I officially have just over 2 weeks before I take off for my year of working with 2nd Story Goods/ Much Ministries in Gonaives, Haiti. I am actually writing this blog from Spain, where I am taking a personal trip and currently walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage of 500 miles across the northern part of the country. I have used my time walking in Spain to reflect on my life so far and to prepare for the next season I am about to walk into in Haiti. My time in Spain has been so fruitful and I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to do this at this time in my life. I have learned lots of amazing life lessons that I know I will take with me to Haiti, like how being uncomfortable is where growth happens, there is so much beauty that can come through pain, and that the simple life is often the most joyful. I have also had the opportunity to practice my French more than I expected, since my walking partner and dear friend, Maddy, majored in French and we have met many French people along the way. The language spoken in Haiti is Haitian Creole, but it is largely based on French and French is spoken in the schools and government. So that has been an unexpected answered prayer in which the Camino has prepared me for Haiti!
So you might be wondering, how did I end up choosing Haiti for my Lumos journey anyway? I’d love to tell you one of my favorite life stories. My grandfather started a charity in Haiti in the 1960’s; it is an organization called Haiti Parish Twinning Organization that pairs Catholic churches in Haiti with Catholic churches in the U.S and it still exists today. Some of my earliest memories include my dad showing me pictures of Haiti and telling me stories of his own trips there. So from an early age, my dad instilled in me the importance of loving others and doing what you can to help people in need. Growing up, I dreamed of getting to go on my own trip to Haiti some day, and that dream was realized my sophomore year of high school when we went to visit my home church’s sister church in Haiti. That trip was so eye-opening and I was deeply affected by the extreme poverty yet strange joy I saw many people living in. After that trip, my best friend, Emily, and I decided that we had to get back to Haiti as soon as possible. Two years later, the summer after I graduated from high school, through a crazy sequence of circumstances, we had the perfect opportunity to go back to Haiti. Through an unexpected turn of events, I ended up meeting Kathy Brooks, the director of 2nd Story Goods, very briefly on that trip. It was on that trip that I knew that God was calling me to work in Haiti for a longer amount of time. A few weeks into my freshman year at Belmont, I heard about the Lumos program and hoped that one day I would receive a Lumos grant to work in Haiti. I decided to major in International Business with a focus in French and entrepreneurship so that I would be prepared to work in economic development in Haiti upon graduation. During my freshman year, I emailed Kathy Brooks and reminded her that we met briefly the previous summer, and asked if I could come that summer to intern with them for 3 weeks. She unexpectedly said yes, we exchanged maybe 4 emails back and forth, and I went, having absolutely no idea what was in store. On the drive from the airport to Gonaives, Kathy explained to me why I was there. “There are lots of young girls who ask me to do things like this all the time, and I always say no,” she said, “but when you reminded me where we met, I remembered you, and I remembered that the Holy Spirit told me to pay attention to you, so that’s why you’re here.” My draw dropped and my eyes filled with tears as I realized a much bigger story than I could even comprehend was being written by God, and I couldn’t believe that I got to be a part of it. Those 3 weeks spent with Kathy and her husband, Beaver, changed my life. I’ve never felt more like I was supposed to be somewhere than I did then. I was so sad to leave, but I knew that I would be back some day, though I didn’t know what that would look like yet.
So here I am, realizing the biggest dream I’ve ever dreamed is coming true as I prepare to move to Haiti to work in economic development. I believe this country grabs onto a bigger piece of my heart every time I go, and I can’t imagine how much of my heart it will hold after this year. I keep wondering how this is really happening?! And then I remember that from the very beginning, it has been totally dependent on the goodness and faithfulness of my Abba Father. I have a lot of excitements entering this season and also a whole lot of fears. What about the adjustment to a new culture, new language, and new people? What about my living situation and no AC and cold showers? What if I don’t actually have that much to offer? But I’m reminded that the Lord would not carry me all the way to this place if he did not have some purposes he wanted to fulfill. And I’m reminded that it’s really been him doing it the whole time up until now anyway, so who am I to wonder if he’ll continue to provide a way? Oh, how thankful I am for the way he has written this story so far, and oh, how I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story goes!