This fall, Chris and I made the most difficult decision we have yet had to make: to not move our family back to Haiti. You might assume that it would be more difficult to decide to move to a third world country than to remain in- what my son calls- the best country in the world. But, really, our choice to move to Haiti was a choice of obedience. God clearly and undeniably called us to Haiti-the choice was to obey or not. We obeyed. And we have not regretted or questioned that choice at all.
But, we have suffered for it. In nearly a year in Haiti, we experienced and shared in hunger, frustration, fear, grief, despair, and longing. We also experienced joy, and hope, and development and potential. We did what we set out to do- build strong and true relationships with our Haitian brothers and sisters, to learn the language and the culture and to lay the foundations of a long term ministry. We were blessed in these accomplishments, and by friends and family, and eventually strangers, praying for and funding our work.
We had always planned on returning to the US for the summer. We knew we would need a time of rest and healing as well as consultation to develop the right next steps in our ministry. We arrived in Chicago in July with the plan to return to Haiti in September. Over those first few weeks, though, it became increasingly heavy upon us that returning might not be the best choice- for our family or for our ministry. As our bodies and minds healed, we wrestled and prayed through questions of "what next?" There was so much to consider- our children, our marriage, the example of ministry so many had told us we were setting, the children in Haiti who we love and love us, the church groups that were blossoming under our care, the dependency upon us that was growing. The most difficult part of this was that we didn't have the clear, strong call from God. Our prayers, together, independently, and offered by others- seemed to be revealing a calm, openness from God- we felt him leaving the choice to us, saying 'I can work with you either way.' Really, God? I can barely choose what to order at a restaurant.
With council and prayer, a new plan evolved. The kids and I would stay in America full time, where I would continue homeschooling. Chris would travel between Haiti and America-working to further our ministry in Haiti, as well as building relationships with American churches that want to work in Haiti.
If I'm being honest, I wasn't completely confident in our plan. But, I couldn't come up with one that would better meet the needs of our family and our ministry. So, we leaped.
And that's when things began to happen. One area of our plan that especially concerned me was our finances. The amount of support we raise, while enough to sustain our life and work in Haiti, is only about half of what life in America costs. We knew we would need to supplement those expenses, but I had no idea how we could do this without sacrificing our ministry. But God did! Before we could even print resumes or begin networking, both Chris and I were offered part time positions with para-ministry organizations that would allow us to supplement our sponsors and afford a small apartment of our own, while still making our ministry our first priority! We still are dependent on the partnership of our supporters to accomplish our work in Haiti, but the additional cost of life in America we can share- we are humbled by this blessing.
Chris took his first 'work trip' to Haiti, and made more tangible progress in a week-long visit than in a month of living there. His limited presence seemed to drive action. The Haitian leaders that had been quick to default to us were rising up to lead projects. Preparations were begun for our five upcoming mission trips. New possibilities for partnerships and project development in have begun to grow from the seeds we planted months ago.
And then there is our family. Our kids' cheeks have regained their fullness. They are thriving in their church, homeschool co-op, and park district groups and activities. Chris and I are back to 'doing life' together with our small group, engaging in the ministry and community of our church and learning our new neighborhood. As I type this, my son is hanging his latest art project on our refrigerator. This little normal act hasn't been seen in our home for well over a year (mostly because we didn't have a fridge!) I might cry.
The decision to stay was difficult because we weren't sure that we were following God. I still wonder 'what if', but I know this- God is bigger than my decisions, and he knows my heart. He doesn't need me to be perfectly right, but he wants me to be perfectly willing- willing to love, to serve, to sacrifice. These things can be hard, but what comes after is worth it.