Hope. And a machete.

Guest post by Baker Ellis, Vapor Ministries Communication Coordinator

The first thing I noticed was the trash.


I don’t know what I expected – certainly not Waste Management trucks rumbling down the pockmarked roads – but I was wholly unprepared for the vast tapestry of junk woven across the top of the landscape’s natural beauty. That’s the first memory.


The second makes me smile to this day. Our bus driver had to relieve himself en route from the airport in Cap Haitian to our destination in Ouanaminthe. So, he made the only decision available to him. He pulled the bus over on the side of the main – and only – road, turned the engine off, hopped out and took care of his business. A few of us took the opportunity to follow suit. When in Rome. The road was sparse and rural, with no structure in sight. As the small contingent of men who had hopped off the bus attempted to amble back on, there was a rustle in the underbrush off to the side.


Three children, the oldest no more than six, appeared, all eyes and teeth. Amused and likely a little confused at the strange assortment of men with white skin, they had come to investigate. Closer examination revealed a small, ramshackle, semi-completed hut not 20 yards off the road, alone in a field. A pregnant woman had poked her head out of the structure, keeping an eye on exactly what her three charges were investigating.


Barely clothed and with a new audience, the children began to dance and shout. The oldest, a boy, rustled around in the underbrush before snapping back upright, dull machete in hand, huge smile on his face. He began to hack at a nearby tree with all of the fervor he could muster, machete slicing through the air with all of the care and precision of a tornado. The two younger siblings completely ignored his antics, focused entirely on their own choreography. Then, the driver of the bus gave us a polite honk, we climbed back on and continued our journey. The three youngsters waved until we had pulled out of sight.


Welcome to Haiti.


The course of my life changed in a very real way over a 72 hour period in October of 2018. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but looking back now it is impossible to deny. Three days in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country was more than enough time for me to bury a piece of my heart at the foot of those beautiful mountains. The Lord gave my life a fresh purpose on that trip, something I sorely needed.


At 27, I had achieved a level of professional success that most would deem marginal, but for me was more than I had hoped for. I was the President and Publisher of two separate media companies, with approximately 20 total employees between the two. I had inherited both in financially dire straits, and was doing my best to breathe new life into each. I was young, in charge, making good money with the prospect of additional advancement opportunities and fancier titles ahead of me.


And I had never felt emptier.


Not only was I unfulfilled, I was also nervous. I looked around at others in my position, most of whom were 20 years my senior, and the majority of them seemed mad, bored, sad or some combination of the three. They also couldn’t pivot, not practically at least. With older children and a stable salary, changing careers and stepping out into the unknown wasn’t really a viable option for most of them. So, they had all made the bargain with themselves to punch a clock until they were 65 or 70, never really investing in, or invigorated by, their work. They were simply waiting to cash out and spend the rest of their lives chasing dreams they had put on hold for decades.


The thought of following that path terrified me to no end.


I quickly realized I did not want that life. I didn’t mind hard work and long hours, but I wanted to care about what I did, I wanted my work to matter, at least to some extent. I didn’t want to wake up at 35 or 40 or 50, locked into a profession that brought a healthy paycheck and no meaning. I couldn’t - I wouldn’t – live that life.


So, I started praying. For direction, for guidance, for a burning bush, for something. I asked that God open doors where He saw fit, and close the doors I shouldn’t wander through. I ended up on a Vapor Ministries’ trip. Ten months later, I went to work for the entity.


I recognize this is not the typical response from a short-term mission trip. It isn’t practical for nearly any participant. But the trip helped me crystalize a purpose and contextualize a need.


The need in places like Haiti can really feel overwhelming. It is overwhelming. I have often wondered about those three young children and that pregnant mother. Where are they now? Do they have access to education, clean water, consistent food, or the gospel? I don’t know. I hope so. More people live in Haiti (~11.2 million) than every state in the U.S. save seven. And the overwhelming majority live in situations just like that little family. Experiencing the smallest taste of life there is enough to make your head spin from the comprehensive need.


But we serve an overwhelming God. We serve a God who is working through tremendous people to change lives and circumstances. We serve a God who can do more than our minds can fathom and more than our eyes can believe. This is the type of work being done right now in places like Haiti through organizations like Vapor Ministries.


For me, a trip to Haiti was the result of a restlessness I could not shake, and a need to recalibrate my purpose. For you, it could be an opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation, or simply an opportunity for statistics to become faces. I recommend it to anyone who can go.


Will the Lord ask you to quit your job, sell your possessions and live in a hut in some far-flung corner of the globe if you choose to go? Probably not. Will He use the opportunity to fan a flame of passion for the least and the lost? Most assuredly so.


For more information on Vapor trips, visit Vaporministries.org/trips.


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28: 19-20