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.

day of the dead 1

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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Am I enough? Part two….

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love in response to my blog yesterday. Overwhelmed but not surprised.  However, I hope I don’t have everyone too freaked out…I need to assure you that I am doing well…because of the Lord! Choosing to not live in the flesh but in the Spirit makes all the difference.

I hadn’t blogged in quite some time because I feared this would come across depressing and yet it was where the Lord kept taking me, where He has been at work. Life is much more raw here…it may be that way on any international mission field, I am only familiar with Haiti.  I /we asked for…prayed for an opportunity like this, to make us fully dependent on the Lord.

We got what we asked for because I believe it’s what he wants for us all but for us, life in the states allowed us to fill ourselves with so many other things, to remain self-sufficient… we can’t do that here.

Although there are difficult moments, I am learning to live filled with His joy, His peace, His comfort…I am drawing on the fruits of His Spirit more than ever before and it is an incredible ride.  It’s been His plan for us all along.  I really am celebrating His work in each of us.  He does ask everything but He gives Himself fully to us as He continues this sanctification process.

May God be glorified in each step we take as we move closer to Him.  We continue to be grateful for everyone who has joined us in support through prayer and finances. This is your journey too as we know He is stretching you as well!!

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Am I enough?

I have continued to struggle with an internal loneliness.  We knew we’d miss our friends and family but the ache is deeper than I imagined it would be.

We often get asked, “What is the hardest part about living in Haiti?”  Our answer has nothing to do with heat, illness…which we’ve battled more frequently here than ever before, loss of conveniences, or daily life with mosquitos and the wearing of eau de Off.  It’s not the tarantulas that like to make their way into our bathroom or the hours it takes to drive 20 miles.  It isn’t even the poverty we face around every corner and the pain of witnessing the heart ache it causes.  These things are hard but not what is hardest.

It isn’t about what we’ve left behind but has everything to do with those we’ve left behind. Moving away results in change in relationships…it’s inevitable.  Every missionary I know feels this way and has probably written these words, yet on our own we must work through what that means for us.  We grieve the daily interaction of those we love, the births we miss, big events in the lives of people we love…we struggle with the guilt of not being around for family celebrations or being available to our aging parents.  It hurts to know we aren’t there to love our family and friends through difficult times.

In the book of Luke, Jesus clearly speaks to the cost involved in following Him.  As I’ve pondered the cost of following Jesus, the cost of being a Disciple…a Disciple maker, I’ve had to consider whether God can be enough when we choose to follow Him. There is so much loss involved.

God is asking me, “Am I enough?”  Is He?  Is He enough for me?  Do I trust Him to enough for my family and friends?  I don’t know about you but I wrestle with this…daily.

want Him to be enough…to be sufficient…to delight in His goodness.  I want my thirst to be quenched, my hunger satisfied so that I am useful to Him here…where He has placed us.

Because He is gracious as we grow in Him ever so slowly, He has begun to build community around us.  He knows our needs and meets us right where we’re at.  We truly have no doubts that we have people here we can call on in crisis, who notice when we’re missing and reach out to us when were ill.  They do not replace those back home for any of us, BUT He is, once again, enlarging our family.  We trust that He is doing the same for those we’ve left behind, bringing new people to minister, comfort and breathe words of life into one another.

He expects everything…He requires everything…not just from us but from those who have encouraged and allowed us to go.  God continues to steadily change the trajectory of our lives as well as those who’ve joined us in this journey…we will never been the same and for that I am grateful.  Along the way I hope to come to a place where I can fully say “my heart belongs to Him alone and He is enough”!

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What a mother will do.

As the chaos ensues in Northern Iraq and Syria it has been difficult to write about this little things going on in life here in Haiti. Today, along with this post we also received a prayer request from a member of our organization…see below…

“As you know the chaos in northern Iraq and Syria has created a huge problem in Turkey. Up to date almost 1.2 million refugees have flooded over the border into southeastern Turkey. Most recently the Yezidi (Kurdish ethno-religious community) have been fleeing the Islamic State. I will be going down to the largest city in the southeast region this coming Thursday and Friday (Sept 4-5) to assess the situation. There is a Turkish fellowship in the city that has been given open doors by local city officials to minister and provide aid to the ‘least of these’ across the border In North Iraq. Pray for discernment in how to best empower the people on the ground there in Dayırbakır, and help contribute to seeing how the Kingdom of God can come in an eternal, reproducible, indigenous way to these displaced peoples, while at the same time providing temporal assistance in a time of crisis. ”

It’s simply heartbreaking and we are so removed! Join us in prayer that God be made known in the midst of this tragedy!

ReachGlobal Crisis Response

IMG_20140828_111047_916 They escape with their lives and then serve us tea. We cannot share Mrs A’s photo for security reasons.

She sat on a mattress on the floor, head covered in traditional Muslim dress. Amid tears, and with a caring worker from a local Christian church pressed close, a hand gently laid over hers, “Mrs. A” told us what she could bear about her journey. “We traveled mostly on foot for 30 days. We walked a lot. Shoes wore out and we walked in bare feet.” The people taking them took almost all their money.

“Mrs. A”, had been in Jordan for 3 days, a refugee from the chaos of Syria. She came with her 3 sons, and a daughter-in-law. Arriving with nothing, they found a tiny, cramped basement, barley big enough for 3 mattresses on the floor, and a sink in the corner. They pay $125 a month for this…

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The beauty of His mountains….

Mountain

I am reminded daily of how easily I can allow in my life a gap between what I read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how I try to live my life   I am sure I often appear to be living without the power of the Spirit, ignoring His promptings.  Without Him I am not all He has created me to be.  God longs to “do a new thing” in my life, in the lives of my family (Isaiah 43:19) and I want…need to allow Him to have His way.  I truly do desire to consistently live with an awareness of His strength and power in me…to be different today from what I was yesterday.  I want to be fearless, to expect to see extraordinary things happen around me.  There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for those things I’d like to be true.  Unfortunately, the truth is, there are also many moments I don’t want to be led by the Spirit…I don’t want to be led by anyone other than myself.  I’m a mess!

mountain 1

One of my favorite things to do here in Haiti, is to head into the mountains for a walk/run (working on the running) and process the day with the Lord.  As my legs ache from the hills I am climbing, I am reminded that scripture speaks to the endurance needed…required by believers…our need to endure to the end, fight the good fight, run with patience, perseverance, endurance…to finish well.  As we look through our eyes at all that is broken around us, it’s easy to feel worn, to see the mountain as too steep!  BUT if I remember to simply put one foot in front of the other, focusing only on the next step, talking to the Lord as I go, I know that just as I am conquering these beautiful mountains here, our family, empowered by the Lord will conquer both the foreseen and unforeseen mountains ahead of us as we minister with our team in Haiti.  God has a supernatural ability to serve the people He has placed around us, through us.  May He alone be glorified and His beauty seen through our responses!

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Life in Haiti is unpredictable but God is not!

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever ”                                                            Hebrews 13:8

Life in Haiti is unpredictable and uncertain but God is not!  There is no doubt He will use this to draw us nearer to Him.

This first week is almost over and has really gone by rather quickly.  We arrived without too many issues; all of our luggage (19 bags and 4 fully loaded backpacks); no customs check and were able to get home and unloaded before the rain kicked in.  All of us admitted to thoroughly enjoying our one time adventure of flying first class!!  Josh is doing great as well…it really is a lot to take in the first time you arrive in Haiti…the battle at the airport, the visual as you drive through the crowded streets, the intensity of the heat and the smell can lead to sensory overload.

Here are some highlights from these last several days…

  • Josh was able to sit in on a meeting we had with a group of young Christian Haitian men (potential partners) who’ve formed a group called “Vision for Haiti”.  They have a desire and a plan to bring power into an area in Haiti, considered a slum.  The local government has no interest in bringing power to this community but these young men do with the hope of sharing Christ as they do it.  They have broken the community into 4 quadrants and their plan is to raise money for the first transformer, poles, lines, etc. and then  for each family in that quadrant of the community to contribute a small amount to help bring power to the next quadrant.  It will be a sacrificial amount for each family (to us it would be very small) but they do feel it’s best to for each member receiving power to have ownership and buy in, not just get something for free…they get the damage that too much “charity” has already done to the people of Haiti.
  • After many hours and lots of trial and error we do have power that is sourced from a combination of a generator, inverter, batteries and city power (sometimes).
  • We went to “the Caribbean” …one of the markets in Petion-Ville that is similar to a Walmart…here are a few US prices of some “luxury” items we purchased….WOW!

64oz low-fat milk-just under $10
10oz box of Cascadian Farms cereal-$14
12 pack of Coke Zero- $9.50
Carton of Eggs (not Organic or Cage Free) $5
6 pack Sparkle scott towels-$13
9 pack Charmin toilet paper-$13
24oz jar pasta sauce-$7

  • We experienced our first flood Friday night as a river that is very close by overflowed due to the volume of recent rain!  It was just about bedtime and suddenly we heard dogs barking out of control, people yelling, goats bleating, cows mooing…we weren’t sure what was happening.   We we’re shocked to find water rising in our yard and flowing down the street, it hadn’t been too long before that moment that we had walked home down that same street.  This is something they’ve only experienced one other time and it’s been awhile.

During my devotional time this week the Lord brought a verse that I’ve leaned into during the hard moments of this transition as we struggle to figure things out….”What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later” Rom 8:18.  Over and over Jesus implored His followers to “take courage!” just as if He Himself was offering us something precious from His outstretched hands…He reminds us “we are not alone in this …even in the moments it might feel that way.  We’ll get this all figured out…it will simply take time.

Things we are thankful for and answered prayers….

  • Power to run fans at night
  • 2 tables to set stuff on while we sort through our luggage
  • Rain held off during the day while Josh was here
  • That when the river rose and flooded our street it didn’t rise enough to come in either home
  • A pair of rain boots given to us by our teammate Jen allowing Quinn to walk easily down our very muddy road
  • Our son Josh who was a tremendous help in getting power going this week
  • Diesel (needed to run the generator is a little less expensive than we thought)
  • The ability to eat dinner at our headquarters house which helped with the long days of work

Prayer requests…

  • That we could clearly identify how to prioritize all we need to do around the house to make it more of a home
  • For Quinn as she struggles with boredom while our efforts are focused on our home and as we are somewhat stuck due to the flood
  • Spiritual warfare as this week has truly been a challenge, knowing there is more ahead
  • That we could get our internet up and running
  • For solar power –it’s costly to run the generator as often as we have to for now

Love you all and grateful for your prayers!!!

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