My name is Sarah Noland, and I am from North Carolina. I am currently in language school in Costa Rica, in preparation for a role in the Dominican Republic, and I have been with Back2Back for two years.
1. Why did you go/join Back2Back?
You know when the things you love to do start to collide with the plans God has for you? That is when I knew global missions was going to be more than just a short term mission trip, and was actually a part of God’s larger plan for my life and His Kingdom.
In 2008, I moved to Charlotte, NC to pursue my career in accounting and finance. Little did I know it was the Holy Spirit’s nudge and God’s plan to shake up the Kingdom. I started at the big banks and followed a colleague to a small entrepreneurial firm, who would eventually introduce me to Todd Guckenberger, Back2Back’s executive director.
In September, 2011, I went on my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my church, Forest Hill. This trip stirred something in my wild, southern heart for orphaned and vulnerable children, and God has been fanning the flame since through trips with various teams in the DR. In 2017, while serving with Back2Back in Mexico, Todd asked me to go to India for two months to help the accountant there – it was during those two months I realized the comfortable version of life I’d expected wasn’t God’s dream for me. India, and the most beautiful, brave, and resilient children who call her home, changed my story and its trajectory.
I spent the following year serving in Haiti and am now preparing for full-time work in the DR.
2. What have you learned since you’ve lived on the field?
I’ve learned sometimes God doesn’t show us His plans for us all at once. When I first moved to Haiti, I thought it was only going to be for a few months. I sometimes wonder if I had known ahead of time I’d be there much longer, would I have still gone? I laugh when I think back to that girl who thought she knew what God had planned for her and her life. I still don’t know everything, but I understand more now about why God only shows us a little bit at a time about the mystery of what He has planned in advance for us.
3. Share a funny/embarrassing moment when the culture you’re familiar with was met with new cultural traditions?
While in Haiti I traveled down south with Matt Ellis, Back2Back’s Haiti site director, and his family to see a different part of the country. One afternoon, we went to explore some caves in the mountains. We had a tour guide who didn’t speak any English, so Matt would translate for us. We had to hike up a pretty steep mountain to get to this cave, and I was getting pretty dirty. Our tour guide began to lead us into these very dark, wet, and muddy caves. These were very old caves. He told stories of long ago about people hiding there for safety and how they would use the cave walls to play music for entertainment. We walked over to this pool of water that had formed from a very slow drip above. He said something in Creole and drank the water. He then pointed at me, then to the water. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, but I was covered in mud so naturally, I thought he was telling me I could wash my hands. So I began to basically bathe in this water, when he and Matt immediately stopped me. Matt explained the water was sacred and clean, and he was inviting me to drink it! Needless to say, the water was no longer fit for drinking after my little bird bath. This is exactly why I need to learn the language of the country I am serving in!
4. What’s something from the culture you live in that you’ll keep with you forever?
In the midst of a country where the enemy has taken aim, where pain seems to triumph, Haiti, and the nationals I got to work alongside, taught me sometimes God just wants me to sit with people and be with them in their trauma and loss. Without trying to fix it because I can’t, only God can. I learned we are a witness to the heart of our God simply by being there for one another. This is what makes us family – being totally known and fully loved. This is where the healing takes place, and I hope I never forget that.