It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since my arrival in Belle-Anse. Two weeks that in some ways, feel more like several months, rather than a couple of weeks.
In the two weeks of transitioning into a life far different from anything I have ever experienced, I have already been thrown into several encounters, in which I have seen firsthand the effects of a life ravished by poverty. Ways I haven't ever seen in even the most astounding photographs of National Geographic.
In the midst of my personal realizations of exactly what I have gotten myself into, I have also been meditating on a recent and reoccurring theme.
Earlier this week, I had the privilege to travel with my team, Erika, Brittany and Meg, to the last town in our region, known as Baie D'Orange. Baie D'Orange is a village so transient, it forcefully enraptures your heart and mind.
Tucked away in the mountains of the southeast, near the highest peak of elevation in Haiti, lies a land frozen in time. Untouched by the clutches of westernization and modern conventionality. Surrounded by clouds and a terrain that resembles the Scottish Highlands, rather than a tropical paradise, sits this isolated, quiet and peaceful town.
Despite the natural beauty and gentle, genuine spirits of the townspeople, the overwhelming tyrant of poverty continues to sweep across the land. Malnutrition and disease claim hundreds of lives, and opportunities to succeed are crippled, with the lack of access to medical care and quality education.
In the eyes of the people we encountered, I was overtaken by a depth that traveled far beyond shallow waters, far beyond anything I had ever known. That depth translated to even the smallest of children who came into our path.
Our journey would lead us to a young father desperate to seek aid for his severely malnourished infant. Johnelson is seven-months-old, yet only weighs a mere, eight pounds. His mother has suffered from severe postpartum depression since giving birth and his loving and dedicated father, Jonas has been unable to find consistent work, allowing him to provide for his family. This situation grew to a place of intensity that it was far too much for this young man to handle on his own.
He was placed into contact with Brittany, our malnutrition director, and within days we were on our way to bring Johnelson into our care.
It was evident that Jonas' love for his son was great, and even powerful. He was willing to entrust his fragile baby into the arms of strangers, with the hope that we would care for him and nurse him back to health, so he could one day return to the arms of the father who loved him so.
It was touching, eye-opening and extremely humbling.
The amount of sacrifice and suffering this father was willing to go through to give his child a chance to survive. A chance to live. A chance to thrive.
I am certain that as he got ready to journey back home, it was not without great sorrow that he kissed his baby boy goodbye - prepared to go six months before seeing him again.
What an incredible love of a father for his son!
However it was what I experienced on our way back to Belle-Anse from Baie D'Orange, which really wrecked my heart with an even greater immensity.
As we walked the long, red-dirt roads back down through the mountains to reach our home, one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen came running out of the woods.
She looked as though she walked straight out of a anthropology documentary. With a blue piece of fabric tied around her head like a turban, a tattered and worn dress and bare feet, she approached us with wide eyes and cautious spirit. Her eyes full of an intensity that far exceeded her young years.
Within minutes, her younger brother was quickly following suit. Running behind her with bright orange dreadlocks (a major indicator of chronic malnutrition) and nothing but a pajama top to cover his naked and emaciated body.
It was obvious that these children were sick. In need of clean water and nutrients, yet asked for nothing. They stood silently, looking deep into our eyes; the little boy too weak and timid to even smile. My heart was overtaken by emotion. In my few minutes of encountering these precious souls, I knew I would be unable to erase their faces from my memory.
We learned from neighbors that the children's mother had recently given birth only days before. I looked at Brittany and without even exchanging words, we knew we were both thinking the same thing.
We did not stumble upon these children by accident. We were supposed to help them.
We came upon their home, discovering that a few tarps and sticks made the tent-esque covering where they lived with their mother, younger sister and newborn sister. The same depth and intensity was reflected in the eyes of the little sister who could not have been more than four-years-old.
As Brittany spoke with the mother, it was obvious that we would be unable to take immediate action. In remote regions of Haiti, it is rumored and believed that white people come and "steal" children. To preserve a level of trust and credibility as a new organization that seeks to keep families together and empower individuals, the last thing we wanted to do was make it seem as though we were going to take the children away from their mother.
She began to examine the little boy, discovering his malnutrition had escalated to a even more severe degree than we originally thought.
Brittany explained that she was opening a clinic to treat malnourished children and gave the woman her card, expressing the urgency and need for her child to receive medical attention.
We were forced to say goodbye, as their mother was too weak to travel from giving birth days before. I knew my heart would not cease to be haunted by the eyes of those children.
We wanted to take them with us. To put the little boy into the program immediately, but our desire to serve, rather than achieve our own agenda was greater, and in this instance, prayer and patience were more important than insistence.
It was clear to me that this mother, much like Jonas, would too be willing to make the sacrifice of letting go of her child for a while in order for him to receive the care he so desperately needed. Once she was fully aware of what opportunities were being offered, I have no doubt that she would say yes.
For the past week, I have been processing all that took place in those few hours during our visit to Baie D'Orange.
How simple moments restructured my entire outlook on my time and work with Reimagine Haiti.
How God used the love of a father for his son and his willingness to let him go, to speak to me so clearly about my own life and willingness to make a sacrifice.
Moving to a third world country would seem to be a large enough sacrifice. Leaving everything you've ever known, friends, families, relationships, jobs, and modern comforts, to follow a call that has been placed on your life. Yes, it would seem that denying yourself first world amenities and a secure paycheck would be enough, however, that could not be further from the truth.
Currently I have been reading and devouring the words of Elisabeth Elliot in her book Passion & Purity. Typically, I am highly turned off by Christian literature pertaining to the subject of dating and romance. Yet, this book is so much deeper than a five-step process on how to marry the person of your dreams or experience the truest of love.
It is a portrayal of a woman's personal journey of pain, anguish and joy as she passionately pursues her Maker and Creator. As she denies herself the one she loves, to stay true to what she believes is of the utmost of importance. To come to a place where following God and His plan for your life is greater than virtually any other human desire.
I have highlighted large chunks of this book and made an attempt to glean as much as possible from the wisdom penned by a woman who experienced far greater joy and sorrow by middle-age, than most will in an entire lifetime.
There have been many times that I have asked this very question of God.
Is it truly necessary to quite literally strip me naked, standing alone in the winds with nothing to hold on to, so that I may trust, recklessly, wholeheartedly?
The answer is yes.
We must be stripped. We must be tested. We must be willing to let go - even to that which we hold most dear, in order to be sanctified, renewed and taken to a place of intimacy and depth in our walk with the Lord that brings unadulterated wisdom and devotion.
Without a sacrifice - what is anything worth? If it isn't painful to let something go, then how much did it mean to you in the first place? And how much could you possibly learn by frantically holding on to it?
What if you have to let it go, trusting that if it is truly destined to be in your life, it will return? But at the same time acknowledging that if whatever it is never returns, it didn't belong to you in the first place and served it's purpose for the season that your life was graced by it's presence.
Johnelson's dear father was willing to let him go. Entrust him into the care of not only strangers, but foreigners who promised to love and protect him and give him the resources needed to restore his health and strength.
He was willing to take the risk of leaving his child behind, and potentially have Johnelson's case reach a level of severity, it would be out of our jurisdiction to control or combat. (This is not the case, Johnelson is responding well to the program and improving every day.)
The mother of the little boy and girl who touched my heart in Baie D'Orange, is most likely willing to make a similar sacrifice.
Oh how much can I learn from these sacrificial parents!
I complain because my solar panel doesn't put out enough energy to power my fan throughout the night.
I grow frustrated when things don't happen as quickly or how and when I think they should.
I try to think I can figure everything out and make sense of it all, when really I know nothing.
And most of all, I doubt God's faithfulness. I so easily forget the countless times in my life He has watched over me, protected me and bestowed such a grace and love upon me, my heart can hardly fathom it's depth.
Yet despite how much goodness I have been shown, I question His hand and sovereignty in my life, at even the slightest opportunity to do so.
When He asks me to make the smallest sacrifice, I cry myself to sleep -questioning why He asked me to give THAT up.
I throw a spiritual fit, asking God why He has forgotten and forsaken me.
Yet Jesus clearly states that He will always ask for a sacrifice. He will always ask for us to deny ourselves the very thing we love, the very thing we cherish, and why?
For the sake of the cross.
For the sake of our Savior who DIED for us. The One who made the greatest sacrifice of all time, by giving His life for an entire world who rejected, abused, beat and blasphemed His name.
For the sake of our Lover and Maker who goes to the Father on our behalf and cries out for our souls.
For the sake of our Friend, who never, ever leaves us or forsakes us.
And yet, after giving up the very thing we couldn't bear to lose, His grace is sufficient. The power of His love brings peace and an abundance of joy - always giving us exactly what we need, when we need it.
In this world, we WILL have trouble. We will absolutely lose jobs, money, relationships, marriages, children and even our own lives, but the one promise that we can hold on to, the one truth that never fails, is that HE will be with us.
Where He is, there we shall also be.