I will be posting some updates in the coming weeks about our mission to Haiti. This is the full text of the letter that I sent to our donors and support team. Thanks for your prayers and support!
Dear Friends – A wise mentor once reminded me that when God asks us to follow him, we cannot put limits or restrictions on that call. We have to let go of everything. E.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
Those words landed with a thud in the pit of my stomach almost a year ago. I’ve had this itch to try something new for several years now, but I’ve not had a clear sense of what that’s all about. Some say I have a case of the “travel bug”. Others call it the prompting of the Holy Spirit. My spiritual director from the 30-day retreat said I have the heart of someone on pilgrimage – a traveler on the journey to a holy place. Whatever it is, I’ve known for a while (in that intuitive, spiritual sense of ‘knowing’) that God’s got something up his sleeve once again. Following him is not optional; it is the only way I know.
A year ago, I could not imagine myself NOT spending Winter Break in Nicaragua. If there is anything that I have held onto with great joy and a ferocious cling, it is the experience of leading student groups to Nicaragua. Letting go would not be easy, so God made it undeniably obvious.
Several months ago, it looked like we would NOT be making our annual trip to Nicaragua. The Northwestern academic calendar ends “late” this year, and our partners in Nicaragua were hesitant about pushing our trip right into Christmas. As the prospect of not returning to Nicaragua became clear, I knew it was time to begin searching for something new.
I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, but I sensed this was coming. I was disappointed, but not heart-broken. I am very committed to our work with Fabretto, but open to what else God has in store for us. Our student leaders engaged in a long, late-night brainstorming session. We agreed that an international trip over Winter Break was still our best option. We have many contacts across Central America and many initial signs pointed to Haiti. As the summer progressed, the Holy Spirit began working overtime on our behalf.
My colleague Tim traveled to Haiti with his family many years ago, and one of his Haiti contacts happened to be in Chicago that very same week. We also have a campus ministry colleague at Eastern Illinois University who has been to Haiti many times, and he offered to let us tag along on their trip. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of going to Haiti, but my heart was open. All signs pointed to Haiti – dates, details, and mission partners began falling into place. I felt a tremendous sense of openness and freedom that comes from trusting in the Holy Spirit. It became so evident to me that Haiti was the right choice, and I needed to do whatever God asked of me in order to make this trip to Haiti happen.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another. (Jn 15:16-17)
Just as we were committing ourselves to Haiti, I received a visit from our contact at Fabretto. We talked again about the December dates, and much to my surprise, he asked if we would still be willing to come to Nicaragua. I think we can make this work, he said.
Yes!! (But … we’re going to Haiti … I think?) I could not have been more thrilled to know that the Nicaragua trip was back on our schedule. With a heart wide open, our staff discussed the potential for two trips at the same time over Winter Break. The more we talked, the more we saw the endless possibilities for Sheil students to be of service to others around the world. And then the big question, how will we staff two trips at the same time?
Leading the Nicaragua trip seemed like the logical choice for me. (I would fly to Nicaragua tomorrow if I knew that’s what God wanted!) But for whatever reason, my heart is set on some new, unknown adventure. We invited three experienced and enthusiastic students to serve as our Nicaragua leadership team. Meanwhile, my co-worker Tim and I are embarking to Haiti along with our colleague from Eastern Illinois University.
People keep asking me, why are you going to Haiti? I’m going to Haiti because this is where God wants me this year. I don’t know what to expect, but I’ve been “here” before. I know what it is like to stand on the threshold of something new, unsure of where the road in front of me will lead, but absolutely certainty that God’s work is being done. There is a reason I need to go to Haiti this year, and I need your help in making this happen!
First and foremost, I need your prayers. It is a privilege to serve God and God’s people, but there are many unknowns on this first time trip. I ask you to join me in prayer – for the courage to follow God’s plan every step of the way, for openness to new people and new experiences, and for the wisdom to discern what God is asking of us. We know that we will be visiting several parishes and communities, and working on some light construction. We are also hoping to make connections for future projects. Pray that those plans will fall into place.
Although the Sheil Center generously covers the cost of staff, it is always my goal to fundraise my own expenses. There are 8 students and 2 staff from the Sheil Center traveling to Haiti, and a team of 13 students traveling to Nicaragua. As you know, many of our students request scholarship funds as well. Anything you can give would be greatly appreciated.
I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us! I look forward to your prayers and to sharing the graces of this experience with you. Know that I hold you close in my prayers, too. Thank-you for being a partner in this important work.