by Kayla Raymond
A complete stranger messaged me the other day asking me about Haiti. She’s preparing to move here and she wants to know what it’s like. If I have any advice.
I’ll be honest I didn’t respond. I was being a big negative Nancy the day I received the message and there wasn’t much positivity I could send her way.
Another young man is graduating from college in May and he is considering moving here to work with Tytoo.He would be perfect for the opening we have at the orphanage plus could be a great help with Rosie’s and Salsa Sisters. He’s energetic, organized and positive – all the things I seem to lack on a daily basis. And I want to scream, “yes! please come!” but I know what Haiti can do to a soul and a part of me wants to protect him and push him away.
One of my closest friends left Haiti back in February because it was “time”. Haiti had been so hard to her and she just needed out. I was thankful the Lord opened doors for her go, but I miss her. I hate seeing the pain she has to bear by the stuff she experienced in Haiti.
Other friends are fighting for justice and change to happen in their ministries. But the ministries aren’t willing to change, so my friends’ voices are being quieted. Orphanages continue to open all over the countryside and just last week a woman held her little boy in the air, begging, “pran li, pran li.” Take him. Take him.
Every Wednesday I meet with an incredible group of women and we find ourselves going on and on about how much Haiti sucks, we have now set boundaries to not get stuck on Haiti and her suckiness.
To the stranger who asked me about Haiti and the hundreds of other visitors who come through Rosie’s asking me if I like living here…I don’t. Who really would? Who actually chooses third-world-living when you could have North America?
You move here and you’re advised to bring all the right things: bug spray, peanut butter and beef jerky. Bring all the good snacks. Bring sun screen. Bring oreos. Bring a mosquito net. Get your vaccinations. Bring more snacks. Make sure you have enough water and enough snacks. Always have snacks.
But you’ll get here and you’ll have gone without warnings of the physical exhaustion from the heat, the emotional exhaustion from all the need and the spiritual exhaustion because there’s no outlets to be filled. You’ll get here and you’ll learn (more than likely) what it’s like to be a minority for the first time in your life. You’ll come and you’ll realize any plans you had made, everything you thought you knew and anything you had dreamed up was, in fact, all wrong. You’ll be proven wrong time and time again. You’ll have to start over one hundred times before you get to take one step forward. You’ll be sued by people you intended to help. You’ll be lied to by people you go out on a limb for. You’ll be stolen from. You’ll be manipulated. And you’ll never get a good price…for anything!
You’ll want a day off and you’ll realize you’re never actually off. Ever.
You’ll drive to the city for a girls’ day out and there’ll still be people begging on the side of the street. You’ll always be on guard for people grabbing stuff out of the back of your vehicle or for the threat of violent demonstrations. You’ll decide to go on a walk to relieve some stress, but you’ll be harrassed by motorcycle drivers as they fly by and some may even accuse you of stealing children because you walk with your three adopted kids. You’ll decide to hide at home for a day, but there’ll still be knocks on the gate.
You’ll host visitors and some will come “knowing everything” and they’ll leave you even more exhausted. Some will come and it’s as if you were just a check on their bucket list. You’ll let them into your entire life and ministry, but never hear from them again once they board the plane back home. There’ll be some that come, though, and they’ll meet you right in your mess. They’ll go home and fundraise for you and encourage you and they’ll fight for you (hold those ones close and never let them go!)
But then, you’ll want to travel back to your hometown in North America for a break, but people there will be full of questions. They’ll want to hear all about Haiti and all about your work and they’ll fill your schedule right up and those ideas of sleeping in and binge watching Netflix quickly disappear. You’ll realize, even there, the place where you once belonged…you no longer do. You’re officially an outsider and no one really gets your third-world-livin’.
I write this because, yes, some days I just feel like a big black cloud going through the motions. I get stuck in slumps and heavy feelings of anxiety settle deep. Some days I want to scream “I’M DONE” and fill a 50-pound suitcase, while flipping the peace sign, saying see-ya lata, Ayiti.
But, I write because I need this place to be filled with honesty. I need you all to know it’s not easy. I need us to learn and to recognize that a life of serving and obeying the call to lay it all down and carry that heavy, wooden cross is not something to be taken lightly. I need to remember, in every breath, that life is made for giving.
This week in bible study we read the words of Ann Voskamp from the Broken Way and she poses the question, “How will you spend the rest of your days?”
Live every day like you’re terminal, because you are.
Live like your soul is eternal, because it is.
And while these days seem long and hard, they’re worthy days. They’re slow kingdom coming days. I sow and sow and sow and slowly I reap. Most days go without reward, but slowly I know those rewards will be received. I know the small seeds we plant today will be reaped in full…some day…
Haiti, she’s never easy. Third world countries are third world countries for a reason: they’re pretty awful places…full of corruption, oppression and poverty, full-blown poverty.
But, I let Ann’s questions sink deep because I don’t want Haiti to be my excuse. I don’t want my rants and complaints of Haiti to fill this space. I want this life – the only one I get – to be hard because Jesus’s calling is hard. Jesus’s whole mission was spent serving and loving and giving. Jesus’s last moments were the farthest thing from beautiful, comfortable, American dream-worthy.
I want to be spent…empty and broken…for the sake of Jesus. Whether that’s in Haiti or not, I wanna be broken for the sake of the cross. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we sign up for, right? When we proclaim, “we’re all in, we believe in you Jesus”…we’re signing up to die to self. Every day. Over and over again.
We found a second piece of land for Rosie’s expansion project. It’s cheaper than the first piece. It is larger. It is closer to a community that has a lot more power than the community I’m currently in. It will be quieter and more than likely safer. It should feel right. Everything about it should.
But, it doesn’t.
The devil sits on my shoulder and whispers, “if you do this…this means forever.”
If you truly commit to this vision that will mean many more third-world-livin’ days. This, my little friend, is crazy. You cannot do this. You should not do this. You shall not do this – it almost becomes a command as I let him sit there, nestled on my shoulder.
I really shouldn’t even be writing this because someday soon I’m going to ask for a bunch of money to make this vision come true and who wants to invest in someone who just isn’t sure. But the thing is…I am sure. I’m so sure, in fact, that I let women come take over my kitchen every Wednesday so we can make salsa. I’m so sure that I spend hours thinking about it, praying and dreaming up ways I can actually make this work. The whole idea of Rosie’s expanding and salsa being the means to provide jobs, it’s a vision…a holy, holy vision. And, I can’t let it go.
I just know it’s going to be hard. So, I say that here, right now in this space. It’s going to be hard. I say this knowing I need people; people who will walk alongside, dream with me, invest in this and donate to the dream. I need a body to make this happen. I need God to work His magic and make miracles happen. I say this knowing it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I say this knowing God is calling me to this place, even if my selfish, human desires just want waffle fries and America. I say this commiting to a future unknown, but a future full of women whose lives have been transformed from the small, small seeds I plant today in this commitment.
So, to the stranger who asked me about Haiti? I say “come” but only come with a broken, open and willing heart to be transformed. Don’t come thinking you know it all, in fact, come only to learn. Come with a mind-set to change – to change your way of thinking, your way of seeing the world, your way of living in the world. If Haiti doesn’t ruin you and inspire you to be a person who brings change to the world, a person who fights for the orphan and the family unit, a person who lives wasted in service…then you didn’t come to Haiti for the right reason. And if you didn’t come to Haiti for the right reason, just don’t come at all. Because Haiti doesn’t need another “I can save them all” missionary. She doesn’t need another orphanage or someone who has come to hug the poor orphans. She doesn’t need another hand-out or another painted house. She needs grace…so much grace, and compassion. She needs commitment. She needs people willing to say, “I can do hard.” She needs warriors. She needs reckless. She needs loud voices who speak truth. She needs people who fight to bring change.
Haiti, as well as the entire world, needs broken people. Broken people willing to live broken…willing to live given.
So, come…but, only come broken.
This– “I want to be spent…empty and broken…for the sake of Jesus”–it inspires me so much, Kayla. Lord God, give Kayla peace for the journey. Give her time to breathe. Let her see You in the eyes of the people who request her help, and help them see You in her. Amen!
Kayla, I continue to pray for you and your work. You inspire me to be more. My eyes were opened with my time there with you at Tytoo, and I can only have a glimpse of the weight you bear. God is with you, and he is smiling.