The next Monday I told my family I was going back, and tearfully ended my Spanish classes, the final severing of what connected me to my dreams of Mexico. It was another offering up to Christ my will on the altar, another dying. I thought of Amy Carmichael, headed for Japan but God took her instead to India. It was a sweet reminder that if I was willing to go wherever God wanted me to go, I could plan all I wanted and head wherever I pleased but He would put a detour on my path to lead me where I was meant to be. I had given Him control and He took me where I least expected. It was beautiful.
I worked all the odd jobs I could find for three months. Sarah came home from 2 semesters at Ellerslie and a short season of volunteering with them, ready to apply new truths and combat anything that stood in opposition to scripture. Things started to change at home. Suddenly, the spiritual haze was lifting, truth was penetrating our family at the deepest level and old ways fell apart. It was strangely freeing. I finally knew Jesus for myself and understood His will for my life. I was following His plan for the first time, and it was amazing. I wanted to be out in the world serving others, showing Christ’s love, and tasting the goodness of God experientially.
I went back to Haiti in February for 3 weeks, came home again and 3 days later was on a plane back. I had left a hole in the care of a little baby boy, suffering with Aids and a whole host of other issues. Through our months together he became like my child. It was extraordinarily difficult. I gave everything I had for him, every moment, every ounce of energy. I spent hours
bouncing him under the stars and he would never be laid down. In the end, the fruit was so much more rewarding than anything I’d done up until that point.
Julinsky became known by everyone as my baby, including me. I loved him as if he came from my own body. He taught me selflessness. (You can read about him in my post Child of My Heart)
Again and again, I followed the Lord in Haiti. Spending 8-9 months of the year there serving in any way I could. I was eventually able to have members of my family visit and take on more and more tasks in the ministry. I built beautiful relationships with a few women who passed through on short term trips.
I had seen mission work as some extraordinary calling with each day full of excitement. Saving people from death left and right, both literal and spiritual. I was seeing reality up-close. All the mundane moments the comforting a crying kid moment, the cooking a meal moment, the making a market list moment, the listening to a story moment, the sweat and exhaustion of climbing a literal mountain moment, the nights without power, the strange illnesses that came out of nowhere, the sleeping on a cold wet mat under the rain moment.
I learned that missionaries are just people. And that mission work is just following Jesus, moment by moment, in a different location. Sometimes it was amazing and breathtaking, sometimes it was just routine, never glamorous.
The language came easier than I had imagined as I had never been one for memorizing anything. It was a situation where I either learned to speak, or remained silent with only myself to talk to. After some months, I had no choice but to learn. Becoming fluent in Creole opened up a whole new world to me. I was not only seeing Haiti, but I was coming to know Haiti. The culture and the darkness of voodoo and the power of Christ over all. I was also building friendships and learning to navigate the hospital and markets.
The season of 2018 was beautiful and trying. I learned more from a practical standpoint in the beginning of that year than probably any years prior, medical treatments, giving English lessons, planning VBS, how to mount a motorcycle, caring for Pneumonia babies, and much more. Slowly Haiti became less unfamiliar and more like home.
Giving Up Marriage Again
I had given up the thought of marriage before I committed myself to moving to Haiti. Here I was far from the thought of romance, never taking a second glance at the guys who frequently shouted “I love you” any chance they got, and avoiding the perpetrator of a very pushy proposal of marriage. Yet there was a certain young man, who stood out from the rest. He cared for me as a sister and became my friend and biggest supporter in the hard seasons of language and culture learning and all the ups and downs of ministry.
He served me daily in so many ways. He noticed what no one else did. He’d leave food on my table and put up a mosquito net for me without being asked. Every day he’d ask me, “How are you?” When I wasn’t fine, he wouldn’t accept “good” as an answer. Even though neither of us knew each other’s language completely, we really talked.
When Nelson confessed his intentions for a relationship, I pushed the idea away. I wasn’t sure if God would ever allow me the pleasure of marriage that had once consumed me.
I was not in Haiti looking for a partner. I rejected the outlandish idea of marrying someone with a different heart language. Besides I was caught up in full time ministry and didn’t see where romance would fit in the mix. I was careful.
I wrote this in my journal during that time.
As I face this uncharted season of longing, I am tempted to choose my own path with no surety as to what His will is. I can trust Him. He will give strength to endure. So I wait. My heart swells with longing for him. But I refuse to fall into that familiar insecurity of being without a relationship. I won’t have this form into an idol and take too high importance in my life. I refuse to become depressed over my own plans that are on hold while I wait on God. He has my good in mind. He is holding Nelson in His hand. Because I love Nelson I cannot but surrender Him to God’s will and ask Him to wait. In time we will have clarity.
My Sweetest Gift
He did wait. Nelson waited patiently 6 months after that day, for me to be sure I was free to pursue a relationship with him. He remained my friend and our friendship wasn’t confusing or labored. Over and over the Lord confirmed to both of us our freedom to pursue each other. Nelson, though he remained silent for my sake, did not give up his longing for us to marry, I was ecstatic! Our friendship became sweeter and sweeter with each passing day and without more than a handful of actual dates we became engaged in the fall of 2019. My parents got to meet him in person before that time and give their approval. Every day since we met had been spent in ministry side by side or watching the other across the room as we carried out our own projects.
Nelson is a strong leader, and our relationship went beautifully with no regrets. I found out he possessed an incredible amount of self-control. While I started out with all the boundaries, having seen much of what I did not want in a relationship prior, he became the strong one who held us to them. Our engagement went by painfully slowly as I served at a birthing center in the Philippines for 4 months (God did bring me back there! Though my heart was left in Haiti.) and then got trapped in the US by Covid restrictions for another 5 months.
After 9 months of engagement apart, we didn’t want to wait much longer to marry and begin the green card process so we could be together wherever we were. Things in Haiti were falling apart and getting more dangerous by the day.
The Start Of Our Life Together
In 2020 we got married, in 2021 we rented a house, and bought land. We began ministry on our own, providing scholarships to local kids in need and empowering a few of our Haitian friends to serve their own communities in similar ways. The desire to start Espwa Demen was formed at the very beginning of our marriage. Even while engaged we knew we wanted to do all that God would provide the means for us to do.
Though in this season I am unable to live full time in Haiti as we had planned during our engagement because of the risks it puts on my husband, our family, and friends. We still manage to carry out ministry together through my frequent trips. We hope to soon be able to travel and work together in the US to greater fund our ministry efforts in Haiti.
At the start of my life, how could I ever have imagined where this crazy path would lead, who I would marry, what country and people would capture my heart, what sort of unique trials would be mine, used to shape and form me, and fit me for spiritual battle in this place?
A friend commented the other day, “Who would ever look at you and guess that you live most of your days in Haiti and that America isn’t really your home?” She’s right, no one would know unless I tell them,
Because there is nothing extraordinary about me. I am just a simple and flawed and weak woman from central Missouri that had a shaky start. But my God is extraordinary, and slowly He has made Himself known to me, taught me. He has chosen me, little insignificant me.
When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes. The believer alone will be able to hear this call. It comes from beyond ourselves, beyond our society, beyond the climate of opinion and prejudice and rebellion and skepticism in which we live, beyond our time and taste.Elisabeth Elliot, from Discipline: The Glad Surrender