Countless lives were taken within minutes. Cities crumbled to mere memories and an entire country was devastated. Thousands breathed their last breathe and hundreds of thousands more people no longer had a place to call home. And even 7 years later, many are still unplaced. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010 changed the course of history for the already struggling country of Haiti.
The images from the aftermath of the disaster were undeniable and heartbreaking. I remember feeling helpless watching the cries from mothers who lost a child . . . the lost children who no longer had a parents' touch to comfort them . . . and the wandering souls that had nowhere to turn. My heart ached and I wanted to be a part of the solution but didn't know where to begin.
Over the course of the next couple years, I tried several avenues to volunteer my time and talents in Haiti, but every single time, the door kept closing. So, I'd try another way and found myself behind yet another door. I eventually got connected with an orphanage that received a lot of publicity soon after the earthquake. They managed to get many of their already paired children expedited into their adopted homes in the U.S. I started doing pro bono graphic design work for them, but after a few months of what looked to be a promising partnership, they faded away . . . felt like a screen door had closed. I could see through to the other side and it felt so close, yet I couldn't get to the destination. You'd think I would get a clue.
Another door closed again.
I finally conceded and acknowledged that perhaps God was telling me it wasn't the right time for me to help Haiti. Even when our heart desires something so great, sometimes it's not always enough to make it happen. I had traveled to many parts of the world already and could say with 100% certainty that each trip was the right one at the right time. So, I knew that my multiple efforts was MY attempt of what I thought was right.
Fast forward to 2013 . . . a door opened to my surprise when I was least expecting it . . . which makes this story so much better! I didn't push through any doorways or stick my foot in the crack to keep one open. The door actually opened itself for me.
A long (but very cool) story led me to connecting with a nonprofit I unexpectantly found during a family vacation many states away. The conversation went something like this:
"Hi! I'm Jessica Ambuehl with Under The Tree Designs. I've attached a sample of my portfolio and if you find yourself in need of pro bono photojournalism to tell your story, I'd love to talk more."
Their response: "Yes. We could use a photojournalist for an up-coming trip . . . . to Haiti."
Well, how about that?!? All I had to do was be still and patient for the right time. That trip with Soles4Souls in 2013 not only started an on-going journey in that country but also a partnership with the nonprofit on multiple trips (Guatemala in 2014 and Haiti in 2017) . . . as well as working intimately with two other organizations who were started with people that have become dear friends! (The610Project and the Haitian American Caucus) My journey (and closed doors) brought me to these treasured friendships, volunteer work, and photojournalism that have shaped me into who I am today.
This is just one example in my life that shows that closed doors are not meant to be pushed open. When things don't seem to be going your way, take a step back, breathe, and wait. There are times when persistence and perseverance pays off, but other times in life, it's worth re-evaluating and waiting to see what else might lie ahead . . . even three years down the road!
Don't fret! The big guy up-stairs knows your heart. But he knows what's best so don't keep slamming your body against the door. I can attest time and time again to the fact that many times waiting is always best.
From the wise words of philosopher Dwayne Johnson, "You have to have faith that one thing you wanted to happen often times is the best thing that never happened."
Click THE ROCK image to watch the inspiring video.