I took a week-long trip to the US in the beginning of April with my friend and youth group co-leader, Marc. It was an odd vacation, to be sure. We didn't go to either of our respective "homes" (Boston or Minnesota) nor did we see any immediate family members. Instead we attended a conference in Michigan where a number of missionaries, pastors, and ministers who are truly living the Christian life told their stories and encouraged the church to get up and start living out their faith. If the Bible says feed the hungry, perhaps we should actually feed them. If it says set the oppressed free, perhaps we should actually set them free. If it says to rejoice when we are persecuted, perhaps we should stop looking for comfort and embrace the tough times. If it says to heal the sick, perhaps we should heal instead of just sending Get Well cards.
I could say a lot about the actual conference, but it's difficult to put into words the ways that God spoke to my heart while I was there. It would be easy to say that by being in Haiti, I'm already doing much of what the speakers were entreating us to do, but the Bible makes it clear that it should all come from love, God's love. Too often, I find myself doing the things I do out of a sense of duty and obligation, not because I feel a burden for the hurting and lost people around me. Or I act with love only towards those who are easy to love, treating the others such as the men who hit on me or the strangers who demand money from me with impatience and even contempt at times. This business of loving Christ and living for Him is a journey and I am still learning how to step out in faith and how to rely on Him to do everything that is dropped in my lap. Fortunately, it's a rewarding and exciting journey and I'm loving every moment of it!
I can't show you photos of the conference, but I can show you our incredible accomodations! Our first night, we stayed with a former missionary friend at her grandfather's ranch near Fort Lauderdale. I got to walk barefoot in the grass - a wish come true!
From Florida, we trekked cross country in car, plane, city bus, Greyhound bus, and pick-up truck to Sylvania, Ohio. The nuns who stay at my Shoebox during their visits to Port-au-Prince come from a community in Sylvania and they invited us to stay there for the duration of the conference. Our friends Kathy, Loe and Abbey, all of whom used to work in Haiti with us, joined us at the convent and attended the conference with us. The place was huge and simply beautiful, full of lovely artwork made by the nuns themselves.
Kathy and I were given a tour of the workshop where the nuns make all the tiles for their mosiacs and for their little giftshop. I was amazed by the quality of their pieces, the precision and detail of their craftsmanship, and by the strength these sweet little ladies must have to do their work.
We were a little early for full spring, but that didn't stop me from taking long walks around the convent grounds whenever I had the chance. There was a river on one end, a little cemetary on another, a stream weaving through a garden area, and lots of trees.
My favorite spot was the little prayer chapel a short walk from our dormitory. It was made of red sandstone and is about 75 years old. It reminded me of places I've visited in Europe.
Marc and I returned to Haiti refreshed and invigorated...actually, that's not entirely true. I was exhausted and invigorated; that's what limited sleep but a very inspirational week will do to you. It was a perfect little break though because it left us wanting to get back to Haiti and back to work!