Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eyes to See

I took 5 days at the beginning of the month and stayed at a beautiful little inn on the outskirts of town to seek the Lord for the coming year.  The main thing God put on my heart was that 2011 is about taking ground for the kingdom.  But not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit (Zech. 4:6).  I came away from the retreat super motivated and excited to get moving on the things He was showing me- the main one being starting to look for property.

I'd had a slight sore throat for a few days, and woke up the very next day with no voice.  I don't think that's ever happened to me actually.  I couldn't talk at all for a day and a half- just nothing came out when I tried.  I took it as a gentle little reminder from God of how weak and frail I really am.  At a time when I was all motivated to start running ahead with plans and things, God slowed me down to remind me again that I'm completely dependent on Him for everything.  Don't run ahead in this.  I appreciated that- He knows me so well.  So I settled in for a couple days to just watch and listen.

And He did something really beautiful.  It seemed that since I didn't have a voice to talk, He instead gave me eyes to see.  Not like I normally see, but at a deeper level, at a more spiritual level.  It was just 3 brief little glimpses, but it deeply touched me. 

Before it was even fully light outside, precious old Elange (who I wrote previously about here) was out doing his usual sweeping and picking up the leaves that had fallen on the property during the night.  I smiled at him, and he did a little impromptu dance, always so full of joy, even in picking up trash.  Then he went back to cleaning.  As I watched him again, something moved in me.  He is such a beautiful old soul, so simple on this earth, but with great treasure in heaven I believe.  I feel like he could almost be an angel.  There's this almost spiritual significance to watching what he does day after day and the attitude he does it with.  Such faithfulness, humility, and love.     

I went back upstairs to make some oatmeal.  Maculee, one of the older girls at the orphanage who spends a lot of time serving in the kitchen, noticed my voice was gone and got a spoon and scooped out some frozen lemonade and gave it to me to soothe my throat.  When I was pouring the water over my oatmeal, she instinctively grabbed the bowl to hold it still for me as I was stirring.  And in that moment it was like I saw her and her servant's heart- always anticipating and meeting needs so silently.  I think Jesus must love her very much.

Later that morning, I decided to learn how to wash laundry by hand.  It's quite a science and a time consuming process.  But it has bothered me for some time now that the girls wash my laundry for me, "for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Mark 10:45), so I've been wanting to learn.  As I was hunkered down scrubbing away, wishing I had a voice to talk to the girl I was washing with, Shasha, one of the little boys here who is maybe 7 years old or so, comes and sits down next to us with his little bowl of laundry and starts washing.  As I watched him sitting there- in his shirt with a huge rip in the front, washing his other 2 filthy little shirts, just working away so sweetly and quietly- again, something in watching him in that moment touched me. It was like I saw him like Jesus sees Him, so precious to Him, the Father to the fatherless.

Reflecting on these 3 little moments that night, I ended up crying at the sweetness of it.  It was like God, for just a moment, a glimpse, pulled back the veil of my human vision, and let me see these 3 people not as a person in front of me, but as a soul.  I felt like I saw their soul.  It will change the way I always see them now.  Each of them were so precious in that moment, so unique, so loved by God.  "The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.  From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works" (Psalm 33: 13-15).  God loves His children so much.  I'm going to keep praying for eyes to see them like He does.  It's so much better that way.     

"One thing I know:  that though I was blind, now I see." ~John 9:25   


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jacob


Strumming a little tune on my guitar for
the guys Bible study Travis teaches.
This is Jacob.  He disciplined and taught himself, and learned to speak beautiful English.  He lives in Jeremie and in June when he saw the big group that came from Impact195 in the town square, in his heart he felt that he wanted to give his participation to help this group, because he saw God was working through them.  So Jacob became one of our translators for our June and September trips and was an incredible blessing for our group, and has been for me since I've been out here.

He translates for Travis' Bible study.  He helps us with anything we need.  He comes over 3 nights a week to help us learn Creole and God has knit our hearts- he has become my best friend out here.  He is young, only 20 years old, but is one of the most incredible people I have ever known.  He is the oldest of 7 kids.  His family is very poor.  He loves Jesus so much and is filled constantly with the joy of the Lord and words of life.  He feels a deep calling from God to be a pastor and I see God truly has given him the heart of a shepherd and teacher. 

Praying for the congregation after he
preached at our friend's church.
When Jacob saw the 50 + Americans from Impact195 in Jeremie in June, he thought God must really have a dream for Jeremie.  He does.  And He also does for Jacob's life.

The more I get to know him, I see God's hand and calling on his life.  I see the character and integrity God has built in him through years of persevering through very difficult circumstances living in such poverty.  I see his deep reliance upon God.  I see his humility.  I see his heart of compassion for others.  I see his eyes fixed on Jesus.  He is rare in a place like Haiti, where everyone seems to be so focused on their own lives and circumstances.  He is truly a gem and I believe God will use him in mighty ways in this city and that his life has been a preparation for this.

He is continually making himself available to help us yet has never asked us for a thing (also rare over here!)  He always has a huge smile on his face and is so joyful all the time, so I didn't really realize how rough things were for him was until I went to visit him at his house and saw that my bedroom was almost as big as the house his family of 8 lives in.  They use their neighbor's house for bathing, as they don't have a place in or around their house for that. 

I was pouring out my heart to him one night after Creole lessons about some things I'd been processing with God about the situation here and how to best help, crying, and he listened and was so encouraging and prayed for me at the end.  As he was praying, God really put it on my heart to always invest in Jacob's life.  I feel that God has seen how much his family has struggled and has brought Jacob into our lives not only to bless us, but for us to bless him and his family and be part of an answer to their prayers.  I told him this, and then I asked him what they needed.  What was really hard for them right now?  What is his life like?

It took some more prompting, but eventually he started sharing.  He said he never asks anyone for anything, he only asks God.  But since I was asking him and am his friend, he has nothing to hide from me.  He started telling me about how when his handicapped brother, who can't walk or speak, is hungry in the evening, he cries and cries uncontrollably, loudly, and disturbs the whole neighborhood.  When Jacob gets home on these nights he gives whatever small amount of food there is left for him to his brother to try to quiet him down.  So they go hungry sometimes...

He says he sometimes worries that if God doesn't intervene he might lose his mom early because she works so hard and is under such stress trying to feed the family.  Jacob's stepdad is a farmer in the countryside and his mom works with him daily in the fields, then walks 2 hours back to the house in town whenever she can with food for the kids.  They moved the family into town because there aren't schools in their countryside and little opportunity.

He said when it rains it is very difficult for his family, because they have many holes in their roof and it rains terribly inside their house, on their beds in the bedroom, and in the other room where he sleeps on the floor- it's hard for him to even find a dry place to sleep.  This last stretch when it rained for 7 days in a row, all his books got ruined for school and that he's been given over the years.  They can't afford the aluminum sheets to replace the bad ones.  It seems it's an unneccesary luxury when you're just trying to eat and pay for school.  I asked him what things God speaks to him during this kind of stuff.  God reminds him that He loves them, He sees them and hears them, and to keep going, to keep going. 

The carpenter fixing their roof.
And of course I said, "Jacob, I can help with that.  How many sheets do you need to fix your roof?"  He said maybe 3 or 4.  I said, "Let's go tomorrow to buy them."  He is blown away.  I barely sleep that night thinking about everything he told me.  We buy 4 sheets the next day and bring them back to his house and I ask him to show me where they will put them.  He points out 4 spots, while I'm noticing how many more there are with holes than that.  I said, "Jacob, why did you only say you needed 4 sheets to fix it?  There's a bunch more with holes."  He said he didn't want to take too much of my money; he would just replace the worst ones.  I said, "Jacob, God wants to fix the whole thing.  Let's go buy more sheets".  So we buy more.  When it was all said and done it took 16 new sheets and a carpenter- $150 out of my support money.  Such a small amount for us.  Totally life-changing for him and his family.  They were indescribably grateful and we all just praised and thanked God.  It was 3 days before Christmas.  I don't think I've ever been part of a more beautiful gift in my life.

The following Monday after Creole lessons God puts it on my heart to give him some money for food for his family.  I see tears in his eyes.  He tells me that before he came over to my house that night his mom had gathered them together and said they had no food for that night, they were going to go to bed hungry, but it was okay and not to cry.  We were blown away by how God sees them and is orchestrating things to take care of them.  I barely sleep again that night, so affected by it all.  I haven't gone to bed hungry a day in my life.  He tells me the next day his mom cried for 20 minutes when he gave her the money.  Oh my heart. 

Jacob, his mom, and the other kids (minus one sister who was in the
 countryside that day) in front of their house.
My biggest prayer has been that God would help me to truly love the people of Jeremie, to really be moved by genuine compassion for them.  It seems God has not only brought us into Jacob's life as an answer to his family's prayers, but has brought them into mine as an answer to mine as well.  For I am falling in love with this family, and God is using them to break my heart for the poor.  It is difficult to put into words the affect this has all been having on me over the past week.  I spent much of the day crying the day after fixing the roof.  Not out of sadness, but out of joy for what a true blessing it was to be able to help this sweet family.  I feel like I am experiencing the truth of Jesus' words- "It is more blessed to give than to receive" Acts 20:35.  Now when it rains I silently praise God, and I know Jacob's family is too.  I put a bite of food in my mouth at dinner the the other night and welled up with tears, thinking about Jacob who often goes without and how much I have and had this new gratefulness for this simple blessing of food.  I'm finding I want to give them things of mine that I would have previously held onto for myself.  My heart feels like it's beating a bit closer to God's heartbeat for the poor, at least for this family.  It feels like it is softening, it is more aware, that it wants to give more, to think of myself less.

I'm realizing that even with poverty in your face, you can still be largely unaffected by it.  Although I walk around the streets during the day and see and interact with the people, every night I return to plenty of food and am cozy in my comfortable room.  It's easy to keep an emotional distance and be unchanged at the heart level.  But when you get into someone's life, when it's someone you love, it changes things.  Suddenly you can't sleep at night, suddenly you can't not do something, suddenly you can't not reevaluate your own life.  And even while Jacob has been my friend for 2 months, it wasn't until I started asking questions and really caring about the answers that all this change in my heart started happening. 

I'm realizing that although I would consider myself quite frugal in America, in a place like Haiti I'm starting to see what a materialistic consumerist I actually am.  And although the 50 gourdes ($1.25) I want to spend on that candy bar I think I "need" because it's one of my only little comforts from home is practically nothing to me, I am starting to see how much it is to many of the people here.  I'm reevaluating the little things I spend money on that are unnecessary, and realizing I'm wasting God's resources on myself.  I feel God starting to teach me to be faithful with what is least, so that when He starts adding more resources for the ministry, I will be faithful with those too (Luke 16:10-11).  He is starting to strip me down a bit more, and starting to teach me about not just giving out of my excess, but from a place that actually costs me something, from a place that actually denies my flesh.  It is just beginning; there is much further to go, but I am grateful for God's faithfulness in this work He is beginning to do in my heart.

There is much more I could write.  This is one story of one family who loves Jesus, works hard, can't quite make it, prays, and of how God heard and orchestrated things to answer, and how it changed me.  There are many more stories.  There are thousands of other families I have not met here, and millions over the world.  People in whose lives Jesus is working, who He loves, who He is answering their prayers, whose hearts He is changing.  All over the world, He is working.  So many stories, so many lives, so much love.  What an incredible God we have.  I think of John when he finishes his gospel... 

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.  Amen.  ~John 21:25


And one final parting thought- Whose prayers could YOU be an answer to today?  "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8).