This week I travel to Haiti with a team from Community of Faith to shoot a short documentary-style video of the work COF is doing in Haiti.
My friends and I have often joked that a Sims family trait (my maiden name) is that we do things either 100% or not at all. I’m not sure when Haiti became one of my 100% things, but I have prayed for this place and loved it from afar for as long as I can remember. My love for this place grew when I sponsored a little Haitian girl, Widline, through Compassion International, and the 2010 earthquake solidified it, as I went to bed and woke up praying for days for the many thousands without homes and missing loved ones.
Today when the plane landed I had tears pressing up against my eyes as I looked out the window at this place where I have walked in prayer. I thought to myself, “I didn’t expect so many mountains. It is so green and beautiful. I can’t believe I’m here.” The Haitian man sitting between the window and me thought, “Why is this crazy American crying all over me?”
On the plane I was reading my friend Kristen’s book, Rhinestone Jesus, about her transition from a “good girl Christian” with dreams to change the world to the operator of a maternity home in Nairobi Kenya, seeing the Lord make her dreams a reality. Every word seemed important, as I too traveled on a plane without my spouse to a place I know will change me. Have you ever been in the place where you know the Lord is doing something significant, but you don’t know yet what it is, so you wait in anticipation? That is where I am today.
As we drove down roads crammed with vehicles somehow working together despite what looked to me like chaos, I watched the people, saw the colorful painted tap taps I have seen in pictures, passed the school children walking home from school in their rainbow of uniform colors, and prayed. Somehow it felt familiar to me. I know part of that feeling comes from the glimpse of life I get from the Livesay family (a missionary family that serves at Heartline Maternity Center in Port Au Prince that are my favorite follows on social media), but I also think it is because the connection in an unseen realm that is developed when we pray for someone. I feel this tether to Haiti. My prayers for these people, over years, have somehow connected us.
On my first trip with COF we went to a small village outside of Cancun Mexico. There, half of our team was dropped off at this home in the jungle where we were going to help the students from our Cancun Campus pour a cement floor. I was nervous. Our leaders and my backpack drove away in the car that left to go to the other location, and I looked around this tin roofed tiny house that seemed to be falling apart with music playing from somewhere deep and unseen in the jungle and thought, “What am I doing here? Am I even safe?” However, as the day progressed, and we laughed with students we could barely understand about common things like Harry Potter and college plans, and we saw shy children advance from watching us in dooryards to joining us in play, I noticed something. This “shanty” had these beautiful potted plants all around in a courtyard, and the house was surrounded by the most exotic trees I had ever seen. There were iridescent butterflies and tiny bunnies and it was green and lush and exotic and it smelled like the campfires from my childhood memories. What was at first strange and scary by the end of the day became beautiful and a home to me. The place was the same – but my eyes had changed. I saw not how different it was, but how beautiful and the same it was. I saw plants on a courtyard of a home that a mother made for her children to enjoy. I understood her and related to her.
On this trip I prayed for that transition to happen even more quickly. “Lord, help me see this place, these people, as you see them. I do not want to find them strange or scary or watch them like animals in a zoo. I want to connect with them, to love them, to see your beauty in them.” I think he answered my prayer. The many people often crammed on a motorbike and the women balancing boxes, baskets and bags on their heads, and the children walking in groups home from school or playing on broken sidewalks didn’t feel strange or scary, they were all beautiful. I prayed as we drove and it sounds crazy I know, but I loved them.
Today I purposely did not pull out the multitude of fancy camera equipment I brought, so I do not have pictures because I wanted to live fully present in today and experience Haiti with my eyes, not with the equipment, and trust the Lord to help me remember. Tomorrow I start to pull out cameras and microphones to try and capture just a fragment of a story of what God is doing in Haiti. But I can already tell, the tiny bit I capture will be only that, a tiny fragment. I think Haiti is a place I will probably never understand, but will always love.