Call of the Valley: Gabriella Haak embraces mystery, Black Mountain
At first, the fact that Kim Midkiff has added a new associate to her Black Mountain hair salon may not seem especially notable. However, after a few moments in Gabriella Haak’s presence, the glint in her eyes and a certain sense of wonder indicate something special about this young woman that goes far deeper.
It all harkens back to her youth living in Maine when she first sensed there was more to life than following the conventional pattern of attending church, graduating from school, going to college and taking out loans in search of some path to an apt vocation. Even making her high school classmates happy by doing their hair didn’t begin to fill this great void.
“By the time I was 22, I felt this deep craving to go figure it out and explore what this world truly was all about," Haak said. "I could have played it safe and gone ahead with following the crowd but I wanted to know what God truly had in store for me. I then discovered there were missionary ventures sponsored by an agency in Georgia that had been active all over the world for over 25 years. Through their personal connections, they sent teams to far off locales with special needs. Places where I could help the poor and teach and minister to children.”
Her first posting sent her to 11 countries in 11 months, offering her experiences that, minute by minute, day by day, she found much more real and fulfilling than any notions she’d gleaned from photographs or movies.
“For instance, I found the culture in Mozambique, my first country, much more vibrant and the people much more friendly than any place I’d ever been," Haak said. "I came across this humongous outdoor market of all manner of fruits and vegetables where everyone bartered. It was so fun and invigorating. I went to Madagascar, experienced all the poverty there, and on to Malaysia and then to India at a home for unwanted orphan girls I could pour myself into. All the while, in giving of myself along with the others in my team, I felt myself changing.”
Later on, she had the opportunity to attend a Christian leadership academy in Spain, where she came under the influence of a teacher who had “a very scandalous approach” and prodded her to delve deeply and come to terms with why she was engaged in this work.
“He flipped the scripts on how to see religion, the bible, creation and myself," Haak said. "He led me to see it was really God’s joy to give love. It’s not at all that I have to follow prescribed strictures and get approval. You can’t give love from an empty vessel. Being wholly receptive touches you, causes a spiritual awakening and provides you with something to offer.”
She also met her husband Andrew (who is from California) in Spain a little over a year ago. They both were involved with comparable work but with an entrepreneur focus this time helping needy people, say, in the Ukraine sustain themselves. Recently, the couple learned of a like-minded small college in Black Mountain called Excel and decided to move back home to the U.S. in order to engage with kindred spirits in a continual communal setting. Fittingly, the curriculum included entrepreneurial leadership, community and program development and growth through experiential learning seeking ways to live and love.
As for choosing Black Mountain, Haak said: “There’s a feeling you get when something’s just right. The people here are very warm and open, going at their own pace and not always in a rush to accomplish something. Like Kim here at Kim’s Cuts who is so kind and easygoing and treats me like one of the family. All told, my journey has been about who I naturally am in this world and how I relate to others in good times and when they’re in pain. Like my husband always says to people, “make good choices,” as in learn, do and figure it all out. Which brings me to mystery. There is so much to discover and kindness to share.”