Upon committing to my time here in Haiti, I prayed a lot about not having expectations. I did not want to be disappointed or let down if I expected something that was unrealistic. Having never been to another country before this trip, let alone to a third world country, I really just had to put my worries and my desire for control in God’s hands. I gave up pretty quickly trying to fantasize what my time would be like in Haiti, because that’s what I do. When a new opportunity arises in my life, I get all excited and start thinking of scenarios in my head about what it is going to be like. It is actually really unhealthy and a habit that I am trying to break because it ends up creating unrealistic expectations in my head. It is my way of trying to control my life, when I just need to keep reminding myself that this life is not my own and that only Christ will EVER have control over it.
So really nothing that I have experienced since I have been here was expected. I am just going to share with you today a little bit about some of the challenges that I have faced and am facing being in Haiti and further, being a 19-year-old white girl in Haiti.
One challenge has been the many young Haitian men I am surrounded by. This was something that I couldn’t have even begun to expect before I came here. When I did think about what I wanted to do in Haiti, I knew that I wanted the Lord to allow me to really get to know people in this community to be able to be a light in their lives. However, being young and white has made me stand out a lot more than I would have liked. I was careful about the clothing I brought, making sure that I am representing a Christ-like woman in the way I dress, which is what I try to do at home anyways. I thought that covering up and being modest would prevent extra attention being drawn to me, but I was very wrong about that. No matter what I am wearing, I still get called over to take photos with random Haitian guys, men coming up to me and trying to get my number to “practice their English”, men conversing with me and then slipping in the casual proposal or “take me back to the US with you”, or men making kissy noises when I walk past them. Sometimes it’s amusing and sometimes it’s a little confidence booster. But for the most part, it has been frustrating for me and one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far. I have had to learn that even the slightest hint of interest from me encourages this behavior. If I smile or laugh when another random guy comes up to me and introduces himself, it makes it seem like I like him. I have learned to be friendly but bold, without showing any interest at all. Unfortunately, I often have to be unfriendly in order to protect my boundaries. I have to speak up. When one guy proposed to me and was very insistent on coming to the US with me while expressing his “infinite love” for me, I had to really be bold with him. “You don’t know me. That is insulting that you say that you love me just because you see my skin color and think that I am your ticket to the US because you don’t actually love me (in French).” It breaks my heart to have to have such huge guards up, knowing that any strange man that approaches me is most likely approaching me for the wrong reason and I need to get ready to stand my guard. I want so badly to get to know these people and learn about their lives, but I have found that I have to keep huge boundaries when it comes to the men. I get it though. Marrying me would be their ticket to the US, the place that they hear about so often and how great life is over there.
The Lord did present a cool opportunity regarding this challenge though. I realized, I have a group of 15-20 young Haitian men who come to my English class every afternoon, and who listen to every word that I say so diligently. God put me in the position to speak His words of wisdom to them about how to appropriately pursue a woman as a Christian man. It ended up being three days of wonderful conversation with these men about how to respect women and how people are more than what they look like on the outside. Just because I (or another foreign visitor) am white doesn’t mean that I am the perfect woman for you to marry. We talked about love languages and how certain people do not feel comfortable with some of the ways people show love and how you should be friends and know a woman before trying to express your love to her. My students were loving the topic of conversation and it was so cool to hear what they had to say about it. We also researched Bible verses about this topic and about dating/marriage to back everything up. It was a cool way to tackle this challenge, because hopefully these men will go out into their community and lead other men in how to purse a woman as a man of Christ should.
Another unexpected challenge for me has been health. I have spent the last six days with on and off stabbing stomach pain, intestinal discomfort (without giving you too much information), and a bit of vomiting in the beginning. In the US, when I get sick, it’s the occasional cold, with a stuffy nose and just feeling under the weather in general. In Haiti, being exposed to more elements and more bacteria in water, food, or from the people around me, I am a lot more vulnerable. This past week of feeling super weak and yucky, not having much of an appetite, and sleeping through most of the pain, has been hard, but also renewing. Something about feeling so sick and having to lean on the Lord even more while your body is detoxing and starting over is refreshing. Even though I feel weak, I know that the Lord is strengthening my immune system and my faith through this little trial. It also just gives me a little taste of what a lot of Haitians deal with everyday. Many of them have very bad illnesses of which they do not always seek treatment, or they are unable to find treatment but yet they continue with their daily lives as if nothing is wrong. It is humbling to have a little week long sickness to wake me up to what the people around me may be dealing with. It teaches me to complain less when I do have a little cold or a little cut or something.
Anyways, these are two of the personal challenges that I have faced/am facing while living here. But with every trial comes new knowledge and understanding that the Lord makes clear to me. It is so cool to know that any problems I do have, I can place in my Father’s hands and watch as He shapes the person I am through the trials. I am a lot more bold than I used to be, because I know that my boundaries are important and when they are disrespected or disregarded, I am allowed to speak up for myself.