When you begin a new journey, you typically start with an outline of expectations and desired goals.
"I'm going to accomplish..."
"This is what is going to happen..."
As you enter into the new phase and begin to absorb your surroundings, more often than not, you realize that your life is going to take a very different route than you originally thought. You have your map and compass in hand, ready to navigate through every twist and turn, but sometimes, the best experiences happen when you throw your map away and let the wind take you wherever it wishes to blow.
And it's far better than anything you could have planned.
When I first came to Haiti, I came with all sorts of ideas and notions about my position and the impact I would have. Shortly after arriving, I realized things were not going to go the way I thought. I was going to have to throw away my to-do lists and agendas and hand everything over to the Master Creator who orchestrates and guides every step of my life.
I was brought to Danita's Children as a photojournalist with the contingency to become a marketing/fundraising coordinator, working out of the stateside office in Orlando, Florida.
In the beginning, I was breathless with anticipation. Brimming at the possibilities of starting a new life on the Floridian coast. But after a month of office work, I found myself craving to be walking along the dirt roads, dodging pigs and goats and holding precious children in my arms.
After a few short weeks of immersing myself in Haitian life, I knew it was going to be impossible for me to leave and work in an office setting. I was no longer enticed by the luxuries and persuasions of American culture, my heart was aching for something more. To go above. To go beyond. To go forth.
Every part of my being screamed for me to stay in Haiti and continue to strive for what God was calling me to.
But what exactly was He calling me to?
At this same time, my heart was being ripped open by the horrific realties of the effects of extreme poverty. I had become part of a story of a little girl named Stefani who was severely malnourished. At seven months, she weighed a mere nine pounds and was barely holding on to life. I had the opportunity to transport her to a clinic in Port-au-Prince, which focused on the treatment of severe malnutrition cases.
For ten years, my drive and passion has been photography and journalism. To take my pen and lens around the world, documenting the most impactful stories and images. While that desire is still at the forefront of my heart and mind, being in Haiti has shown me that it simply is not enough.
It's not enough for me to take a nice photo and write a compelling article.
I have to DO something.
If I notice injustice and take no action, I am committing an unforgivable crime.
So I was left with a decision. To hold on to job security and pursue a comfortable life in Florida, or take a giant leap of faith and embark on a journey that could take me into the depths of the unknown. Into the jaws of danger and the core of poverty and despair.
On my flight a few weeks ago to visit my friends and family in Oklahoma, I sat next to a woman who struck up a conversation with me about our careers. I told her I was a photojournalist in Haiti and she replied with a typical response.
"I just don't know how you can do that. I could never live in a place like Haiti. Security is the most important thing to me."
I smiled and retorted that the chaos of Haiti didn't scare me, rather it ignited a fire inside of me to be on the front lines helping those who are lost and forgotten.
If I chose security over risk, I could never live with myself. I have a lifetime to live in a nice home, have a nice job and live a nice life. But you see, normal has never been something I've aspired to.
And so, staying true to who I am, I have chosen the road less traveled. A road that will lead me to a home without running water. A life completely reliant on my faith in God and His promise to never leave or abandon me. To provide for my every need and give me the strength to make it through each day.
On May 1st, I will begin the next phase of my season in Haiti with Reimagine Haiti, an organization focused on creating sustainable resources to help put an end to hunger, lack of access to clean water and malnutrition in a village called Belle Anse, located on the southeast coast of Haiti.
I am elated by the opportunity to go forth into the community of Belle Anse and serve in any way possible.
I will still be telling the stories of community members and the work and projects we do, but I am ecstatic to see where God takes me and what He is going to show me during the time.
It is not without great humility that I ask my friends, family and readers to prayerfully consider supporting me as I pursue this endeavor, knowing I am a full-time missionary completely reliant upon charitable donations for my any and every need - even food and water!
Thank you for taking the time to hear my heart and invite you to join me on this great adventure!
Reimagine Haiti's vision is to work in community with the people that we serve, by: seeking out what they believe they need, not what we believe they may need; being respectful of their culture, their abilities and their knowledge; and recognizing their ability to make changes on their own. We will work in a way that will produce long-lasting, sustainable changes by addressing and treating the root causes of problems, not simply the symptoms. Most importantly, we will develop working and living relationships with the people of the community, acknowledging that we have just as much to learn from them as they have to learn from us.