Not This One

I’m on my 10th mission trip in Haiti. Up until this point, I’ve always stationed myself within the walls of the same orphanage. I’d been working one-on-one with a small group of special needs children, focusing on their education and building deeper personal relationships with them individually; investing in their lives through consistent support. Showing up; never giving up. Over and over again.

There’s been a sudden shift. The winds are changing. Right now, things are more uncertain than they’ve ever been. I’ve found myself in an uncomfortable and lonely position. I’m not affiliated. I don’t have a church supporting me. I’m not sure I even have a church aware that I’m doing what I’m doing on the mission field. I’ve moved beyond the comfort and familiarity of the orphanage walls. I travel to Haiti on my own, and my work is mostly invisible.

I have spent hours at the feet of Jesus, with the voices of the world swirling in my head, panicking about my purpose. I let the pressures and opinions of society convince me that I needed to be doing something more, something bigger, something louder. The church likes things in a neat and tidy package; pictures of adorable babies being given much needed clothing or food. All of that is great, and is exactly where I started. But what I’m doing right now is messy, painful, and often chaotic. I’m wading through the stuff no one wants to think or talk about. I don’t post as many photos these days; what I’m up against doesn’t make for pretty pictures.

God has given me simple directions: Keep going back. Don’t give up. Obey in faith. Love those who go unnoticed or unwanted.

I used to gravitate towards the cutest kids, like most people do. They’re easy to love; easy to want to care for. But God quickly made it clear that I’m not here for those children. I’m here for the ones in the shadows. The ones carrying heavy burdens that they express in inconvenient and destructive ways. The ones who pretend not to care because caring, even being cared for, is a risk they don’t know how to take. The ones who bypass opportunities to improve their future because everything within them says they don’t deserve one. The ones that remind me of who I used to be – scared and alone, desperate for love but constantly pushing it away.

God placed a small group of boys in my life who, without consistent support, will likely become just another statistic. As high as 70 percent of orphaned boys will spend time in jail or prison for criminal offenses. The need for intervention in Haiti, on countless levels, is overwhelming. If I step back and look at it, I instantly want to run because I know there’s very little I can do about it…for the masses. But, for just a few, I can make a difference. All I need is Jesus and the resolve to never quit, even when things are impossibly difficult.

I’ve doubted myself daily. I’ve believed the lie that I don’t belong. I’ve screwed up and missed moments when I should have been more outspoken or quick to act. I’ve spent nights crying myself to sleep, feeling hopeless and defeated. That’s how I’ve felt. What I know is that there is no one beyond the reach of God’s healing grace. Not one child goes unnoticed in the eyes of Jesus. And because He loved me at my darkest, I am commanded to do the same for others.

Some may look at these boys and see a lost cause. When I look at each of them, and at the statistics, my heart screams, “Not this one!” I will forever give my all, and then some, to see them come from darkness into light. If I only impact a handful of lives, if that’s what God’s designed me for, then that’s enough for me.

Not today. Not this time. Not this one.

DSC_0308B&W

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.

DSC_0442

 

Chasing The Lost

I thought about not mentioning this trip, as I find myself in Haiti again. This wasn’t planned. This isn’t a happy trip. This is the broken, battle-ready heart of missions. When things don’t make for fun posts and pretty pictures.

I’m here to fight for the one. The lost sheep that God’s heart is after. The one who is rooted so deeply in generational sin and this world’s burdens that most would call him a lost cause. But NOTHING is lost to Jesus.

I have been here before; this place where things seem absolutely hopeless. Which is how I know that hope is here and this sponsor son of mine is worth it…to come this far just to sit with him in the mess and the pain. To fight with everything inside of me for his future. Please pray for this trip. That God’s power would come rushing in and miracles would happen. That His will be done.

I refuse to look at another empty chair, with only a memory to hold on to. This is the darkness that missions was made for.

Where It All Began

He’s the reason it all started. I scrolled through the list of children to sponsor and when I saw his face, God nudged me, whispering to my heart, “This is the one”. I came on my first mission trip to Haiti just to meet him. I had no idea that this relationship was just the beginning of all that God had for me. To be honest, I was holding back on that trip. I didn’t want to fall in love with a land or a people so far from my comfort zone. I knew it meant heartache. But that’s part of following the calling on our lives.

We are called to love as Jesus loves us, holding nothing back. That means pain, sometimes beyond what we feel we can take. Today, as I finish up my eighth trip to the orphanage, I am feeling the weight of loving these children as if they were my own. This week has been the hardest my boy and I have had since we met, discovering what it really means to move past the typical mission trip week of Bible school fun and games, and stepping into the mess of what his past has left behind. The abuse and trauma this boy has suffered has a depth to it that may never be known to anyone but God himself. The effects of it, wreaking havoc on his mind, body, and soul; causing issues that can make daily life for him feel like an impossible challenge. The way he’s been conditioned to behave doesn’t line up with the expectations or the rules. He knows that he teeters on the verge of being put back out on the streets, but doesn’t know how to change. The dysfunction runs too deep…right now.

But God’s not finished yet.

This child, like so many, is at the heart of the great commission to reach the lost. For the moment, he has shelter and food. But his soul is wandering in a darkness that only Jesus can chase away. I make the trek to the country of Haiti over and over again preaching hope to these children because, like my “son” here, I was the 1 sheep that The Good Shepherd left the 99 for. His love was relentless. I had wandered so far from the path, plagued by generational sin and abuse, that I had given up completely. But God refused to give up on me. The only way to even come close to thanking Him for saving my life, is to live my life chasing down the lost and hurting with the Truth of a Savior who has come to restore all that has been lost and broken.

So, this is my mission; one that has no end…that this child, and all like him who God places in my life, would know that they are not just loved by God, but chosen by Him, to be extravagantly blessed by a grace that changes everything.

Ready To “Just” Go

My bags are packed. The emotional rollercoaster continues. I’m suspended in the middle, my heart split between Haiti and the US, with no promise that all of my children will ever be with me at once. The honor of being called “Mom” by so many holds a weight I daily have to convince myself I’m able to carry. The enemy whispers lies about what a failure I am. It’s a moment-by-moment choice to tune him out and listen to the voice of The Father. The One who tells me that this was the plan all along, despite my many insecurities and mistakes. It’s only as I walk in His power that I am able to do anything about the pain and suffering in front of me. He reminds me of his words in Jeremiah 1…

“Before you were born, I set you apart.”

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I was set apart for anything, I would have laughed. It’s still hard for me to believe it today but I’ve learned that, much like in The Bible, He often appoints those we’d think of as misfits or outcasts to draw the world to Himself. So, here I am, readying myself for my 8th trip to the orphanage in Haiti… praying for the strength and courage I need to take down the walls around my heart and allow it to be broken all over again.

When the suffering of others meets your limitations, missions work has a way of exposing the sins you most struggle with. For example, pride. A tape playing in the back of my mind tells me that I can do this on my own- I don’t need God’s help. My plans and my strategies are enough…until they’re not. I can do it all in my own time…until it’s too late. Until I lose a child that I love and I cry out to Heaven, filled with regret. Even the things I thought were most humble about myself in the past, turned out to be self-centered…my life was never meant to be about me. My achievements, my possessions, even my family- they were never mine. Nothing I have, or have done, exists without His loving grace. My life is meant to be a reflection of God’s character and love; an outpouring of the time, resources, and abilities I’ve been given for the sake of The Kingdom. Learning this the hard way is painful.

Many think I should have a more intricate plan. To just go into the nations and love them the way Jesus has loved me…it doesn’t sound that world-changing. Yet, to those (like me) who have come to know the light and life that Jesus gives, and the impact of simply being known and accepted…when we “just” go and love…it changes everything.

My prayer for this trip is that I stay hand-in-hand with Jesus, every step of the way. No running ahead, no trying on my own. May I be present in every moment, with every person He puts on my path; my mind holding on to the truth of what His love saved me from. May I always be found going and loving. To Him be the glory.

IMG_4337

Haiti And The Heart Of God

It was my third mission trip to the mountains of Haiti, where an orphanage full of children hold pieces of my heart that I know I’ll never get back. My specific reason for traveling there had been to continue my work individually with a group of children who not only have special needs, but have experienced trauma above and beyond our deepest fears and nightmares. I thought I was at least a little prepared for the week, having begun research on working with those affected by trauma and gearing up for official training on the subject. God had reassured me that, though I still have much to learn, the most important thing I can possibly do is to love them. To hold them and make sure that they begin to understand that someone sees their pain, understands their emotions, knows of their past…and still believes they are destined for greatness. One main goal was to start to build the bridge of hope and trust; to prove to them that I value them and am committed for the long haul. To begin to share bits of my own personal story of trauma and meet them in the pain. There are few words more powerful than, “You are not alone.”

I soon learned that there is no preparation for hearing stories of the devastation of those you love. Though I’ve been through abuse, rape and other physical and emotional trauma myself, nothing could have prepared my heart for what I’d learn about the people of Haiti. Stories of the past experiences of these precious children hit my heart with violent force and, even after my return to the states, have left me with pain that weighs heavy and often overtakes me. To go back to “life as normal” feels impossible. In a matter of moments, everything had changed. I had changed…and there’s no going back.

I have moved through the past few days in a fog. I go from desperately praying through tears, to becoming numb and not finding the words or strength to pray at all. The enemy’s been whispering temptations to fall into old habits of coping with this level of pain. More times than I can count, sudden urges to drink the pain away or put up walls of seclusion from family and friends have felt impossible to resist. Yet, I’m held by a God who is using this very pain to draw me to Himself. And so I remain still and focused on The One who’s called me from darkness to light.

I’m finding it hard to sum up this trip for those who’ve supported me; to express in words what happened and how God worked in and through me. All that I keep coming back to is the reality that, in feeling this ocean of pain for these children, I’m being given a small glimpse into the heart of God. The pain of His people stirring more and more compassion within and transforming me into someone whose past no longer defines her, but glorifies her Savior and brings healing to the hearts of others. This gift is beyond words and worth every sacrifice. I’m humbled that a calling like this would be placed on my life; infinitely thankful that His grace is taking what was once death and destruction and replacing it with victory. My heart will ever belong to Jesus…The One who loved me at my darkest.

2018-09-21 14.34.28 B&W