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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letting patience have its perfect work...

When in Haiti, you either grow in your patience, or go insane.  2 hour lines at the bank.  Non-existent customer service.  Power outages.  People and children constantly approaching you everywhere you go.  Orphans crying out for love and attention.  The list is endless...

Patience has always been one of my greatest character flaws, and God used my 6 months here last time to really genuinely grow me in this area and it was a glorious thing for me.  I learned to set aside my agendas and my frustrations, to slow down, to actually be present and experience God in the moments that would've usually driven me crazy before.

And then I went home.  Back to the States and our rushed way of living, and it started to seep into me again.  It started to crowd out the slowing down that had happened in me.

And now, back in Haiti, I am finding that two challenges present themselves in this area:  1)  I am engaged to the most amazing man on the planet.  With that comes a strong temptation to fix my mind on what is to come, and miss today and all the gifts in it.  And 2)  My mind is still in American mode- move quickly and efficiently from one thing to the next.

And I find that I am learning patience yet again.

I brought Natilia to the hospital Friday.  I had a full day planned, and hoped things would move quickly at the hospital so I could head out to the next thing.  I'd forgotten I was in Haiti, where things always take 5 to 10 times longer than you hope or expect.  

We wait a long time for the doctor.  God whispers to me-- let go of your expectations and plans, stay with her, love her and the people around you, don't be halfway present and then rush off to the next thing.  I slow down.  Natilia is so affectionate and precious and full.  Finally the doctor comes.  I have a moment watching Carlos and Isthmi (her sons) hovering over her bed, the 3 of them laughing and smiling and loving each other.  She needs new medicine.  I go down the hill.  Pharmacy #1.  #2.  #3.  #4.  No one has it.  Back up the hill.  It is hot.  The sweat drips.  The doctor writes a different prescription.  Down the hill.  Buy it.  Up the hill.  God touches my heart for a young women in the same condition as Natilia as we read Psalms together on her hospital bed she's been in for over a month.  Benita.  She needs medicine.  Back down the hill.  $6.  Up the hill.  The sweat now runs in little rivers.  And I feel the Lord with me as I walk, stirring up the patience, the contentment in the moment, reminding me to practice His presence right now.  I smile and feel the joy deep down.

God is teaching me.  Don't fix yourself on the next thing... the wedding, the weekend, the afternoon plans...  Just sit down in this moment, immerse yourself in it.  Find Him in it.  And give Him away in it.  That is a rich life.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  ~James 1:4


Monday, October 10, 2011

Matthew 19:14 ~ But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kindgom of heaven."




Proverbs 22:6 ~ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.







John 15:12 ~ This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

To Everything There is a Season

God has blown me away yet again.  A month ago, the most incredible man in the world got down on his knee and asked me to marry him.  I am delighted beyond explanation.  :)


Yet I nearly missed it...  About a month prior to the engagement, I came to a completely surrendered place where I had counted the relationship a loss when I realized God wasn't calling him to Haiti.  I felt God was calling me here and was committed for life, and I would follow Him, no matter what the cost, including singleness for life.  And God in His graciousness intervened with some very wise counsel that helped me see more clearly and changed my perspective.

I have embraced that Haiti was a calling for a season of my life.  I see how I got a bit off in my thinking.   I used to be so scared of commitment that I couldn't commit to anything over 6 months in length.  But over the past few years God has changed my heart so much that now my commitment level to things runs very deep.  When I'm in, I'm ALL in.  As I prayed, I felt God releasing me of the forever commitment I'd made to Haiti, realizing He'd never asked that of me.  I had presumed on His timetable.  And yes, He wants us to be committed, but to HIM, not necessarily to the thing or the place.  To be open to the fact that He may redirect us, and often does, because He wants us to walk by faith and not by sight.  So we usually don't see the end of the road.  

I realized that my heart is bigger than Haiti, my heart is for the Great Commission.  I realized there will never be another man for me like Dave, and I want to choose him with my whole heart, and that this is good and pleasing to the Lord.  I've learned not to speak for what the future holds.  Only God knows.  "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).  I'm learning to start to think more in terms of seasons now.  God has given me another 6 months in Haiti- a beautiful time to finish strong in this season of calling to this country.  I praise Him for it.  Next summer I will get married, the one thing I can say with confidence will be forever, or til death do us part.  As far as the rest of what God has in store, we're just in the for grand adventure.  :)





Ecclesiastes 3:1~  To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Next Step

I love walking with God.  It's an adventure.  It's a journey.  He's the Author and the Finisher. He prepares the good works.  We just walk in them.  It's comforting to me, and exciting.  I don't need to have the long term plan for Haiti all figured out right now.  I'm just in for the ride.  He's going to lead the way.  I just need to follow.

When God called me initially He said, "I've called you to work with orphans."  So I thought I was going to start an orphanage.  My first step was to go to Haiti for 6 months, live at an orphanage, learn the language, get immersed in the culture, and let God further develop and clarify His plan.

A mere 2 weeks into my time there, He gave me a vision one night.  I wrote about it here.  It was big, and it changed things.  It involved much more than an orphanage, but a youth center for all of the children of Jeremie.  I started praying and looking for a large piece of property. 

God spoke to me one day randomly as I was studying Creole:  "These people have heard the Gospel; now they need to SEE it."  

Marco, transformed by the love of God.

Another night in my room praying, He said, "Start with teaching English," which I knew was the Lord, since I'd been rather resistant towards this idea previously.  

I slowly felt Him putting the orphanage on hold for now, and changing my heart as to what it will look like, giving me more of a heart to raise and disciple kids in a smaller family setting.  I knew He would give the kids in His timing, I didn't need to rush into trying to make it happen.

Another morning, studying Acts, I felt Him putting on my heart that the vision He had given me of the property and youth center was for long term, down the road.  It was not yet time to be behind 4 walls, with people coming to us.  Right now He wanted us to go to them.  To be salt and light all around the community.  To show them the Gospel lived out.  I saw the other thing specifically He wanted us to start with.  To go to poor parts of town and orphanages and teach kids Bible stories, using the tool of a flannel board.
Maria teaching at the Point, during the April trip to Jeremie with Impact.

I was encouraged after this, as I spoke on the phone one day with our missions director from Impact.  Teaching English, and teaching Bible stories to kids were the exact same 2 things God was putting on the leadership's heart to start with in Haiti.  Flannel boards had even been donated.  This indeed seemed to be the Holy Spirit.  This was where God wanted us to start.    

A team of 12 from Impact 195 has formed, including myself, to head back to Haiti on September 8th for 6 more months.  We will be focusing on teaching the Bible to street kids and orphans, teaching English, digging water wells to provide clean drinking water for the people, mentoring the youth from the local churches, and continuing to seek the heart of God for His long term vision for Jeremie.

As it seems now, I'll be one of the long-termers, and other groups from Impact will continue to come through for 6 months at a time to be trained as missionaries, and go out from there to where God is calling them.

I'm beyond blessed to be a part of God's heart for this city and nation.  I love following Him. We'll see how He continues to unfold things as we go.  It's already not what I expected.  And I love that.  One step at a time.


Proverbs 3:5-6 ~ Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Little Things

It's taken me some time.  To process.  To readjust- (I went through a solid month of pretty hard culture shock).  To even know where to begin writing again because my heart has just felt so full.

I still don't know where to start, how to sum up that most glorious 6 months.  So instead of trying, I will just share some moments.  The little ones, that might not have made it onto my blog as a big story, yet were a big part of my experience.  Because life is often more about the small things anyways.  The big things are more few and far between.  It's the day to day little things that make up our lives.

~Marco always smiling.
~Hand holding on the street.
~Dancing on the beach.  Dancing in my bedroom.  Dancing in the hallway.
~Rough around the edges street boys letting me kiss and nuzzle them.
~Goat heads in the freezer.  Cockroaches in the bedroom.
~Reading missionary books.  A great cloud of witnesses.
~The Spirit touching my spirit deep.
~Dust on my feet.
~Watching kids literally be transformed by love.
~Guitar in the hallways.
~My heart singing.
~Candlelight evenings in the bedroom when the electricity was out.
~Stargazing praying on the roof.
~Rocking chair nights.
~Children's Bible stories, crowded in close.
~Conversations on the streets.
~Coke in a bottle.
~Chairs pulled out for house visits.
~Intimacy with God like never before.

I remember these things with a smile that reaches deep down inside of me.  My life is changed. And although it has been a sweet time to be home for the summer, my heart longs to return to Jeremie.  7 more weeks...  :)



Psalm 66:16
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The First 6 Months



This is a video my talented little sister put together with my pictures and video clips from the first 6 months in Haiti.  I have watched it at least a million times :) and generally jump up and down in the living room after.  It makes me so happy.  And something struck me as I watched it perhaps the 25th time or so...  I think this is how heaven will be.

Because this video doesn't show my moments of frustration with the kids.  It doesn't show my grumbling as I lay in my bed in the sweltering heat those nights when the electricity went out, taking my fan with it.    It doesn't show the time I walked past the lady in the gutter.  It just shows the good stuff, the highlights, the beautiful.  There is no recollection of the sin, the moments of flesh, where Melissa was glaringly portrayed, not Jesus.  These are not pictured here.  Only the beautiful remains.  Captured.  Forever.  And set to a song.

Isn't this what will happen with our entire lives once we get to heaven and pass through the fire?  "Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.  If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire"  (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).  The wood, hay, straw-- the sin, the works of the flesh, the selfish chasing after the things of this world-- it all burns and vanishes.  And only the things we built with gold, silver, precious stone-- the works of the Spirit, the Kingdom work, the acts of love-- only the beautiful remains.

Astonishing, really, when you stop to think about it.  Because glory of glories, Jesus with His blood has paid for the sin, if we've received His free gift of salvation.  "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).  "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25).  It is literally gone, covered in His mercy.  And the beauty remains, because of His grace.

A year ago I had a vision of heaven.  Jesus says, "In My Father's house are many mansions... I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).  God gave me a glimpse of what those mansions He is preparing for us are made out of.  The "bricks" building each of them are pictures and movies-- scenes from our life on this earth.  But only the things we built with gold.  The Kingdom moments.  The time you prayed with the crying woman on the street corner.  The time you covered your friend's rent because they went on a missions trip.  The neighbor you witnessed to.  The child you invested in.  Only these kind remain.  And in every picture, standing behind you with His hand on your shoulder, is Jesus.  For it was Him who was building into these lives through you.  Brick upon brick, they make up your mansion.  Some mansions are bigger than others.  Some are just a few stones.  It all depends on what you built your life with.

So enjoy this little video and be encouraged, because this is your life too.  You will not see the sin.  Jesus has paid for it.  And be exhorted.  Build with gold.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Thankful Heart

The tears fall.  And I let them.  As they streak down my face, they are a sort of testimony to how these people have gotten inside me.  Deep inside.  So the tears kept coming as I said my goodbyes yesterday and today.  As I hugged Natilia, maybe for the last time until heaven.  As I hugged the 3 guys who were God's greatest gifts to me during this 6 months.  As Yvrose, who so graciously took me into her orphanage, drove away from the airport this morning.  As I sat on the plane to Port-Au-Prince picturing the sweet little faces of the children I have completely fallen in love with.  Even right now as I'm writing this, they're falling again.  Not necessarily from sadness, since I know I'm coming back in September.  But more out of thankfulness to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for such a glorious season, for so much love, for so much grace.       

My heart is overflowing.  I look back over the past 6 months and I thank Him...

I learned Creole.

I fell in love.


God gave me dear friends.



I watched God heal hearts.
I got immersed in a culture.


God made His love tangible and real.


We sang His praises.


He sent a team.

God ministered to my heart in such precious ways.


I could go on and on.  His goodness rocks me to my innermost being.  I thank Him.  Over and over, I thank Him.

Now it's four months at home to plan and prepare and pray and return in September with the team God is calling to Jeremie.  This six months was just a foundation, just the beginning.  Thank you for your prayers, your love, your encouragement and support.  I felt so covered and blessed.  I can't wait to see what God has in store.


Psalm 96:4a
For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Graces from God

Today I took Natilia’s 5 year old neighbor to the health clinic because he’s had a big growth on his neck for 12 days and his mom is too poor to buy medicine.  We took a motorcycle taxi on the way there.  I think it was maybe his first ride on one, because he shouted out greetings and waved to about every person we passed on the way there, and then sang the whole way home.  It was the most adorable thing in the world.  I just sat on the back smiling the whole way watching him.

After that I was walking on the street and saw a blind man sitting on a step all alone leaning against his cane.  I’m always praying as I walk, asking God who He wants me to stop and minister to.  I ended up buying the blind man bread and butter and returned and sat and talked with him.  (Praise the Lord, my Creole has really improved with serious discipline over the past couple months.)  He was so delighted about the bread.  I prayed for him on the step with a small group staring on from the sidewalk. 

Two days ago Sara and I took 4 of our street kid friends out to a restaurant for lunch.  One had bare little feet under the table.  They were so smiley as the bottles of cokes and sprites came.  We played games at the table while we waited, prayed, and then feasted on chicken, french fries, fried bananas, and rice.  Two of them saved the drumstick in their pockets for later.  They were just so smiley the entire time.  I feel like they’ll remember that day forever.




When Natilia and I arrived to the hospital yesterday to drain her stomach again there was a lady sitting on her hospital bed crying while all the other people in the room just stared at her.  I walked up to her and asked her why she was crying.  She said her medicine fell and broke and spilled everywhere- it was all over the floor- and she didn’t have money to buy more.  I told her not to cry anymore because God had sent me to her today and that I could buy her more medicine.  After I returned with it, cleaned up the floor, talked and prayed with her, she was smiling so sweetly and so thankful.

Every bed in the women’s hospital room was occupied that day, so Natilia ended up in the men’s room while her stomach was draining.  An old man across the way was being bathed by his wife on his bed, all hunched up and crying.  In the other direction was a man in nothing but an adult diaper, every bone is his body showing.  The room was full and depressing.  I felt drawn to 2 men, the only ones in the room without a visitor there with them.  We shared my almonds, talked, and prayed. 

This is just in the last 3 days.  There are many more stories.  And sometimes it all just feels like drops in a bucket.  Four kids out of thousands.  Three patients out of a hundred.  Nothing earth shattering appears to be happening.  No one has been healed yet.  Salvations aren’t rolling in.  But I know better than to be discouraged by these thoughts that come sometimes.  Because I know God often works in these ways.  In small moments, in little actions of love.  And although they may feel like drops in a bucket, in a sea of so many people, it always seems that God leads to a certain few, and these are the ones I must love with His love.

I think of Paul’s God-inspired words in 1 Corinthians 3-  “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”  God is letting me plant in people’s hearts.  He’s letting me water in others.  Others have come before and will come after to continue to process.  But it’s all God orchestrating the entire thing and the outcome.  Only He can make people grow; only He can draw someone to Himself.  So I just take joy in the little part He’s allowing me.  Such a privelege, such a grace.