4 Things I’ve Learned and Struggled With as a Part Time Missionary
1. Two Homes, One Heart
Ever since I was a 5 years old I felt the call on my life to be a missionary. When other people might moan out a statement like… ”Oh yeah… Another boring missionary is coming to church this Sunday.” I would secretly look forward to it and I would often try hide my tears from those sitting beside me as my heart would ache to GO! But as the time came for me to go it was different… My life here in the states didn’t stop. I didn’t quit my job one day and move everything to Haiti the next. Instead I travel to Haiti about 4 times a year spending an average of 8 weeks there throughout the year.
I go to the same mountain village, sharing life with the same family and friends. In the states I am from Midland, in Haiti I am from LaFond. Yet although I have two homes, I am never complexly in one or the other.
One missionary put it this way. I am from the country of blue and I mission in the country of yellow. The more I understand and absorb the culture and the language of the yellow country I don’t actually turn yellow but green. I can never be truly yellow. My native tongue is different, by skin is different… I will always be a foreigner (a Blan). Yet now I am no longer truly accepted in my own blue country because as I stated… I am now green. I try to hide it because after all… I am “only” a part time missionary. The people in my blue country don’t understand how I could possibly call both places home. Nor can they grasp the idea that my heart loves two peoples the same. My goals and ambitions seem weird to them and I feel as if people could read my mind, they would know how I feel I don’t fit in anymore. I cannot completely mesh with the yellow country and my blue country doesn’t understand why I am now green therefore I can no longer completely mesh with them either. I am forever stuck in the middle of two cultures, two homes, two families… and it can be lonely in the middle.
2. The Name Missionary Freaks Me Out!
And I rarely call myself one. First of all missionaries tend to be placed on a pretty high pedestal. But the reality is they are just normal people. I am just a normal person. And a pedestal is not at all where I want to be put or belong. The fact is, I struggle. I sin I repent wash and repeat… I have sunk to very low places in my life and the father is the only one who has seen all my ugliness and still loves me. He is the only one who can truly love the broken and half glued together pot that I am. The second reason – I think when most people thing of the word Missionary they think of someone going out and preaching and winning hundreds of souls to Christ… evangelize, evangelize evangelize. Don’t get me wrong. I believe we are called to go out into all the nations and preach the gospel, I agree whole heartedly. But my version is a much slower approach. I don’t go into Haiti and preach, I’m not a pastor and I don’t give amazing sermons that bring hundreds to the altar. I simply go into my community and just “be”. I work more on building relationships and showing people I care, and the reason I care is because God is in my life. I care because if He can care about an imperfect wretch like me, I for sure can care about other imperfect people as well.
3. To Be…
Once I started my “missionary” journey I never asked for support. Some people have tucked money in my hand before, but I have never out right asked for people to support me monthly. And One of the reasons is, I never wanted people to start judging how I spent my time as a “missionary”. When asked what are you going to do on this next trip, it’s hard to say, “I’m just going over “to be” with my community.” Now don’t get me wrong, I always have a project but my true and main goal… Is to be…
I have worked and am still working to learn the Haitian culture, to understand their history, I read books, listen to blogs, Haitian Radio, Haitian music. I have and still am investing time learning their language, about their favorite sports, teams and players. I know the geography of Haiti better than my own state… I do this all because I want to be able to culturally relate to them. To understand what they are talking about when they tell me a piece of history or tell me they went to Jacmel, Montouis or St. Marc. I want to laugh with them, dance with them, sing their folk songs with them. When I go to visit a friend in the hospital I want to know the correct way to encourage them. Once I can do all these things, They know how much I care, and they then care about what I know. And what I know is that God loves them just as much as He loves me. In my heart there is no better way than to come along side someone you have built a relationship with.
4. Things Don’t Have to Happen Fast
Living in America we want things done Now! We have 5 places to go and 30 minutes to do it all or we will late for that very important 6th thing on our plate.
I remember when my kids were little using the phrase “Hurry up!” and “Let’s get going or we’re going to be late!”. Believe me… I still struggle with that. But working in a different country my “Hurry Hurry” life style has to get checked in a locker at the airport and left there until I return.
I remember the exact moment God taught me this lesson.
I was walking down to see two families who have kids in our school sponsorship program. Pastor told me it was a long walk and asked if maybe it would be better for them to send a caller and have the kids come to see me at the school. Being the stubborn American woman that I am I told him I could handle it. So he gave me a guide and my friend who could help with a little interpreting came along as well.
We started down the path… and I do mean DOWN the path. We just kept descending and descending for almost an hour. And the only thing running through my mind, besides “try not to slip” was “Oh, My Lanta, I’m going to have to climb back up this beast….” And although I may be a strong stubborn American woman I had to admit I was out of shape.
We got to the house, they offered us a seat. We chatted and laughed together and I got the information I needed. It was time. I needed to face my mountain.
If I would have thought to pray for a miracle I would have asked God to give me the lunge capacity I had when I was the work out queen… but instead I just prayed He would help me make it back up the mountain without too much embarrassment and I started putting one foot in front of the other.
We climbed over boulders, went along goat paths and crossed and area of the mountain where there really was no path and I just prayed I wouldn’t’ slide on the gravel and go rolling down the mountain side.
As I was walking I needed to take a couple of little breaks but I pushed on and as I was walking God brought something very clearly to my attention. He told me, “Look around. No one is in a hurry.” I watched the people we crossed paths with. I watched my two friends walking and talking together. I saw the ladies going and coming to get water. NO ONE was walking fast. No one was in a hurry. And I heard Him whisper to me “It’s not about getting the job done in a hurry, it’s about getting the job done”. I didn’t have to get up the mountain fast, I just had to get up the mountain. But as I reflected on that statement it was about more than just physically getting up the mountain. It was about the things He had called me to do. I didn’t have to accomplish all He had asked of me yesterday… or today. This wasn’t going to be a sprint. This would be a journey.
Sometimes life is like that Mountain. It’s a hard climb… and sometimes when we think it can’t get any worse, it rains and makes the red clay paths slippery and the climb gets even harder. But God is with us. And we don’t have to get up the mountain fast… we just can’t give up. Sometimes we must rest, but then we need to pick ourselves up and take another step.
When we reach the mountain top, we can look at the valley from where we came say Thank you God and rest in his presence.
By Founder and Executive Director Jamie Hazen