It’s crazy to me the more we step in to serve Christ the more He tends to serve us. As a matter of fact, the bigger the challenge the more amazingly He is revealed. He never ceases to amaze me!
In January of this year I joined my fellow missionaries in a 10 day mission trip to Haiti. There are many amazing things I want to tell you, but I would have to say the place I saw Christ the most was in the children. These children did not seem poor though in every essence of the word they physically were. Many were rich in joy and love, free to run and play without a care in the world; happy to share it with whomever would stop to spend a moment with them. In every mission God can reveal beauty from brokenness little did I know he would be using these children for mine.
Overall, our team of missionaries was excited for this trip. I, on the other hand, was silently dreading this mission trip to a third world country, knowing it would once again awaken and emphasize some old wounds… but with the mission at hand I couldn’t say no.
Sure enough the minute we got out of the airport the smells, heat, and even the housing took my mind back to many places and experiences of a mission far different than this one. Often I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on the roofs for snipers, watch for fatal funnels, study shadows etc. I was, to say the least, pretty stressed.
The reason behind my anxiety was that of a former soldier. It was just in 2011 that I was on a patrol in Afghanistan. With our armored vehicles pinned between a high flowing river and a road that had just given out. We had dismounted to set perimeters on the heights around us as well as check the layout. But none the less, we were sitting ducks and this was a perfect place for an ambush. The ride there had already shot my nerves. We had gotten intel that the Taliban had been very present there as well as the road side bombs that accompanied them. And it was obvious, as most of our journey was off roading due to the destroyed roads from previous road side bombs.
As the typical cockiness, brotherly banter, and chewing tobacco flew among us, I scanned my sector.
There was a kid probably around 11 years old digging something next to a house. I couldn’t help but notice how much he resembled a nephew of mine. He seemed to mind his own business, but he looked a little shifty so I kept an eye on him. He looked around several times and then ran towards me. The closer he got, the slower his steps. I saw out of the corner of my eyes a Sargent on each side take a few steps toward me.
My heart started throbbing as I continued to look for wires, stains etc. anything that would suggest suicide bomb or other intents of harm. I saw nothing but he looked a little shaky and perturbed and therefore had my attention. I tried speaking to him, but he wouldn’t say a thing. He continue to stare at me as he ran forward. It was hard enough to live with myself for the mere thought of drawing on a kid let alone kill one. In addition to that, how much harder would it be to look at my own nephew or myself in the mirror had I returned with this weight on my heart. But I also couldn’t allow harm to my brother soldiers next to me. My eyes swelled up behind my shades and I prepared for the worse with my trigger finger ready as I started to pray desperately for his safety as well as ours. Minutes seemed like hours… and then he ran off in another direction and I was so thankful nothing had happened. It wasn’t until then that I realized I had been praying with my nephews name as if it was this kid’s.
The Taliban are well known for strapping bombs to kids and using them to kill us and therefore that was one of many times on deployment when I eyed a kid for wires and such.
I’m not quite sure when it happened but somewhere between deployment and my transition home I lost a lot of things including the joy kids always brought to me. Children, for quite a while, were no longer something that made me smile, but the opposite. At times I dreaded them. The sight of children either brought these memories back or made me feel awful for who I felt I had lost and who I had become.
This mission to Haiti therefore was anything but easy, but I think God knew exactly what I needed when he gave me kisses and hugs from a three year old little girl, Ginli, who lives on the mission base there.
His love kept coming through these children… A little boy asking me to kneel down to pray with him… An orphan grabbing my hand, another greeting me with a kiss while the third climbs up my back hoping I’ll give her a piggy back ride. With each toothy (or toothless) smile, hug, and squeeze of the hand, these kids revived a bit of life I never thought I would see again and I was finally able to return to my true heart’s mission, to LOVE.
Leaving Haiti with such experiences has given me more confidence in God and His faithfulness… but more than anything His own love for me.
It’s what inspires me and gives me hope to fight through any and all struggles, no matter what form they may take. The hope and the knowledge that there is a love worth fighting for. A hope that was lost… until Haiti!