Zip Lines and Haiti

(Scrolling through pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Reading the latest news reports.
264 deaths reported so far.
A cholera outbreak expected.
And my heart aches for the most recent devastation to that country.
I’m reflecting on the hot, sunny afternoon, four years ago today that Angela and I bumped down the roads of Port Au Prince between the airport and the orphanage. The images are indelibly etched into my memory and the lessons from that cross cultural adventure continue to shape my life today.
I revisited a blog post I wrote just before I left on that trip and am reprinting it below. It’s a gift to view life through the lens of retrospect and see the faithfulness of God in all times and places.)

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-11-43-12-pmSome people thrive on adventure. I don’t even like to watch it in the movies. My idea of a desirable adrenaline rush is a day at the beach catching the waves on my inner tube or planting perennials in my garden then watching them blossom year after year. I’ve tasted risk in dainty, bite sized portions when I was “young” but I lost my appetite for it when I became a parent. My mother bird instinct congealed with my fundamental sense of caution and I’ve been focused on protecting my fledgings ever since. Ask me what I want in this life and I’d tell you a craftsman bungalow on a couple of acres complete with a porch swing and a golden doodle in west Michigan. I’m attracted to familiarity and security like a magnet. Ironically, God’s agenda rarely intersects with my natural inclinations and if you know my lifestyle, you know that God hasn’t been constrained by my wonderful plan for my life. God and I have had moments where unity of purpose prevailed but routinely I feel like He’s taking me on a one way divided highway leading directly away from my destinations of choice. I opt for detours but he persists and in the end I concede that all roads just keep leading back to His highway.

This past weekend, our family got out of dodge and went to an all church retreat. When we checked in at the camp, we were required to sign a waiver releasing the owners from liability if we lost life or limb on their zip line. Everybody weighed in on whether or not they planned to ride this attraction. Suprisingly, I decided to pass.

The following day, it pelted down chilly rain, steady and unrelenting. Adverse conditions for an adventure ride. Nevertheless, Robyn squared her chin soberly and determinedly harnessed up and climbed the 45 ft. tower only to plunge into the abyss at the mercy of a rope. Robyn’s not inherently a thrill seeker but she is determined to face her fears and not afraid to shed a few tears in the process.

I watched her from a distance sitting on the edge of the platform WAY up high waiting to be released. Her “take off” was delayed because the tandem rider got cold feet at the top and that left Robyn looking over the precipice for 5 extra minutes while the other child cut and ran. Then, I heard an “All Clear” from the staff and saw Robyn edge her way off the platform with resolve.

At the bottom, I met her. Her legs were shaking either from a thorough chill or the physical let down after a fight and flight response. I asked her what she thought. “Well, it was pretty scary. I’m not sure I’d do it again but I’m glad I did it,” she replied.

As I approach my departure for Haiti, I keep seeing Robyn in my mind’s eye.

Many years ago, God impressed on me the conviction to both teach my children about the world in need and to go with them beyond our borders for a “birds eye view” of the uttermost parts of the earth. Angela caught my vision when she turned 12 after reading thirty missionary biographies in a single month. Recently, God opened a door of opportunity for us to join a team traveling to Haiti–to work with orphans, who need to know that a Father loves them, and to glimpse that love through this mother and daughter.

So, like Robyn, I’m climbing my own platform and the pelting rain of fear is drenching me.

I Fear almost everything; flying, safety, shots, medicines, immunizations, illness, disease, lice, heat, dehydration. I fret about the family staying stateside; sibling conflict, school, meals, logistics, potential accidents.
My self-talk says: You’re not physically strong enough. Your contribution to this team will be insufficient. Your kingdom contribution with be inferior.
I have questions I can’t answer like, What if we don’t meet up with our driver at the airport? What if I can’t protect Angela from harm? What if I see my son in one of those children and come back having given my heart to an orphan?
And on a lighter note, how will I cope with looking at myself in the mirror for a week without a blowdryer or hair straightener?

I’m looking over the precipice, and soon, God willing, I’ll scoot to the end of the platform, lean forward and try my wings. Time to fly–for Angela and for me. I’m reluctant but resolved that with my own harness securely attached to Someone who is stronger than any rope, my landing is secure. And, who knows, I might even enjoy the view.

Thank you Robyn for your example.

“And a child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6

(Originally published at, Living, Loving and Learning Together)

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