Five Years Ago In Haiti: 5 Lessons I’ve learned since the earthquake

Five Years Ago In Haiti: 5 Lessons I’ve learned since the earthquake

Five years ago

Five years ago, my five kids and I spent our last day in Haiti.

After almost eight years of ministry, after nine years of attempting (unsucessfully) to adopt our three Haitian children, we faced the devastation of the Port-au-Prince earthquake, and we faced our own figurative parting of the Red Sea.

A sleepless night preceded this day — seven hours in a bus, traversing the mountains between Cap and Port. Another sleepless night awaited us — eight hours in Miami’s Immigration office.

This was the day we sat alongside Port-au-Prince’s runway, avoiding the structural damage inside the airport. The day Jarod shipped relief supplies from the Dominican Republic, praying we’d make the flight out. The day we conserved precious bottled water, ate hotdogs straight out of plastic packaging, waiting, waiting, waiting for our plane to the U.S. It was the one-way chartered flight that would take Justin, Jaden, and Daphne out of Haiti for the first time in their lives. The flight we almost missed despite all our waiting.

Honestly, it was one of the most grueling days of my life.

But God was faithful that day.

As He is today. To me… and to you.

This day, or this season, might be your hardest ever. If it is, I pray you find strength and encouragement from the lessons I’ve learned since that day five years ago.

Lesson 1:

Despite my cynicism, God is still able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”

(Ephesians 3:20).

Though we pleaded for adoption approval for nine years, our efforts were thwarted in every way imaginable… Until an earthquake cut through the 500 remaining steps.

He is able. If the answer you’re receiving today is a “no,” it’s not because God doesn’t care or can’t help.

When the time is right, He will work miraculously. He’ll out-do your wildest imaginations.

immeasurably more

Lesson 2:

Safety isn’t about location… it’s about being in God’s hands.

Robberies, coups, a special needs child, and cross-cultural stresses… it wasn’t “safe.” Furthermore, it led to adrenal fatigue. Panic. Anxiety.

But tempting as it was to believe the U.S. was my safe house, that flight out of Haiti didn’t erase my fear.

The truth is, God was and will always be my rock and my fortress… He protected me in Haiti in the face of overt physical danger, as well as in the U.S. where the fear came from within.

His mercies have been new every morning, regardless of my location. It’s not about where. It’s about Who.

Lesson 3:

My identity isn’t my occupation… it’s found in Christ.

Once my husband and I realized we would not be able to take our children back to Haiti, our titles changed. We’d assumed we’d been called to a lifetime of missions, but everything had changed. And in the deep corners of my heart, that hurt. My lifelong dream of missionary was no more. Now I was (forgive me) ordinary.

Jesus knew I needed to find myself and all that defined me in Him instead of some role of “honor.”

It was humbling. And it was for my good.

Lesson 4:

Being unknown is difficult… but increases my dependency on Christ.

We made a cross-country move after shifting around for a year and one-half. The familiarity of Kansas gave way to Florida shores where we were completely unknown. New jobs, new schools, a new church, a new calling.

Again I found myself low. No one here even knew that I used to be a missionary. No one knew our gifts, our passions, our history.

So I had to leave all of that with Jesus. He knew. And that was enough. Because it’s not about me anyway. It’s all about Him.

Lesson 5:

I might not understand God’s ways… but they are higher and better (Isaiah 55:9).

I still don’t know why God didn’t allow our kids to be adopted earlier. Why did we have to leave them in Haiti during the political coup… when we traveled to the U.S. for medical tests… when their little sister got to be a flower girl at a family wedding?

Why nine years? Why after the earthquake?

I don’t have all the answers.

I can speculate… maybe we’d have jumped ship too early if the adoptions had been done. Maybe we wouldn’t have stayed to minister. Maybe Jarod wouldn’t have been there to deliver relief supplies. Maybe something we did had an impact we still don’t know about.

Or maybe it was about God changing us, testing us, making us.

higher ways

I don’t know why. I don’t understand His ways.

But I can truthfully say I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the “hard.”

I’m grateful for the challenge… for the storms… for the pain.

Because I got to see Him.

He shines in the darkness. He protects when there’s danger. He heals when there is hurt. And He works miracles when all hope is gone.

My prayer for you today? That you would give thanks in all things. That you would trust Him. That your faith would grow right now on the most grueling day. That you would continue to stand on Christ, The Solid Rock.





Taking the time to pile up stones

Taking the time to pile up stones

It was getting late.

I was tired, Jarod had to finish grading papers, and every second that bedtime was delayed by forgotten chores, unbrushed teeth, and misplaced pajamas meant less sleep and more stress.

But then I realized I’d forgotten to say anything to the kids about how this day marked exactly four years in the U.S. for our family.

We’d talked about the tragedy of Haiti’s earthquake on January 12th, but I wanted to be sure we didn’t forget to thank God for the events of the 22nd (even if my pillow was calling me).

It’s funny… I’ve written repeatedly about what the Lord did to bring our unadopted kids to the U.S., but as life rushes on in our home, it’s a subject that sometimes gets brushed over.

Knowing it would push bedtime back even further, not to mention start a lively and dramatic discussion, I took a deep breath and plunged in. “Do you guys remember what we were doing four years ago?”

And yep, the cacophony of answers began.

For the next half-hour we relived our journey:

  • Hours sitting on the cement runway in Port-au-Prince, with nothing to do but watch UN planes, play with plastic water bottles, and make repeated trips to the port-a-johns.
  • Complete confusion and panic when we realized we’d spent the day at the wrong airport. (Here Justin reminded me that had I listened to him we could have avoided this. Long story.)
  • Dizzying relief when we were united with our adoption director and were assured we had not missed the plane.
  • Watching Jaden stumble off the jet bridge into the Miami airport, where he was promptly offered his first-ever wheelchair ride.
  • Spending eight hours with 80 kids in Immigration.
  • Sleeping for the first time in 48 hours at The Forum in Pompano Beach, never dreaming that in a couple years, we’d live a few miles from there.
  • Creatively swapping and changing kids’ soiled clothes in the airplane lavatories so everyone was presentable upon arrival.

Yes, the memories were incredible.

I told the kids that as we made the final flight to Wichita, Kansas, I’d opened my Bible to Psalm 66, blown away by its relevance:

Come and see what God has done,
his awesome deeds for mankind!
He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot—
come, let us rejoice in him.

Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

Psalm 66:5-6, 8-12


After a little more discussion about how those verses applied to us, we prayed together.

Yes, it was later than it should have been when we were done, but I was thankful God had prompted me to pile up some figurative stones, similar to the stones Joshua asked the Israelites to pile up by the Jordan River.

Our kids have to know what God did for us — for them! How quickly we all forget God’s goodness; how desperately we need to remind ourselves and remind our families. 

When your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.

Joshua 4:6b-7

So my question for you today is, what has Jesus done for you?

Have you piled up stones and explained them to your kids?

Have you shared your stories with your friends, your church, even your unsaved relatives?

My kids ask me all the time how I know God is real… how I am sure I can trust Jesus. Among my answers, which include biblical, historical and scientific evidence, is the testimony of what Jesus has done for me.

What’s your story? Pile up some stones in a comment below!