As the church leadership team gathered for a meal, planning and prayer, someone asked about my recent return from Haiti. I’d been having a bit of trouble knowing how to answer some of the questions this past week. Joe turned to me and asked, “Do you have PTSD? I fought in Vietnam and I know what you’re going through.” I thought a little bit and nodded my head. Joe continued, “Seeing death, seeing the casualties – we can talk, okay?” The confirmation was helpful – why I’ve resisted looking at my photos and have felt awkward summarizing the mission. Joe fought in a real war – with bombs and shelling and shrapnel. It didn’t seem like my experience with the devastation in Haiti was on the same level.
I was on a different battlefield – no question about that. But we were also at war. The spiritual battle and oppression, the Haitian practices of voodoo and the occult, the political corruption, and yes, the death and destruction. Port-au-Prince is a war zone, with every other structure reduced to rubble, and refugees clamoring for aid – seeking shelter under tarps in every open space in the city.
I am grateful that Joe had the insight and the openness to connect with me, and help me step out of the mental fog of war. When we run headfirst, we must be cognizant of the cost of battle. It’s not an excuse to escape from doing what God calls us to do. But it’s the recognition that fatigue, heartbreak and trauma come from being at war. I am taking time to mourn, to process, and to re-gear. Because we know the battle is won, but the fighting isn’t over.