why i’m going to haiti

i haven’t blogged about this yet, but i’ve teased it a bit in my facebook status: i’m going to haiti in a couple weeks.

my reluctance and reasons-not-to-go are just barely shy of the sum total of factors that mush together into my compulsion to go.

some reasons not to go:

– i like comfort. i like my bed; and when i travel, i like staying in a hotel bed.

– as confident as i seem, and — to be honest — often am, i still have plenty of insecurity about many things. included in those are “what people will think of me.” in this case, i’m uncomfortable with the fact that going means some will comment here telling me i shouldn’t go (or, at least think so), that some will think i perceive myself as a little messiah. and i’m uncomfortable with the possibillty that i’ll be an inconvenience to the team i’m traveling with, either because i can be a whiner, or because i can snore like a mutha, or for a hundred other (not really legitimate but still oppressive) notions about what people will think.

– i cannot stand — really, deeply — hit-and-run missions, missions that’s really tourism, or missions that’s really about making the participants feel better about themselves for a short period of time. a big reason for my pickiness on this is that i’ve been taking teenagers on missions trips for a very long time, and i’ve made some of those mistakes (and i’ve seen even worse).

– i think that short term missions, done poorly, creates an even greater us/them divide that objectifies the “recipients” and has very little to do with the kingdom of god.

– my family has given money, and we will certainly give more — so, is it arrogance in me that causes me to think i should go, rather than just sending the money it will cost for me to go?

– oh, and one more, for now: i’m a rookie when it comes to really feeling things. i don’t think i deeply felt anything until yaconelli died. and that was only 6 years ago. i’m on this crazy love/hate journey with trying to honor god by being present to and honoring my emotions — but i suck at it, and i hold them back all the time. i know that if i go, i’ll wrestle with this in hyper-reality; and i’m not sure i want to.

but then…

– i was stunned, as we all were, by the news as it started to pour in. very early on, i had this sense that god was telling me i should go. but i didn’t have a means, and i completely dismissed it.

– i starting working with an organization i love and trust, an organization with an amazing track record of responding in ways i find both theologically true and culturally sensitive.  i was working with them to put together a group of youth workers to travel to haiti — kind of a small “representative sample” of the youth worker community i love so dearly, to go on our collective behalf to both serve, as well as assess how other youth workers might be able to respond.  and, somewhere in the midst of this — never thinking i would be part of the group — i realized i was actively ignoring that heart-tug from god.
– i talked it over with my family.  it had big implications for them, because the trip ended up falling on a week when my kids have a week break from school, and we had tentatively planned to do some fun family stuff that week.  but when max (12) looked me straight in the eyes and said, “dad, you have to go!”, i was a wreck.  god spoke through my son.
– ultimately, i’m going for two reasons:  i sense god is in this, and i think i can actually do more for the people of haiti and the kingdom of god by going than by not going.  i hope and pray that my broken heart, my service, and my reporting to all of you, will have a greater impact than a check alone (i’m not skipping out on the giving part, btw).
so here i am — 2 weeks and 2 days out from my departure date, which is february 11.  i’m terrified and energized, second-guessing myself and confident all at the same time.  in the days and weeks to come, i’ll blog several more times about the team i’m going with, the organization we’re partnering with, the work we’ll do, and all kinds of other stuff.  during the trip itself, i hope to post stories of pain and beauty, stories of the kingdom of god breaking through.  i hope many of you will join me on this journey, by praying for me and praying through this journey for the people of haiti.  and i hope i’ll be able to offer practical advice to those who might think about going, or taking a group, as so much help will be needed in the year(s) to come.

(btw: i was having internet probs when i first posted this, and the last 1/3 was cut off, and somehow comments were turned off. all fixed now.)

18 thoughts on “why i’m going to haiti”

  1. I know that you dont know me personally, since I have only seen you at NYWC events. However, I just want to thank you so much for baring your soul through this blog. My husband and I have been struggling with Gods call to us. See we have one adopted son (domestic) and we have a completed homestudy and are currently waiting on something to come to fruition with our second adoption. We naively thought this adoption was going to be domestic also, that was until the earthquake. From the first days we felt God calling us to step up and adopt from Haiti, but we dismissed it because we thought…this is just our emotions getting the best of us. However, in the last few days it has become apparent that this is where we are called. So we called our social worker and are waiting to see what we should do next. Your blog just had me in tears because we really felt like who are we to do this? and why? We have struggled with feeling completly incompetent to do this, but then again God usually calls the incompetent doesnt he? Thanks again so much for affirming our call by sharing how God has affimed yours.

    We will be praying for you..


  2. Marko,
    GO! Good for you! I applaude your candid conversation. Along with my “state youth guy” duties I am also the Disaster Relief director for our denomination…..12 years of emergency services prior to my call to ministry qualifies me I guess. It is always hard to not be engaged in the lives of the hurting when thats our basic call as followers.

    Thank you for working through someone already there as well. I agree whole heartedly with your short term missions eval and this situation is not the place for rash “lets go!”decisions by well meaning believers. Its a scary situation on a good day but add the facts of the carnage, disruption, lack of security and policing and you have the ingredients for disaster…without proper planning.

    Go man! GO! I am a bit jealous at this point. Bring back great God stories and, if you’d like some ‘insider info’ I am more than willing to share what I have from our Gov’t and non-gonv’t partners.

    Be praying for you man and all you come in contact with….that God’s hands are seen and not our own!

  3. Mark all i can say is “go”! I think you are right…God is in it. So go! Especially if your son is telling you to go…go! God has spoken! I listened to Mark Driscoll this past Sunday and, in his praying whether to go or not go, he asked his wife if she wanted him to go. She said no. Did he want to go? No, he didn’t want to go. However both sensed that God wanted him to go. As i read your blog, that’s what i thought of. So go.

    Embrace that sensitivity God has opened up. He wants us to feel even the tiniest measure of what’s in His heart. However, sometimes we don’t feel until we are forced to feel….that’s what happened to me when my father died 10 years ago. And now….my heart seems to have a life of it’s own. Listening to what’s happening in Haiti right now, listening to Mark D. share his encounters and all he saw, it was all i could do to not sob (but i was at work…not the best place to be overwhelmed by such suffering and sorrow occurring in Haiti!).

    Take care. I look forward to hearing more of what God is going to do in and thru you as you step out and give of yourself. blessings!

  4. “thumbs up” for listening to God speak through your 12 year old son…I love it! Enjoy the journey, and know that God has plans that will never be uncovered until we take the first step and say “yes”. Thanks for allowing us to journey together.

  5. Go for it!! One thing I have learned. When your felling Gods calling and it gets confirmed by others, and especially your son, Dont ignore it. Have an amazing emotional, crazy, wonderfully messy trip and Love on those people on behalf of all of us youth workers. I appreciate your honesty in your struggles with this.And do let us know if there are opportunities for us to go help in the future. Long term of course.:)

  6. Thank you for your honesty about why you should not go. It is a breath of fresh air! Be blessed as you prepare for your trip and know that I am praying for you.

  7. thanks for being so honest in this post.

    I have been so amazed in the American / Church’s loving, gracious, outpouring of resources, prayers, desires to help/go/do whatever we can to offer aid, assistance and hope to the Haitians in this very difficult time.

    My personal struggle (frustration) is with 2 different things. (Please know that this is in no way a reflection of your decision, or your honesty about it)

    First, I wish we could be more aware of the poverty and desperation in the world, and be as concerned and passionate about it before a major tragedy, as we are when something really noticeable happens.

    Imagine how much we could change the world with an awareness of the desperation and pain in other countries, and respond with this much passion and aid *before* the calamity. It’s the rush of concern by so many previously unconcerned that grieves me.

    Secondly, I see countless realities of devastation, brokenness, hurt, and despair in our own local communities.

    (This is a tender area for me, because my mother died homeless, frozen to death in a snowbank, only 20 feet from her temporary shelter. and yes, she had been sober for 2 weeks.)

    I wonder where the outpouring of passion, love, concern, help, and other things are here in our own nation. There are many who would go to Haiti, but would consider the hurting in our own local areas as not as deserving of help. (I realize this also gets into politics, so I shall tread lightly)

    and, wow, can you imagine what would happen if we were to take the resources, prayers, help, and aid that is going to Haiti, and use it locally in our own hurting neighbors and broken souls?

    Please note that I am not trying to paint everyone with a wide paintbrush. I *know* there are people who are aware of, and helping others not only around the world, but in our own downtowns. I realize that many churches are doing incredible work both here and in other countries. I know that many Christians are aware of the rest of the world, and of their own local devastation, and act on that awareness.

    My frustration has been from those in the church who blame so many hurting people here, and yet rush off to help the perceived innocents elsewhere. Unfortunately, I have many friends who are doing that.

    I really appreciate the thoughtful reflection in this post, Mark. I think you are going as a servant, and that you are aware of and perusing your motivations to go. I’ve also known you for a long time, and have seen your global awareness and love for humanity in action. I know that this is the kind of person you are.

    My frustration has been with many others, and the tendency some parts of the church has to decide whether or not someone “deserves” help. I read a great piece on this here:


    I know you are a bigger person of God than this. And I honour that, as you make this decision and go to Haiti, to do what you can do. I will pray for you.


  8. Renee, great response. I have felt that frustration, too. I actually sensed God saying that the focus and priority that we as a western church have begun placing on Haiti is how he feels about the WHOLE WORLD. It’s not that we should diminish what has happened in Haiti, but rather that our compassion for all impoverished, destitute, and despairing parts of the world needs to be increased.

  9. Mark
    God bless bro! I pray God opens up incredible doors for you as you will be His hands & feet there. I’m jealous, I’d love to have the opportunity to serve there.

  10. Mark, thank you for your continued transparency and for being a person who seems to really wrestle with things, rather than quickly assenting. I look forward to following your journey . . . both to Haiti and into this new year of changes for you and your family.

    Crystal, I understand your heart-pull to Haiti . . . please be careful just now, though, as most of the international groups involved in adoption ethics strongly urge that children NOT be taken out of country until it can be verified that there are no living relatives, and that just plain takes time. There are so many challenges in international adoption, and uprooting kids in times of natural disasters isn’t always the best option. There are wonderful groups in Haiti such as SOS Villages that are meeting needs of children in amazing ways. There aren’t quick fixes to such tragedies. Truly wish you well. From one adoptive mother to another.

  11. Hey my names Sarah. My youth pastor Tim is going with you to Haiti and i just wanted you to know that Im praying for all of you and praying that God will use you all in a big way! God Bless!

  12. Mark, I just wanted to let you know that I think it’s great that you are going. I went out to Gulfport, Mississippi with the Red Cross, after Hurricane Katrina for 3 weeks, and lived on a cot in an airplane hanger. I cried alot because of the destruction I saw, and I’d never done anything like it before and was a bit homesick and maybe even scared. But given the chance I would do it again in a second. I listen to God when he speaks to me, and at that time I had the time, energy, enthusiasm and love in my heart for others in need, that made it very easy for me to make the decision to go. The people you will be helping will be so grateful that others cared enough to come and help them, it will cease to be about you in any way, as the days go by and you will be energized by the need you will see. God will be w/ you on your trip. Just remember that this is a chance for you to give of yourself, and many millions of people here in this country wish they could but can’t. You are lucky to have the opportunity, be thankful for it. I have a local newspaper article about my trip, I can email it to you if you send me you’re email address, it tells a bit more about my state of mind at the time.

  13. I’ll definitely be praying for your trip…but I always wanted to say…

    It is with eager expectation and great hope that I look towards a day when the “small ‘representative sample’ of the youth worker community” includes more than one female who is “(not technically a youth worker, but we’re going to make her an honorary one for this trip!)” (- per your “youth ministry advance team: haiti” post)…

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