And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey Love the one you’re with

“If you’re down and confused
And you don’t remember who you’re talking to
Concentration slip away
Because your baby is so far away

Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with
Stephen Stills

Anna inside her sweatshirt in Wisconsin

Greeting from the tundra! It has been under 70 degrees most days since we arrived in Rockford, IL to begin our furlough (strategic stateside time) and we have been under ALL the blankets and in ALL the sweats! What have we gotten ourselves into? Yes, we are aware that we will be praying for 70 degrees come November, probably much before. We wanted to touch base with you all and let you know what we have been up to since the kids and Rach left Haiti in July and Kris in August. It has been super busy as we traveled to see family, settled into Rockford, started kids schooling, and began our “stateside to do” list. This may be a bit lengthy so I will break it into sections with pictures to make it more fun.

July for the kids and Mom

Rach and the kids left our home in Haiti with friends, who were also flying out that day, on July 10 at 4AM. There has been so much unrest and we had heard many rumors of possible continued trouble so we left early to avoid any problems.

Our airport run crew at the airport 5AM.

We had a smooth trip that day and landed in Jacksonville, FL where Rachael’s mom, Janice Evans, cut her vacation short, picked us up, and drove us to Valdosta, GA. We had Dentist appointments for all 3 kids the next morning so we drove late and got up early. Our wonderful Dentist friend, Mili Hunt, DMD, took care of all 3 kids. Lydia especially needed some help as she had 2 horrible cavities and needed an extraction.  They were wonderful with her and we are all glad she finally has some relief from her tooth pain.

Lydia numb from the dentist.

The following day Janice took Rach and the kids to Atlanta. So much luggage and a comedy of errors ensued involving 8 suitcases, a truck bed, RAIN, and lawn and leaf garbage bags. Levi was a champ and Rachael and Janice were exhausted.  Anna and Levi were alone on planes the next morning (13th) with Anna heading to Phoenix, AZ and Levi flying to St. Louis, MO. Rachael may have stood crying at the airport while Lydia played on the escalators, again.


Lydia at EVERY airport

Janice was the MVP of this time as she drove literally ALL OVER Georgia and N. Florida taking us places, feeding us, and spending time with us.

Anna went to be with precious friends and supporters, the Ross Family, in AZ. They gifted her the trip and camp so she could be with them and see her church friends.  She had a wonderful time and loves this family (so do we) and her Palm Valley Church so much.

Levi went to Kris’ parents, Ken and Katrina Coleman, who payed for and took him to camp in IL and then took him camping for a week. He is still talking about what a great time he had with them.

After church camp for both Anna (PHX) and Levi (STL), they headed to Life Action Camp in Buchanan, MI to work for 2 weeks and serve other families. Kris’ parents, Ken and Katrina, drove them to MI and were such a blessing making sure they had all they needed and got to where they needed to go. They had so much fun living with other teens and growing in work ethic as they served in the kitchen, snack shop, and with children.

Let’s circle back to Rach and Lydia in Atlanta who spent the next week with Rachael’s sister, Michal, and her family. They spent time together, and Lydia was wrapped up in cousins for a week. It was fun and Lydia was distracted from missing her Dad and siblings.

Lydia and cousins Presley, Emme, and Grey
Lydia and the cousin crew at the science center!
A cute stop as we were being shuttled to our next stop in NC.

Rachael and Lydia then were shuttled to NC to be with Rachael’s Dad (Mike Shirley) and Sue Shirley. They live on a mountain side in North Carolina and many days were spent looking at the view and enjoying time together. Maggie Valley United Methodist invited Rachael and Lydia to share in a Bible Study and they were so gracious about KONBIT and so encouraging. They quickly announced they would LOVE to bring a team to serve once it is safe to do so again. Cousins joined us and we used an air mattress to ride the creek, went horseback riding, went to see the Lion King, and caught “Oliver” in the live local theater. What fun to see and hug Aunt Penny and Aunt Barbara from Asheville, NC! A big thanks to Mike and Sue for making everything special and sharing your home with us.

Playing in the creek with cousins.

Emme and Biddy, forever cousins and friends.
Lydia in heaven on a horse

August and …
Kris joins in on the madness

Kris had an uneventful trip out of Haiti on August 1 and was picked up in Charlotte, NC by Rachael and her dad. Lydia stayed back with Sue and had some girl shopping time (Sue doted on her and SHE LOVED IT). Kris spent one day in NC and then we loaded into a rental car and drove to St. Louis on August 3. We hit all the construction zones, all the rainy weather, and all the detours making an 8.5 hour trip take over 12 hours.  We settled in with Kris’ parents and enjoyed time with family. Lydia was adored by more grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. Lydia was taken to The City Museum, imagine Willy Wonka built a play structure, and she ran non-stop for hours. We saw friends from Haiti and were taken to dinner by Rachael’s Aunt and cousin in St. Louis.

City Museum, St. Louis
Jael and Zoe, friends from Haiti

We generally just really enjoyed being with people we miss dearly all year around. We left Granite City, IL (Kris’ hometown) on August 9 to finish our travels landing in Rockford, IL for the next few months. Whew. On the 10th, Kris drove 6 hours round trip to pick up Anna and Levi from the camp in MI and we were finally reunited!  Anna and Levi told us all the stories about their adventures and they really have not stopped. They also now spend a solid amount of time daily messaging with friends they have made at various camps. What a sweet blessing for our teens and not something we take for granted.

Now on to our Rockford happenings

City First Church in Rockford, IL is where we, Kris and Rachael, met in September of 1995.  The church and its Pastor’s Jer and Jen DeWeerdt have been a constant in our lives since then. They mentored us in school, Pastor Jeremy married us in 1997, connected us to our first ministry position in 1998, walked us though various ministry highs and lows, and have encouraged and supported us since we have been in Haiti. We have attended their church online weekly for 2 years at our dining room table in Haiti. They have sent 2 teams to work with us and had scheduled a 3rd that had to cancel due to the security risk. When we needed a place to land for a few months, we asked them first. City First opened their arms and have literally and spiritually taken us in. We live in an apartment provided by them to missionaries on furlough when available, we attend services, sometimes more than one a week, Lydia is attending their school on scholarship, Anna and Levi have been loved well by their youth. Church members have provided school supplies, uniforms, activities, and even spending money. We were welcomed upon arrival by a gift basket with snacks and treats for us all. Old friends provided a keyboard for Anna so she can take lessons, Lydia is taking gymnastics, and Levi wants to take guitar.

Our welcome basket!
First service at City First Church, online is great but this is better!

We arrived August 9 and we leave at the end of November. The apartment has all we need and is comfortable and thoughtfully stocked. I am just telling you all this because the details matter and it matters when the Body of Christ behaves so beautifully. It matters to us and it is helping us continue in the work God has called us to. We needed this time for MANY reasons and without City First it may not have been possible or constructive. So, now on the the final section.

What we have gotten done!

The children were baptized our second week here. They had all been waiting because they wanted to be baptized in the church and we do not have one that they would feel comfortable being baptized in in Haiti. They have different rules about baptism and for that reason and others they all wanted to wait. So, week 2 at City First they all took the plunge and it was so beautiful and important. We boo-hoo’ed start to finish. Praising God for the faith of our kids that we know it is born of God’s Spirit and only by his Hand.

Anna being baptized
Levi being baptized
Lydia being baptized

Lydia took a placement test and scored well enough to enter their 5th grade class. So Lydia has gone to conventional school for the first time, Levi is in 10th grade and actually connects to his class in Haiti via the internet, and Anna is a senior and is completing 3 High School classes while continuing her college courses at Liberty on-line.

Lydia 5th grade
Levi 10th grade
Anna 12th grade

Since arriving we have signed 2 out of 3 kids up for activities, gotten the teens involved in Youth group, and connected with the college students we live in the complex with.  One huge priority was that all 3 kids passports are expiring in November. With the current political climate in Haiti we felt strongly this needed to be done stateside as you go without your passport while you wait for the new one. We applied for those last week and they will be returned to us in 6-8 weeks.

Passport photos

Anna is signed up for both the ACT and the SAT in the next 4 weeks so that she can begin applying to colleges for next year. We will fill out her financial aid paperwork on October 1st, and she is collecting scholarship information as I type. We have picked up the information at the DMV so that Anna (maybe Levi, too) can get her learners and Rachael can update her license (which is still from AZ).

What else?

Kris meets every Monday with the team in Haiti and help strategize for the week. He still manages all the finances and organizes the funds getting to Haiti. Kris is studying books currently to help his vision for and understanding of micro-finance. He wants KONBIT’s initiatives to be as effective as possible and that means studying. He is working on his Creole too and stays connected daily to the team on the ground as they navigate the day to day ministry in Haiti. Kris and Rachael are going through a Bible Study together called, Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.  We are working on heart issues connected to seeing hard things and trusting the sovereign will and kind heart of God when things feel scary and difficult.  It’s a work God has been leading us to seek Him in. We have also just simply and beautifully spent time together.

Our Bible Study
Time together-unhurried and comfortable

We have gone to eat together and taken the kids on walks. It is amazing what just removing the stress of day to day life in Haiti has done for our family. We are soaking in the ease of life here and enjoying the rhythm and enrichment readily available for our kids. We still have much to do and accomplish. Year old injuries that we need to be seen and other long ignored health issues that we need to address with a physician.  I know I mentioned in our last update that it is like attending to a home with deferred maintenance. So much has been left undone for so long that it will take us sometime to catch up.

Thank you for being kind and understanding as we attend to family, get Anna ready for college, and prepare for more years in Haiti. We are as committed to serving in Haiti as we were 5 years ago, not as naÏve, but just as committed.  We will be ready to get back to work in Haiti in very early December, but for now, we will do this. We love you all so very much and we are grateful you partner with God’s work in our village in Haiti. We are so honored to have been doing this work for over 4.5 years now and we plan to continue it for many years to come.

In the mean time, since we can’t be with the ones we love in Haiti, we will love the ones we’re with. We will invest in the people nearby while the KONBIT team keeps knocking it out of the park in Haiti. It’s easy to love this place and these people who have opened their church and lives to us. The college kids in our building will be joining us for dinner soon so we can get to know them better. That is 50 extra mouths to feed and we will love every second of it! We will be in Crystal Lake this next Sunday, September 8, for a KONBIT fundraiser. Thanks to Calvary AG and the Sheridan Family! We would love to connect with you, too, while we are stateside.  If you are in the area please let us know and we will put something on the calendar.

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Coleman’s Big News

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We never had a short term commitment in mind when we decided to move to Haiti. It has always been about the “Long Game”.  Not because we presume to know God’s entire plan but because He has never given us an “End Game”.  Until/unless that changes we will prepare to do this as long as possible. People ask us ALL THE TIME, “How long are you in Haiti?”.  It’s a reasonable question as so many people make finite commitments to international work. We applaud their commitment all the same it’s just not an answer we have been given. So, we make decisions to facilitate long term goals. I want to tell you about a BIG ONE we decided on over 4 years ago, but before I do…

The Urban Dictionary defines the Long Game as “Considering the future implications of current choices, thinking ahead, being deliberate and patient.”

Shane Parrish writes, “The long game isn’t particularly notable and sometimes it’s not even noticeable. It’s boring. But when someone chooses to play the long game from an early age, the results can be extraordinary. The long game changes how you conduct your personal and business affairs.”  You can read the rest of the article here on the Farnam Street Blog.  https://fs.blog/2018/10/long-game/ 

From before day 1 in Haiti, Kris and I have discussed what this needed to look like for us to do this FOR THE REST OF OUR LIFE. We have made decisions for KONBIT, for us personally, for us spiritually, for us practically, and for us relationally to ensure we can stay the course. We believe strongly that impact is compounding.  That as we develop our community and relationships spiritually and physically that it is most effectively accomplished one day at a time, year after year, and by God’s grace decade after decade.

Over 4 years ago, I sat in a dentists’ chair while she cleaned my teeth and I listened to her tell me about her life as a missionary kid. She loved it and was excited abut this upcoming journey for my family. She became more somber though as she told me about her journey back to the US from where her family served in South America.  The organization they served with had a rule that all Missionary kids must return to the US for college. She fought that rule as there were universities where they lived but, she ended up having to leave. She left her life in South America and landed in an American university. She didn’t understand American teenagers, she didn’t fit in, this culture was a mystery, and she could not even call her family. She explained with some emotion how letters full of grief and loneliness would take 3 weeks to get to her parents, then 3 more weeks for her to get a letter in return. This hurting 18 year old would wait 6 weeks to hear from her family and she said it was by far the most difficult part of her missions journey.  She begged to come home and was told by her parents to give it a year. She did and she made it, but she made sure I understood the mark it left on her. 

I took her words to heart, and decided then that at the 4 years mark of life in Haiti, we would return to the states for an extended time. Our 4 year anniversary was May 7, 2019. Anna is entering her senior year and we are preparing her for college in the US. She has a good idea where she would like to go with Levi right behind her 2 years later. We want Anna to process all the grief, the cultural shocks, the differences, while safely within the context of her family. So many practical things too! She needs to learn to drive, take her SAT and ACT, etc, etc, etc. 

As a family we really need dental care (will be seeing our missionary kid friend once again), all our immunizations are expired, and Kris and I have not been on a date in over a year. On a comical note, The dates we get look like a stressful drive to the tiny store attached to a gas station 7 miles down the road. Kris and I are middle aged (shhh) and all the normal health concerns are creeping up. Blood pressure and all sort of fun stuff. We need time in the US to get medical care and begin medicine. We are like 5 houses that have had deffered maintenance and are in disrepair.  We have seen and experienced so much we need space to process and repair mentally. We will be in counseling and active participants in the happenings  of City First Church.

The formal plan is as follows:

We will live in America for 4 months, from August through November. A wonderful church (City First) in Rockford, IL has agreed to host us in missionary housing during that time. They gave Lydia a scholarship to attend 5th grade at their school while we are there. This will be her first time in a formal school setting. Anna and Levi will continue with homeschooling as they do now but will attend High School chapels, school retreats, and be a part of their very active youth ministry.  Anna and Levi want music lessons and Lydia wants to take gymnastics. Lydia is already planning her 10th B-day party at a trampoline park. Jeff and Pat Fanger, other missionaries with KONBIT,  are kindly allowing us the use of their vehicle so we do not need to rent anything. God has used the Body of Christ to put the pieces of this together like I never could have imagined. 

We are all apprehensive about this time. We know it is right and that it is a “Long Game” decision, but nerves abound. We are NOT walking away from this work or from KONBIT. In fact, quite the opposite as this means lengthier time on the field and an impact that compounds for years to come, we hope and pray. 

What we need from you? 

Prayers. 
-That God would continue to go ahead of us in every way. Opportunities for our kids to engage culture and other kids in the US. That they would connect QUICKLY so that their time is fruitful in friendship. 
-That we would make ALL the appointments and find all the resources that we are so behind in accessing. 
-That we would heal physically (Dengue 3x’s takes its toll and so does being over 40), spiritually, and emotionally.

Continued Giving.
– All things KONBIT will be continuing as normal! Jessie Mathieu, Jeff Fanger, Pat Fanger, Stanley Gregoire, and Jeanette will be working their regular hours and all things KONBIT will continue. All job creation, all Meals on 2 Wheels, The tutoring program, even our community gate ministry. That means that all our expenses will remain constant.  Your continued giving ensure that when we land back in Haiti in early December that we will just jump right back into what God is doing in Lafferonnay through KONBIT.

Connection.
-We will be in the area and would love to come share with you over a meal or at a small group, ways you can partner with KONBIT. We will not be traveling over the weekends (so that we can attend City First as a family) but, would love to connect any other time we can.  Let us know if you would like to connect or have us come speak during the week.  After all the time we have spent in Port -au-Prince traffic, we are glad to travel some hours to come see you.

Our ministry in Haiti has continued to be busy and fruitful. Here are some pics of just a handful of opportunities we have had to love and serve!

American Sign Language and grief rolling in like the tide

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The church roof across the street from the KONBIT house.

We live across the street from a Haitian church, on a busy street, in the heart of Lafferonnay. Noise is our constant companion. Huge diesel trucks rumbling by our gate, moto’s dragging rebar, car and moto music blaring louder then softer as they pass, church music and prayers, people talking or yelling, knocks at the gate, and some days wailing, weeping, to the back drop of a brass band. Yesterday was one of those days. The grief sweeping over the wall and into our school room like waves, taking my heart out to sea. Levi and I were trying to take a quiz on his vocabulary for his American Sign Language course. 80 terms, as I compared his motions to those from his teacher on the computer screen. “OK, Levi, sign ‘noon’ for me please.” Suddenly screams of grief, terror, guttural wails filling every space of our minds as they flowed out of the church 15 feet from our school room. Levi signs, “noon” nearly perfectly. “OK, great job, Levi.”  Funerals at the church across the street are not unusual. Yesterday though, just before the funeral for a friend’s mom began, we learned that our friend’s baby, Anderson, had passed away. The baby who was born too tiny and beat the odds, died because of an unrelated infection 18 months later. I held that sweet boy many times and marveled at his life. Thanked God he had survived. We have school to do. Little Anderson’s face, and those of his parents, filling my mind, then the wailing begins nearby. Yes, I think, me too. “Levi, sign the days of the week.” He does it and really nails them but we can barely breath because the grief is so thick. We trucked on. Subject after subject, laundry up, laundry down, when finally at 8:30 last night I had time to stop. Grief came for me and I had to sit with her for awhile. There has been death, after death these last weeks. I want to tell you that these deaths could not have been prevented but it’s just not true. While we will never know definitively, I am confident that lack of education, superstition i.e. Voodoo, incompetent medical care, and poverty took these lives. 

Goodnight Jeff…

Goodnight Anderson…

Goodnight Dani…

Goodnight Franzky…

Goodnight Kokot…

Goodnight Piti Andrè Rose…

There are many more whose stories I don’t know. Whose hands I have not held. We will not forget what took you or stop fighting to see better opportunities for LIFE provided to your friends and family. Life begins with Jesus and we will continue to point to the source of true HOPE. 

Can I ask you to look at and support a ministry that is near and dear to our hearts? Haiti Health Ministries is at the frontline, ripping people from the grips of death one person at a time. They are one of the few places we can go and that we can send people. Twice in the last 2 weeks we have paid to have the very ill seen at local hospitals. Both times care had to be taken over by HHM so that diagnosis could be made and those people truly helped. 

https://www.haitihealthministries.org

They need donations and they need medical volunteers to help with patient load. Are you a nurse, doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, or other medical professional? Could you donate time? A month? 3 months? a year? Maybe you have a heart for missions and would love to serve longterm. Time spent at HHM would be wisely stewarded to see the most impact in the community.

Psalm 18:6 “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears”

Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Pray for us in this season. Pray for the broken and discouraged Haitian families and friends. Pray for our friend, Parker, who organized so much and fought so hard to save Anderson’s life. Pray for Anderson’s parents who adored their little boy. Pray for everyone at My Life Speaks as they grieve losing precious Franzky. Pray for Dani’s husband and 2 small children. Pray for Andre Rose who misses her son and Ti Andre who is missing his mama. Finally, Pray for HHM, the Directors Jim and Sandy Wilkins, and their American and Haitian staff. Pray that God would continue to provide strength and resource as they serve so beautifully. Pray that they would have opportunities daily to share the love and hope found in Jesus as they fight for peoples lives. 

protests, tables, a lake house, and war

What a season my friends. I know not much has made the cut on the American news networks, but Haiti reached a tipping point last week, and seemed to narrowly avoid careening over the edge. I will unpack the last 2 weeks framed as the story of my families journey. You consistently tell me that you want to know what is happening, and you want the real story. I am also realizing that I need you to know it so that you can be informed and armed with details for prayer. 

Kris returned from 2.5 weeks in the US, getting tax receipts sent and speaking, on Feb 5. I was scheduled to leave Haiti on Feb 8 and like a well oiled machine we transitioned the home, children, and KONBIT from my care to his. We started hearing talk of planned protests and the 2 days before I left a fire, so to speak, was lit. We were not sure I would be able to get to the airport so we hatched a plan for me to leave early, still in the dark, to avoid what I could. On Feb 8 at 4AM, Elimage arrived so we could dash to Port-au-Prince. We flew, the nerves of my Haitian brother thinly veiled. We saw no traffic, the city looked like a ghost town, or abandoned war zone.  We did hit a large barricade about 1/2 way there and made a quick u-turn so our vehicle was not still long enough for any shenanigans in that area, quite known for robberies and such. We inhaled a huge sigh of relief when we arrived at the airport. We waited until they opened and Elimage spent the next 4 hours trying to find a way back around blocked roads. I arrived in Arkansas for a respite counseling retreat to address mounting anxiety and as I started my retreat Haiti’s hurt, anger, frustration, & resentment rolled from a flicker to a bon fire and transportation was completely halted nationwide.

Story break to ask a question and add a sideline to the story. Have you ever had a moment that you realized how utterly powerless you are to control a situation? Like in a car accident and time slows down but there is nothing you could do to prevent it. Or with illness, watching someone we love hurting but unable to help it improve? As a mini-saga nestled within the drama, our Levi has been sick. Our nearly 6’2, ridiculously handsome 14 year old has been struggling with his stomach for months. Dr. Jim, local missionary Doctor with HHM, has followed him and we have reached a point that he is in need of an endoscopy. Endoscopies in Haiti are frequently performed with no anesthesia so before I left we had decided we would wait a bit longer and hope that on his current medication he would improve rapidly and it would not be needed. I will circle back I promise.

So, Here I am at a retreat in Arkansas and staying at lake house. I am doing my best to soak up this opportunity and squeeze every bit of solitude, Bible study, introspection, and growth as I could out of it. As I sit in a swing listening to the breeze all I can think about is my family, perpetually stuck indoors, scrambling for supplies, the roads too blocked to even make it the 2 miles to school. Across my Facebook newsfeed raging fires, angry protesters, and news from home that even our usually quiet areas were blocked and things seemed to be spiraling toward mayhem. Many dear friends chose to be helicoptered out of Haiti and seeing photos of them board and be brought to safety broke through my armor and broke my heart. I was so relieved they were safe, and so indescribably terrified for my family. While I knew it was irrational, I worried we would be separated for months and that maybe they would all be killed. Realistic? Not really, but I had NO control over the circumstance and in those moments it is so easy to let our mind drift to worse case scenarios. 

I spent this day, the helicopter day, meditating on one passage of scripture. I read it in MANY versions, then in Creole, and finally I broke it down into its more important Hebrew parts. I was rocked and God was teaching me something paramount that I want to share with you. Psalms 23 is awash with verses that we know well and that can almost become cliche if we just hear them once again with out really considering what David was saying. Psalm 23:5 was where I spent my entire day, well, when I wasn’t rehearsing ridiculous scenarios about my family in my mind and crying into a couch cushion.

For context read the chapter,  I have placed it here for you.

The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2  He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3  he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

So, the Psalm begins with David talking about how our Great Shepherd leads us to places of rest, green pastures, and still waters. Then the famous, “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  followed by 

“You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” It seems out of place. In the valley of death God places a feast before me? I thought to myself, “This makes 0 sense, I DO NOT WANT A FREAKIN MEAL, I want my family safe and my son’s endoscopy scheduled in an American medical center!” This verse seemed ridiculous but my deep respect for God’s Word left me hungry and I had to unpack it and let God speak to my heart. I knew He would, as I have never looked deep into God’s word and not been rocked.

The Lord sent me searching for blogs and other sources that explained this verse. I did word studies on the Hebrew word for “prepare”, “table”, “anoint”, “enemy” and studied the cultural context for the overflowing cup. I listened to short video sermons and I prayed, asking God for wisdom. I hate to sit still in the best of circumstances. This verse seems to be asking me to sit still in a war. I just want to scream how impossible this feels. 

I will share below how I rewrote the verse based on what I learned but before I do, I want you to read first hand what really knocked my socks off about the root of the word used for “anoint” in “ you anoint my head with oil”.

In a beautiful exposition by Rabbi Pesach Wolicki titled Psalm 23:5: Since When do Sheep Sit at a Table? Rabbi Wolicki explains, 

“The problem with this translation is that the Hebrew word for anoint – MASHACH from the Hebrew root MSHCH – does not appear in this verse. That is the word everywhere in the Bible where someone is anointed. And our verse just does not say that. The word in our verse is DISHANTA from the three-letter root D-SH-N. And guess what? D-SH-N does not mean anoint. EVER.  The root D-SH-N actually means ‘to fatten’, ‘make healthy’ or ‘make fresh.’”

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This sent me reeling. At the table God hands my spinning, fear filled, anxiety ridden mind health. I have to sit down at this table He has prepared for me so that He can set out intentionally a meal of His Spirit that will make my mind healthy.

Here is how I rewrote it with the Hebrew word study and other researched definitions included. 

You Prepare (arrange, intentionally order, ordain, furnish) a table (feast, provision in lavish form) for me in the presence of (facing, confronting) my enemies (evil, trouble); You anoint (make healthy, freshen, nourish, fertilize) my head with oil (Holy Spirit blessing, ornament, delight); my cup overflows (with living water, unending welcome, salvation eternal, abundance of spiritual blessing).

Whoa. Jesus has prepared a feast for me. A feast of spiritual blessing like peace, faith, love, and belonging that restores my mind IN my battle IN the middle of my trouble and fear.  There is power in the ability to sit down at His table in crisis.

So, As I write this, I am preparing to drive the rest of that way to Fort Lauderdale so that I can take a flight home to Haiti. If the protests hold off and the airline doesn’t cancel the flight due to low passenger numbers, I will be hugging and kissing my babies and husband by Friday at noon.  I do not know what is in store for us in Haiti. I am unsure about the unrest and what that means for our family, our KONBIT ministry, and our beautiful Haitian friends. I don’t know what the right call is for my precious son. He has been very sick twice during the 2 weeks I have been in the US. I don’t have ANY answers! I want to run around stressing about details and making plans. There will be time for my crazy plan making later. First, A table has been set for me and I want to sit down with my father right in the middle of this mess. He will make my thinking healthy and fill me with the power, faith, peace, love, and surrender that I need to face whatever I find my self in the middle of. 

I pray for you today that when your enemies (place your personal war here) seem to be closing in and you want to panic. When every instinct tells you to make a plan, write a letter, make a call, or work, what if you sat down with our powerful God instead. He who desires to fill you with all you need to have peace, obey, and act in love in the most impossible of circumstances. 

I love you friends. 

Pray for Haiti. We are committed to being HERE and seeing Jesus lifted up and we are grieved beyond words by how current events have elevated the suffering of people we adore. We are also grieved and stressed by the struggle of attaining medical care for our son. We will be sitting at the Lord’s table in our battle and we will be praying for you as you do the same.

An Ode to my Treadmill

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Don’t read this. This holds nearly nothing of value. Nothing about our missions work. Nothing in the way of a spiritual lesson, although I know I have learned things from it.  This is just about little old me and a gift I just received. Read this only if you think you might enjoy a silly walk through my psyche. 

“Running just as fast as we can, 
(walking/jogging really)
Holding on to one another hands,
(death grip on hand rails)
Trying to get away into the night
(or day, or anytime)
And then you put your arms around me
And we tumble to the ground and then you say
I think we’re alone now,
(be still my heart)
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
(leave me alone KIDS! No, you can’t watch me run!)
I think we’re alone now,
The beating of our hearts is the only sound”
(and my gasping for air)

The immortal words of Tiffany (with context for clarity) were describing my new found relationship with…my treadmill.

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important aside – I saw New Kids on the Block open up a Tiffany concert. NKOTB!

I know the area (Mason, WV) from which this beautiful machine hails, but I do not know specifically which person at First Baptist Church made this dream come true for me. 

5 years ago I was running between 2-4 miles, 5 days a week. I had lost weight, felt great and running became my absolute favorite way to blow off steam. I prayed while I ran.  I worshipped.  I battled through fear, insecurities, and hurt. Running became a therapist, mom’s morning out, and prayer time all wrapped into one. 

I rely heavily on schedule (major flaw alert) so as we prepped to move to Haiti and started traveling and speaking, I just couldn’t figure out how to keep up with it.  I ran a handful of times every month but nothing like before. I thought surely I will run in Haiti. 

I have run in Haiti a handful of times at best in all 3 years we have lived here. I really tried. We live on a somewhat busy street so I tried running around a soccer field…jumping cow poop, waving to and politely greeting the woman holding the cow who just stayed and watched EVERY LAP, rolling my ankle on mango pits. Kris tried going out with me at 5:30AM, we detoured around the backside of the horse, walked over the pitted road, past the voodoo altar, and then I could run…past the crazy attack dogs, but still I could run. That worked, until team season had us working 16 hour days.  

Some missionaries/foreigners run here with no problem. Albeit, In a different neighborhood, but they don’t seem to mind the stares, the rock inducing ankle rolls, and the wipe-outs.  I have never been able to do it, not and enjoy it. 

I like to run alone. I don’t want to talk or be stared at. I want to process. I want to pray. I want to be quiet and listen to my heartbeat and my breath. I remember times running in AZ that I would run while processing life, enjoying God’s presence, a few times to the point of tears.  I’m over here admitting I would cry when I ran sometimes. The weepy runner. I’m so weird, ack, embarrassing.  

I usually bring my running clothes anytime I am stateside. I spent a week at my dad’s last year and I ran 14 miles over the course of about 7 days, because I missed it so badly.  I know that distance is nothing for you crazy marathon runners but, I hadn’t run much in 4 years at that point.  

I told Kris 2 years ago, “I need a treadmill.” For my health, both emotional and physical. How to make that happen we hadn’t a clue. I asked around online to see if any local aid workers had one for sale. No one said a thing. We looked at prices, no way. What we needed was a used treadmill…in Haiti.  I had daydreams about facing the treadmill toward the open door and looking outside while I got lost in a good run. 

About a year ago a wonderful church in West Virginia, bought a vehicle at auction to donate to KONBIT. They filled that thing with everything you can imagine. I knew they had so kindly put a treadmill on there for me. The vehicle needed to be shipped here so Kris’ parents drove it to FL and left it with a shipping broker. That was nearly 6 months ago. It was out of our hands. Then after 4 million phone calls the vehicle finally ships and arrives in Haiti. I chose to be stoic about the treadmill because I knew the damage that it could have sustained in transit. I watched it unload and my heart jumped, but I thought, it’s probably broken. I behaved like a bratty teen, because I was nervous. I let it sit one day and then Levi tried it to make sure it worked. It did!  

Now to yesterday. I jumped on it to run a quick mile. I put my music on, faced the treadmill to the door, and I ran. At one point I actually teared up. This may sound totally insane to you but it just means that much to me. So, for the next bit, I will be getting to know my treadmill, running and crying. I already ordered the maintenance kit because I have zero chill about this and my new sweet friend (the treadmill) needs to be regularly oiled and have the belts tightened. She is a fine tuned machine and must be cared for.  I want to name her, but what? Black Beauty? Chariot? Usain? Please submit suggestions.

So, that’s it.  I have no great spiritual lesson in this. I’m just probably the most excited a person has ever been to have a treadmill. I am already planning my run tomorrow. I need running music again. Cue the tears. Thanks sweet people in West VA. I know it’s hard to tell because of the tears, but you sent me a real treasure. Not to mention all the ministry supplies and (clears throat) the team vehicle. Ministry and all the amazing work we get to do aside, this was a gift for me. 

“I think we’re alone now,
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think we’re alone now,
The beating of our hearts is the only sound”

Thanks to you, Tiffany.  Shout out to NKOTB for being such heartthrobs.

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Singing the song of our people

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July was epic but I am so happy to be back in Haiti.  We had a wonderful time with extended family and hanging out with our little immediate family but I missed our life here. To be truthful, this time, I did not think I missed it. 3 years into life here and the newness is well worn off and IT IS SO HARD sometimes that I think I can’t make it. Blah, blah, whine, whine. So, I didn’t think I missed life here, and I was a bit concerned. It wasn’t until we were driving back though Port au Prince that a sense of peace settled over me and I thought, man it’s nice to be home.  There is a bit of calm in my internal sea and I am enjoying this life and work again.  I am sure a month with our precious family is going a long way to explaining my current mental stability and feeling of groundedness.  Read on and I think you will hear why. 

Brief July recap. We spent a week in the home of a precious woman who lives in both Boston and Florida. She is in Boston this time of year so she allowed us to use her home. We swam, played monopoly, slept, rented a movie, went to the movies, ate ALL the berries, soaked up all the A/C and just healed a bit, emotionally and physically. We laughed so hard playing Marco Polo that I am surprised no one choked on pool water. Never had I realized how healing a vacation could be. We really need to be together away from 3rd world stress….and laugh. We sang the song of our people, laughter. 

Proverbs 17:22 “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing…”  

What a sweet blessing that I almost cannot describe.  Missionaries DO NOT have places to unwind alone. If you have access to a place that you could offer to a weary worker, please do so. What a difference you can make. Christ Church in Venice, FL had a lasagne and salad waiting for us with gift cards for groceries and frozen Yogurt.  They left a goodie bag and what it really said to me was, we value you, we see your sacrifice, and we love you, please rest.  Tears.

We left FL after the most amazing week and took off to see our precious family. We stopped in Georgia, NC, and ended in IL.  At every stop we stayed at least a few days and we talked, hanging out with the people who shaped us and made us the weirdos we are. It was a very healthy thing to feel such a sense of belonging. These are our people and we felt so surrounded and accepted. We needed that belonging since we can’t even walk down the street or order food without feeling outside of culture and noticing our differences here in Haiti. (Side note: This is not because Haitians are not fabulously welcoming but because we ARE outsiders and that will not ever change completely) With family we ate ALL the steaks, and we stayed up late, and laughed that way you do when you’re with your people.  If you were a fly on the wall you would have heard story after story and laughter to tears and maybe some karaoke.  Being with our people and singing the songs of our tribe.  My sister and I have been singing the Reba McEntire duet, “Does He Love You” with heartfelt intensity as long as I can remember.  All of it felt healing and I think wrapped us up in a way emotionally that we are still carrying with us. Along the way we were able to take Anna to see a university she has been looking at and it felt good to give her that experience. She was like a kid in a candy store. 

When we got back to the house, the same life we left awaited us. The crazy pace, worn out batteries, sweat in weird places, bodies so tired we fall into bed, all the struggles but what also awaited us was the family we have here. Our Haitian community, Jessie, Jenna and our missionary community are here. As KONBIT we reconnected over pushing our HUGE (over 3 ton) truck across our yard so we could jump start it, and a comedy of errors ensued that you would hardly believe. To begin we are all pushing on the back of the truck when we nonchalantly asked the person steering (not pointing fingers, Jenna, don’t worry) if they had their foot on the brake. Their response, “yes, yes I do.”  Well, that made the resistance we felt make more sense. Not 5 seconds later we had 2 people pushing one direction on the front of the truck while 2 others pushed in the opposite direction on the back of the truck. None of this was intentional or because we thought we were being funny, we were all legitimately trying to get this thing done. We are a well oiled machine friends.  good grief!  I am glad we all lived and were able to jump start the truck. We laughed until we nearly wet our pants (well, Jessie and I) and this too is the song of my people. The word says in Psalm 68:6 that, “God places the lonely in families”.  So, I am glad to be home. With the family that God has been so kind to give us in the absence of our first one. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by love and laughter in 2 different countries.  So, come see us in Haiti some time. You can hear us singing the song of our people and loving every minute of this crazy life in Haiti. We have family here too and we do not take them for granted. 

Thanks for reading about our July, I know I promised an expose about “real Life” here but that just felt whiney and I am feeling grateful. Maybe another month for the expose, the dirty, literally, reality of life here. Today I would rather laugh.  

Juxtaposition July

 

What I want this month.
~24-7 Air conditioning
~steak (really, any meat with no bones)
~strawberries
~blueberries
~blackberries
~grapes
~cold, crisp salads
~smooth roads
~friendly customer service
~cold drinks
~ice cream
~my sisters, brothers, moms, dads, nieces, nephews, Aunts, Uncles, cousins… I want to squeeze them, catch up with them, laugh with them.
~traffic laws
~grass
~quiet
~nature
~personal space
~privacy
~to jog
~time with my children
~time with my husband
~a trip to Target
~no knocks at the gate
~no school
~milk
~organized, comfortable, nearby grocery stores
~a crock pot
~corn on the cob
~english worship
~no hassle electricity
~never-ending water supply
~hot showers
~to wear make-up
~to do my hair
~to meet with a counselor
~not to sweat into my eyeballs
~couches
~movie theaters
I apologize for listing all the foods individually, it’s healing…just ask my therapist.

 

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What I will miss this month.
~every “good morning” or “good afternoon”
~every smile and warm greeting
~every giggling child who wants to connect
~every knock at our gate
~every need we will not be here to know
~all the piklis
~all the Haitian coffee
~every visit from our community
~the delivery of every “Meals on 2 Wheels” buckets (it will still happen)
~our missionary Bible study
~our missionary tribe
~Stanley, Jessie, Jeanette, and Jenna (Team KONBIT)
~every sweaty kiss on my cheeks
~Sheriff, the greatest dog on the planet.
~watching God move in KONBIT 
~watching God move in Lafferonnay
~morning devotions in my “Jesus” chair. Don’t judge, it’s a great chair.
~joking with my neighbors
~being known and loved 
~serving
~community
I apologize for listing all the Haitian community oriented things individually, but the way they do community is addictive and just truly the most beautiful, Jesus like thing. Each deserved their own line.

It is hard to live here and it is hard to leave here. Even just for a month break. As a family we are looking forward to JULY. We will be stateside traveling from FL to IL and back again. We are looking forward to a break from the pressures of survival in Haiti.  We just want to play with our kids and spend time with them without needing to burn the trash, switch the power, pump the water, cook from scratch, open the gate and to meet community needs that can rarely wait. We always talk about our ministry on here but rarely the toll survival takes on us physically and emotionally. Maybe that will be my next blog. A day in the life, survival in Haiti. I will work on that for my August update.    For July we want to play and be together as a little unit. We are so excited to nurture and care for our children and marriage like we do our community and organization. I am afraid life in Haiti has made for much neglect of things we used to be so disciplined at prioritizing. We also get to be with extended family. My heart is so full as we plan to see and spend time with siblings and parents and their families. Every missed B-day, fun day, work day, lunch, celebration, and the feelings of grief multiply. We miss them so dearly and it only gets harder to be away…not easier.  

 

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The strange juxtaposition of feeling pulled between 2 places we love.  The creature comforts and our family in the US vs. our community, ministry, and team in Haiti.  

Thanks for supporting us as people and as a family. Thank you for not being critical when we take time to rest and be with loved ones. You might be surprised how many missionaries are criticized for even just taking a day at the beach. We are grateful that our friends and support base have always loved us and encouraged us to care for ourselves.  I believe we are better for it and more effective as ministers.  This month will be about us loving our little family and our extended family too.  Thank you for your prayers as we travel and connect.  We will be speaking only once to a large group (by design) but would still appreciate your prayers that we would communicate effectively.  I am also sure there will be a thousand small conversations as we travel about. You just never know how God will use those interactions to meet some of the needs of our friends here and continue to build our prayer team.

Until we return Ayiti Cherie.