Shelby's Story

For me, the the last prayer of the day I say before I nod off to sleep is the most raw and informal prayer I will have offered to God all day. It is not shared out loud for the ears of others to hear, nor is it something I recite repetitiously out of memory; it is simply just me and God alone to talk.  I always strive to give it to Him honestly and earnestly. I think that is an important component of having a true relationship with our creator.

During my week in Haiti, my nightly prayers were accompanied by music that streamed in through our screened windows from a brothel behind our guest house. Our host encouraged us to pray for those women when we heard the music come on at 7pm every night. So I would pray for them and my heart would break a little as John Legends "All of Me" drifted in through the window and interrupted my inner monologue. I would also pray for the orphans we had encountered throughout the week. I would pray for their healing, their suffering, and their resilient faith. However, being as transparent in my nightly prayer as I claim to be, I was sheepish to ask God why I hadn't had the life-altering moment I was expecting to experience on this trip. Being touched by sights and stories I had witnessed, I felt I was lacking some radical, eye-opening, "ah-hah" moment that I imagined every true missionary experienced on their first trip. Confused, I began to question if I was truly equipped and called to the missionary field. 

This question still loomed as we boarded the flight home and I had still yet to experience that moment I thought was so rightfully mine. The plane took off and we ascended higher and higher, and I began to relive the week.  I could see the bright eyes and hear the laughter of the children I held, sang, and prayed with. Before I knew it, the plane hit the cloud line and I was surprised as tears began to stream down my cheeks.  I began to ask God, " How am I supposed to just leave them behind? Who is going to love them? Lord, I know You will love them, but who else? Who is going to protect them? Who is going to make sure they are not hungry? Who is going to wipe away their tears and give them kisses when they are sad and hurting?"  I found solace in one of the verses I had memorized in my spiritual preparations for the trip:  "So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 18:4)

If the Bible makes any one thing clear, it is how our Lord loves and cares for widows and orphans. I was reminded that our God has declared the poor blessed and promised that those who suffer here on Earth have immeasurable joy in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, one question that was still left unanswered for me was, how can I NOT go back? It was unfathomable to me. 

Through all of this I came to find that the hardest part wasn't going, nor was it being there. The hardest part was leaving. I guess you could say I finally got my "ah-hah" moment on the plane amongst the clouds, but I also continued to experience these moments over the course of my return home.

The first of these moments came less than 12 hours after my return to the United States. My iPhone broke the second day of our trip, so I was up bright and early to get to the Apple Store in order to have my iPhone replaced. I had read Apple Store reviews that warned for long wait times, so I figured getting there early would help off-set a long wait. When I got there I found myself at the end of the line behind several angry and impatient customers. One couple in particular was being very snippy with the employee assisting them, and another woman, dressed in business attire, was clearly not happy about coming in a second time for a repair. Just days before I had witnessed starving children wait more patiently and politely for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than these people who were waiting to have their Apple Watch and Mac Book Pro repaired. It was maddening and confusing all at once. I felt hot and angry tears well up in my eyes, so I directed my gaze to the floor and began measuring how many times my Chuck Taylors could align in a single tile square, desperately trying to get my mind off of the bizarre situation being played out in front of me. Luckily, unlike the plane ride, I was able to spare myself the awkward glances and swallowed back my tears. 

It is moments such as these that stand as the evidence of change that has been made in my heart and in my life by those mere six days spent in Haiti. I don't know if I can ever go back to living my life the way I did before I was met by the reality of poverty, and in no way would I wish to. I pray that the Lord continues to soften my heart and allow it to break for what breaks His. Those moments, however difficult they may be to face, I wouldn't trade for all of the world.