As I sit and reflect over my time in Haiti, I can’t help but tearfully question how it has come to an end.
It feels like I’ve spent a lifetime there, but yet it feels like I just showed up.
When I had felt God asking me to move to Haiti, I knew that Grace Emmanuel School was where I needed to be. I knew building intentional relationships with the students by visiting their homes was my heart’s calling. I have since spent time in the homes of over 200 students—learning their stories, encouraging their hearts, laughing, and most likely dancing.
However, I didn’t know the heartache that would follow with this calling. Broken families, poverty, illness, spiritual warfare. By deciding to leap into the valley with Jesus, I quickly learned that this life is filled with suffering and despair. There aren’t good answers to absent fathers, no jobs to earn a living, being unable to put food on the table, and a lack of good, affordable medical care.
But despite the hardship, God has used this place and these people to shape my heart in the most beautiful ways. I feel so much thankfulness as I reflect on all that I have learned, felt, and experienced.
I thank Maudeline and Marie-Lyne, two co-workers-turned-best-friends who love me despite my mess and who always jam out to konpa with me on our frequent car rides home. I have become their honorary sister. I thank Iselande, Ruth, Leconte, Ralph, and the rest of the GES staff as they have welcomed me in and loved me as family. I thank Alie and the kitchen ladies for always letting me be myself by showing off my dance moves and telling jokes. I thank my dear friends Frisner and Chicanot who have treated me like a little sister by both teasing and protecting me. I thank Roger for being the most gracious boss and friend.
I thank the students for letting me into their lives. I thank Dawencia who still loves to sit on my lap. I thank Lincey and her little posse for often putting flowers in the handle of my car door because they’ll miss me. I thank Serdio for never ceasing to yell my name and run across the school yard for a hug. I thank Webs for always greeting me with a big ol' kiss. I thank the kindergarteners for treating me like a jungle gym and bringing so much joy into my day-to-day life.
I thank Joanna and Shalica for braiding my hair when I didn’t have time to do it at home. I thank Manita for showing me what it looks like to live faithfully despite tragedy. I thank Jerry and his buddies for always giving me problems yet still liking me, reminding me that teenage boys are the same in every country. I thank Betina and Ketlove for our girl talks about boys.
I thank Juvenson for teaching me what it looks like to be filled with joy despite life’s difficulties. I thank Lashaïna for her constant spunk. I thank Renette for being a refreshment to my soul every time she says hello. I thank Caterson for always being the sweetest little friend. And of course, I thank Louisando, who was taken from us too soon. His sweet smile will be forever ingrained in my memory.
Of course, there are many of those outside the context of school.
I thank Junior for calling me sister, and for the countless moto rides and tire changes. I thank Jacky for being a genuine, caring friend and trustworthy mechanic.
I thank my Haitian mama, Manmi Dadet, for making sure my belly is full and that my heart is happy. I will miss her bear hugs and abnoxious laugh. I thank the kids at the Lighthouse for sharing their lives with me: Jhonny, Peterson, Gervans, Adriano, Lovely, Anne, Fedner, Kimberly, Bony, Robenson, and Ricardo. I will miss the countless meals shared, movie nights, slumber parties, birthdays, and soccer games.
Of course, I thank my dearest friend, Lauren. Roommate, co-laborer, confidant, bestie. She has been the greatest gift, and I honestly cannot picture my day-to-day life without her in it. Parting ways with her was one of the hardest parts about leaving Haiti. I miss her already.
Lastly, I thank Haiti herself. I'll miss fried plantains with pikliz, fresh-pressed juices, 7UP made with real sugar, Prestige (Haiti's only beer), moto rides, beautiful mountain views, crystal blue Caribbean water, colorful sunsets, constant sunshine, and the endless sounds of konpa music.
I could go on and on, but then I’d have to write a book.
Although I’ve been filled with incredible peace that leaving was the right decision, it didn’t make it any easier or less sad. It literally broke my heart to have left these people so dear to my heart. Saying goodbye was no easy task.
Doing life in Haiti has been the most beautiful, and yet the most ugly. The most joy-filled, and yet the most brokenhearted. The happiest, and yet the saddest. It has changed me. The students, my co-workers, and the friends I’ve made will forever be etched upon my heart. I am American, but I feel like I’m now part Haitian, too. I don’t think I’ll ever quite feel like I belong anywhere until I reach Heaven’s gates.
Although the past three and a half years haven’t been easy by any means, I am so incredibly thankful for all that it was. God has never failed to be the God He says He is. I’ve witnessed God cast out demons, heal the sick, restore joy, show up in impossible situations, and bring salvation to the lost. He’s a good, faithful Father. And despite my being prone to wander and my lack of perfection, He has never left me alone or become silent. I feel so thankful to have been chosen to serve Him in this way.
I’ve learned, I’ve broken, I’ve loved, and I’ve danced. And if God asked me to do it all over again, I would without hesitation.