Unpacking the Hard Things


“I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection.”

I’m sitting here, staring at my suitcases. The clothes inside of them are covered in Haitian dust and smell SO BAD.  I also fear that if I look deep enough there may be a couple stowaways (of the bug variety) hidden throughout. I really don’t want to unpack all that. I don’t want dust all over my room (because for once in a blue moon it’s actually clean), I don’t want bugs in my things, I don’t want my room smelling either. I don’t want to put my journals back on the shelf, I don’t want to put my suitcases back in their proper place, I don’t want finality. Because with unpacking the physical things I have to face the reality of unpacking the emotional and spiritual things too. I have to look this past week in the eyes and process what the heck just happened. That is way easier said than done.

How do you sum up an experience that happened on a whim: a conversation with your best friend 5 days before the application due date, scrambling to pull all the papers together. How do you put into words the team you encountered: new faces and friends with so many stories, and inside jokes but a lot of things still left unsaid, that are now spread across the country without any certainty that you’ll encounter them again this side of heaven. And finally, how do you even begin to unpack the realness of children who have been orphaned and abandoned but live with unsurmountable joy each and every day: laughter and smiles fill the compound, shouts of happiness as one runs from a game of tag while another is getting their 4th shoulder ride of the day.

Boys and girls who by our American standards should have no reason to be happy: they don’t have flashy things or everything new, they don’t have families, they don’t have complete assurance that life outside the compound will be ok after they go into the real world at 18. There are a lot of things that they don’t have; but if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past year, especially in this past week, it’s that even as worldly things are stripped away and taken from us there is something no person can lay a finger on and that is the never wavering and steadfast love of Jesus. And in all of this I thank God that the Hands and Feet Project in Jacmel, Haiti works everyday to instill that into the minds of these kids. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them realize that something is missing. I had a conversation with one boy on visitor day (a time that some of the children get visits from relatives who are alive but sometimes unable to provide) where he told me that in all the time he’d been at Hands and Feet his father had never come to visit. This boy is 13 years old and knows the pain of missing a crucial piece of his life, something that I cannot fathom in the parental sense. I talked to him a little bit more, trying not to push the subject and let him speak what he wanted but quickly realized that even if he was unsure of where his biological father was he knew exactly where his Heavenly father reigned as he pointed to the cross necklace he wore and talked about “his Jesus.” Regardless of the saddening worldly circumstances of this young one I was so glad to know that his perspective is eternal and that his hope rests on something greater than this life.

It’s quite an eye opener as a 13 year old tells you the greatness of Jesus regardless of what’s happening in life, when most days you’re just mad that God hasn’t set you up on a date yet (that’s a conversation for another time). How great our God is when he uses those moments to bring you back to the purpose of this life, share His love and do it all for His glory with joy no matter the circumstance. No matter where in the world you are, no matter what possessions you own, no matter the power or wisdom you have. It is all lost without the love and joy of Jesus, something made possible by his death on the cross.  So thank you Lord, thank you for the lessons and laughter you brought in the past week. Thank you for your joyful children who taught me so much in an amount of time I wish wouldn’t have ended. Thank you for your grace as it covers this world’s and my own brokenness, and thank you for the assurance that one day all of the sad things will come untrue.

There are many more stories to be told about this experience, some I still haven’t had time to fully process even though I’ve been home a couple days now. So I guess as I put my things away I don’t have to sit in the sadness of what I left behind but I get the awesome opportunity to step forward in faith that God will make all things new, and that with each physical thing I unpack I also begin to unpack the rest of this experience with eternity in mind.

| Brittney

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 3:13-14}


2 thoughts on “Unpacking the Hard Things

  1. Brittney, I am so proud of you. You know the true meaning of being a Christian. God is not only there for us to call on when times are tough, but He wants to be a part of our everyday life! Most of us don’t realize what it is like for the people of Haiti. I believe God has BIG plans for your life. Always remember
    “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11 Love you and as always I am praying for you!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brittney, I am so thankful for this right now. So thankful to know that you understand. It’s so hard coming back from Haiti… There are days where you just want to scream at people and say, “How could you possibly be complaining about the weather out here when you have air conditioning in almost every building around you?” Or “How could you ever say you’re ‘starving’ when you ate a full meal 4 hours ago?” Or “Why are you buying so much stuff? Do you realize there are people out there who are dying because they don’t even get one meal? Yet you stand and complain about how old your phone is?!”

    Let’s just say, the culture shock is real coming home. It’s hard. But I want to encourage you to find the poverty in American hearts. Here, we have struggles just like they do in Haiti. The difference is that we have the money to cover them up. We are lonely, and we go to extreme lengths to find love. I want to encourage you to look at the people around you and see their needs, instead of their errors.

    You may already be all over this, but I just really wanted to share some scatter-brained thoughts with you since I’ve been back home from Haiti for over a month now! I hope you’re doing well! I’d love to hear all about your trip sometime!!

    (Just in case you didn’t know, I’m ransford’s sister)


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