I just couldn’t help myself with the title there. I’m a sucker for puns. Even bad ones.
As you can probably guess, this post is about Haiti. But, not just a general post. I don’t know enough about Haiti (yet) for that to be the case. I’m still on a mission to learn more. But this post is about a trip to Haiti. And it is coming up fast. One month from tomorrow, in fact. That may seem like plenty of time still. And in some respects it is. But this trip only became an idea a few weeks ago. And it’s not just for me.
As Hurricane Matthew began to build, my husband, Kirby, became quite heartbroken over the potential damage that would be caused in Haiti; a country with lacking infrastructure, still struggling in some ways with the aftermath of that massive earthquake back in 2010. The hurricane grew in strength and size and continued on it’s path. Then the death counts started. 100. 200. 400. then over 900. I don’t want to make light of what others outside of Haiti suffered from this hurricane either. We can only compare situations to an extent. Every life, circumstance, and situation are different, starting in different places and ending up in different places. Suffering is suffering.
But at this particular moment, being only two limited people, our hearts went out to the Haitians. Kirby said, “We need to go.” And, he was right. This was a disaster for so many people. One of the most important lessons I taught when I was working in South Sudan doing wholistic community development, was a lesson that distinguished the difference between Relief and Development. The main concept is that relief work is for emergency situations, situations where people’s lives are dependant upon help. People come from outside the situation, with supplies and money, to offer that help. Development work is for after the emergency has passed. People are seeking to make improvements in their lives. This work should come from within the situation, using supplies and other resources that are already available. When people from outside work in these situations, they should take care to act as a partner in the work, and not an overseer. Our trip will primarily fall into the relief category, with a little bit of development on the side.
This trip was born when Kirby text our pastor and the planning began. We now have a team of 12 ready to head off in a month. Have I mentioned that I struggle with logistics? Because I struggle with logistics. They stress me out. And somehow, I was chosen to plan this trip. But I’m learning a lot through it. I think there are always lessons to be learned in the things we do. I’m learning that through the stress, it is up to me to keep my priorities in order. I’m learning that when everything feels chaotic, it’s up to me to seek God’s help keeping the big picture in view. Let me back up a little and give you a clearer picture of this trip.
Our team of 12 will be sub-divided into three groups. One group will work with families to put roofs back on their houses. We will partner with some local workers to make this happen. (See the mixing of relief and development there?) Another group will be operating a mobile clinic to examine and treat common medical problems faced in flooding aftermath as well as in general, and maybe teach some basic healthy home practices (again, a bit of a mixture of relief and development). And lastly, we will have a group working with children, playing games and sharing lessons and truths from the Bible. How do you give hope to children living in a disaster zone? With love.
There are a lot of details that go into planning for something like this. Especially when you never been there before and have limited (though wonderful) contacts in the country. Doing a trip like this well is a high priority for me. And that has to start with seeking God’s plans for it. When we have team meetings, before any logistics come into play, we must pray. Before I write emails and send texts and make phone calls, I must pray. One lesson I have been learning over the last year of my life is that God is in the details. I’ve gone back and forth on this idea in my life. Sometimes I would think, God is in the big pictures and he gives us all this freedom for the details and works through whatever decisions we make, because he’s God and nothing is really a surprise to him. Which gives me a pretty big view of God. But then, through experiences and scripture, I am beginning to see that while we still have freedom, God is also at work orchestrating the details of our lives. And in reality, this gives me an even bigger view of God. He can orchestrate the details of 6 billion peoples’ lives and everything still works. Now, I’m not saying that he causes everything we do and everything that happens to us. Because he does not cause evil or sin. He does give us free will. But, he does cause some things to happen. Sometimes more than we realize. And, not just the big things.
But there is something even more pressing than my theological beliefs regarding to what extent God coordinates and directs our lives and how that balances with the belief of free will. And that is, why do our hearts desire to go to Haiti in the first place? Is it to help them in their suffering because their homes were damaged and they lost loved ones? Yes. But is it more than that? Definitely yes. Our desire to help, when coming from ourselves, is motivated by compassion. And let me tell you, we humans have a limit on just how much compassion we can have for one another. But when our desire to help comes from God, from his heart, then we can’t stop at just the immediate suffering we see. We must continue this journey to the suffering that lies ahead. A life without hope, without purpose for eternity, without a relationship with God. The gospel is not so much about rescuing us from a life of eternal suffering (hell), but rescuing us to a life with God. There is no greater way to help someone than to see their life restored in relationship with Christ. Because, with Christ, the greatest of sufferings can be endured. Why does James say we should consider it joy when we encounter various trials (James 1.2-4)? Because trials are used by God to shape us more into his image, which he calls us to bear to the world.
So when I am making phone calls and writing emails and sending texts, even in the middle of trying to write this blog post, I will remind myself that that it is for something much greater than a well-organized trip that I am working. It is even for something much greater than a roof on a house or children’s laughter in the midst of difficulties. It is for the gospel of Christ to transform lives completely. This is what I hope I will soon be able to pray for the people we encounter in Haiti, just as the apostle Paul prayed this for new believers in Colossae:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God
to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may
live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work,
growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
If you would like to donate to this mission trip, please contact us for more information on how to do that. We’d love your help!