I mentioned that we joke about ‘Sak pa la’ a lot in Haiti, usually when people miss out on food. But in life it’s so much more than missing out on treats. It’s not being brave enough to try something new, so you miss out- sak pa la. Not going on a mission trip because you can’t afford it and missing the experience of your life- sak pa la. Not following God’s prompting to do something amazing but crazy scary- sak pa la.
As I think back on 19 years of ministry in Haiti I see many opportunities, many moments when I WAS THERE. I don’t know how I got fortunate enough to be called to Haiti. I can say that now, but the first time felt like something I wanted to miss! The first trip was horrendous. The travel- in the back of a dumptruck- was terrible for me and my motion sickness. I was hot and nauseous and wrote in my journal “What was I thinking, I can’t do this. Next time I’m sending a check.” But that first morning God started speaking to me through my Women’s Devotional Bible- “discouragement turns to encouragement when you turn your eyes from your circumstances and focus on the Lord”. My eyes were open those first few days, I was present fully, experiencing life in Haiti, meeting amazing people- many of whom are still dear friends today.
That first morning we went down to the church. We had a few songs translated into Kreyol, but we had written them out phonetically to make it easier for us to read them. The worship leader from the Haitian church was there to practice with us. He was looking at the words and trying to figure out what language it was! We started singing and two young men who were sitting and watching came up to say hi. We are still friends today. That worship leader, Toto, now oversees our mission in Haiti.
We learned quickly that Toto was a well- respected and very well-connected community member. Toto made the beginning of Hut Outreach possible. He knew the right people to help us, his English was great and his Kreyol teaching was just as good.
That first trip we were the rogue missionaries who snuck off and had lunch with our new friends at their house. We got in trouble, as did our friend Ketlene for cooking for the ‘blans’. We weren’t supposed to eat anything outside the compound. We skipped beach day to take a new friend to the market to buy some things for his family. We bought a chicken, and rice and beans, and soap and toothbrushes, then Kiki told us what he really wanted- a Bible. We found the Bible and added it to the overflowing bags. I still remember the moment watching Kiki carry bags and a chicken through the streets of downtown Les Cayes. He got the biggest smile on his face and said, “For the first time I understand what a gift is.” I’m so glad I was la (there). Here I was, a new college graduate working the job I always wanted, living with my husband in a lovely “starter” home and I got to experience Kiki learning the word gift. I can still see his face! I remember getting home from that trip and walking into my house and being overwhelmed with gratitude.
Sak pa la could be the mantra of my life. The moments in Haiti that bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart could have easily been missed.