by Kelsey Cook, Campus Crusade for Christ
“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
Some people have found me hard to believe when I say there was nothing really distressing or even particularly uncomfortable about my time in Haiti. On the contrary, it was so full of pleasant surprises and comfort and happiness that I want to use this space to honor God with praises for a trip that was more like a homecoming for my soul than anything else. Besides, after the heaviness of the last post and this past weekend, I definitely feel the need to reflect on His unaccountable goodness in the form of describing the many ways He showed me His love and careful attention on the broken island in the Caribbean.
After a long and complicated journey from Boston involving a cab, an overnight bus, a subway ride, the AirTrain at JFK, and a Boeing 767, another bout of sitting-and-waiting—this time, outside the airport in Port-au-Prince—was happily resigned to as the preferred activity over trudging-with-luggage. And happy—not delirious from lack of sleep—it really was, for stretching over me in all directions was the perfectly unblemished blue of cloudless sky, and beaming down on me were 85 degrees of brightly and continuously streaming sunlight. It was not the passionless, washed-out blue of winter, nor the iron gray of storm, nor the lifeless undefined white that cloaks New York from December till March. It was certainly not the gloom of my apartment, which strangles even the strongest rays that dare battle their way in. It was radiance itself for the air to touch and warm my skin.
“‘Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’” (Matthew 6:8)
The next two gifts were such a combination of specificity and improbability that it is impossible but that the hand of God was at work. Upon entering the dining hall, I was immediately greeted by the sight of a piano, complete with sheet music that ranged from Christmas carols easy enough for me to sight-read to Beethoven’s Für Elise, which I have been painstakingly working through for months. I can’t adequately express how entirely tinkering at the piano puts me at ease, except to try to explain that it’s qualitatively equivalent to enjoying a really good quiet time with the Lord. I spent a great deal of time there.
The other gift, which by itself was totally unlikely, were the no-bake cookies that were served with dinner that first night, the likes of whose glorious oat-and-chocolate-and-peanut-buttery-goodness I had never before beheld outside my own kitchen. That mostly everyone on my team happened to know what they were did not detract at all from the fact that Haiti had no-bakes in common with home, of all things. And food-related blessings didn’t stop there. Along with having to eat oatmeal, rice and beans, and spaghetti and chicken all week—foods that top the list of things I don’t get sick of—I realized as the trip progressed that God was restoring my appetite, which, after my perpetual illness last semester and the resulting fifteen-pound weight loss, was a miracle.
|I saw a no-bake cookie.
“You are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:3)
There were many, many other details I could point to… the comfort of roaming barnyard animals and dusty heat, reminiscent of home… the particular satisfaction of cold showers and a clean face after getting filthy dirty… and many other instances I have yet to relay that soothed my heart that week—but I could hardly close on the goodness of God without mentioning the day on the coast.
Having been raised camping and gotten through elementary school on books like Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of the Mountain, and Little House In the Big Woods, and playing games like Oregon Trail (I’m dating myself), I have in me an unswerving romanticism for certain time periods and environments in which I would realistically find my present-day self very uncomfortable. In particular, the idea of pre-industrial America and the English Middle Ages woo my fancy—as well as surviving on a deserted island, à la Robinson Crusoe. So washing that mango while standing in the waves, stripping it with a oversized knife, and then drowning my face and hands in its delightfully squishy orange pulp (and later, gnawing on a foot-length of sugarcane) pretty much fed the primitive instinct of my soul to be wild and fierce and somewhat unladylike, which I usually fulfill with sports and cooking-with-my-hands. This was great fun, but at the ocean, God met another, deeper soul-need…
I love water. I love the cool soothing swirling flow around my ankles, the rhythmic pitter-patter of rain, the perfect reflection of a puddle, the tenderness of a dew drop clinging tightly to the tip of a new leaf or sparkling in a spider web. I love the pulsating ebb-and-flow of the ocean, the weight of a giant heartbeat pressing around me, the salty sea-smells, the breathy crash and spray of a hello to the shelly sand. I could watch the variable tripping and giggling of a creek unceasingly.
Much like flying in an airplane, standing in the ocean is, for me, always a time to meet with God. In the ocean, listening to that strong and steady heartbeat, I experience His might and beauty and tenderness all at once. I can look out onto those clear blue ripples and imagine them rising up into wild waves, a black, crushing storm which my Lord calms with a raised hand, saying, “Quiet! Be still,” as He so often says to me (Mark 4:39). I feel the countless tiny grains of sand brushing between my toes and remember His thoughts of me are more numerous than the sum of them (Psalm 139:17-18), that I cannot find a place where He is not present, even if I “make my bed in the depths” or “settle on the far side of the sea” (Psalm 139:7-9). Lord, I will “be still, and know that you are God” (Psalm 46:10).
“‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’” (Matthew 7:11)