Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 HCBC GO Haiti 1 - It's All About Perspective

Have you ever had an older friend, someone who is wise, someone who has a lovely heart, someone who tells amazing stories, someone who greets every new friend with a warm hug?  Have you ever had the opportunity to introduce someone new to this old friend?  You kind of get a little giddy just thinking about the ways your new friend will respond to this older friend of yours.  You have a certain anticipation about the ways that they will connect with each other.  You smile at the thought of the ways that your older, wiser friend will get at your new friend.  In the end, you sit back and smile as you watch the conversation unfold.  You laugh at the shared stories, you grin as your friend learns new wisdom.

This is the clearest way I can think of to explain how it felt to lead 16 students on a short-term missions trip to Haiti.  My role was to simply make the introductions.  There was little that I could actually teach these young people, they weren't there to learn from me, they were there to learn from Haiti.  To embrace something new, something harsh, something lovely, something kind, something that would pierce through their expectations and reservations.  There were walls to bring down, there were eyes to open, there were hearts to melt, there were egos to shatter. But joyfully, these were not jobs for me to do, these were jobs that Haiti took on.  All Haiti needed was an introduction.

"Students, it is my pleasure and privilege to introduce you to my good friend, Haiti."

I'm doing my best not to overuse words like "amazing" and "life-changing", they seem so cliche, especially when it comes to describing events that tend to be mountain-top moments of spiritual highs.  I couldn't help but smile as I heard the conversations change as the week wore on.  Early in the week, there were reservations about whether they would like the food; whether the nights were ever going to cool to the point where you didn't sweat through the night; whether we had enough bug spray.  Did these students make the right choice?  They could have gone on different trips, maybe someplace more exotic, someplace more connected, someplace more comfortable.

In the end, Haiti did what Haiti does.  Haiti embraced each student.  Haiti left a mark on each heart.  Haiti has new friends.  What started out as uncertainty about a week turned into "I could see interning here for a summer".  What started out as "should we apply for Costa Rica or Madrid next summer" turned into "Sean, are you going to lead another short-term trip here again next summer?".

I grinned from ear to ear and got teary-eyed as I scrolled through hundreds of pictures of these students playing with children, listening to the villagers from Simonette, gazing into the spectacular scenery and generally, just getting swept away by Haiti's charms.  I fielded lots of emails from parents on our return.  Many parents used phrases like "my child hasn't stopped talking about Haiti" and "this trip was life-changing".  Most offered thanks for guiding their kids through the trip and returning them safely.  I wish I could show them more than just a photo glimpse into what a joy it was to lead these students.  I got to hear many of them make very mature observations on the conditions we were surrounded by.  I got to facilitate conversations that led the students to determine what impact this experience would have on the local high school and college campuses back home.  I got to help them make the connection between their joy in serving in Simonette with what they can experience in Cedar Park, Georgetown and Round Rock, Texas.  Our team meetings on the rooftop deck became an opportunity to flip a light switch so that the students could see the scene unfold.  And then just sit back and guide the conversation.

It is an honor to have had the privilege to lead this group.  With the introductions made, it will be fun to watch how each relationship with Haiti grows.  During our training times and in my personal quiet times leading up to our journey, I prayed that God would go ahead of us to prepare the field that we would enter into.  I asked for God to ordain conversations, to plant the seeds that He would have us water and tend to.  I feel very certain that this was accomplished.

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