Written June 30, 2018
My eyes spring open and my heart is already racing. 2:48am. I must have snoozed my 2:30am alarm in a hazy half awake/half asleep state of being. I can’t level my breathing. I clumsily get out of bed and reach for the clothes I’ve laid out for the day. I didn’t think I would be this nervous.
“Oh my gosh, it’s 2:56! Why aren’t our bags in the car yet?” I hear Martha yell, to no one in particular, from downstairs.
I finish packing my toothbrush, Bible, and mascara. Ethan is still sleeping. I lay back down next to him, and for a brief minute, the idea of bailing on this entire week crosses my mind. Tears form as I nuzzle my head into his chest. Ugh. I know I’m supposed to go, God, but do I have to? Ethan gives a groggy “I’m gonna miss you. I love you. Be safe.”
Five members of my church, including myself and my mother-in-law, Martha, have partnered with six members of another church in town to spend a week at the Nehemiah Vision Ministry campus in Chambrun, Haiti to help run their English camp.
God’s calling for me to go was a simple peace upon hearing about the opportunity in early February. But doubts started to fill my mind in the weeks following as life happened around me. Logical worries such as missing my husband and not wanting to neglect the upkeep of our property began to seem more important. God sent more peace to me in the form of financial and prayer support from friends and family, after I sent letters informing them of the trip and its fees.
For weeks after I sent the letters, I was overwhelmed each time I checked the mailbox. People from church that I barely knew, family friends I hadn’t seen in years, old high school teachers, and anonymous givers sent generous donations and encouraging prayers my way. It was such a blessing to experience the intense gratitude I had while writing thank you cards to the people God used to pour into me.
The major confirmation I got about going on the trip came one Sunday at church in April. Most of the service, I’d been very distracted with reasons I kept telling myself I needed to back out of the mission. Ethan and I were still trying to have a baby at that point, what if I got pregnant after I paid for my flight? I’d lose money or I’d have to handle sending refunds to those who had given to me. That’d be embarrassing and a lot of work. I had intentions for having a laid back summer. Planning for our week of running the camp and actually being in Chambrun to run the camp would surely be the opposite of laid back. While I loved the idea of teaching little ones English, I was having trouble wrapping my mind around the logistics.
As I gathered my purse and Bible to leave church that day, a woman I’d never met before approached me. “You’re Olivia Brown, correct?” she asked. “I’ve never seen your face, but your name has been in my heart, and I’ve been praying about you for several days. I heard about your mission trip earlier this week, and I immediately knew I needed to talk to you. Listen, whatever doubts you’re having about going, drop them. Whatever fears you may have, they are not valid. You are MEANT to go to Haiti. God is going to use you and change you. Also, I want to fund 10% of your fees.” Then she handed me a check and gave me a hug and told me she’d be praying for me until I got back.
Despite life’s stressors and the long, unstructured meetings it took to plan for our week of camp, I didn’t have any doubts after that encounter. When God speaks…wow, is it ever loud and clear.
“Good grief! We’re supposed to be at the church by 3, not leave the house by 3!” Martha yells, to me in particular, from the bottom of the stairs.
I don’t bother to wipe my eyes before I grab my bags and head outside. It’s 3:06 when Papa Rans starts the car. We Browns just aren’t great at being on time. I’ve happily learned to accept and embrace that over the years.
We’re the last of our team members to arrive. Coach is counting everyone’s bags and requesting to see our passports. He’s Coach to us because he coached most of the Brown boys in high school soccer. He’s also our next door neighbor. Anyways, he attends the church we’ve partnered with, and holds the title this week of our “Team Leader”.
I’m still mostly asleep. I look at the sky. The moon is simply astonishing right now. I love when it illuminates silhouettes of clouds against the darkness. It’s so peaceful to faintly watch them float above the earth. Papa rans must’ve noticed my star gazing and lack of human interaction. He asks, “Well, are you excited, Liv?” I stare at him blankly for a while before I answer, “I’ll get there.”
Coach calls us to gather in a circle, and prays for us. Temporarily, my fears and nerves subside as I absorb what a unique moment this is. Who else ever gets to stand in a parking lot, holding hands with their mother and father-in-law, praying at 3:30am before embarking on a mission trip to a third world country?
Randy gives Martha a long hug before giving me one. “Be safe, you girls.” He instructs.
Once seated on the bus, the sick feeling in my stomach comes back. It’s unfortunate to be embarking on this trip with a lack of sleep. I didn’t even get to use the bathroom before we left the house, let alone make myself a cup of coffee, which means I also have a headache. I’m about to deem myself completely worthless. Why do you want me to go to Haiti if I’m worthless, God? What good am I to You if I can’t even think straight?
I doze on and off during the ride to the airport. We get checked in, check our bags, and make our way through security.
Martha and I drop our carry-ons with our group at the gate, and go in search of caffeine. I start to feel better now that we’re walking and talking and have a plan to get coffee in my system. I get a Pike Place roast and some egg bites. Having food in my body helps my mood. I think I’ve stopped giving everyone the stink eye by now.
On our flight to Miami, we’re all scattered. I get seated next to a grouchy teenage guy who’s tucked into his sweatshirt and connected to his headphones. Talking to his parents, I learn that they are on their way to the Dominican Republic to do orthopedic surgeries on children. Looking around the rest of the plane, mostly everyone was wearing some sort of organization or team shirt for mission work. It’s a neat feeling to be on a flight full of people all with the goal of helping others.
In Miami, we have just enough time to run to our connecting flight. We’re starving by the time we take off. The cookies and peanuts being passed out simply aren’t going to cut it. We try to order a cheese platter with fruit and chocolate, but are denied since our destination is less than three hours away. We are offered crackers and some pretty rotten hummus, instead. This leads to an unexpected bout of laughter from Martha and I, due to our exhaustion and hunger. We nap to fight off becoming slap-happy.
I watch out the plane window during our descent. The sights turn from lush greenery and bright blue Bahama beaches to dry, brown fields and crumbly looking mountains. The bareness of the land is apparent from thousands of feet in the air.
Before even landing in Port-au-Prince, it is abundantly clear that we are not arriving at a Caribbean island vacation destination.