“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I have a confession to make.
Last night we (Jason and Andrea Schmick) about lost it. This isn't the first time it has happened either.
Hopelessness set in and a sense that just packing it up and going home would be the easiest and maybe best course of action. Things aren't going as we envisioned. Ministry, as we think about it, has been nearly non-existent. It feels like many days we are just wandering around Haiti taking up space and resources. A clear vision hasn't been cast. Relationships we had high-hopes for aren't what we thought they would be. Like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee said to each other, "We shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started."
Our ideas, hopes, and goals have been slow to start. Feeling useless is a consistently nagging enemy. Lack of vision and direction have been frustrating aspects of our first four months here. A desire to present the best ministry experiences, especially to those who are sacrificially giving, causes fear of man. We want to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us through His church. In the grocery business we called it ROI, return on investment. We ask ourselves, almost daily, are the people who are sending us here getting a good ROI? Most days we feel less productive than we would like. All this crouches at the door waiting for an opportunity to strike. When you find yourself in a situation like that it's easy to get down and seriously consider going home.*
This exchange between Frodo and Sam fits well with where we find ourselves:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
Neither of us thinks God is releasing us to quit. There are needs all around. The Bible still says the same thing as it did four months ago. We just have to do a bit a re-aligning of our thinking. We also feel the obligation to be honest with people.
This morning I woke up thinking about a book on missions we read before coming here. In it, the author writes about a ministry "success story". It's a ministry that by all standards is very productive and successful. He approached the leadership to discover their secret formula. What he found was astonishing and not at all flashy. They said for the first two years they simply "hung-out" with people.
Yes, you heard that right. The only goals at the inception of the ministry was living with people, loving people and spending time with people. It was a solely relational ministry for more than the first 24 months of existence. They didn't do anything else! Now I know it's hard to raise money by asking supporters to give to something like this, but we've heard this over and over and over again. We just don't want to hear it! We want projects and teaching ministries and business creation ministries and saving-starving-children ministries and on and on. But this wisdom has been repeated to us by more than a dozen different people who know a lot more than we do about this stuff. In fact, we had two different missionaries say essential the same thing this week alone. So, this morning we are re-aligning how we think about productivity and missions in Haiti.
Will you pray with us? We have a bunch of decisions to make in the next 90 days. Our lease ends in our current home at the end of May and we need to find a new place to live in. With a new place we will need to purchase some stuff to make it livable (generator, inverter, batteries, appliances, etc.) Pray for provision for that. We also have a large rent payment to make soon. Rent in Haiti is paid annually.
We need to know that He wants us to stay in Haiti. It seems that is the direction God is now leading but we waffle and doubt.
We need wisdom and perseverance in pursuing relationships.
We also need to hope in God's plan for us here.
That's it for now I think.
*In all of it God's grace has been abundant, friends and senders have been encouraging, and in many ways it's been a road full of blessing. Relatively speaking, it's been an easy road. We realize that many who have gone before us have had it much harder.