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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vi·ra·go

vi·ra·go
/vəˈräɡō/
noun
ARCHAIC a female warrior
key
A friend in Haiti has been caring for our dogs. As much as we hated to do it, it was easier to leave them there and we had a friend who was willing to care for them. She was looking for a place to stay, so we offered our place rent free if she would look after the dogs. That was going great until the unrest boiled over into what now feels more like a war. She is a medical professional and was beginning to have trouble traveling to work from our place, 2 miles away. In order to insure she could get to work daily we asked her to relocate. She moved with Sheriff, our 9.5 year old boxer to live on the clinic grounds until things settled. Our tiny chorkie, Libby, stayed with a Haitian staff member who was moving into the KONBIT house to look after things while it was empty. This was going ok and Sheriff was happy to be on a large compound with grass. Fast forward to 48 hours ago. Our wonderful dog caretaker, found out that she had a very ill family member and would need to leave country very soon. She had to get out and we were out of options for our dogs. She was also caring for Jessie’s dog, Cherie, and so a plan began to take shape to evaluate our friend and 3 DOGS! The only way this could work is if she could navigate the roads to Port-au-Prince and if Missions Flight International was flying and had space for her and the pups. So very many variables and they all had to line up perfectly for this to work. We got to work setting everything up so she could work in the clinic everyday and serve her patients. 

1st – MFI was flying Thursday and they had space. CHECK.

2nd – We found a driver willing to brave the roads. CHECK.

3rd – We got the health certificate for the 3 dogs completed by an American Vet/missionary. CHECK.

4th – Get the van ready to make the trip. Scratch that because it won’t start. Get the truck ready to transport. CHECK.

5th – Find all the dogs medicine, leashes, collars, kennels, and medical records in Haiti…from the states. CHECK.

6th – She will need help caring the kennels, so we need to hire extra people to travel with her. CHECK. 

7th – Make sure our friend has enough cash to pay driver, assistants, and to bribe gangs at roadblocks if necessary. CHECK.

Every thing is lined up and there are only 4 million ways in which the entire thing could unravel. At 4:45AM Our driver and truck arrived at the clinic with 2 helpers to collect our friend and the dogs. They took off and we were so excited that they arrived at a coffee shop in Port in decent time despite all the road blocks. After a little break, they headed for the MFI (Missionary Flight International) office near the airport. While there doing initial paperwork it became clear that they were stuck. Blockades had been erected on either side of them so they and the truck were totally stuck. They attempted to walk, carrying the dogs in their kennels to the terminal but they could not pass. At this point, the KONBIT family and prayer warriors went to work. Prayer chains from several churches and many individuals asked God to make a way so that our friend and dogs could pass. We don’t know many details, but we know they hopped into our truck at 11AM and they went for it. And Praise God, I don’t know how, but they made it! I don’t know what God did and I don’t know how He did it but I do know that He worked. Many people were lifting this effort up to God and I know that He moved. I fought today, in prayer. Many others fought today in prayer. Our friend fought fear, doubt, and fatigue and she made it. Because of her courage and willingness, with thanks to God for splitting the sea, she and the pups are safe in the US for a bit. What a warrior she is. For her patients, for her friends, and even for the dogs.

I wore this key as a necklace all day today. I needed to be reminded that I could fight. That while I could not physically do much of anything I could fight in prayer and I could make a call for prayer. So we do not despair about Haiti! We fight. We are warriors, so are you ,and so is our friend. When you can’t help physically let’s lend our strength to prayer. THERE IS HOPE! Jesus is HOPE and HE is not asleep and He has not forsaken Haiti and her people. 

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.

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.