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  • Matthew Smith

Punched in the Mouth

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

I believe Mike Tyson said it best, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. The CAMP, and our ministry ended 2020 on a high note. We met our end-of-the-year fundraising goal of $10,000 and then some. This gave us the opportunity to cover our Community Center rent for 2021, carry out our 2nd annual Christmas morning meal giveaway in which we fed over 400 people, pay for much needed maintenance expenses, and the wiggle room to plan out and put into motion the finishing touches on our free community computer lab and library. The CAMP, our family, and our 2021 outlook appeared to be in a comfortable state … and then my Mom’s health took a drastic turn for the worse.

In November, my 82-year-old Mother had routine hip replacement surgery, and recovery was going well until she tripped on a rock in her yard, misplaced by workers fixing a backed-up septic. In an instant, she refractured her newly replaced hip and broke her femur. She underwent an 8-hour surgery, and spent a week in the hospital, plus a week in rehab. While she was slowly recovering, she broke her femur AGAIN while becoming accustomed to a walker. Once more, she went under the knife for 6 hours, in which a 10-inch metal rod was attached to her femur and hip. She’s now had 3 major surgeries in 3 months. In a painful decision, I decided to leave Haiti and fly to Florida to take care of my Mom, breaking a promise to my wife and son to never leave again unless it was together, as a family, still unable to do this because of delays in Gideon’s adoption paperwork.

When I received the news about my Mom, I completely shut down. I let negativity consume my thoughts on every level, in all situations, and it all spiraled out of control. I CAN’T do anything to help my Mom here in Haiti … I CAN’T leave Laura and Gideon … I CAN’T handle the pressures of ministry in a 3rd world country, and the personal issues going on with those closest to me in a 1st world country … I CAN’T run a non-profit … I CAN’T finish my Master’s in theology … I CAN’T manage my type 1 diabetes … I CAN’T complete any of my 2021 goals… I CAN’T be a good husband … I CAN’T be a good father … I just CAN’T …

Laura and I have a life coach, something that I absolutely despise and at times feel embarrassed about (as if I’m not capable of navigating the rough waters of marriage and life by myself!). But my wife understands the burdens of missionary living that weigh on us day in and day out 100% better than me, so we visit with him once a week because I love my wife and I’m willing to do anything for her. In a very intimate, eye opening personal session with our coach, he challenged me to dig deep and identify the fears that make me feel alone, that make me feel like I CAN’T. Our coach presented me with a simple plan, a paradigm shift, a 180 degree change in the way I think about everyday obstacles. What if I modestly replaced every negative thought with I CAN? Simple enough right? But have you ever tried it? Have you ever tried reprograming your mind so that it engineers an ongoing fuel that helps you press on? Why? Because that’s what Jesus did. He did so, so WE CAN.

Our conflicts, more importantly our spiritual conflicts are some of the most wonderful blessing we will ever receive. Those uncomfortable moments where we are forced to be real with God, forced to recognize that the world is not conspiring against us but rather God has us right where He wants us, smack-dab in the middle of His beautiful plan. The ancient Phrygians of Asia Minor had a legend that every time they conquered an enemy, they absorbed the physical strengths of their adversary and added them along with their own powers and acts of bravery to the bounty, twofold. What if the same holds true for our triumphs over the fears that tell us WE CAN’T? What if every time we overcome a temptation, a trial, a consistent life problem, a sin, we absorb the growing, lifesaving goodness of God? Giving us the much-needed edge to not only overcome our negative thoughts but strengthen them against the forces of evil. The much-needed edge to bring us closer to sanctification, the much-needed edge to be more like Jesus. The encourager to believe YOU CAN because HE CAN, and HE DID.

In Isaiah 11:14 we read that the Israelites “will fly down upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the West” (Isaiah 11:14 NKJV). The Philistines were a deadly adversary to the Israelites. However, this passage suggests the Israelites would not only conquer the Philistines but ride on their SHOULDERS to further their conquests. This is a biblical example of how the grace of God provides us with the ability to completely put a paradigm shift on things that are most unfavorable and disparaging in our lives, to absorb them with confidence and gain reassurance of the positive, twofold … WE CAN!

It is generally thought that a plush and easy way of life is the most desired way to go about existence. But if we hunt through history, you’ll see that the noblest and strongest of people endured just the opposite. They absorbed their hardship and it made them stronger. It was an element that distinguished them, from those that just survived, to those that thrived. Difficulty builds character.

As I prepare meals for my Mom, do laundry, clean the house, run errands, bathe her, dress her bandages, and assist her on the toilet, I cling to the verse of Isiah 11:14, and think about the Phrygians and I remember that every trial I absorb does indeed give me a credit towards the next test. More importantly, as I live this side of life, away from Laura and Gideon, missing my son’s 5th birthday, I also remember Philippians 1:12 that says, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12 NKJV).

I CAN do all things through Christ.

God bless you all,


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