Yesterday I wrote about the miracle of becoming homeowners in the States, today I’ll let you in on all my ugly, twisted feelings when it comes to those faithful provisions.
I’ve had many conversations with missionary friends who rely on supporters to do their work in Haiti. (While I don’t rely on supporters for my family’s income, we do rely on them fully for operations of the school, Tytoo Gardens orphanage, the Starfish program, the building of houses and basically everything else we do, except for at Rosie’s as that’s a sustainable business.) The conversations with these friends go around in circles, focusing on the pressure we feel from donors; the things we are sometimes ashamed to share, not wanting to upset any of those said donors; the lies we get sucked into and the unhealthy cycles we end up spinning in.
Since most of you reading this are more than likely on the donor side of things, I’ll tread slowly here as I try to write, but I also hope you’ll maybe reconsider changing the perspective you have for “those missionaries you support.”
I have several friends in Haiti who rely fully on support. They never post anything about them taking days off at the beach because they’re afraid donors will get mad at the way they are spending money. I had another friend once tell me a story of having a donor pull all of their support because she chose to take a vacation for the first time in 2 or 3 years to some other Caribbean island for a holiday, only to see said donor taking an exotic trip just months later. It’s a bizarre concept that we aren’t allowed to take a break, yet if you live in corporate America, you’re celebrated for taking breaks/vacations.
The idea is this: if you’re on the field serving the poor, you shouldn’t have nice things or relaxing breaks. Any form of self-care is believed to be donor money foolishly spent, resulting in burnt-out, unhealthy people. And from my experience, I would say every single person I know serving in Haiti, is burnt out and traumatized from one thing or another; but, we carry on because that’s what we are told to do. Or we carry on because we don’t have the resources to take the breaks, get the counseling, or get the help we all really need.
The home we have in Haiti is right on the ocean and was finished and furnished nicely. It’s nothing over the top as it’s a three bedroom home with comfortable leather furniture and a big dining table I imported from Ikea. There’s running water, with the biggest luxury being a water heater. There’s no dishwasher, air conditioning or Wi-fi. It’s really just the basics when you look at it, but it’s my sanctuary and place of refuge. If I didn’t have it, I seriously don’t think I would be able to do life in Haiti at all.
A woman from Iowa had once visited our home in Haiti and made the comment to me, “if I lived here, I’d want to live like the Haitians, not live like a princess like you do.” The healthy version of myself would have just easily shrugged that comment off, but seriously? I actually won’t even go there, except to say, if you think it’s so easy, come move here and do it yourself.
I believe in accountability and being transparent in our work; all of that I can handle. But, the guilt I carry for having nice things is something I want – actually, I need – to lay down in the new year.
Even as I share the story of us becoming homeowners, I feel the need to share the exact price we paid because I want people to know how cheap it was so you’ll never second guess the type of money we have. I’ve caught myself explaining all the great deals I found on all the furniture we bought for the house because somewhere deep inside I’ve come to believe that we just shouldn’t have nice things if we are serving the poor. Even the decisions to leave Haiti held feelings of guilt. Somehow I’ve come to believe this theology that if I don’t work 60 hour weeks and come home emotionally exhausted at the end of every day I’m not a good Christian. The choice to put ministry and work over family in the past years have become an idol in my heart, because if we can’t show the “supporters” our continued growth, then what will there be to show?
Even in the last month as Webert and I have gone and shared with multiple churches, the part of our testimony that always gets the biggest gasp is when show the before picture of the school – the one where Webert started teaching 30-some kids in a structure made of pallets and tarp – and then to show the present picture of the school ground – that’s the one where we educate 1,200+ students on a beautiful mountaintop with five school buildings. People can hardly believe the numbers, but would they be just as impressed and blown away if we only had 100 or 300 or 600 students?
We give God all the glory for what He’s done through the school, but there’s always this twisted, ugly side where we get caught up in impressing others and making sure the donors are happy.
And, what I hate the most about feeling this way about all the good things I’ve been given, is the inability to savor them and find joy in them. I allow Satan to take ground for what I know God has claimed sacred. How foolish of me to waste something so precious. I look at how quickly these darn kids of mine are growing up and how I hear God asking me to use this next season of my life to invest fully in them as He reminds me, “the poor will always be with us” (those words came from Jesus himself, literally, look it up in Matthew 26) I breathe in that truth in one breath, but in the next I’m carrying the burdens of running a business and ministry, knowing so many people in Haiti rely on the work we do in Haiti to literally survive and also knowing so many people here sacrifice so much to ensure Touch of Hope keeps going.
And, then I just get really tired at all the knowing, which sometimes leads me to bitterness, and dang it, I hate when I get to the bitterness feelings. But, hey, kudos to you, Satan, for allowing bitterness and unrealistic expectations and stupid lies to take away from what was intended to be holy and sacred and good.
So, again, here’s to life in limbo. Where it’s also a constant battle of ugly feelings. Where so many walls have been built up from years of work and trauma and a life lived hard. And, also where we begin to brave the process of tearing them down and letting God remold and reshape us for what feels like the millionth time. Because, in the end, I know He’s chasing after us and it’s always for His good.