Break my heart for what breaks yours <3

I was part of the Restore retreat at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. It was pretty cool because we would spend all day serving others, doing VBS, hut to huts, feeding programs, playing with babies at the orphanage, etc. But at night, we would all get together and spend some time in worship. It was a great chance to re-group and process what it was we were experiencing. It is hard to take in everything you’re seeing and it can be really overwhelming so it was a real blessing to be around other teenagers and people who were experiencing the same things you were. We would also have devotional times and were encouraged to pray and journal. One thing we were encouraged to pray was “God, break my heart for what breaks yours.” The prayer was to really see the hurt and pain around us and to be broken hearted for our Haitian brothers and sisters. Because the thing is, the conditions in which most Haitians live are not ok. People should not have to live like they are forced to. We should be appalled that people in the world are living like that. But it’s hard to focus on other people when we’re in our comfortable homes and the hurting people of this world seem so far away…

But I believe we have a responsibility to the people with which we share the earth. We have a responsibility to our Hatian, African, South American, Asian, European, Australian, and American brothers and sisters. We have a responsibility to help others who are hurting. I speak from a Christian point of view but even beyond that I believe everyone has the responsibility to help their fellow humans. We share this earth with 6,905,551,213 people, more than that by the time you read this post. We share in many of the same struggles and hurts and yet we are scared to look around and take in what’s really around us.

I was talking to another person who has been to Haiti before and she said that she found that when she talked to people about her trip, they seemed almost unwilling to hear about it. I think that because we’re all a little scared to hear and see what is really happening around us in this world we live in. Because there is something so wrong about how so many people live and if we knew how they lived, then we’d probably feel uncomfortable about it. So we turn away from the hurt in the world.

It is hard to understand the pain in this world. It’s hard to allow yourself to see it. But I think when you do allow yourself to see it and then do something about it, you’ll never regret that you did.

I got sick when I was in Haiti. I felt lousy and tired. It was a billion degrees outside. It was dirty. The food and water tasted weird. Transportation was unreliable, unsafe, and not enjoyable. I saw malnourished babies and toddlers and broken adults. I saw beaches and streets covered in trash. But I will never regret that I went to Haiti. And now that I’ve seen Haiti, I can’t just stay at home anymore. I hope and pray that I will never be content to just stay at home and live my comfortable life. I hope that I will always allow God to challenge me and push me and take me to different countries and places and experience more of his world and meet more of his children. And I pray that you will feel challenged to go beyond your comfort zone. Not everyone has to leave the country- there are hurting people everywhere. But I hope you do branch out…listen to God and allow him to break your heart for what breaks His. You will never be the same.

Tout Bagay Deja Byen

While I was in Haiti, I was mainly at the mission in St. Louis. But my group spent a couple of days in a small village called Beau Champ which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was out in the middle of nowhere- it took us 3 hours to get there by tap-tap cart through rivers and streams and dirt/mud roads. There is a small mission in Beau Champ. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains and goats and sheep and donkeys. We walked through the market one day and there was a huge space that served as a donkey parking lot!

At the mission, there were a lot of painted signs that said “tout bagay deja byen” which means “everything is already ok.” They sang a song about that too, where the lyrics were basically “everything is already ok because our God sits on the throne.”

Think about what they’re saying: everything is already ok. Not “it’s going to be ok” or “it would be ok if we had x, y, and z” but it is ok right now, as it is. That attitude is almost unfathomable to me. These people who have pretty much nothing are ok with their lives. They don’t have houses, clothes, food, clean water, medical care, and they’re saying that everything is already ok?

Yes. Because they know that God sits on the throne.

And even though things are hard and painful, one day they will go to heaven and join God by that throne.

Tout bagay deja byen.

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

The title of this post is a quote by Albus Dumbledore. I believe he is a very wise man. (Even if he’s not real..pish posh details.)

I feel like while I was in Haiti I really learned the truth of this quote. There was darkness there, yes: extreme poverty, desperate situations, starvation. When you’re there you are overwhelmed with so many feelings…sadness, pain, anger, hopefulness, joy, faith, love.

I think one of the reasons that the Haitian people are able to live in such horrible conditions is that they don’t drown themselves in self pity. They don’t sit in dark rooms, crying about their broken lives, country, world. They live every day with amazing strength.

They know the truth of this quote. Happiness is accessible but we’re the ones who have to flip that light switch. Otherwise we’re just left stumbling around in the dark.

And that’s not the life God has in mind for us.

 


Reflection

A British survey found that women look in the mirror and average of 34 times a day. Men look in the mirror an average of 27 times. That’s a whole lot of mirror checks. You may not think you look in the mirror a lot but, if you’re honest with yourself, you probably do.

There are 6 mirrors in my house. One in every bathroom (3), one above the mantle in the living room, and a full length one in my room and my sister’s. That means that every time I go to the bathroom, I see myself in the mirror. That means that when I’m in my room, I can look in the mirror. That means that when I go in to my sister’s room to find a ponytail holder, I see myself in the mirror. That means that whenever I stand on the coffee table in the living room, I see myself in the mirror.

You may not have that many mirrors in your house. Or maybe you have more. But it’s not just in mirrors that we check out our reflections. How many windows do you have in your house? How many other reflective surfaces? You can’t go out in public without having your reflection shine back at you from store windows, glass surfaces, car windows. I think most people automatically turn to look at themselves when they pass these surfaces.

Why do we feel this need to look at ourselves so often? Even if we’ve just been in the bathroom and seen our reflection, we’ll still check what we look like when we pass a store window. What could have possibly changed about your appearance in just a few minutes? What are we so afraid of?

Our society is so visual. We are obsessed with looks. We have unreachable standards of perfection. These are not earth-shattering things that I’m sharing. Everyone knows it. And everyone suffers because of it. The media exploits women’s (and men’s) bodies and views them as objects that they can judge however they want.


(Really, how many times does Star magazine have to write about this? It’s so degrading.)

All my life, and the past year in particular, I have struggled with low self esteem. I have always felt like I was too fat, my hair was too frizzy, and my face was just all wrong for me to be considered pretty. And I know that I am certainly not the only girl who struggles with this. How are we supposed to stop focusing on our looks when that seems to be the only thing our society focuses on?

In Haiti, there were very few mirrors. At the mission, there were some mirrors in the bathroom (but we certainly weren’t spending hours checking out our looks). But if you weren’t in the bathroom, you had no way to see yourself. There were no reflective surfaces. The buildings aren’t made of glass or anything else that would show your reflection as you walk by. My group spent a couple days in a small village called Beau Champ. There were no mirrors anywhere. I went two full days without seeing myself. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before. And most likely, you probably haven’t either. It was actually an amazing experience to just not know what I looked like. I didn’t have to worry about my hair or clothes; we all looked pretty disheveled anyway.

I had a lot of Haitian women (and teen boys which was rather awkward) tell me how beautiful I am. We were at English class and at the end a woman walked up to me and told me how beautiful I was. Another time I was in the bathroom at the mission, braiding my hair, and a girl name Eveline who works at the mission told me that I was so beautiful. They thought I was beautiful without makeup, dressed in dirty clothes, with crazy frizzy hair. Maybe people in Haiti are just nicer. Or maybe they have a healthier view of beauty.

We are so messed up with our perception of food. So many people have addictions and self medicate with food. Some have a void they desperately want to fill and so they try to do that with food. Others are scared of food and pride themselves when they don’t eat. I think most people in this society are trying to eat less and lose weight.

In Haiti, there are starving children everywhere. You don’t stop eating to lose weight. You eat what you can because that’s how you survive.

The mission has a nutrition center where kids come and get food. Most of them are severely malnourished. All the kids there run up to you and want you to pick them up. One girl that I picked up was so skinny…her arms were like tiny toothpicks and her stomach was hard and bloated. I was scared I would break her.

Being in Haiti gives you a whole new perspective on food and body image. Since I’ve gotten back I’ve had a much more positive self image and have had a better attitude about food. I’ve still looked in the mirror, I’ve still judged my body. But I also have a sense of peace about it. I know there are much more important things. I know that God has made me this way. And most of all, I know that every time I have food I should be incredibly thankful. Every time I look in the mirror, I should praise God because I have a healthy, well-fed body.

“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle gracious kind that God delights in” -1 Peter 3:4

Me and Eveline:

I Can See it in Their Eyes

One of the things we did during out time in Haiti was “hut to huts.” This is when you walk out in the streets and just talk to people you meet, reaching out to the community. The people in Haiti were not what I expected. They were very joyful, content with the little they had, open to talking to you about Jesus (even if they weren’t Christians), and always friendly. I had been told by people who have gone on other mission trips that people are usually happier than you would think. And it’s so true. If Americans were placed in the situations that these Haitians are in, I don’t think they could have had the same contented attitude and happiness. I know that I certainly wouldn’t.

The first full day we were in Haiti, I went out with Paulette, Brent, Aaron, and Annette and we walked around part of St. Louis. Paulette speaks Creole so she acted as our translator. She stopped and talked with everyone, asked them how they were, asked them if they knew Jesus.

In Haiti we walked around and spoke to people about our faith. We prayed with them. Invited them to church. Told them about Jesus. In America when people walk around neighborhoods, trying to tell people about their faith, they’re laughed at. They’re turned away. People pretend that they aren’t home.

It seems to me that as Christians we should be kind to everyone who shows up at our door. Even if we don’t believe the same that they do. The Haitians we spoke to were so open and welcoming and kind. They didn’t turn us away because we were foreigners. They listened to us and showed interest in our faith. Or shared their thoughts about faith, their relationship with Jesus.

People in Haiti lean on God because He is the one who will save them. They lean on each other because solidarity doesn’t get you far in a third world country. They trust that God will provide for them because they live in a country where people often can’t provide for themselves or their family. Their faith pulls them through the hardships they face everyday. Their strong sense of community fosters a healthy and warm atmosphere. Neighbors help each other.

People in America pride themselves for being self sufficient. Even when their lives are falling apart they believe that they have the ability to fix things. They feel no need to lean on God because they can go to the store and buy the things they need. Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Having faith is often seen as a weakness as well. Most people aren’t content with the things they have. They’re always looking at their richer neighbor. They think things would be better if only they could get that new computer, fix their car, get a raise, buy designer clothes.

These are generalizations, I know. But there is a stark contrast between Haitians and Americans in their attitudes towards daily life and the things they have. And from what I saw, Haitians are better off. They’re happier. Content. More at peace. Those were all things I felt while I was in Haiti. I felt this strong joy while I was there. Not everything was happy and things certainly weren’t easy but I was able to have an enduring joy and sense of peace for the whole trip. I felt more content there than I do at home. Things were simpler and it was surprisingly easy to live with so little.

While we were walking in the streets, Paulette stopped and spoke with everyone. She told us that she could see it in their eyes, see their need for Jesus. I think that if you walked the streets in this country and truly looked at people, you would see it in their eyes too. A longing, a need. One that they don’t understand and try to hide. But I believe it’s there, it’s in everyone. We all need Jesus.

Here are some of the beautiful people we met in St. Louis:

The Important Things

It’s been about a week since I got back from Haiti. Just one week. I’ve been busy; the day after I got back my family headed out on our family road trip to Maine. I’ve been working on editing the 1000 pictures I took in Haiti. And I’ve tried to blog about it. I have a saved draft on this blog right now describing how it is I ended up going to Haiti, the people I went with, the flights to Port-au-Prince, and the incredibly eventful bus ride to St. Louis du Nord where Northwest Haiti Christian Mission is located. But I haven’t been motivated to finish that post. My words just weren’t coming out right. I wasn’t sure what was going on, why I didn’t want to work on blogging my trip. But I realized this morning that I didn’t need to detail my trip day by day and that maybe instead of focusing on details that didn’t matter (the misery of the bus trip), I could just say “the first day was overwhelming but God brought me through.” Because that is so incredibly true. And God bringing me through a tremendous amount of challenges is one of the most important things that happened on the trip, something that deserves being focused on. I’m not going to write about every crazy thing that happened but I am going to try to convey the important parts of the trip, the things that God taught me, and how it changed me. Because posting pictures of this:

is pointless. It doesn’t tell the story of my journey. It doesn’t tell you about how I deeply love Haiti and the people there. It doesn’t tell you why, if someone asked me right now, I would return in a heartbeat. The story of the picture above is an interesting one and, if you ask me sometime, I’ll tell you about it. But first I want to tell you about the things that matter. Like this:

Because that picture tells you something. That boy matters. And deserves being talked about.

So over the next few weeks I’m going to try to share my experiences. I have a feeling my words won’t do Haiti justice. But I will try. And I will try to focus on the important things. Sorting through my pictures, stories, and life to find the things that truly matter.

Like the fact that God brought me through. And has done it every day of my life so far. And continues to do so every single day, without fail.

Pre-Haiti

Tomorrow I am going with my parents to Knoxville where I’ll meet the group I’m going to Haiti with. I am so excited to meet everyone and for this trip to finally be here!

God has already used this trip to teach me things. I really learned to trust him with the financing of the trip. I didn’t worry about getting the money I needed and just prayed that everything would work out how it should. And it did. I’ve gotten do many generous donations from people and my trip is completely paid for. I have been so blessed.

I believe this trip will be life changing. I’m excited to experience new things and allow God to use me in Haiti to do his work.

I’m so looking forward to sharing all my experiences and photos (of course) when I return! Please pray for my group and me. And thank you for your support :)