What’s In A Year

Today marks exactly one year since I moved to Haiti to work full-time for Help One Now. It also marks one year since I have written anything about it. I feel like it has really taken me this whole year to finally feel settled in and comfortable with what I am doing here. I kind of hit the ground running when I got here and never really had a moment to just stop and take it all in. I have had a little bit of time to process it all now though, and I feel it an appropriate time to share with you all some of the things I have seen and learned. Part of me still doesn’t know exactly what to say, and part of me just wants to give the simple answer of “everything is great here, it can be hard but I am learning a lot”. That is a pretty standard answer when people ask how things are going, partly because most people don’t really want to hear deeper than that, and partly because I haven’t felt ready to go deeper than that. But now that I have your attention here, and have had some good time to process it all, I am going to try! 072814 Haiti Day 3-478-XL                                                             (photo cred: SMDI Photography) Let’s start with what I am even doing here at all, because if we are being honest I still have to ask myself that sometimes too. I moved here as Help One Now’s Haiti Operations Director. There are a lot of things I set out to do in this position, and a lot of dreams and ideas I had for how my life here would look. While some of those things have come to be, most of them are completely different…more so, the journey to reach them has been much different. When moving here, I thought I would be living in a small rural community up in the mountains. I really looked forward to the cultural immersion I would gain, as I would be spending every day around locals who didn’t speak any English. Instead, I wound up in the craziness that is Port-Au-Prince, and while I have been able to observe and learn much of the culture, life down here is much different. It has been a sort of blessing in disguise though, as living down here has allowed me to meet and connect with many other missionaries and NGO workers who are fighting for some of the same things here. Without them, I may not have lasted this long. Haiti can become a very lonely place very quick, so much so that more than half of the people that move here leave after just 6 months. With  not having any family or team with me, burn out would have gotten to me more without the incredible community I have found. I have also gained and learned so much through the local leaders I get to work alongside every day. Their passion and commitment to their people is incredible, and my belief in the hope and renewal they are bringing to their country every day is really one of the main reasons why I stay and continue in this work . They truly are my heroes and I am incredibly honored to work alongside them. 072814 Haiti Day 3-387-XL (photo cred: SMDI Photography) Now lets talk about some of the hard stuff. If you want to skip this section and only read about all the good stuff and all the things I have been blessed with here, you totally can. I won’t judge you. But, this is where I am going to be most open and honest, and I believe it is necessary to truly understand life here. Haiti is a beautiful and tragic place, and it seems like a never ending struggle to keep the balance of the two in each day. The nation was once heralded as the “Pearl of the Antilles” the most beautiful place in all of the Caribbean. There are still some remnants of that, but centuries of deforestation and civil unrest have long hidden away some of that beauty. I constantly drive myself to explore the country to find some of this beauty and to remind myself that not all is lost. Beauty can still be found in the miles and miles of mountains rising up into the clouds, or in the picturesque Caribbean beaches with their white sand and turquoise clear water. It can also be found in the faces of the people; in the joy and resilience they live out every day. But this is also where the most tragedy is found. I have never met a people so unwilling as a whole to help themselves. This is partly the fault of the West and the flood of aid that has ruined any empowerment or sustainability. But there is also something else, something that causes many to see only what is in front of them and not the good of the whole. Vodou also plays a large role in this. Many people still believe in curses, and this spurs a lot of inaction when it comes to common sense in the day to day. Many times when someone gets sick, everyone believes they are just cursed and won’t allow them to seek proper medical attention. Many people get stuck in their ways and don’t try for something better because they believe that it is just the way things are and there is nothing they can do to change it. Thats why education is so key here. To start from an early age, teaching them that they are special and have worth and meaning and can do anything they set their minds to. Dealing with the disbelief in this has been one of the greatest challenges and frustrations in working here. I can’t imagine what this country would look like if everyone truly believed in their self-worth. That is why we work with our leaders to provide quality education and to help their communities see and believe this worth. My role can also be very hard because I am always stuck in between two worlds. I am the middle man who is constantly being pulled in both directions, and I am almost always the bad guy. It can be pretty thankless and invisible work, but that is also the best part about it. My greatest hope in being here is that I can stay behind the scenes and just help the leaders here accomplish their hopes and dreams for their communities. There is also much hardship and frustration in daily life for me here. Many of the things could be considered small and trivial, but they sure do add up when they are clumped together in a never ending daily loop. I got over the lack of AC and hot showers pretty quick (though I do dream of them sometimes), but there are so many other little things that make living frustrating. Inconsistency of electricity could be one, especially when it goes out for days at a time and you have to throw away all of your food. Even just going to the store to buy food can turn into an all day event and be quite stressful. I literally have to psyche myself up emotionally just to go out sometimes, which is just dumb. I could get into the stress of physical ailments over the past year (Malaria twice, Dengue, Chickungunye, Pneumonia, skin infections, bugs, getting hit by a car, crashing into the UN) but those are pretty self explanatory. All in all, this place is crazy, and there has probably not been a week that has gone by that I have not thought of just giving it all up. But God has been faithful to meet me there every time, and to remind me that He is here with me through it all. It really has been such an incredible time of learning how to trust more, to risk more, and to let go of my need to be in control of my life and the world around me. I’m not there yet (and probably won’t ever fully be), but He sure has brought me a long way over the course of this year. 081214 Haiti Day 18-165-2-X2 (photo cred: SMDI Photography) Another big part of why I am here in Haiti, and part of what keeps me going, is to try to be a window into the beauty that Haiti does have. There has always been a negative stigma with Haiti, especially after the earthquake, but there really is so much good here. I have decided to use my travel around the country to show and tell stories of this good. To share the beauty that I have gotten to experience. Many people back home give me a hard time, saying that all I’m doing is hanging out on the beaches and in the nice places of Haiti. But really, that’s just how the whole country is. I rarely go on any sort of vacation here, but rather just stop and capture the views that are all around this incredible island. If you would like to see some of the beauty that I have discovered here, you can check out my Instagram. My hope has always only been to flip the script, and get the world to see and re-invest in the beauty and value this country has to offer. 10941430_10153575768854338_8963602559934525827_n So, there is that. There is so much more I could go on about, but I got a little long winded….I guess I will just have to actually start writing regularly again. I truly am grateful for all that I have gained in this last year, and excited for the year to come. There is so much more to be done, so much more to learn, but there is time for that. Its not going to be easy, and it sure will be messy, but God will be there through it all. And though it can be quite lonely, I know that I am not alone. I have the support of an incredible organization who have poured their lives into this work. I have the most amazing team of Haitians here who constantly show me grace as I learn. And I have such a beautiful community of friends who are sharing in the struggles and the triumphs of the work here. I do still need the help of you back home though. You have no idea how much your support and encouragement mean to me. I know I always say it, but I truly could not do this without all of you beside me…you really are a part of this work just as much as I am. This first year was hard, but it has laid a critical foundation for the time ahead. Here is how you can be a part of it with me:   1. PRAY – pray for Help One Now and our local leaders on the gorund – pray for continued favor as we look to accomplish some big goals this year – pray for my health and well being as I continue the work   2. COMMUNICATE – this is something I have to do a much better job of too, but staying connected with all of you back home really does do so much for me here. I would love it if you would drop a line anytime, let me know what the best new restaurant in Austin is, or how the Dodgers are doing….anything really! Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask me the hard questions about how things are here, I need them.   3. SPONSOR A CHILD – child sponsorships are such a huge part of the work we do here, and they drive everything else we are able to do in each community. This is one of the biggest ways you can be a part of what we do, and one of the best ways to connect with the people I get to work with everyday. If you would like to know more about sponsorships, go here: https://help.reachapp.co/sponsorships   4. FINANCIAL SUPPORT – I am not very good at asking for help in this area (part of my wanting control in my life and not trusting God for things), but there really is no way I could be here without all of your help, and God has been teaching me a lot about how the body works together to accomplish His mission. Each part is different but is of equal importance, so while I might be the feet on the ground, the part you can play is just as big and important for the work here in Haiti. I was able to float by this first year with the gifts that were given when I moved, but now those are running a little thin and I am relying on a small amount of monthly support. We have set a goal for me to raise $600 each month to cover my living expenses. I am almost already a third of the way there, so if 6 more people gave $50/month or 10 gave $30/month I could get there! It doesn’t have to be anything big, we are in this together and a lot of smalls make just as much of a difference. If you are interested in supporting me with a one-time or monthly donation, you can go here: https://purecharity.com/brennonsupport   If you have made it this far, I appreciate so much your willingness and care to read this and hear how things have been here. Life here is both a blessing and a struggle, but it is a journey that I look forward to continuing together with all of you!   Peace. Love. Renewal. Brennon