“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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.