Wednesday, September 29, 2010

10 Things: Gratitude

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12

I wish this were true for me. I am struggling today and not feeling very content. So this is an exercise in gratitude.
10 things
I am grateful for:

1. A simple breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit and walnuts.

2. A brisk walk in the woods.

3. Grandbaby love.

4. Clean, warm water to shower in.

5. Chamomile tea with honey.

6. Children who love and support me, no matter what.

7. A couple of good friends whom I can share even the ugly stuff with.

8. Opportunities to be creative.

9. Prayer.

10. God's unconditional love.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is There Any Hope for Haiti?

Many believe there is not, that they are a lost cause, that the country as a whole is in the predicament it is in because of the practice of voudoo and that God has forsaken them.

But I saw the hope and felt the presence of God there. In the eyes and smiles of the children, in the day-to-day drudgery of people seeking out their basic needs, in the worship songs of a church service, in their prayers, and in the discussions with others who have commited themselves to working there.

A friend from Global Orphan Project forwarded a link to this article. Read it and then tell me, do you believe there is hope for Haiti? And what is your responsibility now that you know of their needs?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thoughts of Haiti

We had a Haiti team meeting last week, the five from our church and two from another church we partnered with on our trip. It was great to get the seven of us back together to share stories and laughter. But we also got to the business of voicing questions and searching for answers in one another's thoughts and impressions. Haiti is so complex. We've all talked about the many, many layers of issues and the too few resources and lack of leadership needed to resolve any of them. Who are we, this small band of God-seekers, that we think we could possibly have any impact on a country that has been living in abject poverty for so very long?

What I heard in this meeting is that we all feel our hearts have been pierced with a vision of hope for Haiti. Our hearts have been broken over the beautiful faces of children and mamas and pastors. We have been encouraged by others we have met along the way who share the same vision. Our hearts are open to God's Spirit and we are willing to go where he leads us, wherever that may be and in whatever capacity He may call us. Our hearts are full, we have fallen in love and we won't be discouraged. We are committed and we know it will take many other hearts and many other hands and feet to go and stand behind us and pray to make this happen.

We watched the
video during our worship service in church today. I've watched that video a dozen times and I still sob every time. I want to go back. I need to go back. I'm ready. After church, we had lunch with Wes, an amazing young man who has partnered up with Global Orphan and has made the committment to live in Haiti. He shared about some of the difficulties he's encountered in living there a few weeks now. Listening to him only made me want to be there all the more.

Please pray that God will prepare a way, that He will go ahead of us and lead us. Pray that we would keep our hearts broken and yielded to Him. Pray that others will hear not just the words we share but that they will hear our hearts and God's voice and that they too will catch the vision.

Peace to you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Mercies

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, September 13, 2010

Follow Me

“Walking in the deep woods wasn’t what I thought it would be. But I learned something about myself. I went with a map. I went with plan. I had a focused destination and I walked fast and determined. When I got to where I was going, I was disappointed. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. But there was a clearing and a bench, a place to sit and rest and reflect. As I sat there pulling spider webs off my arms and plucking sticker burs off my socks, I realized this is how I have lived most of my life. Planning, charting my course, going my own way. The result is rarely satisfying. Yet I continue to do it again and again.

God speaks and I listen to His quiet voice: “Follow Me.”

Yes, Lord. I need to follow your path. Follow your way. I need to seek after you and bring my needs and my desires to you and trust you. Your way is always the better way.”

One week before the trip to Haiti, I took a 24-hour personal retreat at a place called Shantivanam so I could prepare spiritually. This lesson was one I felt God wanted me to remember for the trip. It certainly rang true while we were in Haiti. It turned out that the plans we thought we had were not God’s plans and I admit it was difficult to accept that at first. But I remembered this lesson and prayed. I felt my spirit, my heart surrendering to Him and His plans. Because His way leads to Everlasting Life. His way leads to salvation. His way brings peace to those who follow.

Thank you Lord for showing me how much you love me by preparing my heart for this trip. And not only for this trip but for the rest of my days with You.

Haiti September 2010: Video

This video is was put together by Jonathan Klee. He's a great photographer and videographer. He loves the Lord and the children of Haiti. It was a blessing to accompany him on this trip.

Haiti Project - Sept. 2010 from Perception Funding on Vimeo.

Jonathan has a ministry called Perception Funding and works to help those called to do God's work raise the funds needed to carry out their mission.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Haiti Day Four: Church and Kaliko

So I'd like to invite you to church with me. We'll be in a large open air concrete building, no air conditioning, no fans, near 100 degree temperatures. You'll be sitting hip to hip on hard wooden benches with no backs and at least one or two kids hanging on you or sitting on your lap. The service will be almost entirely in Creole. Oh... and it will last 3-1/2 hours. Any takers?

That's exactly what we did Sunday morning and guess what? In spite of every thing I've just told you, it was wonderful and one of the high points of this trip. The music and singing were lively. Everyone clapped and lifted their hands and danced. And they were very prayerful. And they wore their Sunday best. And it was packed. And when we let out, there was another group waiting to get in for the second service.

I wish I had pictures, but I just didn't want to disrupt the service and the worship. These people have a heart and a love for God like nothing I've ever seen. They may be the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, but they are rich in spirit and I admire them for that.

After church, we left Gonaives and started the long drive back to Port au Prince. We had early morning flights to catch. We drove for nearly 4 hours and stopped at a place called Kaliko Beach Club.

It was beautiful and on the Caribbean Sea. It was hard to believe we were in the same country of poverty and destruction and garbage everywhere. We walked in the sand, some went swimming, dinner was a wonderful buffet. We had our final bead ceremony on the beach. I caught myself almost feeling guilty. But I think this stay was intentional, to teach us something. Haiti was once called the Pearl of the Caribbean. It was a beautiful, lush, tropical paradise. And there are a few places where you can really get a sense of how beautiful it could be there again with the proper care. Haiti is a country full of contrasts.

Haiti has been used and used by others until it is now seemingly all used up. It's time to give back. Time to take care of the people there. Time to take care of the children there and raise up a new generation who will love God and will love their country and the people there and who will fight to rebuild and make it what it once was.

I have been blessed to be a part of this team that went. It was hard. Probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. But in my weakness, God can do great things. And He did. He did a great work in my heart and I know I will never be the same. I thought I was going to Haiti to work and give, but I truly received so much more. We went to love the children, but the love they gave us was immeasurable. Haiti, in spite of the poverty and destruction and trash, is a beautiful, soulful place.

God is there.

I'm certain of it.

I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Haiti Day Three: Lutheran Church, MaPou and Fayeton

So after spending the morning at Bienac, we headed off to another area of Gonaives. We visted a parcel of land that is owned by the Lutheran Church in Gonaives and who is working with Global Orphan to establish another orphanage in the area. This is a large lot with plenty of room for the planned clinic, houses for boys and girls, church and school and possibly a trade school. That seems to be the model for Global Orphan and I think it's a good one. If there are going to be lasting changes made in Haiti, it needs to start with the children, giving them a healthy life, giving them a good education and teaching them a trade in order to support themselves and provide for their families. Teach them about God and have a church that will reach out to the community and draw others in.

This building, we were told, will be the site of the clinic. here. We seemed to attract the attention of some of the neighborhood children while we were there.

Next, we went to MaPou (pronounced ma-poo). This is a village north of Gonaives. Driving through the village, you could see that it was more rural, actually a very nice area. The orphanage there has several buildings, including this very spacious church/school building.

Some of us stayed inside and colored with the children.

Others were outside playing a little soccer with the older kids.

Some of us got rather attached to one or two of the children. Actually most of us did at at least one of the orphanages were visited. It was hard not to let your heart get captured by one of these precious ones.

Doug fell in love with this tiny girl. Her name was Daska.

It seemed everywhere we went on this trip, we encountered others from the States who were there to help. It was just remarkable how God orchestrated that! The wonderful thing about that is we all were able to share our ministries with one another and encourage one another and commit to pray for one another. Doug happened to run into a fellow who is from the same church as his son in Indiana.

Our next stop was Fayeton which I think is another village just outside of Gonaives, though I can't find it on any map so it could be just the name of the orphanage. It also was very spacious and included large buildings for housing, church and school. I'll just let you look these a few photos of the children there.

This spunky little girl will be a model... she wanted to pose for shot after shot!

Joseph Volcy, the kids love him!

We did a lot of this. Love this shot.

A new friend, Schaun Colin. He taught me what it means to be real and brave.

Marsha Campbell, our leader from Global Orphan. I learned from her as well... a heart full of love, patience, keeping a positive attitude even when things don't go as planned. Love her.

One of the mamas coloring with the kids. Some of them are still such little girls at heart .

Frank with his lap full of children. Frank has taught me what it means to have a servant's heart.

And Dr. Jerry was especially attached to this little guy.

I'll leave you with this final shot. If this doesn't break your heart for these children...

Tomorrow is Sunday... we'll be going to one of the local churches, then traveling back to Port au Prince.

Haiti Day Three: Return to Bienac

Yesterday I shared with you how let down we felt after our visit to the Bienac orphanage. In retrospect, it is by far the orphanage that needs the most work. And it is close to the heart of a couple of our team members. And... it is the place we thought we were going to be spending most of our time. But our plans are not God's plans and that turned out to be a good thing. Still, we were able to go back first thing Friday morning to spend a couple of hours.

We cleaned up the play area and we were able to remove a lot of the scrap building supplies and garbage, picking up things like broken glass and tin can lids. We cleared out some of the big rocks. The kids all helped and so did a couple of the mamas. They seemed glad to do it. Some of the guys who came with us were able to cut some rebar that was still sticking out in a few places making things safer for the kids as well.

After cleaning up we had more play time with the kids. The young man in the photo above is Wes Comfort. I fell in love with this kid as did many others on the team. He just graduated from Baker University and was recently hired by Global Orphan to work in Haiti. When I think of the things most young people his age are doing in their early 20s, he is making a huge sacrifice and is excited to do it.

It is a dangerous thing to wear sunglasses when you are visiting the children. They are fascinated by them and all of them want their turn to wear your glasses.

Then of course they want their pictures taken with the glasses on and its easy to lose track of who has your sunglasses! I did eventually lose mine but they were only cheap $5 glasses so it was only a small sacrifice.

This is the outdoor kitchen.

And these are the young women, the mamas, who cook there.

And this sweet lady is Antoinette Chantille. She stole my heart. She was so child-like and loved playing with the children. She smiled, a lot, at me. And hugged me.

And when she asked me for my earrings, I didn't hesitate to give them to her. Such a small gift made her so, so happy. I'll remember that on my next trip, to bring small gifts for the mamas. They work very hard to provide for these kids.

After spending a couple of hours cleaning and playing with the children, we were able to leave and there were no tears this time. It felt good to give a small something to the kids, cleaning up their play area and making is safer. Playing with them, running and laughing. In that respect, they are just like children anywhere. They love to laugh and play.

Three more places to visit this day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Haiti Day Two: Bienac Orphanage

After a little time to rest and refresh ourselves, we headed for the Bienac orphanage in Gonaives.

This is what we saw when we walked up: a very old primitive, open air structure filled with dozens of children! They were so excited to see us visit and we were excited to spend some time with them. Bienac is not a Global Orphan orphanage. Kyle, the man in the bottom right corner that I barely got in the photo above, has had a several year relationship with the pastor of this church, Pastor Daniel Joffry. He has been supporting this particular orphanage on his own and with the help of a couple of friends and he was excited to visit again.

First we played some games in the play yard. The yard was rocky and filled with garbage, trash and building materials. Very dangerous for the kids with sharp corrugated tin, rebar, broken glass, tin can lids. And the smell was so bad I caught myself holding my breath at times. It broke my heart to see these beautiful children playing in all of that.

We had a Bible teaching time led by Pat. Pat's greatest joy is evangelism and teaching missions and she was very good with the kids.

Next we had some coloring time with crayons and coloring pages we brought for the kids. They were so eager and appreciative of this simple activity. Many, many children all scrunched together on these benches, some spilling out into the hallway in the first picture, coloring against the walls, coloring on some of our team member's laps, anywhere they could find a surface.

Here is Paige in one of the other rooms watching the kids as they color.

This room serves as a "school room" but school really consists of hit and miss sessions taught by some of the mamas that care for the kids.

I loved this little guy's green bandanna so had to get a special shot of him!

You can see a couple of the mamas watching the kids color. I became particularly attached to one of them, I'll tell you more about that later. They all seemed to really care for the children and enjoyed watching them play.

This is Pastor Daniel. He has a church across the street from the orphanage and cares deeply for the people in his community. He knows the needs of his flock are great and resources scarce so he expressed great gratitude for our visit and the clothing, shoes and school supplies we were able to leave for the children.

Each of our part of the team, 7 of us, packed two 50 pound suitcases or duffel bags full of things for the kids. It's risky to ship supplies to Haiti. The government often confiscates relief shipments and holds them until an exuberant tax is paid. Many of these shipments never reach the people. So being able to bring things with us was very gratifying.

We only were able to stay here for about an hour as we had other places to visit. Most of us were extremely disappointed and heartbroken to leave. We wanted to do so much more for these kids. This was probably the most difficult day for us and we had a lot of questions and doubts in our purpose here after leaving this place. I can't speak for everyone, but I had to really spend some time in prayer on our way back to the hotel for the evening. It was so hard to let go of my own plans, my own expectations, my own need to accomplish something significant on this trip, and be open to accepting God's plan for me. But He is faithful and answered my prayers and I soon saw that His plans were better than my own. They always are. I'll share more about that later.

My shower that evening felt especially good. It had been so hot and the dust and dirt clung to my clothes and skin and hair from sweating all day. Unfortunately I had a visitor in my shower that night:

He was probably 2 inches long. I think I killed him when I kicked him off my foot! Or maybe I stepped on him - ewww!

Off to bed for a very good night's sleep after such a long, hot, tiring day. Tomorrow we will visit several more places and see many, many more children.