This trip was two fold for me. I was there to help with the eye team, but I was also there to get a feel for the mission, it's staff, and help Stephen where I could. First of all, the staff at the mission was absolutely amazing! I made a point to talk to each of them, and get the "story" of how they came to be at the mission. It was awesome to hear how God has worked in each of their lives to get them to this point. Most of them had their lives planned out. I'm sure I will be corrected on some of these stories, but there is a purpose in telling them. Dustin was planning on moving up in the soccer world. From what I was told, he had awesome scholarships, but God had a different plan. Caitlin came down for what was supposed to be a short term stay after college, but God had a different plan. The Jernigan's were planning on being missionaries, but their plan involved cold weather....God had a different plan. These are a few of the stories from the staff, but one thing that has connected all of us, is that God has had a different plan. All it has taken for them is a bold step in faith. And something I'm sure Stephen will be happy to hear, is that this is a step that we are still planning on taking in a couple of years.
As with any trip out of the country, I have to say that my guard was up. What I told Connie (one of the women on the trip) was that the living conditions didn't surprise me. I don't know if it was because we had seen it so much on the news, or if it was because I had my guard up. What I saw on my first day was trash throughout the city, half naked children, 1 room homes made of mortar and tin, meat being sold on the street in the open air, roads that could, at best, be described as loose cobblestone, and water that we wouldn't give to our pets in the States. There are so many pictures that I could post here, but a better way to get an idea of what I'm talking about is going here: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A859UlCqLGa8i . In hindsight, in my mind, I was going on this trip to figure out what my concerns were about the mission. Don't get me wrong, I was open to what God was showing me, but I was coming at it with a negative context. What I had been told was, "go down and figure out what you can't live without." I think having that in my mind probably made things worse for me. It gave me a jaded vision of the mission. This type of view doesn't include God in the picture. It puts limits on Him providing for our true needs. Stephen gave a wonderful testimony about how God has opened their eyes to what they can live without.
I want to share with all of you what I am struggling with personally about Haiti, but also the wonderful encouragement that I have. I want to share my struggles first because the encouraging part of this story is definitely how this post needs to end. The biggest thing that I had to come to grips with, after I returned, was figuring out how to move to a country where people have nothing, and preach that God will take care of them. I had never been faced with such poverty. Last night, in small group, we talked a little bit about this. Here's a quote from last night's study:
"Perhaps the greatest tragedy is when these problems (referring to disease, disaster, death, such as AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, war, etc) remain distant. Only numbers, not names. Just facts, not faces. But when we take a good, long look into their eyes, instead of looking away, we move past the stats and stories and become a part of the solution." -Max Lucado (Outlive Your Life)
The faces of poverty in this world were definitely put before me. The other big issue that keeps coming up is the safety of my children. I have no doubts that they will be safe within the mission walls, and that as we start our journey there, I will be more comfortable with my surroundings. But as a father that has been afforded a comfortable assurance of safety in America, I am having a hard time growing in faith in this area. I definitely need everyone's prayers here. There are many other challenges ahead of us, but these are the two issues at the top of my list.
Now on to the encouragement that I received. As I stated above, the staff at the mission is amazing! I had concerns that there would be issues with all of the families living in close quarters with each other. Those fears were put to rest when I met, talked to, and was able to interact with everyone. Their hearts are all in the right place, and even though I'm sure there are times where there is drama within the staff collectively, they pull through because of their faith in God, and being very open and honest with each other.
The most amazing thing during my trip was something that actually had me downhearted at first. I shared this in my other blog, but when I was praying with patients before their exams, I would ask what they wanted me to pray for. What shocked me so many times was hearing people answer back with, "God is in control." At first, I didn't think that this was an answer to my question, and didn't really think about it more until I came home. This was so much more of an answer than what I was expecting. As Americans, we have a tendency to put our faith in being comfortable. We say, "God, as long as I am comfortable, I will have faith in you," or, "God, please bless me with these material things." How much greater faith does it take to say that "God is in control" when life isn't comfortable? It's a faith that looks beyond what this world says we should have, and realizes that God is STILL good even when the comforts of this world are not available or present. I was downhearted, at first, because I was seeing things through an American's eyes, and not the eyes of a child of God. Once I changed the glasses I was looking through, God's goodness became very apparent and amazing! The only thing different between the Haitians and us, is that they haven't placed as much junk between themselves and God as we do as Americans. They have struggles of their own with their faith, but oh what it would be like to do away with all of the junk...and, in our case, be willing to do so.
God has big plans, and we are excited to be a part of them!