My father sent me a forward today that encouraged me very much. This surprises me for two reasons: a) my father never sends out forwards and b) I never read them. After the past month Jim and I have had, I shouldn't be surprised anymore at the lack of normal behavior I am exhibiting!
Malachi 3:3 says: "He is the refiner and purifier of silver". The forward my father sent me talked about the process of purifying silver, and how the silversmith must sit holding the silver in the hottest part of the flame, never taking his eyes off it until it is perfectly pure - when he can see his own reflection in it.
I love how God communicates to us through His creation. In everything from intricate design of a flower to the care of a potter handling clay to the intimacy of marriage we learn more about God's character and heart. In everything I do and see, God is present, revealing more of Himself to me; I simply have to remember to look for it.
I haven't yet been able to sit down and articulate the whole of my experience in Haiti, but to briefly summarize, it was a period of refining and purification in my life. Between the illness, the overwhelming heat, the challenges with our youth... let's just say this experience was the most challenging one Jim and I have had yet in youth ministry. I left the United States with the flu and returned with a parasite. I spent the first few days in Haiti sick in bed (which has to be one of the worst places in the world to be sick!), and last night I was sent home from work with abdominal cramping, nausea, and blacking-out every time I stand up. As for work, I had barely enough vacation time to take the time to go to Haiti, and I've had to take even more time off with being sick. The issues with our youth pushed both Jim and I to our limits as we were forced to spend the whole trip (including the final hours driving back to the Tri-Cities) policing behavior.
In spite of the many frustrations, illness, exhaustion, mental and emotional struggles we faced on this trip, we were privileged to see and experience God in a new way. One of the experiences that struck me was truly seeing God as our only hope through the eyes of the Haitian believers. Their country is devastated and corrupt, they have no money, no possessions and no hope of bettering their situation. Their life expectancy is mid-50's at best. They have no physical comforts to speak of, and can not even eat their own food or drink their own water. These people have nothing to look forward to in this world. For them, Jesus IS their one Treasure and their only Hope, and they truly know what it is to long for Heaven. Many times, as I was watching the wonder and beauty of this truth, the words Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea came to mind as I thought of how unfortunate we in America are, in comparisons with these Haitians. We have our every need and desire met, and every creature comfort we can imagine, and yet spiritually we are poorer than the poorest Haitian believer. For the majority of us, we will never get the privilege of truly experiencing Jesus as our only hope because we have so many other things to place our hope in.
God has allowed me to see new facets of His character this trip, including His mercy, patience and grace, and He is still showing me new things about Himself even after returning to the States. What an awesome God we serve, that He has done so much for us and yet He continues to sit in front of the hot flames, never taking His eyes off of us, until we are made perfect in His image. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to refine and purify me!
Jim and I would also like to extend our gratitude to everyone who supported us, both financially and through your prayers. We felt the full weight of those prayers in Haiti through the many trying experiences we faced, and it encouraged us both so much!
I promise this is not the last post about our trip to Haiti. I plan on posting more in-depth details of what we did, including pictures, in the near future. Stay tuned!