Everyone dreams. I too dream. Ever since I was a small child, I would plan out my future and what I wanted to be.
The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a pilot for the military. My grandfather, B. Smith was in the Navy for a while and learned to fly fighter jets. I was really fascinated at how they could takeoff and land on a moving ship. I kept that dream with me through elementary school, until I was in fourth grade.
Every morning in my fourth grade French class, the Haitian teacher would turn on the television and let us watch the daily news. This particular morning, he turned on the news and the Montreal anchor announced to my class that there was a situation going on in the United States. The date was September 11th, 2001. I watched the events unfold, and I told my classmates that when I was old enough, I was going to join the United States Army. Of course, none of my classmates believed me.
In 2007, I went on a mission trip with a group from Georgia to South Africa. We spent a few weeks at an orphanage. This particular orphanage mostly took in children who were HIV positive, or were orphaned because of HIV and AIDS. It broke my heart to see a nursery full of babies who never knew their parents because of AIDS, and that many of these babies, were infected with and had to live the rest of their lives with the cripple of HIV.
I came back from my trip to South Africa changed, but my goal to be in the Army remained.
In 2009, I moved from Canada to the United States to start college. That October, I joined the Arkansas National Guard so that I could get my degree, but be part of the military at the same time. I also did ROTC for the first two years of my college career, but decided Officership was not for me. I went through basic, infantry school, and airborne school in 2010.
While being in college, I realized that I loved to write, and that I wanted to do something with writing. I decided a journalism major would help me achieve an opportunity to write professionally. I really liked reading about different cultures, especially those featured in National Geographic Magazine. I read Thomas L. Friedman’s book, From Beirut To Jerusalem, and was inspired to be successful, but to be successful a world away from the United States. I decided that I wanted to eventually work for National Geographic, and that to work for them as a writer would be the ultimate success when it came to journalism. No other magazine held the prestige of National Geographic and I in turn wanted to be a part of that legacy.
Then, in the summer of 2011, I went on vacation with my family. It was no ordinary vacation, in reality, it wasn’t a vacation at all. We went to Haiti, where we worked in an orphanage for a few weeks. I really fell in love with the country and people of Haiti. The couple who directed the orphanage were natives of the United States, and in their late twenties. They had come down to Haiti to start this orphanage, and had planned it out quite well. They had nannies who would take care of the children during the day, and then at night, the day nannies were replaced with a few nannies who worked the night shift. The orphanage housed about 50 to 60 babies to the age of five.
This was different than the way the orphanage in South Africa worked. In South Africa, they had about 6 nannies, and these six women were in charge of one house. Each house was home to 8 to 10 children from the age of two all the way to eighteen. Each house would have older children who would act as the older siblings, and the ages would diminish until there were younger sibling who had come from the nursery. I thought this was a great system. The children had a mother figure who would tuck them in bed at night and then go to their respective homes in the surrounding community. After lights out, the older siblings would take care of any problems.
The nursery in South Africa had nannies who stayed there around the clock. Most of these babies were sick, had been neglected, or HIV positive.
Over the 2011/2012 school year, I realized that I wanted to eventually start a magazine that focused on Africa, and what God was doing in the continent. This is still something I dream of doing someday.
This summer, I was in New Mexico at a Christian college convention visiting my father. One day, a group of the missionaries went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and I joined my father. I sat by a gentleman named Randall Gallaway. He asked me about my hobbies and what I enjoyed doing, and he found out promptly that I was in the U.S. Army. He told me that he supported me, but then changed the tone. He told me that as good as it was being in the Army, the Army doesn’t bring people to Christ. That really affected me. It is still affecting me today. He told me that he had worked for many years with African students. He told me that there was a huge need in the world for Christian men and women to start orphanages. He explained that I would be perfect for it because of my military training, and that I could also write while directing an orphanage. I told him I would pray about it.
The last month or so, I haven’t been able to get this conversation out of my mind. I have worked in orphanages, I have loved working in orphanages, and I may have the skills to run a Christian orphanage. I am really praying and asking God if this is what he wants me to do. I know that it would not interfere with my writing, and if anything, would give me more to write about. I’m really thinking about the possibility of directing an orphanage after I get out of the Army, in 2015. I hope that the years to come prepare me for this, or whatever God wants for me in my life.