Would you believe that I have been writing parts of this blog in my head since 2014? (Yes, you read that right.) The thing is, now that it’s time to pull all of it together, it’s proving to be much more difficult than I anticipated.
Thoughts, ideas, stories, plans, likes, dislikes, phrases, and sometimes complete sentences all get jumbled around in my head like flakes in a snow globe. The only thing is, the globe is never put down long enough for the flakes to come to rest. It just gets picked up over and over again.
Shake, shake, shake.
Here’s the deal… after six years in Haiti, Tim and I are moving back to the U.S. Some of you have known for a while, but it’s probably a surprise to others since we haven’t talked about it much. We are going back to Pennsylvania, si bondye vle, to be closer to family and spend quality time with our grandkids before they outgrow us. After all, there comes a time when hanging out with Pepaw and Memaw isn’t all that fun anymore.
Tim and I have known for quite a while that this season was coming to a close, but that hasn’t made the transition any easier. There are days when the thought of leaving drives me to tears. When that happens, I grab my phone and watch videos of Ella and Henry. I can’t wait to be with them!
And then there are days when the frustrations here are so great that I go online to see if I can change our tickets to an earlier departure date. When that happens, I look at the pictures of Tim and me with our WPH staff or pictures with friends, and think, “I don’t want to leave them.”
When Tim and I prayed about coming to Haiti, the whole process took about six months. Isn’t that crazy? We visited in March 2012 and moved here in September. We knew it was God’s plan since living and working in Haiti was never on our radar screen, but He brought us to unity fairly quickly. When people asked us how long we planned to stay, we always answered honestly: “God was clear in telling us to come to Haiti. We’re counting on Him being just as clear when it’s time to go.” We always hoped our departure wouldn’t be because of an emergency or crisis, and we are thankful that it is not.
The thing is, it’s taking us much longer to leave Haiti than it did to come here. For years, our kids have heard us say, “We will be home for Christmas next year,” only to see Christmas 2016 and 2017 come and go without us being stateside.
Shake. Shake. Shake.
When we left PA in 2012, we left our home to go to a place that had little emotional attachment to us; Haiti was our assignment. I remember meeting with former missionaries and expressing concern that I didn’t feel drawn to this country or her people. We were being called to serve here, but there wasn’t the sense of affection that I’d heard others talk about. It was a lesson in obedience, nothing more.
Since that time, this strange world has become home to us. In 32 years of marriage, this is the second longest place we have lived in the same location. And two weeks from today, we are leaving it.
It is hard trying to reconcile these conflicting emotions of looking forward to going home but not looking forward to leaving home.
Shake. Shake. Shake.
I’ve had so many thoughts about where to take this blog, and I know that if I try to incorporate all of them, I will lose you along the way. I believe that I could lose myself.
I want to share with you what I will miss, and what I won’t. I want to write about some of the lessons I’ve learned. I want you to know these beautiful people, even if they are their own worst enemy at times. I debate whether or not to tell you about how this work has wrecked me. I’m not sure I want to go there, but if I don’t, then I miss the opportunity to write about forgiveness and redemption.
(Note: A quick glance at my blog history ought to tell you that the chances of me doing a follow-up blog are slim to none, especially when we have groups coming in and Tim and I are trying to pack up a house.)
I will tell you that I am somewhat scared. I didn’t realize it until Monday. I should be scared because we don’t yet know where we will live and what we will do for work (feel free to contact us with any job leads in the Harrisburg area, please!), but that is not what scares me most.
No, what scares me is knowing that there are people I love who will need help, and we won’t be here for them. Trust me, I get that there have been people I love in the U.S. who have needed help and we weren’t there for them, but things here are so much more… raw.
One of our technicians was in a motorcycle accident on Monday; some of you probably saw that on Facebook. Praise God, he is OK. As we waited for care at the hospital (which we’ve been to numerous times), what I saw got to me. Part of it was because I care deeply about this man, and it hurt me to see him hurting. Part of it stemmed from overwhelming gratefulness because he was on his way to pick up his 3-year old daughter at the time of the accident. Had she been with him, it would have been much worse. The driver of a car parked on the side of the road opened his door without looking and hit Jonathan. Had Leica been there, she would have been riding in front of him on the moto and taken the full force of the door to her head. Lord, God, thank you for sparing this precious little girl.
Part of it stemmed from seeing a woman in a wheelchair (made from a plastic lawn chair) who looked very uncomfortable while she waited to be seen. When they took her vitals, her blood pressure was 178/99. We were there for hours, and not once did I see her open her eyes; she laid as still as possible. Another woman lay on a concrete bunch, her dress down around her waist, and wounds to her shoulder and face. Clearly, she had been in a moto accident as well; her right eye was swollen shut and blood dripped across her cheek and into her ear. I took turns fanning both women, and wiped the occasional tear or streak of blood from the accident victim’s face. With tears in my own eyes, I knelt and prayed with her. Finally, someone came to tend to her wounds and take her from the ER.
This is healthcare in Haiti, and it’s absolutely awful. It also magnifies what it is that scares me. Without the right contacts or connections, people here endure an incredible amount of suffering, much of it needless. We know life will go on for our friends here, but how much suffering will they have to endure?
That is what makes me scared. Or, maybe it just makes me sad.
Shake. Shake. Shake.
I’m sad that so many people in this country want to see change, but feel helpless to change it. I’m sad because I know that when we leave here, there are some people that I will never see again; there’s simply too much death in everyday living. I feel sad that we are part of an ongoing problem, a revolving door of foreigners who come with good intentions but leave after a few years. It’s no wonder people are hesitant to let you in.
I know that God doesn’t want me to stay in that place of sadness. He doesn’t want me to forget what we’ve seen and experienced, but He doesn’t want me to wallow either. I know this because even as I type, He is reminding me of the good coming our way. In the midst of reviewing and revising this for the umpteenth million time, I received a video of our granddaughter at VBS and watching her makes my heart want to explode with joy.
He also gave me the biggest, bestest gift I could hope for here. He sent someone who has a heart for serving in Haiti. He sent someone who will fill our shoes when we’re gone. He sent someone who will look after the very people I am afraid to leave. Seriously…. How great is our God. He knows the cries of our hearts and He never leaves us.
Shake. Shake. Shake.
On August 14, Tim and I will leave Haiti with a few precious possessions and no idea when we will return. Our project will shut down for a few months while we wait for the new project managers to arrive. During that time, our guys will be on call so that those who have filters can reach a technician should they need anything. I have no doubt that we will keep in touch with many of our friends here; that sort of thing takes priority in this country.
It’s going to be a strange time to be sure, and I know that the emotions will continue to wreak havoc, at least for a little while. Our pastor told us that what we are going through is not unlike what Paul went through when he left Ephesus. He had gone there, lived among the people, laughed and cried with them, and when it was time to go, they hugged and kissed and cried (Acts 20:36). This is what I expect it will be like when our guys take us to Port-au-Prince for the last time.
The experience also reminds me of a quote that I saw in the Peace Garden of the same hospital I was at yesterday:
Go to the people
Live among them
Learn from them
Plan with them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have.
I am so very thankful that I got to live among these people and learn from them, love them, serve them and plan with them for nearly six years.
Tim and I have no idea what the future holds, but we know who holds our future in His hands. We trust that God will continue to provide for our needs as He sees fit.
For those who have questions about Haiti and/or our experience here, feel free to ask. If you’re curious, reach out. If you want to visit here, let’s talk. She is a strange and beautiful place filled with complexity and simplicity, and she will always be in my heart.