JOURNEYS

Answering the Call

Twenty-four-year-old graphic designer leaves everything behind in America to commit to seeing Haiti rebuild

Stephen Byxbe rides on a Tap-tap, one of the taxi-bus transportation systems. He recently moved to Haiti to contribute to the efforts of Haiti Outreach Ministries. © Nathan Lee 2010

Nathan Lee plays with Haiti kids in the city of Blanchard, where he and Stephen Byxbe are working alongside Haiti Outreach Ministries. © Stephen Byxbe 2010

A snap shot of Cite Soleil, one of the places that was hit by the earthquake here and one of the poorest areas in Haiti. The city is full of tents. It is one of the places that Haiti Outreach Ministries and Stephen Byxbe is working. © Stephen Byxbe  2010

God has a wonderful way of making you feel and know that you are where He wants you to be.

I’ve been in Haiti now for almost a week, helping in the rebuilding process alongside Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) in a town called Blanchard. I’ve given up just about everything I know in America, a graphic design business and the all comforts that is a part of the United States, to come here to answer God’s call for my life.

Even though I am continually caked in sweat, now live in a world where electricity is a luxury, eat rice and beans for nearly every meal, I am joyful, for I know God is here, and He wants me to be here. My quiet time on this night, where I type my daily blog to friends and family back home, is the tallest building in Blanchard, which is about a 200,000 person city about 3-4 miles outside of downtown Port-au-Prince. It gives me a vantage of the entire area and a unique perspective of the world I am now a part of. In my immediate vicinity is a darkness because there are no lights here, because there is no electricity. You can’t see anything but you can make out the sounds of voices, the sounds of people singing, large vehicles moving (most likely military from the nearby bases), and the rustling of palm leaves. Sitting here, in the serenity of it all, peering at the stars above, I can feel His presence and feel that I am doing His will. I thank God for consistently pulling me closer and closer so that I would pick up on His will for me. God is Great!

That peacefulness in the atmosphere is gone by sunrise, as the work day begins, as the challenge to get a crumbled city to stand again. My role here is to help where needed, in the construction effort of facilities on the Blanchard, in loading supplies for the medical teams that will man a clinic in nearby Cite Soleil, in helping incoming missionaries get adjusted and get plugged in. I don’t have a set job per se, but I am being used in a number of different ways, all to help uplift the rebuilding and Gospel sharing process that is in the works here.

It is difficult work…but God is at work…and we continue to make positive steps in meeting the need here.

* * * I never thought my life would take shape like this, not when I graduated from Mercer University in 2007 with a degree in studio art (painting) and started a graphic design firm in Macon, GA. But God always has the plans… During the beginning of 2009, my walk with Christ and my faith began to really develop on a much deeper level than I had ever experienced. I began to feel like my calling in life was changing (or the real one was coming into view). I felt the need to go and serve God’s people who were in desperate need of help. In America we are so blessed. I have never been without. I have never had to fight for food, struggle to survive or go without. We take so many things for granted. I felt the calling to give up my “comfortable” setting and experience life without all of the amenities that we take for granted. As I was trying to determine where God wanted me to go–or what options I had–I came across Costa Rica. I began to research it and had a pretty good feeling about it, but never felt 100% sure. I was sitting in a coffee shop with some friends one day talking about travel plans and Haiti came into discussion. This was Jan 12, 2010- the day of the earthquake in Haiti. I knew that there had been an earthquake, but did not know the intensity. At that moment I knew it was where I needed to go. I wanted deeply to help the homeless and those without food and water. And so I began to make plans with a friend of mine, Nathan Lee, who also feeling a similar call. A month and half after first sensing that notion, we made the leap, hopping on a plane bound for Haiti Feb. 27. We are now here for at least a year, if not more, whatever God’s will is. * * *

We arrived to much fanfare, as most people coming to Haiti are, for with each person from other countries that enters Haiti it brings with them hope. I estimated that what seemed like a thousand Haitians met us at the airport, looking to help us out in some way and receive a monetary reward for it.

Nathan and I were met by Pastor Leon, who leads HOM in Haiti, and Bill Glass, the president of HOM. They took us and drove us to the Blanchard compound. On the way, we passed through Cite Soleil, one of the places the HOM ministers to [they have 4 churches: Cite Soleil, Terre Noire (in Blanchard), Repatriote, and Ibo Beach]. The sense of poverty there struck me, a complete squatter village, where people are living in ditches, on the median of the road, and even in piles of trash.

The day after we arrived was a Sunday, so we got to worship with the Haitians and relief workers here. It was a very early service…6:30 a.m. Even at that early hour, you could tell that the Haitians were so enthused to be there, like they had waited all week for it. Because of language barrier, we didn’t understand what was being said but RELLY enjoyed the music. We met a lot of the Haitians that made up the community here and it was good to establish that initial connection, one that I knew would grow in the time we would spend here.

As I entered into my time in the Word on that night, I read through Hebrews and was struck by Hebrews 4:12-13: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates to even dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” From this I just felt the desire to strive to live a life that is constantly and willingly laid bare before our Amazing God, and not fight for any of it. To have less of me and more of Him.

I continue to strive for that while here in Haiti, as I continue to fulfill His call for me to serve the most needy.

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Stephen Byxbe and friend Nathan Lee are currently serving with Haiti Outreach Ministries (www.haitioutreachministries.org). You may follow his blog at stephenbyxbe.com and Nathan’s blog at www.harvestforhaiti.com.