For many of those heading to Haiti, leaving Florida (or NYC) will be their last familiar sounds, smells, sights, and experiences for the duration of their time away. Haiti offers many gifts to those who visit. Most obvious is that Haiti offers many new adventures for our senses of taste, hearing, smelling, seeing, and touching! Another gift is the invitation to reconsider many personal and cultural customs that are assumed to be norms worldwide. Haiti won’t force visitors to change their worldview, but the invitation to step beyond complacency and comfort is there for all who visit this beautiful Caribbean island. Haiti also offers a holistic, whole person experience. Hearts are often broken and softened. Bodies are often exhausted, dirty, and sore from new modes of transportation. Brains experience overload, especially if trying to make sense of the experiences in Haiti with the mind that has been functioning in a very different set of cultural experiences. Individuals may notice surprise in their spirits from what is learned about God and about how God created each individual with a unique set of skills, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses to share His love in functional ways.
Some gifts are quite self explanatory, but others need some instruction for full benefit. At first glance, these gifts can look undesirable, scary, or unusable. But our hope for everyone who receives these gifts is that they will be transformed in ways often unimaginable prior to their trip. Our staff loves to help participants experience the fullness of the gifts they are receiving. One-on-one talks, team devotions/debriefing, opportunities to interact and share in the reality of the Haitians’ lives, and teachings on culture, history, language, and the programs that empower, enable, and create community and sustainability all help participants unwrap their gifts.
In addition to spending time with our staff in a variety of ways, at our MH4H campus in Sylvain we have created a prayer path. It is available for all to use. We wanted to be intentional to provide space for your brain, heart, body, and spirit to pause and process all that it is experienced while still here in Haiti. It’s another place to “unwrap the gifts of Haiti”. Sometimes mission trips are a blur of great activity and adventure, full of learning and doing. But once participants return home, life resumes without time to process and prepare for living in an American culture with all the new information that has been acquired while in Haiti. Returning with a changed heart to a culture that hasn’t changed can make for a difficult transition. Our Path of Life provides space, as well as some guidance for this processing.
Currently our path has five benches, and thus five words, to explore the moreness of God .
At this bench we encourage less wordage and more resting in God’s presence. So often in our prayers, we use our words to acknowledge God, to honor Him, and to praise Him. Our words describe our devotion, love, concerns, petitions, gratitude, thoughts, and confessions. What if prayer isn’t only about the words we use but about us resting in God’s presence? No words needed! “Only” the intentional stopping of our own agenda and functional “control” of prayer itself.
In addition to prayer for protection, here the challenge is to consider if we need protection from ourselves and from our ways of thinking/praying/living that are more habit than Spirit-filled.
Here, at the most secluded of our benches, a type of lectio divina is shared. A slow, lingering, taking-in of the word, rather than a rushed and large consumption of scripture. Rather than consuming these words like we may consume a fast food meal on the run, consider this a candle-lit, sit-down and savor kind of meal.
Looking at one way to define selah – “pause and consider” along with a version of Romans 12 that encourages us to consider our everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and to place it before God as an offering is the next endeavor. Here, tools are given to slow down and view your daily tasks/habits through the new lens Haiti has offered. These are some practical ways to pause and consider allowing the changes that have started in Haiti to continue their work as you return.
Restoration in all of our lives is a work in progress as we recognize, first of all, where habits, patterns, and ego-centric thinking keeps us stuck in sin and states of brokenness. Changing the foundation is addressed first. Pausing, savoring, relinquishing, and redefining words like “protection” can be powerful in the second phase restoration – bringing function and beauty.
Our hope is that the Path of Life here is part of your faith journey and that the new prayer skills allow the gifts of Haiti to change you and to draw others to ask what is different about you!