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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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.

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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Chosen

So many times, I’d made the trip to Haiti with the mindset that I was the one helping; the one who was going to make a difference…the one doing the choosing. I was choosing to be there. I was choosing which projects to be a part of. I chose when to engage, and when to distance myself. It only took a handful of times stepping foot onto the orphanage campus for God to shake me awake to the truth that I was never the one in control. Sure, I was there by choice…but long before I became a missionary, I had been chosen. God knew all along exactly how the story would unfold and He chose me to play a part that, years ago, I would have disqualified myself from playing. Not knowing how deeply loved I was by my Heavenly Father, I had taken myself out of the race. When, all along, He was training me for victory.

Raised by two people who didn’t know how to love me, meant I didn’t know how to be loved. I sought it out in all the wrong places, people, and things. I gave myself away until I reached the dark place of being taken, without permission. I lost so much of myself in desperation to feel wanted and cared for. I tried to take my own life in desperation to end the feeling of being alone.

But God had chosen me. And He wasn’t giving up.

Years later, when I began doing missions work, I still didn’t understand my worth. I could lovingly tell others how cherished they were by God but couldn’t seem to comprehend that I was equally as loved as those I was serving. I operated as though I could give something to others that I didn’t have. I tried to speak life into traumatized children when I was still reeling from my own trauma, and didn’t see myself as worthy of my calling. It worked for a short time. I was able to put forth truths about identity as I knew it from God’s Word, all the while not believing I counted as someone it applied to. I had heard The Gospel most of my life, yet still believed the lie that someone like me, who’d been through what I’d been through and done what I’d done, couldn’t possibly be worthy of such unending, relentless love from God. As I got to know the kids more and we formed deeper relationships, I realized I couldn’t speak life into them when I didn’t feel alive. I had to learn who I was in Christ, believe that it was truth (no matter what my past looked like), and then walk it out in everyday life. I needed to be healed.

So many of the children in Haiti hold a special place in my heart and I see each moment with them as an undeserved gift. Slowly, as more of my heart took up permanent residence in this country so far from home, I began to see the calling on my life unfold and grow more comfortable with myself as a daughter of The King. I began to spend more and more time alone with Jesus, studying the meaning behind all the verses I had memorized years before. I began opening myself up in His presence, laying out all the uncomfortable, painful experiences that had built walls between us. Eventually, I was able to see that God had gifted me in ways specially made for the work I was doing. He was taking all that had been broken and was making it beautiful; giving my past pain a purpose. Yet, there were still chains that needed to be broken before I could walk boldly, without fear or insecurity, onto the mission field.

The final shift in my perspective came a few months after meeting Aslin. It started as many relationships in Haiti do for me – through time spent talking and praying, sharing experiences; serving him and his family as best as I knew how, and in whatever way God led me to. What I didn’t see coming was Aslin’s perspective of me…

The young man is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Despite living in poverty all his life, working to take care of his father since the age of twelve, and being traumatized over and over again by things I’ve only seen in nightmares…his faith is the strongest of anyone I know; focused, unwavering, whole-hearted, pure faith that I have always aspired to have. For him, The Gospel isn’t just a story. It’s everything. Jesus is everything. No terror distracts him from his end goal of knowing God more today than he did yesterday. Watching this kind of faith in circumstances so much more devastating than my own…nothing has ever humbled me more. Until the day Aslin called me Mom. 

He chose me. 

Me, who has such little faith; such huge flaws. Me, who is often such a mess on the inside. Me, who has taken for granted the gifts of the shelter, food, and family I come home to after every mission trip. Me, who is still very much in process and doesn’t have all the answers. Me. The same me that had found myself in a car with a bottle of pills and nothing left to give…had just been given one of the most precious titles in life, by one of the most beautiful souls I’d ever met. In that moment, Aslin had shown me Jesus. This undeserved love, this gift of being chosen just as I am, for a position of such honor in the heart of another…this moment took down the walls around my heart and allowed the truth to fully settle in that I am worthy of love. Love without shame, guilt, or condemnation; love without limits and beyond all expectation. 

On the mission field of life, we are chosen. Not because we are smart enough, fast enough, beautiful enough, or pure enough. We are chosen because we are loved. 

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When Mommy’s On The Mission Field

The dust is still settling on another mission trip to the orphanage in Haiti. Your emotions run high; my heart has been brought low. This is a side of our lives very few understand.

People have been talking (I’m sure you’ve overheard) about Mommy’s choice to work as a part-time missionary, while I’m busy raising you. Not everyone likes my decision to follow this call God’s placed on my life. Not everyone understands how I can manage to serve both you at home, and the children of Haiti, well. I’m here to tell you where my heart is at, though some people may never understand it. I want you to hear it from me…

I live and breathe you. You are my greatest calling; to care for and nurture, not just your bodies, but your hearts…to mold them into hearts after Jesus. I’m called to love you so much that it hurts, to give selflessly in order to equip you; lead you into the life God’s called you to. You are my greatest adventure and my wildest dream. You are pieces of my heart walking around outside my body, and nothing could ever stop me from fighting for you. I have dreamed of and longed for you since I was a child myself, and no one else will ever take your place in my heart.

My life before you was dark. Without Jesus coming to my rescue, I would not have survived it. Today, all that I do for others is the least I can do for Him. Serving my family, my friends, His children near and far…it is one small way I can give back to a God who’s never let go of me. I owe Him my life, and I will always strive to live it for His glory…because He loved me when no one else would.

Because of all that I went through before you were born, I know that the only way to find healing and deep, real joy is to open up your heart to The One who created it. This is why I do what I do. This is why our family makes the sacrifice of my time at home when I am on the mission field: The hearts of the world are hurting, longing to be noticed and cared for, just as I was when He found me. For some children, children just like you, the only chance they may have to feel that life-giving love is through us. We are His light in the darkness.

When I am away from home, my heart remains with you. Nothing can separate my soul from yours; we are intertwined in a way that distance could never impact. Yet, I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. It hurts me too. I miss you terribly and worry about little things I normally do for you when I’m at home. I cry all the way to Haiti, never wanting to be so far away from my babies. The pain can be big. Our God is bigger.

I don’t want to raise you to believe the lie that a mother is “just” a mother. Mothers are capable of so much more than they’re given credit for. It is the most important “job” in the world and, as your mother, I need you to understand that you can be my everything…and I will still have love left over. God’s love, through us, is endless. It covers our family at home, and our “family” in Haiti. It’s because I love you that I want to show you what it means to be compassionate, understanding, charitable, and open-minded. I love you enough to make you aware of the pain and suffering of the world, along with the truth that we, not only can, but need to do something about it. We can make a difference. All we need to do is step out in faith, choose love, and watch God do the rest.

Because I love you, I give you my testimony and my lessons learned. I give you my time and my strength. I give you all that I can and then a little bit more. Because I love you, I give you Jesus…and I try my best to live a life modeled after His love for the lost and the broken. I pray that you will find joy in serving others, that you will see the blessings that come from obedience and determination. The world may never understand or support you when you step out in faith. Don’t be afraid or discouraged…the reward is greater than anything this world can offer.

We never leave the mission field. It exists at home and across the world. When I see you share what you have with the needy so willingly and watch as you comfort those in pain… it fills my heart with indescribable joy.

You are my reward. I love you fiercely, no matter where He calls us.

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