Using the little things to make me stronger…

I sit here this morning considering what the circumstances of life may be calling me to do today that I don’t feel capable of doing on my own.

Dave is gone for the next 10 days.  This isn’t a problem for me, I know how to be alone.  However, in light of this past month, the reality is, I may be faced with decisions I wish I could process with him or some things completely out of my comfort zone.  I was heading into this time already worn and fervently praying about ‘one’ of those things.

Since the hurricane…we’ve had unwelcomed visitors, the creepy crawly kind entering our house frequently…not our team house…primarily our house.  However, for the first time since living here ‘a rat’ came to join us.  This is NOT ok.  They are not small here.  We do a good job staying clean, keeping all food in plastic tubs…we take all the necessary precautions.  But…we do buy local fresh eggs which stay on a shelf since they don’t need to be refrigerated.  He…she…it… found those, feasted and decided to stay.  We set a trap.  IT happily helped itself to the delicious peanut butter and went on its way.  Not ok.  Last night I saw it again.  I prayed.  Each time I woke in the night I prayed.  It’s silly, I know.   I begged the Lord that we would catch it before Dave left this morning.

God answered this prayer with a ‘yes’!!  I am more grateful than you’ll ever know.  I could show you a picture, but won’t.  I couldn’t bear to look at it.

It’s the little things that break our spirit sometimes when we are in the midst of challenging days.  God knew I needed Him to show Himself in this moment.  He uses these times, even ones that are no big deal to another to strengthen our faith, to remind us of His presence.

Because of moments like these instead of saying ‘this is too hard’ or ‘this is not my gifting, not my calling, not why I came here’, when things don’t go as I thought or seem too much, I can choose to invite God to use the process to transform me…however long it takes.

He knows our breaking point.  On occassion He does answer ‘yes’ to even what seems to be the silliest of prayers, but aren’t to us.

He promises to give the weary strength, power to the one who lacks it, wisdom to those who are clueless.  I trust Him to give me what I need.

I want to accept the invitation to become a different kind of person instead of one who runs from what’s difficult, uncomfortable.  I long to become more like Him.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

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Motherhood

The moment a child is born…a mother is born.  It’s a thankless job at times…if I’m truthful, more often than not.

The worry, the work, the direction, the protection, that gave us security and a sense of belonging.  The freedom to explore, to recognize our strengths and weaknesses.  We fought for our independence and began to discover how God wired us.  We were lucky enough to be allowed to suffer the consequences of our actions…maybe because our mother’s knew the benefits we would reap…learning, suffering while under their wings.  Throughout the years they faced numerous challenges that they didn’t have the answers for.  They were strong, dedicated, and diverse.  They nurtured, taught, cared and loved passionately.  They slept little and forgave often.  They gave unmerited grace.

Mother’s need endurance, patience and a great sense of humor…they need the Lord.

We just had the opportunity to spend a brief amount of time with each of our mothers.  Upon our return to Haiti, I was reminded of how many children here…how many mothers… are missing out on this blessing.  It goes both ways.  My heart aches that they will not have the memories that we have to look back on.  They will not be able to say ‘thank you’.

We are grateful for our moms.  Without them, we wouldn’t be here.  We would not be serving in Haiti.  Without the years of prayers we might not even be together.  I may never have had the privilege to meet…to mother, our children.  To build into them as we were built into.

We are thankful to have been raised by women who love the Lord and prayed fervently that we would follow in those footsteps.

My prayer is that I can model motherhood well to the young people we are doing life with here in Haiti.  My Hope is that they will see Christ in my actions as a mother.  My Hope is that their families will be different.

We have this Hope because our mothers introduced us to the one who is Hope!

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Sa kap pase an Ayiti jodi a?

2016-02-05 02.39.49Sa kap pase an Ayiti jodi-a?  (What’s happening in Haiti today??)  The president of Haiti is officially stepping down.  With no president in sight, a last minute agreement has been made to install a transitional government.

This is a challenging time as the people of Haiti decide how to respond.

Haitians have a deep desire to be heard, to see change, but some of the people don’t always choose the best path in expressing themselves.  We are praying that this time things would be different.

The Prime Minister and Senate have 72 hours to elect an interim president who will work to hold elections on April 24 then leave office allowing the democratically elected president to take power on May 14.

The days and weeks ahead are important for the future of this country. Please keep Haiti in your prayers. We are praying for peace on the streets, growth and a fair election.

We are praying for change.  Tomorrow is a new day.

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Our God turns darkness into light…

There is a lot happening within Haiti in regards to the transition of powers within this government.  Many of our Haitian friends are frustrated and feeling hopeless.  Join us in prayer for the days ahead.  The earnest prayers of a righteous people have great power and where two or more gather in the name of our Lord…He WILL be in our midst.

May the people of Haiti walk after You, God,  fear You, keep Your commandments and obey Your voice.  May they serve You and hold fast to You.  Deuteronomy 13:4

May the people of Haiti be strong and courageous and not fear or be in dread, for it is You, Lord, our God, who goes with them.  You will never leave them or forsake them.  Deuteronomy 31:6

Give this country a deep desire to listen to You, Lord, and pray often, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Joshua 5:14b

Let the people of Haiti, especially the youth, learn early in life that to obey You, God, is the best way to the life their hearts desire. 1 Samuel 15:22

May the people of Haiti find comfort in Your ability, God, to reach them, to hold them, and to rescue them.  2 Samuel 22:17-18

May those in Haiti who profess knowing you, please You Lord, by desiring, asking for, and using a discerning heart full of wisdom.  1 Kings.  3:9-12

May the people of Haiti, as well as those seeking positions in government, those currently holding positions within the government, walk before You, God, as King David walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that You have commanded them and keeping Your statutes and rules.  1 Kings 9:4

Let the people of Haiti find confidence in You, God, even when hard times come and they don’t know what to do, by keeping their eyes fixed on You.  2 Chronicles 20:12

Create in the people of Haiti a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within them.  Psalm 51:10

Lord, be with the people of Haiti in trouble; rescue them and honor them.  Psalm 91:5

Give the people of Haiti a great desire to accept Your word, God, to store up Your commands within themselves so their ears will turn to Your wisdom.  Proverbs 2:1-2.

May the people of Haiti keep themselves under control and not give full vent to people and situations that anger them.  Proverbs 29:11

Let the people of Haiti walk in the security of their worth given to them by You.  Give the people of Haiti a strong work ethic and health to accomplish all the tasks before them.  Give them strong hearts that desire to extend a hand to those in need.  Protect them for the right spouse, a man or women of respect and godly honor.  Let them be men and woman of joy and laughter whose Christ-centered character is what makes them most beautiful.  Proverbs 31

May the people of Haiti listen to the way of wisdom and be led in the paths of uprightness.  Proverbs 4:11

May the youth in Haiti honor their fathers and mothers.  Ephesians 6:2

May the people of Haiti think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, may they think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

May the people of Haiti have love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  1 Timothy 1:5

Like Timothy, may the people of Haiti who profess faith in You be an example to other believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

And every time You, Jesus, whisper the words “Follow me”, we pray the people of Haiti would do so.  Matthew 4:19

 

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He gave first….

We give because…

  • God gave richly to us
  • we want to please Him
  • we want our faith in Him to be stretched
  • we desire to show His compassion
  • He will be pleased
  • He will be thanked

 …we want Him to be glorified

…we want to make Him known

Sometimes we are the recipients of a blessing we are then allowed to give away!

We recently experienced that when International Bible Givers purchased 300 Kreyol Bibles (Bib la) for us to give to the children in our GlobalFingerprints child sponsorship program.   At the beginning of December while handing out backpacks we were able to personally give each child a Kreyol Bible as well.  The response was overwhelming at moments and I treasured the ability to wish them a Merry Christmas (Jwaye Nwèl) while handing them His story in their heart language encouraging them to read it with their families.

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We take our Bibles for granted.

The next day, Sunday, we attended church at Source de la Grace where the program operates out of and where a number of the children attend.  Shortly after we arrived, two boys found me and hugged me with bright eyes and big grins, saying “Ou ban’n Bib sa yo yo ye!  Eske ou sonje nou’’?  (You gave us these Bibles yesterday.  Do you remember us?)

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I was suddenly filled with a sweet reminder of my need to appreciate His precious Word.  May I approach each day with eyes that sparkle and a cheesy grin on my face, as I open precious Words of life ‘’given to me’’ from our mighty God!!

I sat with the youngest boy and another friend that morning watching as they read the love letter written for them.  God is a joyful giver!!

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Servant Discipleship

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While not complicated this requires perseverance because we are only accustomed to servant practices in our own culture.  What does it really look like to be a servant in Haiti…to disciple in Haiti?

In a book we are currently reading (Cross Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer) it was said ‘’we should postpone calling ourselves “servants” until local people begin to use words about us that suggest they see servant attitudes and behaviors in us.”

What?  Doesn’t my coming here make me a servant?  Maybe not…not yet anyway.

Our goal is to be (from Cross Cultural Servanthood)…

  • Serving……but we can’t serve someone we don’t understand.
  • Understanding….but we can’t understand others until we have learned about, from them and with them.
  • Learning….but we can’t learn important information from someone until there is trust in the relationship.
  • Trusting….but to build trust others need to know that you accept and value them as people.
  • Accepting….but before we can communicate acceptance we, people must experience your openness – your ability to welcome them into your presence.
  • Open….openness with people different from yourself requires that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to initiate and sustain relationships in a world of cultural differences.

This all makes more sense if we start the process from the bottom and work our way to the top, beginning with openness.

God is also challenging our view of a ‘’discipleship’’ relationship.  Can it be done around a table with a curriculum?   Is it really more than that?  A short time ago, Wawa, one of our Haiti Consortium leaders came and shared his view on discipleship with our local Expat community.

We have been challenged.

We have been convicted…again.

Key points that spoke to as Wawa shared…

  • In dealing with the power distance culture we now live in we have to be willing to lower ourselves or elevate others to level our relationship with them.  He said we will never be successful if we can’t do this first step.
  • Be open.  Be open and transparent with the person you are discipling.  He said that discipleship here can never happen in a formal setting it has to happen informally.  This goes back to power distance issues.  He added that if you are using a book or written material you are doing a program not discipleship.  If the person you are seeking to disciple doesn’t feel at home in your home you are not doing discipleship.  It is truly experiencing life together just as Jesus did with the twelve.
  • It will be risky.
  • It will be sacrificial
  • We will be taken advantage of
  • We will bear fruit

We have been on a path of creating barriers due to fear of the unknown and lack of trust.  Do we trust God enough to be more willing to open our doors?  Our hearts?

Continuously battling our humanity as God patiently waits for us to allow Him to use us is humbling.

It’s a process of learning new and unlearning old habits, searching deep within ourselves for what may be obvious to others but a blind spot for us.

As we pursue the right steps for our family we have been reminded that the only One we should compare ourselves to is Him.

Jesus modeled discipleship.

He showed us how we should live life here on earth.

He has gone before us and is asking us to follow.

We are filled with His Spirit.

We are in good company.

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A year in Haiti…learning, culture, clarity and trust

Following the path He has placed before us..."I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

Following the path He has placed before us…”I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

It’s hard to believe that one year ago Sharron, Quinn and I loaded our 21 suitcases aboard an America Airlines plane and headed to Haiti.

Bags packed...

Bags packed…

We had been many times before but this time was definitely different…full of emotion.  What would it be like to actually live in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world?

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Lunch on the beach…

What will you do there?  What will you eat?  What do you do if you get sick, etc… were the questions people had asked.  We graciously tried to answer these questions but honestly we didn’t really know.  So much of this last year has been learning how to live in Haiti; how to fit in, as much as we can with our white faces in a sea of ebony.

Language has taken a large part of our time, and will continue to do so but we are beginning to finally feel we can function in conversation as long as it’s not too technical or filled with complicated subject matter.  It’s amazing how language is connected to culture; you can’t separate the two.  As we learn how sentences are structured it helps reveal some of the thinking of the people who make up this wonderfully complicated culture.  The Haitian view of time, life, death, spirituality, friendships, and their place in the world is quite different than our western way of thinking.  It is truly fascinating and frustrating all in the same moment.

loving on little ones...

loving on little ones…

It has also been incredibly interesting to experience firsthand how God’s word speaks   into every culture and breaths truth and life into all cultural understandings.  We have been blessed to view our own culture differently through the lens of the Haitian        culture, understanding we are all broken people. Culture is sometimes a way people hide their collective brokenness and often God calls us as Christ followers to live counter-cultural lives.

All these things plus the responsibility of discovering the thing that makes our heart sing…our passion, our sweet spot, well… it makes my head hurt at times.  To be honest I hate not knowing all the details before I do something, it’s just the way I tic.  I like to gather information and move forward only after gaining as much knowledge as possible but God doesn’t work that way.  He is about trust and He has been teaching us to trust.  Trust Me for clarity when the time is right God says.  Clarity is a word we use often as a team.  We need it amongst us humans because we are not all knowing as He is.  We fall short when we communicate, we need to have others check our motives and speak into our ideas.  Not God…His timing is perfect… never too soon, never too late.  He tells Abram ‘’go’’ and he doesn’t give details but fills them in as Abraham walked the path of obedience.  Looking for clarity without trust is mistrust…so we trust and as we do that God is providing clarity as to how we mesh our hearts with His passion, our family with His calling.

Hanging with a team and a neighborhood family

Hanging with a visiting team and a neighborhood family and friend

We are quite excited as God is beginning to bring clarity in areas of our ministry; agriculture, teacher training, job training and malnutrition prevention.  All this is a means to an end for discipleship opportunities with Haitian leaders.  For now, we are trusting Him to show us the right paths to successes that glorify Him and that He will use our failures to refine us, training us to trust even more.

the beauty of Haiti...

the beauty of Haiti…

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Teach them what you know….

Pastor Miradieu Estinvil

Pastor Miradieu Estinvil, Haitian agronomist, environmentalist and pastor

“The best way for people to survive is to learn to grow their own food…they can feed themselves, their families, and make a living…’’ Pastor Miradieu

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Pictures that tell stories of success that hang on his walls….1506989_10206002246039865_371348532837336769_n

Pastor Miradieu is a Pastor with an apparent love for the Word of God but he is also an agronomist with a heart to teach people to care and provide for themselves.  He has planted 16 churches since 2000…training men and women not just to preach the word but to disciple.  He is passionate about building strong leaders who will then build into their communities.  He desires to see the church train within their community making an eternal impact.

He also believes in sustainable community development through the local church.

‘’The only way you can help people in Haiti…you cannot give money out, you cannot give or build a house..yes you can for a while, you can try to give one or two but you do not have that much money to do for everyone.  But if you teach them how to do it…you’d be surprised at what they can make for themselves when you give them your knowledge and your time…teach them, they can practice what they learn from you”  Pastor Miradieu.

He gives a small loan to a group within a community to buy seeds and supplies.  Then over a two year period he teaches them how to plant, grow, harvest, and reproduce using seeds from the vegetables and beans they have grown themselves.  As he mentors them over that time, they pay back their loan and learn to make a living, giving them the ability to provide for their families.

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He teaches them to use the neem plant as a natural, free insecticide that you crush and mix with water as well as using charcoal ashes and coffee grounds to treat insects and disease in the soil.

Checking out the mulch...

Checking out the mulch…

He also teaches them to compost creating their own soil or supplementing the ground they are planting in.  For those who don’t have a lot of space or any place to garden such as the cities, he teaches tire gardening, pallet gardening and roof top gardening (similar to urban gardening), making use of inexpensive resources no longer being used that would otherwise end up in the trash.

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Pastor Miradieu

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The area in which his site is…..

Water is often still one of the main issues for many.  Pastor Miradieu had to drill 180 feet to reach water for his well on his site…in his area some have gone as far as 300 feet and still not reached water.  He is currently in the process of trying to raise support for a community well in his area, much more like a desert than the lush land we often see here in Haiti…allowing more people the opportunity to garden and farm.

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The property of his neighbor whom he taught to farm…

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Sharing his vision….

His program is teaching Haitians to be self sufficient through farming and urban agriculture, teaching them how to integrate these foods into their daily diet while creating income for the family…his group is busy being the hands and feet of our Jesus.

Our rooftop....

Our rooftop….

Putting into practice what were learning

Putting into practice what were learning

so we can share with others...

so we too can share with others…

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Rekonesans….

“Rekonesans” is the Kreyol word for gratitude.

We have been in the United States for close to two weeks now…hard to believe, the time has passed too quickly.  I was awoken at 12:03 am, at first feeling a little irritated because I simply wanted to be sleeping, but then reminded by the Lord of what day it was and my need to express to Him all I am grateful for.

Thanksgiving quickly became my favorite holiday when I was made aware of how abundantly blessed I am, not only by what I have materially but more importantly by this life I have been given to live.  

I am allowed to love unconditionally not only those who deserve my love but those who don’t.

I have been given freedom to express myself and suffer the consequences of doing so…both good and bad.

I am encouraged to listen and hear, to look and see…to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom in order to learn…to understand why we as people are so radically different and what we all have the potential to be.

I am challenged to seek to live sacrificially, dependent on God, not limited by my humanity, but empowered by His Spirit.

I have been blessed to be given the opportunity to walk through difficult, tragic times with people I know and those I didn’t know until crisis struck.

Neither I nor any other person is left alone to suffer the consequences of poor choices.  God is waiting to walk through those painful times, desiring to refine and transform us through the process.

As I was reading in Matthew 5 today I was reminded of how God’s mercy extends to “all” men…so why can’t mine?  I am not speaking to any one situation because at this moment we (my family, my team in Haiti, my friends) are surrounded by situations where we/I could easily write off any number of people and I admit to being guilty of considering doing just that. Yet once again I am grateful that my life is the Lords and that He continuously draws me back to His truths in my moments of weakness.

Empowered by the fruits of the Spirit shared in Galatians 5…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…I am able to continuously express gratefulness to my Savior for His gift of life and His desire to use mine in the midst of the messiness among those who need to see Christ alive in me.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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Day of the Dead…

day of the dead painting

This week as many of your children don their masks and costumes going house to house in search of the best candy, we in Haiti will not…Halloween isn’t something celebrated in Haiti.  However “All Saints Day” celebrated on Nov. 1st followed by “All Souls Day” celebrated Nov. 2nd; are Catholic traditions blended with Ghede (GEH-day), the Voodoo celebration of Day of the Dead.

 Ghedes are part of the pantheon of gods known as Loa’s (Loh-WAH)…it has been said there are as many as 402 of them within Voodoo religion.  Ghede, as the ruler of death, embodying the principle of resurrection, governs the preservation and renewal of life. Sometimes referred to with affection as Papa Ghede, he is led by Baron Samedi, the god of death in Haiti’s Vodun tradition.  Ghede controls access to the afterlife but Baron Samedi controls the souls of the dead.

 Haitian’s will put on their Sunday best, heading out to church first thing in the morning to pray.  Many will then go home and put on the attire of the “ragtag Ghedes”, as the spirits of the underworld are often called, or of the elegant Baron Samedi (SAHM-dee) in his black, white and purple color scheme.  An outfit can be as simple as a white blouse, skirt and purple neck scarf or it can include a black top hat and tails, a baton or cane, and a red bandanna or multicolored necklaces.

 It’s common to wear makeup – painting half their face white with black around the eyes or dusting the face with flour. Once dressed, celebrants head out to the town cemetery where those who have ancestors buried there will clean the tombs of their loved ones and leave food for them in an act of remembrance.

 Day of the dead

Spiritual adepts, women called mambos and the men called houngans (HONE-gahn), joined by drummers and singers, will pray at a cross rising from a tomb…the symbol of Baron Samedi, summoning the spirits.  Then the partying begins.

 The apparent contradiction may be difficult for North Americans to comprehend.  The god of death, Baron Samedi pokes fun at death and with his raunchy humor and suggestive, lewd dancing makes fun of the human passion that brings life.

A typical altar in honor of Ghede could include cigarettes; a small white image of a skull; white, black and purple candles; satin fabric in the same colors; clarin (strong rum), a Haitian white rum spiced with habanero peppers; crosses; a miniature coffin; sequined bottles and a chromolithograph of St. Gerard; a saint associated with Baron Samedi.

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With a population of over 10 million, Haiti has many followers of Vodun (VOH-doon), a religion that accommodated the practices and principles of captives from Africa who were brought to the island during the slave trade.

Evangelical believers in Haiti do not celebrate this holiday, it’s more likely they’ll spend their day in church praying.

 We write this not condoning the celebration but inviting you into the context in which we live.  To our North American worldview this seems bizarre, hard to understand, difficult to make sense of, but this is Haitian reality; truth to many people here in Haiti.  Spirits are as much of a reality as the living and their presence play into everyday life.

 Ministry here is very difficult at times, because our truths are not the same.  A worldview change has to happen to touch people at the core their beliefs.  Feeding, building or giving things will not change Haitian worldview…only the intentional work of disciple making will bring a culture in alignment with a biblical worldview.  Both American and Haitian cultures need to embrace this reality if we want to see our countries thrive and honor God.

The cool thing is the Haitian church and North American church can work as equals in this endeavor to see God change our countries from the inside out. This is the heartbeat of the Haiti Consortium.  To learn more read below…

http://reachglobalnews.org/haiti-summit-seeks-better-approaches-to-aid-ministry/

http://v1.efcatoday.org/site/article/are-we-listening

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