So I’m sitting on my aunt’s couch looking out at the HOLLYWOOD sign in the distance, and amazingly, everything is done and ready. Supplies have been bought, emails have been answered, and even my online class is now complete.
Everything is finally ready to go for Hong Kong, except some lasting words that I know I need to say.
At the end of the day, the only people I need to answer to is myself and my Creator. But I do feel that I’ve left so much unanswered, I should do it now.
I made a very conscious choice not to go back to Haiti this summer.
Perhaps you may have asked, quietly to yourself or maybe a little judgmentally in your mind,” Maggie, why aren’t you going back this summer? Don’t you know if you don’t go back to the same place, you’re not making an impact? Are you just travelling around, calling it service? What are you actually doing?”
My answer to that is I wish desperately that I was going back but more than that I wish desperately I was in the right place to go back. I understand going multiple times reinforces and strengthens relationships but I also understand that if you are not fully committed with the purest of intentions, you are doing more harm than good. And no, I’m too much of a home-body to recreationally travel on a whim. Everything I do is very intentional (probably too much so if you ask some).
The truth is, more than any Facebook photo or blog post could tell you, Haiti broke my heart in ways I’m still trying to understand. It rightfully shattered everything I knew, humbled me, and left me impassioned for service and prayer. I made a hundred friendships with children and adults that mean everything to me. I had more fun but more heartache than I ever imagined.
I knew that when I go back, which I believe in my heart that I will, I will bring everything with me. An army of prayer and a tangible goal of how to fulfill a need. I will bring my whole heart and leave my Western mindset behind. I can’t go back knowing that I am comfortable in two different worlds, one of excess and one of lacking, but don’t do everything in my power to bridge them when I am in the U.S. It was too tempting to forget Haiti and my dear students. I constantly felt jealousy for the new English teachers this year, wanting to go back selfishly to keep my students, obsessed with the Western missionary trap of “I’m their savior, I’m here for my own glory”. Too many people go to “serve” in Haiti for the obligatory photos and stories and impressed faces back home, or worse still, are addicted to feeling like they are the only ones who can help, the only ones who matter to these people. Both treat Haitians like they are objects or projects, and don’t fully recognize that we are saviors of no one. In fact, we didn’t even save ourselves, nor can we ever.
I can’t go back until I know I’m not serving myself and I’m prepared to give up everything, every selfish secret or want for comfort, in my heart for them.
I was too broken and too weak. I was consumed by college and homesickness. I knew that going back to Haiti meant spiritual warfare. How could I go back, with all the promises left unfulfilled to my students, and not be able to be there with them with every strength I possess.
I guess it’s just that I know in Hong Kong, my students will not come to school starving. They will not have bloated bellies, rough home lives with family members dead or missing, weak muscles from chikigunya, lack of potable water, or blistered feet. They will have stable roofs over their heads, opportunity in front of them, and good health. But they are starving in another way, a way that I know I can address easier than generational poverty. I can show them love, encouragement, and patience, in the way my Haitian students lovingly taught me.
I’m crushed I’m not in Haiti, where I do feel called to serve again in some unknown capacity, but Hong Kong is in front of me for a reason. When I’m scared or fearful, I know I am being stretched and challenged. When my heart aches for something, I know it was put there for a bigger purpose. When I miss, it is because I love.
So no, I’m not going to Haiti and yes, I’m prepared to learn and grow and discover what God wants me to in Hong Kong. It’s a vague look into my heart but I hope it gives you some insight into what it means to follow where I’m needed and to act in a way that I truly believe is most helpful. Even if it’s self-sacrificing, I need to grow now rather than attend to my desires.