When I was a newly-turned-16-year-old, I found myself sitting on a porch. In Haiti. Listening to a white-haired woman talk about all of the things we should expect, and not expect, as we served there for the next 10 days. I. Was. Terrified.
Let me also explain that I did not talk much at this time in my life. I’m an introvert by nature (I know, a real shocker), which combined with my insecurities (which were in full force during my middle school and first couple of years of high school) led me to be quiet. Because if I was quiet, I wouldn’t say anything dumb. And if I didn’t say anything dumb, I might not be as likely to be rejected. I wouldn’t be known, either… but that was another struggle. But I wanted to be a missionary and when I found out my youth pastor was taking a team to Haiti, I jumped at the opportunity, even though it was way out of my comfort zone.
So I’m sitting in Haiti and listening to this lady named Donna Doan, and thinking, “What am I doing here? Who is this woman? I don’t think I’ll be able to get to know her at all. She scares me!” Then we went for a walk around the town and by the time we returned I had oodles of children clasping my hands and knew that I was right where I was supposed to be.
Over the next few days, as Donna got to know us and see that we weren’t just a bunch of punk kids, her initially stern exterior opened up to reveal a hilarious, tender-hearted and wise woman of God. She and her husband Dick (who is equally as cool) spent a majority of their “retirement years” serving as missionaries on the tiny island of La Gonave, Haiti, with WISH. Dick installed numerous fresh and clean water lines throughout the village, ran an ice plant, and employed Haitian men in his welding shop. He also instructed us as we built a concrete basketball court for local youth that first trip. Donna provided employment for several women, and she loved on them while they worked there. She had a heart for the poorest of the poor in their village and surrounding ones, which eventually allowed me to be a part of an incredible God-story. She was a fantastic story-teller herself – I cried from laughing so hard at her stories… and sometimes I just cried. She knew the beauty of God’s grace, and she lived it.
Donna went to be with Jesus this past Sunday after a fight with cancer. I haven’t seen her for a decade, but I think of her always with fondness, and gratefulness that I was able to spend about 2 months of my life over the course of 5 years learning from her. My life is richer because of her and Dick’s faithfulness to the Lord, and I look forward to seeing them again someday in His presence.