I have always liked to think that God has quite the sense of humor. I have always craved to live a life of adventure, which I thought meant zip lining through jungles or rock climbing in the desert. I did not think it meant sitting in the back of a pick-up truck dodging potholes, people, and pigs in the streets of Port Au Prince Haiti.
My very first trip to Haiti was at the suggestion of some friends living in country. In all honesty, I was always pretty apathetic to what their work entailed “good for them” I thought. However, I also knew Haiti was in the Caribbean and thought visiting them would make for a great adventure of beaches, coconuts, and mountains.
That 10 day trip changed the trajectory of my life and what I thought a life of adventure should look like. After listening to the constant nudging of God I decided to apply for an internship that was available through Healing Haiti. I applied for a logistics position at the guesthouse, something I thought played to my strengths and would keep me in my comfort zone. Instead I was put in charge of a summer camp program for about 50 kids at Grace Village. It was a three month internship which I thought was just long enough of a time to give to God and just short enough to not disrupt the life I had already built. Then, as my time was nearing to and end the organization approached me about taking on a job creation position, which I thought was scary, but also exciting.
“We want to start a bakery” they said. “A Bakery?” I replied. “Oh and don’t worry there will be a restaurant too.” I was informed.
“Cool, so thats two things I know nothing about.” I fretted.
I felt, and was, certainly unqualified for the position at hand, but trusted that God would equip and provide in my obedience. And so I signed on for a two year commitment with the idea and objective of spurring on economic activity and walking alongside individuals, parents, and families in the area. And so begun a whole new adventure in Haiti.
One thing about these last two years I can say for certainty is that it has been heavy. Life in general can get heavy, the burdens we carry and the burdens we see others carry can weigh on our bodies and our spirits.
Life removed from the states and living in Haiti can be difficult at times to reconcile the unique set of norms, emotions, and realities that become a part of every day life. You’ll be encouraged often and told what a great job you’re doing while guilt can hang over you being immersed and surrounded by poverty. You’ll hurt, confuse, and misunderstand a plethora of people because you communicate like a two year old in this new foreign language. You hurt for people and you’re your heart will break for communities in ways you didn’t know you could hurt for people and communities. You will feel like everything you thought you brought to the table isn’t enough to feed those now sitting at it, and at times not even yourself. You won’t be able to explain your new life well to those that matter most to you in your whirlwind trips back home and you are absent from celebrating their victories, mourning their sorrows, and participating in the mundane with them. Each struggle adds just a little weight to the load you carry. After time the newness of this life can lose its luster and a numbness to it all can take hold. Life can become exceptionally heavy. You, the life you had built, and who you thought you were will in essence, die.
However, you’ll also quickly realize that God’s blessings are heavier. His blessings are abundant, his blessings can be hidden right in front of us and his blessings are a hint of heaven. You’ll soon realize that you can learn this new language and can connect on a whole new level with co-workers, staff, and friends. You’ll realize that hurt that you feel for others is your driving force to press on and the burdens God places on our hearts are challenges he equips us for. You’ll realize there is a bakery and restaurant in the heart of Titanyen, a name that literally means little nothing, that is employing 25 people. You’ll realize that through a re-sale program the bakery is providing an additional 25 micro-jobs for local vendors. A place that has employed numerous local construction workers. A place that last two months alone was able to spend over $2500 in the local community on produce, beverages, and materials. You’ll see employees rise above your expectations. You’ll see a community that built the walls that bake and sell the bread, that roll, prepare, bake, and serve some of the best food in Haiti. You’ll see a group of young men and women in the transition program who through a little bit of encouragement and a little bit of investment rise up, take leadership roles, get excited about their future instead of dreading it and you’ll be immeasurably proud and understand just a little sliver of how God is proud of us. You’ll quickly realize that you have the best seats in the house to witness the revealing of a beautiful masterpiece God has been crafting.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity I have been given to work with an organization that doesn’t just preach job creation as a means to empower the family unit, but actively walks alongside communities in making it a reality. I think for some strange reason in today’s world as Christians we have separated business and ministry. I believe that when you utilize your business as a ministry, with good ministry principles and good business principles you will see your business and individuals flourish. After all, I think one of the smartest business practices and principles is to invest in your employees. I could talk numbers at you guys all day, about how much we did in sales, how many pizzas we made in the month of September, forecasted job numbers , etc etc (and if you want I totally will) but my favorite aspect about job creation is the individual and the opportunity and adventure that finding economic empowerment sets them on. When employees walk their family or friends through Fleri the pride is palpable and the smiles are bountiful. Jobs provide financial resources yes, but they also restore dignity, they allow us to utilize our talents and skills and set course for an exciting direction. As Fleri continues to grow and job creation ventures are carefully considered I ask for your continued prayers over the next steps that are taken by everyone involved and if possible ask for financial support as well. This has always been one of my least favorite parts of the job, asking for support. It requires vulnerability and an understanding that I can’t do it on my own. A good friend once told me if you believe in what you are doing and what God has called you too, why would you hesitate to share and ask others for help. If there’s one thing I know its that I believe in those moms, those dads, those young men and women that I get the chance to walk alongside and work with everyday. Haiti will teach you quickly that you are vulnerable and that you can’t do it alone. The community you set out to help is ready, willing, and excited to bare the burden and place it on their shoulders. I’m always amazed to see how lives get woven together and our world isn’t as big as it seems. I’m in awe of the battles I have won, the lessons I have learned, the amount of times I can miss pronounce a word the staff has been trying to teach me since we opened up 9 months ago, and in awe of the blessings that fall into my lap on a daily basis.
“Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward.” – C.S. Lewis
Together we can see individuals empowered, together we can see families stay together, and together we will flourish.
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