It has been a little over three years since I last went to Haiti. Some days, my heart literally aches for the people, the lush, green mountains, and the sounds and smells that you could only understand if you’ve been there yourself. Haiti is such a special place, and holds a piece of my heart that is truly captivated forever. I could talk all day long about the things that make it so special, but instead, I’m going to tell you a story about something that happened the very first time I ever went to Haiti… something that resonated with me then, but even more so now.
On my first trip to Haiti, we prayer walked throughout the village of Cayes, Jacmel in the evenings. With our translators help, we stopped and talked to people, asking them if they knew Jesus, and often praying over them as they shared specific needs with us. To say that I experienced “culture shock” on that first trip is an understatement. Nothing could adequately prepare you for the kinds of things you see when you go to a country like Haiti. And, on the flip side of that, nothing can adequately prepare your heart to be humbled and touched in the way that it inevitably will be.
While prayer walking through the dusty streets of Jacmel, we saw a young woman who was very, very pregnant. I would guess that she was within days of delivering, and judging by the way she was carrying, I would say that it was perhaps, not her first child. The woman was barefoot, wearing very worn clothes, and standing outside of her home, which was nothing more than a shack – literally, just whatever she had found and managed to prop up for shelter – pieces of metal, a torn umbrella, some large leaves, some old wood. However, she had a brightly colored bag, made of all kinds of fabrics, hanging on her shoulder, which is initially what drew my eye to her. I don’t know if someone had just given her the bag, if she’d made it, if she’d saved and bought it herself at the market, but it’s unusual to see something like that in the remote village of Jacmel. I told her that I thought her bag was so pretty, and that’s when it happened. So fast, so seamless, without even second guessing what she was about to do, she removed it from her shoulder and offered it to me.
This precious woman, who had nothing. This precious woman, who had no chance whatsoever of delivering her baby in the comforts of a hospital like I have now had. This precious woman, who lived in a dusty shack and whose bag probably was her newest, and best possession. She offered it to me.
I lost it. What a wake up call. We go to a country like Haiti to minister to these people, yet it’s them that change our hearts. They’re unlike any people I have ever met. They have so little, yet their lives are full of joy and their hearts are open and generous and sincere. They don’t care about things, but instead, about eternity with Jesus. They love openly and freely and without the selfishness that my heart wrestles with on a daily basis. And although it was probably her most prized possession, there was no hesitation as she offered it to me, a stranger.
Fast forward about six years, and I’m married to a man who has also come to love the Haitian people, we have a 19 month old, and we’re due with our second in just a few short months. Over New Years, a team from our church went back to Jacmel, and as they shared a slideshow of pictures and gave a report of all the wonderful things the Lord is doing there this past Sunday evening, it all came flooding back. I sat there, with my hand on my growing belly, feeling Harper move around inside of me, with tears streaming down my cheeks as I remembered. I hadn’t thought about the pregnant lady with the colorful bag in years, but that night, it all came back, fresh and raw and it completely overwhelmed me. Don’t you just love how Jesus does that? He can write a memory on your heart that touches you in a whole new way, years later, for a thousand different reasons.
I’m so thankful for this memory that Jesus has allowed me to experience, etched on my heart, and reminded me of when I needed it most.
Renmen abonde. Love abounds.