Monday, February 28, 2011

Spiders and Fears

I woke up Tuesday at 1:00 a.m. to go to the bathroom, flipped on the light, and freaked out- a beginning missionary's nightmare was on my wall.  Yup, a tarantula.  It was the real deal- as big as my palm, hairy, the poisonous kind- in my bedroom!  (Although I've recovered since then, just writing about it gets me tripping again.  I just had to stop and look under my table to make sure his brother or sister wasn't lurking there waiting to attack, but all is well thankfully.)

So anyways, I freaked out.  I realized right away it was just me and this spider and God as my helper- it was 1:00 a.m. and everyone was sleeping.  I had to kill it, or leave the room and chance him hiding and me living in constant paranoia in my bedroom from that point forward.  I grabbed a shoe, but quickly thought that's only about 3 times as big as he is, so I grabbed a big heavy journal instead.  He was darting around the room, moving much more quickly than you'd think a tarantula would.  I stood there in the middle of the room holding the journal waiting for the right moment to strike, pretty much frozen in fear.  The longer I waited and watched, the more scared I got.  And I just couldn't work up the courage to do it.

After maybe ten minutes of standing there unsuccessfully, the fear growing, I finally decided to wake up Alfons, one of the older guys in the orphanage.  I knocked on his door 5 times to no avail- he must be a hard sleeper.  I thought, I'll take my chances running down the dark scary staircase and outside to the other guys' rooms.  I made it down the stairs only to see a big locked door.  I thought, okay, I'll call one of them, get my phone and call, and discover I have no phone credit.  I still need to go to the bathroom, so I go into Travis' now empty room to use his toilet, flip open the lid, and there are 2 big huge cockroaches (another thing I'm scared of) inside who don't go down when I flush it.  Things are just not going well for me this night!

I am too scared to go back into my room, too scared to sleep in the spare room or even with the kids, and there is no one to help me.  I decide to just pace the hallway and pray until someone wakes up the next morning.  I realized how ridiculous I'm being, but I just can't go back into my room.  As I'm pacing the hallway and praying, God immediately starts showing me that this isn't just about a spider.  It runs deeper- it's about my fear.

I've never really considered myself a fearful person.  I have jumped out of a plane, bungee jumped, moved to foreign countries by myself, etc. without even blinking an eye.  I love adventure.  The cholera epidemic didn't scare me; I just trust God.  But since I've been out here fear has been surfacing repeatedly for the first time in my life.  When my best friend prayed for me before I left to move here, she prayed that I would be known in the spiritual realm and mentioned how she thought of the story of the missionary who woke up to see a demon in his bedroom and said "oh, it's you again" and went back to sleep- and she prayed that I would have that same kind of confidence and fearlessness in Christ.  And in the beginning on my time here, laying in my little dark room at night, I would remember that prayer and get scared about demons being in my bedroom.  I would get scared of my big dark window leading outside, and think of men climbing up on it and trying to come in my room in the middle of the night.  I would constantly turn on my little flashlight and shine it around the room and out that window. 

I knew it was irrational, and learned how to combat it- praising God, focusing on Him and the truth in specific scriptures, reading Psalms, etc.  And God took away my fear.  I saw how the devil had tried to attack my emotions and get me to live in fear.  But if you resist him, he will flee from you.  About a month ago, the fear started coming back again.  Only during the dark at night as I lay in my bed trying to fall asleep- the thoughts would come.  It was another stint of maybe a week or so, and then God had the victory in my mind again as He helped me refocus it on the truth.

But last week Jacob told me a story of how he'd had a dream Sunday night that he was walking in the countryside at night and was surrounded by a group of guys who beat him up severely.  He woke up sweating and panting, and then had a vision of an old man telling him that he would receive a call from an unknown number and not to answer it, it was part of an evil scheme from the devil.  And sure enough, the very next day he got a bunch of phone calls from the same unknown number, then texts later from it saying to call it back, he was waiting for his call.  When he tried calling the number from my phone, it was disconnected.  Yet it continued calling his.  The next day, a different unknown number called his other phone all day.  He told me a couple stories of the things satan does in the dark out here.  Kinda freaky stuff- because of the voodoo, satan has a stronghold and power in this country.  But the thing that really struck me from the whole conversation was Jacob's fearlessness.  He knows his enemy, but he knows his God, who is much more powerful.

I was tempted again to be scared that night thinking about it, but realized I could control where I let my thoughts run.  I prayed instead, and I asked God to make me fearless like Jacob and the disciples I've been studying in Acts, only to find myself pacing the hallway 2 nights later, a scared little girl, over a spider.  As I paced, I realized that God was allowing this spider incident to help further highlight this fear issue and help me begin to conquer it in Him.  I realized that if God wants to use me and the team He will call here to be a part of taking this town and this country for Jesus Christ, we are going to be going straight up against the powers of satan and darkness.  We are in a war, and we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).  If we are going to take ground from the enemy, it is going to get scary at times I bet.  I feel a million miles from being ready for that.  I feel scared of that whole realm right now.  But I want to grow.  I want to be bold as a lion, fearless, walking strong in the authority and victory of Jesus Christ.  To snatch children and souls from satan's grasp.  To let the Light in me shine so brightly that the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).   

I would like to report that I went back into my room, faced my fears, and killed the spider, but I didn't.  He lived that night, probably snoozing under my bed.  I didn't have any more courage the next night either when he showed his hairy self again on my wall.  But praise the Lord, when I ran out of the room Yvrose was there and came and killed him for me.  God will continue to work on me.  Although hopefully not through any further tarantula incidents for awhile...  :)

Psalm 118:6  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?  (or spider in this case...)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Natilia

When I came here in October something in me was really antsy to jump in with both feet, to have a full-blown ministry right away.  And God started speaking to me.  He reminded me of a main theme in the Experiencing God Bible study I had recently finished- God is always working.  Watch where HE is working and join Him.  We don't need to come up with stuff on our own to "do for Him."  He reminded me about abiding in Him, not striving to find my ministry for Him (John 15).  He used a great little book- The Lord's Work Done in the Lord's Way by K.P. Yohannan to continue speaking along these lines.  Jesus didn't do everything.  He did the Lord's will for Him.  Don't pick up things to do for Him on your own.  Watch and pray for what HE is bringing you to do.  Focus on your abiding relationship with Him. 

So this I did, watching to see what God would bring as I went about life here.  The needs and opportunities are endless in this place, and it could be easy to try to "do it all."  But it's been really sweet for me, because God has been so consistently faithful to make clear the things He has for me to do in this season.  It is one of these stories I would like to share with you today.

When we came last June for the 2 week trip, we had a couple amazing photographers with us.  One of them took this beautiful shot below.  Back in San Diego, we blew up and framed four pictures from the trip into 5 foot by 7 foot pictures and put them around our classroom at Impact195.  This photo was one of them.  As precious as it is small, when it's blown up that huge, something deep in you is affected as you look at it.  I cried more than once looking into this little guy's eyes in that picture, and he completely stole my heart.  I couldn't wait to get back to Haiti and find him to continue loving on him. 


God brought him as I walked the streets and I started developing a little relationship with him.  His name is Isthmi, and there is something precious in him that I can't quite describe.  He is different from the other kids I meet and have befriended along the way.  He is special.  One day I was really moved reading Matthew 25 about how feeding the poor, giving drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned- the least of these- is doing it directly to Jesus Himself.  They are so near to His heart that He is one with them.  I prayed that morning and asked God if I could see Isthmi that day to buy him some clothes and sandals because I knew he needed them.  He lost one of his sandals and had been barefoot around town the past few times I'd seen him.  God always answers prayers that are according to His heart, and sure enough, within the first two minutes I got into town I saw Isthmi.  We bought sandals and a button up shirt and shorts and I told him I wanted to buy a t-shirt too.  On the way to the market, he brought me by his house and I met his mom and family.  I saw right away how poor they were, but also I saw the same preciousness that is in Isthmi in all of them and I saw the love there.

His mom, Natilia, looked about 9 months pregnant, but when I asked her she said she wasn't, she was sick.  It was water in her stomach.  I did my best to ask questions and understand in Creole what the situation was.  She had been to the doctor, but couldn't afford an operation.  I was really touched by her sweetness in our brief and broken conversation with the language barrier.  At home that night, I prayed that God would make a way and show me how He wanted me to minister to her.  As I continued to pray, I felt God wanted me to pay for an operation for her. 

I went back to see her with Jacob to translate and find out more details, make a plan about the hospital, and to share the gospel.  It turns out she is a Christian and I could see in her countenance and when we prayed for her that it was so- Jesus was in her and she loved Him very much.  She was so delighted and thankful about the offer to help her.  I wish I could capture it for you, but it was another of those sweet moments that etched itself on my heart.  I will never forget her face and the way she lit up in that conversation.  She is a widow- her husband died in the earthquake in Port-au-Prince.  She has six children- she thought for a year she had five and that one had died in the earthquake with her husband, but her daughter miraculously showed up at her house on Sunday.  She survived the earthquake and an organization took care of her and brought her back to her family a year later.  Miracle! 

Natilia has had this sickness for a year and a half and said she was basically just going about life and preparing to die since she didn't have the means to fix her sickness.  (Can you even imagine?!)  But God heard her prayers and orchestrated a tangible way to answer them and led me to her.  Oh what a joy and privilege.  He loves the poor so much.  "'For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,' says the Lord; 'I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.'" (Psalm 12:5).  We made a plan to go to the hospital soon.

We went Thursday.  Here is the before picture:
 



Sweet Jacob missed school to come and translate for us.  We talked to the doctor that had seen her several times when she came a year and a half ago.  He said basically that it was an inoperable case.  She didn't need surgery, but instead medicine, to eat protein and vitamins (she is literally skin and bones), and to come in every 2 weeks to get her stomach drained.  Although I was slightly bummed initially because I wanted to be able to fix the problem once and for all, I immediately saw what God was doing.  He wanted me to have a continual relationship with her- to minister to her on a weekly basis, bringing medicine and food, love and prayers consistently.  And He was opening up a door to minister in the hospital on a regular basis as well. 

It took a few hours for Natilia's stomach to be drained.  Three and a half gallons of a thick yellow liquid came out.


During the waiting, I went back to the doctor's office to get her prescription.  As I talked with the doctor, he was blown away that I would do this for her.  He was a Christian also, and was very touched.  I told him it wasn't that I was anything special, but that God loves her very much and He told me to do this, and I was just grateful and blessed to respond to His will.  The doctor and I really connected and he arranged for me to have a tour of the entire hospital.  I saw the pediatric ward, the sick babies, the men and women, the sick pregnant women, the people with broken or severed limbs, the cholera tents.  It's very much a third world hospital, and just kinda a depressing place.  Such opportunity to bring God's love, hope, and joy there.  So I think as Natilia and I come back every 2 weeks, I will make rounds and pray for the patients.  I told the doctor we have a group coming in April for a trip and asked if we could come in and pray for the patients one day.  He said absolutely.  Which is really cool, because we wanted to go to the hospital on our first trip last June, but the doors just didn't open for it.  And it seemed that God was now blowing the doors wide open.  I love how He works.  His timing and ways are perfect.

How sweet it is to follow His leading.  To watch and see who He brings.  To let Him do the orchestrating and the fixing.  He just lets us do the loving.  I love being here and doing this with my life.  My joy is full, my thankfulness is overflowing, my heart is praising Him.  Pray for Natilia.  When the group comes in April and we lay hands on her and pray for her I think that God might do a miraculous healing to show His power to her neighborhood and people at the hospital.  But whatever His plan is, either way I know she'll be in my life for a long time.

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."  ~James 1:27

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Visions and Dreams

It's been a beautiful and full 3 weeks.  I feel like I could go 50 different ways with this post.  The opportunities and stories have been many and sweet.  The work in my heart has been deep.  The faithfulness of God and the privilege to serve Him has continued to blow me away.
  • I spent a week living with Jacob's family.
  • God really impressed me with Matthew 25 and I started doing more feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
  • The Lord brought some new friends to love on- a sick old man, a young widow with 5 kids, a 25 year old orphan.
  • I made a trip to the countryside to meet some very poor, touchingly sweet families Impact195 is going to help with their homes during an April missions trip.
  • I scanned hundreds of death forms from cholera victims at the health clinic I help at one afternoon a week.
  • God put a new little ministry on my heart and I began reading Bible stories to children in the town square.
  • I've been reading my Creole Bible as a way to practice and learn the language, and because I read so slowly in Creole right now, word by word pretty much, stories about Jesus have been hitting me as they never have before and moving me to tears.
  • God is ministering to my heart in such precious ways.
I could elaborate on many of these, but I feel today God putting on my heart to share with you things He began speaking to my heart about Haiti before I came, and the vision He gave me here.  I've been hesitant to, because it's things that are deep in my heart, like treasures and pearls from Him.  Things that it seemed better to just ponder for awhile and hold them close.  Hesitant because it's big, and I didn't want to sound like some dreamer girl, or call attention to myself.  But God is BIG, and sometimes He chooses to share His plans with the weak and foolish so that He gets more glory.

So here goes... God revealed to me that He had placed a call on my life to work with orphans last June while I was on a 2 week missions trip to Jeremie, Haiti.  He'd done such clear preparation in my life, and as I prayed I sensed the timing to go was soon.  Back in San Diego, I began taking steps to move forward, and as I did, it felt as if God blew the doors wide open and began to open up heaven and rain down.  It was a life-altering season in my experience with God, the wildest and most incredible season I'd had in my life with Him yet and I was kind of constantly in awe for about 3 months.  One of the things He began pouring out on me about was Haiti.

One afternoon I was reading in Exodus where God was speaking to Moses from the burning bush- "The LORD said, 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey'" (Exodus 3:7-8).  I had just read an article that morning about how frustrated many of the Haitians were 6 months after the earthquake with so many promises, but very little progress and how they were still in such suffering. 

And as I read this in Exodus, it was like God started shining a light and began showing me the parallels with what He was doing in Haiti.  How they'd been suffering for years so desperately but no one really knew until the earthquake happened, and suddenly the world's eyes were on Haiti.  It's not that the earthquake created a disaster; it highlighted one.  It just got the world's eyes on what was already a terrible situation in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and the world began rushing in to help.  And 6 months later, it was becoming evident to all that the world's solutions were not working.  I felt God was showing me that He was getting ready to come in with His solution.  He began putting on my heart that He laying the foundation for a REVIVAL in Haiti, and that the whole world was going to see it, and that the gospel and His glory would go forth to the nations.  I began praying for God to send Haiti's Moses.  And I offered myself to His plan for whatever part He wanted me to play, small or great.  I was just grateful He was allowing me to be a part of it.  Previously I was just thinking I was going to take care of some orphans, but now He'd just opened my eyes to His bigger plan.  I felt really small, in this wonderful way and in awe.  I made myself available to Him for whatever He desired.

In subsequent weeks He began to do more crazy things in my life, much more than I can write here.  One afternoon on a day with Him at a secluded park, He began showing me what He was going to do specifically in Jeremie, through Impact195 and others in the body of Christ to raise up and empower and equip the locals.  I saw not just an orphanage, but a church, school, hospital, farm, Bible college/discipleship program, coffee shop/music cafe, food and clothing warehouse, feeding children and the elderly, jobs for many of the locals, the town being turned upside town, and that it was going to send shockwaves out around the country and world.  He put Isaiah 9:2 on my heart- "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."

My heart and mind were constantly contemplating it all with great amazement at the One who "only does wondrous things" (Psalm 72:18).  At a prayer meeting with the team that was about to embark on another missions trip to Jeremie in September, we shared what God had been showing us and I shared these things.  A Haitian brother Gary, who had just moved to San Diego to begin Impact195, then shared a story of how several years ago his uncles in Haiti had banded together and fasted and prayed for their country, pleading for God to move in it.  One uncle in particular continued fasting and praying for weeks until God finally spoke to him and said- "I'm going to first bring Haiti to its knees, and then I will raise up a generation and will bring a revival in Haiti."  (I think about that alot- as it is so evident right now how Haiti is being brought to its knees and it gives me great hope for what's coming after.)  During our prayer time one of the women at the meeting saw a vision of a world map with Haiti shining like a beacon of light that the world sees.  I was encouraged after that prayer meeting that I wasn't off in left field with all these big thoughts, but that indeed it was God and He had been speaking the same thing to others.  He continued to show this through other people as well.

Gary shared with me later that when God had spoken to his uncle, He'd also given him a vision of a bunch of Christians moving to a city in Haiti and transforming it- there was a church, school, orphanage, hospital.  Everything changed for the people in the city- economically, spiritually.  The town became a model not only in Haiti but around the world of how to transform a city with the love of God.  I thought immediately of the tagline for Impact's first trip to Haiti in June- "Working to transform the city of Jeremie into a symbol of love and hope for the future of Haiti."  I believed in my whole heart that Jeremie was this city that God showed him in that vision that He had chosen to pour out His Spirit on.

It was an incredible few months.  My heart was overflowing.  My excitement was high.  And in October I came for the 6 month beginning trip.  It was a small start, after such big visions, but I knew that this was okay, this was how things start.  Yet God, again, in His extravagant grace, gave me another vision one night about 2 weeks in.  While the other ones were Him speaking to my heart, this one was different- it was a vision- I saw it clearly in my head.  It was more specific.  I saw the green grass, the kids running, playing, the huge smiles on their faces.  It was so beautiful it had me crying and crying there in my bed under my mosquito net, just praising God, and Him giving me the faith to believe that He was really going to do this.  It is this I want to share with you today.  This is what He is calling me and the team from Impact195 to do out here.

There was a huge piece of property, outside of town, but within walking distance.  It was not only an orphanage, but for lack of a better term right now, a youth center open every afternoon for all the kids of Jeremie to come to.  It had tons of things for the kids to do and play on- soccer fields, basketball courts, a huge jungle gym, skate ramps, sandboxes, a place to swim.  It had classrooms for dance and music and English and Bible and other classes of all sorts.  It had computers and a library for them.  It had a medical clinic and church and school and Bible studies and a discipleship school.  It had a huge farm.  But more importantly, it had a ton of workers- Impact graduates, local disciples (who the Lord is starting to bring now one by one!), others- who were playing with the kids and loving on them praying for them and teaching them about Jesus.  And most importantly, His presence rested there.  He was telling me this was about filling the children so full of the Bible and the love of God that a whole new generation would be raised up to be world changers- going out into Jeremie and Haiti and the world with the gospel and love of God.  The workers all lived there together.  It was a community much like the book of Acts.  It was beautiful.  Many heard of it and came from all around to see.

There was much more that He revealed then and continues to reveal.  I just write it all down in my little notebook as it comes.  But this is the main idea for now.  I don't know why God has revealed this all to little old me.  I don't know why He chose to send me first.  I'm nobody special in the slightest.  I just gave Him my life and said do with it as You will.  And He is.  I am just grateful and continually aware of His grace, and just revel in His goodness and heart.  What a joy to be a part of His great work.  I've been encouraged too since I've been here and have been hearing what God has spoken to others who live here, and meeting some other missionaries He has sent here for His work.  As Jacob said once and I think of often- "God has a dream for Jeremie" and He is orchestrating it before our eyes.

I ask that you would PRAY!  For this property- as it is difficult to obtain here, especially a piece that big and close to town.  I sense God wants to do a miracle and show His power.  But that we need to pray earnestly for this, for God "has condescended to place His almighty power at the command of believing prayer" (Hudson Taylor).  Pray for the team that God is calling here to begin this work.  Pray that we would be available to carry out His plan in His timing and ways, and never our own agenda.  Pray for the people of this city to see and respond to His power and love.  I can't wait to see how He's going to unfold His plan for this little corner of the world.  He is glorious beyond measure.

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.  I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath... before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:17-21).