In 72 hours flat.
When considering a missions trip, your thoughts could include assumptions that you’re going to transform a culture, that God is going to do a great work through you to impact a people group. Though these are both possible of many outcomes, the most prevalent take away of a trip I recently took to the middle of Haiti was the transformation and great work He did inside of me.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” – Romans 10:13-15
Having received an invitation to take a trip to serve an organization in Port Au Prince, I immediately accepted because I’ve heard of how things like this can deepen your faith and your appreciation for your life back home. I had never heard much about Haiti, but knew it was a desolate, third-world nation. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was definitely down for an adventure.
After our initial arrival, we visited a nine-orphan home that is set up by the organization we partnered with there. We were able to see who they were, and that they were clearly well taken care of by the team in place at that location. Right away, our comfort zone/personal space bubble was popped as these kids’ faces lit up and ran to us with arms straight out to grab and hold us, or arms straight up in petition to be held by us. We were told that in the next few days we would visit the orphanage that they came from, and witness the desperate conditions there.
The next morning, we went to one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of the western hemisphere – Cité Soleil. The area has been called a “microcosm of all the ills in Haitian society: endemic unemployment, illiteracy, non-existent public services, unsanitary conditions, rampant crime and armed violences.” It’s a place that should an American get into trouble, I’m told that the U.N. will not come rescue you. My heart was broken before our van was put in park as I saw little boys running around with barely any clothing, and what clothes they had were torn and battered. Some of them had only a small shirt, no pants, and nothing on their feet. Still, they had huge smiles on their faces. I saw joy in the eyes of the hopeless. We got out and began to walk with our Haitian guides. The chaos and devastation of the landscape seems to never end the more you walk. The smell there is one similar to a portable bathroom at a race track or baseball field; there is no plumbing system, so the street curbs are lined with rivers of sewage. There is no garbage pick up, so garbage is absolutely everywhere, and best attempts are made to pile up and burn it. Aside from putrid breathing conditions, the living quarters are boxes with tin roofs, and, if you’re lucky, a cloth as a front door. The food supply is in high demand, demonstrated by the bodily evidences of malnutrition and the mudpies we were shown – made literally out of dirt, eaten literally just to feel full. Again, just like at the orphan home the night before, these kids who have zero hope come running up to you, in almost overpowering numbers, to simply hold your hand and walk with you, get their picture taken with you, have an ounce of your attention directed toward them. We stopped to talk with some people, and a mother tried to give her child to us, to give it a better life. That was the peak, that was what finalized our view of how depressed this city was. At one point, our guides interpreted signals from local gang members that it was time to leave, right then.
We hopped in the vans and went to the next destination – the orphanage our guides obtained their kids from. At first onset, it didn’t seem too bad compared to the rest of the things we saw that day. There were about 20-25 kids in an upstairs area. We spoke with them (through interpretation), played with and held them as much as they wanted. Our guides took groups of six of us at a time down to the basement; there was something they wanted us to see. It was my turn. I was lead down some stairs to a hallway where they first told us about a cooking area, but said it never gets used to cook food for the children the building hosts. We walked next into a very dark, dungeon-type room. I’ll never forget the things I saw and heard described to me after I walked inside. At night, the small room is packed full of infants to small children, boys and girls. The guide told me that when she first came there, there were babies laying in human feces and urine, and basically the most unsanitary, ungodly conditions you’ve never dreamed of. I was too broken to even speak. The guides said that they are actively involved in processes to get this place shut down.
This entire day was spent peeling back the veil off of our eyes to witness the depths of depravity in this country. It didn’t get any worse than this. We ended this day with a wealth of emotions and thoughts ranging from guilt to confusion to helplessness to anger to sadness… to facedown prayer.
The majority of our next day was spent at an after-school program that kids flock to. We were able to speak to them about dream pursuit and Christ’s love, then spent time loving on them in whatever way they wanted most, be it games or hugs. As dusk approached, we took a walk through the worst housing I’ve ever seen. Their kitchen, laundry room, sleeping area, everything was within a 10’x10’ area in some houses. We had the privilege of praying over a couple of people that requested it for their sick children, for their frail bodies, for their salvation. We ended this day with an escalated hope more so than the day prior. There are things and programs in place for people to better themselves and excel in their country’s economy all in the name and for the glory of Christ.
We ended that night on the roof of the house reflecting on everything we had seen and singing worship to God.
We have all seen commercials and pictures of places like this before, but it really can’t grasp your attention like being there to see, smell, feel, and hear what is actually happening. We genuinely do not have a clue. And how could we? Media will never seriously cover it, celebrities will never bring attention to it, and our couches and cozy homes and living will never allow it to cross our minds lest we grow a holy discomfort. Public officials attach the term “poverty” to American neighborhoods because they have no access to internet. American animal abuse rescue organizations advertise moving pictures of puppies in cages with Sarah McLachlan playing in the background to convince you of the priority of their mission field. As I write this, someone is reading an article about Kim and Kanye two rows ahead of me on my flight… I’m sure it’s important. Little do we know over here that in other lands, poverty is a word to describe someone who is about to die. Little do we know that animals there are sleeping in rivers of human waste. If you had seen what I’ve seen, you’d want to first class ship politicians to the slums. You’d want to burn down the organizations that elevate the mission field of American animals above Haitian humans. We are over occupied with things that don’t matter and carry no eternal value in this country.
Haiti is a place that wrecks your American comfort to pieces. You return feeling like, why do I deserve to drive this fancy truck home? What makes me greater than them that I can stop at any fast food place or starbucks I want on the way? What makes me so much better than the orphaned that my parents never abandoned me? It’s difficult to find my place in a culture that finds discontent and entitlement in having everything after spending time in another that finds hope and joy in having nothing.
When I was little, my mom would always tell me when I was discontent with a food or toy that I should go over seas where children have nothing so I would appreciate what I have more. Is that the case now? No, I’m actually MORE discontent, but in a different way. Everything I have here tries to keep me from being hopeless, and it rarely works. What I’ve realized is all the things I’m told I should be so much more grateful for are actually barriers to me placing my hope and security in Christ. I so easily love these things, and they never fully satisfy. Haitians have nothing else to place their hope in, so Christ is easily within their sights as their only hope. I envy that desperation.
“If you have pity for perishing people and a passion for the reputation of Christ, You must care about world missions.” – Piper
This is not a petition or plea to increase your gratitude for your home, family, and life. This is a call to action for the cause of Christ. God never created us to prize comfort, but we do. We ignore the uncomfortable truths to evade guilt so we feel fine doing nothing. We even go as far as creating theologies to justify comfort-seeking as a direct fruit of faith. To truly worship God is to love what he loves, and he loves the broken. We’re swift to direct our attention to material things, as they have limited food, water, clothing. While those are very real needs, they are not the primary need. They just want to be loved and held!! Their primary desire is for people to care about them, their primary seek is a source of hope. They already know that “man shall not live on bread alone,” and they need someone to come in and tell them “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” or HOPE.
We can not claim to be dedicated to laying down our lives and making people eternally glad if we are not caring about world missions. We can not love people or love God without doing both. We MUST champion the orphan if we claim to love the broken. We MUST cry over the living conditions if we claim to help the hurting. We MUST walk ghetto streets and smell the atmosphere of human waste and hold the hands of the diseased and kiss the foreheads of the unbathed and pick up and hold the young unclothed if we claim to be a representative of Jesus. Because He did.
If in Christ we have hope IN THIS LIFE ONLY, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:19
That scripture refers to the worldly pleasure we exchange for suffering and worldly abstention to pursue Christ to the ends of the age. If He did not resurrect, and we do not have His hope of eternal pleasure, hope, and satisfaction, then by all means, chase after and absorb every comfort this life has to offer, because it’s the only life we will ever have. But if He DID rise, and we DO have eternal life and hope, the comforts of this world will fall so far subordinate to the joy of living a life in full surrender God – which leads to a heart aligning with his purposes and passions, including passion for the broken. What this all means in light of mission work is that to have a Christ centered passion for missions is certain to deliver greater joy and comfort than to have no passion for missions.
WORK TO BE DONE
The work of spreading the gospel, making disciples, and loving the broken does not exclude your home town. God has you where you are right now for a specific reason and purpose. The reason there is such a focus on foreign nations is exposure and poverty. To not hear of Jesus Christ at least 100 times in an American lifetime is to seriously be living in a bubble. We have tv shows, radio stations, and churches on every corner. Think of it this way: What seems more reasonable? 50 people changing 1 lightbulb, or 1 person changing 50 lightbulbs? Haiti is roughly the size of Vermont; Vermont’s population is 600,000, Haiti’s is 10.3 million. On top of that statistic, Vermont has the same amount of total human beings as Haiti has orphans. Thats right, there are 600,000 orphans in the nation of Haiti. I use this place as an example, but there are plenty of other countries that are in similar conditions such as Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, and much more that are ripe for the harvest.
I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation. Romans 15:20
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. – Matthew 9:37
There is no doubt that missions care is a mandatory part of the Christian’s heart, but perhaps you don’t yet feel the calling to go. Thats ok. But at the very least, send. There are tons of people who are diving in to this thing head first, and the only obstacle they encounter is financial fuel. There are organizations like the one I am partnered with called I’m ME. They are stationed in Haiti and are making large, exponentially growing waves in the community there. They are rescuing kids from deadly situations, creating opportunities for self-advancement, loving on people and being Jesus to those He came to save. Their success, however, is determined largely by God moving many people’s hearts to contribute resources to their cause. I encourage you to check out their web site, see what they are about, and pray about supporting them and/or other Christ centered missions organizations. Where you spend your wallet, you spend your heart.
The world tells us that we are free to live comfortably. God’s gospel tells us we are free to crucify our comfort. In doing so, we will have effectively torn down the wall that blocks our direct view of God as the all satisfying source of hope. For me, I am stunned. I’m stopped in my tracks. I went to Haiti to serve others and be an asset for change, but Haiti changed me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a greater sense of purpose than I do right now. I am so charged up and craving the Lord to pave my way for future endeavors.
Are you craving purpose? Want to be a part of a war that is sure to be victorious? God’s global missions purpose WILL stand (Matthew 24:14), he “WILL accomplish all <His> purposes (Isaiah 46:10), He WILL enlarge the hearts of those that go to deny their needs and wants, and He WILL fill them with a joy that will last far beyond the limits of this life.
Jump in, the water’s great 🙂
“If you knew what I know, you’d do what I do.” – David Nelson, CEO of I’m ME