Friday, January 17, 2014

Haiti: Finding Inspiration in the Midst of Struggle

When Jordan asked me to join him in Haiti for a medical mission trip, I thought "cool! An opportunity to visit someplace different and warm." REality check: I knew very little of Haiti and was scared to pieces of the thought of serving in another country and the sacrifice involved in doing so. In the weeks before leaving, I strived to gain perspective from others and I'm glad I did so. Many people raved about Haiti and I knew it was my turn to find out why.

Port au Prince from the air
My overall impression of Haiti, CCH as an organization, the SU team and the REACHH team is one of great admiration. I admire the hearts of all those who were there to serve. To witness their compassion with the people of Haiti and towards each other was incredibly uplifting! I enjoyed the fellowship and learning from each of you! And to see the persistent hard efforts of the CCH team to make forward progress is improving the lives of the Haitians: incredible. They are working against many obstacles, and I'm certain somedays they are overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness, yet they continue to push forward because they believe in their mission and they are truly passionate for God, the people of Haiti, and for changing the status quo. A huge thank you to these people who ultimately made this trip all the more memorable.

People I am thankful for!
In all, there were 12 of us serving: 6 students from Shenandoah University, 4 medical professionals from Minnesota and Jordan and I.
Our fearless leaders, Jordan and Abigail, with Laura (center), Outreach Director for CCH.
Photo credit: Abigail Trader.
Also, a huge note of gratitude to those who have supported us in this endeavor, both financially and through words of wisdom, thoughts and prayers. Jordan and I have talked about serving abroad for many years now, so thank you for making this dream a reality! Haiti is without a doubt a very impressionable, captivating country and it's taken me sometime to figure out why. Again I will note, my words just continue to fall short in describing this experience! Hopefully the pictures can fill the gap... but what I'm really saying is you need to get out there and experience it for yourself!

A few of my favorite scenes near Jacmel.
Haiti is "life intensified," as someone told me before I left and I couldn't agree more. Being in Haiti presented me with the opportunity to feel what it truly means to live. To see the hand of God's creation in those endless mountains, to witness so much joy, hope, faith and love amongst dirt, trash, poverty, remaining rubble from the earthquake of 2010... For there is much beauty to be found in our weaknesses: despair, hurt, helplessness and need for others. That is probably the biggest lesson I've learned in the past year, that the beauty in struggle is that it so often reveals God's power to heal and to restore peace, that it causes us to draw closer to Him: "For my power is made perfect in weakness" has never rang more true (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

The beauty of Haiti is that it's raw and exposed. Its "flaws" are just as evident as its strengths with little effort to cover them up: there's nothing superficial about it. The people are open: they make eye contact on the streets and wave hello rather than hiding beneath the cover of being in a rush or staring at their phones. They treat each other like family, no matter if you've just met, and offer help without hesitation. Many streets are unfinished rugged paths, most vehicles bruised and beaten yet functional, our commute through the town of Jacmel felt chaotic without orderly stop signs, lanes or speed limits to the extent that we have here in America. Without the limitation of strict rules or the distraction of worldly possessions, the main focus is on church, family, community and just plain living.

No fancy church necessary! A simple alter on a hill.
Haiti was ultimately a huge lesson in excess and waste. Compared to Haiti, we are blessed with many luxuries: hot water that is safe to drink, a steady flow of electricity, a reliable roof over our heads... grocery stores, ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, healthcare services, education ... many of the things we often take for granted are the things they do without or that only a select few can afford. It was a lesson of excess in food consumption, something I will probably write about in a post of its own. I am thankful for this perspective because in our world, it's so easy to get caught up in wanting more or the next best thing, something we all probably need accountability regarding.

In Haiti I witnessed what it feels like to be both truly "alive" while experiencing hurt, pain and despair, which is why I think being there has impacted me in such a deep way. In the end, I am left feeling conflicted. On one hand, Haiti has given me a deep sense of appreciation for the life I've been blessed with. On the other hand, I'm left with this deep sense of discontent and am reminded that I can't just sit back and settle for the status quo. And what that means for me, I don't know, but it's so easy to get caught up in our everyday lives that we forget we are only specks in a very big world. There is so much more to living than our daily "to do" list. To live to is to be surrounded by community, to give and share, to love and follow God and enjoy His creation...to push beyond your comfort zone and to take leaps of faith not really knowing if you'll land on your feet!

Jordan at Pazapa
One of my favorite pictures: serving alongside Amparo (nurse) and Eddie (CCH staff/translator) to treat this adorable little girl!
To live is to see that this world is vast and spectacular, more so than we could ever imagine. Yet, no matter how "unique" we may be as people, we are all united as children of God, with the ability to not only help each other, but learn from each other and encourage each other while spreading love and hope. Thank you Haiti for being all of these things and more for me and being such a beautiful example of life lived by faith.

Another favorite: Abigail and Brisso. The simple fun of bubbles and laughter with this little one. So much love in this picture :)
To travel to Haiti and serve was a opportunity beyond imaginable and I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those we worked with. Though, how cool it was to return to work on Monday and realize that I am able to serve those in need on a daily basis. I just love my residents and love being able to make a difference in their life too!

2014 is still very new with so much opportunity in store...I am just getting started and excited for what lies ahead! While I have many personal goals in mind for the year, I am thankful to start the year off serving in this manner and to be reminded of the importance and blessing of living a life focused on others. God is good!


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