I left my mission trip early. (Here's why)
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
In April, I left my job and went on a trip with YWAM Ships to serve the Lord and people in a different country. You can read my first update here.
Discipleship Training School (DTS):
The first three months were spent in Hawaii and involved laying down a foundation of who God is and who we are called to be in Christ. I already have a solid foundation of who God is in my life, so most of what we learned were just reminders. However, God was still doing work in my heart during this time. It was like He placed a mirror in front of me to show me what needed pruning. It was difficult to deal with my emotions and the pruning God was doing in my heart, but now I’m more self-aware than I've ever been. Also, it brought me joy to see how my peers were receiving new revelations of God and watching the work He was doing in their hearts. I appreciated hearing the different perspectives on the many characteristics of God from our speakers each week. These lecture times were my favorite times of the day.
Preparing for Outreach:
My team's original location was Papua New Guinea, but that country was closed due to COVID, so we prepared for Haiti through prayer and intercession. I was thrilled about serving there (and I wanted to serve my fellow brown people).
There were teams in our organization already serving there, so my team leaders scheduled time to talk and get questions answered.
During said FaceTime call, the leaders began to rant about their cultural preferences and mentioned that the Haitians referred to the white missionaries as “Blon”, which means “white man”. In response, the white leaders permitted us to use N****er (not nègre) towards the Haitians.
The white team leaders in Haiti told us that they were given permission to use the derogatory name and that if we had a problem, we just needed to get over ourselves.
Of course, a wave of righteous anger came over me, and I expressed my anger towards the situation. I was disappointed that Christian missionaries felt it would be okay to say that. My leaders knew it was wrong but of course, with me being the only African American, they couldn't understand the magnitude of the offense. I expressed my disappointment and not wanting to continue with the team. I was told that no one on our team had permission to use the word and therefore I didn’t need to allow the enemy to cause division in our team. At that moment, I didn’t feel heard or truly empathized with. On top of that, none of my DTS school leaders mentioned the incident to me, and the leaders who spoke derogatory names never directly apologize to me.
Now I'll be clear, I was not looking for sympathy, I was looking for accountability, support, and a willingness to educate themselves. My expectations were high because I was with people who profess to be Christians. I ended up speaking with an African-American man on my base (who happened to work in the training department) about the incident. He let me know that the base would be conducting training for all the leaders moving forward to hopefully prevent this type of incident from happening again.
Here is what I assume:
Some Haitians are probably oblivious to the origins of the n-word, especially coming from the tongues of white men. I am also aware that some white Americans can be unaware of black American history and oppression. That is why I wanted to give these two leaders the benefit of the doubt that maybe they were just… unaware.
However, that is not much of an excuse. I want to encourage all missionaries (especially white Americans) to consider learning the culture of the ethnic groups in their own country before quickly running to help people in foreign countries. Going to foreign countries in ignorance of what’s socially and racially insensitive in your backyard is irresponsible and your “help” can easily become harmful, in my opinion.
Shortly after this incident, the president was assassinated, and political unrest broke out in the country. Everyone predicted it was unsafe for Americans to enter Haiti. Our team would have settled in Cap-Haitien, which was about a 5-hour drive from Port-au-Prince (where the president was assassinated). The missionaries who were already in Haiti left, and a few went to the Dominican Republic (DR). Still, my leaders expressed feeling called to Haiti, so they sent us to the Dominican Republic to wait for things to calm down. I spent roughly 3-weeks in the DR, and my team ministered to children and served in hospitality at the base.
I was not afraid to enter Haiti, but I did not feel peace about going... and that is all there is to it. I don’t believe what I thought I was going on this trip for was actually what God had planned. I thought I was going there to serve and do marvelous works, but I believe I was there to represent and educate whoever was willing to listen.
As I mentioned in my fundraising letter, less than 1% of foreign missionaries on the field are African American. On top of that, I was the only African American in my school or on my outreach team. That was more than enough reason I wanted to finish my trip, but I decided to leave early. It was a hard decision that took me weeks to make. I didn’t want to disappoint myself or my team, but I was battling an internal fight that I couldn’t get over. I have learned over the years that God will give us the grace for what He is calling us to do. Unfortunately, I no longer felt graced to be there.
My experience was what it was, and I am thankful for it. It opened my eyes to many things. I learned patience, built bridges, and loved people well. I allowed God to do some painful work in me, and I am stronger because of it. I’m also thankful because I have an awareness of what I want to pursue professionally in the future. I hope to go on another mission trip in the future. Until then, I’m content to serve my local community, continue writing, and do all the things the Lord has placed on my heart to do in this season.
A few members from my team did make it into Haiti and are safe! Please, continue to pray with me for their safety. Pray that God will continue to move in and through them during this time. They will return to Hawaii in a few weeks.
Until next time.