Editor’s note: Photographer/Writer Allison Fowler recently returned from a short-term mission trip to Haiti with Bless Back Worldwide. She writes about her experience and mentions Jeff Goins new book “Wrecked” which releases August 1.
I celebrated my 13th birthday on my first mission trip to Romania and journeyed to the most remote villages in China two years later to continue the work God had called me to do in orphanages around the world. I returned home from each of those trips completely changed and full of confidence that God would use those experiences to mold me into the woman he wanted me to become.
When I met those orphans in Campulung, Romania in 1998 and pointed my camera lens at their beautiful faces for the first time, I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up.
Fast-forward 14 years and I’m…you guessed it…a child photographer! I wake up every morning so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do what I love and the knowledge that I’m doing exactly what God created me to do.
This past December, I met with my photographer friend, Sean, after he returned from his first trip to Haiti with Bless Back Worldwide. I saw a sparkle in his eyes and felt the excitement in his voice as he told me about many of the precious orphans at Cambry.
I felt God calling me to go photograph orphans in Haiti, too.
I didn’t know if I could afford the cost of the trip or how all of the details would work out, but I knew that God had spoken and I couldn’t ignore Him.
In January, I mailed my deposit for the July 14-21 trip and never looked back.
A few months ago, my husband and I felt God leading us to simplify our lives by selling our house and almost everything in it. We put our “big” house on the market, purchased a smaller home, and started over.
There’s a certain freedom that comes alongside living a simpler life with less stuff…but experiencing life in Haiti has magnified that feeling a million times over. At first I couldn’t understand why God would choose to uproot us at this particular time in our lives, but now I see that He was preparing my heart for Haiti…and life after Haiti.
Last week, I photographed some of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. I held dirty hands and fed hungry bellies. I saw poverty at its worst. I witnessed my teammates healing the sick. I rocked crying babies. I met the child my husband and I sponsor at Cambry and tickled him until tears streamed from his beautiful brown eyes. I experienced true joy on the faces and in the voices of orphans who have nothing to cling to but their love for the Lord. I saw and felt God everywhere I turned.
Realizing that I was paralyzed by what I had experienced and unable to verbalize my feelings upon my return from Haiti, my friend Tonia emailed me a digital excerpt from Jeff Goins’ newest book, Wrecked.
I started reading and couldn’t believe my eyes. The words that I had been searching for were right there on the pages in front of me.
“To be wrecked begins with an experience that pulls you out of your comfort zone and self-centeredness,” writes Goins. “It’s tough, but only in the way that all things worth fighting for are tough. Being wrecked means everything you believe — everything you know about yourself, your world, and your destiny — is now in question. Because you’ve seen something bigger. And you can’t go back.”
Serving in Haiti with Bless Back last week has completely wrecked me in the most beautiful way possible.
“In the end, you’re not who you were before. You’re different. You’re changed. Your old life begins to make less and less sense in light of your new priorities. Everything that used to matter now feels arbitrary. And it seems futile to try rebuilding the old way of doing life.”
Jeff Goins took the words right out of my jumbled-up, exhausted, forever-changed mind.
Today my heart aches for the impoverished, orphaned, and Godless people of Haiti. I can’t help but think that I’m getting just a glimpse of how God aches and hurts for us everyday.
I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on how God started working in my heart as a young girl in Romania 14 years ago and how everything that has happened in my life since then has led me to this very moment — the moment where I must decide how to move forward with what I’ve seen and learned from this experience.
How can I be a blessing to others? What is God whispering in my ear today? How do I continue to simplify my life so my focus is solely on Him? What will I do to stay close to God? What’s next for us?
Finding those answers won’t be easy…but it’ll definitely be worth it. Thank you, Lord, for completely wrecking my life.