, maybe what we did each day. Unless the wind blows me in another direction. :) Thank you for your prayers and support. I pray my updates and learnings draw you closer to Christ.