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  • Matthew Smith

Battle Scars

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Battle Scars, physical, emotional, and mental splinters that are a constant reminder of the wounds suffered in a struggle. I have battle scars, and most are self-inflicted, the result of being engaged in worthless, winless wars in those years preceding my second chance encounter with Christ. Battles fought long and hard with alcohol, drugs, lust, and greed. Battles forged in the depths of concealed pride, only to swell and give way to an explosion of full force sin. However, as a missionary, and now a man of God, I bear a new set of wounds. Scars not to be boasted or retold with grandeur around a campfire with buddies. These battle scars are the glorious effects of competing for the Almighty’s best. These scars are not markings of grit but rather achievements of choice, choosing to embark on the path less traveled. In the gospel of Mark, brothers James and John have a heated discussion in front of Jesus, defending their qualifications to be granted the best of God’s kingdom. Surprisingly, Jesus did not reprimand them but entertains their request. The wishes of the sons of thunder are Jesus’ command, if and only if they are willing to walk the road less traveled and Jesus’ road looks like this; But Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?’” (Mark 10:38 NLT).

All of us in this life experience steep mountains, and deep valleys. If you are a Christian you will also grapple with an onslaught of the enemy and his army, the devil and his demons locked and loaded, kindhearted to evil, and hospitable to none. Amidst the hardship, you will find yourself faced with a question, “can I grab and hold onto God right now?” In the middle of the imperfect, are you willing to accept His unmatched ways or are you searching for tomorrow, another time when the circumstances appear ideal?

Life in Haiti at times can disguise itself as an infinite cycle of disappointments. After 4 years of 3rd world living, I have gradually grown numb to the feelings of excitement that arise with any kind of anticipation. Anything here that is worth a shred of enthusiasm is equally worth its weight in frustration. In Haiti, bad stuff just happens, in the mundane and in the glamorous, it simply cannot be explained. Everyone here, both national and foreign, finds themselves eventually saying, “it can’t get any worse”, and then it does. The past few weeks have been exceptionally difficult for our family and The CAMP. We were robbed, again, this time the crooks made away with our car battery and a piece of the community cell phone charging station. It has been an unusually rainy autumn, nearly every day the sun has hidden behind clouds. This means our solar panels are not being fed and we have gone numerous days without power. Our Mac computer, used to communicate with donors, send receipts, track finances, document programs, used to keep The CAMP functioning on an administrative level unexpectedly stopped working. Thankfully, we have everything backed up on an external hard drive…but wouldn’t ya know it, the hard drive suddenly has gone corrupt! The country’s volatile money market has caused the American dollar in Haiti to devalue by 50% almost overnight but the price of goods and services has remained the same, meaning that our expenses have gone up by 50%. Not only did the American dollar lose a large chunk of its value, but the physical paper bill has become almost impossible to obtain. Stores no longer carry the money, Western Union refuses to payout in US dollars, and the banks have changed their daily limit of exchanged money from $500 to $50. We pay our staff in American money, this means we have to make 8 separate trips to the nearest bank located 45 minutes away, each month, to withdraw $50 at a time in order to have enough money for payroll at the end of the month. With CAMP finances already under stress we have been pushed to a razor thin budget as our donor support has dropped by over 60% compared to this same time last year, but rightfully so, the whole word is hurting. The adoption of our son Gideon took a major blow when our lawyer botched paperwork submitted to the Director of Haiti’s Child Services, and when I say “botched” I mean our lawyer did not even get Gideon’s name right. Child Services denied the paperwork and requested a completely new set of documents, a handwritten process that will set adoption process back at least 6 months. Our entire family has also been sick, multiple times. It could be COVID but without any surefire way to confirm or treat it here in Haiti, we stay in bed with a bottle of Advil and a bowl of soup not far from reach. And these are just a few of the dilemmas. If I had the time and space, I could rant on, more about fellow missionaries calling it quits and leaving Haiti, the expat community here in Jacmel now dwindled down to just a handful. I could express my disgust over a corrupt and broken system which assumed the worst without any facts or evidence and performed a Child Services sting on a very close friend who is also adopting, simply because he is a white male, single, and caring for a teenage boy. But I will not, that is not the point. The point is, that all these struggles that grind on our every nerve are permitted by a Holy God. He knows the exact details of the perimeters for which He has placed us. As a Christian, I find a tremendous comfort and motivation in knowing that if God positioned me here, surrounded by chaos and defeat, that He also equipped me to handle said circumstances.

Yet, victory over these circumstances is not rewarded with gold medals, showers of roses, or gem encrusted crowns. We are rewarded with knockouts haymakers and blood-smudged scars. Nevertheless, our moment of glory is found within these battle wounds that are often little, but often times big. God given mementos that remind us that we are striving for His best, striving to fulfill His purpose. Deep within these scars, most of which are hidden from the world and engraved on the secret surface of our soul, known only to ourselves and Jesus, is where we find triumph. Scars provided courtesy of our Master, for the purpose of qualifying and preparing us to reach the summit. A summit sculpted in pressing trials and tribulations. Rise up! Face your pinnacle head on, confidently knowing that the scars endured should not be forsaken, but quietly cherished, a reminder of the saving power of Christ, and the beautiful consequences of taking up our cross daily.

Once more into the fray.

Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and die on this day.

Live and die on this day.

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