Confession # 1: Haiti Taught Me to Love

ImageLiving with 50+ kids that are not your own, it does something to you.

Sharing a home, sharing life, and sharing love with 50+ kids previously abandoned, it changes you.

I can’t explain it.

I wish I could.

I would try, but I might fail miserably.

All I can say is this: It changes you, all of you.

Your personality

Your priorities

Your religion

Your marriage

Your views on just about EVERYTHING

You change.

You can’t help it.

I’ve lived at the CHCH now for over two years- sharing a home with kids, teenagers, and adults who look nothing like me, talk nothing like me, and even do life nothing like me.

I’ve learned a substantial amount of Creole, although my kids would tell you not nearly enough.

I’ve learned to wash clothing with my bare hands rather than in a machine, which by the way is brutal on your fingers.

I’ve learned that cooking rice is an art- one that I am without talent.

I’ve learned that respect is key, and that even though it may sometimes be difficult to give, it is extremely easy to lose.

I’ve learned that you truly do lead best by example, and that the age-old saying “actions speak louder than words” is actually true.

I’ve learned how to braid hair, how to strategically shower in cold water, and how to live off a steady diet of peanut butter and pretzels.

I’ve learned to live with mice, dirt, and spiders- comfortably.

I’ve learned what doesn’t get done today, may not get done tomorrow, but that is okay.

And I’ve learned a million other things as well, I’m sure.

All of which have changed me.

But the one lesson I have learned that has changed me the most?

I have learned to love.

I’m not saying that I didn’t know how to love prior to moving to Haiti, before living at the CHCH.

I knew how to love God (so I thought). I knew how to love my family, my husband, and my closest friends. I knew how to love my dog Sadie. I knew how to love good food, good music, and a good book. And above all else, I knew how to love me.

I talked about loving more people, but in hindsight I don’t really believe I loved beyond my inner circle. To say that I simply liked others would probably be a more accurate statement. And my ability to like you was dependent on multiple variables, most specifically my return on investment. What would I get in return for liking, possibly loving, you?

And then we moved to Haiti and I learned to love, not all of a sudden, but gradually. I learned to love those I already loved better, and I learned to love beyond my closest friends and family.  I learned to love kids that are not technically my own. I learned to love teenagers who often tell me to my face they don’t love me back. And I learned to love fellow workers despite our many differences.

Love.

It is so complex and yet so simple at the same time.

I heard a friend pray the other night that he would be able to love others in the same manner that God has loved Him.

I haven’t learned how to do this yet- love others the same way God loves me. I don’t think I ever will. But living in Haiti, I have at least learned that I want to try.

I want to love others the same way God loves me…

Unconditionally

Gracefully

Mercifully

Generously

With open arms &

With open hands

That is why Hunter and I are about to embark on a new journey and follow our teenagers to the Emmaus House. It is because we love them, and are learning daily to love them with the love of God rather than the selfish love of ourselves. We can’t explain our love for them; perhaps it is because it is not from us but from God in the first place.

God has chosen us (for reasons we still aren’t sure) to live with and love on these teenagers. We are not worthy of this calling by any means, but yet we are honored and willing to be obedient.

Like I said before, living with kids who are not your own changes you.

It has changed me.

It has taught me how to love.

Blessings,

Jillian

5 Comments on “Confession # 1: Haiti Taught Me to Love

  1. I loved your letter this morning. We all need to love others a little more. I know it’s very difficult to be thrust into a world unlike any you have ever lived in, but one thing it will do is make you trust God whole-heartily. Your love for these kids will reap results for many, many years to come and long after you and Hunter have moved on.
    Never underestimate the power of a loving family, or young couple, and the impact it will have on a child, home, and a country.
    You and Hunter are always in my prayers Jillian.
    Donald

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  2. Teenagers…they awaken in a new world … Daily!
    And neither you…nor they…know how they will be…At sunrise?

    Like little kids again…selfish, grabby, passionate…
    Or like adults for awhile…giving, wise, mature…
    Or quite simply, teenagers…uncertain, mercurial, mouthy…
    More child than adult, but feigning on the way to
    Becoming…whatever, whomever…life makes of them…

    And what do they need?
    A firm hand, a shoulder to cry on, an “I am proud of you,”
    And a loving hand leading them faithfully along the path…
    With God…always, ALWAYS knowing the tender mercies
    Of the God of hope…Creator, Father, Friend.

    (I taught teens for 33 years…nowhere is there a more rewarding, frustrating, humbling, or joyous job. May God continue to guide your paths…)

    A grandmother from Ada, Oklahoma

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    • J. Stewart: I love that! “A loving hand leading them faithfully along the path…with God…always, ALWAYS knowing the tender mercies of the God of hope.” Beautiful. I pray that we can be that loving hand for all our teens, no matter how frustrating that may sometimes be. Thanks for the encouragement! ~Jillian

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      • Thank you, Jillian. It will be frustrating at times, but wonderfully frustrating. And it will be joyous at times, frightfully joyous. It will be those, and a hundred other equally opposing oxymorons. Just remember…they act like children one minute, and adults the next…because they are inexperienced at being teenagers too. Learn together, laugh a lot, and remember that at their most confusing, unlovable moments, an arm around the shoulder, a “let’s pray together about this,” and a smile can (sometimes) work wonders!

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