I often ask myself, “Why can’t I live my life the way I do when I am in Haiti?” It might sound weird, but I live two completely different lives. Living in the US should be a lot easier than living in Haiti. I have pretty much everything I need on a daily basis. I can eat anytime, or take my car and drive anywhere I want. I have access to a lot of commodities that I would never have access to, if I were living in Haiti. Although I have all these privileges, I still find a lot missing.
A while ago, I was thinking about moving back to Illinois. I miss my family and friends. I am the only one living in Texas; meanwhile, the rest of my family lives in the mid-west and Haiti. My social life was not very active here at the time, so I was thinking about moving. I was in a really dark place. I felt alone; I did not have any friends. I would come from work to just sit at home. Even though I frequently go to the gym, I was still not happy. Maybe that was just my thinking, but I did not fit in well with the people I was spending time with. I always felt left out, like I did not belong there. I used to see them going to places and doing activities that I wished I was a part of. It is silly to think that, since I didn’t think I fit in with the group. So, why did it bother me so much that I was not with them? I guess I’m just like everyone; sometimes we don’t feel like we fit in, but we miss not being in the moment, or regret the fact that we did not get an invitation.
One reason I love to go to Haiti is because I feel at home. I feel important. I feel like I have something to give. Whether that “something” is love or a physical item, I enjoy that moment. There’s a sense of purpose and freedom when I am there. The funny thing is, I don’t have a car in Haiti, I don’t eat like I do here, I can’t just go anywhere I want to. In fact, I can’t even go to the gym! But all these privileges don’t matter anyway, because I realize my true value. I’ve tried so hard to fit in, but never felt like I was getting anywhere. In Haiti, I don’t have to do anything. By just stepping out of the car in the villages, my brain switches over. In my mind, there couldn’t be a bad day there. No matter what happened, from the moment I arrived until the moment I left, everything seemed perfect. I had waved the white flag and given it all to God! The problem is, why can’t I do the same when I am in the US? Is it because, in this culture we “compartmentalize” our lives: this is church, this is work, this is family, and this is relaxation. When do we realize that God has preeminence? Why is it so hard to let God be the doyen everywhere? I feel like I need to be in control. I always forget that trying to master it all keeps me from thinking clearly. I cannot, because I am overwhelmed. Our brains can’t handle it all. The bills: there are too many to pay. The people: I want to make everyone happy – that means family and friends in both countries. How can I help this person… and that person? Is there enough time to watch television, play sports, and go to the gym? There’s always what I should have done, where I should have gone, and things I regret not doing.
In the middle of all of this, right after I came back from Haiti last June, I went straight to a church camp. I almost did not go, because I was doing a lot of traveling last summer. In truthfulness, I am joyous that I went. Something happened at camp and it changed my life. One night the pastor was preaching about surrendering to God. It was like he was speaking directly to me. Everything he said that night related to me. It was at this moment that I decided to get baptized. Baptism is an entity I’ve always tried to control. I told myself, “I won’t get baptized until I feel like I am ready”. After the pastor had spoken, I realized that it was not mine to control. That was the first obstacle I had to overcome. After the camp was over, I remembered coming home like a newborn. I stopped getting despondent like I used to. The crazy thing is, I had all the reasons in the world to be worried, because I was moving to a new apartment. I don’t like moving because you have to start from scratch. You have to do a change of address, pay a deposit for water and electricity, buy a ton of new utensils and, the most annoying of all, spend from one to two hours at the DMV to change your driver’s license address. Throughout all that process, I kept on telling myself, “Let God handle this and don’t worry”. I did let Him reign, and everything turned out to be fine. I guess God is trustworthy, even in the USA. I should try that method from now on. I’ve never been so happy since I’ve let God take control.
Another thing that happened, after I came back from camp, was that I made a lot of new friends. I came from being someone who was sitting at home, to being someone who has a community. I admire and love these guys, and I feel very comfortable around them. The most important quality in this group is the love and respect we have for each other and the community within it. We all have places we serve and participate with others. I could not ask for a better group of people to spend my time with!
It is said in Philippians 4: 6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As much as I don’t like to say it, when the problems come, we throw all these verses away. We only focus on the problems, and we forget that The Almighty has it all under control. I was worried about not having friends and not being happy where I was and, in doing so, I have let God down when I was in the States. I must continue letting God handle my struggles and stop worrying about people accepting me. He made me who I am, and put me where I am. Now I must live for Him. Since I am the same person, I can’t live in Haiti one way and another when I am here. To do that would be dishonest.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
(Kenlley Leyendeckers is a Haitian native, who was adopted by American parents at the age of thirteen. As a young boy, living in an orphanage there, he had met missionaries who inspired a growing vision within him. He knew he wanted to help bring hope to the children around him. The 2010 Earthquake precipitated his father’s going to Haiti to escort him to America. He quickly adapted to the American language and culture, graduating from high school and attending college. He is now the associate director of Mercy International.)