Haiti Reality Check.

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Allow me to share with you to two Haitian realities us westerners know nothing about to the extent Haitians do:

1st–$21 is a lot of money.

Apredye is pretty much a lifesaver for me. You’ve seen his face if you’ve been following my life here in Haiti (once repping Crittenden County and the other time repping my home church in Bowling Green, Christ Fellowship). This guy always has a smile on his face and in the past 8 months I’ve known him, he has never had a bad day…and that says a lot because I see him every day but the weekends (normally). He’s my personal moto driver as well as the chauffer for a girl I send to school. He runs errands often for me. He services my moto. He’s always available and sometimes drops what he’s doing or has going on to help me. He’s also THE ONLY Haitian I know that manages his time and is ALWAYS on time or early. For those you who live here, you know how big of a deal this is. This guy loves Jesus and sacrificially loves his family.

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So a couple days ago he dropped me off at my house and as he was leaving and trying to start his moto, it wouldn’t turn over. He threw it in neutral and started down the hill to jump start it and as he started going, I walked away. Two seconds later it sounded like a gunshot went off. I ran back to the gate and saw him at the bottom of the hill looking at his moto. I called him and he said it had a “big problem.” He told me not to worry and that he’d get back and get the moto to a boss. I told him to call me once he talked to a moto boss so I’d know what was going on. The next morning I got a call bright and early and he told me he took it to a boss and it confirmed what he thought– a big problem. He was trying to explain what was going on but I’m not mechanically minded and nor do I have a mechanical vocabulary in kreyol. He kept saying that it was a lot of money and was beating around the bush when I asked him how much. I was thinking a couple hundred dollars and had already made up my mind I was going to help because Apredye without a moto inconveniences me probably more than him because I count on him (is that bad? Maybe. Oh well.). Finally, about 15 minutes later, he said the piece he needs costs 1500 goudes. That translates to $21 USD. I was taken aback.

I live in a world where $21 is a large amount of money and causes one to stress. I’m pretty sure you and I could scrounge up $21 in our homes fairly easily. Because Apredye didn’t have $21 to his name to fix his moto, he would have been put out of business thus not being able to work and provide for his family.

Do you see how messed up this is? My idea of a large amount of money and his idea of a large amount of money were two completely different ideas. It was in that moment I was reminded yet again that I live in Haiti. Life is hard. Jobs are scarce and that’s not because people are lazy. Haitians are the hardest working people you’d be fortunate enough to meet and unfortunately, there’s not enough money around to pay them what their work is worth. Twenty-one dollars is a big deal here. #thirdworldproblems

2nd-People die of very treatable things.

This morning Kris and I were going over the past week and ministry when I got a call from Apredye. He said he had a “gwo pwoblem” (big problem) and then his voice broke. He choked out the words that his sister’s daughter died. When he had come to get me this morning, he said he had been up since 4am and had just dropped his sister and neice off at the clinic before coming to get me. He told me that she was sick with a fever but that’s all he knew. When he called me this morning he said that they were trying to find an ambulance (here a large number ambulances are associated with morgue’s and that’s the vehicle that comes to get bodies) but to no avail. So Kris and I loaded up to go be with our friend and see what we could do to help out (which did NOT include transporting or assisting with the body in any way—there are a lot of cultural rules attached to that). When we got there, there were so many people from our neighborhood gathered outside the clinic and a large number of family members were all mourning and trying to deal with the shock of what just happened. I just hugged Apredye’s mother and felt her shoulders shake when emotion started to take her over. The only words spoken were “Bondye konnen” which means, “God knows.” We waited around until the morgue ambulance came and we watched as they carted her out and loaded her up. Quickly after, the group disbanded and we drove Apredye and his mother home.

In silence. In solidarity.

This morning between dropping me off at the Coleman’s and Apredye’s niece dying, he went to sell a goat for 2500 goudes (~$35 USD) in order to pay for her to see the doctor. After she died, he went and sold another goat for the same amount to put towards her funeral. THEY SOLD THEIR GOATS. Goats in Haiti are bred so they can be sold to earn more money to pay for things like this most of the time…but those were his only two goats. And the cost of the morgue and funeral are way more than the cost of a couple goats.

She was 15. She was anemic. She had a fever.

People in America don’t usually die of a fever. We pop some ibuprofen that we have on hand and if that doesn’t work, we head to the clinic. Being anemic doesn’t take many lives either. It’s monitored and regulated. She had been feeling bad for the past 3 days and today was the day she finally went to the local clinic. Two days too late. This is a Haiti reality that I will never be ok with.

I really don’t know the point of this blog or what I want to leave you with. Haiti is tough and she’s been handing my butt to me on a more consistent basis lately, but I am resolved to continue looking harder to see the good in this country and the love that is here.

So I guess I’m just asking you to take a moment and pray. Pray for Apredye and his family during this time. Pray for us (the Coleman family and I) as live and move and have our being here. Pray for the schemes of the enemy to be exposed and called out and that we suit up in that armor God has given us every single mornings and head to battle knowing we fight from victory and not for victory.

“You just gotta look harder…”

 

“It’s there Jess, you just gotta look harder…” was always the response my mother gave when she asked me to grab something from the fridge and I said I couldn’t find it after I spent a whole 2 seconds glancing at everything and concluded that it wasn’t there. A few seconds later she’d reach into the fridge and pull whatever she needed out and say to me, “You just gotta move stuff around.” What she needed was always there.

I was reminded of this when I was on my way back from visiting a friend in the neighborhood today who was having some health issues. As I was meandering back home, I was thinking about the never-ending problems here. I was thinking about the sense of guilt I sometimes feel when returning to my concrete home with commodities when I just left my friends tattered, tethered, and layered tarp house with not much inside. I was thinking about the sadness that follows after delivering leftover food to a friend and small family who scrapes by and rarely know if, when, or how much they will eat that day. To be honest, as I was walking, I wasn’t talking to God for them. Instead I was complaining about them and the drain it has had on me. However, in mid-complain, my thoughts were interrupted by this:

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“ It’s there Jess, you just gotta look harder.”

I heard my mother’s words but they had my Father’s backing.

I then thought to myself, “What’s there?”

So I stood there for a few moments looking at the heart and its surroundings.

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It would have been easy to pass by and not even notice because it was perfectly camouflaged. In fact, I had passed this same area on my way to my friends house and didn’t even notice it. But God, doing what He does best in His perfect timing, stopped me in my tracks in the midst of myself, my frustrations and my complaints to show me this heart; His heart. It was then He reminded me that there is so much good and so much love here and sometimes I’ve just got to look harder to see it. I’ve got to take more than 2 seconds before making an assumption. I’ve got to hear the rest of the story instead of making up my own based on what I see. And some days, I might have to look longer than normal. He reminded me that what I see on the outside from just glancing at someone and their living conditions doesn’t mean that His love is void there. It doesn’t mean that they wallow in the same pit of hopelessness I would think one living in those conditions would live in. It doesn’t mean that He has forsaken and ignored them. Most of the time it means that He is so much closer and their relationship is so much stronger because of the dependence they have on Him to provide and sustain every single day. He reminded me that His love is all around regardless of whether I notice it or not.

So I continued on my way home all the while rolling over what just happened.

It was then I pressed into the words, “You just gotta look harder.”

My mother has a knack for packing things perfectly and making the best use of space whether she’s packing the refrigerator or packing the car after hours of yard-saling or Goodwill shopping. As I’ve gotten older and have spent my fair share of time watching and helping her masterfully pack/arrange things, I think I’ve learned a few things about the art. Everything always ends up packed and placed perfectly so when she says whatever I am looking for is there and I’ve just got to look harder, I can take that to the bank and know it’s there…and unfortunately, I have to make a concerted effort because she knows.

But there is a spiritual take-away from that art she has taught me and it’s far more valuable than just dealing with “stuff.” In life there are things we’ve got to “look harder” for in order to see them as they truly are and as God intends them to be. We’ve got to look harder to see the good and see the love around us.

In order to “look harder,” it might mean we have to take the time to identify things that need to be removed so we can see clearly. Toss out the old stuff so there is room for the new. Get rid of things that serve no purpose, take up space, and keep you from finding what you need. Take captive your thoughts, make them obedient to Christ, and strive to renew your mind daily in order to be more Christ-like—this is a continual pursuit of removing what doesn’t need to be, so that what needs to be can take precedence. To look hard is to soberly consider what is beneficial and then be humble enough to remove what isn’t. Sometimes it’s physical things that need to go and sometimes it’s bad thought patterns that need to hit the road. You’ll know what needs to stay and what needs to go.

Other times you need to put things back where they belong. When you’re looking harder, you take notice of the details. You find things that aren’t where they belong and you put them in their rightful place. If things are in the right place in your life, there are fewer things impeding your ability to see the good and find the love you are looking for. To look hard is to examine the reason you’re seeing what you’re seeing. Then, in turn, if need be, for Pete’s sake reorder things. Put wrong thoughts in their place. Repent of sinful actions. Humble yourself. Kick pride to the curb. Put Christ back on His throne in your heart. Then joyfully submit to His good and loving leadership knowing that His ways are always infinitely better than we can hope or imagine.

Sometimes when we look harder though, we’ve got to physically move some things around. We’ve got to do some work and not take things at face value. We’ve got to get past the surface layer and look in and behind things. We’ve got to look with a purpose and not be content to give up easily. Get to know the person. Listen to their story. Dare to ask for their shoes so you can walk a mile in them. Don’t assume what you see on the surface is all there is to the story. Dig in and dig deep. You’ll find what you’re looking for and you might find things you didn’t know you were looking for as well.

There might be times when what you’re looking for is right in front of your face too. Sometimes you can become so focused and be consumed with looking so hard for something, that you don’t see the whole picture. You’re trying to dig deep but you’re missing the fact what you need is right in front of you. You’re trying to read into things too much and you’re trying to make sense of everything when you should just be resting in the fact that God is sovereign and knows what He’s doing. Sometimes we have to step away for a moment so we can come back and start all over and start with what’s in front of us. And sometimes what’s in front of us was exactly what we were looking for all along…we just made things more difficult for ourselves.

The hardest part of the whole thing though, is that sometimes when we’re looking harder, it becomes harder to look. The injustice we hear of tears at our heart. The brokenness of bodies and the treatable sicknesses we see consuming lives causes one to weep. The daily struggle we see in others lives causes us to consider what we can do for them and/or what we can give up and do without so that they have some basic necessities. The fractured families we see due to infidelity or inconvenience causes one to champion the cause for Christ and the beauty of covenantal marriage. The more we know, the more our hearts break (or should break). The more we understand, the more powerful and deeper our prayers become. The more we see, the more personal things should get because we can’t unsee things. God chose to show us things for a reason. And because of that, we are now responsible to act if it is in our power to act.

But through it all,

the more we love,

the more we see Love move.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

And that’s a beautiful thing that causes great hope.

And just like my mother who would always reach in the fridge and grab what was needed thus saving me, the day, and the meal, so Christ will come in and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how it needs to be done. But until the day of Christ’s return, what we need can be found here.

In us.

Together.

With Christ.

So let us look hard, look soberly, and look as long as it takes to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. It’s here.

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I Don’t Want Your Kid.

Here’s how a little conversation in Haiti goes that I absolutely hate:

Woman holding baby: “Blan! Blan!”  (Foreigner! Foreigner!)

Me looking to them: Bonswa. Koman ou ye?  (Good afternoon. How are you?)

Woman: Pa bon. Men, pran pitit mwen. (Bad. Here, take my kid.)

Me: No. Mwen pa vle pitit ou.   (No. I don’t want your kid.)

Woman: M’ap bay ou pitit mwen.  (I’m giving you my kid.)

Me: No. Mwen pa vle pitit ou.  (No. I don’t want your kid.)

Woman: Mwen pa gen anyen. Ou se yon blan. Ou gen kob. Ou gen manje. Mwen pa gen anyen. Pran pitit mwen.  (I don’t have anything. You are a foreigner. You have money. You have food. I don’t have anything. Take my kid.)

Me: Mwen pa ka pran pitit ou. Li se yon kado Bondye te bay ou. Pitit ou bezwen rete ave’w. (I can’t take your kid. He/She is a gift God gave you. Your child needs to stay with you.


Every time I walk away from these conversations, my heart always breaks a little more. I really don’t want their kid. I want them to want their kid. I don’t want them to think the answer is giving their kid away to a foreigner and thinking the foreigner can raise their kid better than they can. Kids need their parents no matter what country you live in.

And personally, I like kids for a little while but I’m always ready to send them back to their mommas any moment. I don’t like babysitting and I never liked working nursery when I was State side. It’s a grace that God hasn’t given me to this point in my life.  Give me a group of teenagers and I’m you’re girl. Don’t get me wrong though, children’s ministry is super important and I am so thankful there are people who absolutely love serving children and do what they do with love, grace and joy. It is a good and sacred work.

There are a lot of organizations in Haiti doing great things and I believe one of the best things that can be done for children here is educating them. Children are the future. It’s true that children are easier to work with and mold but I think we miss the boat when our work is solely focused on children and neglect the family as a whole.

I’ve been working in Haiti for 2.5 years now and I’ve been a part of numerous outreaches to children. I have loved the outreaches but for me they just satisfied the moment. The gospel was shared, laughs were had, and bellies were filled…until the next outreach. Sometimes that was the next week and sometimes it was months on down the line. Those outreaches always left me wondering what was happening in the moments in between. I knew the kids would be hungry that night and if not that night, then they would be the next day. And the next. And the next. And I knew that by just spending time with the children, nothing could be done for the moments in between. I also knew that the answer wasn’t me swooping in and trying to replace their own family and doing for them what their parents aren’t able to do….that would be a god-complex issue and that’s a whole ‘nother blog. Children are not providers for themselves. Children are children and they should be just that, children. Children are dependent on their family and/or those who are caring for them. I felt more of a long term, sustainable impact on the children’s lives could be made if families had the support to provide for their children daily. That’s when I began looking at children’s outreaches as an opportunity to share the gospel, get to know kids and get to know their family.

I’ve seen this approach play out in healthy ways lately and I believe in this more now than ever.

Here’s why:

Take *Soucitha (Sue-sita for you English speakers).

I met Soucitha because I met her son Jordinho while working on a project at a local school. Jordinho hung around while the guys worked and because building isn’t a gift of mine, I used the gift that I did have…talking. He was there with his little brother and the first thing I noticed was that his brother had a bad fungus on his ear that was teeming with flies. While I was looking at his brother, Jordinho lifted up his leg and showed me the DEEP cut he had on the bottom of his foot because he stepped on glass. It made me cringe to say the least. I didn’t have anything on me to treat either boy that day but I knew before I did anything, the most respectful thing I could do was to meet the mother, find out what was going on and then from there if needed, ask her if I could help. The last thing I wanted to do was to make the mother feel that she wasn’t “good enough” and that the blan could care for her son better.

So I asked if I could go to his house and talk to his mother and he said yes. I slipped away for a few from the team and followed him down a path to his house. When I got there, Jordinho’s mother wasn’t there so I was asked to sit with some other ladies in their yard that I had never met before while he ran to go get her. I always love meeting new people so this is never awkward and quite frankly, it’s something I love to do. About 10 minutes later, Jordinho comes back with his mother, Soucitha. We then proceed to go back behind the house I was sitting at to this little shack where they live. Little chairs were pulled out and I was able to sit with Soucitha, get to know her and talk about her family. Soucitha is a single mother of 4 on earth and 1 in heaven. She used to sell sheets and towels in the market as a way to provide for her family but two years ago when she lost her baby at 6 months, she had to use all the money she had and borrowed ~$80 from another person to cover the procedure to remove the baby and then find a place to bury her baby. It was from that point in her life, things became increasingly difficult as she didn’t have the means to buy products to turn around and sell in the market again. Her children stopped going to school and she has been scraping by with the help of her friends. This momma was doing all that she could. Had I just met Jordinho and spent time with him, I would have never gotten to meet his mother and I would have missed out.IMG_3837

I ended up being able to help with the care of Jordinho’s foot and the fungal infection but more than that, I have this burning desire to work with families so that they can provide and care for themselves in sustainable ways. You yourself wouldn’t want to live on the handouts from other people and we shouldn’t be ok with people needing/wanting to live on our handouts either. That’s an oppressive hand and not a helping hand.

Thanks to those of you who financially support my work here, you were able to lend a helping hand to Soucitha. She has now since returned to the market and is selling goods so that SHE can feed her children, care for their medical needs, and send them back to school. She now was a job washing sheets and towels as often as we have teams. I see her every week now and the friendship that has come from all of this is such a blessing. She isn’t dependent on others and there is so much dignity that has been restored and that’s a beautiful thing.


This is what I want for every person who wants to give me their baby…and deep down, I believe that is what they want too. If they had a means to provide, they wouldn’t feel a need to give up their baby.


It’s a fine line we walk here in Haiti in many aspects of our lives. We want to help without hurting. We don’t want to cause dependency on us because that is misplaced dependency. We don’t want to take away from mothers and fathers and do for them what they can do for themselves. We don’t need to Americanize Haitians here. Let’s take off our western hats, erase money as an answer to poverty, and let’s dig deep into the lives of those around us. Let us always look to Christ, point others to Christ and seek Christ in all we do. Let us discern whether it’s God or our god-complex that is moving us. And once that is discerned, let us move.

*Soucitha’s story is the only one I’ve shared but there are many others like hers. If you want to hear more, just ask me about them in person and I’d gladly share all that God has done, is doing and will continue to do.

 

I’ll sit with you a while.

It was just one of those moments where you know without a doubt you just have to do whatever you have to do to get to your friends because they’re grieving and you need to be there.

A couple days ago I got a call from my friend Fabiola in Petit Goave saying that Steve died. That phone call was followed by photos sent to me of the accident but I made sure to not download the images. I am thankful that through WhatsApp, the image is blurred before you download it. This is a Haitian culture thing I will never understand y’all.

Steve was a 7 year old spitfire who was always clowning around every time I went to visit my girls. His friend called him “Atis” because he was an artist and was always singing, rapping and dancing. He was on his way home from school like any other day and about 100 ft from his house he was about to get off the tap-tap (a Haitian taxi) and walk another 20 feet to arrive at home. Just as the tap-tap stopped, a big gravel truck came through and hit the tap-tap. Steve was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was hit and thrown out of the tap-tap onto the road. It was there his life ended. No other injuries happened and thankfully there was no other loss of life except Steve’s…which was tragic enough. This is Haiti reality.

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I was grieved when I heard the news and I told Fabiola I would be praying for them. A couple days later Fabiola called again to let me know that my friend Sabina was having a really hard time with it. Apparently she wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping and just cries all day and night. Fabiola said Sabina’s mom, family and Steve’s mom were asking if I had heard and she told them I knew. They then were wanting to see and talk to me. I knew then and there I just had to get there soon. So the next morning I took Haitian means with my friend Apredye and arrived around 10am.

The whole night before and the ride down there, I was at a loss as to what I’d say when I got there. I spent a good hour and a half listening to worship music and praying on the ride and just asked God to help a sister out multiple times. When I finally arrived, I headed up to Fabiola and Chelsie’s house to spend a few minutes with them before heading up to Sabina’s house. It was so good to see them but I hated that the reason I saw them was because of Steve’s passing. We caught up for a few and they were sharing how sad everyone in the area is and how difficult it has been for Steve’s mom, Sabina and everyone else. It was a somber yet sweet moment and my heart hurt for everyone.

As we left the house, we passed by Steve’s house and it was boarded up. I could just see him out front saying my name and doing the quirky lil dance he used to always do before running away for a bit. Just a few more feet away, we came up to Sabina’s house and there were at least 20 people sitting there looking at me blankly. I could tell they had been crying. Their faces were of stone and their eyes were exhausted. In that moment, I couldn’t come up with words to say so I awkwardly waved, gave a head nod and scurried past them wondering what the heck I was supposed to do. I just wanted to see Sabina. What I had just done was more than likely culturally unacceptable but I didn’t know any of them and I temporarily freaked out. High five Jessie, not. My girls giggled at my response and told me that I need to go back and greet them. And to that I told them I would when there weren’t as many people. They made sure I knew in that moment that I had to do that before I leave and I agreed. If they would have told me that before I got there, I might not have been so awkward and I might have known what to do. Missionary life y’all–still trying to figure out this culture thing.

As I walked past the group, I came to the other side of the house and there sat Sabina on a piece of carpet on the ground up against the house. I sat down beside her, put my arms around her and she leaned against me and sobbed. I just whispered, “I’m sorry” and we sat there for a good bit crying. Every once in a while she’d say something about Steve and how he called her mama and how he was like a child to her. She talked about how she found out and ran down to the road and saw everything. She talked about how she could never love another kid like she had loved Steve. Fabiola, Chelsie, and I just sat there mourning with our sister and it was a moment I will never forget.

When the tears started drying up a little, we talked about memories of Steve. At first, Sabina was reluctant but after a few she started sharing stories upon stories and we laughed. She then mentioned again that she won’t ever love another kid like she did Steve because this [his death] hurt too much.While I could understand how she might feel like that in this moment, I wasn’t going to let her say that and get away with it.

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If you recall from another post where I introduced you to Sabina, I mentioned how she was so motherly and so many kids in the area call her mama. I’ve witnessed the joy children bring her and it is as beautiful gift that God has given her. So when she said she didn’t want to love another kid, I told her just because Steve died doesn’t mean she can withhold the love and the heart God has given her because there are other kids who need the love she has. She loves well you guys. Steve loved her and Steve knew Sabina loved him. Steve’s life was full of love and she was a main source next to his mom and family. Part of living life is dealing with this whole love thing. Sometimes we find love and sometimes we lose love. But moments like this should spur us on to love others more and make it known that we love them because things like this could happen and our days to love could be cut short. Losing a loved one is painful, but it should never keep us from continually pouring out our love. We have an endless supply because it comes from an endless Source so have no fear y’all.

We sat for the next hour and half talking about Steve, the assurance that Steve was in God’s hands, the hope we have as believers in Christ, the opportunity we have to point others to Christ as we help people grieve and the fact that nobody is alone in this process. So many people are mourning with those that are mourning and we talked about how it’s ok to mourn right now. We talked about how difficult this is to deal with and how hard it is to understand but we also talked about how God is so near to us in our suffering and how someday we will understand…whether we are still on earth or it’s when we arrive in heaven. We talked about  how Steve will always be with us in our heart and in our thoughts and those are things that can’t be taken away from us. I shared about how I came to Christ because of seeing other Christians grieve, process and stand firm in their faith in the midst of losing a child. That whole process has impacted every part of my life and how I ultimately view death. Some things don’t make sense to us but we have a God who knows all things and whose ways are higher than ours. It is in Him and His sovereignty we can place our complete trust because we know He’s a good Father. As our time together was drawing to a close, I made sure my girls knew I loved them and how thankful I am for them. I then prayed with and for them.

Now it was time to face the crowd again. Fabiola recommended that I talk to Steve’s mom and I told her I had absolutely no clue what to say. She responded that the same encouragement I gave them, I needed to give her… even though she wasn’t a believer. I didn’t really know Steve’s mom much except from passing by and greeting her and asking about Steve so I didn’t know if she’d even want to talk to me. When I got to the other side of the house, there weren’t as many people and there were more familiar faces to my relief. Steve’s mom was inside the house so while they went in to make sure I could talk to her, I greeted everyone and let them know I was sorry and was praying with them all. My girls then motioned for me to come inside the house and not going to lie, I was internally freaking out. This loss for words thing was something I’m not too familiar with so it was weird.

When I got in the room, she was laid out on the floor with a sheet and a pillow. The girls stayed at the door and I went across the room and sat beside her on the floor. She was staring off at the wall and emotionless when I started talking and that was probably from the amount of tears she’d been crying and the sleepless nights she’s had since he had died. I told her I’m sorry about Steve and how I’ve been praying for her and her family but we could rest assured that he was with Jesus. I shared how difficult it was for me to understand but I wasn’t a mother and don’t have kids so I know it was even more difficult for her. I told her that I am praying that God would be near her when she cries out and that He would respond and help her get through this difficult time. I told her that Steve was better off than any of us left here because he’s completely healed and whole and that while we try to get through our days here on earth, God can give us peace, understanding, healing, comfort and anything else we need. Her tears then started flowing  and she started whispering things about Steve that I could only catch a few words of. I’m pretty sure she was recounting what happened the moment she heard. When she finished talking, all I could say was “Bondye konnen”–God knows. I then asked if I could pray with her and she agreed. So in my half Kreyol-half English, I prayed for this sweet momma. My parting words were that she is not alone in this because so many people loved Steve and love her, but more than that, God loves her and He is there.

This stuff isn’t easy y’all.

Death never is.

But every time I am dealing with death, the lyrics to Kari Jobe’s song Forever replay over and over and over again.

Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Jesus trumped death when he rose on the third day and that is the best news ever.

 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-1 Corinthians 15:54-56

Though we feel the effects of death, the sting of death is removed because Jesus has the final word. Death can’t hold us down. We are risen to eternal life and seated at the right hand of the Father with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). Jesus is our victory and He is the only one who can give us any sense of hope when we come face to face with death and oh what a beautiful, beautiful truth.

All the praise. All the glory. Forever and ever. Amen.

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Please keep my friends in your prayers over the next few days leading up to the funeral. Because Karnaval is going on this weekend, not much work is being done around the country and this means Steve’s funeral has been pushed back to Thursday of next week. So that is that much longer the family has to grieve with family and friends. Pray that God would use this death to bring others to Christ. Pray that God would be near and would comfort everyone grieving.

*Also, a special thanks to everyone who prayerfully and financially supports me to be here for moments like these. Those who give were able to help provide food and coffee for the friends and family who travel long distances to stay with the family until the funeral. You played a part and you were a blessing. And for that, I thank you.

Not Wasted.

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This post is for:

  • the girl (or guy) forever friend zoned despite praying for the opposite
  • the friend who’s helplessly watching someone close to them go through a difficult health situation and is crying out to God
  • the friends and family members dealing with death after living in prayer on their knees for so long
  • the parents praying for a miracle they feel will never come
  • the missionary worn and weary despite knowing that this is where God has called them
  • the one who is stuck in their depression and sees no relief in sight
  • the one struggling with self image and doesn’t want the skin they’re in yet hears that God has created them the way they are for a reason and they so desperately want to believe and rejoice over this truth
  •  the ones who feel like they’ve wasted their time in prayer
  • the ones who feel like they’re wasting their thoughts on something that [seemingly] will never happen.
  • the one who has been crying out to God for hours, days and years on end and feeling like they’re being ignored
  • the unbeliever who is watching, listening and reading about all these people praying and wondering how and why Christians continue to hold fast despite seeing outcomes different that what was being prayed for

To you I want to say that

NOTHING IS BEING WASTED.

No trial that is being faced is the end all, be all. No tribulation is not without a lesson needing to be learned. No season lasts forever. The pain we feel may be physical, but it is also spiritual as we are growing in maturity. No tear that falls is in vain. No heartbreak is only felt by you. No words spoken in frustration or anger can’t be redeemed. No cry out to the Lord goes up into thin air to be lost in translation. No time spent on your knees in prayer for others and for certain situations is foolish. The time spent seeking the Lord, His will, His desire, His comfort and His guidance isn’t wasted–it’s time well spent.

God is in the business of taking seemingly hopeless situations and redeeming them and using them for His glory and our good. 

 

Ask Abraham.

Ask Isaac.

Ask Sarah.

Ask Joseph.

Ask Moses.

Ask King David.

Ask Rahab.

Ask Stephen.

Ask the Apostle Paul.

Ask Amy Carmichael.

Ask Elisabeth Elliot.

Ask any Pastor.

Ask any believer who has crossed over from death to life.

Ask me.

God hears every word spoken verbally or in your heart. He hears individual prayers and He hears the prayers when two or more are gathered. He isn’t oblivious to the pain we’re feeling. He doesn’t have compassion fatigue when it comes to meeting our needs in ways only He can no matter how many times we need him. He doesn’t get annoyed when we pray over and over for the same things. He doesn’t withhold anything from us just because He wants to see us squirm, hurt or burn with passion for the rest of our lives. He sees us and He’s there with us in every step because He’s a good, good Father. He enters into the pain and the struggling and we know that whatever comes our way, we are never, ever, ever alone.

I may just be writing this to remind myself, but in case you’re here reading and struggling through the muck and mire life is throwing at you, know that your prayers prayed in faith, expectation, hope and from the heart to the only One who can move mountains, perform miracles and who is our ever-present help, are heard.

And He will move.

And as you wait for Him to move, take heart. He has overcome the world and all of it’s troubles and likewise, you who are in Christ, will do the same. All is not lost.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

{Hebrews 4:16}

 

What I Won’t Talk About.

This past Tuesday many of you saw on Facebook and Instagram that I went to see Neica and I said I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I was reminded the other day that I just left everyone with a cliffhanger regarding the visit. So, here I am to talk about what I wasn’t ready to talk about then.

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Photo taken moments after being reunited.

*For those of you who don’t know who she is and why this is a big deal, you can read about her here (and here).

If you ask me how the visit went, I’ll say that it went well. I’ll say she was happy, healthy, taller, talkative, still had that smile that lights up a room and still had a twinkle in her eye that radiates joy despite her HIV ridden life sentence (barring a Divine intervention). I’ll tell you that the other kids where she lived her just as happy and they were acting like kids their ages act. I’ll tell you that it did my heart good to see her but I won’t tell you that it hurt my heart just as much.

A little over a year ago I dropped her off at a home with other HIV/AIDS kids in a place about 45 minutes past Mirebalais in the beautiful Artibonite area of Haiti. Before she went to the place she is now, she spent a good 9 weeks living with me. The progress she made in those 9 weeks wasn’t nearly enough, but it was a good start. From the beginning, I knew her time with me wasn’t long term but I didn’t expect her life to impact mine as much as it has…and still does. She’s still my screensaver on my phone and I see her face every morning smiling at me from the picture frame on my nightstand.

The other day I was talking to Kris and mentioned how I missed her. He said that we should go visit her and I took that as a sign that I needed to email the people where she’s staying. I had been thinking about her more often than normal and I attribute that to all the Facebook memories that have been popping up telling me that a year ago lil bit was with me. I was taking a daily walk down memory lane and wondering how she was. So I shot Haiti Comfort an email asking if we could come for a visit the next week. I was halfway expecting them not to reply because I had sent them a couple messages before just checking in on her and didn’t get a response. But a couple days later I got a response and my stomach flipped–we could come visit.

Leading up to day I tried not to think about it or her too much because I was being overcome with anxiousness and doubt. I mean, she couldn’t possibly remember me because she was only with me a short amount of time and she was young, right? If she didn’t remember me though, I wasn’t sure my heart could handle that. What if she’s not doing well or what if she’s not happy? The questions and thoughts were on endless once I opened the door. So I kept it shut.

The day came and Antoine, Kris, Jenna (our intern) and I loaded up and hit the road before the sun rose. Three and a half hours later, we arrived. I was a ball of nerves and honestly didn’t know what to expect. When we got there it was a little awkward as we were greeted and told we could wait out front while the house mom went to get some coffee for us. A few girls came out but they weren’t my girl…and then the questions started coming again. What if I don’t recognize her? That’s a dumb thought, of course I’d recognize her. This was legitimately the conversation going back and forth in my head as I anxiously waited for her.

About 10 minutes later (which felt more like an hour) she appeared…and so did a lot of uncontrollable tears. She saw me and she did this little eyebrow lift as a huge smile came across her face and she hurried over to my outstretched arms. I scooped her up, hugged and kissed her and she bounced with joy in my arms and pat my back and my shoulders and stroked my hair. We had our moment and it’s a moment that will probably make me cry for the rest of my life when I recount it.

She remembered me and in that moment, that was all my heart wanted.

After the initial greeting, she hugged Kris and Antoine and I asked if she remembered them. She said she did but didn’t know their names which was what I kind of expected. You could tell by her sheer happiness to see them though, that she remembered they were people she loved.

I then proceeded to ask the wrong question.

Do you remember my name?

She paused and you could tell she was thinking real hard about it. What she said after those few moments was what I least expected and it undid what little was left of me.

She said, “Mama?”

In an instant, I scooped her up again and just held her and cried. I told her I loved her and missed her and we just sat there. She had that million dollar smile and I had an ugly cry face and I couldn’t have been happier. Moments after that they came out with the coffee and I had to regain my composure. We sat around the table and small talked for a while and they shared about Neica’s health and progress as she played with my hair. To be honest, it was hard to pay attention. When Neica left my care, she only spoke a couple kreyol words so I was surprised when she started spouting off SENTENCES in English. She would flatten my low ponytail against my back and repeatedly say that she was making my hair “longer.” She’d say, “I be right back” and she’d scurry off to go find a toy or baby doll to show me. She told me all her friends names and for the next 3 hours she was by my side…except for the 10 minutes she left to go see who this Jenna girl was and what all her friends were doing with her. She brought books and showed off the fact that she could count to 10. She read me stories about Jesus and Curious George (read: these were made up stories based on the pictures as she had no clue what the actual words were). She wore my sunglasses and asked that we take multiple pictures to which I obliged.

I was amazed at how much she had grown and how healthy and happy she was. I was amazed that for the first time in her little life, she was thriving and not just fighting to survive. I was amazed by her language development and the fact that she hadn’t lost her sweet spirit. I was amazed by just how good our God is and how well He has cared for Neica. He has done far more abundantly than all I could have asked or thought concerning her and my heart couldn’t have been any fuller.

Then came the time to leave. Having to leave her a second time was just as tough as the first time. The first time I left her, I didn’t know how things would go and I fully relied on God to care for her. This time, while confident and fully relying on God, my heart ached for another reason.

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This photo shatters my heart. Stay beautiful, sweet one.

So here’s where I’ll type what I won’t tell you about my visit with Neica.

I absolutely hate that this had to be done in the first place. I hate that her body is ridden with HIV because her mother had to choose between letting her baby starve to death or risking it to keep her alive another day by breastfeeding her. I hate that she’s not with her mother and 7 other siblings who live in shack many Americans wouldn’t let their dog sleep in. I hate that even if she was with her family, they wouldn’t have the means or living conditions to care for her and I’m not so sure she’d be alive. I hate that because of lack of education and training, Neica is considered and will be considered for probably the rest of her life a “danger to society.” I hate that she had to come stay with me for a bit just so she could escape malnutrition and get her meds regularly. I hate that the only option I had a year ago was to seek out a place where she could get the special care she deserved and needed just to live. I hate that I had to separate her from her family. I hate the amount of guilt I feel when I have to look her mother in her tear-filled eyes and tell her that “God knows” when she asks me how Neica is doing. I hate that I just went to visit her and feel like I can’t share pictures or news about her because I wasn’t able to take all her friends and family and I’m not so sure I’d take them even if I could have. I hate that I can’t be a part of her life and have to settle with the fact that I was only able to play the little role I played. I hate that I even have to struggle with these things and these thoughts. But I don’t hate that I followed in obedience to God according to the plan He laid out before me concerning her.

Yes I’m beyond thankful that I was able to see her and see her doing so well. Yes I know that this was God’s provision and He loves and cares for her more than I do. Yes I trust in His sovereignty. Yes there was a peace and is still a peace about her being where she is. But yes, there is a tremendous amount of guilt personally because I did the one thing I don’t believe in–separating her from a family who loves her…even though it was for the best.

So seeing her the other day was good for the heart but leaving her hurt because I hate that we are in this situation in the first place and that this is how things have to be.

So there it is.

This is what I won’t talk about and what I don’t want to talk about for now. There will be a time and a place when I can, but for now I’m pressing into God and asking Him to speak to these feelings and this guilt.

Hear me though:

I know without a doubt that Neica is where she needs to be and I did what God asked me to do last year regarding her care. However, this doesn’t make things any easier.

Let us rejoice in the fact that she is doing so well and I ask that you continue to pray for her, pray for her caretakers, and pray for me as I continue to process. What God is doing now is a good thing and I’ll just continue to praise Him through it. Don’t feel bad for me because this is just another time in my life where God is going to bring beauty from ashes.

To end on a good note, here are a few pictures of our time together and they are moments I’ll cherish forever. Just look at how beautiful this little one is.

25 Things Haiti Has Taught Me in 2 Years.

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Today marks 2 years since I stepped off the plane in Haiti with my life crammed into 2 suitcases. All I knew was that moving to Haiti was where God was leading me and that was all I needed. In 2 years I’ve learned a lot of things and I’ve had to unlearn many other things so I thought it’d be fun to share 25 things I’ve learned thus far.

  1. I can’t save a country, community, family or person. Only God can. I just do what He’s called me to do and trust Him with the rest.
  2. “If God wills” I will do things as my Haitian brothers and sisters continually remind me. Anything spoken in the future tense should rightly have these words attached either at the beginning or end because we never know God’s timing.
  3. Even when things aren’t going well circumstantially, “Nan Jezi, or in Jesus” they are still going eternally well and you can take heart.
  4. Moving air is necessary for life if for nothing else than to keep mosquitoes away.
  5. When you think you’ve drank enough water, drink more.
  6. Time is important but not in the way westerners think. Missionaries pass through. People move. Others pass on from this life. Be present and make the most of the time you’ve been given.
  7. “Hurry up and wait” is a way of life and time management method that Haitians employ in order to help missionaries and ex-pats learn patience.
  8. Dogs are dogs and not pets for the majority of the world and you are considered a crazy person if you let one sleep in your bed.
  9. Discipleship, no matter where you live, second to accepting Christ, is a huge need and such an important aspect of the Christian life.
  10. It’s not how much you know, but how much you love and care for those around you that matters.
  11. If you’re in the area of someone you know, even if it’s for a couple minutes, it’s always a good idea to stop and say hi.
  12. Haiti grease fires can be put out with gravel.
  13. The Holy Spirit is directly attached to my gut and I should always go with my gut.
  14. There is more to life than money and money should never be an excuse to not be obedient to Christ.
  15. It’s ok to take time for yourself.
  16. The equivalent to cheese in America is sugar in Haiti.
  17. While you can still plan and make to-do lists, a productive day is when you are able to accomplish one thing. Doing two things at once never works here either.
  18. Love is a universal language.
  19. Haitian women are the definition of a superwoman.
  20. You need a community of like-minded people around you—other missionaries or westerners are lifelines when things get tough.
  21. When I go back to the States, not everyone cares what I do. First world problems become funny in a way that’s not funny at all. I’ve seen real struggle and third world problems.
  22. Coffee is indeed liquid gold and even when it’s 8am and 95 degrees, you’ve still gotta drink it.
  23. The first and most important response to anything and everything is to pray.
  24. When filling up a vehicle or generator, when you think it is full, just shake it and you are able to fit about $10 more diesel in it. Truth be told.
  25. American’s don’t use their horn nearly as much as they should. There is a whole “horn language” and it’s genius.

So now what?

Spoiler alert: more Haiti.

Stay tuned for more news regarding my life Haiti and what’s ahead.

I do want to give a shoutout to everyone who has selflessly given so that I can continue to live and serve people in Haiti in the precious name of Jesus. I wouldn’t be able to do many of the things I do if it weren’t for you. I am indebted to you in love for the rest of this lil life.