Emily Van Gent is the Engagement Manager for Many Hands. She spent two weeks in Haiti with our staff and short-term teams at the end of June. This was her second time at our campus in Haiti.
To read Emily’s blog from the last time she was in Haiti click here.
This is not my first out-of-country experience. This trip is not my first time seeing extreme poverty. This is not my first time in Haiti. Almost every day, I think about Haiti. It is tied to my work, and therefore my life. I see the photos on the wall in our office, at the thrift stores, on our Facebook pages. Everywhere. It’s hard for me to not think about Haiti at least once a day.
This is good and bad. On one hand, I know what to expect. The faces and names are familiar. The programs I have heard about, I’ve talked about, and heck I have even presented information about them to volunteers, churches, etc. On the other hand, it is easy for me to come in with an arrogant attitude. “I’ve been here before, I know what poverty looks like, I know what the programs are”… etc.
Yet the Lord is gracious and kind and He reminds my heart how much I have to learn. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who wanted me to tell them all about how rewarding my job was. They were asking questions like, ‘don’t you just feel like you are really helping people every day?’, ‘doesn’t it just feel great to know that everything you do makes an impact?’
“Being in Haiti reminds me how much this work matters.“
Again, there are two sides to my response. YES, I love my job. I love talking about the mission, the people, the global and local focus, and so much more. BUT ALSO, sometimes it can feel like a job. Sometimes I wake up and don’t want to go to work. Sometimes, I get too emotionally involved in the stories and the relationships. Sometimes, I wish I worked at a big corporation where I didn’t know everyone’s name. This doesn’t happen a lot of the time, but sometimes these thoughts creep into my head.
Even though I think about Haiti often, I don’t reflect on Haiti enough. A majority of my headspace lies in the logistics of talking about Haiti. Then, add in the personal things I am going through, which restaurant I am going to eat at, what clothes to buy, the list of things I think about could go on for days with most of it being about me.
Being in Haiti reminds me how much this work matters. The faces and names I type in Facebook posts? Oh yes, they are real people. The devotions from Pastor Wilna I post every other week? Yep, she is a real pastor with incredible wisdom and joy. When Many Hands talks about transforming together, it involves real people from all around the world. From the thrift store volunteers, to the First 1,000 Day program participants. There are so many faces, names and stories of people who, with God’s help, make this organization work so beautifully.
True life transformation happens through Many Hands. You can see it in everything we do. It happens at the thrift stores, it happens through IMPACT teams, it happens in Haiti.
I am reminded that the life I want to live is one that is more aware of others. I’m asking God to continue to remind me about others and to guide me in pivoting my life to be led in The Way. The truth is, I need His help. I can work in an organization that serves Jesus, serves Haitians, and serves people in the United States. And yet, I can so quickly forget about the call on my life to surrender. It can feel scary to ask God to continue to reorient your life. But honestly, I am more scared to go my whole life without asking.