I read a quote recently ,”Don't trust a preacher who doesn't walk with a limp”. I understand this now on a few different levels. We must understand the grace of God in an experiential way. If we see our own sin and brokenness and complete inability to save ourselves then all we can do is point others to Christ. If we are filled with self righteousness then we can only hope to yoke others to the same burdens that we can't even carry ourselves. Blind guides can only lead others to the same pit they are headed for.
Haiti has showed me how incapable I am and how capable God is. It seems so often that he is working in spite of me being there, instead of working because I am there. But just like a good father that allows their child the freedom to fail when they are working on a project together, God has infinite patience. There have been some projects I have worked on with my children that I am learning they may never understand how to accomplish, but I work with them because I love them and want to be with them. The partnership is based on relationship and blood, not on performance. I am just now starting to grasp the beauty of this.
The decision to move my family out of Haiti was hard on so many levels. The confirmation came from the counselors that we saw. They were very encouraging that I continue in full time ministry, but wanted me to seriously consider my “geographic calling” and the fact that I needed to get my family out of Haiti. Different viewpoints among our family, wrestling with feelings of failure, processing the past 2 and a half years, and questions of what to do next all came rushing in like flood. The most persistent focus beyond Haiti continues to be sharing what I have learned with those not on the ground here. Others have to know.
We finally settled in to making plans to come back to the US. We didn't know where we would land and we didn't know what we would do when we got here. I had prayed about it enough that I knew it was time to go and finally became settled with the idea. We began making plans and got a date set to fly out with MFI. The logistics seemed overwhelming and insurmountable. However, I knew that if God was calling, that he would work out the details. I have learned to spend about 90 percent of my time praying, planning, listing the specifics, praying through the details, and about 10 percent in actual execution. As I started doing this I struggled the most with our re-entry location. It just remained a big question mark.
Just when it felt like things were beginning to come together, Amy got sick. She developed a cyst that started to give her problems. A team of missionary doctors at Respire tried to drain it, but were unsuccessful. After this it became infected and started to become an emergency. She had fever and was unable to get out of bed. We took care of her and started praying through plans to get her to the US for medical care. It just seemed like terrible timing. We were planning to be out of Haiti for good in less than 4 months, and now Amy had a major infection that would have to be treated in the US. We prayed through it and she started on antibiotics.
After a day on antibiotics, the fever came under control and our situation moved from an emergency to a priority. We started looking at plane tickets and trying to figure out how to travel together. We finally decided to go to Amy's parent's house in Louisiana.
I was supposed to officiate the wedding ceremony of a couple that was attending City on a Hill Fellowship at Respire. Amy and I had taken them trough per-marital counseling and the wedding was only a few days away. It was a difficult decision and we constantly monitored Amy's condition and received advice from doctors in the US. We finally bought plane tickets and made the trip to Louisiana the next day after the wedding ceremony.
The antibiotics were doing their job, and extensive testing confirmed that the cysts were indeed just benign cysts. This was really good news, but Amy was still pretty weak and needed to heal before we could go back to Haiti and finish packing. The good part about being at home was that we were in a good position to plan for our move back.
We began looking for a vehicle. Since entering the mission field we have remained debt free and only buy what we need. I never want to go back into financial debt again. I want to be free to go where God calls when He says go without having payments or a mortgage to hold us back. I knew that we would need to remain mobile in the US so we began looking for a truck that would be able to tow a camper.
It took almost 3 weeks and much searching to find the truck I was looking for at the price I was willing to pay. I finally found it on a dirty used car lot in McComb, Mississippi. The car salesman drove up in the truck and got out with a battery charger in his hand. The truck was filthy inside and out, but seemed mechanically sound – except for a dead battery. I checked the engine and underneath. I didn't see any evidence of oil leaks. The truck had been sitting for a while and the doors where difficult to open. It smelled bad – the smell of value.
The salesman asked if we wanted to take it for a test drive. I noticed that the tank was empty and the fuel light was on. I told the salesman that I was afraid it would run out of gas. He reached in his pocket and handed me all the money in his wallet – 3 dollars – and directed me to the nearest gas station. I told him that I was afraid I wouldn't get it to start up again if I turned it off for gas, so he gave me the battery jumper to take with me.
The salesman was nice. Former Army and a minister at the Church of God in Christ. We negotiated on a fair price, paid for it, and then drove over to the nearest Wal-Mart for a new battery. It took us 3 days to clean it and to get a baseline on the maintenance, but now it is awesome. Now that we had wheels and Amy was getting better we started making plans to go back to Haiti.
We own land in South Carolina, but it was not livable because there was no water on it. We weren't even sure if it was a good idea to try to live there. A few days before we left Louisiana Amy's parents handed her a check that was part of an inheritance from her grandparents. All four of her grandparents had passed away while we were in Haiti. It was just enough to drill a well and dig a septic tank on our land. This would allow us live in our camper that was there.
Well drilling is unpredictable. There are many different opinions, but in the end it basically comes down to drilling a hole and seeing what you hit. There are no guarantees except the fact that you pay for the deepest hole drilled even if they don't hit water. We prayed and had others praying for us the day the drilling started. In 2 hours they hit water. Good clean water flowing at 25 gallons a minute at 140 feet. It was the shallowest well in our area and the best flow of anyone I know. God had provided an abundance. I guess it was confirmation of where He wanted us to come back to. The inheritance money provided exactly enough for a well, pump, and a septic tank. Exactly what we needed.
We planned to fly back to Haiti with MFI and leave our truck at their hangar. This worked out well. The people at MFI have been great as they have transported us back and forth to Haiti and ministered to us in the process. The flight back into Haiti however, was the worst flight I have ever been on. We had to make multiple stops. We flew through turbulent air over the mountains, and had to land on a short grassy runway on one of our stops. It was like a roller coaster ride.
The next six weeks of preparation were some of our most difficult in Haiti. Our neighbors mostly ostracized us since the shutdown of the orphanage. There could be multiple reasons for this. One that was voiced to us was the fact that they were afraid of the owners.
When we got back to Haiti we noticed that the termites had been busy. We had a picture of a praying man on the wall. The termites found it and almost totally consumed it. Amy tried in vain to salvage it, but tearfully gave up when she found out it was beyond hope. Such a symbol of the hardest of our times. God was continuing to purge us of things we were holding onto both spiritually and physically. Almost all of our clothes were totally worn out from the harshness of Haiti.
We had to go through and purge our belongings. We had to make decisions on what to bring back, what to give away, and what to burn. Every item that we kept had to be accounted for, logged in on a customs form, and weighed. We burned everything that was not worth bringing back or giving away because Haiti has no trash system. It was so symbolic of the consuming fire that God is as we watched our stuff burn up in a hot blaze. He purges us of everything that is not of eternal value. It is a difficult process, but in the end it is good.
One thing I learned during this. The warnings on batteries that they may explode are true. We had kept all of our old batteries in a container because there was nowhere else to put them. Once the fire was nice and hot we dumped them all in and ran like crazy. It was like a fireworks display and we stood behind trees to escape the shrapnel.
On our way to church that first Sunday back I realized I forgot my wallet at home. We turned around to go get it because I get stopped constantly and asked for my truck papers and driver's license. I was frustrated with myself because I knew this was going to make us late getting to church. You just never know what God is going to use to show you how real He is and how much He cares for you. I realized this as we drove past an accident that had just happened and saw a dead person still lying in the middle of the road. The police were just starting to arrive. If I had remembered my wallet we probably would have been participants instead of observers. I thanked God the rest of the way to church.
The next Sunday I noticed traffic stopping and tried to stop soon enough not to get caught in it. The traffic behind me backed up quickly and I knew I was trapped. I could see large crowds with hundreds of people filling the road. It turned out to be a rah rah event. We got trapped in the middle of it for about an hour. People were drunk and high in various states of dress and began to surround our truck. They were yelling obscenities and directing derogatory remarks because they could see we were white. They started rocking the truck and banging on the windows.
Amy was vainly holding back tears and we were all praying. She was able to send out a Facebook message back to our friends at church in Georgia. The praise team was just about to pray when they received the message. We were just looking forward, praying, and singing praise songs together. Eventually the rah rah band started up and everyone followed them and left us alone. We were all pretty shaken up by the time we got to church.
Our last few weeks there were pretty busy and we watched as God brought together everything that we needed to close our loose ends in Haiti. He brought a seller for our truck, someone to sublet our house, and no problems with closing our bank account. It was intense and I would breathe a sigh of relief with each objective completed.
We were invited to spend our last few days at the Respire guest house on the mountain in Gressier. It was a huge relief especially after selling our truck and having no transportation. The time there was refreshing and our girls enjoyed spending time and playing with the Anderson girls. They wanted to spend as much time as possible together so they planned a sleepover on the mountain where we were staying. They all wanted to sleep in some portable bug nets on the porch, so I decided to sleep on the outermost area in order to provide a chaperon outside.
Around midnight the wind picked up pretty heavy and a storm started to blow in. I had some clothes hanging on the balcony railing drying and saw them blow over the side. I got up, walked over to the balcony, and shined my flashlight down to locate them. I really don't know what was going through my head as I decided to just leap over the balcony railing to go pick up my clothes. The first clue that I made a big mistake was the fact that I didn't hit the ground immediately. The third clue was the wind whistling through my ears as my rate of descent began to increase dramatically. The third clue was when I hit the uneven ground and large sharp rocks.
I crash landed with a thud and received so much immediate pain to the bottom of my feet, ankles, knees, and elbows that I kind of blanked out for a second. Once I was able to process what happened I just laid there shivering from the intense pain and thinking what an idiot I was and hoping I didn't break something. The older I get the longer it takes to recover. I finally managed to get up, collect my clothes, climb back up the balcony railing, and get back into my sleeping bag. I just laid there shivering in pain.
A little while later hard rain started and we had to move the whole production inside. I was moving slow, limping, and moaning recognizing that I was only going to be able to help myself. I told Amy that I needed to get in bed and couldn't help anyone else. She asked if there was something wrong with me. I didn't realize that anyone else had seen what happened until Mikka asked,”Is that when you fall down? You look like Superman!” When she said this all the girls started laughing and I realized that all of them had seen what happened. We all started laughing and they kept talking about it for the rest of our time there.
I had to finish out my time there limping around. Such a physical picture of what was going on with me emotionally. It was time to limp home and heal for a while. Get alone with God and process through what I learned listening for Him to reveal to me what is next.