Luke 6:38 - Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)
The October 2014 team of five left the US geared up to serve in Haiti with our eyes open to see how we would be storytellers. I was a first time team leader and felt so very fortunate to have a "seasoned" team of adults who had all traveled internationally on missions previously. All of our team members had servant hearts and part of my blessing as a team leader was rejoicing when I saw, over and over and over again, countless examples of each team member's precious servant heart.
We were fortunate to have a photographer with us as part of our team. Kari had been trained in the specifics of AWAA's storyteller campaign. She was truly dedicated to her role as photographer for this important purpose. She also had it in her heart that she wanted to give a gift to each orphan - a picture of themselves to keep. She purchased a printer, photo paper, ink, and laminating sheets that she brought with her to Haiti trusting that God would find a way to make this happen since we didn't even know if we would be allowed to take pictures at the orphanages. We spent time at two orphanages in Haiti and, miraculously, Kari was granted permission by each orphanage to photograph the children.
Another team member, Rey, wanted to relay Psalm 139:14 to the orphans - "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (NIV)." He had this verse printed on cardstock in both English and Creole. Rey had intended to hand the cards out to the children. Instead, in beautiful moment, the team decided that we should put the cards on the back of the pictures and laminate them together. So, two wonderful ideas LITERALLY came together. The team spent time almost every day before and after our evening devotion printing pictures, cutting out the pictures, and laminating them with the bible verse. This act of service also provided us with time together as a team - listening to praise music, sharing our joys and trials of the day, and enjoying fellowship.
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
Our third day in Haiti, Kari handed out the pictures/bible verse to the children at the orphanage-her and Rey's gift and the team's labor of love. I rejoiced when I saw that this gift was immediately returned to Kari, Rey, and the rest of the team. The reactions of the children when receiving their pictures/verse were priceless gifts. And, the gifts were everywhere- they were in the sparkle of the children's eyes, they were in the squeals of excitement, they were in the grasping of the picture and not letting go, they were in the smiles.
One girl immediately put her picture carefully into her backpack. I could tell that she wanted to protect her keepsake, probably one of few that she has. An older boy reacted with exuberance. This particular boy loved having his picture taken and gave Kari quite the photo shoot during which he gave masterful expressions. When he received his picture, he ran with his unique gait to each caregiver - boldly interrupting prayer/worship time - to share his new possession: a picture of his precious face - God's masterpiece, an image of himself - fearfully and wonderfully made.
Another unexpected gift that was given and also received was when the caregivers/nannies wanted to have their pictures taken. This was truly unexpected! But, Kari, our dedicated photographer, embraced the opportunity. She said later that it was a way to bless the nannies that she hadn't even considered. Kari took pictures with care to capture each nanny's beauty. At the end of our time in Haiti, Kari used the extra paper that she had after printing all of the children's pictures to print pictures of the nannies. The in-country staff person agreed to deliver them to the orphanage when she delivered the other donations we had purchased with our "blessing fund."
After we left Haiti, we received word the first orphanage that we visited became gripped in a medical crisis. Multiple children fell sick and several were hospitalized with cholera. The nannies worked around the clock caring for the ill. There were pleas from the orphanage for help, prayer, and financial support. One child that our team had just met and spent precious time with passed away. All of us were shocked and saddened. During one of our final team devotions in-country, Rey, who serves a pastor, shared how missions rip the calluses off your heart so that you have an open wound, a vulnerability that allows you to feel the pain of unmet needs, suffering and injustice.
But, how having that open wound motivates you to do the hard work that needs to be done - to love orphans, to care for those in distress, to challenge injustice, to be the voice for the oppressed. My heart had an open wound from my experiences in Haiti. And then, getting word of the medical crisis at the orphanage totally re-exposed that wound. It ripped off the small layer that had already began to form back on my heart. I think it was God's way of immediately reminding me that work and change needs to be done NOW. That I shouldn't get comfortable. That he was going to use me to do more.
Being back in the US, I felt idle. I wanted to go back and be there. The distance seemed immense. But, then another gift arrived via email. It was from the in-country staff who had just spent two days at the orphanage helping to provide needed hands-on care. "Thank you, and the team, for all of your prayers! The donations you all were able to provide have been incredibly helpful this week. We had all the kids get their own pedialyte bottle to keep them hydrated, and even the photos of the nannies seemed to lift spirits. Thank you all for that!" What a tremendous gift! To realize that the photos were able to lift the nannies' spirits during what is sure to be a sad, stressful, draining and difficult time is a priceless gift back to our team. And, to know that the way the team chose to use the "blessing fund" and our donor's financial gifts to purchase items that met an immediate need is uplifting and miraculous. God knew that those children were going to need Pedialyte to counteract the dehydration caused by cholera!
While it is still hard to be here and not there, I am now comforted to know that gifts we gave, our service while in Haiti, was and is multiplying. I trust that God will show each of us- the members of our team, those who supported our team through donations and prayers, and those who are hearing our stories- what is next and what He wants us to do. When the Luke verse came to me, I knew that this was my next step. I'll be honest, I really wanted to board a plane back to Haiti but, I had come to realize that wasn't possible or realistic. So, I'm embracing the verse. And, I feel that God wants me to share THIS story which will hopefully stir the servant heart present in each one of us. God is saying that NOW is the time to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. NOW is the time to share God's love. And, NOW is the time to ACT.
So, go! ACT!! Be the hands and feet of Christ and serve. Give of yourself. God will, in turn, bestow you with gifts like you've never imagined. And, this giving and receiving of gifts is how God uses us to make change, one ACT at a time.