I have never been to a third world country before. The last time I was out of the country was in 2011 when I went to a handful of countries in Europe with my naturally spunky history teacher. I knew very little…3 semesters of French, little about faith, and realized for the first time in my life that stepping out of your comfort zone can be one of the most amazing decisions a young person searching for their identity can make in their life. I always knew that God had laid missions on my heart. In what form I didn’t know. I just remember being sixteen and crying for hours because of a mixture of fear, heartache, and desire to be a part of something bigger than myself, a greater good, was surrounding my thoughts.
When I had the final wave of courage and excitement to apply to be a BigStuf intern I had just found out we were going to Haiti. I didn’t have much time to consider if it was a deal breaker or not. I didn’t have time to overanalyze or chicken out. Later I found out that we were going with Compassion International which is an amazing organization aiming to break the cycle of poverty. When the time came I was excited, a little nervous, but mostly excited about what heart change I was going to experience in the next few days.
Flying over Haiti was absolutely breathtaking, that country is breathtaking, but the heartache and distress that lies within it is shocking. My first thoughts while driving through different areas was that there were tons of people and that their daily lives must be daily struggles because of the condition of their houses, the filth and spread of disease, and low income or no income families wondering if they are going to be able to eat dinner that night or not.
On this trip I became the minority and I saw through a very different lens.
The first full day in Haiti we visited our first Compassion project on the island of Lagonov. I walked in, a young girl grabbed my hand and pinned a flower to my shirt that was sopping from our unexpectedly wet, rocky, and somewhat stressful boat ride to the island. She led me into the church, to my seat, and I began to tear up. I was so overwhelmed that all these kids were so excited to be with us, and I couldn’t help but wonder what their sweet hearts had to endure when they left the project for the day. I was overwhelmed with their innocence and their pureness of joy. They didn’t deserve this life, they deserved so much more but yet they were content and happy, even more joyous than I am on most days when I can have almost anything at my fingertips when I need it.
Our trip was somewhat short even though we did a lot. In that time my heart was twisted and I wrestled with the ups and downs that came with every day, every encounter. On our last day visiting the projects of Compassion International I had the best experience I could ever ask for.
I am a total sucker for a good song and a dance party. These kids were giving us their best struts, their best smiles, and goodness they had so much sass I couldn’t even handle it. In the best way possible, of course. They sang for us, recited poetry, and welcomed us into the difference they were making in these child’s lives, allowing us to worship, pray, and embrace life alongside them.
On our last home visit I distinctly remember thinking that God was sending me with this group to visit this one, specific family for a reason.
Dijouna held my hand the second part of our hike through the mountains of Port Au Prince to her families home. She led me through filth, unclean water, exhausted dogs, people sitting outside because it was too disgustingly hot to sit inside. She led me with a smile on her face the entire time and with such fearlessness too. She would look back at me as if she was checking to make sure if I was ok. I would smile at her with reassurance and she would return a toothy grin as she continued to guide me along. When we got to her house, I saw the most beautiful view of the Haitian mountains and took a breath in of God’s amazing grace.
Talking to Djouna’s family showed me an authentic faith. One that was peaceful yet was on fire at the same time. They were trying their hardest to honor, pursue, and raise their children in the name of God. They asked for simple yet specific prayers and you could tell that their lives were built on the hope of Jesus, they were fighting for their faith in Him and thanking Him for all their blessings and trials. As I prayed for this family, I was overcome with joy and serenity in who they were as people. They were welcoming, hospitable and vulnerable but they were above all happy.
Thinking back on Haiti, which was really only a couple days ago, I want to climb to a mountain top and sing at the top of my lungs to one of those high energy songs that make you just want to run around as fast as you can, smile, and dance around just loving life. Haiti taught me how to love life a little bit more, love people a little bit more, and love, trust, and instill my hope and confidence in God more than I have before.
I want to go back. Mon âme chante pour vous, Haïti.