I grew up in Carrefour, Haiti, a metropolis about 15 miles south of the Port-au-Prince airport. My community is a very vibrant, friendly place. We have the vendor down the road that sells the best macaroni you can imagine, the voodoo priest next door who, despite the intimidating title, is a very kind man, there is the domino base where people come to attend the daily domino competition, and of course, my church, Kay an Kay (translates to house in house), on the corner right up the road. It was founded by an American couple from Pennsylvania. I’d say we are the Hillsong church of the neighborhood. We worship to contemporary songs; we dance in the aisles; but above all, we invest deeply in each other’s lives.
Growing up, my mother was always so adamant about her children reading the Bible. She had us kneel by the side of the bed for a moment of prayer and worship on a daily basis. She even made up songs with bible verses for us to learn. One of those verses was
Jeremiah 29:11 “Se mwen k konnen sa m gen nan tèt mwen pou nou. Se mwen menm Senyè a kap pale. Se byen nou mwen ta vle wè pa male nou. Mwen ta vle demen nou jwenn sa nap tann nan. Lè sa na rele m, na vin lapriyè nan pye m m’a reponn nou.”
But, to me, those bible verses were just another lesson I needed to know by heart to avoid getting a whooping. So I did. However, the whole concept of God knowing me before I was even born, knowing and having a plan for my life, those were all just myths in my head. They were just legends that were passed down from generation to generation.
As a young boy, every summer my church would host missions teams from all over the US. These teams would come in with their skits, songs, face paint, crafts, and soccer balls. I remember always being so excited to see who it was we would be hanging out with that week. Yep, that young boy who grabbed onto your hand and “claimed” you, and wanted to constantly be on your neck? That was me. The silly boy who would mimic your silly faces? That was me too. I still remember faces and names from those weeks more than a decade ago. And yes, every now and then I wish I were still a boy; those were the good ole days.
Surely I had no idea why those “blans” would want to come to my community all those weeks where it’s always 90 plus degrees but it was always something I looked forward to. There was an attention that I never got anywhere else that was promised to me, a time to play with older teenagers and adults. I was always promised new toys, sometimes new clothes and more importantly, new friendships. Considering the fact that most of the time those friends didn’t last longer than the week (or 2) long mission trip, it was always a rollercoaster of emotions every time I had to say goodbye. “Hopefully my friends will come back next year.”
Fast-forward 10 or so years, and I’m a grown man. I’m in college studying business administration, excited about my future. School was going great, I was well known, I had a full-ride scholarship and I made decent grades. I didn’t have to pay for anything except for my books and daily commute. This is where short-term missions enters back into my life.
Before I jump into how I became reacquainted with short term missions, I have to tell you the part of my story that completely changed the course of my life. On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake crumbled Port-au-Prince and most of its surrounding cities, including Carrefour. The community that was once vibrant and hopping with life now laid amongst rubble and dust. My church, my neighbors homes, my home; it was all gone. With my neighborhood in the shape that it was, my family and I had to move to a big orphanage in the countryside, four hours from what was my home, for the rest of my senior year of high school. My community moved with me; my church family and neighbors, those that survived the quake, moved with us.
My friend from church, and now my roommate at the orphanage, Payis, could play a mean guitar. He started to give free basic lessons to anyone at the orphanage who was interested. After my first lesson, I was hooked. I practiced every single day, much to the dismay of everyone I was living with at the time. They all thought that I was loud and crazy, but I didn’t let that stop me from developing my new found passion. I fell in love with the guitar, with worship and with music in general. I listened to a lot of english worship songs. I learned how to play them and learned the words. That’s also how my english learning started which is a whole different story.
About one and a half years later, I was introduced to Praying Pelican Missions by a friend named Almando. He knew that I loved to play guitar and that I was learning english worship songs, so he asked me to come lead worship for a short term mission team. It started with me being the nightly worship leader. I did not care so much about the ministry side of all this, I was only excited that I got to play guitar and make some money. I was then able to cover my school books and pay for transportation to and from school. This was no longer a concern thanks to this new nightly gig.
Despite my not-bad-but-not-good intentions, God still managed to open more doors . Eventually PPM asked me to assist in their busy trip season and eventually to lead trips of my own. I was so excited — More money!
In the Summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Maine with another missions organization. I served there for 3 months, helping lead domestic mission teams. During that time, I started asking questions. Why would people spend so much money and take so much time off of work and school to go on a mission trip? God used many team participants to minister to my heart and taught me that “my” time, finance, knowledge, gifts and talents all really belong to Him. My definition for the word “fool” was no longer the same. At first I thought spending money and time to go serve was something that fools did. Now I realize that fools are those who try to hold on to what “they have” rather than giving it all back to Him.
As I learned to let go of what I thought I had, He opened my eyes to see that He was actually calling me to commit myself to this lifestyle. He revealed to me that all of the different events that happened in my life, both tragic and beautiful, all prepared me for this specific calling.
But come on, God! This couldn’t be right. I was going to be a businessman. I was going to run my own company and be my own boss. I love making deals; bargaining was going to be my way of life. I wanted to create jobs and have people work for me. The spotlight is what I was aiming for but nope, He won me over. All of a sudden, this verse that manmi taught me has its meaning:
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s Plan will prevail”
Of course I tried to work out a deal with God with my business geared mind. But let me tell you, I had to give in and let him have his way. Sure I still hope to one day be involved in the business world, but right now, in this moment, I know I’m where God wants me.
There is more to my story that I can write about. Maybe I will write a book someday. I’ve known days of joy and happiness, of sadness and despair. I grew up with a very abusive dad that was never there for his family. I have once seen my best friend die right next to me along with many of my church family. I’ve known days of not having even the bare minimum I needed to live. I could go on and on questioning God’s goodness but no, I have to believe that
“…He works all things for the good of those who love Him…”
To think that God does not know you and have a plan for your life is a mistake. His words and promises will always be true! All you have to do is surrender and let Him have His way. Sure He may be calling you to do something different than me. This calling may or may not have anything to do with your plans. You may be scared, nervous or hesitant. My advice to you is, learn to surrender to Him for His plans are for you to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Scriptures after all are not just words that you need to memorize to avoid whopping but rather promises that will change your life for the better, the very foundation for you to build your life upon.
I am glad to have surrendered my life to His Plan and to have dedicated my family to the work the Lord is doing across the world, specifically in Haiti, by partnering with local pastors to help support and sustain existing ministries for the glory of the Most High.