You don't accidentally fall in love with a third-world country where it is hot, dusty and completely impoverished. Most people don't decide to go a place like that on a whim, the way you might choose a last-minute vacation destination. The thought to serve and love others in a foreign land while leaving everything you know and everything comfortable is not a thought of your own; it is a radical act and nudge from God.
"THE GOD IN AMERICA IS THE SAME GOD HERE IN HAITI.”
We had only been at the CPR-3 mission house in Bercy, Haiti, for a few hours when my friend Katie made the comment ,"The God in America is the same God here in Haiti." I had never thought of it that way. I never had to. As a newer Christian, I had not experienced my relationship with God outside of the United States. Yes, I had been tested; yes, I had doubts at times. But when she said those words, I began to realize just how much my Jesus would support me in that week ahead. I knew I would need Him to help me process the new sights, smells and sounds I was experiencing. I looked out over the high compound walls at the neighbors' homes and wondered “where is God?” How could He allow so much suffering in such a beautiful place? The neighborhood children played soccer in bare feet on a dirt field with no lines or goals and a ratty ball. Everything around me was inspiring and heart-breaking at the same time. I was looking for God and yet He was right in front of me. From the moment we landed in Port-au-Prince, God was stretching me and opening my eyes to new perspectives.
“A MISSION TEAM…THAT DIDN’T SOUND LIKE MY NORMAL WEEK AT THE BEACH.”
I tend toward leadership naturally. I like to be in control. I like to plan ahead. So when I applied to serve on a mission team traveling to Haiti where I would need to be flexible and rely on and lean into Jesus for a week like never before...that didn’t sound like my normal week at the beach. But I had been praying for God to move in a big way in my life, to allow me the radical opportunity to continue to use my story for His glory. I was blessed to spend six days in Haiti at the end of June 2014. They were the hottest days of the summer to date. And in between the layers of sweat, bug spray and sunscreen, I saw God like I never had before. It was powerful and life changing.
“HE’S CHALLENGED ME TO CONTINUE TO GROW MY RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM AND OTHERS IN AN INTENTIONAL WAY IN MY OWN ZIP CODE.”
God pushed me to fall in love with Haiti. With His people. With His beauty that is evident as your eyes scan from the mountains to the sea. It didn't take much convincing. He showed me how to love deeply, pray boldly and spend myself daily while serving others – all for His glory.
My six days in Haiti were full of connections, relationships, hope, spirit-filled moments, giving it my all and investing in God's movement through new opportunities. I was part of a team of 17 brothers and sisters on mission to share His love and light with everyone we met. I came to know God in a way like never before. I didn't even realize how much I relied on Him that week in Haiti until I was in the comfort of my own home days and weeks later.
Many of my teammates told me after our trip that they were worried I wouldn't deal well with the heat or remain flexible as plans changed from moment to moment. They were pleasantly surprised with how well I adapted and how I encouraged everyone else. They told me they saw Jesus through me.
God has shown me that it's easier to lean into Him without all of the “stuff' that clutters my everyday life at home. He's challenged me to continue to grow my relationship with Him and others in an intentional way in my own ZIP code. When my teammates shared what they saw in me after our trip, it was then I knew that God had moved in a big way in my life.
Sure, it doesn't always take traveling to a third-world country to serve as His hands and feet and show His love for others. But that mission trip started me on a new journey, a new path, to furthering my commitment to live a Jesus-centered life.