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.