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by Seth Vautaw

"I will never complain about potholes and 'poor' roads back home again...that's what this place has given me: a frame of reference, " said my teammate Chris as we sat knee to knee in the middle seat of a 14 passenger Toyota van. We were at max capacity going about 60 mph and had to come to a complete stop to avoid what looked like a few meteor craters in the middle of the road. Only 5 miles from the Haitian capital, we were by no means in the middle of nowhere.

The phrase he used—"frame of reference"—struck me as we were making our way to our destination for the week.

As we drove past homes that resembled campsites and dodged cattle in the middle of the road, it dawned on me: we were a long way from my comfort zone. I began to become aware of things that I didn’t want to know existed, things that my first-world American mind didn’t want to acknowledge. “People actually live in these conditions” I said to myself as we passed trenches of homes that looked more like outhouses than homes. Americans can’t fully understand the daily luxuries they live in until they experience a place like Haiti first hand.

There were 10 of us from Oakbrook Church partnering with Project 117 in Haiti, an organization that was started because of the need to build and operate schools for the country’s left behind. Our mission for the week was to assist Institution One 17 in painting an art mural, do art activities with the kids, provide healthcare checks, and implement leadership training to some local leaders in the community.

Having the opportunity to serve alongside the Haitian people and to see first-hand how they live was soul-jarring and humbling. These people have nothing by American standards. But their overall energy and zest for life would lead you to believe otherwise.

God is present in that small village in rural Haiti and His presence is evident. The local people are filled with a hope that only comes from God. They way they act in faith and continue to push forward to further God’s kingdom is inspiring. They could very easily do what is expected of them and live a life that is status-quo. However, they understand that God has something more meaningful in store for them.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in mediocrity. God gave each of us unique gifts so that we could be great for him. This Haitian community understands this. They are breaking the mold and pursuing greatness by pouring into the next generation. They are stepping out of their comfort zones to grow, lead a Christ-like life, and help their children do the same. They’re improving the situation now and for generations to come.

This is a trip that I will always reflect on when I’m feeling complacent or comfortable. I will think back to this time and understand how truly blessed I truly am. I’ve been blessed with a house with indoor plumbing and A/C... a car that can get me to and from places...the roads are crater-free (for the most part). In short, I have a lot to be thankful for.

By stepping outside of my American comfort zone, I realized that we cannot grow unless we take some steps out every now and then. We must not let our own comfort get in the way of what God has in store for us. This is the “frame of reference” that the Haitian people gave me.