Liar, Liar: How was Miami?
Miami was, in one word… different.
I don’t know how many times during the day I would tell my co-workers, “It’s just so different here!” Different from where I’ve been in America, different from Belize, different from Haiti.
Miami is one of the most culturally diverse places I’ve ever spent more than a few days in.
As Liz drove me through Little Havana and Little Haiti and Little “Insert Country Here” I was just amazed at the differences one single city block could hold.
The little Asian Markets nestled into the corners of buildings, with all kinds of people going in and out. Churches with names in every language but English. Restaurants with international vibes and cuisine. People selling produce at your car, like in Haiti. People could speak English, but rarely did you hear it. I learned really quickly my Spanish is horrible.
I kept finding myself saying, “It’s like it’s not America,” but isn’t that exactly what makes America, America? Our diversity?
While I was in Miami, I had the chance to serve on two trips with three teams. If you’d like to visit our trip journals to read about what the teams did, check them out here!
But more specifically, when it comes to my personal highlights, here are a few.
Unity: When you go international on a trip, there’s unity in the body of Christ. To me, it’s seems a little easier to feel unified when you are abroad. A different culture from your own means you have a little bit of grace afforded to you for those times where you’ll slip up or offend without intention. Sharing the gospel with someone in America can be intimidating – knowing we generally perceive others as hostile to the Gospel (even if they aren’t). When serving here in the States, you are of the same “American” culture as those you’re trying to reach. Our American culture tends to say “keep your beliefs inside” and we steer far clear of offending someone due to their religious background, ethnicity, social situation etc. So when I was heading out to Miami I kept wondering how this new dynamic of culture would affect the teams coming to serve – compared to teams serving internationally.
What I found was beautiful. People who would come and sit to listen to our nightly debriefing meetings and leave with tears in their eyes, uplifted. I can’t count the number of strangers who would walk up to me and encourage me and the team. One young girl, maybe 23 years old, who works outside at one of the shops at the hotel, came up to me and said, “I just wanted to say thank you for what you are doing here in my city – we need it. You are a blessing to everyone here. When you sing as a group at night, we listen to you and the songs you sing. We love your passion. Thank you for not being afraid to tell about what you believe. I may not believe it, but I believe you have every right to share it.”
It was unity in a new way – on a new level. People from all across the world who’ve come to America to put down roots for future generations in this city, connecting with our young people who’ve only known American soil. I felt unity in being an American, that we are blessed to live in a country where we may sing praises to our Creator in a public place – and others to receive it with respect and goodness.
Translating: In Haiti, I speak Creole as much as English – or I try to. However, I’m not the go-to translator for our teams, since I’m running around prepping logistics and taking care of big picture items. We have an incredible Haitian staff who serve as leaders along with us and, also, as translators for our team. It was an interesting role reversal to be in Miami and be called upon to be the main translator. From little kids, teenagers on a vacation in the US, adults who don’t know fluent English and translating in church – I was actually needed as the translator. This was something I wasn’t expecting – but it was a beautiful example of exactly what God had up His sleeve for me this summer.
No Language Barrier: On many PPM trips, we have a ministry training we lead called “Life Stories” where you spend time in a group of strangers, sharing the story of your life. In Haiti, we love to do this to prep our teams for outreach during the week, so they normally do this training together in their teams, as well as with our staff. It’s a wonderful time of getting to know your teammates and getting out of your comfort zone.
However, on my first week in Miami, our teams had the unique opportunity to do Life Stories with a Carribean church. This church is blended with all sorts of cultures from the Carribean: Haiti, Dominican, Jamaica, and Belize etc. And our teams from Cleveland and Tennessee had the chance to mix up with the church and share their life stories together. With no language barrier, our students from America could hear the stories of immigrants from all around the Carribean and the difficulties they overcame, lessons they learned and how God walked with them through it all. It was a beautiful night, orchestrated by Christ Himself.
Relationships: Lastly, in general, I made so many new friends and formed so many new relationships with people – which is what missions is all about. I especially enjoyed my last week serving in a church in Reheboth, with Pastor Jean Jean-Louis, whom I first met in Haiti in 2012. He is the uncle of my good friends Almando, Cassie, Phito, Odne and Daniel Jean-Louis and he pastors a church in Miami. It was so awesome to further our friendship as I got to meet his wife and family and serve with him throughout the week. Getting to speak to his church about the lessons I’ve learned living in Haiti and hearing his testimony of PPM in his ministry was incredible. Being with his church that week, I felt like I was smack in the middle of Haiti, surrounded by love and life.
Although Miami isn’t where I thought I would be this summer, I’m so glad I had the privileged to be a part of the ministry there. Will you keep my friends Liz Drennan and Derrick Still in your prayers as they continue the ministry there?
Thanks Liz and Derrick for letting me join in and serve alongside you, even with my swollen prego-feet. 🙂