Since becoming involved with Heart to Heart Children’s Home in Haiti (H2H) I have been repeatedly asked to tell my story; Who are you? What are you doing in Haiti?
These questions usually stump me & I try to gracefully avoid them whenever possible. I think my hesitation comes from the fear that I don’t know the answers myself. I feel like I’m on a windy road & I’m not sure where it will lead me. In the past I have been embarrassed to admit this – it seems like everyone wants to know “the plan” and it has been difficult to ask people to support me when I’m not exactly sure what they’re supporting!! Thankfully, my attitude has changed over time and I am now comfortable admitting that I’m not sure what my future holds & I hope God continues to keep me in suspense. I do, however, realize that people sincerely want to know more about who I am (or who I think I am) and what I’m doing in Haiti. Here is my attempt to share a bit of my story with you…
…it began on a chilly February day back in 1978 on Sunnybrook Farm…
Who am I?
I am Rebecca. I like to have fun. I am easily excitable. I like to learn new things. I hate public speaking. I am stubborn. I am a procrastinator. I am calm in turmoil. I am empathetic. I am slow to forgive. I am a people pleaser. I am productive when motivated. I am impatient. I have a servant’s heart. I am rebellious. I am trustworthy. I love my family. I am organized. I play hockey. I knit. I can multitask effectively. I am a baby when I’m sick. I have no sense of direction. I am competitive. I am scared of dogs & raccoons. I get sun-stroke easily. I am clumsy. I sing when I drive. I am a leader. I must drink coffee everyday. I do not fear death. I am independent. I am grumpy when I wake up. I am generous. I am hospitable. I am territorial. I am indecisive. I am reliable. I don’t like to ask for help. I am respectful. I am persuasive. I like to laugh. I am learning to play the flute. I am confident. I like to shop. I am afraid to disappoint my father. I have a poker face. I am now bilingual (English/Creole). I am obsessive. I am passionate. I don’t like disorder. I am caring. I am willing. I like to wear black. I bite my nails. I like to see others succeed. I like to sleep. I am a hard worker. I don’t like swimming in the ocean. I don’t like gossip. I like to feel needed. I am grateful. I make people feel comfortable around me. I am afraid of the dark. I am open-minded. I have given my life to Jesus & will serve Him where He places me…despite who I am.
What am I doing in Haiti?
I will answer this question but I’m going to back up a bit first. There was a time in my life when I was incredibly content & happy. I had what I thought was the perfect little life…job, car, boyfriend, friends, and nothing but bright thoughts of the future. Despite growing up in a Christian family, being active in my church & attending Bible College, it was a time in my life that I was far from God…although I hid it well from family, friends & even myself. I clearly remember laying in bed with the flu & thinking that it had been a really long time since I had prayed, or even considered what role God was playing in my life. I prayed a quick but brutally honest prayer that went something like this;
“God, I am happier than I have been in a long time & farther from you than I have ever been. I don’t feel that I’m missing you in my life… if I am you are going to have to do something big to show yourself to me as I don’t want to live the life of a hypocrite.”
I drifted off to sleep & woke the next day with my eyes open, truly open. Within hours of waking up my long-term relationship ended, taking with it the future plans we had made together, and the following 2 weeks stripped me of many of the things feeding my false sense of happiness & security. A car accident wrote-off my sports car, which was weeks from being paid off. A senseless accident tragically changed the life of a close friend. Death took my grandpa, who was a friend as well as a role model. I felt like I was being torn apart inside by physical pain & lost, yet it was clear to me that my prayer had been answered…in a way that I couldn’t ignore. God helped me walk through those weeks with dignity and I walked into a new chapter of my life – more humble & with an unbreakable confidence that I no longer was missing what I hadn’t realized I so desperately needed. I accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour as a child but those difficult weeks strengthened our relationship & prepared me for the life of service that He is asking all of us…although I don’t believe He is asking us all to do it in Haiti ☺
I first came to Haiti in 2005 with a short-term mission team from my home church, Pacific Community Church (PCC). I had no previous dreams of doing missions & didn’t even have the bug to travel – I had a friend go on a similar trip a few years before & she encouraged me to go. I fell in love with the kids immediately & started helping H2H with their newsletter upon my return. I wanted to help but I envisioned a role that would help across the ocean…with a yearly visit or so. I returned to Haiti the following year and had my heart broken for the first time. The kids remembered me & were more open but it was so frustrating to not be able to speak to them. I remember my final night at H2H clearly – Wilkenson, my little buddy (in the picture above), was so upset that I was leaving & I couldn’t say more to him than, “My name is Rebecca & I love you.” I still laugh when I think about how silly I must have sounded to him as I repeated it for what seemed like hours as he cried in my lap. I decided that night that I needed to learn Creole if I was going to continue to come to H2H. I bought every Creole book I could find in the airport & returned to Canada determined but I got nowhere trying to learn Creole from a book and started to feel restless with the hamster wheel of my life. I itched to go back to Haiti but thought living at H2H alone would be too hard as there are no other “blancs” there & it lacked the comforts of home that I required…or so I thought at the time. I had a friend who worked at a baby orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and I decided to quit my job & go there for 3 months to try to learn Creole. My long terms plans were still to return to Canada after the 3 months, find another job & continue to return to H2H Haiti yearly.
About a month into my stay at God’s Littlest Angels (GLA) I visited H2H for the Easter weekend…it is a weekend that I’ll never forget but one that has always been difficult for me to put into words. I walked into the compound and a peace came over me. The children didn’t know I was coming & the look on their faces tugged at my heart. Pastor Luc & his wife Michelle had been living at the compound but had recently moved into a private home in town because Michelle was very sick with cancer. Although Pastor Luc continued to run H2H and was at the compound daily, I felt there was a hole and I desperately wanted to help. I felt inadequate to say the least…a month at GLA hadn’t gotten me very far with my Creole and who was I to help care for 100 kids! How could I mentor them…I had once taught a Sunday School class about Moses’ Ark!! The pulling at my heart increased as the weekend passed and as Pastor Luc drove me back to GLA I told him I felt like God wanted me to come to H2H to stay for a “few months”. Luc just smiled broadly and said, “Me too.” I returned to GLA and told them of my weekend and they supported me completely to opt out of the rest of my time at GLA and relocate to H2H. I was back at H2H within a few weeks. My revised plan was to finish my original 3 months at H2H, return to Canada for the summer, sell off ‘my possessions’ and return to H2H for a year.
It was an incredible year! Here is the article I wrote for the H2H newsletter as my year came to an end:
As I only have one page in this newsletter to summarize my year at H2H I’m going to direct you to my blog for the details (www.rebeccalarkin.blogspot.com) & here I’m just going to tell you what I’ve learned about tile floors. Disappointed? Give it a read before you decide ☺
The Guesthouse has tile floors – I have swept them, mopped them, cleaned vomit off them, cleaned blood off them, been brought to tears on them, slept on them, slipped on them & several times experienced God on them.
The Call to come to H2H was clear but the reason was a bit fuzzy. I’ve struggled with knowing there are other people who are more qualified & have more to offer the kids. In my pep talks I kept reminding myself that my strength is my versatility & that could cover all circumstances – weak, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures! Thanks to my dad’s coaching technique I am pretty good at giving pep talks, even to myself. That kept me going for several months but a time came when it was no longer sufficient as it relied on my ability to always be there for myself. How can you be there when you’re too tired to take out your contacts before going to bed most nights – which I don’t recommend several nights in a row! How can you be there when you’re broken? There were times when I laid on my immaculately mopped tile floor (that only slightly smelled like the mildew mop I used) and cried out to God to become my strength, to be the food that nourishes me, to be the water that hydrates me, to remove my personal agenda & to align my dreams with His will for my life. It wasn’t an immediate change, nor one that is finished, but God met me as I laid on the tile floor & answered my prayers in practical ways. He helped me stomach the spaghetti/rice diet. He gave me discernment to know when to help & when to allow someone else to step in. He gave me pep talks when I looked into the kids’ eyes. He gave me fellowship & encouragement through new friends. He gave me strength when I had to look into the face of death, starvation & evil. He filled me with His love so there was always enough for others. This year I was His tile floor, which He swept, mopped, waxed & repaired when broken. On His floor the kids found love, not because the floor was anything special, but because on the tile floor they played with their Father.
As the year came to a close I was peppered with questions from the kids: “Are you really leaving us? When are you coming back?” I didn’t have the heart to say I wasn’t coming back and I was scared at the thought of coming back. I thought of what I was giving up in Canada but then became ashamed of my selfishness and was overwhelmed with the realization of what the kids meant to me & how much I would miss them. I wanted to be there when they were sick. I wanted to cheer for them when they played soccer. I wanted to be there when they got their report cards. I wanted to let them finish teaching me to be a “real girl”…washing by hand, braiding hair, cooking over a fire, etc. I wanted them to have someone to disappoint when they messed up. I wanted them to know that I really did love them. Somehow my thoughts of what I was giving up disappeared and were replaced with fear…how was I going to tell my family I was going back to Haiti? Amazingly enough they knew it before I did!
For now H2H is where my pillow is, so for now it is my home. My long-term plans are still unclear but I’m ok with that. If I would have known the first time I entered the H2H compound that I would soon call it home, I probably wouldn’t have entered…and it would have been my loss. I love living in Haiti and I love the kids at H2H…despite who I am.