By R.E. Spears III
When I returned to Suffolk from a short-term mission trip to Haiti in August 2014, I was gratified by all the support I received from friends and acquaintances here for my trip and for the accounts I shared about it within the pages of this newspaper.
At the same time, I was surprised at the number of folks who responded that they were tired of reading about Haiti, suspicious that my motives for sharing the stories were self aggrandizing and generally wishful that I’d leave the topic entirely.
Upon reflection, I concluded that I understood their complaints and that I didn’t want my motives to be misinterpreted, so I left the topic behind.
I mention the mini-controversy here only because this column is also about Haiti, though less about that suffering island nation than about the lesson I’ve recently learned about God’s timing.
I was to have left for my second visit to the Caribbean country on Friday, my 51st birthday, along with a small group of believers from my church and from another one in Gates, N.C. Instead, I’m here in Suffolk, and any future plans for me to return to Haiti are amorphous, at best.
There was a time during the spring and summer, when members of the team I had planned to lead to Haiti began to drop out of the trip for various reasons, that I was frustrated about the situation. We had planned to lead revival services in the town of Montrouis and help build water collection systems on the destitute island of La Gonave.
The people in those communities are desperate for help and for the Gospel, and I was eager to do what little I could to provide some of both. As my team dwindled to just two couples, including my wife and me, I struggled to keep frustration in check and to continue planning for a simpler trip.
And then, in August, my wife had a gallbladder attack on Ocracoke Island, N.C., and had to be flown from the island by helicopter to Greenville, where we learned both gallbladder and pancreas were involved and that she’d come close to death. A trip to Haiti for her so soon after that frightening incident was out of the question.
Chatting online with our missionary friends there, we concluded that our trip was finally a bust. We’d have to wait to return to Haiti. It was a decision that broke my heart, as I’d discovered in 2014 a great love for the people and for ministry.
We have sent along the few donations we received for the trip, and they’ll be used to help feed and house a group of elderly Haitians who have no family to take care of them, so at least we’re still supporting the ministry from a distance, but I had desperately hoped to be there personally, even if only for a week.
On Thursday, our friends in Haiti posted a message on Facebook from the U.S. embassy there. Riots and violence have broken out in parts of the country prior to elections next week, and the roads have been closed to Americans between Port au Prince and Montrouis. If I’d flown there Friday, I would have been stuck at the airport in a very dangerous and precarious situation.
God’s timing is sometimes hard for His followers to understand or accept, but He loves us, and he promises us that His plans for us are “for good and not for disaster, to give (us) a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).
I’m sorry not to have been able to get to Haiti this year, but I thank God that He holds my future in His hands, and I’m thankful even for the roadblocks He erects when my plans conflict with His better ones.