The Year of the Lord's Favor
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
When I was 17 I went on my first mission trip to Guatemala City, Guatemala. At that time I had freshly graduated from high school and was on my way to Appalachian State University to study Special Education. While on this trip I encountered so many sweet children but the one who stuck out to me the most was a little boy named Pablo who had Down syndrome. The moment my eyes landed on his smile I knew that what I really wanted in life was to teach children with disabilities in a third world country.
Fast forward five years later. I'm getting out of a van at an orphanage called “Have Faith Haiti” and a little boy with an arm and leg brace named Knox pulls me out of the van as if I was light as a feather. I hardly noticed the limp in his left leg or the way that his left arm curled in because of his infectious smile and the way that he said, "Ms. Kelsey." As soon as I met this little boy I was hooked. I wanted to love him for longer than the one day that I had been granted there. I wanted to love him and I wanted to take care of him like I never had anything else before. I hadn't even met his 39 other brothers and sisters, but when I met Knox I knew that “Have Faith Haiti” was my home.
I know that desires and passions in our hearts are not random. I know that they are from the Lord. I know that when I met Knox that day in 2017 Jesus was calling me to leave my home in North Carolina and find a new one with 40 amazing, smart, loving, kind souls in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
When I first felt my soul stirring to move to Haiti I spoke to so many people who said it wouldn't work and I crunched so many number that said it wouldn't work. BUT God was calling me to something deeper and he made a way. Until I began going on mission trips after I graduated from high school all I had ever known was the, "American Dream." All I ever knew was college, and student loans, and marriage, and babies, and debt, and picket fences, and vacations in the summer, and all of these things that are amazing but I wanted something else. I wanted the something else that only comes from entering into God's scary, amazing, beautiful will.
When I finally accepted that I wanted something different from what the world was shouting at me I decided that I would move to Haiti. On June 29, 2018 I moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with three suitcases and a lot of emotions. I couldn't wait to hug the kids once I arrived but I also couldn't wait to hug my loved ones at home that I had just left. My first few months were not easy. I was adjusting to a new culture, family, and climate while the kids were adjusting to a new authority figure that they had hardly knew.
Through the chaos of becoming a new caregiver to 40 kids I began to feel God sustain me like I never had before. Before I left for Haiti I was so scared. I cried and I really didn't want to leave, but I knew that this was what God was calling me to and I wanted to trust him. There is something about doing what God asks you to, even when it's unknown and makes you feel afraid, that is also so freeing. God meets you there in your fear and your wondering and because of your obedience he works like you've never seen before. He sees your weary, scared heart that is saying yes to Him and he sustains you. When you don't know how to "parent" 40 kids He steps in. When you don't know how to communicate well he does, and when you don't know how to stop missing your family and what you had He brings comfort. When you don't know how to carry on he carries. you.
Before I left for Haiti I was scared to the point of immobility but I am so glad that I closed my eyes and jumped into Jesus' arms . When I did I was blessed with the most amazing year of my life. I was blessed with a new family and children that loved me so, so well. I was blessed by knowing God more intimately because of my lack of dependency on earthly things. I was blessed by following my dreams and seeing that I really can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. If I had never said yes to Jesus I would have never been able to hear "Ms. Kelsey" in the sweetest voice a million times a day. I would have never held the hand of kids who needed to know that they are worthy and important and loved so, so much by their Heavenly Father. I would have never met the most amazing staff of teachers and nannies who love the kids day in and day out. I would have never seen children grow and learn to do things they struggle to do . I would have never known love that needs no translation.
Living in Haiti and loving 40 children, who have made my heart the fullest that it has ever been, taught me that I don't want what the world says is important. I don't want what the world says I should do. I want to do the things that God wants. I want to say yes and I want to love radically and with abandon just like Jesus did. "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27 When we choose to enter in to religion that is pure and undefiled before God it may messy. It may be difficult. It may be countercultural. But what I know is that choosing God’s way for sure is good and it is worth it and it brings meaning to this life like never before. It brings eternal glory and it changes hearts and it matters, especially to God.