What a trip! (A true statement and a fun catch phrase.)
The days began with bowls of cheerios and coconut flavored powdered milk and ended with chasing twenty-something kids around while desperately attempting to plant some eternal truths into their little minds. Throw in some backbreaking construction work in the middle to complete the picture. It was a challenge, that much was certain, maintaining a servant's heart and attitude in the midst of it.
Throughout the week I relished the opportunity to take the Jamaican missionary's version of a shower. But I didn't devote much brain power obsessing about the cleanliness of it all. You need only a minute or two in the humidity to resign yourself to the fact that all of you will be slightly damp and sticky all the time. Oh no, I was just thankful to have a moment alone to process the events of the day. The cool water and the sweet smell coming from my travel size shampoo were just added blessings.
The problem with taking a shower in the dorm we were staying in was the water could and would simply shut off at any moment. The quantity of water available was limited and there were fifty-plus people on the trip, the majority of them women. It helped that it only rushed out of the pipe in one temperature - ice cold. And even the sticky heat of the day didn't diminish this factor's ability to encourage the ladies to keep the showers short. But one could never be too careful. It was one thing to be a little dirty or a little sweaty at the end of the day. It was quite another to be covered with soapy suds and have the water stop running. The shipment of water wouldn't be delivered until the next morning so there wouldn't be a whole lot of options at that point.
I always played it safe. I would take a bucket and fill it with water and simply use the ol' pour-shiver-soap-and-pour-again method. After all, it was near impossible to stand under the icy water for more then a few seconds anyways. I gathered everything I needed, filled the bucket, stepped into the shower, and braced myself for the certain shock of sudden hypothermia, when I found myself face to face with my worst fear.
Mock me. Tease me. Judge me if you will.
Butterflies scare me to death.
And moths are far worse because they look like butterflies that have been dead for a long time. And there was a giant one, sitting just as calm and still and ugly as you please, right at my eye level, a couple inches from my face, on the shower curtain. My fear of these... creatures... almost prevented me from coming on this trip at all. I've heard stories about the legendary Jamaican bat moth. Sweet mercy! It was enough for me to cross the whole county off my "to-visit" list.
And as I was standing there, frozen, I realized something...
I am not dead. I am not even hurting. Shocked? Very. Uncomfortable? You betcha. But I'm not dead.
This was a profound moment.
I am standing literally face-to-face with one of my biggest fears and... it didn't kill me.
You know, earlier in the week I went with a group of high school students to a Jamaican infirmary - a care home for those who have nowhere else to go. The patients suffer from a range of illnesses from missing limbs, blindness, and physical injury to mental disorders. Because of some unexpected changes in plans, the students and I were not given much warning before we arrived. We knew we would come at some point in the week, but the day we ended up going was the first full day we spent in Jamaica and none of us were prepared to make the visit quite so suddenly. I remember stepping out of the van, my nervous companions huddled around me, realizing we were surrounded by a thick cloud of fear. It was a heavy, dense smoke that swirled and settled around us, obscuring our heavenly vision. But there was no backing out. After taking some time to pray, directly into the smoke we walked. And it only took me a moment to realize... there was no fire. The patients were people. They weren't "its" and they weren't without emotion or feeling. They were people. And I watched hearts be touched, faces light up, and walls broken down. And I saw tears of pain exchanged for tears of joy. And I saw the eyes of the student's hearts open just a bit wider. And the smoke(screen) of fear was transformed into mere memory as lives were changed. We faced what we feared.
A few days after the infirmary visit, we visited the orphanage. At this point in the trip I figured I had already faced what I feared the most and I jumped right into this experience with enthusiasm. I was looking forward to playing with the kids more then anything else on the trip. The first thing I saw was a roomful of darling babies just waiting for us to hold them. I didn't hesitate a a moment and soon I was holding a beautiful 8 or 9 month old baby girl. She smiled with her whole body and her little hands held onto mine with a powerful grip. I was sitting on the bed, talking to her and smiling into her darling face, when I froze. It hit me like I walked full force into a brick wall. Why are you here? And I remember seeing my reflection in her dark, smiling eyes.My heart iced over. I found out later that her mother was bipolar so she was unable to take care of her and her father was nowhere to be found. It hit me really hard that she was alone. And then came one of the darkest moments of the trip for me. It was time to leave so I set her in the crib and she turned and looked right at me and her beautiful eyes filled up with tears. And she held out her arms, like so many babies do, and silently asked me to pick her back up. My heart could barely stand it. Tears came in a rush and they didn't stop until we were almost back to base. And at some point in the cold pain I realized I was facing another fear. Where was God? My thoughts became torturous as I wondered how old she would be when she came to the realization she didn't have what I had growing up.
I shared my grief with one of the leaders on the trip and he told me something I'll never forget. He looked me in the eyes and he said: Hannah, God is providing for her. She was alone and now she has a roof over her head, food to eat, and caregivers surrounding her.
And I told him that didn't seem like it was enough. I didn't want better then the worse case situation for her. I wanted the best for her. And he told me: What was chosen for her is not your decision.
I then realized the cause of my grief was fear that God wasn't big enough, wasn't present enough, or didn't care enough to finish what he began in her life. And that is simply not true. Tears come, even as I write this, because I could hardly stand the thought of the suffering alloted to her. But what he said was so true. That was not my choice. If I had the choice would I spare my child the burden of pain? Yes, I would. Did God spare his child the burden of suffering and pain? No, He didn't. Thank you God, that you didn't. That is why He is God and I am not. And the hardships chosen for Christ were chosen for a purpose... and so were the hardships chosen for that sweet baby girl.
A day or two after this experience, I was privileged to hear several girls share their testimonies. I was given a heavenly glimpse of the churning, raging, and rolling emotions that hid beneath a calm exterior. I noticed that each and every heart was in a different place for a different purpose. And I felt so inadequate. So powerless to help. What could I offer these girls? And this realization scared me. Another fear to face. Why was I of all the people on the planet brought to Jamaica to minister to these beautiful young women?
I was shocked at how the Spirit moved. I listened and cried with the girls. And on several occasions, I was given the words to say. I prayed at the beginning of the trip and I presented a serious request to God. I said, "Lord, if you don't have a holy fire to send for this offering, if you don't have a specific purpose for me there, if I'm not going to be of any use, please send someone else." I feared God wouldn't show up and I would be stuck in my own inadequacy. But when I came face to face with this fear I realized something. I always had the head knowledge this was true. But for the first time, I truly KNEW it to be true.
God does nothing without a purpose.
All of these lessons and memories flashed through my head in about 6.4 seconds as I stared at that ugly moth. A fear that almost prevented me from even having the opportunity to face these other fears. And here I was, facing it face to face, just has I had been facing the others...
And ok, yes. After getting over the first few seconds of shocked, frozen silence after nearly kissing the thing, I did whimper and whine a little, jump out of the shower, and then run down the hall to find my dad to get rid of it.