The best way I can describe our last full day in Haiti is to say that it was big. We experienced the spectrum of human emotions as we learned of death, encountered spiritual darkness, led people to Christ, witnessed a marriage proposal, said goodbyes to new family, watched multiple baptisms, and, as with every day this trip, felt the presence of God in very real ways. Such a big day. We got to breakfast this morning and TJ told us that he had learned of the death of his uncle back home in Arkansas, a man who was like a second father to him. Facing death is hard under any circumstances, but it felt especially hard today as we considered the fact that TJ was far from his family and still responsible for the well being of the 29 other people on this trip. And though the initial tone of the early morning was solemn, we were quickly reminded that death has no sting in our lives because we serve the one who defeated death, the one who saw the death of TJ’s uncle coming and the one who knew it was going to be used in an unexpected way in advance. We went right out to the village when we arrived at the orphanage and TJ led three of the four groups up the mountain to cut across to a major road on the far side of Williamson. We didn’t expect to meet anyone along our path, but as we crossed in front of a house in the process of construction, someone called out and we stopped. Six men were working there so we approached them and TJ began to talk to the man who first called out to us. We quickly learned that the man was a voodoo priest in the village, and TJ was able to ask him tough questions about what he believed and why. The man kept saying that he couldn’t follow Christ today but maybe he could tomorrow. My mind went to the parable of the young rich man who wanted to get his affairs in order before following Christ, but thankfully TJ’s went to a different story, a story that was still fresh and heavy on his heart. He shared that his uncle and his father were out in the fields at home yesterday and that his uncle was probably thinking about tomorrow when he took his final breath. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and he asked why this man would want to wait until tomorrow to start following the Lord of light and King of kings. He let us pray for him and his five companions, one of whom claimed to be a Christian and who Jenny encouraged to be bold in sharing his faith, and I truly believe the Lord will do a mighty work in their lives. The Lord put us on that path, prompted that voodoo priest to call out to us, and used the death of TJ’s uncle to help share the gospel, and I refuse to believe that was all in vain. Nothing done in the name of the Lord is without purpose, and that is something we have been reminded of all week long. It was a big conversation, a big moment. As the groups split and continued along different paths, we gained more brothers and sisters in Christ and experienced God using little details to achieve the works he planned for us in advance. Forty people have trusted Jesus Christ with their lives this week, and all of the Bibles that came here with us have been placed in the hands of excited and thankful recipients of God’s word. There has been an evening revival taking place at Pastor’s throughout the week, and we were told that 300 people came last night, many with their Bib Las in hand. That’s so big.

Then when we returned from the village this morning we got to sing our favorite song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” with our favorite children. After which, Cody Nelson stood up and began talking about how thankful he was for the children at Pastor’s and then seamlessly transitioned into how thankful he was that he has now gotten to experience Haiti twice with his girlfriend, Dawn Tomlinson. Then he said that you know you’ve found the one when you can lead someone to Christ together, and with the help of some of the children closest to them, Cody got down on one knee and said, “Ou pral marye avec m’?” To which Dawn joyfully and tearfully responded, “Wi!” That was big for the two of them, and big for all of us who got to see the initiation of a marriage that will no doubt be honoring to the God Cody and Dawn serve.

After a lunch full of congratulations and ring admiration, we returned to the orphanage for the hardest party of any trip to Haiti, the goodbyes. The children who have accepted Christ as their savior are already family, but all of them become even more like family after six days of endless love and laughter and unexpected lessons. Despite the language barrier and age and cultural differences, I almost feel like I have a deeper relationship with some of these children than I do with some people at home. And I think that comes from the fact that my relationships with the children here are so incredibly simple and Christ-centered, and they are exactly what the Lord intends relationships to be. That’s a big challenge for the rest of my life; form relationships with others in a way that honors my savior who formed a relationship with me. TJ has been obsessed with the idiom “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” this week, and as silly as it may seem, I think that phrase kind of fits the relationships between our team members and the children of Oedwa. The proof of the relationship is in the interaction. It’s in the Crenglish (Creole and English) conversations that happened all week; it’s in the handwritten notes that have been exchanged; it’s in the hugs and holding hands; it’s in the flat soccer balls deflated from constant mini soccer games; it’s in the pictures of sponsors hung on the walls and names of people painted on the concrete; it’s in the tears that were shed and the smiles that were shared as we said goodbye this afternoon. You want proof of the lasting relationships that we say were formed in only six days time? Look at the interactions, whether by scrolling through the hundreds of pictures we will want to show you or listening to the hundreds of stories we will want to tell you. There’s your beautiful, humbling proof. It’s big.

We thought our day couldn’t get any more emotional, and then we walked down to the ocean and got to witness the baptisms of four of our team members. Kara, Sam, Dawn, and Hannah had all already surrendered their lives to Christ, but had never experienced baptism as a means to follow Christ’s example to believers. It was incredible to celebrate obedience in such a beautiful place after an incredible week during which God laid it on these four daughters’ hearts to be baptized as his son was baptized. That was big.

This was a big day and this was a big trip. Tonight after we worshipped together in our team devotional, TJ opened the floor for team members to simply share about what they saw the Lord doing this week. Story after story after story after story of God’s provision and providence, faithfulness and goodness, purpose and planning, knowledge and power, love and peace, greatness and gloriousness. It was humbling and incredible to hear. As one team member said tonight, God is alive. He is alive. The God who people across the earth read about in Bibles in thousands of languages, the God who knows every one of his creations by name, the God who makes the waves crash on the beach and lets the sun set with glorious color, the God who conquered death and evil and darkness forever and ever is alive. That phrase holds so much weight and so much power, and it became incredibly real to us this week. Pray that we never again take that truth for granted.

Tomorrow we will travel to Mission of Hope for church before we leave this beautiful country for the time being. I am leaving it up the members of this team to describe to you what they experience, but I will tell you this: worshipping in English and Creole with a thousand other brothers in sisters in Christ, all of us from different backgrounds with different stories, is the closest thing I can guess worshipping in heaven will be like one day, as it says in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Mesi Jezi, thank you Jesus. We have experienced incredible unity in Christ this week, we will see it tomorrow in church, and our prayer is that we will continue to see it when we return home and for the rest of our days, for “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). That’s big.

Pray for safety as our team travels home and peace as we process this week over the days to come.