I've been back from Haiti for 11 days and for 11 days I've tried to write this blog post, but I can't seem to find the right words to illustrate what God has done in my heart. I guess it's impossible to accurately describe the scope of wholeness that His love brings to my life this side of Heaven. His love saturates my soul; there isn't a blog post long enough to tell you how worthy that fact makes me feel. How I can go to a country torn apart by poverty and corruption and come back feeling more admired by Jesus than before I left, but also, more devastated for the hard places I stepped in to; I just don't understand. Feeling beloved and defeated at the same time do not belong together. Thankfully, Jesus mends that defeat. I just pray that the freedom I feel resting in Him someway, somehow transmitted itself to the people I interacted with and value so much while I was in Haiti.
If I had to choose two words to describe my time in Haiti they would have to be: HOSPITALITY and FREEDOM.
I've traveled to Haiti four times and I have never not experienced hospitality. Haitians value hospitality and being hospitable, as well as, the organizations I've worked with. The concept of hospitality seems simple, unfortunately, the simple things in life are not always easy. However, God gives us plenty examples for how we can practice hospitality in our lives. In 1 Peter, we learn that we should be cheerful while being hospitable. 1 Peter 4:9-11 says, "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies --- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." We see in the book of Matthew that Christians should take care of those in need by showing hospitality (Matthew 25:34-40) and Romans 12:13 clearly says, "Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
You see, it sounds simple really. But, with the flashy distractions of the world, showing hospitality can seem daunting, unmanageable, unsafe, and even hidden. However, providing a hospitable environment doesn't have to be showy or extravagant like the world would like to lead us to think...no, simply inviting someone over for dinner or to your home or lending your time to sit and listen to someone's stories is what makes others feel worthy and welcomed. The beautiful thing that God does is with every act of hospitality, He tears down a flashy wall of distraction from our heart. Eventually, we will see that the effect of showing hospitality is carrying a humble heart.
Psalm 25:9 " He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."
While in Haiti I served with i'mME, an organization with a mission to end the orphan cycle with the empowering structure of family through care, prevention, and stewardship. To say I felt welcomed, loved, and worthy while serving with and sleeping under the roof of i'mME is a gigantic understatement. Every word they speak, every act they make, and every effort they give is done with prayerful intention. I felt at home when I served with them in Haiti and that is a big compliment in my book. Everyone working with i'mME are model stewards of the Gospel through their hospitality. We were stripped of all of our first world comforts yet, because of i'mME's hospitality, we lacked nothing.
During my week in Haiti, my team and I, were able to visit and/or take part in: a community worship night, a feeding program where it is very likely the THREE meals a week this program provides are the ONLY meals the kids who show up are getting, an amazing church service at another organization called myLIFEspeaks which i'm still in awe of, a heart-wrenching day at an orphanage, a hike to a coffee farm in the mountains (I have a scar from that adventure!), a heart-breaking trip to a remote village, a day of touring various community projects and organizations including FRED'S FISH FARM(love you Fred, you're a true world changer!!!), a beautiful day at the beach, several hours of loving on my favorite kiddos from i'mME's Children's Home, plus countless intimate moments with God all which would have not happened if it weren't for the hospitable spirit that i'mME cultivates. And all of the places we visited possessed that same hospitality; it was woven throughout my week in Haiti.
Freedom is another word that rightly describes my time in Haiti. Galatians 5:13 says, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." I saw freedom being lived out all around me which I realize seems like an oxymoron in a 3rd world country. The freedom I saw was the freedom to BE YOU through the grace of God. I recognized this level of freedom in the kids that i'mME has rescued. I saw it in their eyes and in their smiles; freedom to learn, to love, to give, to worship, to enjoy life, to play, to create, and to simply be themselves. I saw the same degree of freedom in the Haitian staff who work for i'mME. The dignity they now carry because they can support their families goes unmatched. I saw that elevation of freedom in the American staff who dedicate their days to i'mME; the way they approach each day not as a burden with it's heat, heartache, and harsh realities, but as a blessing because they are free to use their gifts and passions to serve other people is admirable. I saw the same picture of freedom in my team members. The way they embraced who they are as they loved the person in front of them with genuineness was refreshing and inspiring. The freedom they felt, the freedom we all felt to be ourselves allowed us as a group to connect as friends and as brothers and sisters in Christ in a short amount of time on a caliber only established and knit together by God. I saw that depth of freedom in myself. Freedom to dream big for the glory of God and undoubtedly know He will not let those dreams go to waste whether they come to fruition or are used for pruning. Freedom to let go of any worry I might have had. I saw the same intensity of freedom in BANNER. The boy who wrecks me like no other. The boy with the most precious smile and giggle. The boy whose earthly limitations due to Cerebral Palsy have no effect on the imprint he leaves on people's hearts. The freedom I saw and will continue to see in him is a freedom so pure, so transparent, and so divine-filled, it's like staring into a piece of Heaven. God is on the move in Haiti.
As the plane touched ground in Haiti, my heart began pounding. I knew that very soon I would finally get to meet the boy who I had been praying over for months. The boy that changed my sister's life...unknowingly providing her with a confidence in her ability to make a difference in someone else's life even though she also has Cerebral Palsy. Empowering her for the first time to grasp at the truth that anyone can make a difference in someone's life, no matter age, qualifications, or physical ability.
Meeting Banner was very profound for me. When I think back to the moment I first saw him it's in slow motion. I quickly found out that my love for Banner is incredibly deeper and bigger than I ever imagined it could be. It's uniquely difficult for me to balance my desires to equally serve my family well and love the people of Haiti with abandon and authenticity.