Eight years ago today, our lives were forever changed when a 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti. At the time, I was much like many people today - I knew next to nothing about the poorest country in our hemisphere. I knew it was a Caribbean island, and that it was poor. I don't know that I understood much more than that.
When the earthquake hit, I was a stay-at-home mom of 4, our youngest being almost one year old. I so desperately wanted to jump on an airplane and go to Haiti - I would have done nearly anything to help. I just wanted to take action. I watched the news and followed what different ministries were doing in response to the devastation. My eyes were opened to the world of Haiti, and God continued to pull our family towards this country in the coming years.
Our oldest daughter did a fundraiser in the spring of 2010 to help with earthquake relief efforts. Gami and I led our youth group in the World Vision 30 hour famine in 2010 and 2011. Each year we focused on Haiti, and designated our funds to go to Haiti relief efforts. Indeed, God was opening our minds and hearts to this land. Gami and I had heard a clear call to missions as early as 2008, but still did not know where God would lead us - or when.
Fast forward to 2012 and I was honored to lead a group from our church to Haiti to serve for one week. Our family on both sides, well aware of our prep work to go into missions, asked if this was it - would we be moving to Haiti? We assured them that Haiti was not a place we felt called to, and that it was merely an opportunity to expose our two oldest children (accompanying us on this trip) to missions and the reality of poverty. In that week here in Haiti, God grabbed hold of Gami and I both, convicting us of the fact that we had never sought Him in relation to Haiti.
Only nine months later, we were moving our family of 6 to Haiti to do long-term missions work. That was May, 2013. We were beyond the relief efforts of the earthquake, and felt God was opening doors for us to do missions work in a place where so many are hurting and need His grace, hope, peace, and love.
I never would have thought, back on January 12, 2010, that I would move my family to this place. As I think back to that day - watching the news, listening to the horrors of all that was happening, and feeling so helpless - I realize that God directly intervened in my life and the lives of our family. There is no other way to explain it. Haiti was not on our radar at all - and yet, today Haiti is home.
We have a saying here - "TIH" - which means, "This is Haiti." Most often, this phrase is used to excuse away what we cannot explain. It is used in moments where we recognize culture is definitely at play, but we will never understand the reasoning behind something. It is used in times of humor, and in times of deep despair. There is so much that encompasses this country and our hearts for it. Yet, my son took this phrase and made a piece of artwork for Gami. He wrote about how people use the phrase "TIH," and said, "But it also means This Is Home."
We do not pretend to understand it all, or have it all figured out. But we do know that God called us here. We are one family of many whose eyes were opened to all that goes on so close to our borders of the USA, and we knew God wanted us to do something big. So, here we are, coming up on 5 years in Haiti, and not regretting a minute of it!
Gami & Cathi Ortiz
Best friends; married for 17 years; parents of five wonderful children; living on mission in Haiti since 2013.