Gift 4: My Last Days. {Part 2}

Day 4: Missionary Friends Send-off

Sandy and Jim, the missionaries who run a local clinic in Gressier and whose compound I lived on for the past few years, set up a breakfast with the missionary community the next morning. There weren’t many people left in country, but the ones who were there came. We had donuts and breakfast food, sat around and fellowshipped, and then the Coleman’s got up and shared lots of words that made me cry…as usual. Thank goodness she gave me a copy of what she shared because I was crying too much to remember half of it! They have consistently spoken words that have breathed life into my weary soul for many years and it was only fitting they did it then as well. After that, we all prayed, fellowshipped a little more, and then took a final group picture. Looking at that photo now, I can’t help but see how much has changed over the years and I am thankful for the way that God weaved our story together. 

Apredye showed up a bit later and got my phone to go take pictures of Simone’s house. He wanted to show me the completed project before I left and worked tirelessly to make it happen. She now had smoothed walls inside and out, doors, and other holes patched. She had a little more security and my heart was full. Seeing her house finished was another full circle moment and I left with a feeling of completion there. 

The rest of that day was spent cleaning, packing, getting rid of more things, playing Catan and Rummikub with Aleece and Jen for old times sake, and thinking about how hard the next day was going to be. Hard days had passed, but harder days were still ahead. 

Day 5: The Last Full Day.

I woke up that morning bright and early to head out on a final hike up the mountains behind HHM with Jen and Aleece. We kept it light but there was still a sadness in the air because we knew that this would be the last hike for a good bit. When we got to the turn-around spot up top, I had to push back tears. Jen made a quick video and then we headed back down the mountain because Aleece had to get ready for work and I had people coming by the house to pick up final things.

When we got back, Jen left and said she’d come back in a bit to pick up my TV. Other people then came by moto to pick up other things and before long, Jen was back. I knew it would the last time I saw her for a while and from earlier posts, I shared how she had become one of my best friends there. She shared a few words with me that of course made me cry and we mutually agreed that God was so gracious to us because our friendship was needed for us both. I will always be thankful for her friendship, wisdom, and the many conversations we had about all the things. She was a like-minded thinker, challenger, encourager, and verbal processor so our friendship had a depth that was good for my soul.

Shortly after Jen, Stanley came by my house because I wanted to tell him bye face to face. I hadn’t seen him in a while because of being shut down for COVID so it was good to see his face. When he got there, we hung out on my front porch and I filled him in on all the things. I shared with him how thankful I was to have worked with him and I thanked him for being such an incredible man of faith and integrity. We shared memories and I encouraged him to continue working as he has for Kris and KONBIT. I told him that I see Jesus through him so clearly and to continue striving after the Lord as he has been. I thanked him for all our conversations, things he has taught me, and how he already has a father’s heart despite not having children yet. I told him I would continue praying for him and his future children that he longs for and we talked about adoption and how it reflects the gospel. He thanked me for teaching him things as well and how I was a good example to him. Stanley is a true gem in Haiti. He is seriously one of the most honest, genuine, loving people I know. As I watched him walk away from my house that morning, I thanked God for Stanley and prayed that the Lord would grant his heart’s desire.

During all of this, Apredye was in and out running errands for me. He took something to Neply for me and then he went to pick up peanuts that Aloude’s daughter, Carline, wanted to send back with me. She also hand-stitched other masks for Rachael and I and I will cherish them all my days. She had also written a note and included a picture of her so I wouldn’t forget her. When Apredye had run the last of the errands for me, I dreaded walking out my front door. But I had to. So he rolled up and I came out to my porch and said, “Bon, mw pa gen anyen ako. Nou fini”(Well, I don’t have anything more. We’re finished.” As soon as I said “fini,” you guessed it, the tears started flowing. He was trying to be strong and he was. He stood there for a second and was fidgeting with the bucket he was holding that he needed to take back to the Coleman’s. He wouldn’t look me in the eye and he was uncomfortably smiling the whole time. I choked out a few more words and encouraged him to continue working with the same diligence he had with me, for the Coleman’s. I told him to hold tight to his work with the Coleman’s and to grow his business in a way that he doesn’t have to depend on KONBIT for his life. I told him to hold tighter to Jesus and to find a girl who loves the Lord and follows Him. I thanked him for being my best friend and for all the ways he had helped me over the years. I thanked him for being faithful and somebody that I depended on. He was solid and he was steady. He didn’t say much and then it was time for him to leave. As he mounted his moto and drove away, I had a pit in my stomach and the finality of things continued to set in. From then, I had only a few hours left before Kris came to pick me up so I could stay the night at their house for our early departure the next morning. 

Around 3pm that day, Sandy left the clinic for a few minutes and came to my house. She told me to come outside to hug her and that there was no need to make our goodbye emotional. Sandy took good care of me the past couple years that I lived on their compound and she was a blessing to me. From the nights I spent watching Murdock Mysteries at her house with her and Dr. Jim, to the conversations we had from my front porch as she picked mulberries off the tree, to the foods that she would make and invite me over to eat or leave on my front porch, she was someone I was thankful to have close by. A few moments later, Dr. Jim (her husband) stepped away from patients to come say bye as well. He hugged me, shared how they enjoyed having me around, and said they’d miss me. The feeling was likewise and is still true to this day. Living at Haiti Health Ministries (HHM) was my favorite place to have lived—I had my own pepto pink tiny house to live in with Cherie surrounded by the best community. They made me shed a few tears but they didn’t stay long because they had a clinic they had to keep running. I was so thankful they took the time to stop by on that last day.

About an hour later, Aleece (who works at the clinic too) got off work and came over to help me pack up a few final things. I was sending her away with some of my things too and Kris had agreed to drop her and all the stuff off at her house. When Kris got there, we loaded things up and set off for her house. It was a quick trip over there and a quick goodbye. I am so thankful for our friendship over the years and how she loves her work and the Haitians she helps. We didn’t linger because dinner was ready at the Coleman’s and Jeanette was waiting and one of the last people I had to say goodbye to. With that, hugs were given and a picture was snapped, and I was on my way.

When I got to the Coleman’s, Jeanette was finishing up making one of my favorite meals—boy (I still don’t know how to officially spell that) and acra with pikliz. It was a thoughtful “last supper” because it was one of those meals I loved and usually ate when I was out with Haitian friends. When she had cleaned everything up and all that was left was her leaving, our eyes filled with tears and through them, we spoke. She shared how she’ll be praying for me, how she and her family will miss me, and how they love me. She also told me that she wasn’t going to marry her boyfriend until both Jenna and I were back in Haiti—haha! I told her that I loved her and her family and thanked her for being a friend and feeding me over the past 3+ years. I told her that I will continue to keep her, her family, and her new relationship in my prayers. I ended up calling Apredye to come get her to take her home and it was hard to tell him bye again. When he got there, they loaded up, and my final words were ones that I spoke many, many times to so many people in passing as I was zipping by on the moto. I said, “tet fret” (which translates to cool head) and they drove away. As they drove away, I thanked God for how good those two were to me. 

When they were out of sight, I turned back to head into the Coleman’s house to eat dinner. All of the Haitian goodbyes were done, except for Elimage in the morning because he was driving us in. Dinner was great and then for old time’s sake, Kris, Rachael, and I headed upstairs for one last rooftop in Haiti for a good while. We tried (pretty successfully) to rooftop at least once a week and we did this for YEARS. It was easily one of my favorite times of the week. It was on the rooftop we dreamed, processed life, tried to solve all of Haiti’s problems and our own, shared memories, talked about our current struggles, made plans, encouraged one another, and let down momentarily. It was self-care of the best kind—the Coleman’s were (and still are) family and rooftops were just solid family time that I miss the most these days. That last rooftop time seemed to fly by and we didn’t rooftop as long as normal because we had to be up before the sun to leave. I don’t remember much of the conversation during that last rooftop, but I thanked Kris for his leadership and how I grew up under him and Rach. I thanked them for always making me feel valued, appreciated, and heard. I thanked them for letting me be a part of their family. I know they said kind words and how they’ll miss me, but I think in that moment I was just overwhelmed with thankfulness for them and how I never wanted that rooftop to end. They have been “my people” for so long and I am thankful they were. I wouldn’t have wanted to serve with anyone else—their leadership led to my longevity and spurred me on to love people well. Their investment in my life meant and still means the most to me. What a gift that was. 

After the rooftop, we went down to the Coleman’s room because I wanted to share with them the video I put together for my time in Haiti. I began working on it when I returned in February and I am thankful I did. The video was a gift to myself that I will have for many years. Showing them the video was the first time I had shown it to anyone and I cried through the whole thing. When it was over, they shared more encouraging words and then prayed for me. We hugged and then we headed for bed.

That night was the perfect ending to my time in Haiti. It was full of love, my favorite things, favorite food, and my favorite people. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it was beautiful. So many things came full circle that last week and I know that it was the Lord that made it possible. Things shouldn’t have lined up how they did in the middle of a pandemic, but they did. I had closure with all my people and I could now leave in peace. There were no loose ends that were not tied up that week, praise God. 

The next morning, June 2nd, we got out of the house late because Elimage overslept. Looking back it’s funny, but in the moment it wasn’t. However, Elimage shared that as he was walking down the street, he was getting dressed because he was so late and it was still dark out. Haha! When he got there, we took off. Kris and Rachael sat in the cage in the back, the Coleman kids, me, and Elimage were in the cab. 

As we were driving, every once in a while, Elimage would reach over and pat my head and say, “zanmi pa’m, se pa’m” which means “my friend, my sister.” He did that at least 5 times and I knew that he was thinking about me leaving every time he did that. We had some random conversations along the way and kept it light most of the time. When we got to Port, we stopped by a favorite coffee shop (Rebo) that is near the airport and had their amazing croissants. The whole time I was there, I had a pit in my stomach and our upcoming departure felt like I was watching a freight train come towards me—and it was the train I was being forced to board whether I was ready or not. We spent enough time to down our food and then piled back in the car to head to the airport. As we were driving, I was trying to take in everything and simultaneously fight back tears.

Airport drop-offs are always stressful and always rushed. There is never time to linger because they keep traffic moving. However, because we were leaving on a repatriation flight, things were a little more lax because we were the only flight that morning. When we got there, Kris and Elimage began unloading our bags. Because the airport had been closed, our walk to the airport was a lot farther and thankfully they let Kris go with us and help carry bags in because we had a lot of them. But before we left the car and headed to the airport, Kris came over and hugged me because there wouldn’t be much time at the airport entrance. I wasn’t prepared to leave him, but thankfully I was headed out with Rachael and the kids and it softened the blow a bit. After that, Elimage came over and we hugged. It was a good, long hug that ended with an extra squeeze and my parting words to him were, “go with God.” With that, my final goodbyes were spoken to all my Haitian people. It was bittersweet.

Inside the airport, there was no more time for emotions and they were stuffed for a bit as we navigated everything. I know I mentioned that I was leaving with Rach and the kids, but I don’t think I have mentioned that I would be spending the next 10 days with them stateside—that is another gift that I will share about in another blog because that was another gift that God gave me. But once the plane arrived and we boarded, I sat in row 11 alone on a pretty empty flight. As we took off, you can image that the tears came as I watched Haiti fade away. 

Haiti forever holds so many of my favorite people, places, and memories. I flew away from a piece of my heart that I willingly left there. I flew away from the many mountains and valleys I walked both physically and spiritually. I flew away from the place that grew me up and taught me so much about life and faith. From the place that I loved and served for so long. From the place that still needs help that I cannot give in the same ways I had before. From the place that God spoke so clearly to me through. I will miss so much about Haiti—my people, my community, the love, the beauty, the purpose, the meaning, the food, the faith of the believers, the Coleman’s, the friends both national and other ex-pats, the programs I was a part of, and my life there. I left the best of days in exchange for a world of unknowns…much like when I first moved to Haiti. But I know that the Lord is faithful and I know that whatever lies ahead, He will be with me and it is yet again, just another adventure we’re on.

That week I felt valued, appreciated, seen, and heard by so many people. But not only did I feel this way through everything that happened, I also felt that way from the Lord. He knew what I needed and perfectly orchestrated that last week. He helped bring the closure I needed to move on in a healthy and more fulfilled way. 

However, I also felt one other thing—celebrated. 

I felt this at my core and all I can do is give God the glory. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise father, son, and holy ghost.

The Doxology

Gift 4: My Last Days. {Part 1}

*Because this entry is so long, I am breaking it up into two parts to make it easier for those who are following along to read.

When the weight of the reality of officially leaving Haiti hit, it hit hard but I had little time to process what it all meant. Looking back, the moment I learned that my spot was reserved on a repatriation flight back to America was the moment my heart was completely broken and the inevitable moment had arrived. The next 5 days were a blur as I had to give away and sell everything I had and visit as many people as I could in the middle of a pandemic. What transpired in those last few days were some of the hardest moments of my life and I don’t think I had ever cried so many tears and ever had so many hard conversations one right after the other. However, through that time, so many things came full circle and I had the closure I didn’t think was possible due. As weird as it may sound, those last few days were a gift. 

Day -7. It all started with Apredye.

When the decision was made to let the Embassy know, I let Apredye know as well. Before I had a date to leave, I told him I was going to be leaving so that we could both begin to process that. The morning I told him, he had stopped by to run errands for me. When he had finished, I told him that I needed to tell him something and I think he knew it wasn’t going to be good at that moment because he started to avoid eye contact. I started explaining the situation with the coronavirus, my school and needing to be back, and what repatriation flights were because the airport had been closed. The whole time I was talking, he kept looking off in the distant and had a nervous smile on his face. When I finished explaining things as best as I could through my tears and frequent breaks, he just responded with, “sa di”—which means, “that’s hard.” He never shed a tear but then said that he had a feeling that I would be leaving soon and that he understood. He said that I “oblije ale” (I must go) because of coronavirus, but that didn’t make it any easier. I then told him that I would be needing him a lot over the next few days and he said that he was available for everything. With that, he left and the processing began. 

You’ve probably heard me talk about Apredye a lot over the years if you’ve been following my work here. He has been my constant companion and telling him I was leaving was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do a fraction of everything I’ve done if it wasn’t for him.

Day 0: Elimage.

Elimage was one of the first people to welcome me to Haiti back in 2014, and he was the one who drove and dropped me off at the airport when I left in 2020. A lot has happened in the six years we were in each other’s lives and for the past couple years he hasn’t been around as much for various reasons. However, he has been one that we’ve used to drive for us often and when my flight back stateside was confirmed, I knew I would need him to take me to close my bank account and take me down to Ti Goave so I could see my girls. So I called him up to ask if he would be available to drive and I was not prepared for the things he would share with me. 

He answered the phone with his standard, “BLAN!” (which means foreigner) and I responded with my standard eye roll (because after all these years he still called me that) and his nickname, Nelly. We chit-chatted about his family and then I told him that I would be leaving Haiti and had a few things I needed him to drive for. When I told him that I was leaving, he said he had heard that from Apredye but he had to double check to see if that meant I was “leaving-leaving” or just “leaving to go visit and then come back.” I shared that this was for good and then for the next 10 minutes I just sat and listened to him; speechless and crying. He shared about the first trip we made to Pestel back in 2013 and it was then that he saw that I was “different” and could tell that God was the one who had sent me to Haiti. He shared how he always saw me trying to learn things and asking a million questions, but that I was also teaching him things. He told me that I was a good friend to him even when he didn’t deserve it. He also told me that I was a good friend to our community and everyone, and that he knew I would continue being that friend to people no matter where I went. He shared how people in the community always asked for me and he knew that they loved me and he could tell I loved them too. He shared how I taught him many things in the Bible and that I was a good example for him and everyone else—he mentioned this multiple times so I chose to believe him. He also brought up specific memories about conflicts we had, fun memories we made, and how much the guys detested my coming to Haiti when they heard that I was a girl. During all of this, he didn’t give me much room to speak and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t because I was crying too much. 

He then shifted the conversation. He started by telling me not to be discouraged even though everyone I tell this news to will be sad. He said that in the same way that God sent me to Haiti to “do a good work,” that He is sending me back to America for a good work too. Elimage said that he knows that I will always be a good friend to him and then he quoted Scripture about God directing my steps. He said that he was sad I was leaving and that neither of us knew what God’s plan was moving forward. He ended by saying that he hopes I come back and visit, but if not, that is ok because I will be doing what God wants. He then told me that he was available and would like to help me do anything I needed to do.

This was the first of many conversations I had with Elimage that final week and every single one of them made me cry. I hung up the phone with him and immediately called Rachael to tell her what all he said and that I was NOT prepared for what the upcoming 5 days had in store for me if this was any indication of future conversations. 

Day 1: Hike, Bank, Process.

The next day I woke up and headed on an early morning hike with Jen Blevins. After that I went to close my bank account with Elimage…well, actually, I just took the balance down to $5 otherwise they were going to charge me $20 to close my account. Haha! Oh Haiti. Unlike all the other bank experiences, this one was quick and I was back at my place earlier than expected. From there I continued to pack up things and give away other things. That day I had more time to sit with what was happening and journal. 

Day 2: Meals on 2 Wheels + Haitian Grandma’s.

The next day was a Friday and it was our Meals on 2 Wheels day. With COVID-19, we had been delivering buckets and Apredye was the guy for the job. I knew that this would be a great opportunity to tag along, see my friends, and let them know. I hadn’t seen them in a couple months so I knew it’d be difficult—but I didn’t know then just how beautiful that day was going to be as well. 

When I arrived at the Coleman’s house to begin the bucket deliveries with Apredye, I was met by Andre Rose outside of the gate. She had been waiting for us to show up and because she lived right across the street, she was usually the first one. She had her bucket in hand to exchange and she had a smile on her face when she saw me. It had been too long since we had seen each other and we caught up for a few as Apredye took her bucket inside to exchange it for a full bucket for the upcoming week. When he came back with her bucket, I then proceeded to share the news with her that I would be leaving and why I was leaving. We were both standing in the street and as I was sharing, we were both oblivious to the constant flow of motos and people going by us. She stood there looking at me expressionless for the longest time and then she interrupted by saying “pa di’m sa” (don’t say that). It was then that tears began rolling down our cheeks. She then said that she understood but didn’t like hearing this news. I told her I didn’t like telling her this but I needed to tell her in person. I told her that I didn’t know if I would ever see her again, but that my prayer for her was that she would turn from voodoo and accept Christ. I shared how in Christ, that is our only hope of seeing one another if I am not able to come back and visit or if something happens to either of us. She then began thanking me for coming and how I will always be her “child.” I began thanking her but my words got lost in my tears. In that moment, we didn’t care about COVID and we embraced. Hugless goodbyes weren’t an option in my book. I then told her that I had more buckets to deliver and needed to share this news with the others. She told me to “go on” and we parted ways. I’ll miss that lady—she welcomed and adopted me as her child early on. I pray that the Lord continues to draw her to Himself in such a way that she cannot run or turn to any other gods anymore. I want to see her again on both sides of heaven.

Next I went to see Dieudonne (pronounced jay-donnie). When I rolled up he got the biggest smile on his face and began clapping with excitement. His childlike excitement about his relationship with Christ and seeing his friends always brings a smile to your face and joy to your heart. There were people in his yard when we got there and after we exchanged the buckets, I told him that I needed to tell him something. He then immediately pulled me over to the side so that we could talk out of the earshot of everyone else. However, people still watched us as I stood next to a tree that had voodoo sacrifices dangling from it (He was a former voodoo priest and while he no longer practices or follows satan, everyone else in his yard does). We spent a few minutes catching up and then I began sharing my news with him. At that point, Apredye had come over to us and was standing nearby. The whole time I was explaining the situation and what I was doing, Dieudonne stood there searching my eyes as he hung onto every word I said. I began crying and then he began speaking life to my broken heart. He started by reminding me that I was in God’s hands just like he was. He began thanking me for all the work I had done and ways that I had helped him. He told me that I have to go back to do what God has called me to and to not forget about him. Let’s be honest though, nobody who meets him will ever be able to forget him. With that, our conversation came to a close and I somberly left his yard with one last hug and wave as I rode away on Apredye’s moto. 

The next stop was at Valcimene’s house. When we arrived, it took a bit for her to come out—I’m pretty sure we woke her up. When she came out, it was hard to watch her because she was in so much pain. She has been struggling with keloids for many years and this morning they were especially painful. She longs for relief so much that she longs to be rid of her earthly body. As I sat there listening to her talk about her pain, she would occasionally ask about everyone else in KONBIT and make sure they were doing ok. I then told her that I was leaving. It didn’t register at first with her and I told again. She then responded by saying that she hopes I have a good trip and that she’ll see me when I get back. It was then that Apredye stepped in to clarify and said that I was “leaving-leaving.” She then looked at me and said, “ou prale manman” (you will go momma) repeatedly and then began thanking me for my work. She said that she’ll miss me and I told her that I will continue praying for her and that I will see her someday, whether it was this side of heaven or the other. She agreed and then I departed shortly after.

On our way back from Valcimene’s, we stopped in the street because we saw Liphete. We told her we were coming to her house and she said she was headed to talk to Kris about some business stuff. I asked if she could wait and return to her house for a few because we were going to get a new bucket for her. She agreed. When I arrived at her house, she was being her same ol’ boisterous self and then I had to pivot the conversation. I told her that I was leaving, and bewildered, she began seeking clarification. Apredye helped me communicate things to her and she kept saying, “You’re killing me.” Once it began to sink in, she began asking for me to give her cell phone so she could call me. I told her that I would try to communicate with them through the Coleman’s when they come for their weekly Meals on 2 Wheels program. That seemed to suffice. Shortly after, I left her with a “Bondye ave’w” (God with you) and she returned the sentiment. I waved, and we went our separate ways.

After Liphete’s, we headed to see Makilez (pronounced mack-ee-lez). She  was posted up in a chair outside her little wooden house as usual. There was a crowd of young women sitting around and her neighbor was sitting next to her. Makilez began by giving me a hard time and saying that I hadn’t come to see her and was being her old facetious self. We joked back and forth for a bit and then I told her that I loved her freshly corn-rowed hairstyle. Everyone around had stopped talking when I rolled up so they were all listening to our conversation and having personal conversations publicly is my favorite. I knew there was no way I could pull her away because she is handicapped and that I would have to tell her right there. So, I told her. Her first reaction was to make sure the program was going to continue and that she was going to be able to eat—I reassured her that KONBIT will still be there and the program will continue as long as the Lord provides. That worked for her then she gave me permission to go back to America. This was the easiest conversation and goodbye I had and I have a feeling it was because so many others were around us. She said that she hoped I had a good trip and that she will be praying for me. I told her I would be doing likewise for her and thanked her for being my friend. As Apre and I were leaving, I could hear the crowd murmuring and I’m sure the news of my departure would be going forth through them as well. 

Next up was Hilaire’s house. He has been one of my favorites from the first time I met him. He’s quiet, kind, and has a story that will make anyone cry. He was sitting on his front porch braiding the fibers of a rice sack into a goat rope when Apredye and I arrived. He had the biggest smile on his face when he saw me and my stomach dropped. I was crying before I made it to him. He asked me what was wrong and I started telling him that I was leaving. He sat there looking at me with a smile on his face and I could tell her was trying to not be emotional—because being emotional is something Haitians don’t do often. He told me that I needed to go and for me not to forget him. I reassured him that I could never forget him. He also had to make sure Kris and Rachael were still going to be there to continue the program. I told him they were and he told me that he would not forget me and would pray for me. I thanked him and shortly after that I headed out to the next house.

Simone’s house was next and I knew it would be one of the hardest. She is a spiritual giant and one of my Haitian grandma’s. I have seen God work in and through her so many times and the joy of the Lord is truly her strength. However, my visit with her was made with an even heavier heart. A few days before I arrived, she had lost her daughter who lived nearby. Her daughter was the only one capable of helping care for her and her death was untimely and traumatic. The day we arrived was the day of the wake so it was especially somber. I hadn’t seen her since we heard the news so I wanted to spend extra time with her before I told her my news. As Apredye and I sat there with her, she was so overcome with grief and she was so weak and frail. She recounted what happened and how she hadn’t been able to eat for a week because everything had just made her so sick. She repeatedly said that she had “lost a kid” and would begin wailing and crying harder with each repetition. She shared about the other difficulties she was experiencing in light of losing her daughter and my heart just continued to break. It was just too much. Listening, all the while knowing that I would have to deliver even more difficult news broke my heart. 

When the moment arrived for me to tell her, I began to cry before I spoke a word. But through the tears, I began to share. When I finished, it didn’t seem like she understood what I said. So Apredye stepped in and explained to her another way what I had said. She looked at him in shock, and then at me as I was crying. She then straightened up, looked at me, and said with all the strength and conviction she had, “kouraj!” which means courage. She repeated that phrase multiple times as if she was telling me to have courage and simultaneously reminding herself that she needs courage too. She then proceeded to speak life and encouragement to me in the midst of her grief. She told me that I will go with God and that He will direct me. She prayed that God would “hold my plane in the sky” and that I would arrive well to begin a new journey with God. I told her I was thankful for her and how her faith has challenged and helped me grow. I told her the only thing that makes leaving any easier is that I know without a doubt that I will see her again no matter what because she has accepted Christ. I encouraged her to continue holding fast to him and to continue praying and sharing Christ with everyone she meets. There was then a moment of silence for us all that felt like eternity. She then broke the silence by starting to pray for me and I don’t remember anything she prayed because I was crying too much. 

I knew telling her that I was leaving was going to be hard, but the circumstances surrounding our conversation made it even harder. Saying goodbye to her hurt on many levels. I miss this woman more than many others. She is the greatest warrior of the faith I know and I will cherish all the memories and prayers she prayed for me. I will miss her rants about the faithfulness of God and the joy that exuded from her as she told you about her best friend, Jesus. I don’t think I will ever meet anyone like her ever again. She loved well and I pray that I loved her well too. Before leaving, I told her that I would send Apredye out soon to finish her house as my parting gift and she was extra thankful. With that, I told her I had to head to Aloude’s (pronounced Ah-lood) house next to tell her I was leaving and she sent me on my way.

Aloude lives right around the corner from Simone so my tears didn’t have time to dry before I arrived there. As soon as I walked through the gate, Aloude knew something was up and she quickly pulled up chairs for Apredye and I on her porch. Her daughter Carline was already on the porch and I started the conversation by trying to catch up with them. They knew I wasn’t there for small talk but I needed a few moments to gather up any ounce of strength I had after telling so many people that morning that I was leaving. When the moment arrived, I told them that I was “leaving “net” (completely) in 3 days.” I began crying and they both looked at me in disbelief. My words were heavy in the air and after a few moments of silence, Apredye repeated what I said to make sure they understood. I then began trying to explain the situation and while I was talking, Carline’s eyes filled with tears and I saw Aloude wipe away a few tears. I then thanked them for loving me well over the years and for teaching me many things. I thanked them for all the food they cooked for me and all the time we spent together. I couldn’t squeak out many more words through the tears and then they thanked me for everything too. Aloude said a few times that she couldn’t believe I was leaving and I told her I couldn’t believe it either. We spent a good amount of time together that morning on her porch and before I left, I had to go say goodbye to her pups too. I named one Dezod (which they shortened to Dezi) and they wouldn’t let the other be named after me so they made it named him Djezila (pronounce jezi-la). I then hugged them both before I left and they sent me away with 2 facemasks for my journey. Carline also said she was going to grill some peanuts for me and that I needed to send Apredye back to pick them up the day before I left.

With that, Aloude walked me back down the path, past Simone’s house, and to Apredye’s moto that I would be leaving on. I hugged her, mounted, put my helmet on shakily, and then through tear-filled eyes, I told her, “God with you.” She responded by telling me to have a good trip and a few other things that I didn’t catch as she started to cry and turn away. Apredye then started up the moto and we began making our way back to the KONBIT house. We shared a final wave and I watched Aloude in Apredye’s rear view mirror as she turned around slowly and raised her arms in prayer. I cried all the way back and even now as I recount this moment. 

The goodbyes that day were so, so hard. I knew that I would never be ready to tell these people goodbye, but that day couldn’t have been any sweeter. My heart was full, yet broken—make sense of that one! Now with these goodbyes behind me, the hardest ones were still ahead.

Day 3: Ti Goave, My Girls, and My Brothers.

This was yet again another hard day. The day before I wanted to come down there, I messaged my girls (Fabiola, Chelsea, and Sabina) because I couldn’t get ahold of them by calling. I told them that I wanted to come down and that I needed to tell them some things. I told them that I would be leaving Haiti on June 2ndbecause I wanted to them begin preparing their hearts beforehand. A few hours later one of them called me and said they saw my message. They said that they were sad but that they would be there for me. The next morning Elimage picked me up at 9am and we loaded 3 big plastic totes full of stuff that I wanted to give the girls and started on our 1.5 hr trek to Ti Goave. Along the way, I called the guys I worked with when I was with Happy Kids to see if they would be around because I was in the area and I wanted to see them too. Thankfully they were. Elimage and I didn’t talk much on the way down as we were both feeling the weight of the day, but he did take the opportunity to encourage me by saying that I was doing a good thing. As we got closer, I had to take many deep breaths to keep myself composed. When we got to Vialet, Chelsea got in the truck and her 7 month pregnant self was glowing. I hadn’t seen her face to face since I got news she was pregnant because I had been stateside and then shut up at home because of Covid. My heart was full of joy for her and we took the next 10 minutes to catch up on her married life as we headed to her parent’s house to meet the other two.

When I arrived, the girls were waiting at the road for me. I think the biggest smiles were on all our faces as we threw Covid to the wind and hugged one another. It had been toooooo long and I had missed those girls something fierce. They then helped unload the totes and along with Elimage, we carried them up the hill to their house. Once the totes were dropped, Elimage left to hang out with the guys and I told him to come back at 3 pm so I could go see them too. With that, the sweetest (and hardest) 5 hours commenced. 

The girls had decorated the space outside of their house with balloons, posters with messages written to me about how they will miss me and how I will forever be on their minds, in their prayers, and in their hearts. They had made other handmade paper decorations that were hanging from the tree in their yard and had a table set for me. There were also many others who were there that were running around making final preparations and finishing up the food. I didn’t plan on eating there because they were given such short notice, but it would have been unacceptable for all of them if they didn’t make something. While we were waiting for the food to be done, the girls started going through the totes and separating the goods amongst themselves. It was a pretty entertaining experience and it helped pass the time before the food was ready.

Shortly thereafter, the food was brought out. They made fried chicken, plantains, and pikliz for me just the way I like it and my heart was as full as my belly was about to be. They also made my favorite juice, grenadia, and I drank so much of it. The girls joined me at the table and then made me pray (and recorded it on their phone). Before we could eat though, we had to take a million pictures of the food. Usually, when I’m there, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to take pictures, but this time, they were documenting every little thing. As we ate, no one was allowed to talk about my upcoming departure yet because they wanted to “enjoy the company” before the sad stuff. If anything remotely sad was said, the others told them to stop…that in itself was sweet. However, the moment we finished eating, the table was cleared and I knew it was serious conversation time. 

Chelsea and Fabiola’s family pulled up chairs behind our table, sat down, and instantaneously tears started to fill my eyes. Sabina began the moment by asking me to share about my “Haiti story,” the effect that Haiti has had on me, and what I have seen and heard over the years. That was a tall order to start off with but I obliged. I shared how I got started in Haiti and how I came to that area and met the girls. That then devolved into a conversation about the first time we all met each other and other memories we had of each other. We laughed and we cried. We talked about the times they came to visit me in Gressier and how they came to surprise me at my birthday party. After that, they each took a turn sharing a word of encouragement and blessing. They each handed me a homemade card that I will cherish forever and they all included a bible verse. Fabiola and Chelsea’s mom, Yvette, also shared some powerful words with me. She said that she was thankful that God had sent me there but that she was not too sad because I was not dead and that I am still living and doing what God has for me. She shared about the hope we have in seeing one another again because we are family in Christ. All of their words were ridiculously encouraging and felt at my core. Lots of tears were free-flowing from not only me at this point. When they finished speaking their part, I had to quickly muster up some strength to share with them what I needed to. I spoke to Fabiola and Sabina about finding a man who is following hard after Jesus and not to settle until they find him. I encouraged them to stay strong in the faith and continue loving people and pointing them to Christ as they have been doing for years. For Chelsea, I shared about what a beautiful gift God has given her in her child and how I pray that she would arrive healthy and grow up in the Lord. I shared how thankful I was for their friendship and that I am leaving with so many good memories of them and so much love for them. I shared how the saddest part about leaving is the fact that I will not be there to make new memories with them, to see them get married, and meet Adassa and their future babies. When I said that, Chelsea burst out in a wail and they all cried even harder. They kept saying that the separation would be the hardest and I couldn’t have agreed with that more. When all the things were said around the table, Elimage showed up and that signaled that it was time to go see the guys. But before I left, I had to go visit Ketlie—Sabina’s mother.

When I got to her house, we sat on the front porch and began talking about me leaving. She said that she was sad and knew that Sabina will be really sad too. Her eyes were full of tears but none of them fell while I was there. She thanked me for all that I had done for them and said that I need to be better at Whatsapp so that they can see me. Haha! I agreed. I then encouraged her to continue learning more about Jesus and that my prayer was that she would come to follow him and none other. She told me that I can keep praying that for her and I told her I would be checking in with Sabina. When it came time to leave, I left her by saying that I am leaving her with God and then her tears began to fall. We got a photo, hugged, and then we began heading down to the car. We stopped a few feet away from the house and turned around because we heard Ketlie crying inside the house—we all looked at each other and more tears fell. 

We stopped by Fabiola and Chelsea’s house to gather up the last of my stuff, say my final goodbyes to her family, and take some final pictures. My other Haitian grandma, Sia, from the area came over and she hugged all over me. I am convinced that she is older than 90 and I told her that I’ll see her in heaven on day. She raised her hands up and said “se sa” (that’s that) and with that, we left. 

Elimage, me, Fabiola, Chelsea, and Sabina piled into the truck and headed a couple minutes down the road. David and Wilson were in town, but Daniel, his dad, and sister were at the house. We all hung out for a while and Daniel gave us all a bottle of Sprite to enjoy while sitting around. We reminisced about the “good ol’ days” and Nelly (Elimage) was full of jokes. Mysteries were solved about things that had happened while we lived together and it was such a fun time. Near the end, Daniel thanked me for my time in Haiti and being his friend. He told me that I did a good job in Haiti and with that, we all hugged and meandered back to the car to leave. Not many tears were shed there, but it was so, so good to have seen someone who had been a part of my everyday life in Haiti for a solid 2 years when I first moved there. 

We pulled out of their compound and began heading back towards the girls’ house. When we arrived, Elimage pulled off to the side of the road and the girls immediately reached up, messed up my hair, and took my hair tie. I had another one on my wrist so I gave them that one too. Thankfully I had others and was able to put my hair back up so we could take more pics. We got out of the car and these were our final moments together. We hugged, cried, said final words, and then reluctantly went our separate ways. Fabiola said a few times, “separation isn’t easy” and that was the understatement of the year. I could barely keep it together and they were struggling just the same. When I finally got in the truck, I leaned out the window and turned back towards them and waved. They all hugged one another and waved as I pulled away. As our truck got further down the road, I watched them in the side mirror until I couldn’t see them anymore—Sabina was the one I saw struggling the most as the other two held her up. My heart broke in a million pieces and to this day, many of those pieces still reside in Haiti. That was seriously the hardest goodbye I have ever said. 

As we headed back towards Gressier, we got ahold of two other Haitian brothers David and Wilson. Both of those guys were ones I lived with when I first moved to Haiti. David is Daniel’s older brother, and Wilson was the teenager I always talked about. They were in the city of Ti Goave so we made plans to meet up on the side of the road. Our time together was short and a million people were sitting and watching us (which really wasn’t anything new). We hugged, took photos, I thanked them for taking such good care of me and making me want to pull my hair out many days when I first moved to Haiti, and we laughed. The mysteries Daniel and Elimage helped solve a few hours earlier included them and we talked about it. I told them I now knew who ate my Velveeta cheese and stole my toilet paper that one day but they laughed and tried to still deny it. Haha! After that, David shared encouraging words and how happy he was that we met. He shared how he also knows that God will continue to use me in America in my work ahead. Wilson, in his too-cool-for-schoolness thanked me, told me to “go with God,” and hugged me. Seeing them before I left helped things come full circle. I met them when I moved to Haiti, knew them for 3 years, lived with them for 2 years, and saw them when I was heading out of Haiti. They cared for me well for so long. They were my brothers and to this day, I still consider them as such.

When we parted ways, you could guess that I was emotionally drained. So many tears had been shed and I had a headache from trying to keep from crying in the in-between, but that wasn’t the end of them. On the way home, Elimage was even more encouraging. He elaborated on how none of the guys wanted me there when I first moved to Haiti because they thought that I was going to be difficult because “girls like to argue.” He said it didn’t take them long to see I was different and they decided to give me a chance and they grew to love me. Nelly said that he liked the way I said “amen” and brought up how much he appreciated going through a bible curriculum together when I first got there because he learned a lot. He said he appreciated all of our conversations and the fact that we could talk things through often. He brought up a huge disagreement we had about Dominicans (which had made me fume and his strong dislike was made known in front of friends who had relatives that were Dominicans that had come to visit me in Haiti) and he shared how I helped him “see things better.” He said I was someone who had a lot of grace like Kris, and gave many chances to people when I shouldn’t. He then said that I was a “fanm vayant” and explained the term to me. This kind of woman, per Elimage, was like a strong woman who manages many affairs. This was a woman of courage who others looked up to. He said he was proud of me and told me that he doesn’t have anything he could give me to repay me for all I’ve done, but that my reward was in heaven. I reassured him that our friendship was a gift and that was all I needed and more than I deserved.

When I arrived home, I got my bag out, paid him, and then choked back tears telling him I didn’t know if I would see him again. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the end.

My journal (that I’ve been drawing from to recount the conversations I had in these final days) ends with how sad it was coming back to a house that was getting barer and barer. I couldn’t believe that everything was ending the way it was but I closed this entry with the words:

But praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I am so thankful that I had so many goodbyes that hurt after almost 6 years. It would have been a shame to have been there that long and only have a couple people that made it hard to leave. I had many, many people that it hurt saying goodbye to and that in itself, was a blessing. It meant that I was with people. Lots of them. For a long time. 

And these people meant a lot to me. 

Praise God. 

Gift 3: Haiti Friends

I love friends.

I love being a friend.

I love the value that friends add to life.

And I love that God has given me some of the greatest friends a girl could ask for.

In America, I have a ton of friends who have championed my work, supported me every step of the way, spurred me on in my faith, and who have been a constant source of encouragement. My friends are the type of people the world needs more of and I don’t take them for granted. I thank the Lord for them often because they’re just that good and I can only hope and pray you have friends who you can say the same about. My friendships are one of the greatest joys of my life —I honestly don’t understand how people can and would want to live without a tribe. We were made for community and I am here for all of it. Quality of friends matters and I’ve got some high-quality people in my life and that is all praise be to God.

I also have many friends in Haiti that have impacted my life in incredible ways and have made life even better. I remember praying when I arrived in Haiti for “just one friend” and in a matter of weeks, the Lord provided that through another missionary named, Hannah (who is still one of my good friends to this day even though our time only overlapped for 7 months). From there, my friend group grew rapidly and I never once complained. 

I became friends with other missionaries in the area and fellowshipped with them often. Many of us came together every Sunday night at Haiti Health Ministries and had Bible study, prayed for our needs and the needs of others, and hung out over a meal. I looked forward to this time and it was always a breath of much needed fresh air before we dove back into the grind of our daily work. Over the years there were also other smaller Bible studies that took place, Velvet Ashes retreats many of us ladies participated in, and countless beach/pool trips. 

I became friends with Lydia B., and for a season, we cared for two little girls who became best friends during that time. Lydia was my second ex-pat friend and we bonded over our struggles with Haiti life and the sometimes ridiculousness of it all. Although our lives ended up moving down two completely different life tracks, I always enjoyed hanging out with her whenever possible and love watching her journey via social media these days.

I had two other friends, Jen B. and Aleece D., who are still in Haiti, that made up my little American tribe outside of the Coleman’s. I hung out with these ladies often and they talked me into many hikes through the Haitian mountains behind the compound where I lived. Honestly, most of the time I just went for the social aspect and physical aspect was an added benefit. We also had many game nights, movie nights, and even a hair-cutting party once (of which I did not participate). I had countless other fellow ex-pats in Haiti that I became good friends with and from what I understand from other missionaries, that is rare for an area…or maybe just in Haiti. Our community, minus a couple organizations that liked to keep their people to themselves, was one of the best. My fellow missionary friends understood the struggle of life in Haiti and balancing friends/family/donors/newsletters/culture and everything else that missionaries spend countless hours monitoring and stressing about. These friends were such an encouragement over the years and help me keep my sanity when Haiti started wearing on me. Many friends were quick to offer resources and people to help with projects in the area and I was able to return the favor. The beauty of “one body, many parts” was clearly seen among our little community. I am forever thankful to have landed in Gressier and for the way God knit together that community for a season of my life. I’ll forever treasure the memories and friendships of my people from Haiti and I hope our paths continue to cross as often as possible both stateside and in Haiti. 

I also had some of the best Haitian friends too. If you followed my Haiti journey for any length of time, you saw/heard me talk about Fabiola, Sabina, Chelsea, and Apredye often. These were my best, best friends. 

Sabina was my first true Haitian friend. I met her in 2015 when I used to travel to Fond Doux twice a week for bible study and to check in with our ministry partners in that area. She introduced me to many people in the area and I knew from the get go that she was different. She was someone I wanted to be friends with. The community kids love her and she is never without a little one straggling behind her or running to her when they get hurt. She’s not married yet but she has a maternal instinct that is like no other I knew in Haiti.

 She’s beautiful, smart, faithful to the Lord, and carries the weight of providing for her family with a strength I’ve never seen. Her father was never in the picture and her brother ran off to Chile, so Sabina has been helping to provide for her and her mother. Sabina was also one of the lucky ones in Haiti to have completed school and pass her final exam to get a diploma. I was there the day she got the results saying she passed and the joy in that moment of finding out is something I will always hold near to my heart because it was beautiful. There were many sacrifices made along the way for that to happen and her story is not the story of many people in Haiti. Education is a gift and you can’t convince me otherwise. One of the other cool things is that through my faithful supporters over the years, I was able to pay for her to attend a trade school after high school so she could study information systems in a nearby town. She has yet to finish the classes because of political unrest and COVID, but Lord willing, she will. She was the best of the best in Haiti and I miss and think about her often.

Fabiola was the oldest of my friends. Come to find out, I only met and became friends with her because her sister, Chelsea, was not going to be able to attend one of the bible studies I was doing in Fond Doux and she came to take notes for her. Funny how that worked out. Fabiola was also the more serious one of the group who the community looked to for help often. She is the secretary of a group of local Christian community members who had an organization devoted to community development and care. She is active in her church and uses her medical trainings she received from countless organizations to care for community members.

Whether she is binding up fresh wounds, helping deliver babies in homes in her community, tending to people with fevers, cooking meals for the elderly, or doing laundry for the hurt or sick, she is caring for people well. She also prides herself on hospitality—so much so it was like pulling teeth to get her to join our lunches together. Thankfully, I was usually able to get her to consent and join. She was and still is an incredible friend. She was always quick to pray and reminded me often that she was praying for me after she stayed up all night at the prayer meetings her church hosted regularly. Her faith constantly challenged and inspired me. She was about as influential as it gets and I miss her like none other.

Chelsea was the baby of our friend group. She was the jokester and would light up the room when she entered. She was also a fierce prayer warrior. The first time I listened to her pray, I was floored. That girl BROUGHT IT. Every year she and her mother would go on a mission trip to a remote area with their church and again, because of my donors, we were always able to pay to make it happen. The stories and the work they were doing on those trips was absolutely incredible and the gospel went forth through them in a beautiful way. Chelsea married in August of 2018 and a couple months ago, they welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world—Adassa.

I left Haiti a couple months before she was born and that was difficult because I had all these plans of meeting her before I left country. Now I have to settle for pictures through Whatsapp but that’s better than not being connected at all. Before I left, she was glowing and that brought so much peace to my heart. I know she is going to be the best mother and I just wish I could still be there to witness it.

Apredye was my other best friend that I saw daily. He started out as a moto driver that I came to depend on for everything. He was unlike any other. He thought differently and managed his time well. I can probably count on two hands in 3 years times that he dropped the ball in picking me up (don’t worry, I always had back-ups). Because of his dependability and how safely he drove, I used him for everything and to go anywhere. He would accompany me to visit people and anytime we weren’t together, they would always ask where he was because they became friends with him too. He was easy to like because he smiled ALL THE TIME and his spirit was kind.

But not only was he my moto driver, but he was my security guard. He was always looking out for me and kept his eyes and ears open whenever we were out. He was also a believer who was growing in his faith and we had many conversations about hard things over the years. His insight was something I valued and sought about many cultural things and over and over again. He kept me functioning within the boundaries of Haitian culture many times and explained things to me often. Apredye also showed himself to be a man of integrity. He knew how to do many jobs and never tried to extort us financially to do them. He was generous with not only what little he had, but also with his time. Apredye was one of the few that I trusted with pretty much everything and he never gave me a reason to doubt or question. I miss seeing him daily and riding on the back of his moto all over Gressier.

These four friends were truly friends. Over many years they were constant and they didn’t ask for anything in exchange for their friendship. They were a gift to me and one of my absolute favorites from the Father. 

I also had many other friends over the years as well. Whether they were my Haitian grandma’s (Simone and Aloude), our Meals on 2 Wheels people, Lafferonnay friends I saw daily, vendors I bought from often, or young women from other communities, God was generous with giving the gift of friendships in many forms. I spent many hours hanging out on front porches, sitting in homes, and learning from so many beautiful souls from many walks of life.

Through all of these people, I felt loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and loved, not only by them, but by the Father through them. I will look back on all the years spent in Haiti and always thank Him for the people I was blessed to do life with for so long. They made life extra sweet.

Oh what a beautiful gift. 

Gift 2: The Coleman’s

Writing about them is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing to do. Easy because I could rattle off a million things that they’ve said, done, made me feel, and experiences that we’ve had together that I will cherish all the days of my life. Hard because words fail to describe just how beautiful of a gift they were to me. But alas, I will try. 

But first, here’s a little backstory in case you don’t know how we met exactly:

In February of 2013, the Coleman family came to Haiti on a mission trip I was helping co-lead with Happy Kids International. At the time, I was living in California for a year and preparing to move to the mission field full time so I was excited for the opportunity I had to go and serve with HKI before I moved there. I had been to Haiti often, but how HKI did teams was different than what I was accustomed to and I was needing to learn some ropes. If I remember correctly, there were 22 people on the team that the Coleman’s were a part of and most of them, unbeknownst to me, were seasoned leaders with tons of ministry and team-leading experience. It was all fine and dandy until a little over halfway through the trip that the director ended up flying back to the States and left me and my little HKI/ministry/team-leading capabilities and inexperienced self to finish out the trip. Granted it was just a couple days, but I had no clue what I was doing. Rachael picked up on that right quick and from the moment the director left, she and the other experienced leaders swooped in and made my job infinitely less stressful. However, I think they all felt sorry for me and honestly…I’m glad they did because I couldn’t have finished out that week well if they hadn’t of stepped up. The trip ended uneventfully which was good, and we all parted ways. I didn’t think I’d ever meet the Coleman’s again after the trip and I’m glad God had other plans.

When I got back to California, the director mentioned that he was going to offer the Coleman’s an opportunity to come serve with HKI. They were currently applying to go with another organization overseas, but they were open to the possibility and that made me real excited because I knew I liked them. Fast forward a bit and I was sent down to Arizona where they were currently living to talk with them more about HKI and answer any questions they’d have about coming to Haiti with our organization. It was a good week and I don’t remember much other than the fact that Arizona is not a place I’d ever want to live, Anna liked Taylor Swift and I knew I liked her even though she wasn’t there that week, I got sick, Kris worked a lot, and that I wore Levi’s hiking boots one day when Rachael, Biddy, and I hit up a hiking trail nearby. I’m sure we talked about HKI, but I don’t recall the conversations. However, it was during that week that I started praying they’d accept the position because I really liked them and wanted to continue hanging out with them…in Haiti. 

Not long after that, they agreed to come serve with HKI and they moved to California for training. We only overlapped a couple months because I was on my way out and off to the field, but those couple months were so good. I got to know them even more, and the more I got to know them, the more I loved them. I eventually moved to Haiti in September of 2014 and the Coleman’s landed in Haiti in May of 2015. When they finally got there, I had no clue what was in store for us, but I knew it was going to be good. Little did I know just how good it was going to be.

As I learned more about them, their hearts, their motivations, their servant leadership style, and their genuine love for every person they met, I couldn’t help but to be drawn in and challenged. I saw how they treated our staff day in and day out and watched and learned as they graciously handled difficult situations the Jesus way. I saw them tend to their own family well and somewhere along the way, I began to feel like part of their family. Rachael made sure I ate protein and Kris made sure I was being treated right and treating others right. Rachael made me laugh daily and Kris was like an older brother who picked on me and looked for a Kentucky joke in everything. They were patient with my impatient self. They were loving when I was being a turd. They made sure I was taken care of when I was sick and they looked after my spiritual well-being with as much attention as they did my physical well-being. They were like a built-in family in Haiti and God knew I needed that.

In November of 2016, things got shaken up a bit ministry-wise in Haiti. I knew I wasn’t going to continue serving with HKI when my contract was up because they were moving farther south, and to be honest, we needed to part ways. So I began looking for other organizations in the area to serve with because I felt like my work in Gressier was not finished. I had an offer from one place but PRAISE THE LORD the Coleman’s had something in their back pocket that they offered me because they weren’t moving south and continuing with HKI either. The day they shared that they had a dream to start Konbit was one of the best days. I was sitting at the table in their house in Santo when they told me about their plan. I remember Kris saying that he didn’t have anything to offer me but would love to have me come and help start up the organization. Without hesitation, I said yes and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was an exciting time and looking back and seeing all that God has accomplished through Konbit since then is mind-blowing. It hasn’t always been rainbows, butterflies, and sunshine, but it has been good and I know that God has been glorified. 

The day Konbit officially began.

I could sit here and share a million stories with you about the Coleman’s and all our ministry experiences, mishaps, embarrassing moments, inside jokes, and struggles along the way, but I’ll save those for another day or just keep those close to my heart and stored away just for us. But now I want to shift gears.

I want to share why and how the Coleman’s were a gift from God to me.

Through the Coleman’s I felt loved. God knew I needed a family in Haiti and the Coleman’s were the kind of family I needed. They were kind, gracious, intentional, encouraging, challenging, and I knew that they wanted the best for me in all things. They were #TeamJessie from the beginning and not only did they communicate that verbally, but they made sure I knew that through their actions as well. They ate the same thing (chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes) at least once a week on my account for years when I joined them for dinner and it felt like they were just as excited about it every time even though they probably weren’t. We spent hours on the rooftop of whatever house they were living in talking and solving all our problems, Haiti problems, and the world’s problems once a week. Those were my favorite nights and I looked forward to that time together every week. Like parents, Kris and Rachael helped me grow up and move on from my spiritual immaturity. I left Haiti an infinitely better person than I was when I moved there and a lot of that was because of the things I learned from Coleman’s. They loved me enough to sit me down and talk about situations that happened that I didn’t handle as graciously as I should have. The challenged me to see things from different perspectives and to make sure I had the full story before I launched into an attack based on a narrative I had created in my head that I just knew was the truth when it really wasn’t. They encouraged me to be more heart and less attack, as the band Needtobreathe sings. They taught me to apologize and how to respond when being slandered and misunderstood. They watched me stumble around from time to time as I was figuring things out, but they were always close to offer a steady hand when I needed it…and even when I didn’t think I needed it. They prayed with me and for me often. They bumped my rudder when necessary and blew wind in my sails on the daily as I served in our community. They threw THE BEST surprise birthday parties multiple years and they let me third wheel it up with them way more than should have been allowed. They encouraged me to chase after my new dream even when it meant that it was a step in the opposite direction of where they stood because they knew it was the direction I needed to go. Every morning when I saw them as I came into “work,” I felt welcomed. I felt that they were glad I was there. I felt loved. And I still do to this day even thousands of miles away.

Through the Coleman’s I felt valued. Never once did I feel like a burden or that my opinions and work didn’t matter. There was a place just for me and they supported and encouraged my work in that space. My work had meaning not just for the Lord and to me, but I felt like it also mattered to the Coleman’s. They asked and cared about the same people and things I cared about and I sought to do the same for their work. We were on the same team—one body, many parts—and my part felt like it always belonged. Like it always mattered. Like it was always valuable. 

I also felt appreciated through the Coleman’s. Their words were always timely and always full of life. They noticed the big and little things and were not shy in acknowledging it. They always joined in my excitement over creating a new graphic, commented on a post I wrote for social media, talked about a blog post I put out, and always took the time to watch any and all videos I made even when they had a million other things going on. In their time, acknowledgement, and interest, I felt appreciated. This was something I experienced for many years and I can honestly say that there was never a moment when I did not feel this from them—and THAT is a blessing in itself. It’s rare to find ,and even rarer on the mission field I think, because of the immense amount of stress needed to just survive every day. However, I think that appreciating people is just engrained in their being even though I know they’ve had to cultivate it over the years through all their work in ministry. Feeling appreciated day in and day out is something I miss, but just because I don’t live in that experience any longer around the Coleman’s does not mean that I am not still appreciated. My approval and work comes from the Father and He has been reminding me that He also appreciates me and the work I am doing now…and that is enough.

The Coleman’s also made me feel seen. However, being seen by them went beyond the physical and that meant the most. They saw me spiritually. Emotionally. And mentally. They saw the good, the bad, the ugly, the beauty, the burnt out, the selfish, the frustrated, and the child in me…and they loved me as I was. I never once doubted that. They saw me for who I am and who the Lord has called me to be. They probed below the surface and spoke to my heart repeatedly when I thought I was doing a good job of hiding things. They were attuned to what was going on in my life and in my mind and were always there to help process it all. Their ability to look beyond the external is a gift they both possess and what’s even sweeter about that is the way that they address those issues—without condemnation. With love. With understanding. With grace. We had many conversations and I cried many tears in the “Jesus chairs” that were set up in their room—the place we always ended up for the serious stuff. Every morning when I showed up at the Konbit house to work, I was greeted with a “Hey Jess,” a smile, and usually an inquiry of how I was doing—but the kind where you know that they actually want to know. Another way they made me feel seen was by their desire to make sure I was getting what I needed and taking of myself. They saw when I was getting worn down and created space for me when I wasn’t doing it for myself. They saw when I was getting overwhelmed by something and they sought out ways to help lighten the load. They knew me and knew what I needed even when I didn’t at times. Because I was seen daily on so many levels, I felt loved, valued, and appreciated. Being seen is one thing—a good thing—but with them, being seen led to being known…and that was a better thing. They were a reflection of Christ in this regard and as I move forward, I desire to see others not only as Christ sees them, but as they Coleman’s saw me. Being seen led to positive transformation in my life and there is power in seeing people. This same gift I was given, I want to pass on.

And finally, through the Coleman’s I felt heard. They listened when I spoke. Were always attentive. Never interrupted. Never told me I was wrong. Never made me feel like my opinion or thoughts didn’t matter or that I was stupid for thinking what I thought. They listened to understand, not to refute. They listened and even if they did see things differently than me, they listened first. Then we would engage in conversations about multiple perspectives in a way that was constructive and non-condemning. They were safe people to have difficult conversations with and I always loved being challenged by them because I knew that their motivation was always how can we love God and love people better and better. When decisions, both big and small were being made with the ministry, there was a conversation that took place beforehand and they wanted to know everyone’s opinion and thoughts before moving forward. They asked for my input because I think they truly wanted to hear what I had to say. Consideration was given to what I said and I always felt a part of every single decision. I knew I was heard, but I also felt heard. They chose to hear me—they ultimately didn’t have to entertain anything I said or consider my thoughts about anything—but they did and it made a difference. They modeled for me how to converse in a healthy way—in a Christ-like way—and I don’t desire to converse any other way now because I know how empowering and loving it truly is on many levels. 

Having the Coleman’s in my daily life for as long as I did was such a gift from God. H. Doing life with them and serving under their leadership led to my longevity and health on the field. I learned about self-care and they championed it in word and deed. I grew up under them and they provided the lessons and the space to try on things and figure them out. They helped me stretch and attended to my aches and pains along the way. They had my back when the enemy came and I stood tall next to them…confident that together, we’d get through whatever it was that was in front of us. They showed me how to love with an upside-down kingdom love and mindset that didn’t make earthly sense, but was always the better way. They taught me how to walk away from situations with integrity and how to uphold someone’s honor even when I wanted to do the opposite. They taught me how to share and how much joy can be found by doing it. I learned a lot about hospitality from Rachael—that it is infinitely more than just providing a space for people to gather, but that it is about the presence and attentiveness to the needs of those in front of you and how much love can be lavished over people this way. I learned a lot about patience from Kris as I watched him navigate difficult people and situations time and time again in a way that always honored them and glorified Christ. I saw them extend grace to people I didn’t think deserved it and was challenged to apply Scripture even when it was difficult. I learned that boundaries are necessary and that upholding those boundaries are two of the most loving things you can do for yourself. I saw what servant leadership looked like under Kris and learned the value of never asking people to do something you’d never do yourself. I learned how to love people well to the very end of life. I grew in knowledge, understanding, and application under the discipleship of Kris and Rachael and I am an infinitely better person and follower of Christ because of all I learned, experienced, and exercised under them in the safe space they created for me.

But one of the hardest and most precious things I learned from them was how to leave well. I learned how to leave the previous organization I worked with and how to leave a housing situation that was unnecessarily messy in ways that maintained my integrity and a clean conscience before the Lord. They walked alongside of me through these things and provided counsel as needed. They checked messages before I sent them to remove thorns and helped me think through better responses when I just wanted to pick up the flaming darts and throw them right back at people. They taught me the value in walking away quietly without retaliating or causing more division. I also learned to give myself grace in that space even when I blew it or danced too closely to the fine line of speaking truth without love. But not only did they teach me these things, I also watched and listened to them as they upheld the honor of people who I didn’t think deserved it because of what they were doing and saying too. The Coleman’s helped me see that they were broken just as much as I was even though it was being manifested differently. I was there for the struggle and I repeatedly watched them die to the flesh and choose the way of the cross every single time…even when it didn’t make sense. I learned many things from both my personal experience and through theirs on the field, and I was stretched and challenged in every imaginable way. However, I know without a doubt, that the things I learned during these times will only help me in my personal and professional life moving forward. 

While I am thankful for the past experiences of leaving others with them, actually leaving them was a whole ‘nother ballgame. This was, by far, the most painful departure…yet they helped me walk it out beautifully. 

When we all landed back in Haiti as a team in February, I had already shared with them that I would be leaving in September. Within a couple days of being together, I sat down and had a conversation with Rachael in the “Jesus chairs” and she shared that her and Kris’ heart for the coming months until I left was to help me finish well. She encouraged me to take a day once a week to go and do things that were meaningful to me with people that were meaningful to me. We restructured my work schedule with them and they sacrificed time so that I could balance school and ministry and still keep my sanity. A few weeks later, we met again and I shared that I felt like I just needed to leave completely on a flight I had already booked to be back the first weekend in August. I had considered my school schedule and I knew that I needed to schedule a getaway in the mountains in August to help with my transition. I pinpointed a week that would work and leaving the first weekend in August made sense. The finality of everything started sinking in then and over the coming months it intensified. 

A couple weeks after that, the Coronavirus hit Haiti and things were shut down when the first case was reported. That meant that Konbit shut down…and that meant that I didn’t get to see the Coleman’s or our staff daily. That meant that I wouldn’t be able to go out every week and do things with my people as I had planned. That meant that all my plans to finish well got messed up and I was living, like everyone else, in very uncertain times and not having any end in sight. As the shutdowns were drawn out and we went months without seeing one another except through Zoom, I began to process the fact that I may not get to see anyone before I left…and that was hard. Fast forward a few months and at the end of May, the President announced that the lockdown was going to continue on two more months—til the end of July. Not wanting to jeopardize school and not knowing if America would refuse to receive people who resided in countries where the cases were growing, I made the decision to contact the US Embassy and let them know that I was interested in a repatriation flight. So, I went from originally have 5 months, to having 4 months, to leaving when the next flight got announced…which was any day. About a week later, I got a notification from the Embassy of a repatriation flight confirmed through Spirit. My internet was out at the time, and thankfully the Fanger’s (the other couple that worked with us in Haiti) were stateside and they booked everything for me. Once I got confirmation that my space was booked on the flight, I sat down and cried. This was really it. At that point, I had 5 days to sell all of my stuff and to say goodbye to my 5 years and 10 months in Haiti. I’ll share more about those 5 days in another post because those days were also another gift that the Father gave me, but back to how the Coleman’s help me leave well.

Rachael and the kids ended up getting on that same flight out (which is yet again another post about a gift), but when the flight was confirmed, they jumped into overdrive even in the midst of their stress about leaving. Somehow they made some space and helped me do what I needed to do before I left. They picked up stuff of mine they wanted and helped me deliver things that other missionaries bought. They made time for me to borrow the truck and head down to Ti Goave to spend a final day with my girls to tell them “see ya later” and hug their necks, and they put up with me and all my tears in those days. On my last night in Haiti, they cooked my favorite meal, we had our last rooftop in Haiti for the foreseeable future, and they spoke encouraging words full of thanksgiving, hope, and expectation for the future over my life. We watched a video I made, they shared more words that made me bawl like a baby, and they prayed for me. God provided a way for closure and the Coleman’s helped with the logistics to make it happen. The things they knew were important to me, they made sure happened. They supported me every step of the way, even when my steps were being taken in the opposite direction of theirs. Their focus was on making sure I was transitioning as best as I could in spite of the circumstances and in spite of what it meant for them moving forward. They selflessly helped me leave them and they celebrated me as I went on my way. I feel like this wasn’t easy for them, but they handled it graciously. They made sure I left well and when I look back on my Haiti experience, this will be something that will always come to mind and I will always thank God for.

Daily life without the Coleman’s has been an adjustment to say the least. I miss them every day and will continue to miss them moving forward. Serving in Haiti with them will forever be some of the best days of my life. But God has work for them to do in Haiti, and He has work for me here in America. We will forever be connected and I don’t take my title as Aunt Jessie lightly so I won’t be going anywhere too far anytime soon. However, the time has now come for me to take the things I learned while I was with them in Haiti, and flesh them out in a new context. The same ways in which they reflected Christ and His love for me is now what I am to take and apply in my circle of influence and reflect to others. The Coleman’s will forever be one of my favorite gifts from the Father and I hope thousands others get to know and love them as well. The world is a better place because they’re here. To God be the glory. 

Gift 1: Haiti

Gift 1: Haiti

My Father had something in store for me from day 1 that I didn’t even know I wanted or needed for a majority of my life. He had a plan and spent many years giving me smaller gifts that foreshadowed and hinted at the BIG gift He was going to give later. I could be talking about my salvation (as that is the BIGGEST gift He gave me) because it followed this same course, but that’s not what I’m diving into right now.

I’m talking about Haiti.

Haiti was the gift.

I’m not saying that Haiti was given to me per say, but I’m saying that God making a way for me to live, love, and learn in Haiti, from Haitians, was a gift. 

From the first time I went, there was just something about the little country that captured my heart. Hook, line, and sinker. I didn’t know why and I didn’t know how it happened, but I knew there was something more there. Maybe it was the fact that it was the place where God first humbled me as a new baby believer—I was going to save the world by visiting an orphanage, loving on some kiddos, and playing with them all in the name of Jesus. Boy was I wrong! It was there that God reminded me that going to Haiti was not about me, but about Him. He communicated that to me through a 5-year-old girl living in a tent city orphanage one year post the major earthquake when she asked me if I had Jesus in my heart. He demonstrated that to me through the love I received in a greater proportion than I could give out. Looking back at the girl who went to Haiti the first time in 2011, there are things I would have done differently knowing what I know now, but in its own weird, cringe-worthy way, everything happened as it should have.

I spent the following 3 years visiting the same place until 2013. It was then that God whispered to my heart before I went with a team from Missouri that that would be the last time I would go to that particular orphanage. At that point, I had a feeling God was calling me to Haiti but then He was removing the ONLY connection I had. I didn’t understand it then, but I am SO thankful for Him changing my direction. By the end of that week, I had made a connection with another ministry and it was a yes before the question was asked if I would move to Haiti with their organization. So, in 2014, I moved to Gressier, Haiti with Happy Kids International. I landed amongst a great group of guys who became my family. They were my security, my language teachers, my culture guides, and they made sure I ate (albeit, it wasn’t the healthiest menu). They didn’t know me from Eve and I learned the last week I was in Haiti from one of them that they were NOT happy when they learned that a girl was coming to live there. He also said it didn’t take them long to figure out that I was “different” and they quickly decided they liked me well enough. I spent 2 years with them and ohhhhhhh the stories I have. Some of those stories are hilarious and are my favorite ones to tell. Other stories are sad, frustrating, and give rise to some righteous anger. Thankfully, the Coleman’s landed in Haiti 9 months after me and they were the reason I kept my sanity on the hard days. When my 2 years with Happy Kids was up, I knew I did not want to leave Gressier and the people, friendships, and ministry that was in that area. I knew I needed to stay and began looking for places to serve there. Happy Kids moved further south and thankfully the Coleman’s were staying in Gressier and invited me to serve with them and build a grassroots ministry from the ground-up. That was one of the easiest yes’s I’ve ever said. Servant leadership is not easy to find and the Coleman’s not only do this well, but it is their way of life. I have more words about them coming in a later post so I’m not going to get bogged down with them at the moment.

For over 3 years I worked, dreamed, served, loved, and did life alongside the Coleman’s and Konbit. The ministry took off and to this day I still 100% believe in absolutely everything Konbit does and the way they do it. For over 3 years I got to be a part of an organization that sought to learn from the locals and only stepped when it was alongside of the community. We were not the experts; we were the brothers and sisters. We were the one’s taking our cues from the Lord and from our community leaders. We did life there and boy was it messy most days. It wasn’t always glamourous work and it’s a lot harder raising money for jobs and adults in order to keep a family together than it is to post a picture of a really sad looking kid and telling you that they won’t eat unless you give money today (ß this is a whole ‘nother can of worms that you don’t want to get me started on here, so I digress). But my time with Konbit will be looked back on as the best years of my time in Haiti. Working with Konbit was a gift that I knew was a gift, but I didn’t fully realize until now just how much of a gift it was. I am so thankful that God saw fit to knit us together for that season and I pray that He was most glorified through my work there.

That’s basically my Haiti story, but you might be wondering what about Haiti was a gift.

Haiti was a gift because it was through her that my world was opened up. I met people I would have never met had I stayed in America. I loved people who were very different from me and grew up completely different than me. I experienced a new culture, learned a new language, ate different food, and experienced life in a country that was founded on voodoo. I saw the good, the bad, the ugly, the broken, the beautiful, the injustice, the struggle, the sacrifices, the forced resiliency because of not having any other choice, and the war that is being waged there every day both physically and spiritually. I heard the cries of the oppressed and consoled the mothers who lost their babies too soon. I heard the cries for help and sat with friends as they shared the longings and desires for their life…the longings that I took for granted having grown up in America (i.e. education). I heard stories of battles past, of the fallen soldiers, and war heroes that are still fighting today. I saw corruption and I saw community. I met malnourished babies and cared for an HIV positive child who was considered a “danger to society” due to their lack of knowledge and cultural stigmas. I experienced white privilege and never asked for it—it was assumed and many accommodations were made for me because of the color of my skin. I experienced life as a minority to an extent because I was surrounded by beautiful black people, but even then, my experience is not to be compared to people who live as minorities in other countries. My experience was completely different and I cannot fully say that I know what it is like to live as a minority for life. I was surrounded by poverty and unjust systems that were further oppressing people I knew. I knew people who died of preventable diseases, and in the country where I grew up, that was unheard of and seemed impossible because we had medicines in our bathroom cabinets that could have helped. I was aware of the inequality of resources and looked in the eyes of those I wish could have a fraction of the excess those in America have in their pantry. Racism was alive and well and colorism was a concept I learned about in Haiti quickly. Legalism was also prevalent and I learned that it was not just in the country I came from—just like the prosperity gospel. Through Haiti, my worldview was expanded and I was given a different lens through which to view the world. A more empathetic one. A lens that showed me that the gospel transcends countries, cultures, and languages, and is what the world needs to hear. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life no matter where you live. It does not matter what color our skin is, where we live, how much money we have, who our parents are, if we are male or female, or anything else—we ALL need Jesus and I am thankful that He is a global God with a global purpose.

Haiti was also a gift because I learned more about faith than I would have anywhere else. One of the first lessons I was taught came straight from James 4:13-15:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 

“Si Dye vle”—If the Lord wills. This was the phrase added on to every single conversation about anything you were doing in the future—whether that was in a minute, a month, a year, a decade, or any moment in the future. If I didn’t say it, they said it for me. They had been around long enough and had experienced how life can change at the drop of a dime. They knew this, and they gave me that lens through which to view life.

I learned from giants of the faith who wouldn’t accept a glass of cold water before she started marching around the table and fighting for us in prayer. I was reminded every time I met certain people that they were praying for me and that God was going to answer their prayer even if I was beginning to question. I saw them cling to the hope that God would make all things right and execute justice on their behalf when they were wronged. I listened as they shared their stories of how the Lord answered prayers and lifted them out of darkness and brought them into His marvelous light. I saw the indignation in their eyes when even a suggestion that they may need to be preparing in case the Lord didn’t answer their prayers exactly as they were praying. I have yet to see some desires fulfilled in the lives of my brothers and sisters still there, but they are holding fast to the hope and I have been challenged by their resolve. Their faith is rooted, real, and resolute. Their faith is inspiring and I am thankful I had a front row seat to watching things come to fruition for some and listening as they gave God all the glory, honor, and praise every step of the way. My faith feels small sometimes in some areas, but their faith continually spurred me on into deeper waters where I learned to trust God even more. Haiti was a place where my faith grew and as I have moved on, I pray that whenever my faith feels a little wonky, that the Lord reminds me what faith looks like through my brothers and sisters in Haiti and that I would learn to trust and live as they do. 

Haiti was a gift because it was there that I learned the beauty, importance, and value of serving people. Before Haiti, I was a pretty selfish person—still am some days thanks to this sinful nature of mine—but I am better today than I once was. When I moved to Haiti, I set off to love God and love others by serving both. I had a rudimentary understanding of serving others and it was just “the Christian thing to do”…especially as a missionary! I wanted to serve and that was the desire in my heart, but I hadn’t flexed that muscle much. I hadn’t fleshed it out often and I was familiar with serving when it was easy and mutual. However, looking back over my time in Haiti, I am humbled because I feel like I was served in greater ways than I served. Haitian hospitality is unparalleled. It makes you feel bad sometimes because you want your friends to sit down and eat with you, but they are receiving so much joy out of watching you eat, filling up your cup after every sip, trying to scoop more food on your plate after each bite, and sending you home with leftovers and extra fruit so you can make your own juice the next day (or week). They made sure the atmosphere was right and perfectly decorated when you showed up and would make sure you were comfortable before they’d even consider themselves. Haitian church services meant you had to sit up front—and usually on the platform with them in the seats of honor. They would sit there swatting mosquitos away from you as you talked, all the while mosquitos were swarming around their bodies. The best and the most was offered to you first, and it was their joy to watch you receive it. For 2 years when I first moved to Haiti, I never had to carry a bag, take out the trash, or cook food if I didn’t want to because I had 5 guys that would jump at every opportunity to do something for me. I was pretty spoiled. I also learned a lot about hospitality from Rachael Coleman. Watching her eyes light up as she was able to serve and host so many dinners and people through our Konbit programs and outreaches was one of the coolest things. It wasn’t until I tried that on myself that I began understanding and experiencing just how much joy there is to be found in serving and making sure your people are cared for well. For almost 6 years I had the opportunity to learn about serving others not just in the easy ways, but also when it was hard. I saw the upside-down-kingdom ways of Jesus through the Coleman’s as they continued to love and serve those who had wronged and hurt them. I saw how choosing to serve in love even when it isn’t reciprocated was always the better way and I saw that service bear fruit months later. I learned that serving others adds value to life and that you never feel bad after doing it. Gaining a better understanding of serving others has challenged and changed me for the better, and that is something I hope to continue growing in both personally and professionally moving forward. 

Ultimately though, Haiti was a gift because through this gift, God showed me just how much I was loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and heard.

I experienced love in a greater way than I had known it. Through Haiti, I was shown and felt so much love through the locals and my missionary friends. Whether it was them making my favorite juice and/or Haitian food or by my missionary friends not putting onions in certain dishes for the Sunday night potlucks. Whether it was the prayers prayed over me and for me by my friends, or by creating space so we can hike up the mountains in our backyard and talk about all the things. Whether it was sacrificial gifts delivered to my house just because, or by walking in the front gate of Konbit every morning for devotions and being greeted as if I hadn’t been seen for the past month, I felt loved. Even the hardest days in Haiti were sandwiched by the love I felt from so many people. I can only pray that others felt loved by me as much as I felt loved by them. It was also through so many there that God the Father expressed His love for me and I cannot thank Him enough.

I felt valued in Haiti. I felt like my presence was useful and that I had a purpose. Whether that was coming from the natives, my team, or others in the missionary community, I felt like I had a place there and occupied a space that no one else did. But even deeper than that, I know that my work there was of eternal significance and that was infinitely more valuable than anything else. Watching people come to inquire and eventually surrender and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior was such a gift in and of itself. God added the value and being part of His work in Haiti was such a gift.

In Haiti, I also felt appreciated. Words of affirmation are my love language and in Haiti, many people spoke this language to me often. I didn’t do things for the recognition, but a simple acknowledgment and a “thank you” goes a long way with me. That two letter word was the encouragement I needed to continue on some days with renewed energy. I loved being able to stand in the gap for others and I had that opportunity pretty much every day. The Coleman’s were also ones who always had a timely encouragement and I felt appreciated by them daily…even on the hardest, darkest, and dumbest (or so it felt) days. God used Haiti to make me feel appreciated by not only others, but by Him. Feeling appreciated and not a burden is a sweet blessing no matter where you live, and I am thankful to have felt that way the past 6 years in Haiti.

I also felt seen in Haiti. Every time I walked down the street or passed someone I knew on the back of a moto, there was a moment of mutual joy. From the guys I rode past every morning on my way to work and yelling “tet fret” (cool head) to for 3 years, to the boutique a couple gates down where we purchased many of our goods for the work we did, I was seen. I was seen as I rolled through the neighborhood and all the kids would yell “blan” (foreigner) to which I replied, “Ayisyen” (Haitian). I felt seen by those I had come to know and love and I felt like they looked forward to our crossings just as much as I did. From people coming to the gate and asking for me, to being called on the phone to translate, to having people seek me out, I felt seen. But not only was I seen physically, I felt like people saw through to my inner self as well. Many times locals and expats spoke straight to my heart and that meant more to me than just being seen in the flesh. I felt that God saw me too because He would answer my prayers, speak to me about situations and circumstances, and would cause others to confirm or inquire about the things He was speaking. 

Finally, in Haiti I felt heard. I had a voice in Haiti and in my work there. I could voice my opinion, unlike I can in America…not that I can’t so much in America, but I just don’t enjoy being told I think wrongly and I am uneducated (*cue eye roll) because I strive to align my thinking and doing with Scripture instead of the “America only and America first” rhetoric. In Haiti I could share what I thought and what I was learning and it was received by like-minded people who were striving to grow in love and empathy for others even if they disagreed. I could talk freely without fear of condemnation from those who were listening and I was free to be me. Those closest to me wanted to know what I thought and didn’t want to know just so they could tell me I’m wrong. Granted, I couldn’t share everything with everybody, but I had my safe people and that was enough. In Haiti, people truly sought to understand me and I strove to do likewise. I voiced my opinion with ministry and the Coleman’s always took into account what I shared and then whatever they decided to do, I was on board with it because I knew they had already factored my input into the decision and I was heard. Haitian friends always sought my input as well and I pray that the words I spoke were glorifying to the Lord. In Haiti, I felt heard by the Lord too. I knew my prayers weren’t falling on deaf ears because I saw Him moving and working. Being heard for the past 6 years was something I didn’t think was a big deal until I came back to America where I feel like voices are squashed on the regular if it isn’t 100% completely in line with someone else’s thinking. Good thing I still have the Lord, a few safe people, and my dog. 

The gifts of being loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and heard are transformative and I believe they speak to the core longing of every person. I am thankful that I felt this way day in and day out in Haiti. I know it is possible here in America, but it will take some time and some searching. However, regardless of whether or not I find it personally here on this new journey, my new life’s ambition is to be the kind of person who makes others feel this way. I know how ridiculously encouraging this was to have experienced it, so I know how important it is for others to experience it as well. As a future counselor, this is the standard I will be striving to meet for my good, the good of others, and for the glory of God.

My years spent in Haiti were a gift from the Father that I am thankful He decided to give to me. This gift helped shape me into a better person and will serve as a reminder throughout my life just how good of a gift giver He is. All the praise, all the glory, and all the honor unto Him.

Gifts.

Gifts mean something.

Or rather, they should mean something.

Gifts are usually given because you want the other person to know you love them, are thinking of them, appreciate them, want to thank them, want to celebrate them, or any number of other reasons that are usually motivated from a special place in your heart toward them. Your affections are directed toward that person and watching them unwrap the gift brings just as much joy to you as it usually does for them. I love gifts, but even more than that, I love the people who give,and the feeling I get from receiving a gift that I know someone went out of their way to think about and choose specifically for me because it means something to them. 

Another cool thing about gifts are that they can mean so many things on so many levels. They can symbolize things in the past, can represent something now, and they can be given for future use. Gifts can be timeless and they can be time-bound. They can be practical and be used until they wear out, and they can be placed somewhere around your house (or wherever you will see it often) to serve as a reminder for all the days of your life. Gifts can be small and mean so much, and they can be big and mean just as much. Gifts can be tangible and sometimes they can only be felt. But no matter what the gift is, gifts given from the heart mean the most. 

I’ve been given many gifts in life, and as I’ve matured, I’ve begun to look at them in a different way. I’ve been given a different lens through which to view them, and in response, a deep well of gratitude has been filled within and it bubbles over in the form of tears more often than not. Having been a missionary for almost 6 years, I was on the receiving end of so many gifts given by so many people—some from people I knew, and some from people I didn’t—but I knew their hearts were full of love for the Lord and for me as they gave. It was humbling to say the least. But not only did I receive gifts, I was also given the privilege of giving gifts often. Food, school tuition, medical bills, clothes, jobs, hope. Words accompanied the gifts and usually they were just as impactful as the gift itself—and sometimes it made the gift even more meaningful. That has also rang true when I personally received a few gifts myself. 

Gifts are a beautiful thing and one of the sweetest and simplest ways to show love. I do acknowledge that not all gifts are given with a cheerful heart and sometimes they feel as if they’re being given out of obligation, or are being given in hopes of manipulating a person or situation—I’m not talking about those kinds of gifts here. I’m talking about the good gifts. 

This theme of gifts has been something that has popped up multiple times in conversations and “what a gift” was the phrase used to encapsulate so many of my life experiences that past few months. I’ve been wanting to sit down and elaborate on the gifts I’ve received and “what a gift” they truly were, but time, space, emotional energy, and words have evaded me up until now. So here I am, with the time, space, emotional energy, and hopefully words that will help communicate just how much these gifts have meant to me.

These gifts though, we all given from my Father.

My Father who knew just what gift to give and when to give it. My Father who loves me and demonstrated that love for me by not only sending His Son to die on a cross for my sins so that I may be forgiven and saved, but by Him continuing to lavish good gifts on me and my life even when I feel like I don’t deserve them. Through His gifts, I felt loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and heard—and this is the lens through which I will share about the gifts.

I have such a good Father and so do you who are in Christ. I’m going to spend the next few posts by sharing just HOW good of a Father He is and how good of a gift giver He was and still is. So, stay tuned to my social media and/or check back soon and I’ll begin by sharing about the gifts! 

I See You.

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I see You; above us–looking down in love and longing.

Not only looking at the world, but every continent. Every country. Every province. Every town. Every village. Every tribe. Every home. Every family. Every person. You. Me. Us.

I see You; with us–reaching toward us through it all.

With love in your eyes, healing in your hands, and hope that we’ll reciprocate. Calling and beckoning us to the light; to give you our anxieties. Our fears. Our panic. Our unbelief. Our doubt. Our weariness.

I see You; moving towards us.

Inviting us to come. Arms open wide and to all. Looking past our sins and penetrating our hearts. Past our shortcomings and faults, and looking straight in our eyes…as if we are the only one you want; the apple of your eye.

I see You; standing in front of us.

Ready, willing, and offering. And with one touch, we melt. We fall into You and begin pouring out all that was pent up. All that was weighing us down. And your embrace is felt at the core of our being.

I see You; holding us.

Close, and to your heart. Listening, and attentively. Your heartbeat felt and steadying ours. Reminding us that we’re home. That we’re where we’re supposed to be; where we were created to be.

I see You; speaking to us.

Reassuring us that you know. That you’ve heard our cries. That you feel our pain. That you are here. With us. Immanuel. Always have been, always will be. From now and for eternity. And reminding us that you’re working even if we can’t see it.

I see You; I see us.

I see hope.

I see strength.

I see courage.

I see rest.

I see love.

And I see our future; secured in You.

So we stay as long as we need, come as often as we feel, and know that this offer is available every second of the day. We only have to cast our eyes in His direction to know this to be true.


Today I arose with the above picture in my mind and a pressing word being spoken to my heart that I wanted to share.

The state of the world incites panic. The state of our faith contributes to or detracts from our peace in the world. Where are you?

If you’re struggling, press into Him.

If you’re weary, press into Him.

If you’re holding fast, press in deeper still.

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

-Isaiah 54:10

We’re in this together and there is more for us in this moment, and all the moments to come.

Take heart, my friends.

We’ll get through this.

 

And so I leave you with these lyrics and encourage you to take a few and let this song, these words, and this truth wash over you:

I hear the savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Listen to it here: Jesus Paid It All by Kim Walker-Smith

Love you all.

 

Birds, a Clinic, and Me.

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For those of you who know me, you know I don’t like birds. Due to a few childhood experiences of angry birds and being chased, I’m leery of them and they may or may not elevate my heart rate in their presence. But this morning, during my personal morning devotion, Martin Luther took a well-known passage of Scripture that uses birds to illustrate just how concerned God is about us and he spoke straight to my heart. Maybe it will to yours as well.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:25-27

And again we read:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

-Matthew 10:29-31

We see how God cares for birds, knows what they need, and are reminded just how much more He is concerned about us–those He has created in His image, sent His Son to die for, and who He provides for and dotes over like a proud Father.

Sometimes I forget just how concerned God is for me though. I read those Scriptures above and I agree, but I don’t always let it speak to me. Familiarity can cause me to miss the gold mine of meaning and keep me from exploring how it personally applies to my life. But then other times God graciously brings it up and it is as if I am reading those words for the first time. I’m wondering if you can say this too?

Martin Luther begins his exposition on Matthew 6:26-27 by saying, “You see, He is making birds our schoolmasters and teachers.” In other words, as many birds that are in the air singing away at the top of their lungs and unconcerned about where their meal will come from even if they have a family to provide for, they are preaching, teaching, and challenging us like preachers and teachers. They are calling us to put our hope and trust in a God who knows.

A God who cares. A God who provides. A God who delights in caring for His children.

Luther tells us that when we hear birds chirping, we are listening to “an excellent preacher” who is exhorting us with the Gospel not by words, but as a living example. He follows that by driving it home in this way:

“Every day you see before your very eyes how the heavenly Father feeds the little birds in the field, without any concern on their part. Can you not trust Him to feed you as well, since He is your Father and calls you His children? Shall He not be concerned about you, whom He has made His children and to whom He gives His Word and all creatures, more than about the little birds, which are not His children but your servants? And yet He thinks enough of them to feed them every day, as if they were the only thing He is concerned about. And He enjoys it when they fly around and sing without a care in the world, as if they were saying: ‘I sing and frolic, and yet I do not know of a single grain that I am to eat. My bread is not baked yet, and my grain is not planted yet. But I have a rich Master who takes care of me while I am singing or sleeping. He can give me more than all my worries and the worries of all people could every accomplish.'”

Now since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more.

So I read those words and intentionally stopped to listen to the song being sung around me this morning (click the link to hear that song).

I let the birds minister to me and there were a multitude of them chirping away. Some more fervent and frequent, and others more calm and steady. They all had a reason to sing and they do this every day whether or not I am listening. They are not singing for me, but today they were singing a song I needed to hear.

I also heard the murmurs of people coming and seeking care from the clinic on the compound where I live. People who have come to a place in hopes they can find relief from their physical ailments and who are also being met with the gospel and care for their spiritual ailments.

Both the people and birds are doing what they know to do, and God is concerned and meeting their needs. Both have a reason to sing.

And then there’s me.

Lately, I’ve lived in the upper echelon of stress that is not maintainable. I become so tunnel-visioned that it has become difficult to take anything else into consideration other than the work, projects, and needs that are looming overhead. I’ve grown weary and tired and somehow have forgotten that God cares and is beckoning me to cast my anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7) and to draw near to Him so that He can give me the rest I am longing for (Matthew 11:28-30). I’ve become so consumed with what I can and cannot do to the detriment of my own mind, body, and soul. I’m aware of this and this is why I’m taking a few days to get away (not geographically) with God. To retreat to the One whom my soul loves. To quiet my mind, refresh my heart, and relax my body. It’s not easy, but it is vital to my life, ministry, work, and schooling. Self-care these days has become an urgent need because I’ve lived too long on the opposite end of that spectrum and it shows. So today, I’ve begun reframing my view on birds and I thank God for using them and the people at the clinic to remind me of His love and concern for me as well. Their song and their trust are pointing me heavenward and I’ll never stop needing this reminder. Thankfully, all I have to do is stop and listen and I’ll hear this same song day in and day out.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this boat though. Maybe you’re in this place too. The stress and worries of life have squelched any ounce of joy that you may be able to muster up and the war within is exhausting. You are desperately longing for relief yet refuse to lower your defenses for fear of losing your perceived control. Maybe you need to hear that you’re not in control and that God is and He can fight this battle better than you can. Maybe you need to start following and stop trying to lead. If that’s you, you’re not alone. I get it. But even more than that, God gets it. And the good news is that only He can provide all that you need in a way that is specifically tailored to you and your heart.

There is peace to be had.

Seek the Lord.

Stop and listen to the birds.

Breathe deep and repeat.

Repent.

Return to the One who is your source of life and peace.

And trust.

In closing, I’ll leave you with an exhortation from Luther:

“Since you are Christians,” He says, “you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all of this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”

We cannot accomplish anything with our anxieties, but we can offer them up to God and He can remind us of just how faithful, loving, and concerned He is, has been, and always will be for us. We are worth more than all the birds so take heart.

Also, if you’re needing a great devotion for the morning, check this out:

Spiritual Classics by Renovare (where this mornings reading came from) and Devotional Classics by them too!

 

Weird Places.

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I just want to start out by saying that I miss blogging, journaling, thinking about things I want to think about, reading the books I want to read, not stressing, starting and ending sentences with prepositions, and using contractions as I write. There. Now I feel like I can move on and write the way I want to.

Since January and the start of grad school, I have morphed into this person that oscillates between the top left photo and the top right photo. Maybe oscillates is too smooth of a word…it feels more like… being tossed to and fro…except not in the Ephesians 4:14 context of that phrase because I am actually anchored through it all. I am anchored in Christ and know that I am doing what I am called to be doing now. However, that doesn’t stop the waves from crashing all around me and keep me from praying that life would chill the mess out soon.

I’m living in this weird place of:

chaos and peace

frustration and hope

sadness and joy

anxiousness and hopeful expectation

loneliness and thankfulness for all those around me

questioning and confidence

hurry and wanting to slow time down

and to be completely honest, I’m exhausted.

You too?

That is, until I can find a few moments where I can steal away somehow and quiet my soul for a few. In those moments of quieting, I feel like I’m in the eye of a hurricane…or tornado for us Kentuckians. At that moment, with everything swirling around in the background, as I connect with Jesus, my soul is quieted and I am grounded. We lock eyes and I am reminded that He is with me. Not only is He there with me, but He is sovereign over the storm. He knows the chaos I’m living in. He knows what I’m thinking…what I’m feeling…what I’m doing. He sees that I’ve grown weary. And all the while, He’s standing there in front of me…with no expectation to have it all figured out. No frustration because of how long it took me to come to him. No condemnation because I tried to muscle through everything on my own. No doubt as to whether or not He wants me there. I hear him saying, “come to me, Jessie, you are weary and heavy-laden and I can give you rest.” He’s saying the same thing to you. His eyes are full of love and concern. His hands are open to receive all that we are carrying that we should not be. His presence is calming. He is good. He is near. He will never forsake us. He does not delight in our anguish. And He is able to meet our every need.

These moments of connection are what my heart longs for…what it needs. This is what we all need. And the cool thing about Jesus is that, unlike all other gods, He is accessible. He freely offers Himself. His eyes are on us and his ears are bent towards us. He is sympathetic and empathetic. He loves us unconditionally and He is concerned about our affairs…all of them. There is peace in Him and as we stand on holy ground before Him, we feel it.

His peace quiets the chaos.

He brings hope in the midst of frustration.

His joy triumphs over sadness.

Hopeful expectation replaces anxiousness.

His provision of friends, family, and various Barnabas’ in our lives drive out feelings of loneliness.

Our confidence in Christ answers the questions and silences the doubts.

This quieting…this slowing down…this change of pace works against the hurriedness of the world that constantly tries to drive us away from our one true source of life–Jesus.

My life is full of many juxtapositions. Many paradoxes. Many highs. Many lows. Many victories. And many learning opportunities. I would venture to believe that many of you could say the same. There are so many things in our lives that stand in contrast to one another and sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it all. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies and it’s not all death and destruction. For believers in Christ, everything will not be perfect until we step into the inheritance that is awaiting us in heaven. For nonbelievers, this world is the closest they’ll get to heaven. For Christians, when we face death and experience the consequences of sin, we know that it does not have the final word and we grieve with hope. We’re on to the enemy and Jesus says in John 10:10 that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came to give us abundant life…and that abundant is understood as we find ourselves in Him. He knows that this world is not an easy place to live and that is why Jesus’ words in John 16:33 speak straight to our souls. He says: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When I look at life, I am quick to see black and white and I am idealistic to a fault some days. My moral compass is consulted throughout the day and sometimes wish others would let me calibrate theirs. My inner critic is loud, opinionated, and annoying, so if I do not get away and spend time with Jesus, I become jaded and feel like I’m about to blow a gasket. I write all of this to say that sometimes I struggle to live in the in-between…the grey if you will. Being able to live in the tension of two contrasting realities–the now and not yet–earth and heaven–is a lifelong struggle. Thankfully though, I don’t have to go at it alone. WE don’t have to go at it alone. Charles Spurgeon said that he “learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages” and that is what I am striving to be able to say. I’m trying to thank God for the trials and painful experiences in life because I know that He is doing a work through them. I’m there and understand this some days. But other days? Not so much. And you know what, there’s grace for those days.

For anyone else who may be in this weird place too, I’m saying this to you as much as I am reminding myself–TAKE HEART. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus–the author and perfector of our faith. May we turn to Christ sooner and more often–especially when we are feeling the weight of our fallen nature. May we ride the waves knowing that they cannot overcome us because Christ is near and we are anchored to Him…the Rock…the unchanging One. Let us trust Him with all of our life no matter how calm or scary the waters are in which we reside, and may the peace of God transcend our understanding along the way.

Words I Strive to Live By.

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Before I share more about the words I strive to live by, I just want to start by saying that:

I AM GLAD NOT EVERYONE IS LIKE ME.

If there were 7.53 billion Jessie’s, it’d be one boring world. We’d only eat chicken, cheese, and chocolate, have as many dogs as people, wear Columbia brand clothes every day, love basketball, football, and softball, and be morning people. We’d all have old souls, old knees, and old friends. We’d all be one-wing-nines for you Enneagram people and INFJ’s for you faithful Myers-Briggs believers. Our love language would be “Words of Affirmation” (shoutout to Love Language knowers) and we’d all be bookworms who only read books that make us think and cause us to examine our own hearts as we seek to align them with God’s heart seen through Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit. For me, that world sounds ideal. For others, you’re over there feeling boxed in and claustrophobic…and extra thankful that the world is not full of me. (You can thank God for that.)

As I’ve lived and even more so as I’ve been working on my grad school stuff, I’ve grown in self-awareness. As I’ve examined my own motives, beliefs, culture, and values, I’ve come to appreciate the diversity that exists in the world…although I think I’ve always had a natural bent in that direction–but nowadays it’s just more pronounced.

I am thankful for those who are like-minded and share the same faith as me. I’ve grown, have been encouraged, loved well, and corrected by those in the household of faith. I’m thankful for those doctrinally different than me but who choose to see past the secondary issues and strive to keep the “main thing the main thing.” I’m thankful for the charismatic as much as the conservative. I’m thankful for those who have different giftings as me and who choose to use them to encourage the body of Christ and draw others into the kingdom of God. There is beauty and necessity in diversity.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.

-1 Corinthians 12:12-20, ESV

(emphasis mine)

I’m thankful for unbelievers and those who have yet to come to the faith. I have the opportunity to share the good news and grow in my own faith and boldness. I see the brokenness of the world clearly through them and they serve as a reminder of myself when I was just as broken, lost, and apathetic towards God. I see how far I’ve come, how gracious God has been, and how much further I’ve got to go. I’m thankful that God uses us and calls us to love and serve those who are not like us. I am challenged by them and I learn because of them. The harvest is plentiful and not barren. My work, alongside the other few workers in this world, is important and not in vain. There is still a need and room for more workers–come join a work that has great reward not only for yourself but for others. Unbelievers and those who have yet to hear the Word of God are waiting.

I write all of that above to bring us to the words that I strive to live by in a world full of those different than me. These words challenge me when I start to become egotistic. When I begin to think that everyone should think like me and act in ways I think are right. When I begin thinking thoughts that stand in stark contrast to the Word of God and are prideful, arrogant, and selfish. When I start putting up walls and begin looking down on others from atop every block I stack in building that wall. When I get so caught up in social justice issues that I start thinking negative thoughts about people created in God’s image and start belittling them to the defamation of God’s character and good design.

These words are humbling. They’re grounding. They’re convicting.

Do unto others as Jesus has done for you.

-J.D. Greear taken from this sermon (Go listen or read it after you finish reading this post)

Nothing humbles me quicker than those words that are constantly brought to mind when I begin to stray. Oh to have a heart so bound to thee that I would not be prone to wander so easily! These words level the field, take my eyes off of others, and remind me that apart from Christ, nothing good is in me–I am sinful to the core BUT GOD is faithful to the end despite my momentary failings. So I look to Jesus to help me respond in a way that honors Him and His creation. I am reminded that I have to first deal with the log in my own eye before I can rightly help with the speck in another’s. These words knock me off the high horse I have no business trying to ride. They convict me to the core because by choosing not to treat others the way that Jesus has treated me, it is an affront to the gospel and the Creator who sent His only Son to die for them as much as He sent Him to die for me. Self-righteousness is ugly and causes great grief to not only yourself, but to everyone else who is around you.

To do this isn’t easy, but it’s right. And good. And honoring to God. And it is what He’s asked of me and all of those who are believers and followers of Jesus. Scripture isn’t just nice words written on a page we should leave there. These words are living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. They are words that require hands, feet, open minds, and willing hearts. We’ve been called to so much more so let us soldier on–refraining from being entangled in civilian affairs and striving to please our Commanding Officer. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23). Recognize that what causes fights and quarrels among us is our passions that are at war within us so therefore, let us submit ourselves to God so that the devil may flee. Let us draw near to God as He simultaneously draws near to us. May we, who are double-minded, cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Let us grieve over our sinfulness and fully recognize that we need Jesus to help us live in a way that is glorifying to Him. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord and trust that as we do, we will be exalted by the only One who matters (paraphraising James 4:7-10).

In light of this, let us strive to do unto others as Jesus has done for us:

If forgiveness is needed, let us forgive the same way the Lord has forgiven us.

If grace is beckoning, let us extend grace.

Because love covers a multitude of sins, let us love and let it cover offenses.

Tear down the walls of hostility in the same way Jesus did–destroying barriers and making us one.

Refuse to speak poorly of those who are different than you.

Be merciful.

As far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Be kind and tenderhearted–just as God in Christ is towards you.

Consider the inherent dignity, value, and worth despite our differences.

Be patient.

Be humble.

Be generous.

Look past your own selfishness and do what is best for all.

Speak up for those who cannot speak and defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Be an advocate, not an adversary…unless it’s satan you’re standing against.

Support and be near to the broken in heart & spirit

I could keep going. But you get the point. Jesus did all of this and more for us.

And He asks us to do the same for others. 

As followers of Christ, let us follow His example and seek His presence as we flesh this out. When we mess up and don’t get it right, let the Spirit that dwells within us convict us and move us to make right our wrong and humble ourselves before God and others. As followers of Christ, we should never do what we want, say what we want, and live how we want no matter how old we get or what nation God graciously chose for us to be born and live in. Everybody, everywhere, for all time, deserves our respect–not because they’ve earned it, but because God loves, cares, and calls us to extend it. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to earn God’s respect…I would never measure up. It is only because of His great love for me, that I am able to know what love is and extend it to others…freely. Love is always respectful and it’s always the better way. We should strive to do what God wants, say what He wants, and live in the abundance of life He created us to live in for His glory and our good.

And now I’ll leave you with the other words I strive to live by–maybe they’ll challenge you too:

We are not accountable to God for what others say and do.

We are, however, accountable for what we say and how we respond to others.

Let us be found faithful.

Loving.

And doing unto others as Jesus has done for us.