Never before has the question “How was your break?” been so exciting to answer.
If you didn’t know, I had the privilege of going to north Haiti early in January and immediately afterwards, three friends and I camped at Big Bend National Park.
I am awestruck because over the course of two weeks, God took me from the villages and green mountains in the Caribbean to the deserts and brown mountains of east Texas.
The landscapes on which God chooses to write his story for me are incredible.
He uses such variety and physical challenge, filling that up with promise.
My heart feels good because I cherish the opportunity to sit down and talk someone face-to-face about these five weeks.
I was extremely privileged to go to Haiti and humbled by it. The trip so quickly and powerfully revealed to me that everything God does is essentially without me. He chooses us and enables us to be vessels of truth for Him and to be a mouthpiece for a message he’s already telling.
It’s weird being an echo. Being an echo means that what I want to say or do is not the center of my focus. Basically, in this foreign country, what I thought was best was not the cultural norm.
Seeing how God has worked through the normal people in this village was cool to see. These people were, to me, completely isolated from anything I’d really seen before, but I also immediately found things we had in common.
Seeing this didn’t inspire pity in me or a desire to change the reality of their lives. I saw contentment in a new way.
Some of my favorite verses, once I actually learned their context, are from Philippians 4. In verse 11, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in all circumstances. He says that he knows how to be brought low and how to abound. He knows how to be hungry and also be full after experiencing plenty. And finally verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
When I realized that the most renowned part of the verse is not the inspirational ending that we think enables us to win sports games, ace a test, or put on a poster with a mountain climber on it, but to be an empowerment as we rest in God’s will, it blew my mind.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, life is not easy. It’s definitely not simple, and some people have it worse than what you think you have or what they have is better.
To truly know how to be brought low and how to abound, to see the deepest valley and the very top of mountains, as I was literally able to experience both in Haiti and in Big Bend, is cyclic part of life that speaks to the power of God and his purpose in my life.
I got to see his majesty on such obvious display this December and January. From the cinderblock houses, to piles of trash by the sea in Haiti, to a rat running across my bed, to the humidity that made my entire body feel sticky and puffy, to the best rice and beans I’ve ever had (also I ate goat, and it’s really good), to the mere fact that my team was getting three meals a day when Haitians typically eat one, to their generosity and hospitality that was revealed through this and so many other things, to the opportunity to see the home country of two incredible friends and their parents’ ministry of Jacob’s Well, and finally to the fact that my friends and I were able to go to a national park nine hours away; every single thing was uncommonly good.
The sweet (little amount of) time I spent at home with my family and working at a kolache shop mushed up with Haiti and Big Bend added up to a realization that joy is all around me to be grabbed.
People were generous with their time, prayers, finances, good vibes, whatever and it reshaped the way I think. Coming back to the U.S. after spending a week in Haiti was weird –materialism and consumerism thrown at me (like, I somehow ended up at a Starbucks after my long nap). I had to reconcile the idea of having more than enough and seeing wealth in a different way.
Pitying other people is not healthy. It’s not what God desires. He wants a sharing society, one where I share something with other people and they give back to me. It doesn’t have to be tangible, but it certainly can. We fight for the best for everyone and we love generously.
I was given more than I gave this break. So much more.
I gained wisdom. Through translation, I heard Haitians rejoice because they can’t wait to see us in heaven someday.
My body was used up after Haiti. I hadn’t slept a full night through in a week and wary of potential stomach issues. But a little over 24 hours from when I flopped on my bed, I was in a car headed to Big Bend. And that night, I looked at the same stars I saw in Haiti.
Sometimes, important summaries can’t be concise. That’s something I’m learning. All we can do is sit down in some way and explain. We are patient as words come to us or we spit them out as fast as possible and try to keep up with our minds.
The art of summary is something I’m still learning. I’m usually long-winded, but sometimes it’s hard to get just the right words out.
“How was Haiti?” is a huge question, and “How was your break?” is even bigger.
But I’m excited to somehow start explaining.
picture credits to my friend Alex Cates and Maddie Wilke, respectively
Check out this video I made of my break as well. It’s shaky and shot mostly from my phone, but it’s how I saw it. I wanted to share.