In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. I am thrilled to introduce you to my friends Ashley and Katie. They recently went on a missions trip with our church to an orphanage in Haiti, and they came back with new perspectives on culture and life. I can’t wait to share these stories with you. Let’s sit back and join our friends as they tell us what it has been like to walk in their shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
Haiti. Mirebelais. orphanage. orphans. children. playful. loving. honest. real. precious. perspective. When someone says “Haiti,” this is where my mind goes. This is my thought process. It begins with the word Haiti and always ends with the word perspective.
In December of last year, I was blessed with funding and time to go to Mirebelais, Haiti. I grew up in a church where yearly mission trips were common, yet never did I feel the call to go. Sometimes I think it was me ignoring that call due to the uncomfortable nature “mission trips” brought to my American heart, nonetheless, I was able to skirt those opportunities for many years. Until last year.
In the summer we began preparing to go and I was excited, yet still a tad uncertain. I have friends who had been to this exact place, so I knew a lot about it and was not fearful for my safety, yet something was still scary about going. Little did I know what it was. I can now see the Spirit was working (and still is) in me in a new chapter of life. Not the chapter where “one door closes and another one opens” or the chapter where “my kids are not as little as they once were” or even the chapter where I’ve lost someone significant in my life. It is a new chapter… one the Spirit desires for me and where I am treading lightly, but surely, as He gently nudges me forward.
You see, I am American. I am comfortable here. I am comfortable with Starbucks, the GAP, my laptop, my warm coat in the winter and my flip flops in the summer. I am comfortable with a plane ride to jet me off to another state, and even with Walmart… knowing there is one in just about every city where I can run in for anything I might “need.” Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being American, in fact I love being American, but I had become so comfortable here that perspective had hidden itself from the confines of my simple mind. My perspective was lost. I was stuck.
This new chapter in my life began with a “yes, I’ll go,” in the summer of 2013. It began when the Spirit within nudged me in that direction (or maybe shoved me as I don’t think I was listening before). We planned and planned and planned. We purchased clothes to leave there, toiletries in tiny containers, backpacks that could hold everything we needed for 10 (or maybe 12) days, supplies to teach the children, and most certainly ear plugs. Ear plugs were a must for me as, of course, I wasn’t sure how I would sleep without my comfortable bed in my warm home next to my dedicated and loving husband. The Spirit was speaking, but I was still concerned about comfort.
The time came and we boarded the plane, excitement and nervousness welling up inside. “Time to be tough,” I told myself. “You can do this.” No, really, I couldn’t have – only the Spirit within me could do this in me.
We landed in Haiti and my week began with lots of waiting… waiting on Haitian people who do not run on American time. I’m not sure anyone there has a watch, even if they can afford one. (Did I mention I am not good at waiting? I’m kind of a busy body.) When our ride arrived and we left the airport, we drove and hour and a half through beautiful country. The mountains. The waters. The amazing people we saw. Then we arrived at the orphanage and my perspective changed. Immediately.
I knew God had put me there for this. He was beginning this new chapter in my life. It was called Perspective.
The orphanage is a beautiful place. I had an amazing week there and learned more than my heart could ever put on paper (or in typeset). However, what God taught me overall was perspective. The orphans there had only what they needed at the moment. At breakfast time, they had just enough to eat. When it was time to get dressed, they had one outfit to wear. At school time, they had just one book, pencil, and bag. In the evening, they had one small meal for dinner. When it was bedtime, they had one twin bed, (in a room with many other kids), with one mattress and one blanket.
I kept looking at their surroundings and thinking about all the snacks, clothing, books, bags, and pen choices my children have… and sometimes how those choices pose more problems than solutions. I thought about all the choices I have when drive through Starbucks or run to the GAP or to Walmart and how I got to choose the warm home and fluffy mattress and refrigerator full of food I have… and sometimes how those choices pose more problems than solutions.
The week ended and we were abruptly swept back into real American ways. And yes, I did buy a Starbucks drink in the airport on the way home. I cannot deny it. What I’ve come to realize more than ever, though, is God made me American. He put me here at this time on this planet. He has a purpose for me where I am. It’s what I do with what He’s given me that matters most.
My heart sometimes yearns for the simplicity of the Haitian orphanage. I do still shop at the GAP and at Walmart. I am still a latte-drinking American… but with every purchase and every glance at my American bank account balance, there is a prodding of the Spirit that says, “It’s what you do with what I give you that counts.” When I’m asked to lead a Bible study or to facilitate VBS or even to sit at a table with girlfriends and encourage one another over lunch, there is a prodding of the Spirit that says, “It’s what you do with what I give you that counts.”
Haiti. Mirebelais. orphanage. orphans. children. playful. loving. honest. real. precious. PERSPECTIVE.
~ Ashley Sears
My name is Katie. I am a wife, and a mommy to 5 little people. I have been blessed with the opportunity to do mission work in a village in rural Haiti at All God’s Children Orphanage over the past couple years. It has changed my heart and my vision as God’s child in ways I never could have imagined. It has given me a passion for the physically poor, orphans, and oppressed, both here and there.
The title of this feature is interesting because I spent quite a bit of time on trips to Haiti noticing people’s shoes. Some have none. Some have shoes so worn that their toes stick out the end. Some have shoes so small that they have lost toe nails. Some have soccer cleats that they wear to work. Some walk miles in heals trying to find work. Some have fancy new ones that they wear with pride and thankfulness. What sticks out to me is that no matter what shoes they have on their feet, I have never heard a complaint or a person asking for a handout.
Then I come home to my closet full of shoe options, my husband’s closet with everything from combat, hiking, hunting boots to flip flops and running shoes, and our kids’ closets that have just as much. Yet, I still often hear one of us saying “I need new shoes.”
It really is two different worlds; in one, people are desperate; their bellies are hungry, their bodies are sometimes naked, their family members and friends are dying daily from preventable medical conditions, but they have joy and they are thankful. In the other, people are a different kind of desperate; their bellies are full, but their hearts are starving. So often joy is missing and ingratitude for all of the “stuff” and opportunities we have been given abounds.
In one culture many have nothing physically, but they have joy, hope, and faith in Jesus. They are in a position that they must rely on him to provide for their needs. It.is.BEAUTIFUL. It is so dark, but the light shines so bright!
In another culture, I have everything-a warm home, so much food that I get to choose what I want to eat, a doctor around the corner and insurance to cover it-it almost seems that I don’t need Jesus; I can provide on my own. I don’t know what it is like to have a child literally starving.
It’s difficult going from culture to culture, each blessed in such different ways. Both beautiful and broken differently. Both in need of a Savior. Both wondering what life is like for the other. While they want to be in my shoes, in many ways I want to be in theirs.
Thank you so much, Ashley and Katie, for sharing your hearts with us today! Your stories have been the gentle nudge that I have needed to take a second look at my own heart and life, at my blessings and choices. We are all beautiful and broken in different ways. Thank you for helping us to see the world with a new perspective!
To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
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