"Haiti is like this..." {Photo Blog}

We were driving down a busy street in Port-au-Prince when our country director slammed on the brakes. He eased his way over a sharp speed bump and apologized saying, “Driving in Haiti is like this. There are obstacles you don’t see until they’re right in front of you. They’re not labeled.”

In just a few short sentences he had summed up working in Haiti. There are moments when everything is clear, it feels like you’re moving forward and communities are thriving. But then something unexpected happens — a natural disaster, an unexpected illness, deep-seeded lies being sewn. In the two short days I spent in Haiti this week I met a woman who had recently lost two children, one to cholera and one to something the doctors couldn’t explain. I heard about people refusing to send their children to a VisionTrust school because it was against Voodoo. I saw people living their daily lives in a level of poverty that is still difficult to comprehend, even after working in majority world countries for five years.

But, for me, each of those stories was countered by the amazing locals I met that have dedicated their lives to creating long-term change. They know that unexpected obstacles will come, but they are fiery and steadfast in their determination to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. I was humbled by every conversation I had with them.

In the midst of hard there is always good. So, they will keep doing this work and I will continue to pray for them as they serve these precious children. Join me?  

Must Eat Sweets in Edinburgh

I've often been complimented on my ability to eat sweets. I've also been told that the first step is admitting you have a problem. Well my friends, I just can't because how can a problem taste this good?! I'll keep this short and sweet (enjoy the pun), because these goodies can speak for themselves. If you're ever in Edinburgh you must try:

MARY'S MILK BAR {Gelato}

This place has gelato that's unlike any I've ever had. Its creamy consistency and unique flavors draw lines year round (but don't let the line hold you back, it's worth the wait). I recommend the dark chocolate and salted caramel. 

LOVECRUMBS {Cakes & Tarts}

Lovecrumbs is a local favorite because, well, look at these treats. Everything served here is vegan, but don't let that deter you, these cakes are a-mazing.

THE CHOCOLATE TREE {Hot Chocolate & Churros}

The great thing about Scottish weather is that hot chocolate is always appropriate. Escape the cool weather by sippin' on some of the sweetest hot chocolate you'll ever come into contact with at The Chocolate Tree. While they have a variety of flavors, I recommend the tried and true original. Just keep in mind, this stuff is not for the faint of heart.

PINNIES & POPPY SEEDS {Shortbread & Donuts}

I was lured into Pinnies by a sign outside the shop that said, "We have stuff with butter." Need I say more? You can never go wrong with a £1 cookie. Did I mention on Thursdays they have donuts? I didn't, oh, my mistake. THEY HAVE DONUTS ON THURSDAYS. 

ARTISIAN CHEESECAKE {Cheesecake duh}

It's only when they hand you a slice of this cheesecake and you feel its weight that you can comprehend the amount of heaven you're about to ingest. Rumor on the street is they also have amazing milkshakes. I can only imagine.

MARSHMELLOW LADY {Milkshakes}

Don't let that red lipstick fool you, these milkshakes are drool-worthy. As if a cookies and cream shake isn't enough, there are toasted marshmallows within.

Eat your heart out.

4 essentials to unpacking your trip overseas

Too often I see people come back from mission trips or overseas experiences with no idea how to process all they’ve seen and been through. After participating in and leading mission teams, I’ve found these four essentials to be extremely helpful when returning home.

1 – Avoid word-vomit.

Coming home completely unprepared to process your trip can lead to a lot of word-vomit. I’ve seen team members return and bombard everyone with an hour-long saga of all their feelings—leaving the guy on the way to the bathroom shivering in the corner, regretting his offhanded ask of how they’re doing.

Here’s the key: come back with three answers to the question, “How was your trip?”  

Answer number one should be one word.  

Yes, I want you to sum up your 1 week, 2 month, 3 year excursion in one word.  This will be the answer you give the majority of people who ask as they brush passed you in the hallway.  It’s not that they don’t care, but they might not understand enough about your experience to want to ask.

Answer number two should be one to three sentences—something that sums up your experience and gives people the opportunity to ask more questions if they want.  Depending on your friends and family, you might have 10 to 20 people who want the full sentence and less that ask for more.

Answer number three is the big one.  Find one to three people who want to listen to all the details and help you really dig in and process.  If you find more than three that’s incredible. But I’m telling you right now that’s not usually the case.  Often these are the people who are well-traveled themselves and know what it’s like to have your world shaken.

2- Don’t feel guilty.

I once heard a story about a guy, we’ll call him Greg, who served overseas.  On returning to the States he was overwhelmed with guilt at the possessions he owned.  He ended up giving away everything he had and living in a tent in the backyard.

While I in no way want to limit what the Lord is calling you to do, don’t give away everything out of guilt.  Greg now has no sustainable way of helping people in poverty and has lost his voice.  How many people are going to listen to a guy in a tent shouting at them to give up all they have?  Often what people in poverty need is for someone to use the power they’ve been given in the US to speak up for them.

I’ve never met someone overseas who says, “I want to move to America so I can live in a tent.”  No one is blaming you for having a roof over your head, clean water and more than one shirt.  Those in the majority world want some of the security you have, so how can you best help them? Giving up some of your possessions and cutting back on your spending is completely legitimate and probably necessary. Just remember, God placed you where you are for a reason, so thank Him and ask Him how you can best help those around you. 

3- Don’t make others feel guilty.

This has been the hardest section to write because it’s so easy to make others feel guilty—I constantly find myself slipping up in this area (whether intentionally or unintentionally).  Speaking up for the poor is a Biblical command—God couldn’t be more clear about that one. At the same time, it’s important to distinguish what’s speaking up for the poor, and what’s beating down those around you.

Remind yourself that guilt is rarely a vehicle for long-term change or support. While you could pressure someone into giving money, if they’re not giving with their whole heart, then their gift isn’t really a gift and all and their support will wean over time. 

Tell stories about the people you’ve met and the experiences you’ve had. Try to make your community realize the individuals you’ve gotten to know are people, not statistics. But, don’t condemn others because they haven’t been given the same opportunities to understand poverty as you have. 

4- It’s okay to not be okay.

After spending two months in the Philippines I came back to the States and felt overwhelmed by large groups.  I started crying in a sea of 300 at our college ministry and had to leave the church. Most of my memories of that semester are sitting by myself, snuggled up next to my radiator.

And I needed that. I needed time to process, to figure out all I had seen, and to learn to live in a world—that for me—had been greatly expanded. 

Each of my team members handled the return to the States in a different way. Some didn’t struggle at all, while some were wedged between me and the radiator. It didn’t mean that the trip meant more to some of us than others. And it definitely didn’t mean there was something wrong with me for processing differently. I had to learn to cut myself some slack and so do you. 

Reminding yourself that it’s okay to not be okay, can sometimes be the thing that frees you up to move forward.  

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