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One Thousand Sunsets

I vividly remember the 9th time I watched the sunset behind the Western mountains in Haiti. It was November 18th, 2017. Myself and a group of foreigners were standing on a roughly paved porch of a roofless school building. We had finished our ten day trip and were heading home the next day.

We would spend this last evening out in the countryside singing worship music together and quietly reflecting on the past week. My now husband, being the music connoisseur that he is, was asked to play a song on the blown out speaker of his LG phone.

The song he chose is ingrained in my mind. It was “God of This City” by Chris Tomlin. We stood there, eyes closed, singing softly. So much was running through my mind. I was thinking about how unexpected the trip had been. Wondering if I  would ever return to this country that had already, in a few short days, knocked me to my knees and gripped my heart. 

The deep need of the people we met hit me like a ton of bricks. What I saw was not romantic as my first trip out of the US had been. I saw Haiti as a desolate, hard, and dark place. At the same time I instantly loved the Haitian people and felt that I could pour myself out there. 

“You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are…
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city…”

The words swept over me and I felt God changing the lyrics in my heart. I heard ‘greater things have yet to come for you here’, ‘greater things are still to be done in this city, and in you’. Finally an overwhelming sense that caused tears to form in my eyes, “You will come back here”. 

I treasured those words in my heart as His promise to me. 

One Thousand Sun Sets Later 

As that very green missionary I had no idea what to expect of life overseas. At that moment I was a lot of things. Notably; excited, nervous, and naive. As a cool evening breeze brought the sun down behind those distant mountains and changed the landscape I felt a spiritual change blowing over me. 

I have now witnessed over 1,000 sun sets in the Haitian skies. If I could go back and spend just 10 minutes with that 18 year old me, here are the stories I would tell…

Leaving Behind The Sunset 

“Tonight, after the sun has completely set, you will pack your bags. You’ll have so much to say but be afraid to say it for fear of not being believed. As you put the last of your clothes away you will feel like you are leaving your life behind. In that moment God’s grace will be sufficient for you.” 

“Tomorrow morning when that same sun rises you’ll get on a TapTap and someone will share a vision with you on the way to the airport. They will tell you that they don’t know how or when, but you will come back to Haiti. You’ll cry in front of everyone because you told no one about the promise. God’s grace is sufficient for you.” 

“102 sunsets later you’ll leave behind your family, your previous dreams, and country, and land alone, in Port Au Prince. You’ll be hit with the blazing heat. You’ll breathe deeply the smell of  exhaust, trash, food, and people. But in your mind it will be as though you are breathing in the scent of the sweetest rose. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

As The Sun Goes Down 

“Under the peaceful tropical sunset you’ll get to work serving all day long. You will feel out of place but right where you are meant to be at the same time. As you teach and learn and change diapers and clean wounds you’ll love every moment of it. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“Unexpectedly, before the sun can set one day in March 2018 a little boy will be placed in your lap. 6 months old he’ll be on death’s doorstep. You’ll look at his broken frame and watch his chest labor to rise. You will take him in that night. But you won’t anticipate the coming months of being his sole care provider. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

“Many many sunsets will find you in the same spot. Trotting around the cobblestone yard as the light fades from the sky. Bouncing that baby boy in your arms until they nearly fall off because it’s the only way he will sleep. You’ll be so exhausted and long for just one night of uninterrupted sleep. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“One day the sunset will seem a little brighter. That child will walk and feed himself and instead of bouncing him around the yard he will come and climb into your lap to watch the stars come out. You’ll both sit there and he’ll say; ‘why did you leave your home to come here’, you’ll answer ‘because I love you’, with that he’ll close his eyes, content. God’s grace is more than sufficient for you.

Death At Sunset 

“Many evenings of 2018 and 2019 the sun will seem dim as you care for a dying man whom you’ve come to love. Each time you sit beside his withering body and try to comfort him you’ll grieve a little deeper. In the beginning you’ll hold on to the belief that God is going to heal him. You won’t stop praying. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

“After the sun has long set one night in January you’ll get a text that wakes you. It will say, “I’m sorry”, and you’ll know that your beloved pastor is gone. You’ll fall to the cold tile floor and lay there crying until morning. The sadness and depression of that loss will drive you back to the US. For a moment you will consider never going back to Haiti. It may not seem like it, but God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“The sun will seem to stop rising while you take a month of leave from ministry after the pastor’s death. You will go back to Haiti broken but resilient and continue to care for the sick. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

More Sickness To Darken The Sky

“On a night where the sky looks like fire you’ll watch another life slip away, only a few months old. You’ll see beat up and bloodied survivors of accidents, a set of twins no larger than a water bottle side by side on an incubator, and you’ll be harassed for months by a well meaning hospital worker who is convinced he’s going to win your heart. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“Under the merciless Haitian sun you’ll suffer physically on two different occasions. Once you will spend 5 days unable to roll over as Dengue drains the life out of you. Then you will come down with kidney infection and truly feel like you might die. You’ll be hospitalized in a 3rd world country and come to appreciate greatly the high standard of medical care in the US. As you inject antibiotics into your own IV day after day God’s grace will be sufficient for you.”

A Young Man Under The Sun 

“After months of sun sets working in the same vicinity and quietly watching him at a distance, you’ll come to notice how extremely kind a young man is towards you. He’ll put up a mosquito net over your bed because he notices what no one else does. He’ll buy food out of his $2 a day salary and leave it on your table without so much as a note giving him credit. In him you will find the very best of friends. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

“One day as you are admiring the sun set behind a distant mountain from the high point of some old ruins, someone will offer to take your picture. As you stand there he’ll then tell the young man to get over there with you. As soon as his strong arm is around your shoulder you will crave his embrace and look for every opportunity to be close to him. You’ll come to treasure that first picture together. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

“You’ll go back to the US and miss a few weeks of sunsets in Haiti that summer. When you get back to Haiti you’ll show the young man pictures of your baby brother, he’ll say in broken English, ‘one day I want him to be my brother too.’ You’ll think for a moment that he spoke without understanding, then it will hit you that he’s basically proposing and means it wholeheartedly. God’s grace is sufficient for you and for him.”

The Sun That Saw Us Married

Evening after evening the setting sun will shine down on a blooming love story between you and that handsome friend of yours. You will grow to trust him and depend on him for support on the hard days. In 2020 at a smoldering cinder block courthouse in Haiti you will marry him and it will be the best decision of your life. God’s grace is sufficient for you.

“The sun will dance like flickering flames as you start your life together, moving into your first home as a married couple and buying land in Haiti where you hope to one day build your house and raise your family. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

The Sun Sets On Betrayal And Change 

“After 3 years of serving full time the sun will fall out of view as frustrated tears fall from your eyes. You’ll be betrayed and pushed out of your place in ministry. Relationships will get hard. Jealousy and spiritual darkness will drive people apart. You’ll have to leave the place you thought you’d stay forever. God’s grace is sufficient for you.” 

“Despite feeling so inadequate. Despite the memories of all those sunsets you watched from the roof of that mission base you’ll move on. You will start your own ministry and though it will be a hard uphill climb it will eventually begin to thrive. God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

“Leaving Haiti for the US together one thousand sunsets after the one that changed your life forever, having experienced six years of ministry, hard and painful trials, sweet and beautiful memories. You will look back on those years as the flight takes off. You’ll know that you will return one day and say God’s grace is sufficient for me.”

“Rachel, one thousand sunsets later, I am here to tell you that the Haitian sun in front of you this evening is going to be a huge part of your story. You will wrestle with it’s light and bask in it’s warmth. In the end you will conclude that God’s grace is not only sufficient, but lavish, for you.”

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Hi! I’m Rachel. Through a series of God orchestrated events I ended up in Haiti, in 2017.  Through years of serving with a ministry there I came to love the country and its people. I met Nelson and we got married in 2020. It was the best decision of my life! 

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