The Extra Mile

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View on my run 1 morning

Matthew 5:41  “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

When the Bible was written the people of Israel were living under Roman rule.  During that time it was not only law, but required that if a soldier was walking on a road and needed/wanted help he could require you to carry his pack and walk with him one mile.  In this passage Jesus is referencing this law when he says, “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” Jesus was such renegade and taught so many upside down principles.  The last will be first and such.  The heart of Jesus in this passage puts a fire in my belly.  I want to be an extra mile walker.  With my family, my friends, my calling.  Evidently many of you do as well!

I got the sweetest email this week.  It was from a precious couple who have supported us since day 1.  They have given faithfully every month.  They have prayed, read our updates, and been quietly, prayerfully, faithfully in our corner.  In their email this week they hated to inform us that because of their recent retirement they could no longer financially support our ministry.  They mentioned in the note that they understand this must be difficult for us to hear but that they will always support us in prayer and will take any opportunity near them to participate in fundraisers on our behalf.  Their email meant so much to me.  I completely understand that circumstances change for people and I expect that people will leave our giving team and God will bring others.  It was in their loving note that my heart was ministered.  They took the time to love us as people.  They knew we would notice and they wanted more than anything to be sure that our hearts were not discouraged.  What beautiful people. They didn’t have to be so considerate, but they were.  They really didn’t have to, but they did.  It was an extra mile after they have walked many for and with us.

This past month the 5 of us set out to spend some time in the states.  Family, like always, went overboard making our trip a success for us and the kids.  This was important trip home for all of us.  Kris and I were truly exhausted and needed rest.  Real deep soul rest.  The kids needed it too.  We set up this trip to meet the needs of our champion kids who were in need of different things as well.  I prayed specifically for each of my children that God would direct the trip this summer to minister to them.   In the midst of this praying God planted in me this idea of a trip for our family that was really just about our children.  Anna would head to Phoenix to be with friends.  The kind of friends that fill your soul and simultaneously make your snarf soda out of your nose.  Levi wanted nothing more than to camp with his Dad and grandpa.  He wanted to be one of the guys and really settle into that place with some family.  Lydia and I were going to stay put here in Haiti to save money, but when my mama heard this she offered to pay our way home.  So Lydia left Haiti for the 1st time in 18 months and we went East to see my sister and parents.  My family truly never stops going the extra mile to serve us while we serve here.  My mom drove 51.5 hours over the three weeks to shuttle Lydia and I around and get us back to our flight.  51.5 hours!!!  She didn’t have to but she did.  My sister spent most days creating moments for Lydia to enjoy her cousins.  She and Wes, My brother in law, took her to the pool and many other things so I could rest.  My dad and Sue paid for counseling to help me address some anxiety and my processing of life in general here.  Side note: Please pray for your missionaries mental health.  I had no idea what an issue this is for virtually all missionaries until we moved here.  They paid for me to see a counselor and then arranged my days so that nearly everyday with them I could run 3 miles and spend time in prayer and writing.  They didn’t have to but they did.

Kris’ parents arranged their summer to minster to Levi and Kris. They set up fishing, camping, shooting, 4 wheeling, laser tag and other things to love on Levi.  Kris was able to sleep in most days and give his body a MUCH NEEDED break.  They didn’t have to but they did.  The extra miles folks, seriously.

Finally, Here is our ode to the non-blood related family who carried our packs a LONG WAY.

When this whole trip was just a glimmer of an idea in my spirit I sent a message to dear friends in AZ to see if this was even feasible.  Anna would need a ton of extra mile walking for this to happen so I started with a question.  “If by some chance I could get Anna out to AZ for church camp could you and your family host her for a few days before camp and a week after?”  The response still brings me to tears.  My friends said, “Yes, only if you let us pay for camp!”  I am not joking when I say the tears are coming so hard now I can hardly see to type.  They welcomed my tired baby with open arms and hands full of Starbucks.  They did the airport runs, took her to Starbucks, bought her donuts, brought her to stores so she could walk around unsupervised with friends like a normal teen, took her for mani/pedis, and on her last night with them they ran her to Subway late at night because they realized she hadn’t eaten her favorite food yet.  Anna came home so light and saying, how she hadn’t realized how much she needed that.  I cannot even articulate the extra miles they walked and what it meant to this mama.  I am currently ugly crying and blubbering because writing it all overwhelms my heart.  They really didn’t have to but they did!  This family walked so many extra miles that I worried it would weigh them down, but they never let on if it did.

When it came to Lydia, I really wanted her to be with her closest cousin, Emme.  They have been tight since they were babies and they have given up so much time together.

My sister and family has recently moved from Los Angeles, CA to GA and were living with my sister’s in-laws while they bought a home near Atlanta.  So, to be clear they were staying with my brother-in-law’s parents.  So, let me see, that makes them my…nothing.  We are just not related.  That made no difference to them, nor has it ever, as they welcomed Lydia, I and my mama into their home so that we could be together with my sis for a week.  They bought food, cooked, cleaned and lived in a general state of overwhelm as my sisters family of 5 grew to 8.  They opened up their lives and home as if it was the most natural thing in the world.   Can we all agree it was not the natural choice?  They walked the extra mile, over and over again.  They arranged for me to speaks at a friends church one evening and I was a bit of a nervous wreck.  Kris does most of the speaking and here I was exhausted, depleted and given an hour service.  I was so grateful to be able to share but I was nervous at the same.  I spent days preparing and after it was done I truly had no idea if I had strung even one coherent thought together.  We got back to the house and my sister’s Father-in law squeezed me around the shoulders, kissed my head, and told me what a great job I had done.  The tender kindness of that moment…and the tears are back.  He didn’t have to, but he did.   They didn’t have to, but they did.

I cannot contain the overwhelming gratitude I feel.   So many extra miles walked and by so many people.  Many of you have been walking these miles with us since this journey began and I just want you to know that it has never gone unnoticed.  From a friends and family discount at Columbia clothing store, to the school supplies being sent in for our kids.  From 84 shares of my curriculum need post on Facebook, to the English major teaching my child to write.  From the limes squeezed nightly for limeade, to the supplies from our Amazon wish list.   We can feel the lighter load and we can sense your companionship.  You extra mile walkers are the reason we keep moving forward.  God never intended any of us to walk alone and you have never let us walk alone.

I have never cried so much writing a blog.  Good grief.

We are back in Haiti and back to work.  We are back to gate opening, hand holding, feeding, praying with and loving the beautiful people God has called us to.  We are full of God’s love because you poured it into us.  God gently restored our tired souls as we walked.  The Body of Christ spoke life into us and we are energized to continue in this work.  We say it all the time, but you have to know that your presence in our ministry is critical.  Thanks for going the extra mile friends.  Thank you monthly givers for quietly, faithfully standing in our corner. Every goat path we walk, every tiny body we hold and every hope restored is done while you hold us.

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It is like this.

May God’s richest blessing overflow in your hearts and restore your soul as you have been used by God to restore ours.

Ephesians 1:23   “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

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The Gate

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Lydia, the worlds strongest 7-year-old.

The Gate, our gate.  It is a rather obnoxious red and it causes a hernia every time it is opened because it weighs a ton.  We open and close it a trillion times everyday.  It begins every morning around 7, sometimes earlier and ends at sundown or a bit before.  The familiar sound of a rock tapping to let us know someone outside needs to see us.  Sometimes it is Sherlande, Lydia’s playmate.  Her mom works all day 6 days a week so Sherlande, at 7 years old, entertains herself until she just can’t stand it one more minute and she taps.  Now listen folks, tapping DOES NOT STOP until the gate is answered so we run, and sometimes I desperately yell on the way there, “I’m coming!!!”.  Always perfectly civilly, I promise (fingers crossed).  Sometimes Lydia can play and sometimes she cannot but everyday, a few times a day…she taps.  It’s Etienne many times a week, coming because she is hungry.  It is my neighbor who wonders if I could keep all my glass jars so she can have them to sell homemade peanut butter in.  We are up to 10 so she will be tapping soon to pick them up.  It is Apredye coming to pick up or drop off Jessie’s Moto that he has borrowed and sometimes it is Jessie.   It is Soucitha because her daughter is sick and it is Apredye because his niece died and he is humbly asking for help paying to move her body and prep her for burial.  Many times people don’t tap and they just yell, “tolbos!”  to which Kris responds, “yea, yea!”  It is Ludens or Sadak who so bad want to work with KONBIT that they stop by many times a week to remind us of their desire and willing hearts.  The taps keep coming.  Some days many every hour.  We are a small organization without the very common gate guard so the opening of the gate is done by us.  I minister by that gate many times every day.  Prayer happens at the gate.  Conversations about the future of 2 bright young men happen by our gate.  I receive requests for medicines, prayer, jobs, food, candy.  A precious gaggle of children have been known to stop after school to see if they can say hi to our youngest.  We give from what we have at that gate.  As I was praying about sharing this gate blessing/curse today, I was reminded of a gate in the Bible.  The gate beautiful.  Check this out.

Acts 3:1-6  “Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.  Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

After this Peter reached out to help him up and the man was healed.  As he was praising God and celebrating, the town went crazy because everyone knew this guy and knew he was crippled.

I have always loved this passage not because I feel motivated to pray for healing everywhere but because Peter and John were obedient with what they had.  The man asked for money and they said look at us.  Rachael’s commentary says it was because a simple inspection would reveal that these were not wealthy men.  I can so relate.  The gate in the Bible is believed to have been a truly magnificent gate.  Mine not so much.  When people come to our gate we give from what we have, because that is what God asks us to do.  We do not always have money.  Our amazing donors give faithfully and then we turn around and do the same.  I have an illustration in my mind of water running through the fingers of a hand.

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You give generously and it pours in, we give generously and it pours out.  We are, more times that I would like, simply unable to help financially.  Often times it keeps pouring out of our hands and we just do not keep enough back for our personal expenses and we find ourselves stuck having to find money where it just isn’t.  Sometimes at the gate we can only give what we have.  We reach the end of ourselves and we look at the people at our gate and say, look at us, we are out of physical resource but God is not out in any department.  Let’s ask God together to meet your need.  At those moments, and there are many, with tears we trust our God to meet needs only He can.  We ask him to heal bodies and hearts.  We give him the reigns again and are reminded that what HE has and who HE is, is the greatest gift we can give.

Like Peter and John gave from what they had, what is God asking you to give?  Are you like us sometimes and you are being asked to pour finances into needs around you?  Are you like us other times and God is asking you to surrender to Him the needs of others in prayer.  Maybe you have access to another resource that you could never imagine would be a blessing to someone in need.  I have an example.   A sweet friend, who was in our youth group around 400 years ago, is in Veterinary school.  She is someone I have connected to every so often with questions regarding our goats and such.  I touched base with her a few months ago because I was in desperate need of medication for our fur babies here.  I had run out and could not seem to get my hands on what I needed/wanted for our dog.  I was a worried because we moved our older dog here and he is really important to us, especially Levi.  Anyway, I reached out to her looking for specific meds and she responded right away saying, “I happen to be standing at the table, in a veterinary pharmaceutical show, staring at one of the medications you are needing”. I thought,  “huh…well that’s nifty.”  I asked her if she thought she could help and she went to work.  A few months later, I have all my fur baby needs plus more.  Way to be Julie!  I wonder if she imagined that a missionary in Haiti might really need her help.  I needed what she had to offer as a vet student who I am sure is broke, busy and exhausted.  She served us in a way that helps us to serve here in Haiti.  I wonder how often I miss the opportunity to serve because I am insecure about what I have to offer.   So we find ourselves at the gate, hopefully for your sanity not 42 times a day.  It may be ugly like mine or beautiful like the one in Bible but we are being given an opportunity to serve.  Let’s give from what we have, that is all God is asking.  I will give from the gifts I have and the resources I have.  That is all any of us can do.

Last parting thought.  You cannot give to other people using other people’s gifts.  Meaning don’t have skill and gift envy…like I do.  Being transparent here.  Really wish I was a Doctor some days.  Really wish I was a CEO type other days.  Instead, I am a MOM…like a boss.  So when I go to minister, that is what I do,  I mom…yes it is a verb!  Quiet down.  Here is the lesson I am screaming at myself, Don’t be paralyzed by what you cannot do, be motivated to do what you CAN do.  Excuse me, I have to run, there is someone at the gate and they may need me to mom.

Still. Absolutely still.

 

 

I am working through the MAGIC TREE HOUSE series with my 3rd little.  There is a moment in every story, after Jack and Annie have adventured in another time in history, that they make their return to the frog creek woods, a walking distance from home. Every story is anchored in this moment.  They climb into the tree house and wish aloud to return to the Frog Creek woods and then, as Mary Pope Osborn wrote:

“The tree house started to spin.  

It spun faster and faster.  

Then everything was still.

Absolutely still.”

MAGIC TREE HOUSE, by Mary Pope Osborne

The fact that this is a children series has never dampened my enjoyment of her books and especially this moment.  I have always thought it poetic and serene.  I was recently reading with Lydia and the plot of the book we were on was exceptionally weighty and physically uncomfortable for the main characters.  Lives were hanging in the balance and everything hung on the characters ability to come through.  As we neared the end of the book I was feeling the pressure on these kids.  They were saving lives, they were under immense pressure and they were cold-uncomfortable.  When the moment came, and they returned to the Tree House after the violent spinning and it was “still. Absolutely still.”, I could physically feel the release.  They were home.  This time that moment caught in my throat. I sure related to the characters and I realized I need to feel that sense of stillness here, living in Haiti.  We have, the last year, had that sense of stillness that comes from being home.  Brief Haiti home history: In 2015, we moved to Haiti and into 400 square feet of a home we shared with 6 other adults who resided in the rest of the house.  8 months later, we transitioned to another portion of the same home and occupied a little more space but still shared the rest of the home with 6 other individuals.  We moved to a different house in March 2016 (our family only) and it has become a respite, where the spinning stops and I can get lost in my back yard, caring for my goats.  I know that God provided this house and we have enjoyed every moment of God’s sweetness in it.  We got an amazing deal on this house, it cost less to rent than houses 1/2 its size.  After all the transition of moving us and the kids to Haiti, this home, where the kids could have their own spaces, and our dog could run.  This house with trees and space for our goats, with a rooftop view of the ocean and mountains of Haiti, was a sanctuary.  A place for God to heal us and restore us a bit from a stressful transition.  In this home we have grown to really love Haiti, and Haiti has become home.  From this home I began to see us growing old here and began to see how the insanity of moving my children here was really going to work and we were going to flourish here.  We launched KONBIT here and I fell in love with my neighbors.  I LOVE THIS HOUSE.  I was certain we would be in it a long time, that was what I wanted…needed, so I was sure God would make it so.

Now this is the part in the story where I tell you that because God loves me, and I am His princess, He gives me what I want.  This is the part of the story where God waves a magic wand and does what I want.  I have moved to HAITI, for goodness sake.   LORD, DO WHAT I WANT!!!!   Sorry, I keep getting a little self involved (or a lot) and emotional.  It turns out He did NOT do what I want. We found out just 2 months ago that the rent on this house was being raised…considerably.  Then we found out that the home that we had been in previously (the home we shared with 6 people when we first moved here), was available for a little less than we could rent this for.  Sounds like a no brainer, but there was/is a battle happening in my spirit.   The original house is better suited for us to host teams, which enables us to save the ministry literally 1000’s of dollars a year in guest house rentals.  but…There is no yard for KONBIT goats, dogs, my children, it’s noisy and on a busy street.  It is a fine house but it is not the house I want.  It is the house that I need to submit my heart to because it is best for us to accomplish all God has called us here for.  I am literally in denial about this move.  Not healthy, I know.  I am working on it.    This house sits directly in the community we minister in, Lafferonney.  This house is God’s will but it doesn’t feel good.

To help me process, I knew I needed to chat with some of my Haitian Mamas.  I have a few but there is one in particular that I felt led to chat with.  We went to see Simone who is spiritual giant trapped in a tiny old ailing body.  Last week I went to speak with her and break the news that I was moving a few miles away.  There were tears in my eyes as I shared that we had to move but I did not want to.  I told her we would stay connected and that she was a part of my life for good.  She became very adamant and animated as she began teaching me about the sovereignty of GOD.  This is a woman who has food, sometimes.  Who lives in a block house with her 2 year old grandson, who she cares for.  She lives in chronic pain as she faces hunger, arthritis, and stomach pain with few meds.  This woman for whom nothing has come easy and who looked at me with love and kind determination began to preach.  Buckle your seatbelt.  This woman does not speak of the nearness and sovereignty of God from a place of study, but of experience.

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Simone, My Haitian Mama.

To set up this conversation you need to know we had brought her food and she was very excited because the food had given her strength.  Before we told her I was moving, she was praising God, arms lifted for the food.  She was repeating, “God is faithful, He knows all things, He is the only God.”  She was worshiping and declaring the goodness of God.  She was reminding us that God is who sent us and that God sees her and is always faithful.  She was telling us that God gives her strength.  It was while she was sharing this that the news announcing I was moving was communicated to her.   It turns out that she already knew through the grapevine but she looked disappointed and my tears started to flow.

I said,  “Simone, I do not want to move.  I love this place and I love this community and I want to be near you all.”  Simone responds, arms motioning toward me and eyes boring into my soul, “God brought you to us, because God had a job for you here.  He sent you here and now he is sending you there.  God is good and faithful and he sees you.  He saw you here and he will see you there.  You had work here and you will have work there.”  The tears would NOT stop.  This Haitians mama’s giant spirit wrapped my broken spirit up in hers and reminded me whose I am.  She also reminded me that God’s will is much larger than an issue of my comfort.

If she sees the goodness of God with and without food, with and without pain, with and without good shelter, certainly I can recognize His goodness and kindness in my life.  Changing homes into a smaller and much less “family friendly” home does not mean God is not good and He is not with me.  I needed her that day and God used her to begin the process of righting my heart.  I needed a Haitian Mama because Haitians realize that God does not ALWAYS move us up.  Sometime He moves us decidedly down.  In western civilization we see God’s will as the next better paying Job, promotion, bigger house, the movement up.  But that is not scripturally sound and it just isn’t true in 99% of the rest of the world.  God can also be in changes that move us “down”. It is about His kingdom, and what he does in and through us is to further that kingdom, maybe not us necessarily.  If the kingdom is furthered more when I take a step back, then it is worth it.  The disciples moved decidedly down as they served God.  They went from having jobs to needing to live on the kindness of others.  They went from homes to traveling constantly.  They went from honor to disdain.  They moved from relative safety to torture and death.  Those are very downward moves physically but those moves were decidedly moving the kingdom of God forward.  I am not being asked by God to endure torture and death but you would think so by my attitude and internal struggle.  I am giving up the stillness, the trees, the birds, the goats and a lot of solace.  But what I am reminding myself is that I am gaining obedience, I am being used to further the work God is doing, and I know God sees me and moves me.

My Haitian Mama, Simone and the Apostle Paul could commiserate on this topic.  I could only sit like a sullen teenager and mope.   Jesus be near, I have so much to learn.  Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength.”:

So, I am moving.  God is moving me down in comfort but up in my ability to minister.  The new home is not far and I will maintain relationships with my current neighbors.  My heart is submitted but not joyful, not yet.  My Haitian mamas have their work cut out for them with me.  Pray for them as they disciple me.  Pray for us as we embark on our 6th move and house re-organizing since we sold our home in AZ in 2013.  We adore the work God has called us to here but all this relocating is a distraction and burden on our family.  We are hoping to stay put for a few years after this move.  Thank you for giving and praying so constantly.  The Kay Konbit ministry center is a reality because of God’s faithfulness and your giving.  Here’s to a home where after the long stressful days, that I can pray and the spinning would stop and we can be still, absolutely still.  God let it be and God tune my selfish will to your ways and help me to value your plan much more than my own.

BLOG Update:  This was written 3 weeks ago as I prepared for a move that has now happened.  Since writing this we have relocated, set up a team house upstairs, and hosted 2 amazing teams.  Our ability to minister has been greatly increased.  The knocks on our gate are constant and I am choosing to see them as the result of great need.  It is an honor to be used and available.  God has us where he wants us.  It is ok that I am not in love with this house or this move.  I am in love with Jesus and He is sovereign and He is good.  My belief in his goodness does not require my comfort.  We are getting settled and many precious people have stepped up when I thought I may lose my mind.  They may never know how critical their help was.

To stay connected to all that is happening ministry wise, please follow our KONBIT Facebook page and our website at www.konbittogether.org  

***IMPORTANT NOTES***

There seems to be some confusion about our connection to Happy Kids INTL.  We moved to Haiti with Happy Kids but are not affiliated with them in anyway now.  We will have no access to any fundraising they are doing nor will be responsible for how those funds are used.  Those funds will not come to us or through us in anyway.  We love Happy Kids and know they will continue to do great things but it is not responsible for us to allow people to believe that when they give to them, that we will be in charge of those funds.  

We also have had 2 donors give to another organization with “KONBIT” in its title.  Be sure you are using the links we have sent you to set up and maintain giving.  There are 2 other organizations in Haiti that use KONBIT in their name.

We are so incredibly grateful for you all and love you all so much.  You are the “how” behind much we are able to do.  God gave us a vision and literally sustains us everyday and you support the work and move it forward.  God bless you all for giving sacrificially and praying for us.  You mean the world.

Stop waiting for the Miracle

I happen to believe in miracles. I have seen God DO the miraculous in lives, circumstances, bodies and spirits. I pray for miracles and I trust God when only a miracle can save. I have to admit that at times praying for a miracle and waiting for it is just my way out of work. How much easier would it be if everything that can be done to further the kingdom, God miraculously did for us. We could just keeping “praying” about it. We could pray, believe and wait. Like the disciples, sitting in the upper room, waiting and waiting. After the Holy Spirit comes they just stay there right? Maybe they leave to eat and sleep, but then they just stay in that room waiting for God to show up again, right? You know as well as I do, they didn’t stay in that room long after the Holy Spirit came. There was work to do. God absolutely showed up miraculously and then the disciples GOT TO WORK. We will get back to this.

We spent Thanksgiving in a swirl of the miraculous and hard work. I was telling someone about all that had transpired and something they said got me thinking. Let me recount our day for you. We were up early, prepared to make a journey 1.5 hours west of us. It doesn’t sound like much but all journeys in Haiti are an adventure. We had planned and prepared for days to get to Fond Doux so we could visit Osner, put latches on his windows and deliver food. Osner is our blind friend for whom Woodlake UMC built a home because his tarp home blew over in the hurricane. The day before I had bagged up all our rice and beans (about 30 lbs) to bring and then walked a trail and delivered some to an elderly neighbor. On the way back from delivering food, I encountered another neighbor who needed medicine and I said I would see if we had what she needed so she could buy the antibiotic. I made a mental note to get back to her ASAP. We completed our trip preparations by purchasing needed supplies, spending days getting cash out of ATM’s and collecting the needed tools. We talked to the kids about appropriate foot wear and made sure we had enough water. All that to say, it was a decent amount of work. We knew this was how we wanted to spend Thanksgiving and we felt God’s call to serve. As we were headed to pick up Elimage, a woman literally faints into a puddle in front of our car. We stopped, helped others put her limp body into a chair and see that she is ATLEAST 7 months pregnant. We immediately got water and tried to wake her. Our friend Antoine ran up at that moment and we sent him to buy her a protein shake while we stayed with her. We found out she was not from the area and that she was hungry and thirsty. It is no wonder she fainted. We bought her enough protein rich foods and gave her water and money for transport so she did not have to walk anymore. It was obvious we were where we were supposed to be at that moment. After she was cared for we left with Elimage for Fond Doux. We got to Osners house and got to work. After 1.5 hours of work on his house, we gave rice/beans to Osner and started to leave. Before leaving a young woman entered Osner’s house to bring him prepared food. She tenderly give him warm rice in a tiny bowl and a spoon. I followed her to her hut and gave her food, too. The look on her face. She was so grateful and it was obvious there was an imminent need. While fixing Osner’s windows our friend Willie showed up. He is one of the older boys in a family with 7 kids being raised by a single mom with AIDs. He just wanted to hug Kris, the look on his face when Kris saw him was precious. We were able to give him rice/beans and go visit with his family. We visited with Sylvie, Willie’s mama, for a while and then we started our trip back to Gressier. About half way between Gressier, our home, and Fond Doux is a pizza place on the beach. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving pizza with truly full hearts. We got back home just after dark and we were spent but God had a bit more for us to do. As soon as we got to our gate 2 women who needed medical care just happened by. We were able to give pain meds to a woman with cancer and the money needed to our neighbor for meds from the day before.

I know that was quite a lot of information but it goes to my point. A very loving, well meaning person said, “Wow, you didn’t have to do anything, God just brought all your ministry to you today.” Yes, and no. After reading about our day I know you can see that it was a mix of hard obedient choices and miracles. In my life God tends to move after I do. We made a plan and prepared to serve on Thanksgiving. The Bible has already told us it is God’s will to serve and give. In the middle of our obedience, God showed up with the miraculous. We had food to give because we purchased and packaged. We saw the pregnant woman because we were on the way to Osner. We fed 2 more families because we were serving Osner. The 2 women were able to catch us as we went into our gate, because we had left our gate earlier that day. Sometimes I think we wait too long for God to show us where we should help. Sometimes we are so busy looking for the miraculous way we can be used that we forget that we just need to leave our gate and GO SERVE.
What does that look like for you? Do you have a heart for the homeless? I can assure you that when you prepare to serve, God will make a way for you to serve. Our ministry to the homeless began after we bought the supplies and made the “Blessing bags”. Once we made them, the amount of ministry we were able to participate in is nothing short of miraculous. So step out! Become a Big Brother/Big Sister. Are foster children burning a hole in your heart but you are waiting for the perfect time? God will move once you do. Since living in Haiti, I have learned that most miracles happen on the other side of obedience. Sometimes scary obedience. So check on your neighbor. Visit veterans. Be kind. Your most incredible ministry might be just behind a simple gesture. I heard someone say one time, “Stop waiting on the move of God, We are the move of God!”

Spend time in the upper room. Pray for miracles. Ask for guidance, then get up and go. Leave your gate, church. You are the move of God and the world is waiting. There is addiction, brokenness, loneliness, hopelessness. There are orphans,the hungry, widows. God did not mince His words about what He expects of us. I need to remember this too. We all have our gates we need to walk out of. Go now. Stop waiting for the Miracle, it very well maybe waiting on the other side of your obedience.

Hope is a Miracle

Hurricane Matthew, the slow moving monster that crept its way toward us for days upon days.  We called out to neighbors to prepare, to come stay with us, to tell their friends.  We packed sand bags, made from rice bags and dirt, we stocked up on fuel, water and food.  We brought our generator inside and secured roof tin.  We let our goats off their ropes and locked our cat and dog inside.  We bought extra food to do distribution after the storm. We picked up our handicapped guests and drove them to our house over 24 hours before any rain fell.

Before the storm, at our kitchen table we heard stories about the earthquake in 2010.  One guest recalled his wife being hit in the face with falling debris and her being too far along in her pregnancy to run.  He had to leave her because their seriously injured 3 year had to be carried out of the house.  His wife, 8 months pregnant and injured emerged from the house on her own.  He then carried his sister who was still swollen from giving birth 6 days earlier and got she and her infant out of danger.  Another friend talked of how her baby was thrown from a portable crib and she was hit in the head.  She had to run to grab her baby and try to find help.   As they sat at my table, there was a sense of fear but also familiarity to tragedy.  They seemed to be readying themselves.  Reminding each other where they been and what they had seen.  Reminding themselves what they are capable of.    We left our house 2 days later to find their homes in tack although wet.  They immediately set to the work of drying clothes, mattresses, etc…

hurricane

The word from our friends to the SW of Haiti, has been to slow to come.  We worried for days about one dear friend, Alfred, and his family as no one could get a call through to him.

guysMVP

Alfred (on left) – Happy kids Mountain director

The roads to his area were completely impassable.  People have just recently begun making it into these areas for the past few days.  The news is devastating.  One missionary friend who arrived in a coastal town today remarked, “This is worse than the earthquake.”  She is referencing the long term damage to agriculture and the hunger crisis she is sure is coming.  She was here for both so I guess she would know.  I cannot fully wrap my mind around all that means but my broken heart is piecing it together for the community she was standing in.  Cholera is breaking out in these coastal towns and people that have lost everything they own plus friends and family members, still stand to lose their lives.  That is the reality.

A few days after the storm we got news that Alfred and his family were safe.  They had sheltered in their home and it had been ripped stone by stone from around them as they crouched for cover.  Eventually they were forced, when their roof went flying, to find shelter elsewhere.  When they returned, everything they have worked years to build, was gone.

He borrowed money from a local friend and drove to us, arriving Monday.  His cheeks were sunken in and the sight of him filled me with such relief and such pain.  He told us how everything is gone.  His garden he has been pouring money, toil and years into.  His home he has built stone by stone for years.  All their clothes, including his children’s school uniforms that I am sure took everything he had to buy.  4 out of his 6 goats are dead.  For days, until he could get us, they ate a vegetable called Lam that they found lying on the ground.  He’s tells us about the mass devastation in another one of our villages and we realize, just barely, the scope of the damage.  After he tells us all this and after eating a big meal, I see him looking off in the distance and I ask him simply if he is tired.  This was his response. It flowed deep from his spirit and he spoke it honestly and humbly.  Alfred said, “I have strength because of God.  God saved our lives and we are so grateful! We can build our home again.  We can buy things.  You cannot buy life and you cannot buy your soul.  I trust God.”  At this point I am battling to maintain composure.  After talking some more he said, “Bondye Konnen.”  Which means God knows.  I can tell from the wounded look in Alfreds eyes that he is heartbroken.  But heartbroken does not mean without Hope.  Alfred has Hope and that is a miracle.  Hope is the evidence of things not seen.  Hope is a miracle here, but it is EVERYWHERE.

Haiti can sometimes appear numb to tragedy.  They see it so often.  Their lives have many times hung by a thread.  They know despair, but they know hope.  Haiti can and will rebuild, again.  They always do.  Haitians are the most resilient people I have ever known.    They are a worthy investment of your finances, prayers and love.  They will work harder than you can conceive to get their lives back.  They are NOT lazy.  They are NOT quitters.  They fight everyday to survive and tomorrow will not be any different.  Please pray for Haiti.  Hope is a miracle that is taking place.  Please give to credible organizations.  They are “boots on the ground” here and God is using them to rescue and give relief to the people here.

Thank you for prayers and comments.  You stood with us in unprecedented numbers.  Share with others what the media is not.  There is a humanitarian crisis happening right now, hours from where I sit.  Remind people that this is not over.  We still need your prayers and partnership as relief is, in many ways, just begun.  There are entire villages that have not been reached. Pray also for a time coming soon when that relief turns to development.  Love you all and I pray that you see the hope that Alfred sees.  God Knows.  Bondye Konnen.

At Church & completely lost in HIM or just completely lost

 

PVC!

While the intro begins and people are welcomed, I feel at home.  Excited.  I get this, it makes sense to me.  My heart is beating fast as lights come up and a worship song intro begins.  Tears are flowing and I am not even sure why.  I am just so moved to be worshipping with you all.  I am overcome by my gratefulness to God and completely overwhelmed by something I will never take for granted again.  As the song begins I can barely form words, which is too bad because I know them and they are in a language I can comprehend with no effort.  I want to sing so loud it is awkward and at times I can barely maintain my composure because I want to celebrate!  God is so good and I am so excited to worship in a context that I “get.”  I am completely lost in God’s presence as He ministers to my soul and I pour my heart out to Him. I stifle a desire to dance and I imagine what the Haitian church would do in this context.  I imagine their excitement seeing the lights, and experiencing the music and the resource the American church has and I readily see them dancing, unable to contain their excitement.  I feel like they are with me, a part of me.  Celebrating God with such abandon and joy as they take in his goodness as expressed in American culture.  I love the body of Christ.  I love her expression in Haiti but it is a mystery to me.  I sit, as with everything else in Haiti, on the edge.  Participating and then falling into confusion.  Enjoying and connecting and then losing all sense of what is happening.   I spend much time in Haitian church completely lost, not able to follow the speaker or understand the song.  I love her expression in the US because it is speaks my language in every which way.  When she worships I can move with her as one person, it is natural, I know where she is headed and I am at complete peace there.  I wonder, precious American church, do you know what you have?  Until next time, I will sit with my amazing brothers and sisters in Haiti and we will worship the same God, with sweat pouring, hearts focused and hungry, minds attuned to His word.  We are one with you.  Our expression looks different but if we could step into your world we would join you in burning down the house with our praise.  What a wonderful day that will be.  When as one church we worship HIM in unison, with none on the edge, lost.   With all fully engaged in worship.  Can you see it?  I can.  I got a glimpse last weekend.  They were with me and I was with you.  It was perfect.  The body of Christ is diverse, beautiful, mysterious and a real living thing.  What an honor it is to participate in worship together!

Where was your heart this last weekend?  Lost in HIM?  Lost in HIS amazing, undeserved grace?  His complete presence among us when we gather?  Lost in His power as we recognized our transformed lives and those of the people around us?  or maybe…Lost in frustration over church budget, political arguments, the screen glitching, the awkward movements of someone on the worship team?  Let’s be honest, I have been that awkward person on the worship team.  Attending church every Sunday, serving, and having something so sacred become just “church”. I have been so consumed with doing church that I have forgotten I AM the church!  It is a struggle.  I struggle week after week in Haiti to connect, to grasp a spiritual concept, to focus.  I enjoyed this weekend so much and was reminded that the struggle is worth it because the Body of Christ is sacred.  We are a part of something so much bigger than our little expression.  I am encouraged because when I worship I feel a sense of being a part of the universal church.   So next Sunday, I will worship in Haiti.  I will struggle.  I will remember worshipping with you all, I will bring you with me.  Maybe you could imagine the Haitian church entering in your side door, with shouts of praise.  Maybe that will encourage you, excite you and help you to engage the struggle.  You certainly help me to engage mine!  Love you much sweet church.

Hebrews 10:24-26 “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works.  And let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us encourage one another with words of hope. Let us do this even more as you see Christ’s return approaching.”

 

You da’ real MVP

~Did you know that churches all over Haiti send missions teams to other areas that struggle more than they do?
~Did you know that community organizations of Haitians, Like Family Social,  raise money for school supplies and community development projects?
~Did you know that Haitians care for one another’s children…daily?
~Did you know that everyday in Haiti neighbors will visit an elderly blind man in Fond Dous, make him food and rotate sleeping in his bamboo house so he is not alone at night?
~Did you know that sometimes people stand in the road just to warn people of a large pothole or rock?
~Did you know that Haitians regularly take in children from neighbors, family & friends who cannot care for them?
~Did you know that it is culturally expected to give to anyone in need here, and they do?
~Did you know that they do all this without knowing what tomorrow holds?
~Did you know that sometimes the food they shared was all they had?
~Did you know that they take in children because it is right not because they have enough to do so?
~Did you know that when many Haitian men see an elderly woman they tenderly hug and kiss her and call her “mami”?
~Did you know that in Haiti there are few mistakes if any that turns a brother into an enemy?
~Did you know that Haitian parents send their kids to school with perfect uniforms, shiny shoes, and neat hair from lean-to houses with no running water or electric?

If you are one of those hyper-cynical individuals, just hang with me Mr or Mrs glass 1/2 full. Nothing is true ALL of the time. But the reality is, Haiti gets bad press.  The bad press comes from a misunderstanding of financial distributions.  The bad press comes from American’s focusing on the weaknesses of the culture instead of its strengths.  The bad press comes from pictures highlighting the brokenness, instead of pictures of the beauty.  Is the brokenness real?  Is the political structure corrupt and broken?  Are there corrupt leaders?  Is there bribery?  Does child slavery exist?   Are there abandoned children?   You could ask it better this way.  Is there sin?   YES to all of the above.   How are American politics shaping up in this season?  My point is this.  To see only the brokenness is just not intellectually honest.  Although America is one of the most violent developed nations, we still see all the beauty.  America is a mixed bag.  More good than bad.  Culturally speaking, so it Haiti.  They HAVE less…they ARE not less!

***side note to my missionary friends holding dying babies, fighting off death like warriors, winning…losing, giving until your bodies are so weary you just collapse into bed at night.  You must share the reality of what is happening here and so many of you do that with such love and respect for Haitians.  Don’t hear this to say that we should not tell what we see and share the need.  We have to.   Be mindful that we do have a choice how we share the need and where we place the blame for the brokenness.

The poorest country in the western hemisphere is not sitting on its hands!  In a country where everyday is a struggle to survive and death catches too many, too early..there is immense love and community.  Missionaries are not the MVP’s.  Haitian’s are the real MVPs.  I watch this structure as a visitor, a spectator, not really able to understand or take part in the rhythm of their relationships or the dance of their communities.  They wake before the sun and toil. They give and assume responsibility when they don’t have too.  They smile, laugh and give in the face of struggle.  There is no life flight to take Haitians away when the health issue is too serious and requires better medical care.  When it rains here the double edged sword cuts deep as crops are nourished and beds with the sick, elderly and children are left damp.  The sewage runs ankle deep with diseases but the rain is needed because cisterns and catchment systems hold drinking water.   The rain takes as many lives as it gives.   Millions of Haitians accomplish everything above in the middle of a daily battle to survive.

Missionaries are here to serve.  We are here to be a support system for the Haitians that are reaching and touching their friends and family.  We are here to resource, love, & learn.  Haiti will continue to be pulled from despair by Haitians.  They are the workers and the ones who really sacrifice.  They are the real heroes.  One of the things that inspires me the most about the work we do is that it is led and directed by our Haitians connections.  Our friends who are Haitian Pastors and community leaders have dreams and goals for their communities.  Our friends who run children’s homes and believe that God has a plan for each of the children in their care.  Maybe what they feel impressed to do is not what we wanted to do.   It is not what makes us feel special and gives us goosebumps.  We choose to believe that the needs are known by the people who really understand this incredible culture that we sit quietly outside of.  Many Haitians are diligently serving one another and we are honored to learn from them and serve along side them.  We have to listen.  Do we have things to offer, absolutely?  We should use our gifts, talents, & knowledge to serve.  SERVE.  Whatever the work God has called you to, do it humbly.

Thanks for supporting us.  We believe in Haiti, Haitians and what God can do through obedient people.  When you support us, you support them and their efforts.