I can remember my first morning in Haiti like it was yesterday.
I spent the night before in a spare room at the guesthouse because my apartment was infested with cockroaches. The fans blew hot air at my face and I bathed myself in bugspray before turning out the light. Nonetheless, I woke up dripping in sweat, and itchy all over.
My thoughts drifted back to my comfortable bedroom back home, predictability of a Wainfleet routine, and the sweet faces that I left behind.
I was convinced that I had coming to Haiti was the worst decision of my life.
My fears and uncertainty were on a roll... drowning every possible flame of hope I had.
I considered my options:
Was this just a horrible nightmare? Somebody wake me up already.
Or, what it would take to get a private jet to fly to the Mission and pick me up so that I could escape before anyone noticed I was gone?
I was in way over my head and I hadn't even started yet. I didn't understand why God would have brought me here. I would never survive this life. Most of all, my heart was closing by the second. I didn't want to open myself up to possibility or peace or beauty or joy.
I just wanted to go home.
Eventually, I managed to stand myself up and walk downstairs to where a group was gathering for breakfast. Like a zombie, I smiled through the tears and pretended to like the food. Inside my head I was counting how many hundred days of this I would have to wish away.
Little did I know that morning where I would be today. I'm so glad God allowed me to survive it so that I could find out...
The guesthouse kitchen that I dreaded to enter is now my haven of Haitian 'mommies' who cook some of my all-time favourite foods. Don't even get me started on the rice and beans.
My apartment isn't exactly cockroach free (nothing that an Old Navy flip flop can't fix!), but the bright paint on my walls, and friends who come over to play guitar on my couch or dance in my kitchen have made it home. Yesterday morning, the bride of my good friend, Volcy got ready for the wedding in my living room... Who knows who the next guest will be?
The church that was once foreign in both language and people is now a place where I can't stop smiling, singing, clapping and embracing friends.
The hot sunshine that once made me groan has become the light that I look forward to seeing rise over the mountains at 6:30 every morning.
The local village that I used to be afraid of is now one of my favourite places to go. The faces that used to intimidate me now break out into beautiful smiles when I pass by their homes. Children take my hand and their parents wave their hands in welcome.
All of these pieces that I was so hardened to in September 2008 have began to mesh within my heart. And somewhere along the line I have found myself adapting and even embracing this way of life. Hmm, embracing... Hope?
*Disclaimer*I know the title of my blog sounds all flowery and wonderful, but I admit I don't always follow along with the words that I write. Preaching is a lot easier than practicing, and unsurprisingly I fall off the mark.
Thankfully the Lord never gives up, no matter how many times I misfire.
It's a good thing He knows me better than I know myself, and gives me no choice but to change, so that somehow I can fit into His greater plan.
This past Wednesday morning, the Canadian team loaded up the big yellow bus and left in a dust cloud bound for the Port-au-Prince airport.
I cried when they left, but for different reasons than last year.
Last year I would have done anything to heave my luggage on the mound of suitcases and head back home to frigid temperatures and warm fireplaces. This year, the familiar pit in my stomach was there - reminding me of how much I will miss the ones I love, but I wasn't desperate to leave with them.
I think this is because I have a reason to stay. And that reason is more than just getting my 8 kids through their pile of school textbooks. It's the joy I find in the simplest of places - climbing a tree, riding a bike, sitting next to a chicken on a tap tap, or going on a mountain hike.
It's the people I love from the littlest baby Fania up to Poppy Patris.
And it's the excitement that comes in what lies ahead for this country - rebuilding homes and renewing lives.
As I watched the bus grow shrink in size as it descended down the mission hill, I felt the Lord reminding me that He is constant and unchanging, but changing the lives of His children is what He is all about.
Indeed, He is changing me.
The Mission of Hope's vision for Haiti is to transform lives for Christ, and in doing that we want to change people, change programs, change the country, change the world.
The part that is easy to forget is that while we are going about our changing 'others' or 'things' in our lives, the Lord wants to change 'us' too.
He cares more about creating change in us, than in changing the world, because it's only when WE are changed can change happen in the world.
It's such a relief when I realize that I don't have to change anything in my life on my own. God doesn't give me a list of expectations - Things I must transform in my world. Instead He asks for something else, something much more simple, yet also more scary.
When I surrender, it's then He can begin to work the change inside of me, and His power changes everything.
It didn't happen overnight, but looking back I am amazed at the change He is working in my heart.
I marvel at the way He put me in a place where despite the doubt in my heart, He manifested a passion for the people of Haiti inside of me. He planted seeds that first had to die, but now they are growing and blooming. He took away some of the hopes in my hands, and instead is fulfilling the dreams in my heart.