Masthead header

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Why We First Need to Feed Those Who Are Hungry

HaitiFB2collage2014

The reason I came on this trip with Compassion International was to meet our two sponsored children, Djino and Bethchaida. And I was so excited to meet them. But I have to admit, when I found out, just six days before my departure, that the “fun day” with our sponsored children was going to be at a hotel, a tentativeness stirred in me.

I worried that the children and families who lived in such extreme poverty would feel great sadness entering into such luxury only to have to leave at the end of the day. God placed a burden on my heart to make this day a great gift. Yvonne, our trip leader and Compassion representative, had reminded us the night before that “this day is about the kids.” So I tried to keep that in mind. I wanted to live the day for the kids. I wanted it to be a very special occasion, a gift for the families and accompanying Compassion country staff.

So after we met and took a tour of the facility, after I discovered that Djino had woken up at 1:00 a.m. and traveled SIX hours to get here and Bethchaida had traveled SIX AND A HALF hours down from the mountains on a motorcycle to get here, all eight of us (me, 1 translator, two Compassion country staff, an auntie, a mama, and 2 sponsored children) played a table game I brought from home. It went swimmingly well, and was a time of laughter and bonding over a singular purpose.

We were going to play another round, but Bethchaida said she was hungry. Mom concurred that Bethchaida hadn’t eaten breakfast this morning because they were in such an unfamiliar place. Djino piped in, he was hungry too. We agreed to go eat.

I had purchased tickets for food from the front desk, so I let the children know they could order what they wanted. Bethchaida chose a ham and cheese sandwich. Djino chose a cheeseburger with bacon. Bethchaida’s mom and Compassion staff agreed they would share with Bethchaida. Five Sprites and 1 Coke later, we’d placed our order for those who wanted to eat. The translator, a lovely man, also Haitian, had already decided on the Coke, but politely asked me when we sat down at the table if he could get a hot dog, too. “Of course, of course,” I said, and left to place the extra order.

They ate.

This eating soon after they arrived wasn’t what I planned or expected to do. But they ate every bite. And I couldn’t help but think about Jesus and His call for us to feed the hungry. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that pyramid we all learned in Psychology 101. Human beings need food first. Then, once that is provided, they’re freed up to focus on higher order needs such as education, socialization, emotional development and spirituality.

So today, I learned firsthand – before anything else – we need to feed the hungry. Hunger is real.

We feed those who are hungry, we nourish souls.

DSCN6286

DSCN6288

DSCN6290

DSCN6291

DSCN6292

DSCN6294

DSCN6295

When bodies are fed, souls are nourished.

Little girls emerge with confidence, step out with dignity knowing this bathing suit was chosen especially for them. They’re empowered to try something new, encouraged without anyone having to say it out loud. That dream? That hope you had earlier in the day to swim? Today, that dream will become reality. God has the power to make His dreams reality for you, too. He will help you be grateful and say “I love my life.” No matter what it throws at me.

Boys emerge with courage, stepping out into the great unknown. That fear you had? That not wanting to swim because you didn’t know how and you thought you’d just watch on the sidelines? Today, you overcame your fears. Today, rest assured young boy, that God has the power to release you from all fear. He can and will claim victory over your fears. Go in the deep, young boy, go in the deep.

DSCN6297

DSCN6301

DSCN6302DSCN6304DSCN6310DSCN6320

DSCN6326

When bodies are fed, souls are nourished.

Little boys and little girls, aunties and mamas and staff working hard on the ground know – God’s desire is for abundance. He wants you to receive this taste of heaven. This plate filled higher than you’ve ever seen? It doesn’t even come close to the peace and joy and love you’ll receive when you enter the gates of heaven.

Yes, that is the burden we have to feed those who are hungry. We must let them know – you are worthy, He invites you to His table, He prepares a banquet for you, He provides what is needed –  for today. Your worries are not for tomorrow, for He provides for today.

When bodies are fed, souls are nourished.

Men and women reveal bits of God’s dreams for their lives. The dreams, they seem impossible. But they agree, they believe, God can do anything. If God wants to make these dreams reality, He will do it. No matter what. For ALL things are possible with God, through Christ. Though distance and circumstance may separate, God’s dreams unite His people.

DSCN6330

DSCN6399When bodies are fed, souls are nourished.

God’s people share what they have with one another.

God says – I’ve blessed you with love, insight, sensitivity, and an abundance of resources – GO GIVE IT AWAY.

God says – I’ve blessed you with love, humility, graciousness, goodness, kindness and faithfulness – GO GIVE IT AWAY.

Whatever we have, He wants us to give it away.

This is what it means to give it away.

Feed those who are hungry.

Nourish their souls.

Reach out, and tell a mama – who rode 6 1/2 hours on a motorcycle with her baby girl, who bought the most beautiful dress at the market in Port-Au-Prince just because her baby girl was meeting her sponsor – you are so worthy of this abundance. It’s God’s abundant love for you. He wants you to have it. He wants you to receive it. He wants you to know, this is His special taste of heaven. Just for you.

If you’d love to feed those who are hungry and sponsor a child through Compassion, please click here to see the photographs of beautiful children waiting for a sponsor. I promise you, your sponsorship would be a gift.

Amy

*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.

DSCN6356

DSCN6384DSCN6373

Hannah Hinojosa - What a precious day!!!! Your children are just beautiful!!!!!!December 20, 2014 – 1:17 pm

Amy - Thank you, Bobbi!! It was truly an awesome, life changing experience.April 4, 2014 – 12:02 pm

Jessica Revak Milkes - This post brought happy tears… You did such a wonderful thing for these kids and this family . The last 3 photos really shows what happiness there is with the simplest of gifts. You are the biggest gift of all!!! March 1, 2014 – 1:42 am

Nicole Marie Newfield - These pictures…. Love this post so much!March 1, 2014 – 1:40 am

Bobbi Hjelmhaug - Amy, thanks for sharing your journey..so inspiring! What an awesome experience and blessing for the family and you!February 27, 2014 – 9:47 pm

Carol Femling - I wept while I was reading this–SO BEAUTIFUL, Amy!!! As your mom, I can see great JOY and LOVE on your face. I also see joy and excitement on the kids’ faces. Wish I could be there with you, as you know how much I love children. Enjoy your last day there today. God Bless you, my daughter!! Love you lots!! XOXO :)
February 27, 2014 – 3:05 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - happy! happy! happy!February 27, 2014 – 2:31 pm

Tiffany Femling - My first thought was that they are doing do well because of your love!!! They remind me of your kids! ; )February 27, 2014 – 12:54 pm

How To Empower Girls

HaitiFB2collage2014

The suitcase that carried all the liquids already weighed 50 pounds on my scale at home. At the last minute, I decided to throw in two bottles of nail polish anyway. One bright pink, one sparkly purple.

But before I move on, there’s something you must know. I really don’t like my nails painted. I prefer my nails cut medium length and I wear them plain, natural. I never use nail files, and I’ve only had two manicures in my life because the intense nail filing irritates my sensory system.

My daughter, on the other hand, loves to paint her nails and everyone else’s nails, so she always asks me “why don’t you paint your nails, mom?” I give all my reasons and I know she just doesn’t understand. I encourage her, maybe she’ll own her own salon someday and she can do nails all day if she pleases!

So the two bottles of nail polish I brought in my suitcase to Haiti belonged to my daughter. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind that I shared. In fact, I’m sure she would’ve loved to be there today as I spent a good third of the day painting girls’ nails. And yes, as I sit here typing, my fingernails are painted bright pink, too.

Let me share this story that’s dear to my heart and moved me to tears more than once today.

It was another beautiful day in Haiti. We loaded the van for another Compassion Child Development Center.

After an amazing, heart-filled gathering with hundreds of children in the worship center, we were divided into small groups. I knew the odds and ends group was for me.

All 23 of us on the trip had brought gifts from home that we could give the children in Haiti. So today was an opportunity to engage children with one of the many fun activities we’d brought, likely something the children had never been exposed to.

It was time to head to the room assigned to odds and ends. A bunch of girls from the Compassion Center grabbed my hands and attached on to one another. At least 10 came alongside as we journeyed to the room where we experienced much joy together.

When bubbles and light up toys appeared and children swarmed, it was pretty clear that I’d prefer to isolate myself in a corner and engage more intimately one-on-one with some girls.

Two nights ago, our group had an opportunity to pool all of our gifts for children at the Compassion Centers. The only two gifts I chose to keep in my backpack were my daughter’s two bottles of nail polish. So nail polish it was!

As soon as I sat down with the two bottles of nail polish and showed the group of girls what it was, they began swarming around me. At home, I often feel overwhelmed with abundance. I become overwhelmed with excess, clutter, too much STUFF. Sometimes I just want to get rid of it all. And here, there was a deep sense of scarcity. The girls were worried there wouldn’t be enough.

I assured the girls they’d get a turn. I promised there would be enough. I created order where there was none.

A sweet soul, Eve, was the first girl to grab ahold of my hand out in the courtyard, and there she was, sitting next to me now for nail painting. So I knew, Eve was first.

I made it clear, before I even started painting Eve’s nails, that I would paint, one by one. Each girl was special, unique. I let them each choose which color they wanted, and asked each girl for a picture after she got her nails painted. And before I started painting, I let the girls know who’d be up next so chaos and that ugly sense of scarcity was minimized, and the predictability of abundance was maximized.

It worked perfectly.

I just kept painting and painting and painting. Each girl was made to feel special. It felt intimate. It was important service and care for these beautiful girls. And before each girl left, I shared a special word of encouragement. “You are beautiful.” “You are going to be a leader.” “You have really beautiful nails.” Whatever felt just right for that girl and what I learned of her while painting her nails is what I said. I’ve learned here in Haiti, these direct words of encouragement are precious to the people.

DSCN6222DSCN6224DSCN6225DSCN6226DSCN6227DSCN6228And then something pretty cool happened. From then on out, the dynamic shifted between me and the girls. See the girl on the top right hand corner of the picture above? She’d been waiting to get her nails done. She’d noticed my camera and was really curious and wanted to see how it worked for herself. She was clearly old enough to handle the camera independently and I felt comfortable letting her hold it and take a picture. So with the direct assistance from a translator, I showed this beautiful girl, step by step, how to turn the camera on, how to take the picture, how to zoom in and out, and how to view the pictures after they’d been taken. 

This is the very first picture she took with a camera.

DSCN6229

I empowered her, “If you love to take pictures, you could become a photographer when you grow up. You can take pictures of the beautiful people from Haiti and sell them to earn money for your family. It can be your work.” She smiled and it felt good to share this love of photography. I really wanted her to know this was a possibility. She took several other photos and even taught the other girls a bit. But she was the only one, really, who had a natural inclination towards photography.

I kept on with the painting nails.

DSCN6232

The teenage girl who’d been taking pictures hadn’t gotten her nails painted yet, so it was her turn. I painted her nails, and right before I was finished, she told me she wanted to paint MY nails. I nearly broke down in that moment, as I wasn’t there to be served, but to serve. So I didn’t expect anyone to serve me. But our group leader and Compassion representative, Yvonne, had reminded us last night, “remember to be open to receiving as well as giving.” I’ve learned the Haitian people are extraordinarily loving and giving, and I’ve been working on this receiving thing, so I accepted her offer graciously. After she painted my nails, I allowed her to take one of the polishes and start painting others’ nails, which she did with a servant heart.

DSCN6234

DSCN6236

DSCN6238

DSCN6240

Edwidge, clearly one of the oldest girls that was in the room with us, had stopped over earlier. She wanted her nails painted with the sparkly purple polish. I told her she was next, so she returned for her turn. I painted her nails and loved on her so much. There was a connection between the two of us I couldn’t measure. While we were engaging, Edwidge told me she creates art and she wanted to get a piece of her art to show me. I empowered her, yes, I would LOVE to see her art! So she left quietly, in search of her art.

I continued to paint nails. The last group of girls to come through was an assortment. Some already had their nails done and wanted to see photographs of themselves. There was one girl who was feisty, another with burns to her face, and other with deformities on her fingers. Their personalities were really shining through, so I continued to encourage them uniquely.

DSCN6241

DSCN6242

DSCN6243

DSCN6245

DSCN6250

DSCN6251

As I was painting the last round of nails, Edwidge returned. She had a black pouch in her hand, she wanted to fix my hair. I took the binder out, continued painting nails, and let Edwidge love me through her service. I thought she might braid my hair or put it up in some cool ponytails or something, but she just kept brushing and brushing and brushing.

Edwidge was showing her love for me, her care for me. I was humbled, moved so deeply, almost to tears, that Edwidge just kept brushing and brushing and brushing. I don’t know how long it’d been since someone just brushed my hair, not just to get the job done, but just to brush it as a loving act of kindness. It was so, so beautiful. Thank you, dear Edwidge.

DSCN6248

DSCN6249

When I was told it was time to wrap up and go eat lunch, Edwidge was waiting at the front of the room. I asked if she’d found her art. She’d spoken with the Compassion Center Director and the art would be held where we were scheduled to eat.

When I arrived at the location, Edwidge found me and showed me her art work. She was proud. And I was proud of her. She wanted a picture with the two of us and the art she’d made. I thought, based on our communication earlier, she’d intended to give me the art, but realized after she put the piece back on the table, that it had already been sold to another trip member (older students were selling the pieces they’d made to earn money to buy more art supplies).

I engaged others in conversation, and moved to the other end of the room. On my way, I found Carol (a woman on the trip I’ve come to adore – she’s a perfect mix of me, my mom and my mother-in-law, if there ever was such a thing) with Edwidge. Carol was speaking life affirming words directly to Edwidge. She spoke straight to Edwidge’s soul with words like “You are beautiful. Keep making beautiful things.” Carol’s words brought tears to my eyes. Real, big tears. These women I’d grown to love, each in different contexts, had grown to love one another, too.

Edwidge asked if she could sit next to me at lunch. I agreed, I’d love to have her sit next to me. We enjoyed a delicious meal and more time together. “I love you. I am so happy for you,” she said among other beautiful things in those final moments.

How to empower girls?

Love them. Come alongside them. Serve them. Teach them to serve others. Speak life affirming words over their lives. Be completely authentic. Remind them they can do anything. And tell them they are so beautiful, just the way they are.

Amy

*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.

DSCN6252

DSCN6254

Hannah Hinojosa - Beautiful post!! I love how you took photos of each girl after painting her nails!!December 18, 2014 – 8:12 pm

Tiffany Femling - The true excitement from first times!!! February 26, 2014 – 5:09 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - Thank you for this encouragement to empower the girls in our lives! LOVED this!!!February 26, 2014 – 2:06 pm

When A Mama’s Beautiful Baby Boy is Going to be Your Sponsored Child

HaitiFB2collage2014

The mamas were giving their testimonies.

One by one, they came to the front with their babies, sharing how much of a difference Compassion’s Child Survival Program made in their lives.

One special mama had two babies, not her own. People didn’t understand why she’d taken them in. She couldn’t afford to care for the babies. She was shunned and found herself all alone crying near the street one day. A Compassion Child Survival Program staff happened to pass by and told her about the program, that she’d be able to get support as she raised those babies. She agreed and the children were enrolled in the program. The translator prayed over her, “even though family might not understand you, God does,” he said.

DSCN6152

There was another woman with a baby of her own. But she’d also taken in her deceased cousin’s baby. Mid-way through her story, she broke into song. I had no idea what she was saying because there hadn’t been translation yet, but there was something beautiful and tremendously sad about this song long before I knew the words. She sang with courage, she looked up, towards the back of the church as she poured this heart-song out from her soul. There was hope and promise in her words, but in her eyes, I saw the sadness, the depth of pain. She said the Compassion Child Survival Program staff taught her to sing this song when she was feeling tremendous sadness and despair. They encouraged her, “You need to sing this song whenever you feel sad, and you will feel better.” The song, my heart be happy.

DSCN6153

And then there was Archille.

She came to the front, holding her son close, tight in her arms. She spoke quietly and tears came to her eyes the second she started talking. She appeared to be hiding a bit behind her son, as if protecting him from her own pain. He was near and dear to her, you could tell. She felt alone, very alone, and I sensed that the moment she started talking, even before I knew why.

Archille shared with us, her son was born with one leg.

She’d been shunned and teased, disowned and laughed at for having a son with one leg. It was and has been immeasurably painful. She didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to turn. Her tears, the depth of her pain, visible. If there was a way I could’ve reached out to her in that moment, I would’ve.

Archille then proceeded to do one of the most brave things I’ve ever witnessed. She started taking off her son’s pants.

In that moment, we saw his one leg.

It was holy, intimate. We knew the reality she’d been telling was truth.

Archille was advised, Compassion’s Child Survival Program was the best way to care for her boy. Through her involvement in the Child Survival Program, Archille has developed “good friendships and relationships in [the] center.” Home visitors encourage her. And Compassion’s staff have compassion for Archille. They’ve worked with her and she’s “thankful for all they’ve done to help with [her] boy.”

The translator prayed over Archille and her boy, “If God accepts the boy as he is, as we do, we must love him.”

I recognized Archille’s pain the second I saw her hide behind her son, the second I saw the tears in her eyes and they couldn’t be held back anymore. I’d known that pain myself. When tears are so close to the surface that you cry if you speak even one word, you just need someone to listen to you, care for you, act on your behalf.

Perhaps there’s a purpose for our pain, that we might be able to more readily recognize it in others. And help.

We had an opportunity to ask the questions anyone would ask at that point. How does he get around? How would Compassion help this boy with his leg? Mama answered, indicating her boy is able to stand on one leg, gets around by crawling, and is often carried. Compassion has already sent mama Archille’s and baby to Port-Au-Prince where they’ve seen doctors about baby’s leg. He will get a prosthetic when he’s older, but for now he’s too young, so they have to wait.

Yvonne, our trip co-leader and Compassion representative, held the sweet baby boy as we sang songs and prayed with all the mamas and babies. Safe in Yvonne’s arms, Archille’s boy led our way to the Child Development Center.

DSCN6154

We spent the next hour or two meeting children and engaging with teachers in the Child Development Center. (I’ll share more about that later!) But Before we knew it, it was time to visit the Child Survival Program building where mamas and babies meet with Compassion staff. It was a lovely space with boards tracking immunizations and child growth, as well as toys and cribs for the babies. This felt like a safe haven, and it was.

I was one of the first to enter the building. The seat next to Yvonne and this beautiful boy with one leg was open. So I took it. There was a part of me that thought the seat would better be taken by someone else, all the others who cared about this boy and wanted to be close, too. But there was me. Perhaps it was God who brought me in among the first. Perhaps it was He who left the seat open.

I had an opportunity to talk with Yvonne about this boy as others entered the space, the hope I had to share his story. We talked about the possibility of getting crutches for this sweet boy, as usually, he’d be walking around this age. Yvonne commented how heavy it must be for mama to carry her boy around all day since he’s getting so big. And I asked, did mama have a sling in which she could carry her son?

Before long, we noticed mama standing right behind us, outside. We invited her in to join us in conversation.

Yvonne told mama Archille that she’d like to work with the project director to try to facilitate getting her boy some crutches so he can start moving around and develop muscle tone in his leg. She couldn’t promise it would be done, but she was going to talk to the director and do her best to help. And Yvonne asked mama, “Do you have a sling you carry him in?” Mama Archille said “no.” I asked mama, “Would you feel more comfortable carrying him on your back or on your front?” “I’d prefer to carry him on my back,” mama said, “but he likes me to carry him in the front.” Yvonne reminded mama once again that she couldn’t promise, but that we’d try to get something to help.

DSCN6166

DSCN6167

An opportunity came for me to ask mama Archille questions that had nothing to do with sweet baby boy’s leg. “How old is he?” I asked. “Two,” mama said. “When will he be three?” asked Yvonne. Mama replied, “December.”

“Same as my baby” I exclaimed! “Three in December!” Mama Archille and I smiled big smiles, huge, like divine appointment huge. We discovered, our babies’ birthdays? Only NINE days apart!

Everyone was elated. It was a moment out of time for the folks that had gathered. Well, a moment out of time, at least for me. I’d barely even noticed the rest of the group had arrived until I looked up and realized, they were there.

Yvonne, still right next to me, stepped in at just the right moment, with just the right words I would’ve never imagined possible – “You know you can sign up to sponsor him even before he’s officially enrolled in the Child Sponsorship Development Program? I don’t want to put you on the spot, though.” Um, ya. There was no putting me on the spot. It was a no brainer, taking the opportunity to sponsor this little guy. Of course, I’d say yes.

After some brief conversation with the translator, Yvonne, and another Compassion staff, it was determined that I’d need to take with me the baby’s name, baby’s date of birth, mama’s name, and the Compassion Child Survival Program in which which he was enrolled. Then, when I get home, I’ll need to contact Compassion and indicate I’d like to sponsor him when he becomes old enough to enroll in the Child Sponsorship Development Program.

We all decided, this was meant to be. I’ll be the boy’s sponsor when he comes of age.

The translator spoke with Archille and wrote down all the information I’ll need when I contact Compassion back home.

Before mama placed her boy on my lap for a picture, I’d noted, her beautiful baby boy’s name was Charles.

DSCN6168

Pain, it’s true and real for all of us. Pain, it pulls us down, makes us want to run and hide or grab ahold tight of anything that’s near.

Hope, it comes in any package. Hope, a promise of better days to come.

Would you like to give hope to a child in desperate need of it? Check out the Compassion website to take a closer look at all the children waiting for a sponsor. These are real. live. children. Not just pictures on your computer screen. They’re real children with real families with real lives, and they could use your help. If you’d be here, you’d see. You’d choose to say yes, I guarantee. We have so much, it’s time to give. And hope’s where it’s at.

Amy

*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.

Hannah Hinojosa - What a precious child!! Thank you for linking back here on your more recent post! It’s a blessing to follow along with your story!December 4, 2014 – 7:53 pm

Antonio Macias - Please give me a call. I spent about half an hour playing with Charles. I have videos of him dancing and playing with me. I would love to share my experience with you. 979-236-8741November 19, 2014 – 12:33 am

When God Fulfills the Dreams of His Little Girl’s Heart » Divine in the Daily - […] beaten down, graveled up roads our sponsored children travel. We’ll see Compassion’s Child Survival Program in action, we’ll visit homes and Child Development Sponsorship Program projects, and […]August 8, 2014 – 6:46 am

Jessica Revak Milkes - Okay Amy.. I need more information on Compassion Interbational when you get home… I want to help!! You, my friend are in inspiration!!March 1, 2014 – 1:32 am

Carol Femling - I tried to write this comment 4 times yesterday, but got bumped off of the system–uh! Hope this works today! Wanted to tell you that at 6:30AM yesterday (Tues.), Cooper, Elsa, and Maisie were huddled together with me looking at this post. They had lots of questions about Charles, mostly why he was missing part of his leg. Elsa wanted to know what a “sling” was and Maisie yelled “Mama, Mama!!” several times upon seeing your picture. I had a very nice time during the two days I was with your family. I told Seth over and over again what a GREAT daddy and husband he is. I am SO proud of you too, Amy! Your kind heart and faith are BIG! I’m glad you are enjoying your trip to Haiti! Wish I could’ve done something like that when I was your age. Looking forward to seeing you when you return. Love you lots!! XOXO MomFebruary 26, 2014 – 6:09 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - i love the way mama is looking at you and thinking maybe, “wow-is this lady for real?” and I’m so glad you are real and answering the Lord’s call on your heart! February 25, 2014 – 2:06 pm

Tom Baunsgard - God’s love shines through in all those smiles!February 25, 2014 – 5:40 am

Strangely Beautiful

HaitiFB2collage2014

Gate D24 was just ahead. Gate D24, it’s where our plane was parked. Gate D24, it’s where I’d meet 23 strangers for the first time.

I passed Gate D24 and fled to the bathroom which equated to one part actually using the bathroom, and the other part hiding away praying to God, Lord Jesus, that He would be with me every step of the way. He assured me – I’ve prepared the way, I’m here, you’re more than prepared for this trip.

I opened the door to that bathroom intentionally, knowing once I walked out, there was no other choice but to go meet those strangers at Gate D24 and embark on this life-changing trip. I washed my hands, grabbed ahold of my overstuffed carry-on suitcase, and started walking.

It was strangely beautiful, stepping into this risk I’d chosen, this risk He’d chosen for me. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed a little crazy.

She was the only one I could see as I approached. She was engaging others from the group, and she looked warm and welcoming and before I even met her, I knew we’d get along. It was comforting, this knowing, this feeling before I even walked into Gate D24, that there’d be at least one person I’d mesh with instantaneously.

I approached. Tonya, the woman I noted before I entered Gate24, introduced herself immediately. She was just as great as I thought she’d be. Marcia and her daughter Gaelyn were there, and Jenna and Kayla too.

It was strangely beautiful, this meeting of strangers gathered together for a singular purpose, to love on the people of Haiti and specifically, those served and blessed by Compassion International.

A woman approached. “Are you Jillian’s friend,” she said? “Yes!” I exclaimed! The woman introduced herself. Joy was her name. She was friends with Jillian, our family friend who’s adopting two children from an orphanage in Haiti. Ya, the Jillian I told you about a couple weeks ago, the Jillian that got me going on this whole Haiti thing in the first place. And the odd thing was? I knew already Joy’s last name, because I’d seen it pop up through Jillians’ Faceboook feed and on the orphanage Facebook page I’ve follow faithfully since we sent those gifts.

Joy was on her way to visit the two children she’s in the process of adopting from Haiti, a 2-year-old and a 9-year-old. I asked her if she was traveling by herself. She noted casually, “I’ve been to Haiti gazillions of times. When you’ve been here that many times you kind of know your way around.” (or something like that) I shared with Joy that I’m traveling with Compassion, that I’m not exactly sure the name of the city we’re going to first.

Conversation between the two of us was brilliant, so natural. Like I wanted to be Joy’s best friend right now. I shared how I’m already fairly confident this won’t be my last trip to Haiti. “Ya,” she said. “I’ve never met anyone who went to Haiti just once.”

Ya. Perhaps it’s best we don’t even talk about that quite yet.

It was strangely beautiful, this meeting of Joy at Gate D24. And I couldn’t help but think as we parted ways, how equally beautiful it would be to hop on a taxi with Joy to the orphanage, as it’s going to be to spend this week with Compassion. Pretty sure my heart could be pulled a whole host of places in Haiti and find a place.

“I’ve never met anyone who went to Haiti just once,” she said.

Strangely beautiful.

I got on the plane and found myself seated, once again, in-between two grown men my dad and father-in-law’s age. So what’s the deal with me being plopped in-between two men on this trip, God? Yesterday AND today? One thing I knew for sure, my dad and father-in-law would be happy I was in good company. They were gentlemanly Alabama men with long drawled out accents. They spoke of their trip to Haiti where they’ll be building a school and desks. Just men on the trip, 15 to be exact. They even brought nails, because apparently when a group of them came last year, the nails made in Haiti split right in two. So they brought their own “American-made nails” this time around. Our conversation was blessed, natural, filled with the Spirit. We parted ways as the flight landed, saying good-bye three, four, five times to these strangers I’d just met. But they felt like family.

Strangely beautiful.

Groups gathered just outside the gangway in Haiti, as in, the most group travel I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. It seemed everybody was traveling with a group. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like community. It felt purposeful, life-filling, it felt like this is the way all of life is supposed to be.

Strangely, strangely beautiful.

A sea of ebony faces were waiting just outside the airport exit. It nearly took my breath away. I held back tears as I walked forward with my overstuffed carry-on. As I peered to my right, the first vehicle I noticed was open air, “tap tap” they call those vehicles here in Haiti. Painted on the creme canvas was UN. It was all like a movie. Only this time, I was in the movie.

Strangely beautiful. Strangely, strangely beautiful.

We got in the van. Some men threw the extra luggage on top of the van next to us. My red suitcase, filled-up to 48 pounds, was one that landed on the top of the van. And we thought that was crazy until another van piled high with suitcases on top passed on the other side.

And as we drove to our final destination for today, one they said would take an hour and a half but I have no idea how long it took, we saw the real Haiti I’d been called to, the real Haiti I’d been longing to see.

People bathed in streams. Laundry hung from lines. Cows and goats roamed free. Shanty houses salt and peppered the barren mountainside. Men sold big piles of bananas on street corners. And women carried big pots of fruit and supplies in buckets on their heads. There were tent communities and broken down buses right aside palm trees and scenic ocean fronts. I wanted to step right in to it all, the same way I want to step into the wetlands when I take summer runs in the evening back home. I wanted to jump right out, immerse myself, be right in the middle of it.

They say there’s a honeymoon period when you travel to developing countries. So be it. Bring on the honeymoon, God. And let me stay right in the middle of that honeymoon. Because these feel like my people, this feels like my place.

And it’s strangely, strangely beautiful.

Amy

*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.

DSCN6132

DSCN6133

DSCN6134

DSCN6135

DSCN6136

DSCN6138DSCN6139DSCN6140

DSCN6142

DSCN6143

Tonya Hardaway - Amy, I just got the link! I have read every blog from our trip! Amazing! So awesome to see it through your eyes! I love your sweet, soft and compassionate heart! I it was wonderful getting to know you! April 4, 2014 – 1:09 am

Carol Femling - I’m excited to hear about today and each day of your trip! Everything is going well here with the kids. Maisie has called me Monica quite a few times and says, “I love you, Monica!”–how sweet, even though I’m “Grandma”. :) Enjoy your stay and know that I love you!! Wish I could be with you there–that’s something I know that I’d love to do too. I told Seth you’d probably be coming home with two little kids and he just smiled.:)February 24, 2014 – 10:56 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - crying…cause i’m thinking you are “breaking free” and “embracing grace” in the most amazing way! praying & LOVING to see God revealing himself so real to you! February 24, 2014 – 2:12 pm

Amanda Jaeger Keuseman - Beautiful!
February 24, 2014 – 3:20 am

Lynne Hackman Kellerman - Very excited for you, Amy!
February 24, 2014 – 3:11 am

Will You Stay In or Step out of the Box?

HaitiFB2collage2014

Apparently the guy in front of me in the security line at the airport knew the guy behind me. They talked through me, as if I wasn’t even there. And I didn’t even care.

“What’s new?” said the middle-aged man in front of me, his hair bleached blonde, skin tan and wrinkled a bit.

The man behind me responded promptly, “Same old, same old.” His hair was dark, clean cut, his presentation professional, business-like. “Money. Money. Money.” He paused a bit before adding “the recession hit me really hard.”

“I stepped out of the rat race four years ago,” exclaimed the blonde. “It’s kind of fun traveling around and all that.”

“On a golfing trip?” asked the business man.

“Ya, I’m going to Orlando for a tournament.” replied the blonde, smiling with ease.

The business man stated what might be an obvious downfall to the blonde man’s lifestyle. “The only problem with being a ‘professional golfer’ is that you have to pay for it all yourself.”

And with that, an airport official yelled to the crowd. Security line two only had an 8-minute wait, and ours was bound to be a 25-minute wait. The whole lot of us fled the scene, speed walking to line two.

I never did get to hear the end of that story, how the blonde man would respond to this questioning, these challenges about leaving the rat race and “paying for it all yourself.” I wasn’t engaging in that conversation other than to overhear, so I might’ve never learned why the blonde man left the rat race, or how he used to earn a living, or how he earns a living now, or anything else about his old life compared to his new life as a “professional golfer.” Speaking of, was he really a professional golfer? Or was he a “professional golfer?” And I never did get to delve deeper with the business man to determine exactly how the recession hit him hard, how he knew this blonde man in the first place, or what he’d do if he left the rat race. But those guys got me thinking.

An hour later, I boarded the plane.

As we ascended, I noted the ground blanketed in white snow. Squares, rectangles and L-shapes divided most of the land into some sort of box. It was, of course, a sight I’d seen before. But this time, I saw those boxes in a new light.

DSCN6129

Perhaps we box ourselves in.

Perhaps we’ve divided up God’s land so perfectly, pristinely and professionally, we don’t even realize how boxed in our lives have become.

Could it be that we move from our boxed in home, to our boxed in car, to our boxed in workplace, to our boxed in cubicle, and then back to our boxed in home again? In our free time we go to boxed in churches, boxed in restaurants, boxed in coffee shops, boxed in museums, boxed in movie theaters and boxed in hotels. When we’re sick we go to boxed in hospitals, and when it’s time to learn we go to boxed in schools. And just about everything we do happens on some piece of square or rectangular boxed in piece of land, and we don’t even know we’re living that way until we see it from above.

Could I be exaggerating to make a point? Sure.

Of course, there are roads that wind, curve. They’re paved and they’re pretty, but they’re headed to a particular planned out destination. There are cul-de-sacs, cloverleaves, and turn-abouts, baseball diamonds, open-air football stadiums, and rough and rural areas that don’t have shape.

But really, how much of your life is spent in a box? How much of my life has been spent in a box?

Time passed. And before I knew it, I looked down and the blanket of white snow was gone. But the boxes remained. All I could see were boxes. Boxes everywhere. Big boxes, little boxes, boxes within boxes. And now, box-shaped pools.

DSCN6130

So it’s true. This boxing in isn’t an isolated phenomenon.

I felt uncomfortable in my window seat as I tried to find the right time to take my camera out of the case and take a picture to remember this realization about our boxed in lives. Body language experts claim you exhibit insecurity when you rest your hand on your neck. Ya. My left hand was all over my neck, my right hand all over the camera as I brought it up just long enough to capture these boxes a little closer.

DSCN6131

As I sat eating Chick-Fil-A, waiting for my connecting flight to Miami, I found myself uncomfortable, insecure again. There I sat in my sweatshirt, black jeans, white socks, and old black tennis shoes I haven’t worn for a couple years. A woman sat down next to me. Her outfit sparkled and it was classy and she was put together. I felt like a frump and knew on any other trip than this one to Haiti, I’d be dressed much more like her. And in that moment, I became painfully aware of how much I care about my appearance.

Ya. Appearances. My safe little box. I do care what I look like. And I want it to appear, to you, that I’m doing the right thing, making the right decision, behaving the way I should. I don’t want to appear as if I’m stepping out of my safe little box. If I suddenly disappear and appear outside of my safe little box, what will you say?

But you know what I had to realize? I am stepping out of my safe little box.

This sweatshirt and black jeans (they’re sparkled on the butt, by the way), and the white socks with the black tennis shoes? So horrible. It’s kind of geeky. And I’d never wear this anywhere important in real life.

But this is my real life. And it’s important, really important. And I’m still me. In fact, it’s possible this trip to Haiti might force me to be and become me more than I’ve ever been before.

The seat belts in the shuttle squeaked loudly on the way to the hotel. The woman in front of me grabbed her seatbelt and pulled it tight. I let mine squeak.

It was Saturday afternoon, but Miami traffic was painfully slow. The driver shared with us – there’d been a big accident. Two fatalities.

And I couldn’t help but think about the blonde golfer guy and the dark-haired professional. It hit home for me and all of us, really. If you were to die today, would you die in the box or out of the box? Do you find yourself trapped in the Americanized rat race of ought to, should, totally could? Or do you secretly long to jump out of the box, running wild and free after God’s unique dream for you?

As for me? I choose, in faith, to step out.

Amy

*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.

Amy - Thank you, Georgeann for visiting the site and reading my posts. It is a true honor. So glad you found me! You must have done a little digging…so sorry I didn’t give you my site info after all of that late night blogging you saw me do on the trip! It was a blessing to have you as a roommate. I can’t imagine having roomed with anyone else. You were the best, and had all the qualities I needed in a roommate. Praying your journeys home were safe and uneventful, and that you have adjusted well to life back home. Believing your heart is still in Haiti, as is mine. Blessings, Georgeann.April 4, 2014 – 12:01 pm

Georgeann Engel - Oh Amy. This post resonated with me as I was thinking the same thing as I was looking out of the window of the plane on the way home from Miami yesterday! You were the best roommate ever and as I have been reading your blog posts about the Haiti trip I have been so I impressed with your heart and the way you express yourself. Like you, I have left a little piece of my heart in Haiti and plan on returning as soon as I can.March 1, 2014 – 8:16 am

Tom Baunsgard - Looking down through that airliner window on to the patchwork quilt of boxes is real proof that Civilization IS about boxes… I think that we humans strive to build comfort walls around our lives surrounding our selves in a comfort zone, “boxed in”.
Sherman, set the Way-Back Machine to Paleolithic Era. We are going back in time Sherman to see how the Cave Man lives”. Cave men and women boxed themselves in to survive in a precarious environment. A place to return to after hunting and gathering. A place that is warm (Look, I have made fire!), dry, warm and out of the elements. That Cave, or “Box” provided them a safe place to live. Evidently the boxed in life worked… We have been doing it ever since. Sure we venture out into unknown worlds on occasion. It is part of our curious nature to explore… The venture may be as simple as saying hello to a stranger, offering a helping hand to someone in need, or taking that big step out of the box and graciously accepting a helping hand. But we all return to the safety zone, be it a cave, a cardboard box, or a home with all the amenities.
I admire your courage, strength and willingness to step out there. God is definitely with you Amy! I am praying the you have a wonderful insightful experience “out of the box”.

TomFebruary 23, 2014 – 5:01 am

Colleen Schroeder - Wow! I love it and yet I don’t because you are challenging me. I can’t wait to walk this journey with you!February 23, 2014 – 4:33 am