On February 22, 2010 my life changed forever. Many of you know, this was the day I left on my first trip to Haiti. After January 12th I sat around for weeks agonizing over how to get to Haiti to help. I had watched friends go and return. I watched news reports of the devastation and need for help. I found myself tormented by my inability to respond as quickly as needed.
Finally, after weeks of searching and praying, I found a way in. I found a guy who does regular trips to Haiti, and he was doing another. I was filled with excitement. I quickly began a hard and fast fund-raising campaign online and with my ministry partners. At first it was slow going, but then in a barrage of generosity it came in. The money I needed to make the trip possible. In the process I also gained two travel companions, one was my brother, and the other a friend I had met through disaster relief work in Atlanta. Now all that was left was waiting for our departure date.
When the day finally came I could hardly stand the anticipation. We had a flight into Port-au-Prince, only the second day of resumed commercial flights into the airport. We were there for eight days. The most life changing eight days of my life. We saw so much need and assessed what we could do then and what needed to wait for future trips. We worked with every bit of what we could. It was emotionally draining more than physically draining. Then, as quickly as we had come, we were gone.
After returning from the trip I attempted to raise funds for another trip, this time four weeks long. I worked and worked, did fund-raisers, and worked some more. No matter what I did, nothing came together. Twice I set a date, hoping to get people engaged with the urgency of the financial need. Nothing! I made plea’s on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, the ministry webpage, and the blog. Nothing! I talked to people, both on the phone and in person. Nothing! When it all seemed a loss I received an email from Courageous Church. They were doing a trip. Finally, I had found my way back. Not only that, but the church was covering a large portion of the finances needed. The only catch… the deposit was due in less than a week, with the balance due in just two weeks.
Quickly I put the word out and this time it all came in. Every dime I needed came in just a few days after I put the word out. Finally! I was returning to the country that just months before had captured my heart.
Never in my life did I expect to ever visit Haiti until the earthquake in January that killed 212.000 people. The disaster was of epic proportions. Never have I seen this kind of destruction in my life. After returning from my first trip I felt kind of…well…empty. It really is difficult to describe the feeling, but I knew something was missing. When this second trip opportunity came up, I just couldn’t pass it up. I couldn’t go another day…week…month without returning to Haiti.
This trip was centered around beginning construction on an addition for the Miriam Center, which is a ministry of the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. Unlike the first trip I took, this trip was not centered around helping those affected by the earthquake, but rather, around those who have been left helping those moving out of the earthquake hit areas. It was a less direct effort to help those hurt by this disaster.
It was a different sort of trip. It was an incredibly diverse group of people. We came from all different races, walks of life, and social backgrounds. We even came from different religious views and beliefs. We were all very different and we all were there for our own unique reasons. Mine was to feel out God and His call on my life. To venture into the area of long-term missions.
Many people in my life have seen my journey with God as a blind leap of faith. To be honest, I thought the same thing many times. I had thoughts of grandeur, of being a man of more faith than anyone around me. The truth is that in most cases I require more confirmation than most. I move slower than I would like. It takes more push to get me where I need to be. It takes more than I would like to admit. So, in the process of my life with God, instead of having the Peter walking on water faith, I have the Thomas needing proof of Jesus’ resurrection kind of doubt. So for me, this trip was me trying to find my place in this missionary world.
With that in mind, I think I came into this trip with a very unique perspective, long-term missionary. This view made it harder for me to mesh with the rest of the team. I no longer had the usual short-term mission giddiness that I usually had. I no longer looked at the momentary success, but rather the long-term impact. I saw what we were doing, not in the next few weeks and months, but rather the next few years and decades. I looked at our construction project as much more than an effort of hard work, but as an effort of the heart, to connect with those in the community we were working in. I thought, “what will this place look like in the coming years?”
To be open and completely honest, this made this trip ten times more difficult. Every time I heard a complaint, I thought to myself, “do they not know that next week they will be back to their regular lives, but for the moment we were living in theirs?” The people we were serving didn’t have any option but to take cold showers, if they even got one at all. The people we were working with didn’t have the option of Starbucks, McDonald’s, or ice water. I found myself getting very cynical toward those on the trip with me. I started to despise their attitude and be critical toward their heart and their reason for being there. To me it became an insult when someone complained about the mission and the people who worked for it.
In all this I totally lost sight of the reason for being there. I lost any purpose to stay involved long-term. I couldn’t wait to get home. I couldn’t wait to get back and blog about how irritated and frustrated the people on the team made me and how obvious it was that their heart wasn’t in it.
Now that I am back I have to say, I was wrong! I had no right to get mad at these people, to judge their motives, or to expect them to see the trip the same as I did. I had no right to put my expectations for the trip on someone else who had their own reason for being there. I met some great people on this trip and I met some people I didn’t think were so great. We had our ups and our downs, we worked side by side, sweating, bleeding, and aching together. In the end we worked together to make a difference in a country that has little opportunity for those who live in it. In the end I learned that God will use ANYBODY that is willing to do what needs to be done, even the un-saved and non believing.
In conclusion I have to say a big fat sorry to those who I judged, to those I was critical toward, and to those who I lacked the decency to give the benefit of the doubt. Could I have been more of an idiot? To EVERYONE I went on this last trip with I would like to say a huge THANK YOU for all of your hard work toward the people who God has given me an incurable love for. I look forward to seeing the completion of this project and I look forward to what part you will play in it, and most importantly I look forward to seeing how God will continue to make all of you a part of my life in the future. Thank you again for all of your hard work.