Most people wonder how and why our family would make the choice to go to Haiti for a year. When we told people, there were two responses: “It is amazing that you are doing that, how giving,” and “Are you crazy?” I disagree with both. We got so much more out of the experience than we gave. We were led to this decision and put much thought and prayer into it.
In May 2010, there was a short article in our local paper about a medical/surgical group going on a mission in July to Mission of Hope (MOH) in Haiti. I had been to Africa before on a medical mission and Rick had responded after Hurricane Katrina. We thought it would be great to go on a mission again and neat that we could experience it together – so we called the number and put our names on the list. We had the skill sets needed and became a part of the team. I went as a wound-care nurse and Rick as a paramedic. For the week, we worked long days and really only experienced the medical clinic at MOH. We were amazed by the Haitian people and by the work that MOH does. We knew we would visit again. On the last day, Dr. Cheryl, the medical director, mentioned needing to hire a paramedic to help develop emergency services at MOH and to train some Haitian physicians in emergency medicine because they do not learn it at school.
That comment grew in our minds and hearts and we decided we wanted and needed to know more. We talked to several people at the mission, including Brad Johnson – founder & CEO. What we were told still sounded interesting. Of course, we are a family of four and this would be a commitment for our family. So, we decided to go as a family and experience more of Haiti and MOH. Rick, Jake, Zach, and I went for two weeks in September 2010 with open and giving hearts. All of our hearts received more than they gave. Our boys experienced more than can even be explained and I was so proud of them and their giving ways.
The night before we were set to return to Indiana, I sat on the hill with Jake as we looked at the light in the city of Port-au-Prince, while the tarantulas quietly scurried around us. Together, we talked and shared; when you are in Haiti, you want to stay, and we all wanted to stay. I believed we all needed to go home and assimilate back into our “regular” lives and then discuss things as a family.
We all worked through our thoughts individually. When all of us were ready, we talked as a family. It was understood that if anyone had doubts, we would not go. We all agreed that, no matter what, we would spend time again in Haiti, we just didn’t know how long. I cannot speak for how each member of my family came to his decision. I can share how I came to mine. My decision was based on how this family experience could help my boys become good and generous men; this Bible passage spoke to me:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “It the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:13-17
In February 2011, our family moved to Haiti. Throughout the whole process, from having the spark planted in our hearts, to our move and service there, we found that the best way to hear God is to quietly listen and then to follow where He is leading. There are so many distractions in life that we often don’t take the time to listen. God’s path may not always make sense, and there may be obstacles, but God will carry you through. We had some very painful reactions from people close in our lives who could not understand our decision. We did not know all of the logistics of how we would be able to live without an income for a year while still paying for a mortgage. We were concerned for the formal education of our children. We turned all of these worries over to God. He provided. And we never regretted a minute of it.
If you would like to read more about our time in Haiti, you can visit our blog: www.malmstromshelpinghaiti.wordpress.com. We have continued to return to Haiti for short visits and consider many of the people there our family. Jake will be an intern there for the summer, leading short term teams in their experiences. He is currently raising $4000 needed for the trip. To make a tax-deductible donation for his service you can go to: www.mohhaiti.org and hit the donate button. Put Jake Malmstrom-summer intern 2013 in the comment/note box.