Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Oh, how I love Christmas.  It is such a special time with my dear dear dear family.  I will miss not being there with them so very much this year.  And although I've shed tears over it actually, I'm finding that away from all the festivities and bustle and family time and traditions and such, I'm having a lot more time to contemplate the staggering wonder of God Incarnate.  His plan is so beautiful.  I love you all so much, and wish you a very Merry Christmas!!!!  May He fill your hearts with joy and wonder. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. ~John 1:14

...and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.  ~Matthew 1:21

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Open Door

I was walking in town last week and came across an old blind man.  He was using a cane and trying to get around a parked motorcycle.  I stopped and guided him in the right direction.  We talked as much as I could in my limited Creole.  We talked about Jesus' love and I gave him a piece of bread.  Something in him really touched me, and as I walked away I had tears in my eyes.  God spoke to my heart then and said- "You will fall in love with these people one at a time."  I was encouraged by this as it seemed an answer to prayer to what I was writing about in my last blog.  Although I am completely smitten with the children, I have some struggles with the adults.

And God is helping me understand- I won't necessarily be suddenly struck by this overwhelming wave of love for the mass of people in Haiti.  We get better at loving, like everything else in life, as we practice doing it.  I just need to continue to love the people He puts in front of me each day.  And He will captivate my heart for them one at a time.  "I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall ENLARGE MY HEART" (Psalm 119:32).  His greatest commandment is, after all, to love.  And as we do it, He grows our capacity to love and enlarges our very heart.  What a beautiful thing.

Here are some sweet little faces to enlarge your hearts.  :)
 
Precious Marco :)
Some country kids.
The kids often fall asleep in the hallways like this at night.  It's quite adorable.

I'm sure most of you know that there is a cholera outbreak currently ravaging Haiti.  More than 100,000 have contracted the disease, and over 2,400 people are reported to have died from it (although it is suspected the actual count is much higher).  It has reached Jeremie and is spreading quickly.  We are not too concerned at our orphanage because we have clean drinking water and if you take the proper precautions it pretty much eliminates the risk.  However, last Monday in the middle of the night, one of our older girls came down with it and was throwing up all over the hallway.  Travis brought her to the hospital.  (She probably would've died if we didn't have a car and the ability to get her there so quickly.)  They think she probably got it around town somehow. 

As I was praying in the wee morning hours for the people of Haiti and this whole cholera thing, which suddenly had just become much more real for me, I was imagining people back home telling me to come home, it's not safe, it's not worth the risk to your health, etc.  And I told God how I'm not going to let this scare me off.  I will not run from my calling because of this.  I'm not scared.  He did so many supernatural things prior to me coming here that confirmed to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what He is calling me to.  It is not a coincidence that I am here during this time- He planned it this way.  So as I prayed I was reaffirming my commitment to Him to stay here, no matter what the circumstances are.

After praying, I started reading my Bible for awhile, then I heard my phone beeping with a text message.  I wondered who in the world would be texting me so early in the morning.  I got up to check it, and saw it was from our dear Haitian brother Jacob.  The text said, "Melissa, I had a blessing dream for you.  Last night while I slept I saw you with a big crowd of children in a house next to the airport and you taught them some English songs, and they are all joyfully in a big yard and I saw a great Bible writing in the wall.  It was Rev. 3:8.  I don't really understand the meaning of the dream but God does.  Let's pray for Him to teach us the meaning, but it was amazing."

I was pretty encouraged, needless to say, but as I looked up the verse I was totally blown away and started bawling.  "I know your works.  See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name"  (Revelation 3:8).  Once again, on the day I was praying, God is so incredible to show that He hears.  He says, yes, don't be scared about cholera.  I have set before you an open door, and nothing can shut it- not even an epidemic.  He is re-confirming and making so abundantly clear, once again, my call here.  He wants to do a work in this city and by His grace He is letting me be a part of it.  It was one of those intimate moments with God where you just know how much He loves you.

Walking to the market later that day, I was filled with this compassion and sadness for the people and started crying walking down the street.  I am realizing how scary this cholera thing is for them.  This nagging and very real fear, on top of the political situation, the poverty, the continuing affects of the earthquake, etc. makes for quite a depressing situation for the people of Haiti.  I was thinking, man, if you don't focus on the sovereignty of God, it's easy to kinda get caught up in the grimness of the circumstances here and lose hope.  But praise the Lord, He is sovereign and completely in control of all these things, and is working out a plan that is far beyond our understanding. 

One of my Haitian friends was telling me prior to moving out here about how his uncle was praying and fasting for a lengthy time a few years ago about Haiti and crying out to God on behalf of the country, and asking Him when He was going to do something.  And God finally spoke to him and said- "I will first bring Haiti to its knees, then I will raise up a generation that will bring a revival in this country."  I think about that often, as it seems that the country is definitely in the process of being brought to its knees.  I believe my call is to be a part of raising up the next generation in Jeremie to be world-changers, and believe with all my heart that God will bring a revival to this country in His timing, in His way, and the world will see it and the gospel will go forth.  It won't be tomorrow or next year, but I pray in my lifetime He will let me see it.

He put this verse on my heart for Haiti before I came.  "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined"  (Isaiah 9:2).  Jesus is that light!!!  What a joy to trust Him.  Don't look at your circumstances today.  Look at your God!  :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Musings and Confessions

This is Elange.  He doesn't have a lot of teeth, but has the biggest smile and is one of the most adorable old men I've ever met.  He lives in a little room at the orphanage I'm staying at.  He was a bum on the street that Yvrose (who runs this orphanage) took in 25 years ago.  Every morning he sweeps and picks up leaves, flower petals, and trash around the orphanage.


I saw him walking down the street the other day barefoot and got chatting with him (in Creole, yay!  I'm making progress...)  He said he was going to buy or needed to buy sandals and God put it on my heart to buy them for him.  I bought him a pair later that day and left them on his bed since he was gone.  I saw him a couple mornings later doing his usual sweeping and wearing the sandals and said I was glad he got them.  And he did the most precious spontaneous thing.  He took my hand in one of his, and lifted his other one to heaven and lifted his eyes and started praying and thanking God for the sandals.  I couldn't understand it all, but for over a minute he thanked and  praised God.  It was one of those moments that wrote itself on my heart.

I got thinking about it later that night.  How he was so incredibly grateful and excited for a pair of sandals that cost me $2.  You would've thought I gave him a new car.  And I thought, man, have I ever been that grateful for anything in my life?  And I had to really start checking my heart.  I think that's one reason God loves the poor so much.  They have to rely on Him for everything, and realize that truly, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17).  They realize that even $2 sandals are a gift from God.  Where I come from, we tend to rely on ourselves instead of God and think that things come from our own hard work instead of His gracious hand.  We miss out on the simple dependence of a child to his Father and the deep gratitude and praise that flows from recognizing His gifts.  I want to hang out with Elange more.  It seems he has a lot to teach me.





I go for a lot of walks around the town and the outskirts and in the surrounding hills.  I pray a lot as I walk, I listen, I ask God for His heart for these people and to see them as He does, I observe them, I process what I see.  God really uses these times to speak to me.  And sometimes He gives me glimpses into His heart for them.  It's hard to capture into words, because it's a heart thing.  I see it sometimes as I watch the women walk down from the hills with baskets on their heads day after day with a few things to sell so they can try to feed their families that day.  I saw it one day as I came across a young mom in the countryside hanging her handwashed clothes on the line, singing.  Her contentedness with her lot in life and joy in it really struck me.  I see it in the older poor women at church who sing and pray to God like no one I've ever really seen, with an almost beautiful desperation to it.  I see it in the gentle old men mending fishing nets by the sea.  I see it in the worn lines in faces beaten in by years of hard living and in the smiles in spite of that.

But at this point, it seems to be just glimpses.  Because I find, on the other hand, there are also things starting to get under my skin.  Kissy sounds from guys constantly as I walk by.  People sitting on their porch hollering at you to come over, or give me money.  That kind of stuff.  It just gets old after awhile, and I realized the other day it's jading me a little bit.  And with all the deeply ingrained problems (like the "give me" mentality, apathy, dishonesty, etc.), I feel like I'm seeing them like the world sees them, with all their issues.  In a way I subconsciously lump them together into this category in my head and disassociate myself from them.  Like I see myself as better than them sometimes or something.  I don't consciously choose to think this way- I desire the exact opposite- but I can feel it ingrained in there, like this filter I see through.  What an affront to God, who simply has chosen to have grace on my life in different ways than He has theirs.  I see the plank in my own eye, so I'm confessing it to you here, as I have to God.  Please pray with me that He'll remove the filters I see through.  These are now my people, as I really believe God is calling me here for life, and I am desperate to see them, and myself for that matter, as He sees.  To understand them.  To really truly LOVE them like Jesus does and be moved by genuine compassion for them.  It's easier for me with the kids.  But with the adults, I need supernatural help.

Pondering this more the other day after I was rude with a girl on the street who was pestering me, the Holy Spirit convicted me immediately and started speaking to me from 1 Corinthians 13.  I am here to love these people, and I just behaved rudely, which love does not do.  Love is patient (NKJV says suffers long)I need to stop expecting them to act like Americans towards me as I walk down the streetI need to suffer long with them and their ways.  I need to stop focusing on the flaws, because that's what makes you impatient.  Look for the beauty and just be patient.  He then reminded me how love keeps no record of wrongs.  Every day needs to be a new fresh slate with them.  I'm not to hold onto annoyances from yesterday or last week and tally them up.  Just let them go.  Love believes all things- it looks beyond what I see and looks for what God sees, a person's true identity in Christ.  I recently heard a life-changing teaching series on love (check out the totally incredible Love Works Ministry) and the speaker talked about not identifying people with their sin, because when the sin is washed away, who is left?  That's who we want to see.  Love hopes all things- sees glimpses of the God given purpose and destiny of people.  Pray with me that I will hear God whispering His heart about these things for the people of Jeremie.

My pastor taught once on John 17, when Jesus was praying in verse 23 "I in them, and You in Me..."   The pastor said it's as the Father looking through the Son, through me, at the world.  That that's how we would see people.  Profound.  I want to see like that.  It's been a few of those days when I realize how far off I am.  But praise God He is at work in me, and He answers the prayers that are according to His heart.  So I have great faith and hope that He will grow my love and strip me more and more of my sinful heart and filters as I keep seeking Him and try to love these people, one day and one person at a time.

1 Cor. 13:4-8~  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, (NIV adds: it keeps no record of wrongs,) thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anderson

I have been falling in love with Anderson, a new little guy to the orphanage.  He came a couple weeks ago and it was fairly obvious to me that he'd been traumatized, neglected, abused, something.  Of course the transition into an orphanage with 70 kids would take some time and be a bit overwhelming to a little guy.  But I would find him sitting all alone in a dark room just staring off into the distance.  He was so somber all the time and didn't respond much to anything.

So I tried to start really loving on him a lot, to help with the transition, to help him know he was safe and loved and was going to be okay here.  He fell asleep on my lap last week and has been like glue on me ever since.  He's starting to smile and play with the other kids.  It's making me happy- I am amazed at how resilient God made children.  

I found him crying in the hallway all alone yesterday, and picked him up and held him and wiped his tears and rocked him.  He fell asleep on my lap again for a good hour, and I loved it.  I prayed over him, I rubbed his little head and face and back and legs, I sang over him, I fell more in love with him.  After he woke up we sat there for awhile and just hung out, then I gave him some peanut butter and crackers and banana chips.  I've been telling him for a few days he needs a bath, but no one seems to be giving him one.  Since he smelled like a pig pen, I decided to just give him one right then and there in my bathroom.  I pulled off his filthy clothes and plopped him in my shower, where he promptly had a good long pee, which gave me a good little chuckle.  I turned on the water and lathered and washed him all up.

He was happy as could be after.  He had some fresh scrapes on his leg, so I put him on the toilet and bandaged them up.  We sat and colored for awhile, then I went and put some clean clothes on him and sent him off to play while I had dinner.  Afterwards I popped my head outside and he was running around with the kids, but when he saw me he ran full tilt upstairs to me and jumped on me.  How can you not fall in love with a kid like that?  In my room at night, his sweet little face kept popping into my head and I kept thinking about how much I loved him and wanted to spend more time with him.

Anderson :)
And later that night, it struck me- this is exactly how God is with us.  HE JUST LET ME SEE A PICTURE OF REDEMPTION.  Then He started flooding my mind with scriptures.  What a beautiful remarkable thing.  He sees us sitting there, dejected, alone- and picks us up and comforts us- God...who comforts us in all our troubles (1 Cor. 1:4).  The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27).  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).  He prays for us- the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:26).  He sings over us- He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).  And the biggest miracle of all- He sees our filth and sin and washes us clean with His blood- Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).  Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols (Ezekiel 36:25).  To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5).  My heart is pounding, my breath is catching.  He loves us so.  He feeds us- For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness (Psalm 107:9).  He will feed His flock like a shepherd (Is. 40:11).  He binds up our wounds- He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3).  He gives us clean clothes- For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10).  He thinks about us- And Your thoughts towards us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered (Ps. 40:5).  And we can't help but run to Him in love and gratitude after this all- We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)In Your presence is fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11).

My heart is so full.  What about you?  Do you feel dirty?  Alone?  Hungry?  Desperate?  Purposeless?  Come to Jesus.  He loves you so and will meet your every need with abundance, if you let Him.  How can you not fall in love with a God like that?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sweet Simple Beginnings

Hurricane Tomas rolled through and didn't do too much damage, praise the Lord, but it did knock out our internet for a couple long weeks, hence the slow update.  But it's back up and running.  :)  I've been here for 4 weeks already.  Crazy.  It's been a completely smooth transition, thanks in part to Travis- a friend I went to discipleship school with 3 years ago- who was coming out to Jeremie for 6 months also, and it worked out perfectly for us to line up our trips.  He got here 6 weeks before me and is staying at the same orphanage I am, and is quickly becoming like a brother to me and has been such a blessing.  I see why Jesus sent out His disciples 2 by 2.

I'm really happy.  :)  The first couple weeks were a lot of just taking everything in, but life is starting to get a little flow to it.  We pray early in the mornings and spend time with Jesus.  We study Creole.  We go about whatever is on for that day- things like visits to the country, playing basketball with the local kids, visiting Marco's orphanage, market shopping, prayer walks, taking sick kids to the doctor, walking around town holding hands with our street kid friends, Travis is teaching a Bible study twice a week, we spend time with our friends from there.  We practice more Creole at night, we have dinner, hang out with the kiddos- I read for them or play the guitar and sing for them or paint their fingernails or run around with kids on my back.  I read at night in my wonderful little room or journal or listen to sermons.

I was thinking as I was painting hundreds of little fingernails one day, saying the same few lines in Creole to every girl- "What's your name?  How old are you?  and Jesus loves you"- how I will probably look back on this sweet humble beginning one day with great fondness- when I couldn't really talk much to anyone, and could really only show love in little tangible ways.  There's this simple beauty and purity to it.  It feels so small, when God has spoken and promised so much in preparation and poured out such big vision, but I know this is how things start.  It is just the beginning of a lifetime.  God is working.  I am content to rest in His timing and just keep loving and learning and let Him do whatever He wants to do.

Still, the need is overwhelming.  It's a lot to take in and process.  There are so many kids who need love and attention and food and Jesus all over town.  And adults.  Seventy kids are at the place I'm at and when I go to play with them, I get pretty much mobbed by the little ones.  I want to have quality time with one at a time, and it's pretty much impossible.  You give one minute to one, then pick up the next one and hug and kiss them and run and twirl, then put them down for the next one, then the next, then the next.  They need so much love.
Some of our little street kid friends.
I was praying the other day and asking God for encouragement that I was on the right track, am I doing what He wants me to do so far?  Is He doing anything supernatural?  And I came home and had a facebook message from one of my friends.  She was praying for me and God gave her a vision- I was running my hands over the kids' heads and faces and water was flowing from my hands.  I cried reading that and praised and thanked God.  Because that is the thing I do- I always rub every kid's head that we meet or see in town, because I know how much they need touch.  The ones here I constantly rub their heads, and their faces.  And God was saying- He is pouring out living water into their lives.  He is working.  Thank you Jesus.

John 7:37-38 "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

My first night here a bunch of kids ran off and I followed them to see what was going on-- a dance party had developed in the bedroom :)
The little ones love running around naked, it cracks me up.
A new kiddo to the orphanage who I'm trying to love on lots, sleeping in my lap :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Beginning

Marco in June. 
Well, I fly out in 6 hours for Haiti.  God has done a glorious thing in my life over the past 3 years-- He's turned me from an average church going "Christian" living totally for myself to a radically sold out lover and follower of Jesus Christ, willing to go wherever and do whatever He says.  In June, on a missions trip with Impact 195 to Jeremie, Haiti, God said, "I've called you to work with orphans."  He used a little boy who never smiled named Marco with big sad eyes that completely broke my heart.  I said "Yes, God, I will go."

Marco in September.
I returned to San Diego in June and began making preparations to return to Jeremie within a few months.  I prayed for Marco every day and cried often when I thought of him and all the others like him.  When the second short term missions group from Impact 195 returned to Jeremie in September, I wasn't quite ready to leave yet.  I sent a picture for Marco with a note on the back.  The group arrived to his orphanage, recognized him right away, and gave him tons of love and personal attention all day.  They said he was a completely transformed kid-- all smiles.

I was shocked and thrilled to hear the story when the group returned, and wondered about how such a quick transformation could occur when this precious little guy was so wounded 3 months prior.  And I put myself in his shoes- imagine you're a little kid with no mommy and daddy surrounded by an orphanage full of 50 other kids.  You've probably never been singled out or felt special in your entire life.  One day this group comes back to your orphanage- you recognize a few of them, and all of the sudden, they recognize you.  You are surrounded by a group of people calling you by name, hugging you.  You are being singled out for special attention from the entire group of orphans.  Someone hands you a picture, maybe the first picture you've ever had of yourself.  It has a note written to you on the back.  You feel loved, really uniquely and specially loved.

And God started speaking to me.  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, You are Mine."  Isaiah 43:1.  "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands."  Isaiah 49:16.  God knows Marco's name.  Even if Marco doesn't yet fully understand this, he got to experience the truth of it and it transformed his little life.  And I cried.  This is going to be my life-- sharing in word and deed with precious little ones who have no idea-- that God loves them, He knows their name, they are special, they are cherished.  Wow, what greater privilege could I have to do with my life?  I have had this ridiculously blessed life not so that I can enjoy it for myself, but so that I can give it away.  What a joy, what a joy.

I leave today for 6 months right now-- to live in an orphanage, learn the language, get immersed in the culture, and let God further develop and clarify the vision.  I'll return in April to put a long term plan together, then head back to Haiti shortly after that on a one way ticket to build an orphanage and share the love of Jesus Christ in tangible and real ways.  I think this is going to be the rest of my life.  And I can't wait.  Thank you dear friends and family for getting me to this point-- of being so well loved that I can go share it with those who are desperate for it.  I am filled to overflowing with gratitude to God for you all and love you so!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Calling



This is the story of how God called me to the mission field,  on a 2 week missions trip to Jeremie in June 2010.