Haiti Day 5

Today was our last full day in Haiti, and we leave in the morning. This morning we went downtown to the National Museum of Haiti and learned about Haiti’s difficult history as a nation. It was humbling. Haitians are a people who have overcome slavery, oppression, over a dozen coups, unrest, exploitation, and of course the earthquake that devastated large portions of Port au Prince and the surrounding areas. Between that visit, and the visit to the artist’s home yesterday, my mind races. I am a problem solver, a diplomat, a big picture person, a dreamer. And as we drive these streets, I want to think of things that would help. Roads. Clean water. Sanitation. Ways to address hunger. Education. Medical care. I remember a scene from West Wing where they asked the question, “What would you do if you could solve just one problem?” and I keep finding myself trying to sort through my answer to that question. But as my mind rolls round and round I remember the writer of Ecclesiastes, “What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” (Ecclesiastes 1:15). Here’s the truth: my mind races because I am uncomfortable and convicted and I want to not know this kind of systemic breakdown exists, not because what is happening here is a problem I can solve.

This kind of poverty and need is uncomfortable, and I don’t like to feel helpless. I like macro level changes – systemic changes that can improve the lives of everyone quickly. But I’m not sure the macro issues in Haiti can be resolved easily, and I can see how solving one would only unearth another. And I especially don’t think the issues can be solved from outside sources (if they could then the aid that poured in after the earthquake probably would have made more of a difference than it has done). I think the model COF has adopted, helping empower local Haitian people who understand her culture, history, language and community to make micro-level changes in their immediate circle of influence is the method Jesus himself chose when he left the good news of the Gospel in the hands of a ragtag group of followers. And through them, His message changed the world.

I have had to realize that I can’t impose my thoughts, my methods, my timeframes, my need for comfort, my “wisdom” on anything when it comes to Haiti. I am here to learn, to listen, to pray, and to encourage those who are actually doing the world changing work.

Raymond, one of the Pastors, is an engineer. We went to his home after the museum and I was so encouraged and humbled. He lost everything in the 2010 earthquake. His home was destroyed and he and his family moved in with his brother in law for months (11 people living in a modest home that somehow remained standing). When we arrived at his home, I confess I was surprised by the fact that it is half built, without a roof on the front two rooms (that filter of mine is hard to turn off). But as he gave us a tour, I understood better why, and was amazed. He has built so much on to his home himself with limited and incredibly expensive building supplies. He has a room for him and his wife, a room for their children, a kitchen and a living area, a generator and a battery that he runs to cover their electrical needs. He has dug his own well to get them fresh water. He has built a tilapia pond onto the back of his home to supply his family and neighbors with a great source of fat and protein. He has chickens, goats, turkeys, and bunnies to provide varied proteins and eggs for his family. He has planted fruits and vegetables and trees around his property, and rigged up mazes of barbed wire through his yard as a security system. He did all of this without any kind of city water, or power, and without a completed fence around his property. By the time he completes his home and garden area he has planted, 5 large families will be able to live completely independent on what he produces in his yard without having to go to the market. I have often wondered what would happen to my family if we were to suddenly have no electricity or water or source of outside food, and I have to tell you, I would be in much worse shape than my friend Raymond and his family. For the little that he has, he has made much. And all the while he is paying the fees to send his children to school and helping fund the school in La Source that we visited.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23

I have supported Mercy House Kenya for several years and the director of the house in Kenya is a young girl named Maureen. She grew up in the slums of Nairobi, but because of sponsors from Compassion International was able to go to school, and even college. She returned to her home country after her education and helped begin this home, and because of her, over 40 women have been rescued from terrible life-threatening situations and almost 40 babies have been born healthy in a safe environment instead of on the streets or aborted through dangerous illegal abortions. Every morning the residents of that home meet for prayer and praise and Bible study, and they end each day the same way, and Maureen is making a difference in her own world, with a little help from people who love her in the US. She is a world-changer.

I think of the children of La Source that I met in the school that Raymond started. If God will capture the hearts of those children and they will make a difference in Haiti after receiving the education that COF helps provide, that is hundreds of circles of influence completely changed. You keep doing multiplication math like that, and Haiti will start to change, whether the macro systems catch up or not.

I loved driving through Haiti first thing in the morning or around lunchtime when the thousands of school children would emerge in their colorful perfectly clean uniforms on their way to school, siblings holding hands and climbing onto the back of colorful tap tap taxis on the way to school. First, how impressive that they manage to get those uniforms beautifully clean when clean water is a scarce resource, and second, those children are the future of Haiti and because of them Haiti will get better for future generations.

Each of the administrators of the school in La Source are from Haiti, they all got a college education (some of them outside of Haiti), and each came back because they love their country and love these kids and want to make a better Haiti. It was so encouraging to me. One of them kept telling me, “Haiti needs your prayers.” I think perhaps that is the greatest gift I can give them, not trying to fix a system that God has not put under me to fix in the first place.

Small changes, in community, over time, create sustainable positive change. Come Kingdom of God, be done will of God in the people we met, the churches and schools we visited, and in the lives of your people. Multiply the work, rescue lives, capture hearts, and be glorified as things get better. We trust you to make Haiti new – to bring your Kingdom to earth there, and protect her children. 

2012 Wrap-Up

2012 was a whirlwind (so much so that I’m writing my annual recap on the 19th). Here was our year, in 90 seconds or less:

  • Early in 2012 we celebrated the official end to our unemployment struggle as Justin received benefits and a full-time salary at a church we love. #Praise
  • Grace lost all her teeth and started Kindergarten and Bekah became the most hilarious outspoken three year-old ever. #Woah
  • Between the miscarriage and this little baby miracle girl, I was pregnant and terribly sick for more than seven months of 2012 (And yes, my husband deserves an award). #Mercy
  • I took 26 hours of school at three different colleges, became a senior, and actually made the Dean’s list. #Grateful
  • I had a great year with freelance, traveling internationally for work to both London and Paris and getting to work with people like President Clinton and Sir Richard Branson. #Awed
  • We rejoiced in new and old friends who blessed our world during the tough weeks of the miscarriage and who made us laugh during the rest of this crazy year. #Blessed
  • I wrote less blogs than past years, but because of the election blog and the almost 100,000 views it received, had my biggest blog year ever. #Crazy

It was a year of joy and heartbreak, as our family drew closer together and the outside world in some ways seemed to fall apart. I am grateful for it, but also grateful it is over. He has turned our mourning into dancing, and we look forward to our new little lady’s arrival in May, to the end of my undergraduate career, and to the surprises and blessings that the Lord has for us in 2013. Onward.

A Very Merry Christmas.

I am seriously loving life right now. I think it’s a combination of learning to live in gratitude, this amazing season celebrating Christ, seeing miracles in the lives of faithful friends around me, success in a tough semester of school for me and Jess, fun holiday traditions with my family, my wonderful husband serving at a church where he is loved, friends who live simple faithful lives, and two sweet daughters who are living each day in wonder and delight and teaching me to live that way as they go.

Add that together – and it’s abundant life. 

I’m grateful.

Two years ago a group of people were Jesus to our family in a truly difficult time. I can’t tell you the blessing that has been this past two years – how many times my girls would wear something we got that night or play with something someone gave us, and I would remember that the Lord sees us. We are loved with an everlasting love.

I can look back today and say about the Lord my favorite verses:

“I know now that You can do all things, no plan of Yours can be thwarted… My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:2,5)

Merry Christmas friends and family. I pray that Jesus would be near and you would live each day in wonder and peace.

Blessings for the Unemployed

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Empathy for the Unemployed and got some great response.  Today, I wanted to write about the blessings we have found in unemployment.  Each of these things has been unexpected and I’m sure I’m going to forget some as I write, but I do want to try to record them to encourage people who are in our shoes (as are almost 26% of the American workforce).  For those of you walking with us (Janna, Aaron, Danna, Bryan, Kelli, Marnie and many others), we are praying you find these same blessings on your journey.

The deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine

First – we have learned that God is faithful. He has been our Provider, our Defender, our Peace, our Saviour, our Healer, our Comforter, our Strength, our Defense, our Guide, our Rock, our Father.  He has been patient with me beyond my imagination.  I have learned that I can be weak, pathetic, angry, pitiful, petty, doubting, crazy, and divisive and through it all He has been forgiving, patient, loving, near, faithful, peaceful, present, consistent, calm, determined.  I cannot wear Him out.  I cannot run from His love.  I cannot cancel out His goodness.  I have written before that I try to press into Him, but the reality of this season is that I have learned He presses into me.

Second – we have learned what we are capable of enduring.  We are strong.  Stronger than we ever imagined.  With God’s help and His amazing grace, there are times where the yoke has been easy and the burden has been light, even when circumstances and situations seemed impossible.  It is amazing.  There are times where some of our friends or family have been more deeply burdened for us than we ourselves have felt.  We know this “burden bearing” is a gift from the Lord and many of you have helped us carry our burden and we are grateful for you.

Third – we have learned to let go. Money is less important.  Our plan is less important.  Possessions are less important.  We have learned the value of the tithe and the offering.  I tell you this not so you can think we are great, but so you can be encouraged.  We now make about 40- 50% of what we made a year ago.  And yet because of God’s provision, we have not missed a payment and have been able to give every month.  We have learned how to put the first thing first.  Last year we had a “giving goal” we wanted to hit as a family.   When Justin was laid off – I wondered if we would miss our goal.  We continued to give and when tax season rolled around, I was thrilled and grateful to see we had surpassed our goal, despite our circumstance.  It excited me to know that even in our need, God could use us to give. We still had a purpose greater than ourselves.  Justin and I have learned that we are merely a channel through which blessings flow.

Fourth – we have learned to see this as a season of opportunity. Although the employment doors haven’t opened for us, the doors of ministry have opened.  When you are struggling to find work or make ends meet, people share.  They share their struggles.  They share scripture.  They share that they are praying for you and you pray for them.  I have worked in the corporate world for years, and have found “spiritual discussions” hard to come by. Not so during this season.  I have had more spiritual conversations out of this than I ever imagined.  People relate to vulnerability, in our case more than they related to us when we were “full-time ministers.”  It is crazy that in this time when I am not a “professional minister,” I have found personal ministry to be abundant.  We have LOVED that part of this road.  We pray that connection continues even after this journey is over.  We pray we will always be empathetic to the needs and vulnerabilities of others, and that our ministry is more personal than professional from this point forward.

Fifth – we have learned about friendship. There are some people who, much like the Lord has done, have pressed into us during this season.  They have overlooked my stress, my exhaustion, my self-absorption, my confusion, and have offered me friendship.  There may be times where I can’t give back, even on an emotional level, and yet they are consistent.  You learn, walking through something like this, that you have some amazing friends.  I sat on the couch of a dear friend this week and for a few minutes I didn’t even speak – I just laid my head down and stared off – lost in my own mind.  And she understood.  Along with this, we have learned about the Church.  The REAL Church, not the church.  It is so ironic, as a Communications Director, my job has always been defining and advertising the church to the outside world.  And yet, my entire definition of Church has been altered in this time when we have not been “officially” connected to any one church.  I always have known on an intellectual level that the Church is the people and not the building.  But I now know it on every level.  When the Lord again opens the door for us to fully connect with a church, I think we will be more equipped and ready to be the Church than ever before.

Sixth – we have learned about the most important thing. This journey has taught us even more about the glory of God.  The goal of our life isn’t earning the most, or feeling content, or buying stuff, or working hard, or raising a great family, or even being great ministers.  The goal of our life is the glory of God.  So up becomes down when heaven becomes more important than earth.  A sweet friend shared with me this prayer which perfectly illustrates what we’ve learned:

Lord high and holy, meek and lowly

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision

Where I live in the depths but I see Thee in the heights

Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up

To be low is to be high

That the broken heart is the healed heart

That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit

That the repenting soul is the victorious soul

That to have nothing is to possess it all

That to bear the cross is to wear the crown

That to give is to receive

That the valley is the place of vision

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells

And the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine

Let me find Thy light in my darkness

Thy life in my death

Thy joy in my sorrow

Thy grace in my sin

Thy riches in my poverty

Thy glory in my valley.

Seventh – we have learned about prayer. People ask all of the time what they can do for us in this time.  My answer in the past would have been to ask for prayer, but I think that would have just been a blow-off answer.  I don’t know that I knew the value of people praying for us before this time, or the value of my prayers for others.  Now I know it.  In the movie Shadowlands there was a quote about prayer that has always stuck with me.  Someone asked the CS Lewis character if he was praying to get answers.  His response was, “That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”  Yes we have prayed for something and not gotten the answer we wanted for almost eleven months.  And if the acquisition of this thing was the only reason to pray, I can see that some people would find prayer useless.  But I don’t pray to get this thing anymore.  I pray to be able to breathe.  I pray because I am helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all of the time, waking and sleeping.  And so now, that is why I pray for others.  So they can breathe.  Because they are helpless.  Because their need flows out of them all of the time, waking and sleeping.  And I pray that they, like me, would be changed and that this trial would serve to show them the faithfulness of our good God.

I know there are more – but this is a good start.  For those of you on this road with us – we love you and understand.  We relate.  And we are praying.