“It will take a deserted island for me to quit.”
Back in 2011 I yelled that at my Husband in response to his complaints about the smell, my breath, my clothes.
I wanted to quit.
I just didn’t know how.
Spring forward to April 4th, 2012 on a small island in Haiti. I stood on a beach with a little boy named Emmanuel. This is when and where God set me free from smoking cigarettes.
Here I am one year later and I can say I haven’t once considered going back. I have yet to share my experience in Haiti because it was so emotional for me. I wanted to savor it. This was and is the most precious trip I have ever experienced. My soul longs to be close to the people, to smell burning plastic, to hear their voices call my name “e-lane” “e-lane”.
A year later I can now tell you my story.
How I found freedom.
And how a little boy saved my life on a beach in Haiti.
I went to Haiti to help children, work on projects, and grow in my faith. I got way more than I bargained for. When we arrived in Port-Prince, I was nervous. So many people were yelling in a language I didn’t understand and they all wanted to help. Luckily, our escort arrived and took care of us. We loaded up in two vans for a four hour journey through the city of Port-A-Prince to our village destination in Jacmel.
We jumped right in. We began helping with the feeding program, repaired the road, and painted one of the newly constructed homes. It was hard work, yet it was rewarding at the same time. Each day before leaving for the Restoration House, we would take candy with us to give the children who would meet us in the street as we passed by in the Tap Tap. One little boy in particular grabbed my heart and put it in his pocket. And I never did quite get it back.
What was so dear to me about Emmanuel is that I went to Haiti to experience life as a missionary. Instead, God gave me the lens to view how this little boy lived each day.
Through a torrent of emotion and tears that could have filled a coke bottle, I wrote this journal entry on the plane ride back home:
Sat, April 7, 2012
We just left the airport in Port-a-Prince. Gabby is trying to raise money for his passport. I am trying to imagine what that looks like, how is he going to raise that kind of money? I pray that you bless him next week Lord with the next missionary team. Then there is Emmanuel… always Emmanuel – God with us.
When we arrived at Pastor’s this morning he was there. The first, but definitely not the last. He hugged me and asked for my phone. Emmanuel is not an emotional child but a heart of gold, that is what he has. The whole week Emmanuel was hungry. He would ask everyone for food. He would pat his tummy with the backside of his hand and look deep into your soul and ask for compassion. I AM HUNGRY…. I am reminded of the story in the bible where Jesus shows compassion and heals the sick.
The thing of it was this: Emmanuel was hungry, but his constant asking was selfless. Many of our team members would give him food and then we would see him give it to his little brothers. He also has an older sister who he reminded everyone that she doesn’t have a sponsor. The day we went to the beach, he got a plate of plantains, fish and slaw. He ate slowly +contently and I could just imagine his little belly feeling satisfied in who knows how long or if ever. I looked into his beautiful face and I asked him, “Emmanuel, are you hungry?” He smiled and shook his head and said FULL.
Oh, Emmanuel, how well did you describe my heart and soul. We made our way to the ocean and he was happy, full of life, and just like any other little boy who was on vacation.
As I stood on the beach, I realized that the love and compassion that I had felt for Emmanuel all week was the same love that Jesus has for me. Oh how he longs for me to be full. Full of joy, full of peace, patience, kindness, goodness gentleness, faithfulness, self control and love….. ALWAYS love.
Emmanuel means GOD WITH US. I left Haiti with a heavy heart, not because of sadness, because I know I will not see Emmanuel everyday. I will not see the smile that slips out when no one is looking when he feeds his brothers.
But my Father sees and He loves Emmanuel more than even I do.
Thank you Emmanuel. I came to help you but you helped me more that you will ever know this side of heaven and I WILL see you soon.
When I came home my husband and I sponsored three little boys from Restore Haiti. I kicked a habit, grew my family by 3 and I still have money in my pocket. God is so good!
It’s been one year since I stood on that beach.
One year since I put out my last cigarette.
One year since being rescued on an island by a people who captured my heart.
Until next time -