Again, sorry for falling off the face of the blogging world! I have (obviously) had a hard time keeping up with my blogging or really processing everything that happened over this summer that seemed to go way too fast! Anyway, I wanted to at least post a short (well it will probably end up being long, knowing me!) update about being back but I promise I’ll post some more posts about how our summer went soon!
So, for starters, I left Haiti. After the wedding team we had about 2 weeks left of our summer internship before we headed out of Haiti. There were ups and downs in those weeks as we continued to do more of our own ministry – like organizing the clinic, having a photo-shoot for our orphanage kids, having a fun day with our girls’ group, working with the Castillo kids on the “secret project,” having a carnival for our orphanage kids, holding a blood pressure clinic, participating in Women’s Bible Study, working on the children’s church curriculum, having a movie night with the Castillo clan and the Pastor’s kids, and painting nails or coloring with our kids from the orphanage. But there were trials in those moments, like not having time to do all we wanted, not having hands to help complete tasks, or not having people show up to our ministry activities. Also, the campus experienced some tragedy and heartbreak during our last weeks there. All and all it was a crazy last few weeks, with beautiful highs and tragic lows. And even though I was more prepared to head out than I was last year, it was still incredibly hard to say good-bye to everyone and my Haiti home.
So, up next I’m back home in the USA. America. Wow, out of all my trips this was the hardest time I’ve had transitioning back to America. Or maybe it’s difficult because it’s actually too easy; it’s too easy to switch back to my old ways and old life. I don’t know but the air conditioned air, the bright lights, the multitudes of people living at the center of their own world, the excess of food and clothes and products to buy, all this money, well it all hit me a little harder this time. At times I was relieved to have it all back, to have these comforts and luxuries, and at times, I will admit, I even wanted to complain about what I had or didn’t have. And honestly, that’s been the hardest part. This struggle, between my heart and the world. Although each transition is characterized by this struggle and though it usually fades, this time it just seemed more acute, I felt more like a stranger trapped between worlds. I feel like Haiti has had a large chunk of my heart ever since I first went and witnessed firsthand what it was like. Although I’d heard the stories or thought I had a picture in my mind of what poverty looked like, it’s not until you’re there that you fully realize it. It’s not until you interact with the beautiful and strong and dignified people who are labelled as some of the world’s poorest. It’s not until you see the good and beautiful in their lives and their culture and their country juxtaposed against the darkness and the heartbreak in their daily strife and their fears and their poverty.
Poverty doesn’t just look like thatch huts with dirt floors that get swept away in the heavy rains.
Poverty doesn’t just look like children with red hair from malnutrition or distended bellies from worms.
Poverty doesn’t just look like parents frantic and desperate to provide for their families that they are willing to do whatever it takes, even the unspeakable.
Poverty doesn’t just look like heartbreak.
Poverty looks like one of my favorite places in the world, the little peaceful fishing village of Preskul.
Poverty looks like my little friends from town, who run to jump into my arms when I see them while walking through town.
Poverty looks like the families of girls I love so much, who have been through the unimaginable but continue to press on.
Poverty looks like home, like family, like friends.
When I hear that word, “poverty,” I don’t envision the same images as I did before. I now know the faces and the names, they are no longer just stories. And for some reason, I feel like I’m just realizing that I can’t leave it that way. They can’t just stay stories. I can no longer walk through the grocery store and see aisle upon aisle of food and not think of my friends who don’t have enough to eat, or those who don’t have anything to eat at all. I can no longer look at my rows and rows of clothes in my closet and not think about those I know who don’t even have one complete outfit. I can no longer stand our society’s push for more and more, for more achievement and more success and more money without thinking of those who make do with so much less. And as I came back to America this time, I wasn’t just disgusted with the excess that I saw all around me, I was disgusted with what I saw in my own heart and my own life. Our struggle here, for more and more, to make it big, have the American dream, well it’s breaking us into less and less. And I see this selfishness and greed in our society, but even more so I see it in myself. And this time God called me to examine my own heart more closely and critically than I think I’ve done in the past.
God has used Haiti to ruin me for anything less than the life He’s calling me to.
It’s ruined me for living for myself.
As I came back home I dealt with the struggles between those things, between living for myself and living for Christ and knowing what it is He’s calling me to grow in or to sacrifice. I know that all that I have is a gift from God and that I am where I am with what I have for a reason. But as I’m home in the States, I’ve just been trying to figure that all out, processing all that’s happened and all the Lord’s doing in me and all that He has in store for me yet. I’m waiting on the Lord in trust and hope that He’s not finished with me yet, that He loves me enough to want more for me and my life than this living for myself. And I’ve just been resting in that while I was trying to process and relax during my week at home in KC with my family.
So, that brings us here, I’m back at my house in Des Moines getting ready for another school year. And though I don’t know what lies ahead I do know that His purpose for me and my life is much bigger than anything I could imagine. So I’m trusting Him and stepping out in faith. I know He is calling me to continue to push back the darkness wherever I am. He’s calling me to take the light to the darkness. And as scary and uncertain as that may sound, I know that He’s got my back through it all.
My Jesus, He goes with me.
Although I have such a heart for Haiti, the country and its people, I don’t honestly know where God is calling me or what my next steps are. I’m praying and trusting but I’m unsure exactly where He’ll lead or what it will look like. So I’m just making the most of every day, of every opportunity. Wherever I am I will be there with my whole heart. Coming back after this summer I feel like God’s been asking me to make a choice, to really actually make this choice. I feel like He’s saying to me,
“You say that you’re for the orphan and for the oppressed.
You say that you’re for the broken and the lost.
You say that you’re for the impoverished and the hungry.
But what does that really mean?
What does that mean to you?
Where are you willing to go?
What are you willing to let it cost you?
What are you willing to sacrifice?”
Because honestly, I’m starting to grow complacent. I go in obedience, I follow His call. And my heart breaks for the people I’ve met, it breaks for the tragedy I’ve seen. And I want to do something, I want to do more. My broken heart it leads me to love deeper, it leads me to have compassion for the lost and hurting. But I do feel like it’s reaching a critical point.
I feel like God is saying, you have to make a choice to let go of something else so you can experience even more of what I have in store for you.
I can’t continue to hold onto the world so tightly and cling to Jesus at the same time.
Am I going to live for me or for Christ?
Although I definitely made sacrifices and took big risks with my first trips to Haiti, I feel like I have grown a little complacent and maybe a little too comfortable with it all, with life in general. I’ve been there, I know the drill. I’ve seen darkness and I’ve seen heartbreak and I’ve seen tragedy. And I’m not saying that it breaks my heart any less but I am saying that after being broken so many times in the same ways, I am a little afraid to experience it all again. Each time, each trip, each experience I have to remind myself to let my walls down around my heart, I have to allow my heart to unheal a bit, to grow uncalloused, because I know that if I do, if I am vulnerable, I will experience heartbreak and tragedy. But ultimately I know God will use it all to teach and grow and mold me more and more into the image of His Son. God is asking me to step it up a bit, because the sacrifices I’ve made are no longer sacrifices now, and the things I’ve been grown in don’t need as much molding now. Each time I go, God teaches me something new, He works something different in my heart. Each time He takes away something I don’t need in this world and gives me something to equip me in His Spirit. Each time He chips away more of me and makes me more like Christ. But now, I feel that more than ever, He’s calling me to push back the darkness. He’s asking if I’ll let those walls down here, if I’ll let my heart break for the darkness here at my home in Des Moines. More than ever I feel a certain urgency and weight with this call. And though I’m honestly a little scared to see what He has in store, I know that He’s always got my heart and He will make all things beautiful. He is always with me. I’m praying that as my heart breaks He makes it more fearless, as I grow He makes me more Christ-like, and as I push back the darkness the light shines with more brilliance.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
1 Thessalonians 5:5-24
“For you are all children of light, children of the day.
We are not of the night or of the darkness.
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
Be at peace among yourselves.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”