Walking with Rocks in my Pockets

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For the majority of my past 3 years living in Haiti, I’ve lived on the “water side” of Route National 2. While I love the water side, there had always been a part of me that wanted to live on the “mountain side.” I have many friends on the mountain side and every once in a while I’d sneak away from the hustle and bustle of the water side and spend an hour or so catching up with my friends and trying to catch my breath as we hiked up and down the mountainous paths. This past September though, God abruptly picked me up from the water side and graciously placed me on the mountain side because He knew I needed to be here.

Why?

Because the way of life is different here.

And I needed different.

Because God was working in my life differently.

And I would be needing to experience Him in a different way.

 

Life on this side is great for many reasons.

It’s quieter.

It’s more rural.

There’s fewer people.

The views are amazing.

And you can hike for hours <–and that is therapeutic in itself.


For most of Cherie’s life (my dog) , she’s been a little cooped up in a small confined space inside a compound. As I type right now she’s tied up on a lead out my front door and she’s perfectly content to people watch, sucker anyone she can into coming over to give her attention, patrol my yard area, and snooze the day away. She’s enjoying some freedom these days and I’m just as happy about that as she is.

I tell you all of this though, as a backstory.

I mentioned that God has been working in my life differently lately and with that I’ve needed to experience Him differently. I’m not going to lie—this past year has been hard. It’s been straining and draining to say the least. I’ve wrestled, lamented, thrown my hands up in frustration, been humbled, and have been scraping the bottom of the grace barrel more days than I’d like to admit.

And you know what? It’s okay.

And you know what else? There’s always been grace at the bottom of the barrel every time I dip my cup…even when I’ve been convinced there couldn’t possibly be any more.

The struggle has been real but God has been even more real through it all.

As part of God’s grace, because I live where I do now, any time I want, I can take a hike. With that, however, comes the fact that I always have to make sure I’m wearing shorts with pockets because I’ve got to keep a few decent sized rocks handy.

Why? Because Haitian dogs.

I don’t agree with the way animals are treated in Haiti generally, but when I head out, I become real Haitian for a bit. Some Haitian dogs have been known to be bipolar and you never know if they’re going to run from you or run at you. However, it’s understood by every single dog in this country that when someone lifts their arm in a throwing motion, they better run or they’re going to get pegged and it’s going to hurt. I personally keep rocks in my pockets when Cherie and I head out to hike because there’s a dog right across from our gate that is out sometimes and it is M-E-A-N, MEAN. It hates people but more than that, it hates Cherie. The only way I can get past the dog if it’s out, is if I keep a rock in hand and my arm up in a throwing motion. Even once we’re past, it tries to come up from behind but the moment I turn around and throw my arm up, it stops trying to charge us and goes the other direction. Not going to lie, it’s a little scary but the rock always works and I thankfully I haven’t had to let the rock fly. Once we’re past that dog though, it’s smooth sailing and it’s usually back in it’s compound before we get back.

Last week Cherie and I went up the mountain early so I could spend some much needed time with God in prayer to duke a few things out and seek some counsel about a few other things in life. {Side note: This sanctification process is necessary, hard, and takes time, but it’s so good because God is so gracious.} We found an area I thought was pretty concealed but apparently the kids heading to school could see me from the mountain over and it wasn’t as quiet as I had hoped. That coupled with Cherie’s pacing because she takes her security job real serious could have made me throw in the towel but by God’s grace I was able to quiet my heart, my mind, and my soul for a few in the midst of it all and watch the sun rise over the mountain.

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After a good bit there, we headed back and as we were walking down the mountain, I could feel the rocks in my pocket hitting my leg every once in a while and that got me thinking:

I walk with rocks in my pockets to keep the enemy (i.e. the other crazy Haitian dogs)  away.

I walk with rocks in my pockets because I’m vulnerable without them.

I walk with rocks in my pockets to be prepared when the enemy tries to strike.

I walk with rocks in my pockets so I can peg the enemy if needed.

I walk with rocks in my pockets because when I raise my weapon, the enemy has to flee.

I walk with rocks in my pockets because I know they are a powerful & effective weapon.

I walk with rocks in my pockets because I know where the enemy hides and he will strike if he has a chance, but also because he may pop up in different places I least expect and I’ve got to be prepared for that too.

I walk with rocks in my pockets because they are a reminder to be on guard and are a constant assurance that no matter what, I have the upper hand.

And then all of that got me thinking even more: 

We all have an enemy–the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). I’ve been given an armor that I’ve got to put on so that I may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). I am exhorted to be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13when the enemy is at hand. I know that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11) and that if I submit myself to God and resist the devil, he will flee from me (James 4:7)…and in that (and so much more) I have assurance of victory whenever the enemy threatens. I no longer have to walk in fear but I can walk in confidence.

So if nothing else, walking with rocks in my pockets reminded me of the necessity of suiting up with the armor God provides EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. because there is an enemy looking to steal, kill, and destroy my life at every turn. And he’s gunning for you too. So let us not be found unprepared. Onward and upward.

 

 

 

 

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ALL THE PRAISE HANDS!

Y’ALL!! I AM BURSTING AT THE SEAMS RIGHT NOW!

For the past couple hours I’ve had a smile across my face and “thank you Jesus” on my lips. I am so stinkin’ excited and I just want to tell the whole world why…which is why I’m writing this blog post right now.

So why am I excited?

BECAUSE BABO AND HIS WHOLE FAMILY HAVE ACCEPTED CHRIST!

ALL THE PRAISE HANDS Y’ALL,

ALLLLLL THE PRAISE HANDS!

This is a miracle and today I got to sit under the papaya tree in Lafferonnay as he shared his miracle story with me. I fought tears and had goosebumps the whole time. When he finished I asked if I could share his story with others and he said “Yes because God did this.”

So, I’m asking you to read along a little longer and see just what God did.

But first, you need to know a little more about Babo?

Babo is a man we met earlier this year.  He makes his living by repairing shoes in our neighborhood with a needle, thread, and some glue. He has repaired many shoes for the Coleman family and I this past year and I’m pretty sure the sandals of mine he’s fixed will last 100 years now. He always does a great job for a great price and gets it done quickly. He always had a gentle and respectful demeanor and we liked the guy. We’d see him from time to time out in the street and I’d always check in and see how he and his family were doing. They were always fighting through each day but this past summer they were dealt a blow that rocked their life.

This past July, you might have remembered seeing this photo and caption on my Facebook:

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“Last Friday we visited this guy (on the left-not Elimage) and his pregnant wife because she thought something was going wrong with her pregnancy and wanted to go see a doctor. The same night we visited and agreed to help them, she fell coming out of her house and bled a little. The next day they went to the doctor. Today he stopped by in tears. They lost the baby. Between moments of being overcome with grief, Elimage and I talked and shared the hope we have in Christ with him. And prayed. Before any of this happened, he was already searching for the Lord and had just recently cut his “Rasta” dreads.

Join me praying for this sweet man and his family. Pray for comfort and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Pray that this would draw Him closer to the Father. Pray for the coming days as his wife gets the continued care she needs. Pray for us as we pray and do what we can for them. None of this is easy for anyone. “

Before he left our house on that day, I gave him some money for his wife to have the operation to remove the baby and do what they needed to do. Actually, to the people who support me here in Haiti, you were the ones who cared for this guy and his wife in their greatest moment of need.

So shortly after that, team season picked up and Konbit was running and gunning. Every once in a while I’d see him on the street and check in, but I was usually on my way elsewhere and didn’t have much time to sit down and talk. He and his family were always “making an effort” and they were putting one foot in front of the other. There was always a weight when talking to him and we always hoped God would intervene.

Fast forward to today.

I was finished for the day and leaving the Coleman’s house when I asked Apredye if I could check his notebook where he’s doing a little work for us. He had left his notebook at his house so we ran by his place which is further back in Lafferonnay. On the way to Apredye’s house, we passed by the tree Babo is always working under and he called my name. I was excited to see him there and I told him when I come back by I’ll stop.

However, on the way back, I ran into a guy from the neighborhood who recently had a moto accident and who we (read: Rachael) have been doctoring up. He hadn’t come the day before so he wasn’t sure if he could come today. I told him to come on up to the Coleman’s house now and we’d get him taken care of for the day. So Apredye and I drove back by Babo and again, I told him I was coming.  When we finished doctoring Sonson up, Apredye and I headed back down to Babo.

Babo’s excitement when I got there caught me off guard as he was pulling up chairs for us to sit. It was very un-Babo like because he’s always real calm, cool, and collected. I knew something was up but I knew it had to be good. He then said that he has some “exciting news” to share with me and that he’s been waiting a long time to tell me. It was then I apologized for not being able to see him sooner and that I had been so busy. Unlike many other Haitians when I say that, he said he knew I had lots of “activities” and it wasn’t a problem because he was happy to see me now.

I asked him what his exciting news was and he said that he and his wife, along with his kids have all accepted Christ. He said this with THE BIGGEST smile across his face and with so much joy. I rejoiced with him and told him probably a million times how happy and excited I was for them. We thanked God together and I wanted to know more!

I then asked him how it all happened when he accepted Christ.

It was from this point of the conversation on that I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps…I still get them thinking about it now.

Here’s his story:

On Friday, August 25th there was a huge accident on the main road here in Gressier. A tap-tap (Haitian taxi carrying lots of people) collided with another vehicle and lots of people died. Babo happened to be there when it happened and he was one of the first people on the scene. He was pulling people out of the crushed vehicles and was doing what he could to save people. Around 4pm the police got there and they accused him of stealing things from the scene of the accident. Babo pleaded with them and said he was only pulling people out and helping them but the police weren’t listening. Then they arrested him. They took him to the local jail where he explained to me how in Haiti, if you go to jail on a Friday, you have no chance of leaving until Monday because the person who can set you free doesn’t work. Babo said God saw and God knew that he didn’t steal anything and was only helping people. He cried out to God to help him because nobody else could.

Here’s another miraculous part:

He said at 8pm, God made a way and they let him go.

LET. HIM. GO!

The people who had put him in there, LET HIM GO!

In Haiti, things like this don’t happen.

BUT GOD.

Babo said he then ran home as fast as he could, told his wife what happened, and that God got him out of jail. It was then he said together, they all repented of their sins and accepted Christ. It was then that they decided that they would spend the rest of their lives serving God because He had already done so much for them. Babo had no doubt that God heard and God answered his cries. Did I mention that Babo used to be a “rasta-man” and didn’t have the slightest desire to follow Christ before? That’s what makes this even more miraculous.

He said that he and his family have been going to church and reading his little Bible (yes, one of those little bitty Gideon Bibles) as much as he can since accepting Christ. I asked if he had a big Bible and he doesn’t….yet. Tomorrow I’ll looking to get him and his wife a big Bible. He also requested a Chants D’Esperance which is a Haitian hymn book so he can learn the songs they sing at church. He said there is “so much he needs to read” and I can’t wait til he has that Bible in hand.

I am so blown away from his story and what God did in Babo and his family’s life. We then spent some time talking about how satan will now try to attack him and get him to not continue to follow Christ. He responded and said that he “wasn’t going to let satan put a divider between him and Jesus” and how he’s already put a verse over his doorway declaring that Jesus “lives there now.” He shared how heavy and sad he was before with all his problems but now he said he still has problems but he feels so much lighter. I could see and feel the weight that had been lifted. He told me how Jesus is with him in his problems now and he shared how God has been helping him meet his family’s financial needs daily. He said sometimes people will come by and just hand him 100 gds (less than $2 US) or pay him a little more than the price he asks for when he fixes someones shoes. We talked about his ministry now and how he has an opportunity to share with his non-believing friends what God did for him. He told me that he now has an “assurance and security” in life that he never had before and it is because of Jesus.

You guys, I feel like I’ve been mourning with those who have been mourning for a long time now so it is so, so good to be rejoicing with someone who is rejoicing. God is so good.

I knew from Elimage and I’s conversation with Babo this past summer that he was searching. We prayed with him and asked for God to show Himself to Babo then. People on Facebook were praying for him and others were financialy giving so that I could even help during that difficult time of his life. And today, hearing that those prayers were answered and that Babo and his WHOLE FAMILY has been rescued from the domain of darkness and brought into the marvelous light makes my heart leap for joy. My God is mighty to save. I am so thankful for my new brothers and sisters in Christ and look forward to seeing how God continues to provide and grow them all up in the faith. I also look forward to going and visiting them REAL SOON.

God is so good you guys. Babo’s story is a beautiful reminder to be faithful in sharing the hope we have in Christ and making the most of every opportunity. This is why we exist. This is the work we’ve been called to. Never lose hope. Never grow weary. Because we never know how God is working but we can know that He IS working and at the perfect time, we will see the work He’s been doing.

Now join me in doing a happy dance for the salvation of Babo and his family!

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No Good Sense.

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The chaos cloud is thick these days.

Between experiencing it personally, reading hard blogs of fellow friends and missionaries in my area, having conversations with friends from back stateside, and watching things spiral out of control from the outside for others, I can confidently say that satan has been having a field day. He’s been reaping chaos from the seeds of corruption he’s sown and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

So many things are happening that don’t make no good sense to me.

(To all my past English teachers, sorry I’m not sorry for the order of the previous statement–you did teach me a much more gooder way to say that. Haha!)

All joking aside though, this morning I was more annoyed than I’d been lately at the seemingly never-ending cloud of chaos that has enveloped so many people I love. I just want the chaos, the questions, the struggle, the doubt, the frustration, and the bad news after bad news my friends hear, to go away. I want to see the end of it. I want the chaos of life to cease.

Ever since I did the Armor of God study by Priscilla Shirer (which I HIGHLY recommend) and when satan is being unusually annoying, I go back to an illustration of hers. I’m not a good storyteller and have a horrible memory, so repeating stories verbatim isn’t my thing so you all will just have to bear with me. She talks about going to the fair and how they have the game “whack-a-mole.” She talks about how sin in our life is like that little pesky mole that pops up. We hit it, it goes down, and then another mole (i.e. sin) pops up and we whack it. It’s gone for a moment but eventually it’ll come back up. She talked about how we’re so content with just whacking the mole and that’s exactly where satan wants us to be. So preoccupied with fighting one mole that we don’t realize there are a million more we’ll have to deal with in the near future. We think we’re victorious for a moment when one mole disappears but that is short lived because another mole is about to pop up. But if we were to draw back the curtain underneath and expose the source of the problem and deal with it, we would be victorious because it could no longer cause the moles to continue rearing their ugly heads in our lives. So when I’m annoyed by satan, I expose him, tell him I’m over him, call on Jesus, and together we send him back to hell where he belongs. He can go cause chaos elsewhere because he’s not welcome to hang out around my camp anymore because I’m on to him. Once Jesus is brought into the picture, he is forced to flee. We can take that promise to the bank, y’all.

So that’s where I’m at.

I see what satan is doing and it’s dumb. He’s got no agenda but to steal, kill, and destroy. He accuses people and tries to make them take the blame for things they have no control over. He accuses people and tells them that they should have done something differently and things would have turned out differently. He causes people to lose sleep over the “what-ifs.” He is the father of lies and there is no truth in him therefore, we can know that whenever he speaks, we can instantly discredit it because we know it’s not true. I just want his dog and pony show to hit the road jack, and never come back.

This morning I had just finished up my quiet time and was in the middle of getting my second cup of coffee and going through my extensive coffee prep (you know, getting the perfect combination of creamer and sugar), when I was reminded of Abraham and his response to God after being told he would be the father of many nations despite him being advanced in years and his wife being barren.

It says in Romans 4: 19-21 that

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No unbelief made him waver concerning the promises of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

He didn’t weaken in his faith when the surrounding circumstances seemed impossible. He was at least a hundred and his wife had been barren forever…not a good combination by our understanding. No unbelief could cause him to waver though. He dared to still believe. No amount of chaos could cause him to look elsewhere or doubt God’s promises.

Instead he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.

Giving glory to God in the midst of chaos doesn’t seem normal but as believers we have this ability to rise above the chaos when we look to God. We cry out to the One who knows everything that is happening. He knows how we feel. He knows our thoughts. He hears our words both spoken and unspoken. He knows our inner self and He knows the struggle within. When we look to God, we look to the One who knows how everything is going to turn out. We turn our eyes and our hearts and trust in His sovereignty knowing that no matter what, His plan is a good plan because He is for us and He loves us. We know that His ways are higher than ours and His thoughts are higher than our so why try to reduce him to our earthly wisdom? We know He knows the beginning and the end and has perfectly orchestrated every moment in between for our good and His glory whether we can fully realize it or not. We, finite beings, can’t see further than the moment we are in. Sure we can have some abstract idea of how things “might” turn out, but we can’t speak with absolute authority on anything because we don’t control it. God alone does. We’ve got the past and our testimony of God’s faithfulness, we’ve got the present and the promise that He will never leave us, forsake us, and that He will be with us to the end, and we’ve got a hope for future that is good and prosperous long after the days of chaos end.

And that’s another thing.

The chaos will end. No season can last forever. No problem will be with us forever. Someday, the former things will pass away and all things will be made new. All things will be made right. All things will be as they were intended to be from the beginning before the fall of man. There will be justice. While we’re here on this earth, we will have many troubles and things will get worse before they ultimately get better, but we can take heart and know that He has overcome the world. He has overcome sin and death. He has overcome our grief and our sickness. And for those of us who have placed our faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross, we too have the assurance that we can overcome everything the world has to throw at us. We’ve been made more than conquerors. We have the assurance that even if our prayers aren’t answered how we’d like, we can trust in the fact that they are answered according to His good and perfect will. We know that His decisions are His decisions to make, not ours. And we can trust that no matter what, He will be with us to work through the hard days once He answers prayers if they’re contrary to how we think they should be answered.

Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. So friends who might be in the midst of the chaos or on the perpetual struggle bus of life with me, let’s be more like Abraham.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

-Hebrews 10:23-

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.