Kraze Nan Bouch Ou (Chew It Up)

“See what great love the father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Kids. So often when we think about our kids and how much we love them, we think about tucking them in and kissing their head, or the hug they get after returning from camp, or the tears we shed their first day of school. Warm memories. Memories like this are the camping memory equivalent of a roasted marshmallow straight out of the fire. All the gooey and good. 

We used to be a camping family. Moving to Haiti did in that kind of vacation for us. Now we want air conditioning, steak, comfort, and ease when we rest. Everyday life is too much like camping these days.  Anyway, when I remember back to camping I think of all the gifts. I remember hiking, creek play, dinners over the fire, and s’mores. I don’t think back to how I couldn’t sleep, was too hot or too cold, hated setting up camp, and definitely heard large animals outside the tent. Inexplicably, those moments are part of what makes camping so wonderful and weird. The good, the bad, and going through the adventure together. 

Likewise, part of what makes parenting so great is the hard days. It’s not just the roasted marshmallow moments. It’s making them bathe, go to bed, do their homework, write thank you notes, take their vitamins. It’s hard conversations and accountability. That’s love too, isn’t it? When we take the eye roll from our kid because we know that 10 years old is not too old for a bedtime.  We know that good sleep makes for happy, healthy kids. Since we love our kids, we do the hard parenting stuff. It’s love. 

Be patient when you are being corrected! This is how God treats his children. Don’t all parents correct their children?” Hebrews 12:7

I am stateside and I am missing one who has been around recently almost as much as my own kids. He visits me everyday in Haiti. He Eats 2 BIG meals, plays soccer, colors, listens to music, and (his favorite) watches movies in French.  I will hear him being the announcer and crowd as he kicks the ball alone in the yard, but imagines the stadium. I listen to him giggle as the kids outsmart the boyfriend in the movie, “Are We There Yet?”.  He colors flowers and then quietly plays with the colored pencils.  He has seen so much suffering in his young life and out of respect for HIS STORY, I will not share those details here. We have bought him shoes and cleats, given him a bike, fed he and his extended family, all in a effort to improve the situation. 

Can I tell you what he loves the most? And he really loves Kris’ scrambled eggs so you know this must really be important! He loves Kris and I to watch him chew up his vitamin. His vitamin. I started giving him a chewable vitamin everyday and just like with my kids when they were younger, I explained, “I know it tastes bad, but chew it up and get it down. OK let me see.” It ends with a gulp of water and an open mouth to show it’s gone. 

One exhausting day, I handed him his vitamin and food and started to walk away. He called me back. “Please watch me chew it up.” My heart nearly beat out of my chest containing the heartbreak that I knew made this so important to him. From that day on I have waited, he shows me, then smiles at me.  When Kris and I knew I was leaving Haiti before anticipated, Kris memorized the creole phrase, Kraze nan bouch ou, so that he could take over this important work. I know now how much this kiddo needs that kind of love. Maybe most of all. To be loved enough that someone does the inconvenient, hard things. Someone cares enough to make him take his vitamin and it means the world to him. It means the world to me and reduces me to a puddle of tears every time I think of his face receiving that love.  His face beams like I’ve given him the best gift in creation. For the record, I love the marshmallow moments too and so does he. 

I don’t really know what else to say, except that he is teaching me big beautiful things. Love is a tapestry of beautiful pictures with the underside a mess of strings and knots that can look like chaos. Hard things, sacrifice, pain, embraces, goodnight kisses, and new shoes. I love both sides and know that there would be no picture on front without the chaos on the back. If you see a backward tapestry in my home, you will know why. 

Go be love today.

The marshmallow kind and the vitamin kind.

Whatever God places in front of you.

The world needs both.

Home Sweet Home

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The Home in the concrete jungle with 4 vehicles (for teams), 4 motorcycles (3 for job creation), and some dying coconut trees that line our 12 foot wall crowned with barb wire. Our home where we regularly take cold showers with roaches, lizards, spiders, and mosquitos. Our home where the smell of burning trash (organic and plastic) must be breathed most days as both our neighbors and we have no other options to dispose of it. Our home where no room is square or plumb and no furniture fits against the walls because of that fact. Where chickens, stray cats, and hungry dogs roam within our walls when they sneak in. Where dust from passing vehicles blows over the wall leaving everything coated in a layer of grey daily. Our home where water must be pumped and sanitized, dishes just be hand washed and sanitized with bleach, where laundry is line dried, the refrigerator has a glacier on its back wall, the walls seep lime, and the neighbors hire DJ’s. I used to hate this home. 

We moved here in 2015 and spent 8 months living in 400 square feet of it with our dog and family. We navigated stomach problems, kidney stones, and Dengue fever on that side of the house. When we moved to the other side of the house, we had more space and we navigated Dengue Fever again. Then we moved to a home with a yard, and space for my kids, and distance from our ministry site slowing the knocks at the gate and making me feel almost normal. We had to return to this concrete jungle home 1 year later and I was furious. I hated this house and all its quirks, trauma, dust, smells, knocks, and memories. When we moved back in we navigated Zika, maybe more Dengue, and Levi’s severe bout with a parasitic infection that left us having to return to the US for medical care.  I have hated this house.

But what is a home? It is where you belong. Where your heart has attached to the hopelessly awkward shaped rooms, where your neighbors love you and call you by name. Where all of your “things” are stored and organized for use. Home is where you keep your bed, the only place where real sleep happens. It’s where your children keep their treasures and can escape into the security of their own space. It’s where your grandmothers table cloth covers the pantry and where images of family adorn the concrete, seeping walls. It’s where the laughter is easy and where comfort exists not because IT IS COMFORTABLE but because you find comfort within those walls. The knocks at the gate don’t bother me much anymore because on the other side of those knocks is my neighbor. The critters startle me, but this is their home too. If you can’t beat them, join them. My kitchen table that I dreamt about for months, before it was built by the hands of friends and family out of raw wood, is the center of our home. Its raw edges have been leaned into during deep conversation by precious teams from the US, Haitian pastors, leaders, missionaries, the sick, the wounded, the widowed, the abused, the elderly orphan, the neglected child, the business man, my children, their friends, our friends, and the list goes on.  This is our home, #36 Lafferonnay. I don’t like to leave it anymore. The grass is not greener, or should I say the concrete more spacious. Having to leave our home so consistently due to safety in the last 2 years has taught me, this home is where we belong. God has planted our hearts in this community and they grow here. Once it is safe again the kids and I will return to our home. We will have missed it and all it represents so very much. It’s not comfortable, but it is where God has sheltered us and given us comfort. It is where God has used us to give that comfort away to so many. What an honor to live in this home, my home. What an honor to give away what for so many years I could not find here, peace. 

John 14:27, “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do no be afraid.”

The dust, the bugs, the seeping uneven walls, the noise, the knocking, the concrete.

“My peace I give you.”

The dishes, the laundry, the electric, the water, the smells, the sickness, the memories.

“My peace I give you.”

We are home sweet home. I will miss it in another season of traveling from here to there with no home in the US. It is what is best for our kids as a repatriation flight has become available and they have already been quarantined for 2 months. The peak of Covid in Haiti is expected in June and the kids and I will be stateside while Kris braces for continued ministry here in this crisis. We hate being apart from him and tears have been shed because we will miss our home and Kris. We will miss this home because God’s peace has made this house in the concrete jungle, a home. God’s peace can do that. 

Pray for us as we navigate another season of what if and what now. If you follow our journey you know that we have been in this place of uncertainty for 2 years now as unrest began rocking this wonderful country and causing us to lock down long ago. Teams stopped coming and we have been patiently waiting for a return to “normal”. Here we are again, post our furlough to prepare Anna for life in the states, needing to return to the states separated from Kris. 

“My peace I give you.”

Grateful for God who gives generously of His Peace when our hearts are focused on Him. He is so good and we know that God will use this season both in our family and in KONBIT.

I know you hate being called teenagers!

 

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So calling all iGen (currently about 10-24 years olds). Teens get a bad rap and I feel like the stigma of it starts in the tweens and lasts into the 20s.

I love you. I hate this for you. Every part of you is hurting. Even though you understand you are not alone, it still hurts. You should have been graduating elementary, HS, or college! You are missing rights of passage, friends, first loves, weddings, and so much more. Here is the thing, though. You are equal to this. My husband and I were youth pastors for over 10 years and spent many years before that working with teens and young adults. We are also parents of three amazing members of iGen. As missionaries in Haiti many of our teams have been comprised of or contained young adults, and we have welcomed interns. From my 20 years of experience with this age, I can tell you. YOU ARE EQUAL TO THIS!

I see you losing your grip on schedule (and who cares) , trying to maintain school, and feeling a bit lost and lonely. I see you, and I have a challenge for you.  You are uniquely positioned as the “up and comers. You are the ones who will take our place at the helm of this ship. Many of you are brilliant and kind and will be the health workers, scientists, policy makers, philosophers, and educators of the future. Many of you are flowing with love and compassion and, partnered with intellect, you will become conservationists, aid workers, pastors, and more. Many of you are so creative that beauty flows from your pen, brush, voice, instrument, body and really from your heart.

You will design buildings, create technology, serve and love people in a way that will CHANGE THE WORLD.

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Why not start now, many of you already do. So, Here is the challenge.

Generation Z (or iGen) , We the Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and the Silent generation are all tired and a bit discouraged too. We need your youth and energy and hope. Can you do something for us? Will you take those incredible gifts of intelligence, artistry, and love and make something of beauty to share with the world? You are not just our future; we believe in you now!

So make a piece of art this week that reminds us that there is Hope. Check this example by clicking on the picture below.

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Sing a song, write a song, or take a pictured and post it please! Write a blog or article (Not the school paper kind: the birthed in passion, who cares about grammar, no bibliography kind) about what you are passionate about. Share a story or a poem that you love. We need to hear from you. As the leaders of our future, you will learn so much from this experience. You and we know that this will shape how you see the world forever and many of you will be inspired into your careers after this experience. You will see the world differently; you really already do. You are passionate and realistic, what a combination.

So, if you know and love someone in iGen (born 1996-2010.) , encourage them to share with us. Share this and tag them! Ask them to share and add the #WeNeedYouiGen. Then please share your iGen’s contribution. Look for these amazing people to share with us all they are thinking and what they have to offer. Please do it. #WeNeedYouiGen

Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

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Where my other 70’s or 80’s kids and parents at? I loved my Weeble Wobbles. I spent an embarrassing amount of time laying them down over and over again just so I could watch them pop up. Don’t judge, we had no iPads, gaming consoles, or cell phones. We had no computer and we had one TV. That TV only had programming that interested me a tiny fraction of the time. So, I watched my Weebles wobble. Desperation would lead occasionally to my watching Star Trek or Perry Mason (black and white) with my mom. I was fascinated by that toy. I was never perplexed by how they worked, but it interested me all the same. It’s clear that it’s weighted at its base. Simple enough. That reminds me, though, of those baby bottles that had “OJ” in them.

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You know, the ones that when you tipped them up the “OJ” disappeared like the baby was drinking it. That is a mystery I do not want solved, my babies were drinking it…period…end of story. But Weeble Wobbles are as simple a concept as can exist. If enough weight is placed at the base of anything, depending on the total height and weight, it is less likely to fall. That is way buildings are built in a matter of speaking. The foundation has to be strong. The taller the building, the deeper the foundation. 

These times are testing our foundation aren’t they?  In my personal life, I feel a bit like a an inflatable punching bag. One of those with a stupid grin that goes down hard and then pops back up, still smiling.

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Maybe the smile is ideology, positivity, and a dash of insanity, but it’s there. I launched my oldest kid 1 month ago. She is in the US and that would hurt normally. Now this pandemic and I have no way to return to states. I hate feeling powerless. I can’t get to my kid, I also can’t get to my parents or siblings. Hit, Hit, Hit. I was laughing at you all when all your kids came home to for the rest of the year. I’m sorry. I knew it was wrong, but I had been homeschooling for 5 years and for the first time in 5 years all my kids were being educated away from me. That laughing lasted 2 days as our schools canceled and my 2 younger kids are back home. I had 1 month. Sorry, Kids I really do like you but… Hit. Eating here is a decent amount of work. Normally, I have help with shopping and cooking so I can manage all the laundry and ministry. No help can come to work in these day and there is no take out, no frozen pizzas, no cheap easy meals, at all, ever. So, I cook. Like really cook. Hit. My kids are missing their sister and their friends. After returning here in January, their school and friends were what they looked forward to the most. My kids are hurting. Hit, Hit. We are quarantined and locked into our compound again. Before we left for our furlough we spent the previous year locked in our compound on and off as Haiti dealt with a deep political uprising. Now, After months in the US we returned rested and ready to minister. Now we sit, unable to do all we had hoped and prayed we would be able to. We feed people and we hand aid through the gate, but it’s not the same. We cannot meet with our friends and we cannot risk having people come to the KONBIT house which could quickly spread the virus community wide. Hit, Hit.

Would you believe I’m actually not complaining? Probably not, but hang on. 

These are just the facts right now. Isn’t this all of our story? How many of us have HS and college seniors grieving? How many of us have a scary loss of income? How many of us have family we cannot access and loved ones that have us so worried?  I am not one to say, “buck it up soldier”. I don’t think that is healthy. I think we have to acknowledge fear and loss or it festers like a wound. So we connect, share our worries, grieve for each others children, and worry about each others loved ones. We pray for and encourage one another. That’s Healthy.   

But do you feel your spirit popping back up after each hit? Is there a weight in the bottom of your soul that keeps you standing?  How deep did we dig the foundation in our families? How much weight is at the bottom of our faith? How deep go the roots in our marriages? 

Hebrews 6:19
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,”

Hebrews 12:1-3
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

It is real work building our foundations in God, in our marriages, and in our families, and what an opportunity we have RIGHT now! Pull out the Word of God and dig that foundation. Pray with your spouse and be real about your fears. Hang out with your kids, pray with them, and work on that relationship. Pray for the essential workers who are on the front lines and if you are home, doing your part…work on yourself. This is what I have to do. I have to add weight to my soul, I have to deepen my foundations with my family, so I/we can keep popping back up. These are tough times but some of us have space and the investment will not be wasted. Let’s be Webble Wobbles, they wobble but they don’t fall down. 

Luke 6:48
“They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

If your house is shaking, don’t be discouraged. Just dig. Let me know if I can pray for you. 

PSA because I love you: If you struggle with depression (your weeble wobble is unexplainable on its side for 3 weeks or more) or anxiety, please get help. “Pray until it goes away”, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, or “all you need is God” are not practical or helpful insights. There is NO shame in seeking counseling and getting help to figure out what is going on inside your mind. Our brains need care just like every other body part and people are trained brilliantly to do just that. I take advantage of the wisdom of counselors regularly, there is no shame in my game.

Repeat

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I have some muscle memory here. What do I mean? We stayed indoors for a week with 3 Haitian families as Hurricane Matthew swirled nearby. We stayed in doors, not even able to make it 1 mile to school, as unrest swirled nearby. We stock up on water, diesel, meat, and yes, even TP when we don’t know when we will be able to shop again. There were seasons we could not even go on a walk, because the unrest was too near. Gun shots have had us staying in back hallways.  We worry incessantly about viruses that kill. Dengue, Malaria, Zika, Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, and Chikungunya. We are always concerned about medical care and never have access to medical facilities that are NOT overwhelmed. We unfortunately watch people die and see selective life saving measures dolled out and withheld regularly. So, yes, we have muscle memory here. We have exercised the muscle of calm in chaos. We have exercised the muscle of giving when we want to turn inward. We have exercised the muscle of faith when we are overwhelmed with fear. 

Why am I telling you this? Because my heart hurts for you. Because I know how scary it can be. I know that it can feel hard to breathe when anxiety tries to take over. I know that you and your kids are paying prices, mine have too. I know that it hurts to watch our kids grieve what they are missing. So, I am writing because I see you and if my experiences can offer any hope, then I want to share them. I am not bragging, this is not an accomplishment. Oh, How I wish Haitians did not live like this, and, oh, how I wish you all could never taste it and am still praying you do not. So, here are my greatest lessons learned living through scary and difficult times.

1. Peace is a gift of God, it is not from ourselves (John 14:27). Sit with God in your fear, bring it to Him (1 John 4:18). Allow him to use His word to walk you beside still waters and refresh your soul (Psalm 23). You may have to return to this place every hour to keep a sense of peace, so be it (Romans 12:2). When you feel your heart and spirit lurching with anxiety, take a deep breath and sit with God (Isaiah 26:3). He will meet you (Deuteronomy 31:8). Breathe in His presence, praise Him,  and breathe out fear (Psalm 150:6). 

2. Look for the good, the gifts. What good can this extra time with your kids mean? What perspective can they gain from this? When all I can see are the prices my kids have paid, I am missing out on gratefulness for all my kids have learned and gained. All I can gain too. They lost prom, they gained empathy. They lost friendships, they gained depth and independence. Maybe you finally get to play a board game (or 20) or read a book as a family. How can God use this experience to deepen us as individuals and a society?

3. Don’t self preserve, preserve community. How can you be a light to others right now? Physical isolation doesn’t have to mean loneliness. Reach out to people. Serve with words of connection and encouragement digitally. If there are ways that you can serve the older generation who need to stay especially isolated, do it. Go through drive through for them, lysol the bag, and leave it on their steps. Drop off supplies (that have been disinfected) to the vulnerable. Make sure the people on the front lines have what they need, like masks. Don’t be a selfish turd. simple.

4. Don’t panic. Do 1-3 again. Breathe and be with God. Look for the good and the gifts. Help others. Do it again. 

Breathe. See the good. Serve others. Repeat.

Breathe. See the good. Serve others. Repeat.

We are praying for you all. If we could bring you toilet paper (disinfected) we would.  We have plenty.

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What all have I forgotten to tell you?

Now then, you my little girl fly the nest. It’s earlier than expected but nothing you do or are capable of should surprise me. I do wonder as I imagine not being at arms length for every decision and hiccup, have I told you everything you need to know? 

You should keep emergency supplies in your trunk. Don’t eat too much fast food. Things like that. Then I realize, you have that stuff, what do I really want you to know.

Do you know that your family HAS you? It doesn’t matter how far we are. If you need us, we will climb over the ocean to find you. Do you know that every moment you think of us, we will have have thought of you 1000 times. Do you know that I have been thinking of and praying for this moment since God put you in my arms 17 years ago? Did you know that I have had thousands of conversations with you since you were tiny so that in this moment you would know just how ready you are? Did you know that 99% of being ready to leave home is belief in your ability to navigate very simple things? Did you know that I believe you are 100% capable to do this and do it well? Do you know that God will work out the details, like really, the tiny details? Do you trust Him? Do you know that the God who causes the sun to rise is watching you rise, everyday? He thinks you’re beautiful. Do you know that you are a treasure and worth being protected? Do you know that the right guys will protect you too. Do you know that you will have hard days and then they will pass? Do you know that you will have amazing days and they will pass too? Do you know that some connection to others will be hard fought for and will be fruitful? Do you know that some connection to others will be hard fought for and will bear NO fruit? Do you know that any connection made to God will bear fruit in your life for all eternity? Do you know that I love the smallest and biggest things about you? Do you know that your face still gets soft and warm like a toasted marshmallow when you sleep? Do you know that for years every morning when I got you out of your crib, I loved and kissed those warm cheeks? Do you know that when you were 5 you could wake up and get ready for school by yourself? Do you know that every adult who has gotten to know you, tells me they see something uniquely deep and beautiful in you? Do you know that you will make mistakes, fall down, get hurt, and get broken? Do you know that you can do hard things? Do you know you can be happy and enjoy easy things too? Do you know that you will never be defined by your accomplishments? Do you know that you are so much more than your GPA? Do you know that on the other side of your worst failure is Jesus? Do you know that most trite sayings are true? Do you know that it’s not how many times you fail, but how many times you get back up? Do you know that 1oz of discipline is more valuable than pounds of charisma? Do you know that integrity > emotion? Do you know that every part of my body has dreaded this moment and yet always been so excited for you to have it? 

Now, lock your doors at night. Don’t walk outside barefoot in winter. Back to the stuff in your trunk, you need a blanket, water, and flashlight. Give more than you take. Meet with Jesus everyday and you’ll never be lonely or lost. Do your dishes and take out the trash. Tell people when you are not OK. Some days you won’t be OK. Drink water and take your vitamins. Eat protein and love your body and heart like I have. Do yoga and watch the sunrise. Choose things that bring you life and reject things that take it away, those things are usually small.

Know this. Every moment of raising you, my precious, has been my joy. You have loved your brother, sister, dad and me with passion and grace. You have raised us well and we will be ok. You taught us how to put each other first and how to pay prices for each other. You have loved Levi and Lydia so beautifully and they are more whole because of you. You have loved your dad and I so beautifully and we are more whole because of it. Lydia and Levi will never forget devotions with you. They will never forget how you chose them. Neither will I. Thank you for falling into my arms for the last 17 years and allowing me to hold you. Never forget that we are your crew and we are walking with you, even when you can’t see us. You are NEVER alone in any fight, you roll 5 deep. 

Do you know that neither height, nor depth, nor anything in God’s creation can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus?

If you know that, you have all you need. 

I am 100% sure. 

Anna Banana, Anna Bear, My NerNertz, My first baby, Anna Lucille.

17.5 years. I am not going to say all the cliché things. They are true, but they seem to diminish this season. This is much harder than I imagined. When we said a huge, “Yes,” to God about Haiti we knew what it meant. We knew that eventually our children would live on another continent. When your kids are 12, 10, and 5 it feels like a lifetime away. I spent nights surrendering this eventuality to the Lord, in tears, but knew we had time.  

Time is up, with our oldest. I had felt God whisper to my heart MANY months ago that it was almost time for Anna to move stateside. I even felt peace about where, but had NO IDEA how it could come about. Due to the uncertainty, I never mentioned my feelings to Anna. 

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Anna gave me this sticker for Christmas this year. She knew my heart was in a panic, trying to let go but determined to hang on. She knew I worried, so much that I couldn’t sleep. The sticker says,

“I will be okay. I will be okay. Even before everything falls into place.” 

Christmas morning was a cry fest when she gave me this. I really wanted her to be in Rockford, IL, with the community at City First Church, but how? While in Rockford, IL on our furlough we sat down for lunch with our Pastors, Jer and Jen DeWeerdt. We had not shared with them about my desire for Anna to stay in Rockford and had no intention of bringing it up at that meeting, or maybe ever. Nearing the end of our time, Pastor Jeremy just looked at us and asked, “Does Anna want to stay here?” My chin about hit the table. Had I said something? I racked my brain trying to remember if I had mentioned something to them earlier. I had not. I just responded, “Well, not necessarily (because she doesn’t know it’s an option), but I think she is supposed to be here for a season.” 

The rest is history. The church had room in one of their dorms and they are graciously allowing Anna to come live with their students. She will ride with students into the church everyday to do school using the churches internet. She will be surrounded by one of the healthiest spiritual communities I have ever been a part of. She will serve at the church, attend youth, finish her senior year and then work over the summer. Once the college students go home in May, Anna will be moving in with a very kind woman who has opened her home to her. She will have her driver’s license at that point and will work until she starts school in the fall. 

Anna is feeling very drawn to a university in Lakeland, FL. They are giving her a missionary discount and due to her academic scholarships, federal grants, and other things, it should her very manageable for her. We are very grateful to potentially have her somewhere we can get to her quickly and she can fly home to Haiti easily. Haiti has a direct flight to Orlando!  We had no idea when God organized our furlough in Rockford, IL, all that would fall into place. All of the mountains that would be moved. God is moving mountains to provide for Anna. 

We are grateful to God for providing people in the body of Christ for Anna. I dread leaving her in Rockford in February and already have a friend lined up to force me to leave that day, if need be. THE NEED WILL BE, Haha. It is so much easier, though, when it is so clear that God has been moving on behalf of our kid. So, we are at peace. She will be far away for the next 6 months, and then in FL for the following 4 years. 

From the moment she was born, I have been so in love with every part of her. Her fierce determination and will, her passionate love for God, her kindness and willingness to go against the flow, her hunger for God, even her tiny feet and warm cheeks. She is treasure that we are honored to share with the world.

Anna, we may be an ocean away but it will not keep us from you when you need us. We will swim if we have to. We love you unconditionally beautiful girl and we are forever in your corner. Go do your thing, and remember, 

“We will be okay, too. We will be okay. Even before everything falls into place.” 

Back to Haiti: Rats and Washers

We moved to Haiti on May 7, 2015. We left in July 2019, to prepare our oldest to transition back to the US for university. We also had years of ignored medical issues to see Doctors for, as well as many logistical life things to accomplish that we just couldn’t attend to in Haiti. Anna acclimated to American culture well and we got LOADS done, then Kris returned January 9, 2020 and the kids and Rachael returned January 18, 2020. We had all planned our return for around November 27, but with all the political turmoil in Haiti, we were delayed. 

We made every effort to return as a family, with Kris and Rachael and the kids returning to Haiti a stronger, healthier, even more cohesive unit. We made our plans, thinking through every roadblock, and went to book our flights. Due to the amount of baggage we would have, we needed to fly in on a flight for missionaries in Haiti with Missionary Flights International. They had NO availability for a family our size until February. We could not wait that long due to various schooling conflicts for the kids. We decided it was best for Kris to go on ahead on MFI followed by Mom and kids on a commercial airline. Now, Let me tell you why this “unfortunate” and expensive change of plans was the best thing that could possibly happen for our crew. 

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When Kris arrived on January 9, he got to work on all our rooms preparing them for our return in 2 weeks. Upon entering both Levi’s and Lydia’s bedrooms he found that rats had infested their rooms that had been closed for so many months. The rats had destroyed bedding (sheets, blankets, pillows, mattress pads, & covers), stuffed animals, and left feces and urine everywhere! After facing off with a rat in Levi’s room he got to work burning the things that could not be saved and washing in our little washer what could be redeemed. For a week he emptied their rooms completely, disinfecting items, and destroying the evidence of all the damage. He said that the damage was so extensive that both children would have been devastated to find their rooms in that state. We are so grateful to have avoided that and that our children were spared seeing that or dealing with it. When they returned to Haiti their rooms were put back together. We have just received their replacement bedding and all will be good as new very soon. 

Kris was determined to make the house as nice as he could prior to our return, so he did one last load of laundry on the morning of January 18. Our washing machine sits on a wooden case with castors that Kris built. When we want to do laundry we move the machine to our front steps, connect the hose, set up the drain, and lock the castors.  This day as the machine agitated the locked castors could not keep it still. It moved closer and closer to the steps until it fell down them. Kris was doing other work so he did not know it was happening until he heard the crash. It fell down 6 concrete stairs and did not survive.  So, the rats are gone, or they will be once they eat all the poison I brought. Our first “nice” washer is gone too. 

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So, we are back and that is what our return looked like. It was a bumpy ride but we are here and we ARE so grateful that God arranged our return to protect our kids.  We purchased a new washer, all new bedding, and rat poison and bait boxes to the tune of about $1,200. 

Things are getting back to normal and we are hard at work loving our community while the kids are hard at work in school. We are catching up with our staff, business owners, and friends. Meeting new babies and hearing of loss of family members.  Vendors are telling us their stories how business was lost in the political upheaval and we are hearing how God has moved in a church we partner with.  Life is wonderful and hard with the swinging pendulum of those 2 realities swinging steeper in this place.  There is beauty and there is trash. There is birth and there is death.  There is loss, but there is also trust in a good, good Father who provides. So, we are over the moon happy to be home. Rats and washer and all. The rats and the washer are a tiny pieces of a huge puzzle that include so much blessing and provision.

My next update will be all about Anna and what is next for her. God has moved mountains for that girl and we are excited to tell you about her next adventure. It’s time to share our girl with the world and the world will be better for it. 

Walking with people

walking1.jpgWe are walking back to Haiti, at least that is the plan. Not literally walking, although sometimes I think that it would be easier, logistically. We have decided to go back in January, as long as the calm continues. It was our plan to return in Nov and we just could not pull the trigger due to the danger at the time. Things have calmed but to be honest, not much has changed except that we have peace. It was not an easy decision to go the first time in May 2015 and this is no different. We are nervous and THRILLED! What an honor to walk with Haitian people. 

I have missed walking with them. Their perspective on life, Jesus, family, and forgiveness challenging the well worn pathways in my brain. They make me a better person. I miss walking in their joy over everything and I even miss walking with them through grief, which they/we experience often. These are not perfect people, just like me. What has been happening in their country is messy and if I am honest with myself, as an outsider, I don’t even know who the good guys are in this fight. I do know that Simone, she is the good guy. I know that Hillare, he is the good guy. I know that Sherlanda, she is the good guy. And Justine, and Fabiola, and Jeanette, and MILLIONS just like them. I want to walk with them. Through puddles, up mountains, across rivers, and beside still waters. I want to walk with them as we walk with Jesus. 

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Thank you for graciously allowing us time to walk in familiar territory for a bit. So much healing, rest, and catch up took place. We are stronger, wiser, more focused, more rested, less angry, less hurt, less confused, and less broken. 

A little shout out to those who walked with us. Family! What on God’s green earth would we do without you? City First Church, the path layers and provider of people to walk with. Christian Life School, the people who carried our Lydia through one of the best experiences of her life. CFLC, the connection for Anna and Levi, making foreign seem friendly and delivering them to a million memories. Pastors Jer and Jen, mentors and leaders to us for over 25 years. Discipled us, married us, found us our first job, counseled us through ministry, encouraged us on the field, & stand with us today. Lord knows. Jay, Beth, Grace, and Caleb Baier, our home away from home. A podiatrist, dentist, and orthodontist who donated services, God used you. Stephanie Ellis, who set Lydia up for school and made sure she knew she was in good company in your sweet family. So many people traveled to see us and for that we are so grateful. Your visits reminded us of where we have been and all God has done. Everyone of you walked with us when it would have been easier not to be bothered. Thank you. We needed you and you walked with us. 

He’s a Very Good, Sweet Good Boy

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***This post feels silly in the light of all that is happening in Haiti. Though, as I am learning to feel what I am experiencing, I am coming to terms with my need to grieve what is happening in my life as it is happening. So here goes, An ode to our faithful companion in the wake of his moving in with his new family.***

It was October 2010 when we went on a walk behind our house with Anna, Levi, and Lydia who were 8, 6, and 1 years old respectively. We passed a house with puppies in the back yard and we wanted to see them as we had been wanting a dog. We walked around to the front of the house and asked if they were selling the yipping puppies in their yard. They said yes and we spent quality time meeting everyone of them. There was one little guy, who was all red, so gentle and friendly, and ALL OVER Levi. Levi was commissioned to make the choice. Although we could not take him home that day, the next weekend, Sheriff Coleman, a red boxer-beagle mix joined our family. He sat on our laps everyday and as his size changed he continued to expect to sit on our laps. We sat on the floor everyday because he wanted to be in our laps as much as possible. Even when he hit 60lbs, there was room on our laps for him. When Lydia was a baby he would lay perfectly still as she napped with her head on his body. He took family vacations with us to Payson, AZ and we let him run over the tall grasses at the lake. He could roam free at that lake because if we called him, he ran bounding over the grasses back to our side. He was so protective and hated when Lydia was pushed in her playschool car because he thought she was being hurt. He looked after all of us and would only be aggressive to stand between us and someone he did not know. He eagerly ran many, many miles at my side and was never as excited as when he saw his leash and my running pants. He started cozying up with Levi to sleep in our home in AZ when Levi was 10.

He moved with us to CA to train for our move to Haiti and dealt with that move like a champ. Then when it was time for us to travel and speak to raise our funds to move to Haiti, he moved to Kris’ parents house. We left him that day to travel and speak and I will never forget the sound of him crying, I cried too. After 2 months on the road we returned to get our boy and he would not let us out of his sight. When it was time to pack up to go, he bolted outside to make sure he was in the car this time. When we moved to Haiti, he moved right with us. He was so good in Haiti and still fiercely protective of his family, alerting us to all movement outside the gate and especially someone wanting to enter. His face and ears and paws greyed fast during his years in Haiti. He stayed near the children and slept most nights in Levi or Lydia’s room. He stayed at our feet for staff meetings and met so many people. I am pretty sure he learned some creole. Haiti was hard on his body and hard on his nerves and we began to think through moving him home to the US. 

When our furlough was approaching we realized with broken hearts that he could not come with us to America. We decided that the best decision was to leave him in Haiti with a trusted friend so that he would be with us when we returned. We just weren’t ready to give up on having him his entire life! She sent us pictures and keep us informed about how he was doing. He was happy with her. Unfortunately, the news that our friend needed to leave Haiti meant the dogs needed to leave too. With the great decrease in missionaries on the ground there just  was no one who we were aware of who could keep him for us. His nerves wouldn’t allow him to stay with just anyone so “Operation get Sheriff out of Haiti” began. He traveled with our friend past roadblocks, gangs, and burning tires. It was a harrowing journey that needs to be made into a movie. He landed in FL on a Missionary Flight Cargo plane where Kris met he, 2 other dogs, and our friend. 

While it was a logistical nightmare to get him to the US, It had to be done. We so badly want him with us, but cannot have him as the housing we are in does not allow dogs.  We are in the missionary housing of City First Church and they have served us so beautifully. We understand their rule as they have SO many people in and out of these apartments.  He can’t be with us and we have to admit that it is our sweet Sheriff’s time to retire from the mission field. Haiti is hard on him and he deserves better in his last years. His joints are stiff, he is tired, he is stressed, his back hurts, and his precious face is grey. He is 9.5 years old now and he has protected and loved us on 2 continents and for nearly a decade. We have loved him too and will tell you that there has never been a better very good, sweet good boy. 

To Sheriff:
We love you, and as much as our hearts ache that you cannot stay with us, we know that Aunt Michal, Uncle Wessie, Presley, Emme, Gray, and their boxer Llama are your family now. You will be happier with them. We love you very good, sweet good boy! Please don’t forget us because, I promise we will never forget you. If we could do this work in Haiti and have you, that is what we would do. We cannot do both but Oh my broken heart wishes we could. Be happy sweet boy, because you made us so very happy and you helped make Haiti a good place for our kids while they adjusted. You did good work and if we could tell you that everyday for the rest of your life, it would not be enough. 

To the Robertsons:
The tears will slow eventually and when they do we will know that he is where he can be happiest. Thanks for loving our boy and for letting him love you. He will fight for you, rest assured. As you are professional dog spoilers, I know that his most comfortable years are ahead. He will be a most faithful friend to Llama and you all. He is made of all things gentle and kind and is well suited to a life of couch space and heated blankets. Thank you for giving him the last part of his life with your amazing family. It makes giving up the last years of his life bearable. 

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