The Unfamiliar becomes Familiar
By: Liz Swanigan
After being here for three months, it’s hard to imagine what my first thoughts about Haiti were six years ago on my first visit to Haiti. So many things seem very normal now. Crowded tap taps, ladies with huge baskets on their heads, goats and chickens everywhere, and a never-ending stream of new Creole words are the new normal. Even though I’m only a few thousand miles from my home, I feel worlds away.
Yet this place that has felt like an entirely different world has somehow become home in just a few short months. The community here is sweet. I have been loved and served so well since the moment I arrived. I’ve been humbled by how the missionaries, other interns, and Haitians have graciously sought to sacrifice for me. There has been a constant source of meals, encouragement, coffee, conversations, notes, and laughs shared with my new friends. And while loneliness sometimes seemed to creep in, it has never stayed long. Too many people have been seeking to make sure I’m okay for me to feel anything but loved here. People who were strangers have become like family and will always have a part of my heart.
The thing about being a world away is that everything is new. Nothing is familiar, and in that unfamiliar place, the Lord seems more evident. He has used Haiti, a place that I thought I knew, to reveal more of Himself to me in all the newness I’ve been experiencing. In the slower pace of life, He’s helped me recognize ways He’s working and His goodness that is present in every moment. I’ve had so many excellent days since I arrived. Days and nights in this community are filled with laughs and sweet memories. Joy comes easily here like it’s in the air. Jesus loves these people and this place.
But something I’ve been learning is that He feels that way about every place. There is nothing inherently special about Haiti. This place is special because He’s here, but He’s everywhere. I have always said that Haiti feels like home like somewhere I belong. But I see now how foolish it is to find a sense of belonging in a place, a job, or another person. I belong wherever He is, and He is with me wherever I go. I have felt a new level of freedom in understanding that while God will lead me where He wants me to be, knowing Him is ultimately life’s greatest adventure. I have always had this unshakeable feeling that my life was made for something significant, something “more.” It wasn’t until this summer that I realized the “more” I was created for is Him. He is the best and only thing I need. Where I live or the job I have are simply means to know and glorify Him, and the best place to do that is wherever I’m at. For this summer, that’s been in Haiti, and I’ve had so many opportunities to love and serve people. I will forever cherish the memories and people I’ve met through this experience. But the biggest thing I’m taking home with me is a deeper intimacy with the Lord. He loved me enough to bring me all the way to Haiti just to show me that He is all I need.
So I’m thankful for my days here – the long ones where all I do is work in the office, the slow ones with lots of time with Jesus and friends, the hard ones where I’m really missing home, and the joy-filled, crazy ones where I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This time is sweet even when it’s hard – amidst the craziness that is life in Haiti, it is so evident that the Lord is working. As I go home and onto the next adventure, I look forward to knowing Him more and serving Him where I’m at, Haiti is an amazing place, but life with Him, wherever that leads, is the best place to be.