One day short of five weeks back in a land that feels a little bit less like home, and today the words find the page. I’d say Haiti stole a piece of my heart but I gave it away willingly. And they gave back so much more. This letter is just as much, if not more, for me than for you – but I pray it will be an encouragement for your heart, a reminder to tell the story He has given you.
You aren’t allowed to forget. Don’t you dare pull the comforter up and over your head, blinding yourself to what you’ve seen and closing your eyes to the truth. You didn’t travel so far and bare your worldly-wounded Jesus-loving heart to the country of Haiti, only to come back and sit on your hands or on your social media, ignoring what you now know to be true. Remember the quick showers and brushing your teeth with filtered water from a bottle. When you wake each morning before class, turn the tap and brush your teeth, look in the mirror and let your eyes see more than a face with restless pillow-worn lines on your cheeks. Look harder and remember.
Look as long as it takes. You can not forget.
As you dress for the day and find yourself automatically reaching for a maxi skirt and your “Haiti sandals,” it’s okay to laugh but don’t shrug it off. You left part of your heart there and you brought part of Haiti back with you. That’s okay. It’s hard and it’s confusing, but it’s okay. Take a breath and walk out the door. Carry Haiti with you.
If the words don’t come, don’t force them to. They will come with time, in time. It’s okay to be quiet. Yes, even online and even with your best friends wanting to ask a million questions, it’s okay to sit silent. It will wait. You can wait.
But don’t waste it. Don’t you even dare wait one day too long. When the words begin to drip out like the running tap you better find a scrap of paper and jot it down. Write of the cactus fences and the brown faces, the sing-song afternoon by the swing set and the boy who walked for hours just for tylenol. Remember the feeling of Heaven on earth in a circle of His people in a village in Boukeron. Remember the joy and the repentance all in one when you found out the water hole, it passed that large rock, and who were you to question His ways?
It’s okay to cry. It is. And you need to. Let it be a salve to your heart, so broken down and wound up tight. You can’t erase what you’ve seen or unhear the stories told, but you can feel. It’s okay to feel.
You’ve got to feel to be real so that you can heal, but please don’t ever heal completely. Stay broken, a piece ever beating for a country crying out. Sing for them, write for them, be a voice.
You’re going to have to find a way to tell the stories. Do it for Haiti, do it for the Internets, do it for your friends who want so badly to hear how you’re doing… but do it for you. Because you took on a weight, so silent and burdensome, and it’s okay to share it with others.
It was everything you were expecting and nothing like you thought it would be. And wrestling with that in a land with air conditioning and more comforts than you know what to do with – it’s going to be culture shock in a whole new way.
You’ve done this all before, the mission trips out of the country, serving in the midst of poverty – but never like this. Don’t expect the return to be the same. Every day is different.
They’re going to ask what you’ve seen. Not everyone wants a real answer and some will be okay with a simple “it was good, thanks for asking!” But others, they will wait until you’re ready. Honor that and share with them. How will they know the stories if you don’t tell them? There is power in story and you know it well, you’ve seen it firsthand, but the story has to be told.
Don’t shy away from the hard ones. Tell them of Nelson and voodoo, tell them it’s real and Haiti is chained up in it. Talk about how the whole village believed God had forgotten them and don’t be afraid to cry every time you tell it. Sing “Lord, I Need You” and never ever forget the sound of Kristy’s voice leading or the Haitian youth beside you, the scratch of his arm against yours as he held out the paper and you sang in creole words you would believe in every language.
It’s okay to wrestle but don’t shut out the ones who want to wrestle with you. And Kaitlyn, oh Kaitlyn.. don’t find your way back to normal. Don’t go numb in order to forget. Remember the scrawny arms and the look of thanks for a simple bowl of rice and beans. Engrain in your memory the sound of your voice mixing with Fabe’s as you sang praise in a playground to the same Protector. Sit in the questions – don’t run. Let yourself wonder why you were born in America and they weren’t.
Tell your story but don’t forget to tell theirs. Love deeper and stay open. Keep your perspective on eternal things and fix your eyes upward. Grow your roots deeper, not in a place but in a Person.
Always, always, always sing it, mutter and mumble it if you have to, but keep on singing until the breath runs out of you: Oh alleluia, Jezi renmen muay.
[Oh hallelujah, Jesus loves me]
Whatever path He has called you to, walk on it in faith. It’s okay to take a look back but encourage yourself, write a letter if you have to, to keep moving forward. Pour out love with your words – to others and to yourself. Tell the story, may it give Him the glory. I’m joining Holley today at Coffee For Your Heart. Thank you for joining me in a place that is far from sewn up pretty as I begin to let the tap drip of stories.