Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith would be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.
-Hillsong United, ‘Oceans’
June has been the month of learning how to trust.
It has been such a pivotal month in my world. Where everything once stood solid, the whole ground shook. There were moments when I felt as if I was trying to get through a metaphorical hurricane in a canoe. You know when everything in your life looks great? Almost too great? It’s those moments that you soak up the most, because life isn’t always like that. It’s not always butterflies and ice cream sundaes. Sometimes, there are great storms to get through. But after the storms come the rainbows. That’s what I had to keep reminding myself on days when it just felt plain brutal to get out bed in the morning and put my feet on the ground.
There were many moments…through all of the uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety (all very human, raw, vulnerable emotions)…where I looked up to the sky and prayed. I prayed that I could let go of all that I was holding on to, all that I could not control, but more deeply that the doubt and utter fear would go away..or that I could learn how to work through it.
I was so exhausted by the last week of June, that quite frankly I wasn’t even sure if I would make the trip to Haiti. Though hiding it from the outside, I felt weak and so lost within, but I knew deep in my heart that I had to go. I had to trust that everything that would be okay, that all would be well. My heart was in a very different place as I traveled to Haiti this time.
God put Haiti on my heart almost two years ago, and this country has been such a gift in my world. I say it now and I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably say it again), those people teach me so much more about living than I ever thought I could know. Yes, they are the third poorest country on the western hemisphere. They have been through trials and tribulations for hundreds…hundreds..of years, but the Haitian people are the most compassionate, caring people. You immediately feel like family when you step into their world. They take care of you, just as you strive to take care of them. They are beautiful. They are wonderful. And I feel so privileged to be able to tell their story through my travels.
It’s always takes a bit of time for me to collect my thoughts after my trips. So many moments need to settle into my mind. They are flying around in a memory whirlwind. I guess I’ll start where you’re supposed to start…at the beginning.
Sasha and I met up at the Baltimore airport…not knowing what was ahead of us. 12+ hours of travel, silly moments, falling in love with sandwiches, making friends with others going to do service in Haiti…by the time we got to Haiti, we were delusional. But so happy.
I was so excited to have the opportunity to show Sasha this country and all of its majestic wonder. We clicked instantly as friends because of our hearts for the world. When the Haiti travel plans began, she quickly jumped on board.
We arrived in Port au Prince, then drove three hours up and down a mountain. The road is winding, and the driver has to lay on the horn around every corner to make sure no one is coming. Sasha described it being like a video game, which is pretty much accurate.
We first went to the ACFFC, the amazing art organization in Haiti that works with underprivelaged youth. We met up with my friend Lisa’s group…she had about 25 people on her trip with the organization Random Acts. It was so great to see the kids…and even more fun that some of them remembered me from the past few trips!
After some time there, we then arrived at Sister Bonites. Sister Bonite is pretty much the Mother Theresa of Jacmel, and we would discover that even more within our one week stay. This 75 year old force-to-be-reckoned-with literally ministers to her people for hours on end. She goes to sleep very late at night because of all of the jobs that she has. People will come to her door at 11pm sometimes, asking for food, and she will give them what she has in her fridge. She also runs a feeding program, lends wedding dresses, owns a church, and soon she’ll be the director of the Children’s Center. I probably left out 3948 other jobs she has.
She welcomed us with open arms and fed us the most spectacular food. I don’t understand it, but there is something about Haitian food. Though they have so little, they always make it taste so rich. The people greet you with smiles. The biggest, most beaming smiles, sometimes a kiss on the cheek and sometimes a hug. They embrace life.
The first few days in Haiti, we were just trying to figure things out. Since this was my first trip without a big group, it was a lot of figuring out what we were going to do for the day, how we were going to get around, etc.
Now…the purpose of this trip was to work on what will soon be the Jacmel Children’s Center Montessori School. The Jacmel Children’s Center is a breathtaking facility. Every time I walk to it, I feel like I’m in a palace. Sister Bonite will be the director, ensuring that each child gets all of the care, nurturing, and love that they need to thrive in life. The Montessori School will be on the second story. Though my expectations were high in getting much done for the school, it just doesn’t work like that. Especially in a country like Haiti. Things take time, and you have to give them that. That’s what I learned in Haiti. Everything takes time. After a few days, we all realized that this project is going to take a bit longer than we had thought, so I’ll keep you posted on how things are going as they develop. Again, there were moments of doubt. Moments of panic. Moments of anxiety. And then I remembered.
I have to trust.
For the remainder of the time that we were there, we helped Sister Bonite work on lists for the Children’s Center and started one for the school. We helped with the feeding program, which is open to 100 children in outlying villages. They come once a day, many of them come to eat the only meal that they will for the day. The meals have become simpler because funding is down, and Sister Bonite has had to cut the program from 200 children to 100.
We also started compiling a sponsorship list. There are children who come to the feedings every day who’s families need help with school payments each year. Sasha and I are working on putting together a website so that those in our community here in the states can help a child in Haiti go to school…for around $100/year, which is a little over $8/month.
We also spent a LOT of time with the kids of the ACFFC. We admired their art, danced with them, witnessed as they made these crazy styrofoam blocks that will make a house, and helped with a clothing/shoe/toy drive. We are also seeing their needs, and are looking for phones that have SIM cards to send down to the ACFFC to give to the kids who live in outlying villages. A lot of times, Vladimir and George (the powerhouses of the ACFFC) need to get in contact with these kids but can’t because they don’t have phones. We are looking for 8-10. They can be simple flip phones or old Nokias.
There’s so much more to tell. Stevens is 3 now and boy, is he 3. He loves cars and he is a CHARACTER. Everyone loves him and he is everyone’s friend. I loved having the opportunity to see him each and every day, to see how healthy and happy he is. He is a miracle (if you don’t know his story, scroll back a few blogs…it will blow your mind!). We taught him a bit of English (he loved the word ‘apple’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’) and snuggled him as much as possible. He’s one I wish I could take on my carry on.
Overall, this trip to Haiti filled my heart (as always). It was bursting at the seams on Sunday when we went to Church service, as the choir and congregation belted out hymns that I could and couldn’t understand. I left another piece of my heart there this time. But I also left so full of joy and of hope.
Who would think that a third world country could make you feel that. That a place so broken could teach you that much. But the Haitian people continue to prove that life is not all about the stuff. It’s not all about the material world or all that’s seen. It’s deeper than that, it’s richer than that, it’s more fun and beautiful than that.
All you have to do is trust. Trust in something bigger.
You called me out upon the waters/the great unknown, my feet my fail/an there i find You in the mystery, in oceans deep my faith will stand/ and i will call upon Your name/and keep my eyes above the rays/when oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace/ for i am Yours, and You are mine.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters/Your sovereign hand will be my guide/My feet my fail and fear surrounds me/but you never fail, and you won’t start now.