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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“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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Treasuring the moments left…

We have been drawn and compelled to leave, yet our hearts feel broken as we face the truth of all we will leave behind. It is a deep ache covered in His comfort.  We are so grateful that God is holding on to each of us through each of you, because we know we can’t do this alone.  The truth is, He is everything we need and should be enough but because He knows our weakness He has sent us each of you!!  We really don’t know what the future looks like, but neither did Abraham, Noah, Rahab and the many others in scripture whom God compelled to follow Him into the unknown.  He constantly reminds us that we are simply to put one foot in front of the other holding onto Him with all we have.

Here are some current praises and prayers as we prepare to leave…

Praises…

  • we move May 12th
  • our generator has been purchased and is sitting at our home waiting patiently for us
  • the generosity of our friends, family and church
  • God’s provision through the church…spiritually, financially, emotionally
  • for the team God pulled together to help Dave’s parents with mowing and Dr visits (as needed)
  • People who have come to us with a heart to specifically minister to Quinn
  • the missionary support team being created to support us from here
  • that our son, Josh, we be will us from May 10th -17th and help us make the move to Haiti

Prayers…

  • that our time in the Word and listening to the Lord would be a priority
  • for our son Josh…as we transition to the field, he is seeking wisdom regarding next steps in his life
  • for Dave’s parents.. they believe God has called us to this place, but change is hard…they will especially miss Quinn
  • for Sharron’s family in Arizona-health, comfort and peace related to our move
  • pray for Quinn’s heart throughout this as reality kicks in…we know God has great plans for her in this process
  • prayer for our marriage as we work through stressful decisions…Satan does seek to use this to bring tension…at this time He’s not been successful and we want it to stay that way!  Pray with us that God would use the trials to draw us closer…that we would fall more in love with each other each day as we watch Him at work in one another
  • discernment as we continue to figure out what to bring (We can bring a total of 20 bags, the first 12 are free, the remaining 8 cost $150 a bag…not sure it’s worth it to bring all 8..depends on what the items are, etc)
  • that we figure out how to properly filter the diesel before using it in the generator…it is a costly item and needs a lot of proper maintenance to keep it running well for a long time
  • for the repairs on the house to get the water functioning in the showers, etc and the electric issues
  • for all the little details to come together here at home as we wrap things up
  • for energy and endurance…we are tired and full of emotions, yet excited to be moving forward

 Life is a bit of a blur… it has been a crazy few years, so we are leaning into the Lord to be “present in the moments” treasuring time with friends and family while juggling the to do’s and language learning.  We anticipate continued spiritual warfare but know we are empowered by the One who will prevail and know that the prayer warriors/partners that surround us are girded up and prayerfully fighting for us already!!

Praising God for each of you!

 

 

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30 days and counting….

We have been waiting for this day!  God is so good and busy at work in many places…we are finally able to say we really are on our way to join Him in the work He is doing in Haiti.

Our flight is  booked!!!  On May 12th of 2014, the three of us along with our son Josh will board a plane with 20 suitcases to make our move to Haiti.

We have to admit to moments of feeling emotionally overwhelmed. This is what we’ve been waiting for but we are faced with the reality of all we are leaving behind…not easy, yet exciting…feeling blessed yet sorrowful!

We started this journey with applications in June of 2012.  Last month we celebrated our call with a commissioning at our church.

Some of our family at our commissioning..

A celebration of a majority of our partners and the beginnings of our prayer wall that we will put up in our new home…

A little over a week ago we were in Haiti for team health training with our multi-cultural team as well as meetings with the Haiti consortium having great conversations about partnering together in intentional disciple making in both the US and Haitian church.

Haiti Consortium

Consortium meeting

Prayer time during the Consortium meeting..

Prayer time during the Consortium meeting..

We spent an amazing week getting to know our team as we intentionally spent time learning each others strengths and weaknesses.  We were also able to spend some time in what will become our new home (click to see a short video if your interested) that will be shared with some of our team.  Met our first tarantula…sorry I didn’t think to take a picture…maybe next time!  I’m sure he won’t be the last!

Sharron with My Love (yes, that's her name)

Sharron with My Love (yes, that’s her name)

Dave on the way to orphanage

Walking to New Horizan’s

Traveling to the beach...some ride inside the vehicle, some on top!

Traveling to the beach…some ride inside the vehicle, some on top!

Just beautiful!!

Enjoying the beauty!!

This next month will be filled with decisions, shopping and many, many good byes!  Grateful for all who are joining us in this ministry!!

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In the midst of “languaculture”, will I still be me?

In the midst of “languaculture”, will I still be me?.

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In the midst of “languaculture”, will I still be me?

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We are midway through our language acquisition training at CIT in North Carolina, being taught how to acquire a language and culture, referred to as “languaculture” because language and culture can’t be separated.  While we thought we knew the value of learning the language of the people we are going to live among, we have come to realize in this last week that it’s significantly more important than we really understood.

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The CIT campus is on 28 beautiful acres

There is a rating scale used to identify stages of language learning beginning with a 0 and ending with a 5 which means you can speak like an educated native speaker.  The average missionary settles at a 2+ which allows you to satisfy most survival needs, routine social demands and work requirements.  However, if our desire is to really make an impact, to reach the hearts of the people we are doing life with, we need to pursue reaching at least a level 4.  At a level 2+ we can make an impact on the surface but to engage in ministry that leads to true discipleship and transformation of the heart we need to choose to challenge ourselves, to not settle for getting by.  It won’t be easy and it will take time which is difficult for our North American mindsets to accept.  We want immediate results that are not possible.

We’re also continuing to wrestle with another big challenge we’ll face…a loss of identity.  As individuals we are shaped by our home culture which will no longer be sufficient in our new culture.  Our preferred, familiar roles change.  How we gain affirmation is lost which can cause our emotional resources to run dry.  Leaving all familiar relationships that have taken years to establish can cause us to feel lost, like we don’t fit and have no place.  We are letting go of our ability to manage some of the most basic aspects of life…a toddler will be able to communicate needs more clearly than we will.

Starting today you will never really belong to the people you are going to work with or belong fully to the people you are leaving.  You will be between people”, a quote from linguistics trainer Dr. Cal Rensch of SIL.

What do we need to remember in the midst of all this?  We aren’t able to do this in our own strength…but we don’t have to!  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  Our identity is in Christ…“Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20)!

In the midst of this identity loss we are “being transformed by the renewing of our minds through His word” (Rom 12:1).  As the stress of this transition reveals the cracks in the foundation of who we are, God will reveal His power in us if we allow it.  He is sufficient to carry us through this process.  We are blessed to get this opportunity to be dependent upon Him like never before!

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Where we’re living while at CIT

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