Friday, August 22, 2014

Guest Post: "Mud, Haiti, and Tears"

My body shifts from one foot to the other as miles of grass, dirt, rocks, and mud pass under my feet. My
hands blister as I pull myself over and across walls, up ropes, out of water, and through mud. My knees start to throb as I traverse
under more and more barbed wire. The tiny cuts all over my arms and legs, caused by the pebbles in the mud and my tired, clumsy body, start to burn as I continue to sweat. Mud attaches to my clothes, water rinses some off, the heat dries the rest over and over again until my clothes and shoes are a whole new, heavy, stiff material and an orange-brown color. My focus and mind weaken as my body does, and doubt sinks in. Then, there it is! The last stretch! Just a couple of jumps over some fire, and one more drag through the mud and under barbed wire, then I am done. My finish line is in sight. My spirits lift. My feet move a little faster, my mind sharpens (it has to, I am about to jump over fire), and the doubt disappears. I am no longer in pain because I have hope. I can see the finish line, I can hear the people cheering me on, I get encouraging pats on the back from other runners, the end of my temporary suffering is in sight. With my energy reserves, I cross the finish line, pose for a picture, and grab my finisher’s beer…I mean…water and banana.

Yup, that is my typical weekend during the spring and summer months.  I participate and mud runs throughout the Carolinas. These are three to thirteen mile courses plagued with obstacles for runners to get through. I know what you are thinking. Why would she do this? Suffering? Pain? Fire and mud? I am asked that often. I think if you asked the participants in these runs why they do it, they will all have a different answer. Some do it for the adult beverage at the end. Some like the competition. Others see it as a fitness goal. Most of these runs are done for charity and that drives some of the runners. Some are even unsure of their motives or goals, they just do. Three years ago was my first mud run. Like some, I was unsure of my motives for participating in something like this. My friends asked me to join them, and I said “yes” (my favorite word I guess). When I crossed the finished line, I was so thankful to them for asking me to join them on this adventure, because I had now found a new passion. 

During one of my first mud runs this summer, as I was reaching to pull myself over a wall, I saw the dry dirt on my hands covering my cuts, I felt heat bearing down on me, I felt the pain of my body needing nourishment, and I felt the hopelessness of knowing I still had so much further to go. Suddenly, tears came to my eyes, and rolled down my cheeks as visions of Haiti came into my mind.  

In March I had the privilege of joining the Haiti mission team. This was my first mission trip, first time out of the country, and I really did not know what to expect (despite the informational meetings prior to the trip). The morning we left, I was in an “it’s-way-too-early” daze. I found myself being dropped off at the Charlotte-Douglas airport, meeting up with a group of people I really did not know, flying off to a poverty-stricken country I did not know much about, and unsure of my motives for going. I was asked to go and I said “yes.” There goes my favorite word, getting me into something else!

The week I spent in Bayonnais, Haiti kept me in constant awe. I was continuously being surprised by the
sights, sounds, and people. The people of Bayonnais are so kind and welcoming. I sang and danced with children who had so little, but were so happy and thankful for what they did have. One morning, we were guided up the mountain to a nearby village, Nicholas. We carried backpacks filled with school supplies, medicine, and dresses that Sardis member, Kathy Simpson made. As miles of dirt and rocks passed under my feet I thought about the children I saw with sores on their feet, and cuts on their hands, covered by the grey dirt that was now starting to stick to me. I thought about my mud runs, and how when I finish I get food and water, a medal, and pat on the back…how I wished that is what was waiting for me at the top of this mountain. As we walked higher into the Haitian mountains, we started to spot children in school uniforms coming from all directions for miles. Some were running past us, over rocks, down hills, and up hills. These were not their only obstacles on their journey to school. They were also fighting hunger and thirst, and the intense heat. Their finish line was school, the school that, driven by their strong desire for education, the community built themselves. When they got to school they did not get a pat on the back, or a medal, they did not even get a drink of water. I suddenly felt guilty for drinking almost my entire camelbak on the way up the mountain. When the children saw us approach the school, I saw their spirits lift. I knew that look in their eyes, it was the same look I get when I see the finish line at a mud run. They were seeing hope. Their pains eased, and their doubts disappeared. I suddenly realized, I did not have a medal or a pat on the back waiting for me, I had something better. I realized why I was in Haiti. I was there to bring hope. I was there to lift spirits. I was there to let the children know that they are loved, and everything is going to be okay. I was there to come back here and tell you their story.

During my first mud run back from Haiti, I saw the dirt covered cuts on my body, I felt the intense heat, and I felt hungry and thirsty, and I cried. I cried tears of sadness knowing my suffering is only temporary, and the people I love in Haiti suffer every day. I cried tears of guilt knowing that I will get food after I conquered these obstacles, and the children I love in Haiti will not eat on this day, even though they survive more obstacles than we can imagine every day. I cried tears of joy remembering the childrens’ smiles and songs, and their brilliant minds. I cried tears of thankfulness to the people who asked me to join them on the adventure to Haiti and helped me find a new passion. I cried tears excitement knowing that I can continue to bring them hope, even from so far away. 

I want to share their story with you, and invite you to join this adventure! Please feel free to check out the blog from the Haiti mission team: . You can also check out my personal blog from the trip:
I also invite you to also check out the website for Friends of OFCB to learn how you can become hope for the children in Haiti.

Nikki Livingston is Sardis' Communications Director. Nikki spends her time outside of Sardis volunteering as the event chair for the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life event in Charlotte. When she has free time, she spends it playing with her dog Macy and spoiling her two nieces and two nephews. 


  1. Thank you Nikki for your commitment to missions and all that you do. Thank you and the other Sardis Haiti team members for carrying the little dresses and all the supplies to the children. I heard the terrain was difficult to walk. The little dresses were made as part of a project that I started working on in Dec. 2012, called The Red Bird Project. Since starting The Red Bird, many wonderful folks have donated fabric, pillowcases and supplies and helped with sewing. Sardis members Diane Strawn, Carol Lyke, Debbie Polk and Cynthia Harrison have helped with sewing. It takes a village as we all work together to serve. To God be all the Glory and Honor... Kathy S.

  2. Nikki, I was out of town last week so didn't get to read this until today. I love having the opportunity to know more about you and to learn about the mud runs and the Haiti experience through your eyes. Thanks so much for all you do for us at Sardis and outside of Sardis. Jeanne