I stood in the immigration line at the airport in Port Au Prince waiting to have my passport stamped. Behind me stood thirty volunteers, most of whom I barely knew, all looking to me as their mission trip leader. In line with us was about seven or eight other short-term mission teams, all with their bright colored t-shirts sporting a clever title like Helping Haiti, Hands For Haiti, Hope For Haiti, or Helping Hands of Hope for Haiti. Most of them were on their way into the country to spend a week working alongside a particular missionary or organization (of which there is no shortage in Haiti). It was my turn to hand my passport to the immigration officer. After he examined my passport and paperwork, he looked up at me and asked, “What will you be doing here in Haiti?” I stumbled for the words as if I had not been asked this same question dozens of other times on dozens of other trips. I clumsily answered him but that question laid heavy on my heart. What am I doing in Haiti?
For the last several months my wife, Keesha, and I have been evaluating our involvement and impact in Haiti. We’ve been leading short-term teams there since after the earthquake in 2010 and I feel like we’re just getting our feet wet in ministry there. We had been praying for awhile about the possibility of moving to Haiti full-time. After all, I’ll be there at least eight different times in 2015 anyway, leaving my family behind each time. It seemed to make a lot more sense to live there with my family by my side. But as I stood in that immigration line I couldn’t help but wonder – Does Haiti need another missionary? I believe the answer to that question is no… sort of. Let me explain.
Our goal is to help U.S. churches get their boots on the ground. We want to see every local church directly involved in cross-cultural missions. We want to see them invest and partner with an indigenous church. We believe short-term missions is most effective when there is a long-term vision. However, the purpose behind this is not to make our teams feel good about themselves. Our goal is not that they return home with some great pictures and cool stories. I have no desire to be a glorified tour guide. Our goal is to be obedient to our call to make disciples. Our goal is to exalt the name of Jesus. Cross-culturaly speaking, our goal is to help strengthen and advance the indigenous church. And the U.S. church plays a large role in that endeavor.
If that is true, then Keesha and I believe that we will be more effective in accomplishing these goals if we were on the ground in Haiti more than not. But what I’ve got to guard myself from is the temptation to believe that I’m the answer. Does Haiti need me? The answer is clearly no. Jesus isn’t helpless to save the Haitian people apart from my help. Haiti doesn’t need me. Haiti needs Jesus! Jesus is the hero! Another missionary said it this way:
“God is not made manifest in our ability to “fix” or heal, but in our need to be healed. We are not fixers of people or things. We are here trying to extend love and grace the way it has been extended to us.”
We are not the answer to all of Haiti’s problems. There is nothing particularly special about us or our ability to make a difference. We are weak and flawed. That’s what is so amazing about 2 Corinthians 12:9. We can boast in our weaknesses, because in them His power is made perfect! He gets all of the glory!
God doesn’t need us but he uses us anyway. He uses people.
I say all of that to say this – We’ve made our decision. We’re moving to Haiti! No, I didn’t hear an audible voice from God that told me to take my wife and five small children from their lives in North Carolina to live in one of the most difficult places on earth. But God’s calling on our lives is to make disciples. If we match that calling with our specific giftedness, passions, and current opportunities, moving to Haiti seems to be the wisest God-honoring decision we can make right now. Bottom line – we want to be wherever we can be most effective.
Does that mean it’s going to be easy? No way. Jesus never promised us easy, nor did I ever ask for it. Is it going to be difficult? Probably more than I know. There’s a lot we don’t know. We just know that we want to be used by God. For now, we pray He will use us in Haiti.
What will ministry look like?
As I already said, our goal is to help strengthen and advance the local church. As far as we know, that will take on three forms:
- We will continue to plan and lead all of World Reach’s mission teams to Haiti. There are already seven scheduled for 2015 (1 in May, 1 in June, 2 in July, 2 in August, & 1 in November), with the possibility of adding more.
- We will have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with the pastors and churches with whom we’ve been partnering for the last several years. For some it may involve discipleship and training. For others is may just involve encouragement and accountability.
- We will spend much of our time working alongside Jim & Debbie Hambrick (Until the Whole World Knows). They host mission teams almost every week of the year. They have invited us to partner with them and assist them with their many teams.
What do we need?
We need your prayer, support, encouragement, and money. We plan to make the move in April 2015. Lord willing, this will allow us enough time to raise our financial support. Contrary to popular assumption, it is very expensive to live in Port Au Prince. Our living expenses will look very similar to our expenses now. We will need an initial $40,000 to make the move. This will allow us to get started, purchasing things like airline tickets, resident’s visa, a vehicle, furniture, appliances, etc. We will be saving every penny we can (even moving in with my parents for a few months). We will also make some money from selling all of our belongings. But that still won’t get us close to $40k. We need your help. Beyond that, we will need an additional $2000 in monthly support in order to sustain us there. If you would like to see our proposed itemized budget, please ask me. Fundraising is definitely my least favorite thing to do. But I pray the Lord will teach me something through this process. You can donate online here.
Please pray for us. Pray for my wife. She is truly an amazing woman – proven by the fact that she is willing and excited to leave our comfortable life behind and move our little family to the grueling streets of Port Au Prince. Life is going to be extremely difficult and we will desperately need our family and friends behind us. We need you. But so much more, we need Jesus.