Thursday, May 10, 2012

Always in My Heart

I'm home in San Diego.  My season in Haiti has come to an end.  At the beginning I thought it might be forever.  But God has a way of changing things.  It turns out my calling to Haiti was for a season.  And a glorious year it was.  I praise the Lord for it.  By His grace, He allowed me to be a part of laying the foundation for a long term work in Jeremie with Impact 195 in my initial 6 months here, and in the past 6 months here with the team.  He has done so much.

A new well was completed, giving clean drinking water to hundreds of families and providing an opportunity to share about Jesus, the Living Water.


The well became our 5th children's ministry site.


God blessed and grew the children's ministry at the other 4 weekly sites and raised up an amazing group of Haitians who run the whole thing.


He used the English classes as an opportunity for evangelism and to move people into Bible studies and ministry.



He equipped many through the Word in several weekly Bible studies.



Two 1 John Adventure trips were taken.



He fed and loved on the sick in the daily hospital ministry.



We praised the Lord together on Friday nights at Simply Worship.



A ministry was started for the handicapped.


Friends became like family.



He created community where there was none.


And on and on.  He has blown us away.  Disciples are being made and the groundwork continues.  Five of our team came back and six stayed in Jeremie.  The next team is beginning to assemble to join them in September.  It seems that God's plan for Jeremie is big.  He has led us to a large property and negotiations are underway to obtain it and begin a discipleship school and church planting movement. 

I'm moving into a beautiful new season of life getting married in July, and am back serving at Impact 195, equipping world changers to go out into all the nations.   

Thank you for being a part of this glorious season with me.  I have finished my race in Haiti with joy.  And will continue to pray and praise God for all He has in store for Haiti.  Always in my heart...

Psalm 126:2-3 
"Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing.  Then they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.'  The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Regrets

Today I have regret.

Remember Linda?  She is a precious little special needs girl that I fell in love with.  I wrote about her in November here.

I hadn't been to visit her for quite some time, and finally went last Friday.  She wasn't out front with her mom, Leann, like she usually is.  Leann said Linda was sick and motioned for me to follow her down a little alley that led us to their one room "house."  I paused outside while she got Linda.  She handed me her sick frail little body and I held her.  She could barely keep her eyes open or hold her head up.  Her skin was sagging off her tiny bones.  Her feet were swollen.  I sang to her, and sensed that she was dying.  I wondered if it was from malnutrition.  To my left were two little neighbor girls sitting in the dirt outside their one room house with a rusty pile of tin next to them.  I stood there rocking Linda, the somber little scene searing itself into my memory.

For some reason it didn't strike me until later that night at home that she needed to go to the hospital.  I decided to pray on it over the weekend first before just marching in as the white person to save the day.  You have to use a lot of discernment when meeting tangible needs in Haiti.  As I prayed, I felt the go-ahead from God to bring her, yet didn't act in any urgency about it really.  I looked at my schedule for the week to see when I had time and didn't have a chunk of time in the day until today, Thursday.  I thought Wednesday when I was in the market buying food for Natilia I'd pass by and make the plans with Leann for Thursday.

So yesterday, hands full of bags, I stopped to chat briefly with her about it.

"I think Linda needs to go to the hospital.  It's free for children at St. Antoine's.  If there's any cost though I'll pay it.  Do you know where it is?"
"Yes."
"Do you want to bring her yourself, or do you want me to go with you?"
"I want you to come with me."
"I don't have time until tomorrow afternoon.  I'll come back then and we'll go."
"Okay, thank you."

And I left.  I showed back up at noon today.  Leann wasn't sitting out front like she usually does, but was sitting in a chair at the back of the alley leading to their house.  She motioned to me.  And I knew immediately- I was too late.  I walked back to Leann and she started wailing.  Linda had died last night at 8:00.  I hugged her and rubbed her back and listened to her anguished words between her sobs.  She calmed after awhile, and wanted me to come see her.  I follow her inside the house.

Linda's lifeless body is wrapped in a blue sheet on top of a little board on the cement floor.  The other kids pull the sheet down and I see her precious little face, frozen in death.  A long white worm is coming out of her nose.  The kids pull it out, throw it on the cement, and cover her back up.  Another memory seared in my mind.

We quickly arrange for a casket to be made.  The man comes to measure her- 40 inches- and goes off to make it.  Leann is grateful, yet devastated.  I tell her Linda is in heaven with Jesus now, healthy, happy, dancing.  I share the gospel with the rest of the people standing around, family and visitors, and tell them we can see her again one day too.  I make plans to come back when the casket is finished.

I cry when I get home and the lesson hits clear as day- when God puts something on your heart, don't delay in doing it.  Do it right away.  I waited, and then it was too late.  Oh the conviction sets in.  The regret.  I let the "busyness" win.  And Linda died.

I know God's sovereignty covers the whole thing.  I'm not beating myself up.  He is in control and I trust that completely and am covered in His peace.  Yet I feel He allowed the whole thing to happen as He did to teach me some very important lessons, and I don't want to miss them.  I have been reflecting hard, and there is much God is showing me.  More than I have space for here.

But the thing I want to leave you with is this:  What has God been nudging your heart to do?  To reconcile a broken relationship?...  To help a friend in need?...  To visit your lonely elderly neighbor?...  Don't delay.  Don't let the busyness crowd it out and miss your chance.  We don't know what tomorrow will bring.  Live with no regrets.


"Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow..."  ~James 4:14a

Linda in November.  She loved to listen to singing, and now she is singing with Jesus and angels.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Becoming Normal

I haven't written for awhile.  It seems the stories are just not coming to me as readily as they did last time.  And then it struck me as I was in the market last week buying food- dripping sweat, crowded and getting bumped into, bartering over a little pile of carrots, trying not to step on a chicken- this has become normal to me.

It doesn't always feel like something to write home about anymore.  It's just life here.  Which is good in a way.

It should be so normal to care for widows and orphans and the poor that it doesn't strike us as some big story.  It should be normal to pour yourself into the least of these.  It should be normal to spend your days making disciples.  These are things He clearly commands us to do in His Word.  Normal expectations of being a Christian.

Yet I realize that so often they aren't really normal activities for us comfortable Christians in the States.  They weren't for me.  But by God's grace it seems He is making the group and I a little more normal out here day by day, according to His standards anyways.  So I will take a fresh look at everyday normal life here and pull out some stories in hopes that something may stir your heart to be more like Him too.

-We moved my sweet sick widow friend Natilia and her 3 precious boys into a new home.  They were living in a 8 x 8 foot room before.  The boys crowding together sleeping on the hard floor.  Going to the bathroom down by the ocean.  Bathing in the open in front of their house.  Cooking outside.  As God continued to knit their family so deeply into our hearts, we couldn't help but do something.  Some special funds were provided by the recycling ministry at our church back home, and for $450 for the year God provided them a new house.  It has 2 rooms.  It has a small kitchen to cook food.  It has a small room in the back to bathe privately and a simple Haitian toilet of their own for the very first time.  We built bunk beds for the kids.  So simple for us.  So life changing for them.  Such joy for all of us.

The moment we walked into the new house on moving day Natilia began praying, praising
and thanking God for it with the beautiful gratitude she consistently displays that I learn so much from.
Isthmi, Natilia, Carlos, and Claudelle
Isthmi standing next to his new homemade bunk bed. 

-Our little group of amateur missionaries watches as we see God doing something amazing.  He is making disciples.  He is bringing all of the separate ministries together.  He is raising people up.  We couldn't have planned it or forced it, but it is happening.  The students from English class are going to the Bible studies.  The people from Bible studies are going to the hospital and to the children's ministries.  They are leading songs and beginning to teach the children's Bible stories.  We look around and we see them praying with people.  The new well is pumping clean water and it is now our newest location for children's ministry, chosen by the guys from one of the Bible studies.  The Gospel and love of God are going forth in Jeremie.  Daily we each just show up to do our little part, and our hearts glorify the Lord as we watch Him weave it all together and unfold His plan before our very eyes.

 Training those the Lord has brought to teach children God's word using the flannelboards.
Damas, MacDonald, and Junior leading the kids in songs at the Point.

-Two girls in our group have scabies from ministering at the hospital and three guys in the past week have been down for a few days with vomiting and diarrhea.  It's a small amount of suffering, but it's real.  Losing our lives to find them.

Maybe for the first time we're all really becoming normal after all...

"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.  :)
























Matthew 1:23 

"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel', which is translated, 'God with us.'"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Unexpected Bridge

It seems like everyone in Haiti wants to learn English.  When I was here last time, I got asked nearly every day if I would teach someone.  And it kind of frustrated me honestly.  I was a missionary, not an English teacher.  Then one day towards the end of my trip God spoke to me during prayer and said- start with teaching English.  Like it was a phase one initiative to the long term plan here.  And my eyes started opening to the opportunity that it really was.

Back at home God was speaking the same team to the team preparing to come.  So when the 12 of us came back here in September, we obeyed and multiple English classes have formed and take place each week.  I co-teach at the library with Darah twice a week and have been so encouraged by all that I see God doing.
    
We meet people around town and invite them to class.  We build trusting relationships with people through the classes.  The Bible is our curriculum.  The students are invited to the Bible studies and other ministries that are also going on throughout the week.  And we watch and see God starting to work in many of their lives.  The Gospel is being shared.  Genuine discipleship is occurring.  English was just the bridge for people to cross over into more spiritual matters.

MacDonald is a beautiful example.  He speaks good English and heard about the conversation class on Mondays and started showing up.  He started coming along to children's ministry 3 times a week and to 3 Bible studies a week because he wanted as many opportunities as possible to talk to us and improve his accent.  And as he heard the Word and watched the ministry, God lit a fire in him, and suddenly it wasn't about his accent anymore.  Our group has been blown away as we've watched God literally raise him up and give him a heart to serve before our very eyes.

MacDonald is precious with the children at the hospital.
He's been equipped and has begun teaching Bible stories at the hospital.

It all seems like a step in the right direction towards raising up the locals and seeing sustainable change in Jeremie.  God's ideas are always the best.  :)




I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  
~1 Corinthians 9:22b


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preparing the Bride

It's an interesting season.  I am a smitten bride-to-be on the mission field, away from my fiance. Trying my best with the Lord's help to stay focused on the ministry at hand, while simultaneously unable to avoid the pull of my heartstrings towards this union and new life that awaits. Here fully and enjoying it, but with an ever present longing for the beauty of what is to come. Instead of feeling guilty about it, I've embraced it, for I'm seeing indeed this is how God designed it. And that it in fact mirrors the greater state we are all in, waiting for the Great Marriage to come. The parallels are striking me with much more clarity as I walk through this season myself.

I find right now it's a season of preparing the bride.

This bride- for after 2 ½ months of living in a house with 11 other people, even though I really love them, I'm seeing my selfishness much more clearly. I see how often I want to do my own thing, to consider my own desires first rather than someone else's. I have felt the impatience and agitation rising when I get interrupted from my plan or pulled in many directions being the only Creole speaker in the house. It's ugly sometimes in my heart, but I sure am thankful for the opportunity for the junk to rise to the top and be sanctified out of me. Selfishness has no place in marriage. God is preparing this bride. I'm not ready yet.

And the bride- for the Bible says the Church, God's people, is His bride, and that Jesus is our Bridegroom coming back for us. We're all waiting for a Wedding. And right now it's the time to get ready.

I see He sent us here to help do this in Jeremie, to beautify and prepare His bride. Because these children don't know how precious they are to Him. They're not ready yet. So often they are neglected, treated as throw-aways, hungry and left to their own devices, with little or no love or hope or truth poured into them. So week after week we go to them, we embrace them, we jump and sing with them, we crowd in close and pull them on our laps for a Bible story, we ask them questions, we pray for them. We teach them, through words and actions, that they are loved, that they have value and purpose, that they are treasured by Jesus. He's getting them ready.



1 Samuel 2:8~  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.




Back home, in a different land with a wildly different set of circumstances, it seems to me Jesus is preparing His bride in another way. He's trying to teach her that to find your life, you must lose it, that it's not in living for ourselves, but for the Kingdom, that will prepare us for the Day He comes back for us. We're not ready yet.

It's a season of preparation, for all of us.  A vital season.  But in the preparation, the yearning still remains, for one Day the sin and the sorrow and the separation and the waiting will all be over, and we will see Him face to face.  A beautiful bride united with her Bridegroom in perfect love forever.  What a Day that will be!


Revelation 19:7 

 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Linda

I walk nearly everywhere I go.  I find it's just better on foot- you can observe and interact so much more with people.  Often kids run up and hold my hand and walk with me for a bit.  I see many people as I make my way around town.  Most interactions are brief- a smile, a hello, a wave.  Some are longer- a chat, a prayer, encouragement.  And then, every so often, during one of these interactions and meetings, God will seem to say about someone- I want you to love this one.  Not just in this moment, but continually.  Open the floodgates to them. 

Linda was one of those.  I was on my way into the crowded open air market one day, and a lady called me over to where she was sitting in front of her house.  It's one of the poorest areas of town.  I went over- she wanted to show me her daughter.  Linda.  Four years old, yet tiny as can be.  The mom explained a fever as a child prevented Linda from walking or maturing properly.  She seemed mentally handicapped perhaps as well.  I asked if I could pray for her and she handed Linda's tiny little body to me.  I prayed, and God really touched my heart for her and her mother.  I thought about Linda long after I left and I knew God wanted me to begin to minister to this family.


I went back another day.  I plopped down on the porch alongside the other children and scooped up Linda.  Her smile, even with the rotted teeth, did a number on my heart.  I sang to her.  The other kids joined in.  Linda stared right into my eyes and beamed the whole time.  God adores her.  I talked with her mother.  Leann.  11 kids.  Very poor.  A face set hard for the difficulty she bears daily.  I see she loves her kids and is a good mom, just trying to do her best and make it in this crazy world here.  We prayed.

I went back again today with 4 little chairs as a gift to encourage Leann because they all just sit on the hard dirty cement porch all day long.  God sees them.  Children gathered around.  We sang again.  Sweet little Linda smiled and smiled and clapped her hands.  Two half-naked little girls held hands and danced and hugged.  Leann's hardened face softened.  She clapped and sang along too.  I will start bringing my children's Bible and doing stories.  And we will see what the good Lord has in store for this family and their little neighbors, the apples of His eye.






Listen, for God may say to you today too- love this one. And just leave the rest up to Him.



Ephesians 5:2~ And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.