Six Years in Haiti & What I Have Learned




Somehow this number keeps coming up in our family.

On the twenty-sixth of July Hunter and I became husband and wife.

On the twenty-sixth of November we welcomed Jake into the world.

I was twenty-six years old when we started Emmaus House.

And today, the twenty-sixth of January, marks six years living in Haiti.

Six years!

How in the world?

It feels like one and twenty-six all in the same.

I thought about writing something clever for this day. Something like: Top Six Lessons I’ve Learned in Haiti or Six Best Memories or Six Reasons I Still Live in Haiti.


I just couldn’t.

Trying to keep it cutesy while summing up my life since 2011 seems all but impossible. Because I can’t narrow it down to only six lessons, six best memories, or six reasons why I still live here. To say that I could would make for a nifty sixth anniversary blog, but it wouldn’t be completely real.

Looking back at who I was when I moved to Haiti- a motherless young woman, married only a few years, way too confident, a know-it-all, rather impatient, and a self proclaimed savior for orphaned children- I can’t believe how gracious God has been and how far I have come. If I met my former self today I would roll my eyes to her face, pack her bags, and send her back to Nashville. I was so unprepared.

But six years later and all has changed.

Now I am a mother of three.

Married for almost nine years.

No longer confident in myself (at all) but instead in Christ who lives and breaths and moves inside of me.

I am now convinced I know nothing. If I know anything at all it is simply because God is lending me snippets of his own wisdom to use along the way.

Patience is still my least favorite virtue of all, but I have come miles ya’ll. Embracing island time has been good for my fast-paced soul.

And somehow or another, God has transformed me from a heroic savior into a lowly servant. And I never want to go back.

Six years in Haiti has taught me a lot. And although I could try to pass down some of these lessons, they really all boil down to one simple truth. One that is quite ironic because it is one of the most common sayings you will hear in Haiti. One day I will get it tattooed on my skin so as never to forget. You’re curious now, aren’t you? Well, here it is. Here is the most valuable truth I have learned after six years living in Haiti:

Bondye konnen. God knows.

Said by the locals when circumstances can’t be explained, when life is too difficult, or simply when you don’t know the answer to a question such as, “What’s for dinner?”, Bondye konnen is the Haitian go to for admitting you have no idea but God, in fact, does.

Perhaps this might sound “unchristian” of me, but for a long while I loathed the Bondye konnen phrase. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it. Of course God knows. But after listening to so many people use it as an excuse to not be proactive in their lives, for a long time I all but rolled my eyes when someone told me about the All-Knowing God.

Yes God knows, but what are YOU going to do?

Meaning, I knew God knew, but I still didn’t trust to lend Him the control.

But now, I get it. These two little words, Bondye konnen, are the new anthem of my soul. They flow from my heart as if they are the only truth I need to survive. Bondye konnen. My God knows.

They seem so simple, these two little words. But they aren’t. Because to say them means to surrender, means to trust, means to admit your brokenness and inability to know (or control) what’s ahead. To proclaim Bondye konnen means you don’t konnen. And who wants to admit that?

But friends…oh the freedom!

To live a life encompassed in the fact that God knows is to live a life of freedom.

Free from fear.

Free from worry.

Free from trying to have it all together all the time.


This is what six years in Haiti has taught me: That I, in fact, know nothing. And that is okay. The pressure is off, because God knows.

And He has never, ever let me down. Never led me astray. Never let me wander too far. Never let me drown in deep waters (and boy have I faced some storms). He has been faithful to me even when I wasn’t faithful to Him, because He knew that I would eventually come around.

Oh, how He knows. And it is there I find my rest, in His knowing. My peace. My freedom. He knows and so I don’t have to. Not always, just as long as I trust Him. 

Six years in Haiti. It’s changed me. And I will be forever in debt to the many Haitians who have taught me what it truly means to trust in the freeing power of Bondye konnen.

Bondye konnen, my friends, Bondye konnen. 

~ Jillian

3 Comments on “Six Years in Haiti & What I Have Learned

  1. Amen ankò!!!
    Twenty-six years old was the best year of my life, because that’s when I finally let Jesus have the control!
    And I’m so thankful I did because as you so simply stated; Bondye Konnen (tout bagay)!


  2. “God knows, and He will walk with me whatever is ahead!”

    Most of us are a lot older than you are before we learn that lesson! But all along, God had jobs that needed done, and you were right there to do them! Still, He had to prepare you.

    And, Jillian, I have listened and watched as He shaped you for the tasks ahead. Like in the hymn, “Thou art the potter, I am the clay…Mold me and make me, after Thy will…” We see God’s hands working from time to time in our own lives, but to actually watch Him shaping another person has been amazing!

    Now, although you know He is not finished with you yet, Jillian, you can rest assured that God knows what lies ahead, and He’s already molding and making you for those as yet unseen roles.


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