It’s hard to put into words that which has become a part of our every day life. Haiti is an entire culture that has collided with ours over the past 4 years. I no longer see going to Haiti as a mission, but rather as something God is doing in our lives and at the same time, their lives. I’ve learned more about who God is through Haiti than most things in my life. I have learned over the years that sometimes our mindset on what is important in life has to change in order for God to permeate the broken places in our heart. We live in a great nation. Visit a 3rd world country, or any country really, and you will see more clearly what you have rather than what you don’t have…at least for a little while anyway. I received a question several times before taking the girls to Haiti. The question was “do you think your girls will understand.” Usually my response went something like this…”To be blunt, no, they aren’t going to understand.” They aren’t going to understand that they have more than 99% of the world. They won’t understand that they are the 1%. They won’t understand that people are starving in front of them…because most of the time starvation can’t be seen, only felt. They won’t look at the homes in the village and think it’s any less than what they have in a home. But we didn’t take the girls to Haiti to understand themselves better or to come home completely changed and thankful for what they have. Even if they had come home changed by those things- they are lessons that are usually short lived. We wanted the girls to go to Haiti so that they might also build relationships with those that we have come to love so much. We wanted them to see the culture and embrace that we are all different. To understand that those living outside our own culture are no different than us. We wanted the girls to see and understand that we live in a world that goes far beyond the four corners of our own home. We wanted them to understand that across the world there are people who know God and those that don’t….and we can share Christ wherever and whenever called. We wanted them to see that America is beautiful because within our one culture are many cultures. There is a beauty in being the melting pot of the world where we are surrounded by hundreds of heritages and cultures. Because isn’t that what heaven will be like? Everyone coming together to worship One God- the only One. We wanted their eyes to be open to that which God allowed for their little hearts to comprehend. We took Presley because she had been asking. And we took Hope for Presley.
Hope built a bigger relationship with the animals in Haiti than she did with any of the kids. And that’s ok, because in a moment of a child hurting one of the dogs in the village Hope spoke out and spoke up for what she saw as an injustice of something helpless. And in her moments of uncertainty, she stepped outside her comfort zone and ran around and played “follow the leader” and “chase.” She taught “school” to a group of 10 kids sitting outside their tiny orphanage. She didn’t change their lives, but she made them laugh and brought a smile to their face…and ours.
Both girls touched sand on the beaches of the Caribbean for the very first time alongside 3 other girls who also saw it for the first time. Together, they felt the salty air stick to their hands and feet, and plucked shells out of the ocean for the first time. They were given food that most of the kids living there needed in order to nourish their bodies- and instead chose to eat the rice and beans that the kids get on most days- and they loved it.
You can’t change a heart by sitting down and doing nothing. You can’t change your view of the world by staring at a flatscreen or reading a few books. You are changed when you stand up and go. When you do for others. When you listen to someone’s story and embrace, not only their culture, but their differences. Learning about other countries- by immersing yourself in different cultures (whether it be here or there) and learning from others and about them is what opens your heart to the differences among all of us. We didn’t take the girls to Haiti to show them that they can make a difference, but to show them that there’s only One who can make a difference in our lives and in our hearts and that is Jesus. I would rather their eyes be open to what God can do rather than what they can do.
Presley built relationships and was thankful that she had 100 friends instantly. Three years ago, God placed in her a desire to hold a lemonade stand and raise money to pay for a child to go to school in Haiti. I didn’t find this as something amazing. Kids desire to help others- especially when a lemonade stand is involved. It’s up to us to nurture that kindness and generosity. Most of the time our children are more willing to give away that which we cling so tightly to. If we desire for our children to be kind and generous and appreciative of all they have then show them and allow them to give. Have them set goals. They will learn far more from opening their hearts here- than being spectators across the world.
When Presley met Tueslyne they became instant friends. I truly believe that it was God who built that relationship and nurtured it and brought them together. And I’m certain that the reason is far beyond what I could ever imagine. And I’m certain it’s for God’s glory and not our own benefit. The relationship that Presley built with Tueslyne, her sister, and cousin was worth the trip. To see full circle what God has done in the hearts of these two girls-to the bond and buckets of joy and laughter they created together 3 years later did my heart good.