Monday, April 15, 2013

Haiti Part 2: Getting There

Our awesome Haiti mission team.
My family's experience in Haiti was life-changing, and the journey to get us there was nothing short of miraculous.

For most of our adult lives, Ron and I have felt called to the people of our own city. We've always thought of ourselves as "local missionaries," and while we admired, appreciated, and supported those who felt called to go, we knew we were called to stay. We had never been anywhere else, and we had no desire to change that. Our passion has been for the poor and the oppressed who live right here in OKC.

Enter Jacey Crawford. In addition to being a ninja-level prayer warrior, our middle child is also a lover of children. She's a giant magnet for all manner of kids and babies, but she has a special love for orphans. Her dream for as long as she's been alive is to grow up and adopt a rainbow of children from different countries around the world. So when our church announced that they were planning a mission trip, Jacey heard the words "Haiti" and "orphanage" and she was sold. She turned to me and said, "I'm going to Haiti. I don't care how it happens or who goes with me, but I'm going." And I knew she wasn't kidding around.

The only problem with that was our finances, or lack thereof. Because of some major changes in our circumstances, the last couple of years have been really difficult for us in a lot of ways, but especially financially. The prospect of taking an international trip was so far out of our range, it was almost laughable. When we brought this little detail up in conversation with Jacey, she just looked at us and said, "Duh. I'm gonna pray about it." And we all know what happens when she prays about something.

So we started praying that if God wanted us to go to Haiti, He'd make it very clear and provide a way. At first, we thought only Jacey and I would go, but the more we talked and prayed about it, the more our whole family wanted to go. We knew it would take miraculous provision from God whether two of us went, or five, so why not ask for the whole shebang? He is the One who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, right? And if we weren't supposed to go, we prayed He would make that clear to us, too.

At the end of October, we went to the first meeting to get information about the trip and our eyes nearly popped out of our heads when we started adding up the total price for a family of five. In addition to the trip cost, we would also need passports, shots, medicines, clothing, and lots of other supplies and incidentals. Ron and I shared several this-is-never-going-to-happen looks throughout the course of the meeting. Our kids whispered, "Are we going?" We whispered back, "We'll have to see." (which all parents and kids know is code for "No").

But after the meeting, before we even had time to get out of our seats, a friend came over and sat with us. She grabbed my hand and began to tell us how the Lord had been speaking to her about our family. "I just really feel like your whole family is supposed to go on this trip," she said. Then she told us that she and her husband had a lot of reward miles and they'd like to use them to pay for all five of our plane tickets! She had no idea how we had been praying, but in that moment, she was the embodiment of God's answer to us. Tears pooled in my eyes as we looked at our kids and said, "This is our answer. We're going to Haiti."

The next order of business was to get our passports, but we needed almost $1,000, which we did not have. We had a plan for fundraising, but at this point, the only action we'd taken was prayer. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that over the next few weeks, our friends and family just started handing us money, saying, "We heard you're going to Haiti and we want to help." We stuffed the money in an envelope and by the end of December, we had enough to apply for our passports. We were told to allow at least six weeks for processing, or we could expedite them for an extra $300. On the day we applied, we were exactly six weeks from our travel date. The agent who did our applications said it was a gamble, but we didn't have the extra money for expediting, so we continued praying that if God wanted us to go, He'd make a way. Our passports arrived in our mailbox two and a half weeks later.

Next came shots and all the required meds, which is much more daunting when you don't have health insurance. We were looking at another $1,000 or more for all five of us to get everything we needed. But throughout January, more friends and family jumped in to help fill our envelope, and we were referred to a travel health clinic that was rumored to give discounts to people going on mission trips. On the day of our appointment, we sat through our consultation with $800 in our envelope and asked the nurse to give us only what was absolutely necessary. As we went through the list and added things up, it came to $1,025, so we decided to get everything the kids needed, then Ron and I would get ours later. The nurse was so kind, and finally just came right out and asked how much we could spend. I pulled out our envelope and told him we had $800. He punched in a few things on his computer, then grinned and said, "Hmm. Looks like I added some things wrong. That'll be $800."

At this point, we were less than three weeks away from the trip and everything was falling into place. But every good story has a major conflict, and ours came in a phone call on a Thursday morning. Our friend had tried to purchase our plane tickets, but there was a glitch. She wouldn't be allowed to use her reward miles until the next billing cycle, which started the day before we were scheduled to leave, so there was a good chance that there wouldn't be five seats available on the flights we needed. The temptation to freak out was huge, but God had already orchestrated so many things, so we kept praying. If He wanted us to go, nothing could stop us.

For the next ten days, we prayed and waited. We filled our prayer jar with all our concerns. Worry and fear hovered just below the surface, but deep down, we knew that God was about to do something amazing.

Our prayer jar.
I think there are five separate prayers
about our plane tickets in the jar.

Eight days before the trip, we got another phone call. Our church had rallied around the mission team and collected special offerings to help with the remaining costs. After the final count, there was enough money to buy all five of our plane tickets. And, just like God, He put us in First Class on one of the flights.

There were countless other details that God took care of, too, right down to providing precious friends to keep our dog for us while we were gone.

We asked if He wanted us to go, and He said yes.

Now, all we had to do was pack.

How about you? Do you have any crazy trip-planning stories? Or a story of God's amazing provision?