It’s a feeling in my gut that I can’t ignore. A mixture of excitement and fear, my insides are doing wild happy dances that leave it tied up in nauseating knots. There is a sense of certainty to it, both what it is and where it came from. The uncertainty is in the where it’s going exactly. Sometimes I pay attention and sometimes I distract myself or rationalize it away. The latter often results in disappointment and regret but the former, well, the former is hard to describe. It can be unpredictable, dangerous, unruly, terrifying, and there will more than likely be some times you wonder why on earth you have chosen that path, chosen to heed that deep gut feeling, perhaps even questioned its origin. But it is also indescribably beautiful, invigorating, joyful, and fulfilling, and there will more than likely be some times you wonder why on earth you ever questioned its origin. This is how God speaks to me.
Some friends and I went down to Lake Michigan one day during college. There was an older man sitting at the edge of the water fishing; he looked like the kind of guy who probably had trouble making ends meet. My eyes kept being drawn toward him and it didn’t take long for that unmistakable feeling to settle into the pit of my stomach. Like the butterflies flitting around in my stomach had grabbed hold of the newly formed knots there and pulled me gently, firmly, then fervently toward him. I debated in my mind for what felt like hours but what was probably only a few moments. What was I planning to do when I got over there? What would I say to him? Wouldn’t it be incredibly awkward and probably pointless? I walked over and sat down next to the man and to this day I have no idea what I said to him. But a few minutes later he was reading to me from a large stack of tattered loose-leaf notebook pages his own poetry for God, a sort of personal Psalms he had created. Maybe he had read them to everyone he knew, maybe he read them only to me. I don’t remember anything specific about his poems, and after a while we parted ways, but I had a vivid impression of the feeling I had and a certainty that it had come from God. It was like a dry run, a scrimmage, for God to teach me, to remind me, what His voice sounded like in my life and a chance to practice paying attention.
Last week God spoke to me again. His voice is not audible to me, but clear nonetheless, at least if I’m not tuning it out. I’ll give you a little context. We were finishing up our second round of interviews for the research project and our friend Inelson was helping us out again. The neighbor of our last participant popped his head in the door right at the end of the interview and asked if he could help her answer the last few questions. He shared with us some very logical and insightful thoughts on the inefficiencies of their farming systems and his vision for a better rural Haiti. God has made Haiti a very fertile land, but Haitians still struggle to really reap its benefits. Ha! Pun intended J
We were talking to Inelson about everything on our way home and he shared with us his own dream. Inelson graduated from high school about 3 years ago and has wanted to study agriculture in a university ever since. But he’s never gotten that opportunity, never even been close. In asking what he would want to do with that university education, he did not mention any sort of personal gain, didn’t talk about the money he could make or anything like that. What does Inelson want to do? He wants to take his education back to his village and teach his neighbors what he learned. Terrifyingly excited butterfly dances ensued. I’ve felt that before! I know what that is! I know who that is! Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. A rush of thoughts, plans, questions, butterflies, knots. Can you see where this is headed?
We talked together after bringing Inelson home, and here’s what Wilson and I knew God was saying to us. I tell you this for two reasons, by the way. First, because sharing our own experiences can remind and encourage others to fix their eyes on things above. Second, because we want to give you the opportunity to get involved. I’m like giddy-excited about this and it seems selfish to try to keep it to myself. But back to the idea He planted in us:
We have committed to paying for Inselson to attend the Christian University of North Haiti where he will enroll in the 5-year agricultural program. We will stay in close touch with him throughout that time so we are aware of his progress, his needs, and can continue to build our friendship with him and encourage him in his faith. We don’t know what else may develop but we are open to wherever God takes us. It’s certainly not a quick fix but that’s not what we’re after. Maybe a time will come when we can provide them with farming equipment they need. Maybe someone or a group of people will need a loan to begin using new knowledge and techniques. Maybe one of you will have a unique skill or area of expertise that can cross a bridge or fill a gap. “Bondye konnen”, “God knows.” We will just take the first step He has shown us. I just pictured playing Super Mario Bros 2 on my Gameboy. Wow, how long ago was that?! Even though you only see what’s on that little pixilated screen you just keep running full speed ahead cause you know there’s a little bell to ring somewhere off in the distance. We should all be a little more like Gameboy Mario, or really like ourselves controlling Gameboy Mario. You may only see one small step ahead of you, but you just have to trust God and move forward. I bought a shirt on clearance at Old Navy the other day (cause that’s the only way I’ll buy clothes these days!) and it said “Beautiful things are on the horizon.” I’m telling you, what God has in store is far more beautiful than Mario’s little bell.
Are you in? Do you want to be part of Inelson’s story? Part of God’s story? Get in touch with me via commenting below, facebook, Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org, or when you see me face-to-face and I’ll answer any questions you might have and be open to whatever God is saying to you about all this. Most of you probably won’t feel called to this specific endeavor, but Wilson and I are committed regardless of who, if anyone, joins us. We will also be continually listening to God for other opportunities and if you listen closely He may be sharing a completely different vision with you. The seriously ridiculous part of this vision is that one year of tuition, room, and board for Inelson is in the ballpark of $800. Yeah, I know! For everyone who loathes math, that’s only $4,000 for the entire 5-year program and covers his living expenses during that time. So we need to start praying Now that Inelson is accepted into this competitive program, that God would remain the focus and driving force in this and all our endeavors, that we would all stay attentive to His voice and have the faith to take the next step into the unknown.