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. 

Haiti Day 4

I am in Haiti this week with Community of Faith collecting stories and photographs to update our church on the progress of the churches, schools, and other ministries that COF supports in Haiti. Before I came on this trip, my friend Tara, a missionary midwife at Heartline Maternity Center in Port Au Prince, wrote me and said, “Haiti is a place that won’t be understood easily but you will find love there.” I have played her words in my head several times since we arrived, but today I leaned on them all day long. We traveled last night from Gonaive and the rural village of La Source where we have spent the last few days, to a suburb of Port Au Prince where we will base for the rest of our time here. In total transparency, moving from rural to urban Haiti is more difficult for me to process, and the beauty harder for me to find. Our leader David warned us that Haiti is a lot to take in, and he is right. I am trying to process through my feelings and thoughts about the day.

It started off lovely. This morning we got up and traveled to Croix-de-Bouquets to join Pastor Raymond and Pastor Walter’s church for worship. Several groups from COF have gone there before us, so the church members are familiar with us and there is a long established partnership. Members of our team who have been here before reconnected with friends, and we enjoyed worshiping together. When we arrived, worship was already in progress (Haitian church services are several hours long, so us arriving late was by design). I loved the church service, the music, and the warm way we were welcomed. We each gave a short greeting, and if I thought speaking in front of children was intimidating, it was nothing compared to speaking on microphone to an entire church. It felt a little awkward and I stumbled through, but they had grace for me despite. Just before my greeting they had prayed for us by name and for Community of Faith Houston and Mark and Laura Shook (our pastors), and I was able to tell them that even while they prayed for us, our church was praying for them and loved them, and I was grateful we all could talk to the same God big enough to handle all the details of our lives. I sat down after, relieved, and enjoyed the rest of the service. Several groups sang songs in the service, a couple dedicated songs especially for us, we took communion together, and a member of our team shared a short message about a woman who changed her life named Debbi.

On the trip last year Debbi came to Haiti from COF and left a piece of her heart here. She built relationships with the team in Haiti and was scheduled to come back on this trip, but passed away suddenly a few months ago. Although I never met Debbi, so many people I know knew her well and loved her and talk about her often, and it does feel like her spirit is here with us on this trip. She is talked about with love both by members of our team who traveled here with us, and by our Haitian friends. Her light is still shining both in Houston and in Haiti, even while her family and friends continue to mourn. She had already paid her deposit, and her family generously told the church to put it toward someone coming on the trip, so that money paid my way. I in particular am grateful for Debbi’s legacy as I sit typing in the room a few doors down where she stayed last year.

After the service I was feeling a little tired and hot and unwell as we drove to have lunch at Pastor Walter’s house. As we drove, the dust and noise and traffic and trash on the city streets as we drove felt really overwhelming to me. There was just no break, no rest, and everywhere seemed crowded and chaotic and lacking, if I can confess my mental filter. I struggled to find the beauty I knew was there, trying to see as Jesus sees, but honestly, on that drive and for much of the afternoon, it was hard.

We arrived at Walter’s home, and were offered a truly lovely meal. From what we have seen as far as food in Haiti, it probably was the equivalent of a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal with several courses served for us, and I’m really grateful for the sacrifice I know that meal required from his family. There was not room for our hosts at the table in their dining room, so they served us and ate on the bench against the wall despite our protests. We could tell they wanted to serve us and honor us, and it was humbling and beautiful. I fell in love with Walter’s family, as I had been warned I would by staff members back home, and I loved eating lunch with them in their home.

As we drove back to the hotel, again I struggled. I felt heavy, and it was too much. I wanted to look away from it all. I prayed and wrestled, and then decided a good sleep (and maybe a good cry) would help my heart. We returned to the hotel and I quickly fell asleep. Our leader woke me up a short time later because he was going into Port Au Prince to meet up with an artist and writer he knows who lives nearby, and he wanted me to come and meet him and potentially get a part of his story recorded. In all honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I had seen so much today, and I felt tired and emotionally weary, but after reaching out to Justin and my friend Kacey to get them to pray for me, I decided to go anyway.

We loaded up in a car and went to this home in a nicer part of Port au Prince, near the UN compound. We went in and spent some time with the artist and his wife, an older couple who astonished me. I was unfamiliar with his work when we went to his home, but soon got swept up in the conversation and the images around me. His home was full of his paintings (and he had painted on almost every blank wall in the home), and he gave our leader one of his books as a gift. Although when we arrived he wasn’t feeling well, he welcomed us into his home as friends, and even called our leader his son, and I was really touched by his hospitality. I know a weakness of mine is that I can be more task oriented than people oriented, and COF missions is a very people and relationship-oriented endeavor, which always stretches me. But moments like this and connections like these are why that concept is important. We didn’t even attempt to pull out equipment and record him because being present with them was more important. His wife offered us cake and juice and we ate together and talked together before he showed me the art on the top floor of his home and his studio below.

His art, and his writing, is centered on chaos and finding beauty in chaos (and in much of his art the beauty is noticeably absent). Haiti is central to his work because Haiti is a very chaotic place and the struggle to find beauty here is constant and relentless. When I saw his art, heard him speak of the difficulty our planet is facing, and even just the act of sitting with an aging man struggling with what to do with the last years of his life as parts of his body fail, I felt less alone with the confusion I had felt all day. I realized that my struggle to understand and comprehend is a universal struggle that people have wrestled with since the beginning of time. In fact, it is a struggle reflected by artists, writers, thinkers, musicians, humanitarians and leaders for centuries. These same themes are even in the Bible. These opposing ideas of beauty and chaos, a loving God and suffering, the staggering reality of human starvation in a world where there is also ignorant excess, the simplicity of grace in a world overwhelmed with complex addictions and sin – it is all a struggle. The same things I see in Haiti on the street that are a shock to my system are less shocking when they are hidden in suburban Cypress or Keller or Grapevine, but they still exist. And my mind can’t reconcile it.

We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home – Jamie Tworkowski

Tara told me that Haiti will be difficult to understand, and it is. We as humans don’t like complex things, we like to caricature and simplify. But reality is complex. The same city can have dirty streets with beautifully-dressed people walking down that street toward church where they will worship Jesus and show love to one another. A filthy child can sit on a pile of what looks like garbage in the heat and still be absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. The road to a home where we are offered an extravagant and loving meal can be littered with children who appear hungry and animals begging and scavenging for food. A woman who loves the Lord and serves him can suddenly be taken home without warning or explanation. We have the hope of heaven, but for now we walk this world that can be confusing and scary with very real and acute suffering. In the chaos, God is good. I don’t understand it, I can’t reconcile it, it gives me a headache from tears, but I still choose to believe it. Life is lived and love is given to each other in the messy chaotic beautiful middle, and God is there with us in that place. I’m grateful today that God is with me and everyone I have seen, and because of Him there is hope.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18. 

Haiti Day 3

This week I am with Community of Faith in Haiti filming videos to update our church on our ministries in Haiti. We moved locations, and the internet is better, so I’ll try to add some photos to this tomorrow after sleep. 

Yesterday I had shot interviews with three different people, a little girl named Sabine and a father and daughter who both attend our school together (the father decided as an adult to return to school and humbly comes to class with children less than half his age and his daughter in the room next to him because all he wants to do is learn so he can help his family).

This morning, I woke up and in the first waking moment before my brain really even registers rational thought, I realized I hadn’t gotten enough of the little girl, Sabine’s, story. In rapid succession, 4 more questions I wanted to ask her popped into my head. I have learned in my life to never ignore those early morning ideas. More often than not, these moments are the Lord speaking to my heart.

Now you have to know, some of these children walk more than 2 hours to get to school. They had come in the day before, on a national holiday and what should have been their day off, to greet us. It was now Saturday, and of course school was not in session. There are 200 students in the school and out of that we had picked this one precious girl to focus on, and now I had lost my chance to film her entire story. I felt terrible, incompetent, guilty, and wasteful. I sat there in my bed, and I had myself a little pity/shame party. But then I thought about what we had been seeing and hearing from the Pastors in Haiti, and what I have learned since the day I first stepped foot into Community of Faith. I have had a Master’s course in the past 11 months of the real, tangible power of prayer, and now was my chance to put it into action.

I got my phone out and made a note of the 4 questions I knew I needed to ask, so I wouldn’t forget them, and then said a little prayer I would repeat through much of the morning. I asked the Lord to somehow deliver Sabine to me so I would have a chance to talk to her again. I knew we were going to see the land that Raymond, one of our Pastors, has purchased as the future location for the new school, we were going to work together with the teachers and administrators to clear a small plot of land for a tilapia pond, and we were going to meet Raymond’s family who live in the same valley. We would be in the area immediately surrounding the school, and I asked the Lord to give me another chance to talk to her.

To help the Lord out with the miracle (ha-ha), I tried to ask two of the teachers in the car on the way up to La Source if they knew where Sabine lived. Neither of them understood me, so I knew I needed to just pray. We arrive in La Source, unload from the car near the land they have purchased for the school, and as always, some neighborhood kids peek around bushes to greet the car full of strangers. I step out of the car and look behind me and someone smiles at me. I smile back, turn away, and then jump back around. SABINE! I run up to her, hug her, and excitedly in English tell this poor Haitian girl that I have been praying she would appear! One of our translators, Silvia, laughingly intervened and explained why I was so excited and asked her if she had a few minutes to speak to us again. She shyly agreed, as her siblings giggled around her. I got permission from our leader to stay behind and travel with Sabine to her home to meet her family and film the rest of her story, and we would meet up with the group later.

Silvie and I walked the short distance to Sabine’s home, gear in hand. Sabine is blessed to live so close to her school, as it is only a short 10-minute walk. Many students in this area travel hours to get to school. We hiked a small portion of the mountain behind the school today, and gasped for air when we were about a third of the way up it, and they told us that several students live on the other side of the mountain, and that it takes them more than 2 hours to get to school and get home each day. In urban areas, schools are often inaccessible for families because of cost. In rural areas like La Source, not only cost but simple access is a barrier to education. Even many of our professors travel an hour to come teach each morning on the back of motorbike taxis down dusty bumpy roads, but they come out to this rural area because they believe in the power of education and Christ to give children hope.

On the way to Sabine’s home I asked Silvie (my friend fluent in French who inspires me to learn another language) to tell Sabine that we don’t want to intrude on their lives, so she could go ahead and ask her parents for permission before we arrived and only if they invited us in would we come in. She smiled and told us it was not a problem, and we found out later that her parents are both farmers, and the 8 children in their family take care of each other during the days while their parents work. There is much more to Sabine’s story that I will soon share with the church via video, but for me, personally, to walk into her home was a really powerful moment.

The homes in this area are all on similar lots – and the lot size is similar to mine at home (I think I heard them say 100 x 200 but I have no idea what measurement that is – so I’ll let you imagine). They all have fences around them made of cactus to protect their gardens (the fences are beautiful). When we walked into Sabine’s yard I was amazed by how clean it was. The ground was swept dirt and was perfectly flat and even. It felt like walking across my carpet after I had vacuumed. I could tell her family had spent time getting it free of rocks or debris. Her little brothers and sisters ran around, smiling at us, and hiding behind older siblings. There was the main house, which was beautiful with cement front, a porch, decorative windows, and lace curtains in the doorways. There was another small house to the left where three girls were washing clothes in bowls on the porch, and on the back of the dirt lot there was a large building with no walls but just a roof. I asked one of Sabine’s sisters what it was, and she told me, but I have no idea what it means and can’t remember the word, so you can guess about that as well. The entire place was beautiful and we felt immediately at ease.

We filmed Sabine’s story, took some pictures of her siblings because they wanted in on the fun, and I got to again take a posed picture, and show it to precious kids as they giggled. Some of the sisters ran in front of a beautiful tree by the main porch and posed, and I went over to take their picture. After the picture in the bright sunlight, when I bent down to show them, I could feel little hands on my waist as they leaned in closely to see the dark screen in the bright sunlight. I loved it. It made me long to bring my girls here so they could play in this place with these children. We left, hugging children and saying our goodbyes, but we happily discovered that most of the children in her family were following us to meet up with our group. They showed us shortcut paths that weave between homes and gardens and we felt like a part of their community off the main roads walking through areas where normally only Haitians walk. We spent the rest of the morning with them, working and laughing together with the teachers as we cleaned out the pit for the tilapia pond, squealing when one of the teachers discovered a tiny snake, taking pictures together in various poses, and hiking up and back down the mountain (on the way back down one little girl in green ran fast and light, barefoot but somehow graceful on this dirt and rock trail, reminding me of Tinkerbell). It was a beautiful day with Sabine and her family. They welcomed us not only into their home, but into their family and neighborhood for the day, and I loved every moment of it.

Today 2 of the 200 students at the COF school came out to help us dig the pond and spend time with us, and one of those was Sabine. Our God is a genius at the 1% odds and always, always, always answers our prayers.

The Prayers of Many

I have a friend who is in the middle of a very difficult adoption trial. I want to protect her privacy, so I’ll call her M. She is a kind, wise, godly person who loves children, a school teacher, who adopted a little girl last summer (I’ll call E) out of the foster system. Months after bringing E into her home, M found out that CPS had made serious errors in the removal of E from her previous home. Although there was definite evidence of abuse and neglect, these errors have put the adoption of E into indefinite hold just days before the adoption was to be finalized.

E has been bounced around from home to home most of her young life. She has been neglected, forgotten, and abused. Last year she finally got a mommy who had prayed for her long before she knew her. She was safe and loved. She has made strides this year to trust M and to start to let down the walls that she built around herself in her early life. They have walked through some serious trials together and truthfully they are still walking through difficulty. The wounds in E are deep. She’s afraid, and justifiably so, that M isn’t permanent. The therapist working with E has encouraged M that once E’s adoption is finalized, she can really begin to trust and heal.

So not only does this indefinite hold effect M and E because it seems to have the potential to split them up, it is actually delaying E’s healing and making M’s home feel like just another “holding tank” that E has been placed into, not the home of permanent stability and safety she so desperately needs.

It is a terribly difficult situation. M lives in a rural community, works all day with her students, comes home and focuses intently on E and her healing, and then after E goes to bed grades papers until she finally falls asleep exhausted. She does not have much community around her, outside of her family, who “get” what she is doing. She is not on Facebook, attached to the amazing community of adoptive parents that I have been able to meet, and she isn’t in a church that has other adoptive parents.

So the purpose of this blog is to change that. It occurred to me today that I know an army of people who fight for kids like E and moms like M everyday. So I am going to send this blog to every adoptive mom and adoption advocate I can think of and to members of the church who have stood with us in trials. I want people to come in droves willing to pray for M and E, willing to write them letters of scripture and encouragement, willing to stand with them in intercession before God that He would fight for them, give M peace, and heal this sweet little girl. So if you want to join me in this army of prayer support and encouragement for my friend, would you leave a comment, or send me an email at jenniferlwells@me.com? I will send you updates on the situation, and a way to send encouraging “snail mail” and email to M and E if you feel led to send them encouragement and prayers.

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

I believe that together we will rejoice (and I pray it is soon) when the Lord has worked a miracle not only in the case, but in M and E’s home, in the love, trust, and permanency of a family. And until then, Jesus please be near my sweet friend.

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me

So I have a new person I want to be when I grow up – Dr. Karyn Purvis. She’s a precious, lovely, brilliant child-development guru who wrote The Connected Child and spoke at the Empowered to Connect Conference this weekend that Justin and I attended. She has spent the last 15 years of her life helping adoptive parents and adopted children heal and connect and I just fell in love with her heart for children from hard places.

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a poser when it comes to the adoption thing. I love it, know we are called to it, but also know that our time has not yet come. So we go to these conferences and we’re surrounded by people in the trenches who are giving their lives, time, money, energy, and hearts to adopted and foster kids in the room, and there we sit with our two bio kids and a dream. And sometimes I feel a little foolish, frankly. But I also know that there is purpose in waiting, and that our vision for adoption has shifted even in these 3 years we have waited. I know that I am a better mom now than I was even a year ago (partially because of the amazing parenting strategies taught at conferences like the one I attended today). I know that the Lord is realigning my priorities even this week to focus on my family and He continues to shave the rough edges off the crazy woman that is Jen Wells. I know that this past few years, while we’ve waited, I’ve identified pretty unrealistic expectations in my heart of how this will all turn out, and I’ve watched those expectations die. I’ve learned to trust my Father more this past 3 years. I’ve become more of a person my kids can trust. So I can see that this wait has definitely served a purpose.

But still we wait. And we pray. And we read books and blogs. And we attend conferences. And we try desperately to be a light for our friends who have adopted, and be a safe person they can vent to and turn to when they need to take off their capes and be human and frustrated for a second.

He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30

Now that verse sounds holy, right? But in recent weeks the life of John the Baptist, who made that beautiful statement of faith, has come up time and time again in my personal studies. This guy had spent his life predicting and proclaiming the coming Messiah. And He comes! John gets to baptize Him and hears the voice of God proclaiming that this is His Son. All of this is a huge mountaintop event – John is rare in humankind in that even while he is touching the shoulders of the flesh-bearing manifestation of the Son, He is seeing the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and hearing the voice of God the Father. So in essence – He experienced, with human senses, the Trinity. And that’s pretty amazing.

But then he’s sent to prison. While in prison, He sends Jesus a question – “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Basically John is suffering, and he wants to make sure he’s got it right. And Jesus sends a message back confirming miracles that have been prophesied about the Messiah – but He leaves one really important part of the prophesy out. He leaves out the part where the Messiah sets the prisoner free. And at the end of His message, He sends a note to John, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I’m not an expert on the Bible – but basically if I’m reading this right, Jesus’ message to John says something like this: “I am the Messiah. But I’m not going to free you from prison, my plans for you are different from what you expect. But you’ll be blessed if you still love and trust Me even unto death.”

That is some crazy deep stuff. I’ll be honest, that is hard stuff for me to wrap my mind around. But in so many ways – this idea of living unoffended is the message of people I admire and respect, was the message of this conference, and is the message I think the Lord has been trying to teach me during the last 3 years of my discomfort (it’s hard to call what we’ve experienced a trial after being in the room I was in today with people who have experienced real trials and who are parenting kids who have come from unimaginable trauma). We can choose to not be offended by Jesus in those places of pain and suffering, and because of that choice, we will be blessed. It isn’t natural and it isn’t easy to experience suffering and remain unoffended. It kind of makes you an oddball in this comfort-driven world, actually. But by God’s grace, we can choose to live that way. We can find joy, peace, and grace in the absolute middle of impossibly hard places and we can choose to love Jesus with every pitiful ounce of strength we have left in the midst of trial and pain – and when we do, we are blessed.

Today I sat in a room full of people who have counted the cost, and who have joined widows and orphans in their distress. They get this concept. They live unoffended while they live out James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” That verse took on new meaning to me this weekend. I think in my mind I saw adoption as rescuing orphans from a world of chaos and bringing them into our world of safety and love. But today I was taught that James 1:27 says we’ll visit them in their distress – so more often it is us entering into their pain, their suffering, and their trauma so that we can walk with them to safety and healing. It’s messy and beautiful and holy.

I don’t really know how to wrap this blog up, as I so often like to do. I just know that I want to love and encourage people who are doing their best to be faithful, even in suffering. Jesus said it, and I believe it – “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” God please help us to live unoffended.

Kisses from Katie

Oh my friends – I just finished a book that absolutely shook me up (in the best way possible). Kisses from Katie – the story of a girl who followed the Lord to Uganda at 19 years-old. I had heard about this book, and this girl, for a while. So I came to the story with expectations and assumptions.

And they were blown out of the water.

Katie’s perspective on life and ministry is unbelievable and yet absolutely right in every way. She takes the Bible and Jesus seriously and she is changing lives as she follows Him and says “Yes”. I actually cried reading it (and that’s unexpected for me), I highlighted more than half of it, and followed Justin around reading parts. It’s the kind of book you have to put down and process because it so changes the way you think and relate, and it makes you want to do something meaningful with your life.  She says over and over (and I believe her) that she is an ordinary girl saying yes to an extraordinary God, and He is working extraordinary miracles all around her. It’s not just about justice or mission, although it certain is one of the best books on justice I’ve ever read. It’s about faith and life and possessions and purpose and motherhood and pain and how God intends us to live our days on this earth.

Please get this book.

I struggle to know a passage to share, because truly, so many were absolutely precious and profound, but here’s an example of why this book will forever be one of my favorites:

“I learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred school children and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year-old. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for. 

Many days, I am still overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need and the incredible number of people who need help. Many days I see the destitute, disease-ridden children lining the streets in the communities I serve and I want to scoop up every single one of them, take them home with me, and feed and clothe and love them. And I look at the life of my Savior, who stopped for one. 

So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can only do what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” 

And another passage I loved here:

“I do not know my five-year plan, even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. Some call it courage; some call it foolish; I call it faith. I choose to get out of the boat. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

Lord may we choose you every moment of every day. We want to be fully committed to You. We want every day to become a day we say “yes” to You. We repent for lukewarmness, from mediocrity, from normalcy. We want to shine so brightly for You that others can’t help but see and feel Your love. Let us look at every encounter as an opportunity to show Your love. Lord, on the days where helping just one more person seems like too much, help me to choose You. on the days when Satan whispers, “You can’t save everyone, why are you trying?” let me choose You. On the days when it would be too easy to pop in a movie for my children instead of reading Scripture with them, let me choose You. When harsh words are easier to find than kind ones, let me choose You. Father, like Paul, I know what I want to do, what I should do, and yet I find myself failing and discouraged. Thank You for Your grace. Thank You that You who sit so high would look low upon people like me and use us as a vessel for You. How blessed we are to even be called servants, to be able to share in Your kingdom and share Your love with others. Thank You for the cross, where You have given us peace and holiness. Father, we long to say Yes to You.”

Here’s the video trailer of the book: 

Brace yourself friends… this one is beyond challenging. I pray we will be changed.

Bloodlines & Adoption

This video speaks to my heart and I adore it. In it, John Piper tells the story of his life growing up in the south and his adoption of his daughter, Talitha. Please watch it – it will touch your heart.

I was, because of God’s grace, raised in a home with a mom who got the importance and beauty of diversity, and taught it, and lived it. I pray my heart for people honors her as I try to live this out. And I am grateful I get to fight for the same cause in my life. I ask Him to allow us to be loving parents of children from all races and nations. Because it’s important and it’s right and it’s beautiful and it’s God honoring.

Here’s my favorite quote:

“God did a remarkable work in us. He taught me this. He said, “Look. If you act consistently with your convictions about interracial marriage and the nobility and beauty of diversity, this choice will commit you to this issue until you are dead. And that swung it for me. Love for my wife, love for this little girl, and love for this cause. The cause of Christ-exalting racial harmony and racial diversity, because if I lock in to my family, the issue, this beautiful little woman created in the image of God and say “You are mine” then I won’t ever be able to run away from this, and I wanted to draw that line in the sand…

When I look at her I’m going to see a human being created in the very image of God, and then secondly, down the line, I’m going to see a particular kind of skin or hair. That’s huge. The Bible brings the image of God to bear on this issue and it is massively important. The second way the Bible brings it to bear is it talks about there being one Father of us all.  All the nations came from one Father according to Acts 17, which means we’re all related. You can’t look with disgust or dismay or dishonoring on another human being as if they’re not in the same family. They’re in your family. You try to demean them, you demean your family.

It is fundamentally a cross issue, a blood issue, a gospel issue that is at play here and what is so amazing is how the Gospel, by faith alone, having our sins forgiven, triumphs over these sins that militate against racial harmony and racial diversity.”

Love it.