The Mission or The Maker?

I was six days away from my next trip to Haiti when all of the flights were canceled and the boarders shut down. Up until the last moment, I was determined to go. My bags were packed, my mind already there on the dusty streets of the nation I’d left my heart in. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. It took the government shutting down the country for me to be still.

I was crushed. I’ve devoted my life as a missionary to the children of Haiti and, in an instant, I was no longer allowed to see them (and for who knows how long). One of my boys there called… “When are you coming back?” I could hear the fear in his voice. Fear of another loved one leaving and never returning again. My heart ached. For the first time, I had to respond with, “I don’t know.” I refuse to use the word promise with these children. They’ve lived through too many broken promises. But everything within me wanted to promise him that I’d come back soon. I know, God willing, I’ll return to Haiti…but that little boy doesn’t. He can’t. Nothing has ever been certain for him. Despite the nine trips I’ve taken in the last two years, these kids have suffered through so much loss that they can’t afford to trust me at my word. Trauma has broken them too many times. Walls have been built around their hearts; walls only Jesus can tear down.

I am thankful for my safety. For my health and my family’s health here at home during this pandemic. Coronavirus is a threat to be careful in dealing with. I understand the blessing in being here. Yet, I can’t pretend that I didn’t sink into a deep depression after being stranded away from the other half of my family. What I see as my purpose, my place in God’s mission, suddenly felt threatened by restrictions with no end date. I was left alone with a new, harsh reality; the realization that a huge piece of myself was incredibly unhealthy and broken. What this time of quarantine is teaching me is that I’ve allowed my focus on missions to overshadow my focus on Christ himself.

Day after day, I’d lay in the darkness of my room and find it hard to get up out of bed. It’s hard to admit, but I felt a sense of hopelessness; all because I was being kept from the mission field. When, all along, the One who I’m on mission for has been right here by my side. God IS the purpose of all I’ve done and will do in Haiti…but what if He took Haiti away from me? What if overseas missions work was suddenly off the table? Would I still feel fulfilled? Would I still have a sense of purpose? Would my heart still stir with passion for serving? Would I still see God as good if all I have worked for was gone?

…Am I more in love with the mission or The Maker?

The truth that I couldn’t answer that question with instant, honest devotion to Him above all else was devastating. It brought me to my knees…a kind of pain I don’t have words for. There are a million reasons why the walls built up around my heart exist. But, why have I been keeping God on the outside? Why have I jumped ahead to deeper and deeper relationships with His children than with Jesus Himself? How could I forget to stop and work on transparency, depth, and faithfulness to Him that transcends anything I’d ever give to humankind?

There is a reason why I’m here and not in Haiti right now; why it all played out this way. This realization had to take place for me to ever be a truly effective missionary. God has to be the source of my strength, the foundation of my being…my greatest and first love. I must be so wrapped up in my feelings for Him that all else is simply overflow. I want my children, both here and in Haiti, to remember me for my love of Jesus. If there’s nothing else I accomplish in my time on earth…may loving Him well be my sole mission.

In the coming weeks, as I’m waiting for the world to begin moving again, I will set aside all my striving. I will breathe Him in and allow Him to change me in a way only He can. Without Him, there is no mission. At the core of who I am, there is only Jesus.

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Thankfulness Redefined

I’ve never had a Thanksgiving like this before. In every way, it changed. No extended family, no traveling, no rushing to dress up the kids. We spent the day, just us, sitting around our own table in our comfy clothes and laughing together. Just us, decorating our house for Christmas; looking forward to the season to come. Though I could have been focused on the hard, messy reasons why we were doing this alone, I didn’t. It was simple. It was beautiful.

As I sat and looked around at all God has given me, my heart was overcome with gratitude. I don’t deserve any of it. Yet, He loves me still. He gives me all I could ever hope for and more.

Then, my joy faded into the background as I looked at the empty seat at our table. The place where any of our sponsor boys in Haiti could be sitting…but aren’t. The sharp pain hit my heart again; the longing to have all of my children in one place. The handful of tiny humans that call me “Mom” has grown, and so has my capacity to love. My ability to trust the God who holds it all in His hands is daily tested as I dare to hope that, one day, we will all be together. I am thankful for each of their lives. And that word, thankful, has been redefined for me completely through the experience of missions work.

When I think of my blessings, the things that come to mind are no longer broad or generic things. My blessings are now in the details, counted moment-by-moment in the midst of sometimes frantic prayers:

“Thank You, Jesus, that he has food tonight.”

“Thank You that I heard his voice.”

“Thank You that they were allowed to go to school this week.”

“Thank You that the gunmen didn’t enter his home today.”

“Thank You, God, that he is still alive.”

My prayers as a missionary mom are more fervent, more desperate, and more intimate than they ever were before I’d stepped foot onto the mission field. One of the many ways that this journey has changed me…I’ve never been more thankful for more truly important things as I am today. Yes, I feel deeper sorrow but I also feel deeper joy. Living life on mission for Jesus will always cost us something. I will always fight the urge to be afraid; to pull away. But I’ll never regret my decision to walk down this path, because this is what we are made for- to know the meaning of loving with all that we are; the same way that God loves us.

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