So, if you've ever had a conversation with me, then I probably have talked about Haiti. However, there is probably someone really important that I left out of the story... His name is Jeff.
Jeff is one of my friends that I met in Haiti on my first trip in 2014. I had heard a ton of stories about him before I went, and I got to see all those stories come to life when I finally met him. I only spent 10 days with Jeff, but it was impossible not to love him after knowing him for an hour.
We came back to the U.S. and lived our lives while keeping in contact with Jeff and the other Haitians through Facebook. In April of 2015, we discovered that Jeff was sick. We all began to pray for Jeff. Much to our delight, Jeff did begin to get better. We were all excited that he was healing as we were preparing for our trip to Haiti in June.
I remember May 13, 2015 like it was yesterday. It was my birthday, and I was up early scrolling through Facebook just like I would any other day. That's when I saw picture after picture of Jeff with captions in Haitian Creole that I couldn't understand. It was odd, but I just overlooked it until I saw a photo with a caption in English. The caption said that Jeff had passed away early that morning.
I didn't know how to react. I was dizzy and my head was spinning. It felt like I was in a bad dream and I was going to wake up at any moment. I got a message from our team leader confirming the news. I read the message five times and it still didn't sink in. I just stared at the screen not knowing what to do. He was only 16.
I was upset. I was angry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. But, nothing happened; I felt completely... broken. That day and the weeks following were filled with tears and sorrows, but slowly, my friends and I began to heal.
We did return to Haiti in June and we decided to visit Jeff's mom, Marie, and brother, Christopher. We all were dreading going to Marie's house. You see, Haiti has a lot of voodoo, which includes witch doctors. When Jeff became sick, Marie took Jeff to the hospital and asked for prayer instead of taking him to the witch doctor. Because of this, many people blamed Marie for Jeff's death. So, not only had she lost her son, but much of the community persecuted her.
When we arrived at the house, Marie was lying on the floor with tearstained eyes repeating Jeff's name over and over. We all sat around her and sang worship songs. We started off with the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. None of us were able to make it through the first song. I cried more during that visit than I had at any other point in my life.
We all got in the vehicles without saying a word. All you could hear was the quiet sobs of broken hearts. When we returned to our compound, I got out of the van and headed straight to the bedroom I shared with two of my other friends. All three of us ended up sitting on our beds sobbing together. We eventually dried our eyes the best we could and returned to our team.
We were all grateful for that day, hard as it was. We became the living embodiment of Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The Lord comforted us when we thought our world was crashing down. He used each one of us to comfort Marie, Christopher, and each other.
A week later, we were able to visit Marie one more time before we left. The Lord had comforted her too. She was sitting outside in a chair. We were able to have a conversation with her. She even smiled. Philippians 4:7 says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That peace was evident on Marie's face.
I feel like I still have a connection to Jeff. He was actually born on my mom's birthday and passed away on mine. That means that for the rest of my life, I will have memories of Jeff. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss him. I thank the Lord that I was able to get to know him, and I am so excited to be able to see him again one day.
And on that day
When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will
Sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
And then forevermore
Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name