We have been in Haiti for five weeks now. Monday marks our halfway point. Somehow the time is skimming by much faster than I expected.
Our first few weeks here were transitioning back to our life in the developing world. As a mama I had to relearn the routines of bathing my kids in a laundry basin, dousing them hourly with bug spray and putting them to sleep under “princess” mosquito nets.
My new mama mantras: “Put on your shoes in the house.” “Don’t brush your teeth with the water from the faucet.” “Make sure you remember to use hand sanitizer before you eat.” “Give us a little warning before you have to go to the bathroom so we can pull over and find a good spot.”
My two older girls spend most of their day playing creative games with the kids from the orphanage next door to our house. They are delighted to have 18 siblings and constant entertainment. I laugh when I see them communicating across cultural lines.
Meilani is picking up lots of Kreyol. She doesn’t always know what she’s saying but she’s saying it or singing it out loud. Giada continues to speak to the kids in English and they reply in Kreyol and somehow they all understand each other.
This is the new normal for my kids.
I feel like we adapted more quickly this year. Maybe it’s because my belly is not bulging-pregnant and I have more energy for facing the challenges of this life in rural Haiti. The humidity doesn’t bother me quite as much. The bumpy truck rides are a more welcome adventure. And I’ve improved my language skills to the point where I can have a full conversation with a Haitian friend instead of always feeling like I’m standing in the dark.
God has also answered a specific prayer and provided for me some new connections with other missionary mamas right here in our city of Pignon. Through a friend of a friend I met Abby. She and her hubby have been here for a month from Colorado. They started a non-profit called Loving Haiti and work with another pastor in town, who actually grew up in the church started here by Ericlee’s grandparents.
We have been so blessed to get to know Abby and Denny and their two girls, Betsy and Bella. What a gift to have friends right down the road with girls the same ages as our girls. We can call each other up to borrow bug spray or swap stories about our experiences.
We became fast friends with the Bains. We share so many of the same values as we work toward sharing Christ, community development and even in pursuing adoption. We feel a sense of community with them – like we aren’t going at this work alone.
I’ve also had the chance to connect with another mama, Debbie or Ma Caleb, who has lived here in Haiti more than 20 years and raised two beautiful biracial daughters. She is married to a local Haitian pastor, Caleb Lucien. They invited us over for dinner a few weeks ago and I was so blessed by her wisdom and affirmation. She spoke a lot of encouragement into me – a surprising gift when I needed it most. Her words mentor me.
The other day I was thinking about a quote I heard back in February at a Ministry Forum I attended at Fresno Pacific University. The keynote speaker was author Francis Chan and he said something that really got me thinking about my life as missionary mama. He challenged us: “Are you focusing on the family or the mission – trusting the family will come together around the mission?“
I believe Chan’s point is that sometimes we focus so much on our family, our activities, our own little schedule of school and clubs and sports and birthday parties that we never make time for the greater mission. And we seldom include our kids in that mission because we think they are too young, won’t behave or might embarrass us. Heaven forbid they teach us something about the mission!
Our mission is to love people (in Haiti and everywhere we go) like Jesus did, to encourage them to grow in their faith and to be part of the story that brings Him glory.
Some might question us bringing our kids to this place. I often get people asking me if it’s safe for kids in Haiti. I’m not sure the answer to that question. I don’t think it’s even the right question. To quote Chan again, “My goal in life is not to arrive at death safely” with my children.
If I always made decisions according to whether or not my family would be “safe” we might miss our calling altogether. Instead we are following a specific mission to work in Haiti and see God grow his kingdom here. We desire for our kids to become global Christians. In other words, we want them to have a heart for the world, for people of all cultures. We are living the mission and watching the family come together around it.
I think now about all the examples of how this is happening in spite of my mama shortcomings. I think about my Meilani’s astute observations about Haitian culture. She notices everything, and she is often explaining cultural cues to our American friends when they visit. My heart lights when I hear her thoughtful prayers or when she is explaining to her younger sister how grateful they should be for their toys when the Haitian kids barely have any.
I think about my Giada and her sensitive heart. The other day I heard the flapping of her flip flops and the bang of the back door as she kept coming in and out. I went to go see what she was up to and I found an empty box of bandaids. She was bandaging up ouchies on all the orphans and neighborhood children with a big smile.
And speaking of smiles, there’s nothing that seems to melt a Haitian heart quicker than the dimpled smile of my Zayla. I have many willing arms to help me and hold her because she is always giggling and interacting with her bright, hazel eyes. She breaks down cultural barriers that might take me years to overcome.
These are the bridges of love my kids are building in this place. In a real sense, they are the answers to my prayers to connect with the Haitian people.