You all know from reading for awhile, that I am brutally honest ... and willing to risk offending sensibilities to share the truest picture of our lives here.
Many reading are praying about a future in over-seas missions and I like to think (and maybe I am just kidding myself) that this is one place they can hear the truth about the good, the bad and the ugly.
So often people go into missions with a false sense of what it will be, and because of that they last just a short time. John Ackerman was telling us yesterday that he cannot even come close to counting the missionaries that came "for life" but left in six months. If nothing else, we hope that by not worrying about stepping on toes and just telling the truth as we know it; we can help other people escape some suffering by hearing about our mistakes. (I highlight that this is OUR opinion and only one experience - take it or leave it.)
Troy and I had our first argument of the team week last night. I know people like to think that couples/families doing ministry don't ever fight and struggle. But that is false. We argue sometimes, just like you.
We disagreed about a boundary and the usual thing happened. Because I feel a lack of time and attention from him I get witchy and confront it the wrong way. This "job" is a testing ground for sure, and one of the constant pressures is on our marriage/family. We recognized this would be true coming in, and that has helped - but has not eliminated the struggles.
Troy is the ultimate people-pleaser. Everyone who meets him adores him. I happen to adore him. But I am the ultimate protector of family, I will fight like a dog to protect the interests of my children and family. That means I don't worry about pleasing everyone else. Half the people who meet me like me - the rest find me to be a big dink. Having boundaries can make you unlikable.
The thing is, here, boundaries are beyond important. As it is, you live where you work so you never get a true day off. When teams are in town the boundaries are harder to keep because you have people watching you that don't necessarily understand why you need to say "no" or that you must have a break because the result will be that you cannot possibly do this job well for the long-haul.
Because people are watching, you end up trying to please those people instead of standing your ground and doing what you would normally do when there is no audience. You're more likely to stop sticking to healthy boundaries and priorities under the pressure of the visitor opinion.
The perfect example that happens with every group:
We are eating dinner. Usually Troy has not stopped to eat all day and is starving. At 7pm just as he takes his first bite, one of our Haitian employees comes to the gate. We acknowledge them and ask them to wait until he is done eating. A few people will come and go and all will say "Troy, you know Tipap is waiting for you right?" Troy says "yep, I know" ---- and Troy looks rude for not getting up to go talk right then. But, Troy has learned that he will never eat if he does not put boundaries around dinner time. It is no mystery why he lost 17 pounds in our first six months here. If you keep answering the gate all through dinner, you don't actually get nourishment by walking back and forth from your plate and never get to eating.
Someone who is here for a short time cannot understand what it is like to be here all the time. Just like *we* cannot understand what it is like to do their jobs.
When folks come in fresh, they are full of 'save the world' thinking (just like we once were) and cannot understand not trying to do everything for everyone. But you can only keep that up for so long. The culture is such that if you never said "no" or had parameters on what you DO offer, you could literally NEVER stop working, handing things out, or being asked to solve problems. If you fall into a trap of believing that it is your job to "save" anything, you not only short-change God and yourself but your family suffers.
I think it is hard for Britt to explain and be understood in her area of ministry here. She is a 16 year old doing the work of a 30 year old but she has healthy boundaries around her hours and she only takes the cases that she confidently and competently can handle. The medical clinic is not operational and we have to turn medical cases away if they don't fall into the category of her talents. We cannot be everything to everyone. She has amazing suturing skills but she does not feel comfortable diagnosing ear infections and fevers. She makes me so proud because she understands how not to get used and abused and she stands her ground. As it is, she is sharing her GOD - GIVEN (and only God could equip her for this) skills selflessly, but her boundaries protect her from burnout. She needs to be as normal of a 16 year old as she can be ... that means sleeping in and just having fun and not trying to save the universe.
We're consciously aware not to over-state or over-inflate our importance here. Haiti will not shrivel up and die-off if there are not a few white people here doing a little medical work and a little feeding program. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that is exactly what would happen if we closed up shop and left. Should we pack up and leave tomorrow --- the people will survive, it might be harder for them, but they would be okay.
There is a misconception that Haiti (or any struggling land) can be saved by a few hundred or thousand missionaries. First, it is self-important and self-serving to think we can "save" anything. That is up to God. Second, most of these places are what they are and have been for decades and will be for decades to come.
The McHouls, The Zachary's, The Rollings, The Ackerman's, The Hersey's -- the hundreds other families doing good work here .... they can ALL work all day and all night and Haiti might never become the land of plenty. Haiti might never lose its reputation for corruption and instability. And that very well may be what God has planned. God sees a bigger picture and His plan may not include every country becoming materially prosperous and packaged nicely like America.
We firmly believe that it is NOT our job to try and solve/fix big-picture problems here. People have been trying to do that for 30+ years here and almost nothing has changed. That may sound harsh. And for that I apologize. But the fact is, you can only make a difference in the lives of individual people you come in contact with by loving them, you cannot "save" a country nor should you attempt to change a culture.
Heck, we can barely understand the culture so changing it is a ridiculous thought.
We believe He called us to do two things-
1. Learn from Him by placing ourselves in a new/unfamiliar, therefore "risky" situation. Step out but then- learn, listen, watch and learn some more. It is more about what God will do with our obedience and what He will do in OUR life than it is about what *we* will do in our field of service.
2. He is calling us to love His people. Not to solve their every problem, but to be real with them and to love them. Sometimes that means handing out food and medicine. Sometimes that means really giving sacrificially. But, sometimes that means saying, "No, you're taking advantage of a situation and I care about you but I cannot and will not do this for you." (That is the more difficult way to show love, but also a necessary one.)
We won't become the answer to every problem in LaDigue. It is arrogant to think we could. The minute Troy and I think we are going to change or fix anything we get knocked in the head by some major revelation that reminds us that we are to put God first, our family second and the mission-work and other things third. Getting into any mode of prideful thinking about what *WE* will do - is a set-up for a big fall. Some things just won't be fixed. Ever. And that is okay.
This is the Livesay blog, reflecting the Livesay experience in Haiti and the Livesay opinion. We know there are varying opinions out there and we respect the fact that ours is JUST ours. Take it for what it is worth.