Exactly a year ago today I experienced one of the most defining moments of my entire life. My close friend Brittany, and Director of the Reimagine Haiti Malnutrition Center, the place I spent six months of my life serving last year, were on our way back to Belle-Anse from a fun weekend of celebrating my 26th birthday.
As we reached the mountain village of Baie D'Orange, we met a little girl named Jessika. Jessika was suffering from an extreme case of malnutrition and had maybe a few days left to survive without proper medical attention.
We hopped on motos and raced the clock to get her down the mountain and to the nearest clinic. I held the small and frail girl in my arms, refusing to accept that this was her end.
And it wasn't.
Jessika spent the next several months recovering in the malnutrition center. Light and joy quickly returned into her beautiful brown eyes and thousand watt smile.
A year ago I wrote a blog post about this fateful day. I wrote about how deeply I was impacted and how much this tiny girl dramatically changed my life.
I spent last night sleeping on the floor of our malnutrition center, awaking at each and every stir Jessika made. I slept maybe a total of three hours, but awoke with a heart full of satisfaction and gratitude.
Tonight as I sit and write this post with only 45 minutes left in my 25th year, once again I am overcome by emotion.
There are so many wrong turns, bad decisions and stupid mistakes I've made in my life. So many distractions, discouragements and disapprovals that have tried to come and steer me away from the path that my life was always destined to take.
After all the things I've done wrong, I must have done something right in order to be here today. To have been given the incredible and humbling opportunity and ability to love and serve a child who could have very easily lost her life last night, and many others just like her.
The privilege to sleep on the floor of a center, which will one day save hundreds of thousands of little lives and be the beacon of hope Haiti has needed for decades.
As I say goodbye to my 25th year and embrace 26 with open arms and an expectant heart, there is one thing I can say I know for sure.
I don't know why countless children just like Jessika don't survive.
I don't know exactly why God saw me fit to come and serve the region of Belle-Anse for such a time a this.
But I do know that there is no such thing as chance and coincidence.
For everything there is a reason, a purpose and a destiny, and I am ecstatic that this road less traveled I'm walking along, is leading me through some pretty epic adventures towards my ultimate destiny.
Jessika's influence on me did not only invoke sincere but passing emotion. Jessika lit a fire inside of me that refused to be quenched, Jessika showed me what it meant to lay it all down. To give your all to see a life saved, rescued, changed and restored.
Several months after her arrival, Jessika was able to transition back home to her family healthy and happy.
Meeting Jessika brought me one step closer to my destiny. It confirmed that I wasn't on a cool adventure on an island in the Caribbean. My life was changing in ways I never realized were possible. My heart was breaking, bursting and inside Haiti was placing itself deeper and deeper.
These days I don't see much of the sweet mountain children like Jessika, but if I had the chance to see her again, I would probably say something like this...
A year ago you were very sick. So sick we thought we were going to lose you, but no. You held on. You fought. You proved to us what a brave and strong little girl you are. You refused to allow death to enter in and carry you away, you knew your purpose here on earth wasn't fulfilled just yet.
Although you've probably forgotten me by now, I want you to know I will never forget you. Your face is permanently engraved in my memory. The moments I held your small and suffering body. The times I woke up in the middle of the night every time you stirred to make sure you were okay and give you medicine. Then, just like the miracle you are, you began to heal and those beautiful and timeless moments of your laughter and smile, I cherish forever.
I have a photo of you and your beautiful family hanging on my wall. I look at it often and smile and imaging you running and laughing and playing. I hope you grow up to chase your dreams. To finish school and become a nurse or maybe a doctor! A wife, a mother and and an incredible woman, a leader to your people.
I want to thank you for coming into my life. For changing me in ways that neither one of us will ever fully be able to comprehend. For teaching me what the essence of true life is, and what matters most in this world. Thank you for causing my heart to explode with love for this nation of Haiti, and realize my purpose. The purpose to help more girls who are living in dangerous and scary situations realize their potential and to, just like you, say no to death and rise above.
To be victorious and bring true change within their homes, communities and country.
You are a world changer, Jessika, because little do you know, you changed my world.
I love you, and can't wait to hear stories of all the amazing things you're going to do someday.
Always be brave and never stop fighting.
Zanmiw pou toutan, (your friend forever)