“But you’re gonna have to hike.”
Little did she know that just days before as my team flew into the beautiful mountains of Haiti, I had looked longingly at the stunning mountain range and asked the Lord timidly, “Could I please go for a hike this week?”
I knew it was unlikely. We were traveling with a most efficient organization. Schedules would be unlikely to change, time would be unlikely to spare. An opportunity to leave the protected campus to gallivant in the mountains as my heart so desired would not avail itself, I was quite sure.
But boy, did I want to. I thought back on the opportunities I’ve had to travel this beautiful world, nearly every adventure has included time in the mountains. Coming from Florida, hiking was not a thing I grew up loving. Instead, it’s a love that has steadily grown through adventures abroad (and some stateside, too).
There was sadness in my heart as we flew into Haiti early that Wednesday morning and I gazed on the wonder around us. I thought briefly to the hikes I’ve taken abroad and felt again the tender way the Lord has spoken to me in the mountains. Knowing it was a foolish question, I asked again anyways: “Could I please go for a hike this week?”
I couldn’t help but giggle when Haley, the sponsorship coordinator at Mission of Hope, approached me at breakfast on our second morning to tell me she had arranged for me to visit the darling little girl I sponsor. But she was quick to explain:
“Idene lives at one of our partner schools in the mountains and it’s a little more involved for us to travel there. The whole visit will take several hours and to get there you’re gonna have to hike. The hike itself is an hour and half each way… If you don’t want to go, we understand.”
I’m gonna have to hike?
Oh, how sweet our Jesus is to us.
You hear a lot of things when you choose to go into ministry. It’s well intended, I imagine, but it gives your mind a bent toward pessimism and negativity.
I was told that business or teaching was a better career choice. I could just volunteer at church and achieve the same results. I was told I could use my intelligence for far more than ministry. I was told that people would hurt me. That ministry was messy. People wouldn’t love well. They wouldn’t listen. I would end up wasting much of my time. I was told people would talk about Jesus a lot more than they would act like him. I was told it wouldn’t be worth it.
They were right about the first part. Ministry is messy. People are manipulative and selfish. They say hurtful things – to you and about you. There were days and sometimes weeks that I dreamed of cushy 8-5, a job where I left my work at the office.
But no one tells you that pouring your whole heart into a group of students has the ability to wreck you in the best possible way.
No one tells you ice cream dates with fourth graders will be the highlight of your week. No one tells you that watching your students at “signing day” for a college sport will make you swell with more pride than your own finest day. No one tells you you’ll cry when you watch them share the gospel on a hot summer day in Haiti. No one tells you that you’ll beam as you watch them walk across the stage, and that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night wondering how they’re doing in college.
No one tells you you’ll cry the ugliest cry of your whole life as you drive away, with everything you own packed tightly in your little SUV. No one will tell you that leaving will be the hardest thing the Lord could ever ask you to do.
And no one tells you it will all be worth it.
People tell you it’s messy alright, and surely they aren’t wrong. But no one tells you how much better you will become. How deeply your heart will desire that they know Jesus. How quickly you would be willing to give up everything, if only they might trust Him with the pains & sorrows of their lives.
We’re quick to highlight the bad days and to discourage people from going knee-deep in the mess of another person’s life. We’re quick to tell people when it will be hard; when it won’t be worth it. Can I be the first to tell you?
You’re gonna have to hike.
Anything worth having in life – with the Lord and with others – is worth hiking for. You’re gonna have to hike…
To know Jesus intimately. To serve Him recklessly. To pursue the girl you can’t stop thinking about. To wait for the boy who seems to fumble through every word. To get the job you dream of. To create the family you long for. To be obedient. To be faithful. To grow. It will often be impractical and expensive. It will be easier to say ‘no’ and never think of it again.
That adventure into the Haitian mountains on a hot Monday morning was long, and it was hot, and we were wretchedly sweaty when we got to the top. My neck was purple from a sunburn and I was reminded how out of shape I truly am. Yet it is lodged in my heart as one of the dearest memories of my whole life. It was a hike, alright, but meeting Idene on her 5th birthday from a mountain top overlooking the nation of Haiti with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop? I’d hike it again ten thousand times.
Whether you’re hiking through long days at camp, or volunteering to lead a middle school small group at church, or deciding if someone is worth it, or simply wading through a rough season personally…