Family transitions to missionary life in Haiti
Long-term residents of Storm Lake, Chris and Michelle Rasmussen, have started getting used to life in Haiti after selling their home and completely changing their lives.
Chris and Michelle along with their two sons, Elias age 8 and Gabriel age 6, have served as missionaries in Haiti for the past year. Prior to moving to Haiti, the Rasmussens had taken six trips to Haiti starting in 2014 where they fell in love with the country and the people living there.
"A lot of people go on a trip and keep a small part of that with them when they come home," said Michelle, "When we went for the first time, we left a great part of our hearts in Haiti, and it was hard for us to come back."
"Haitians are great people," said Chris. "They have a lot of joy, have a lot of fun, are very community-minded, are family oriented and everything is built on relationships."
Entering their lives as missionaries in Haiti, the Rasmussens had envisioned certain tasks they thought they would pursue. However, what they ended up working on in Haiti was completely different than their previous expectations.
Chris described their current work in Haiti to be gospel focused rather than task oriented, meaning that they were focusing on building relationships and holding Bible studies or mentorships with some of the 225 children at a nearby orphanage.
Although they are greatly enjoying their lives in Haiti, the transition from living in the United States to a third world country was not easy.
"We faced many obstacles and hiccups that we just quite frankly weren't prepared for," said Chris. "We knew it wouldn't be an easy transition, but we didn't realize it would be as hard as it was either."
Culture shock was the main obstacle that the Rasmussens had to face while transitioning to Haiti. "We had to adapt to a whole different way of doing things. Even day to day tasks, going to the store, trying to find food and getting water was all radically different," said Chris.
Time management and scheduling is immensely different than what the Rasmussens were used to in the United States. "We don't really operate by a timetable," said Chris.
Being more flexible on agendas has proven to cause less stress on the Rasmussens, and they have grown to enjoy the surprises that everyday life brings them in Haiti. "There is always a need down there and a way to serve people," said Michelle. "We don't necessarily know what that's going to be every day."
Even though there was a greater language barrier than the Rasmussens had been expecting at first, they feel as if they can speak Creole well considering they have only been in Haiti for a year. They plan to continue working on learning the language so they can become fluent and have more confidence in conversing with locals.
To Chris and Michelle's surprise, their children have adjusted well to living in a third world country. "They love meeting new people and speaking the language," said Michelle. She also said that they have adjusted well to everything you wouldn't think would be easy to adjust to including the food, culture, people, language and environment.
"Too many times in our culture and our community we see the differences in people, and we use it as a way to separate," said Chris, "but kids don't see it that way."
Being immersed in another culture has also made their children more worldly and has allowed them to positively experience diversity. "They don't identify the differences as much as they enjoy the differences," said Chris.
Contentment is one of the biggest lessons that the Rasmussens have learned, and are still learning daily from the Haitians. "We see a lot of people that survive on basically nothing but have a lot of joy in them, said Chris. "Then you come to the United States and you see all of the privilege and all the entitlement we have here, but yet we are still unhappy with it."
Learning about contentment has also taught the Rasmussens what is really valuable in life. "We found out what you don't need in life," said Chris. "Having personal relationships really weighs more than anything materialist."
The Rasmussens have had to drastically change their lifestyle to be able to be full-time missionaries in Haiti. They said they often joke that the only thing that has stayed the same throughout this process is that they are the Rasmussen family. Other than that, their lives look completely different.
"To give up our home, lifestyle, income, jobs and everything, that's not necessarily how you choose to follow your life," said Chris, "but if you are doing what you feel like God is calling you to do, then you have comfort in that even though it's a very uncomfortable situation."
Though they no longer own a home in the United States, they have returned this summer to visit family and to fundraise for the next year.
"The tough part about being a missionary is that you are always missing people," said Chris. They have discovered that whether they are in Haiti missing family and friends in the United States, or they are in the United States missing the Haitians they have grown close to, their hearts are always missing others.
You can stay up to date on the Rasmussen's lives while serving in Haiti by visiting their Facebook page: Life in Haiti with the Rasmussens.
To help support their mission in Haiti, the Rasmussens have recently created their own non-profit organization, Through God's Love Missionaries. You can learn more about their organization and how to help support their mission by visiting their new website, www.throughgodslove.com.