“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. When we look at compassion this way, it becomes clear that something more is involved than a general kindness or tenderheartedness. It is not surprising that compassion, understood as suffering with, often evokes in us a deep resistance and even protest.” (Compassion: Reflections on the Christian Life by Nouwen, McNeill and Morrison, pp. 4).
Going to Haiti…
On Sunday night I received a most unexpected call asking me if I wanted to join a small team of people traveling to Haiti from February 11-17th. I was initially shocked by the opportunity, then anxiety quickly set in as I was informed I would have less than 24 hours to make the decision. And then slowly a little bit of fear set in as this would be one of the rare times of international travel that I would have to do since becoming a father. One thinks about life differently when they are single, than when they are a father, husband (and soon to be father to our second child). Other things to consider now.
As I got off the phone and talked with my wife I was hoping that she would not be too keen to the idea, and would even possibly help me say no to the opportunity. At least that’s what I think I wanted outwardly, but inwardly I was hoping she would give me the green light for the trip. I wanted to make sure that this was a decision we were both comfortable with. So when she said,
“I think this is an amazing opportunity, and I think you should go.”
I was sort of relieved, but then the anxiety kicked up a notch. My two and half year old daughter heard us talking and she said to me,
“Daddy, I want to go too.”
And I said to her,
“You want to go to Haiti with me?”
To which she replied,
“I have to get dressed first.”
I know there is a sermon analogy in there somewhere about the willingness of a child to faithfully follow their father without question.
In the last ten years I have had the privilege to live abroad and serve, and to also lead many college students on international trips, serving in some of the most amazing and humbling environments, yet I’m still not sure how I ended up in this position of going to Haiti in two weeks, but here I am. Because if I’m really honest with myself, I wasn’t super willing to go. I felt like I would have needed a precipitating call by God for me to go. Or a burning passion to serve. But instead I realized a couple of things.
Sometimes God doesn’t call us to specific things, but rather we are just given an opportunity by him and we have a chance to respond. I think God would have been pleased with whatever decision I had made, because I had good reasons for going, and good reasons for staying. And whatever my initial reasons for going, I think God takes those and transforms us in the process.
Ultimately, besides the encouragement from my wife, my family and friends, prayer, and a good night sleep, I also began to analyze the anxiety and fear that I was experiencing. I’ve always told my clients, friends, etc. that anxiety is a great catalyst for growth in our lives. That if we can step into the anxiety we have great opportunities to grow as people (spiritually, emotionally, relationally, etc.) So I have decided to take my own advice and step into my anxiety.
I’m still learning new things about our trip everyday, but some things I do know. First, I will be serving alongside of an amazing team of people. Second, it’s not only a great opportunity to serve, but a great opportunity to just be present with people in their suffering, something that has spoken very powerfully to me in my previous travels, and in my growth as a pastor and therapist. Third, I love that I get to use some of my gifts in an unique way. I will have the opportunity to serve people not only around their basic needs, but with some of my mental health experience and the work I have done in third world countries. And I am being asked to blog everyday, sharing stories of my experiences, as well as post updates (video, writing) to my Facebook, Twitter and other outlets.
My Hope for the Trip…
One of my desires for the trip is that through our work in the refugee camps that have formed, and among the people we come into contact with, is that we will be a team that is present to those in need. That through our service, love and compassion we will be able to bring some joy, peace and hope to people who have lost so much. That we will be able to laugh with those laughing, cry with those crying and just be in silence with those when there are no words to speak. I also hope that through the stories that we share with you (the readers, viewers of our material), is that we can help encourage and lay the groundwork for others to come after we leave…perhaps you. Right now, Haiti is in the forefront of many people’s minds, but where will it be in a couple of months? Hopefully something we share will speak to you, and possibly encourage you to come to Haiti, perhaps leading a team of others, to come and serve.
There are lots of other things I can share (and I will later) such as prayer requests, but I don’t want to make this the longest post in history. So I will continue to write some posts and reflections on the trip as I prepare to leave, as well as sharing things with you while I’m there, and when I return.
Many of you have asked how you can contribute to the trip, whether financially, through prayer and other creative means. As more and more needs come to my attention I will let you know them and hopefully you will have the opportunity to come alongside on the journey.