"...For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" Hebrews 13:5b-6
Since Enpak graduation on December 3rd, the Haiti team has been planning and prepping for the International Impact Trip (IIT) that was coming to share the gospel and lend a helping hand for two weeks. The day of the trip finally came and I was so grateful to see familiar faces and meet the new ones. The first few days of them being there were fun, exciting, God-filled, growing moments to say the least, and then the unexpected happened.
I woke up Friday morning to walk to the hotel that the IIT team was staying in, not realizing that everything around me was different. I safely made it to the hotel, but got word that manifestations were taking place. Mobs of angry Haitians were causing scenes and looking for Americans to blame for their Haitian senator being arrested by the US. We knew our IIT plans of ministry for that day needed to be changed, but we still thought ministry on a smaller scale was a possibility, so 17 of us started making our way to the HopeStart Orphanage where we could spend time on our property closed off from the outside community. We didn't even get fully out of the hotel grounds when a member of the UN made it clear that we should not be on the streets. Wanting to be obedient to the authority that God placed before us, we headed back to the hotel to create a new plan of action.
As the team made their way back into the hotel, we decided it would be purposeful to pray over the situation and make encouraging letters to those in the hospital and prison, but we needed supplies. A friend took me to the orphanage, a 2 minute moto ride, to grab craft supplies, but on the way back to the hotel the mob was in sight. Other locals were warning us not to head down back towards the hotel, but our window of opportunity to get to safety was growing smaller. My friend felt the Lord was speaking to him that we should not seek safety back at the orphanage, so we took the last opportunity we had to make our way to my house and I thank God we made that decision.
About 10 minutes after we arrived, we found out the orphanage was broken into, vandalized, and robbed by the mob of Haitians that we had just seen. The mob had busted through our gate on the hunt to find Americans. Rocks were thrown, windows were busted, children and workers rushed to hide the founders of HopeStart that were there visiting. The mob found the hiding Americans and threatened them with machetes and robbed them of all their belongings. As most of you know, I was living at the orphanage for the past three months, so I still had many belongings there. The mob ransacked my room and stole anything they found value in. The mob, satisfied with their destruction, quickly moved on, but left the children, workers, and the two Americans shaken up.
Thank you, Father, for getting me to safety in time. Thank you for your grace that allowed me to leave before the mob showed up. Thank you for your protection over the Americans that were caught in dangerous situations. Father, you said you would never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and we know your promises are held true.
That same day our IIT team was evacuated. They were safely escorted to the UN compound without any of their belongings and were flown to Port-au-Prince the next day. As for our team that resides in Jérémie, we needed a plan. I was in lockdown at my house, Mike was with the IIT team getting them situated with the UN, and the Taylor’s were on lockdown at their house. After many phone calls back and forth, I packed my bag and the UN transported Mike and I to the Taylor’s house. There, we decided as a team, our time would be better spent away from the, currently, hostile environment. We packed our bags and waited for the time that the UN could escort us to the UN compound. We remained hidden from the outside world together until the UN picked us up on Sunday evening.
Through all of this, I am continually overwhelmed by God's love through the support of our Haitian brothers and sisters. Anything we needed, everything we asked for, our brothers provided for us. Two of them were caught in the crossfire between mob and police; blinded by teargas, they rushed back to us with food in their hands for us. The same two friends stayed outside of our house for two nights in a row as security. Other friends went out to gather our belongings that Mike and I had left behind, but would need for the next few weeks. One friend went to the orphanage after the break in, just so I could speak to the children and check on them, but even the children ended up checking on me, asking me if I was safe. One sweet boy cried, “let me say you one thing. Don’t never go on the streets. Never ever go on the streets.” These children faced something very traumatic, yet, they were more worried about me than their own lives. Friend after friend knocked on our gate to visit us and give us their support. Phone calls continued to flood in from more dear friends checking in on us, making sure we were safe and that we knew not to show our faces. Saying goodbye to them, without the certainty of returning to Jeremie, was heartbreaking, but I know God is not finished using us in that sweet, normally quiet town of Jeremie.
Now, after two days of traveling, our team is safely in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This trip was originally planned for January 17th, so our plans were not significantly changed due to the circumstances laid before us. We have chosen to come early because we wanted to be wise; we wanted to choose the best option for our ministry. Being locked in a house under a high-stress situation is not effective for God’s kingdom, but getting rest and being refreshed and refilled in His word, in His presence, together as a family, will prepare us for the next season He calls us to, where ever that may be. We did not flee out of fear. Throughout the three days in lockdown, God had poured His peace over us. We are not scared. We are not angry. We are at peace that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan that is far greater than we can ever fathom. Each obstacle we come across is opportunity to grow closer to God and teaches us to rely more and more on Him; therefore, we will rejoice in this time and give thanks to our Father in heaven! This is certainly a unique way to start a new year, but I am thankful for my never-changing God; "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8)