I remember how, when missionaries would come to the US, it conjured for me ideas of danger and intrigue.
Little did I know that years later I would actually experience the intrigue and have the love of a people that would arrest my heart.
As a young minister, I knew that our churches were always active in giving to missions. I always saw the need.
I viewed missionaries as heroes of the faith and felt my part was to fund them to do God’s work in a foreign land.
On January 12th, 2010, everything changed. Michelle, my quiet , loving wife since 1986 watched the news intently after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, killing nearly 300,000 people in a matter of minutes while hundreds of thousands of others were displaced from their homes. Something began to stir in her heart. I had never seen her like this.
After overhearing a conversation of a reluctant man who was on a disaster relief team complaining about having to go to Haiti, something gripped her.
She said to herself, “It’s not fair, he has to go and doesn’t want to and I want to go and can’t.” This was the statement that would break open the heavens and fertilize enormous faith.
The story has marvelous details that time and space do not permit, but suffice to say that God spoke to Michelle. She began making plans to fundraise and go to Haiti with two other local ladies. I have never seen anything like what I witnessed after this. I don’t know what was more amazing—the awakening of a dormant spiritual giant or the supernatural provision that began to flow into our hand. Whatever the case, the journey had begun. Interestingly enough, this wasn’t my journey to take this time; this was for her.
After fundraising for just a few weeks she had personally raised nearly $5,000. Totes full of relief essentials were loaded onto a plane. On March 4th she stepped onto the ground that had shaken the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and was now going to shape the rest of our lives.
The trio had contacted a Haitian organization with roots in the United States called Foundation for Children in Need. They were scheduled to be there along with several others for mission assistance to orphanages in Port au Prince.
The devastation was virtually indescribable. The stories were horrific. The scene was nothing short of chaotic. While much of the city was in ruins, the people quickly began recovery. They had to. In Haiti, you survive or die. They found the people to be resilient. They were not at the local government agency blaming politicians for their demise. They were using sledgehammers to break rock and start over. No government assistance, no microloans, no bailout; just a city of survivors.
Many of those wounded in the quake now had scars, emotional and physical, as permanent reminders of that day. One young man at an orphanage held one of those scars on his forehead. His name was Kerby. This orphanage had been recently discovered to be practically without support from any organization and being run by a man who had previously owned a funeral home. Every building and most of the exterior walls of the small compound were destroyed in the earthquake. Kerby’s scar was from an injury he sustained while fleeing the scene that fateful day.
As if investing ones’ self into such a journey wasn’t enough, something happened one day at the FOYER DES ENFANTS DE JESUS (Children’s Home of Jesus). While Michelle was visiting this orphanage, God planted a connection between her and Kerby. The seed of love began to flower. Her heart melted as they became one. That marked the beginning of the process of adoption that has taken us on the most amazing adventure of faith we have ever experienced. Over the next 20 months God took us through an amazing journey as we adopted both Kerby and his sister Kerlandy. Fittingly, we brought them home permanently as members of our family Christmas Day 2011!
While in Haiti, Michelle’s group attended a makeshift worship service in Port au Prince The worshipers were still unable to meet in their building, but instead were meeting outdoors. Pastor John lamented the disruption of their services from the earthquake because they could not collect their offerings for MISSIONS! Can you believe that? In the worship they sung a song written by Chris Tomlin that bares the heart of a selfless resolve:
You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation, You are
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless, You are
You’re the Lord of creation
The Creator of all things
You’re the King above all kings, You are
You’re the strength in the weakness
You’re the love to the broken
You’re the joy in the sadness, You are
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things have still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things have still to be done here
We have now been to Haiti many times and we count the days until we can go again. My spiritual travels have been a life-changing experience, taking me from being a pastor’s kid to a pastor who thought missions were a noble place for offerings to the present, where it now consumes our family life. We pray for Haiti and other nations every single day. Every dinner conversation has something about Haiti in it. Our life has been altered and changed forever by these beautiful people. We are committed for the rest of our lives to stay connected to Haiti. Haiti is in us; we don’t need a passport for that.
As my wife left the airport in Haiti, she encountered a weathered man in customs. He remarked about her stay and she said she loved Haiti. As he looked at her, tears welled up in his eyes and he said “You love Haiti? But Haiti is so broken.” She smiled and replied, “Yes, but I love it anyway.”
We haven’t stopped.