What Our Work on the Mission Field Taught Me

November 13, 2023

{Pictured is Debbie with some of her students in Port de Pain, Haiti, circa 1995}

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6

When we first arrived in Haiti as missionaries, it was extremely difficult and pretty scary. Our initial move took place in October 1994, shortly after the embargo against Haiti had been lifted and their president was reinstated by the US military. He was allowed to return to the country on October 15; we arrived 4 days later. It was quite an experience.

The country was under the protection of the US military. We arrived at the airport in Port-au-Prince to find it filled with US Marine troops. Razor wire fences, sandbags, and machine guns on tripods were all part of the landscape that greeted us. Outside the airport, there were more armed soldiers guarding us and our belongings. After our bus trip 150 miles north to Port-de-Paix where we would live for the next 5 years, we were met at the bus depot by more soldiers. Since there was no gas at the time to be bought by the missionaries, we were graciously driven to our homes in military Humvees. This was for me a nearly overwhelming introduction to our new home. Should we even be bringing our 7 and 9 year old children into a situation like this? Had God really called us to this work?

Even after settling in and getting into a daily rhythm, I felt like I was a weak vessel that could only see the obstacles. Access to electricity was scarce, and people often stole our property. Learning another culture and communicating in a foreign language was stressful. Being surrounded by the extreme poverty of our neighbors, many of whom were in bondage to Voodoo, was heartbreaking. I was extremely homesick. The task of working and of adjusting a family to life in a third world country would not have been possible without God’s power and grace.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” became my heartfelt prayer (Philippians 4:13). His Spirit made it clear to me that I could be used by God because he had a job for me to do, and with him all things are possible. I learned that “apart from him I could do nothing” (John 15:5). As the years went by, bringing many humbling adjustments, the situation did become easier and even joy filled. God was and is so faithful that he would even use someone like me.

Looking back on our years on the mission field, so many wonderful memories cross my mind. It’s not the difficulties I remember most. By God’s grace I remember bringing the gospel to our precious students that we taught (and still keep in touch almost 25 years later). I’m grateful for the deep friendships we developed with our fellow missionaries. And I’ll never forget the breathtaking beauty of the country of Haiti. 

Being used by God to educate the children at Sonlight Academy will always be a highlight of my life. Worshiping God together in a foreign language was a beautiful experience. Witnessing our children grow spiritually and thrive while living in a different culture was certainly a gift from God. God took a very difficult situation and by His faithfulness made it a time of growth and extreme blessing. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

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