The other night I had dinner at my friend Aaron’s house.  A wonderful home-cooked meal, an after-dinner dance party with the kids and s’mores in the backyard…  It was a pretty standard evening here in suburban Indianapolis.

Only two things really stood out as unique.  One, I got absolutely schooled by their four year old daughter in a game of Memory.  Two, their family is getting ready to move to Haiti for a year.

Wait… What???

Run that by me again. They’re moving to Haiti?  As in, the Haiti?  Where the earthquake happened?  They’re moving there with three kids?  They’re moving there with a two year old?

The Elliott kids, in for a life-changing year…

These are just a handful of the questions that run through people’s heads when they hear this.  Picking up and moving your family to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere for a year is so far outside of most people’s normal categories that the most common response is simply, “Um, wow…”

And yet, it’s true.  On December 4, Aaron, Shelli, Isabel, Sydney and Sitota will board a plane bound for Port-au-Prince to begin a year-long adventure that will undoubtedly change their lives forever…

Isabel, smart beyond her years.

A Shocking Question

So how did this begin?

Well, back in 2009, Aaron Elliott had a chance to visit Nehemiah Vision Ministries and was incredibly impressed with the work they were doing (in fact, it was Aaron’s suggestion that led to World Next Door’s first visit to Haiti as well). 

As his relationship with NVM grew, so did his conviction that they were doing something powerful and unique.  When he and his wife Shelli visited Haiti a few months ago on a one week medical trip, they were approached by some of NVM’s senior leadership asking a rather shocking question. 

“We badly need a staff member to handle the many short-term teams coming to visit and we think you are perfect for the job.  Will your family come and live here for a year?”

The request came as a complete shock to Aaron and Shelli, but after much prayer and deliberation, they said yes.

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  The Elliotts live smack in the middle of the suburbs.  They both have secure jobs that they love and their kids have never been happier.  Most normal families in that situation would be terrified of taking a step like this.

The Path of Yes

So that begs the question: Are the Elliotts special?  Well, of course they’re special… They are a unique family. Loved by God.  But are they somehow different than the rest of us?  Are they naturally more courageous?  Do they have a special blend of confidence juice running through their veins?

Sydney, the Elliott’s four year old firecracker.

I would contend that no, they don’t.  The Elliotts don’t have some special DNA that gives them confidence.  They weren’t raised in particularly fearless families. 

The only thing that truly sets them apart from the crowd is the fact that they have said “yes.” And they have said it a lot.

They said “yes” to going on many life-changing short term trips over the years.  They said “yes” to getting their children involved in social justice at an early age.  They said “yes” to the intimidating process of adopting a child from Ethiopia.

And now they are saying “yes” to a year in Haiti. 

Sure, this decision may seem like a crazy departure from their normal suburban lives, but the Elliotts are simply continuing on “the path of yes” that they began many years ago.  They are stepping out in faith, believing that God will carry them through this experience as he has so many times before.

The First Step

When I think about what the Elliotts have chosen to do I am struck with a simple question about my own life…

Have I taken the path of yes?  Have I stepped out into the unknown and allowed God to be my guide?

Sitota, more often referred to as “the tornado…”

I believe without a doubt that He offers every one of us the choice to live a life of incredible significance.  The offer is out there, but it’s up to you and me to take the first step.

Now, it doesn’t always start with a call to move ourselves and our families to a foreign country for a year, but it does start somewhere.  A simple “yes” to begin serving at a homeless shelter, another “yes” to start sponsoring a child monthly, a “yes” to taking a short term trip abroad, maybe even a “yes” to adopting…

I don’t even think the first “yes” needs to be all that heartfelt.  When I (barely) got myself to Kenya for my year-long internship in 2005, my attitude was less “yes” than “Eh… fine.”  But I did it, and it radically altered the entire course of my life, opening up new possibilities and exposing me to a world far beyond my own sphere of understanding.

I’m living proof that you don’t have to be anything special to follow the path of yes.  All it takes is an attitude of, “Well, God.  I trust you.  Let’s do this…”

The Elliott family, bravely taking one more step on the Path of Yes…

Yes or No?

We are going to be following the Elliotts throughout their adventure.  Over the next year, we’ll be checking in with them through articles, photo galleries and videos, we’ll be hearing about their triumphs and their struggles, and we’ll be learning a lot about Haiti from their perspective.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to ask ourselves, “What is my next ‘yes’?”  What has God placed in front of me that just plain freaks me out right now?

It may be something as simple as volunteering downtown for an afternoon.  Or it may be something as crazy as travelling half-way around the world.

Whatever the case, God has placed something in front of you and has given you the choice to move forward.  He’s asking you, “Yes or no?”  The Elliotts said yes to their next step.

What will your answer be?

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Next Steps
    • Follow the Elliotts on their blog. Click here to see their latest updates!
    • As of the writing of this article the Elliotts have raised 53% of their financial support. Would you consider becoming one of their one-time or monthly sponsors? Click here for more information on how to contribute!
    • Commit to praying for the Elliotts throughout their time in Haiti. If you would like to receive prayer requests from them regularly, email Aaron to be part of the team.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    October 9th, 2010 at 7:51 am  

    Barry, I have gotten to know Aaron a little this year, and had heard this story from him perhaps a month ago, and I still find myself thinking about it every day. Then two weeks ago I met his family at a reception and the full image of the answer to this call on their family”s life came into sharp focus.

    At the time I happened to be in the middle of reading “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns. At one point Stearns says “I have seen the very gaze of Christ looking back at me through the eyes of the poor, and the love of Christ demonstrated to them through the lives and deeds of His faithful servants”. The Elliot’s have also seen this “gaze” I suspect. When you see it you cant look away it is so inviting. They have certainly said yes in a big way.

    1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to walk in Him must walk as Jesus did.

    Stearns asks “Are you willing to be open to God’s will for your life?” We should all not be afraid to deeply examine this question, the Elliots have set the example bar at a high level.

    It will be awesome to read of this year in their life on WND. Thanks!

    Many prayers for the Elliot Family.

  2. sara said... 

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    October 9th, 2010 at 10:01 am  

    Thanks for this post. I love WND’s stuff, but I sometimes get a little jealous of your and all of the interns’ adventures because with a family and job and all that good stuff, we feel like we can’t get up and go to Haiti or Kenya or Panama. BUT Elliotts’ “yes” is very real and challenging to all of us who think serving in that way is just for the young or retired.

    Love the Elliotts…great shots of their beautiful family, Barry!

  3. Dave Rod said... 

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    October 9th, 2010 at 10:45 am  

    Yes, then yes, then yes! that is the simplest and clearest explanation of the steps to engagement in God’s kingdom work I’ve ever heard. Just say yes…one yes at a time.

    Brilliant.

    Aaron, Shelli, Isabel, Sydney and Sitota we will miss you but will pray and await the stories that will undoubtedly will arise out of your yes.

    Go with God!

  4. kathleen said... 

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    October 9th, 2010 at 7:05 pm  

    wow. I wish I said yes as often as I should have. God go with them and keep them safe, and bring them joy on this wonderful adventure!

  5. Sharon said... 

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    October 9th, 2010 at 8:24 pm  

    This story particularly resonates with me because nearly 40 years ago, when I was Sydney’s age, my parents said “yes” to a path that led our family to the Philippines for two years. That experience forever changed who we were as a family and the person that I have become. I know the Elliott kids will look back on their Haiti experience in the same way.

  6. Ruth Garcia said... 

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    October 10th, 2010 at 5:03 pm  

    I love this! So inspiring…nothing that we leave behind is more important than saying yes to God’s call. Living for Him is such an adventure and a joy!

  7. Keith Carlson said... 

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    October 10th, 2010 at 10:10 pm  

    Thanks Barry for a great perspective, and making it potentially accessible to all of us regular folk. Go Elliotts! Thanks for leading us well!

  8. Deanna Reinoso said... 

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    October 11th, 2010 at 8:37 am  

    We can’t wait to see how God is going to use the Elliott family!

  9. Virginia Baldwin said... 

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    October 11th, 2010 at 12:32 pm  

    I don’t have to say “God bless them” because I know He will. What an adventure, but how can they go wrong with God at the helm?
    Thanks for telling us about this dear family.

  10. Patty LIndley said... 

    Reply

    October 12th, 2010 at 7:42 am  

    Mother Teresa says, “Poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity.” She states that before God all of us are poor. After spending a week in Haiti with the Elliott’s in July I will pray that they are the hands and feet of Christ in a country that is in desperate need of mercy, grace, love and patience. You will all be in my daily prayers.
    In Christ, Patty

  11. Kristen said... 

    Reply

    October 13th, 2010 at 2:28 pm  

    This family is the picture of God’s love. The Elliott’s give their lives to others on an everyday basis, there by sharing God’s glory with others. It will be hard to have them gone for a year, but we couldn’t be more proud of what they are doing to serve the kingdom. Thank you for being great role models for those around you. We love you Elliott crew!

  12. Kristen said... 

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    October 13th, 2010 at 2:30 pm  

    PS…Barry, I stopped letting Syd win at Memory a while ago:)

  13. John Hanschu said... 

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    February 14th, 2011 at 12:35 pm  

    As Shelli’s Mom and Dad, we can atest to the fact that we are not particularily fearless but we do tend to pick up and move not with great frequency but more with the God will provide mentality. We couldn’t be more proud of Aaron, Shelli, Isabel, Sydney, and Sitota (totes to most of us, dezos to the Haitians). They are and will always be an example of God’s boundless love personified.

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