Last weekend my grandfather passed away. Just six months before his wife, my Granny and greatest accomplice, passed away as well. The weight of hurt and sorrow was weighing really heavy on my soul. I was thinking about my year in Haiti and all of the events that stuck out in my mind were negative, difficult, painful events. The initial things that popped in my head when I thought about the year were death, violent protests, no electricity, rats crawling through my window, mice chewing up my clothes, and sleepless nights because of how hot it was. I reached out to a friend and she suggested I listen to a recent sermon from our church, Hope Community Church. The sermon was about David and Goliath. In the face of David’s greatest obstacle he chose to glorify God instead of his difficulty. The last thing the pastor said that really resonated with me was, “What are you giving the most glory? God or your struggles and difficulties?” Obviously from the third sentence of this paragraph you can see who I’ve been glorifying. In my mind the difficulties characterized and far outweighed the joy of this year in Haiti. I decided I’d write down all of the sweet memories I have from living in Haiti. I wrote down things like learning to be obedient and truly rely on God, sunflowers growing in our garden, the daily, “Good morning princess” greeting from little girls who are the real princesses, seeds being planted through Bible study with the older girls, singing and dancing in the kitchen while cooking, students who can now read, teenagers who show more confidence than they did when I first came, bedtime stories, and living out one of the deepest desires of my heart. To my surprise the list of, “Good things” far outweighed all of the negatives in my mind. When I went to title my list as, “Good things” I messed up and accidentally wrote, “God things” but I think that’s really fitting. When all we can see is darkness and hurt God is redeeming us and the stories of our lives.
Each day Jesus is revealing himself to me in spite of myself and my problem glorifying. I think that as a Christian we have so much hope in the fact that our trials and struggles are not in vain. They matter to God and they are actually good for us. They make us stronger, wiser, and more dependent on the One who is our Rescuer, Protector and Father.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:17-18
God thank you for revealing yourself to us and for interceding for us and fighting for us when we can’t fight anymore. Lord I pray that we become a people who speak about you more than we speak about our problems. I pray that we will become a people who glorify you instead of our struggles and who constantly fix our eyes on you and your love for us. We love you so much Lord! In Jesus name, Amen.
Sun beating down on my freckled cheeks, sweat rolling down the back of my neck, covered by little arms giving hugs. These are my normal days here in Haiti. What was once so foreign is now so second nature.
I only have about a month left of this journey. Not my journey of being obedient to God, but the end of this time in Haiti. God has stirred by heart for others, especially those who are overlooked and I know that I’ve got a lot more obedience to give. For a girl who has always been so head strong and controlling, surrendering to God has been the sweetest thing I’ve ever known. Each time I say yes to God, he draws me in closer. Maybe this is because when I say yes to him I go places and do things that are so uncomfortable that the only way that I can manage is by his strength pouring into me. With the time that I have left I’m working on being intentional and part of that is writing down and recounting each passing week. I don’t want to forget any part of this story that has wrecked me for Jesus and I pray that in sharing others will be moved by how big, and mighty, and loving, and life giving the Lord really is.
Last Friday I finally had a sleepover with all of the girls….. ALL OF THE GIRLS. That’s about 20 girls who are from 5 to 17 years old. It was a fun time! We watched a princess movie of course, and the girls were obviously captivated by the story because inside a princess is in each of them screaming to be seen and known. I painted their nails even though I’m so bad at it. When I asked Angeline if I could paint her toenails she told me she hadn’t washed her feet but of course I didn’t care. I’d gladly touch her dirty little feet anytime. When she said this it reminded me of when Jesus washed the disciples feet. He wanted to serve them just like I want to serve the girls and show them that they are loved, worthy, and beautiful beyond their wildest imaginations. This isn’t a story just about serving children of a foreign land, this is a story about how we serve daily. How we humble our hearts and take on a posture of service daily because that is exactly what our Father did for us.
After the movie and painting our nails it was time to go to bed. Unfortunately the air conditioner in our living room was broken and for 25 people we only had one fan. All of the youngest girls wanted to sleep with me so we all piled onto one, twin air mattress. Stefania, the tiniest, cutest little thing you’ve ever seen, took up three times her size on the air mattress. So Ms. Kelsey was left with about a foot of room to sleep. I didn’t care though. Shamaika held my hand all night until she fell asleep while I lay awake listening to the laughter of little girls, and prayed over them. This night was no night at the Best Western, but for the girls it was so special. I barely did anything at all other than give them my time and attention but I think that’s what they’re seeking more than anything else. Just like all of us are. We want to be seen, we want to be known, and we want to know that we matter. But we don’t have to want these things anymore because they’re a reality for us. Jesus sees us. He really sees us. He sees our heart, our mess, our sorrow, our joy, our jealousy, our sin and he loves us all the same. He knows us deeply, and fully. Before our parents even knew us he knew us. We matter to him. Isaiah 43:4 says, “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” One man in particular that God gave in return for us was Jesus, His only son. What kind of exchange was that? Our sinful, selfish, failing selfs for the perfect, humble, teacher who was Jesus. It doesn’t make sense but it is true and because of this we matter. Nothing can change that. Not death. Not life. Not angels. Not demons. Not our fears of today. Not our worries for tomorrow. Not the powers of hell. Not the powers in the sky above. Not the powers of the earth below. Not anything in all of creation can change this (Romans 8:38). I really didn’t feel like I did much for the girls but they’re still talking about this hot, joyful, sleepless night and so I know that it was worth it.
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5
I moved to Haiti with the notion that I’d only be here for a year. There were times when I felt called to Haiti for longer but recently I have chosen to move home in July. I’m currently living in an in-between time, which can be so disheartening. I’m in-between homes, jobs, and countries. My heart is in two places and both of these places hold people that I love so dearly. Each day I can choose to focus on how badly I miss my loved ones back home or I can choose to make my next 43 days in Haiti count.
This longing to go home to North Carolin has reminded me of another longing to go home that we all feel yearning within us. I’m currently working through The Quest, which is a Bible study by Beth Moore. My sweet friend Nancy gave it to me before I journeyed on a more physical quest to Haiti. In this study I have been reading scripture that explains that when we are reborn into the body of Christ we loose our residency in the world and we gain a new home in heaven. We become pilgrims on a journey back to our heavenly Father.
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Philippians 3:20
Last week I went to a local coffee shop to get some peace and quiet for a little bit. It was such a sweet time to rest. On my way home I saw some succulents for sale on the street and I had to get one. So, I bartered as best as I could and then hopped back onto the motorcycle I was riding with my succulent. This isn’t a Harley Davidson type of motorcycle, it’s more like a street bike. In Haiti this is the equivalent of a taxi. My friend Maceus has a moto and I pay him to drop me off at places that I need to go to and then take me back home. So last Friday afternoon I rode a moto down the busiest road in Port-au-Prince, succulent in hand, sun shining on my face, with so much joy in my heart. I was looking at the palm trees and the bougainvillea and I was so captivated and in love with that moment. I didn’t want it to end. Just that morning I was upset with the kids for something that I can’t even remember now, but I do remember the intense desire I had to fly back home. I was so frustrated with myself for not being satisfied and being so fickle. Then I remembered the scriptures I had recently read.
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14
It made me think about how at times I am so content and grounded and other times I want what’s next so badly that I feel like I can’t get out of bed. I really, really struggle with being content. I have always wanted what comes next and because of this I often miss what’s happening right now.
I think that we go through in-between stages in life; in-between jobs, in-between homes, in-between relationships. The in-between times feel like a gap in life. They feel like a time of waiting and it feels empty. It feels like we’re waiting on God to show up and fix everything, but what if he’s already there? What if the in-between time is a blessing? What if God loves us so much that he allows us to wait, to grow, to change because He cares so deeply for us? Like a parent who lets their children try and fail, He allows us these uncomfortable times in order for us to be molded into the children he created us to be. I think that the in-between times can also be an example of our time on Earth. We’re here waiting, pilgriming, exploring, failing until we can go back to our home in heaven. But I don’t want to just wait my whole existence a way. I want to live each day here in a way that allows God to live through me.
When we feel like we’re in an in-between time or a time of waiting we can be encouraged that God is there. He hears us and He knows us intimately and deeply. We also can be encouraged with the truth that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. In this season of waiting to go home I’m taking each day to thank God for one of the children that I’ve had the privilege of living with and teaching this year. I’m slowing down. Typically I would try to stay busy so I didn’t think about my longing to be somewhere else. I’m leaning in to this season and in doing so I’m leaning into God. I’m letting Him fill me up and I’m choosing to live each day intentionally instead of wishing them away. I am praying that this will be a daily practice for me of submitting to the Lord, in all seasons, and being present. At first this season of waiting was really difficult but it’s actually turned out to be such a sweet time of knowing God more and being vulnerable, feeling everything that comes, and savoring each moment.
God, thank You for loving us enough to bring us to seasons that teach us and grow us. I pray that during these times You would come in so close that we would be overwhelmed by your presence and love. I pray that You would come in close and fill all of the spaces that are hurting and are tired. I pray You would create good works in us that last into our eternal, forever home. We love You so, so much Jesus. Amen.
When we choose to accept Jesus into our hearts and join God on the adventure of life, the Holy Spirit comes to reside inside of our bodies. Therefore, a form of God is within us. I bet if you thought about the fact that the God of the universe inhabits your body you’d take care of yourself a lot differently. I know that I would. The act of taking care of yourself physically and mentally is actually an act of worship.
“Therefore brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Romans 12:1
I believe that the three major ways that we take care of ourself is through filtering our thoughts and memorizing scripture, exercising and eating well, and resting.
“So then, dear friends, since we have these promises let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the power of the mind and the brain. I’m troubled by the lack of information that many of us know about what lies within our own bodies. Personally, I never knew the power that I had to control my thoughts and responses to things around me. I never knew that I had the power within me that raised Jesus from the dead to take all of my thoughts captive to the Lord. What many of us don’t know is that your mind holds the key to life and death.
In order for us to tap into this life we must read the Word of God. Growing up in the church I never, ever knew the power of scripture. Honestly the Bible was just boring stories about history to me until I saw the power of speaking scripture over darkness.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
I think that so often we don’t realize the shear power of scripture. We read it and it sounds nice, but we think that it won’t save us from suffering. We read about God’s strength and immeasurable love for us, and it all sounds wonderful, but when we’re weak we turn to social media and red wine (this is me) instead of scripture. We have no idea of the power that we posses as children of God with access to his living, breathing Word.
In order to experience the abundant life that God wants for us we must realize the power of Scripture and we must hide that scripture within our hearts.
The armor of God consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. The only tool in this list that is used for defense is the sword of the Spirit which is Scripture. Scripture is the only thing that will protect you against the schemes of the devil who came to kill, steal, and destroy you. This is so serious. It’s the difference in living the abundant life God promised you or sleep walking through life. Each one of us, because we were designed in the image of God, are being attacked by God’s number one enemy. We have targets on our backs and satan will not relent until he sees us defeated. Our only defense against these attacks is Scripture. Jesus holds the keys to sin and death so let’s use his power that raised Him from the grave to take back our minds and our lives.
I think that so many people in the church don’t know about the weight of spiritual warfare and the power of our thoughts because of spiritual warfare. Satan is so good at putting blinders on us. He is so good at twisting the truth and lurking around, but lets call this what it is, a battle field. Your mind is a battle field and it’s time for us to stand up and claim the victory that God already won for us. Although satan can’t read our minds he can see our actions and hear what we say. This is how he tempts us with thoughts that are never for our benefit. They may seem like they’re for our good when in reality they are just stealing the joy that God intended for you.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8
I’ve always studied the first part of this verse. It has always given me hope. However, it wasn’t until I continued reading this passage of Scripture that I realized trusting God, which means trusting His Word, His Spirit inside of us, and His son Jesus, is actually good for our health!! It is healing to our flesh. It is refreshment to our bones.
When I’m stressed, worrying about things that were never meant for me to worry about instead of trusting God, I feel my shoulders tense up and rise towards my ears. A lot of times because of that tension I also get a headache. It’s like a defense mechanism to protect me from all of the demands that I’m facing. This is our brains natural, innate response to too much stress. You actually begin to defend your body in certain ways such as tensing up. What is also remarkable about our natural responses is that the brain is similar to a muscle in the sense that the more often we use a certain area of the brain, for example the stress response portion of the brain, the stronger it becomes. You can actually live in a constant stress response state if you don’t choose to take control over your thought life. In contrast when I read Scripture, spend time with God, pray, and show Him and myself that I trust Him, I can feel my body breathe a sigh of relief. Whatever we choose to think about most often will become our initial response, and whatever our initial response mentally is will manifest itself physically within our bodies. This is the power of your mind and of Scripture. I’m telling you, God wants to give you healing mentally and physically. He wants to refresh us. What father wants their children to constantly be hurting themselves by worrying all the time??
So from this scientific information that I’m not going to cite because this is a blog, we can see that our minds are powerful and what we think about is powerful as well. I’m not sure why, “Take every thought captive,” isn’t tattooed on my arm yet, but I’m thinking about it because our thought life is so important. Fill your mind with God. Fill your mind with Jesus. Talk about God. Listen to things about God. Spend time with people who want to talk about God.
The act of meditating on Scripture and taking every thought captive is obviously difficult. It’s much easier to be a sleepwalker so that satan won’t target you, but I know that I don’t want to get to the end of my life and tell God that I spent all of my time watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram. I don’t even want to tell my grandkids that. I want to tell them that I fought hard for Jesus, to make Him known in my life and in the lives of others.
Honestly I struggle with this every day. I get busy at work. I get busy after work. I get busy before bed, and I forget. I forget and I sleepwalk. I let my thoughts flow in and out freely, and I don’t think about the ones that are threatening to my mental health. Even something so simple as, “I didn’t read my Bible today. I’m a really bad person,” is a negative thought. God wouldn’t say this to us because he says that we are lovely and altogether beautiful, but satan would so that he could make us feel bad and tear us down in order for us not to be able to reach our full potentials. The act of taking every thought captive requires us to be present. It asks us to be reflective and to slow down. In the age that we’re in I know that this is difficult. Demands to move more quickly are constantly shouted at us, but like all truths, this is the opposite of what God calls us to. God calls us to a slower pace of life that is so much more refreshing. I dare you the next time you’re stressed, sad, or mad to say Philippians 4:13 over and over again until your heart stops beating so fast and you feel at peace. When we recite scripture we are pulling our mind from negative thoughts to the truth and to positive thoughts. I promise you that we really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Our mental health manifests itself physically. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.
“For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it just as Christ does for the church since we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:29
To provide and care for our bodies means to offer our bodies nutritious food, exercise, and rest. All of these aspects are imperative to your health. As Romans 12:1 states, taking care of your body is actually an act of worship! When you eat the gross cauliflower and run the extra lap you are worshipping God because you’re taking care of His temple (your body) where he dwells. Knowing that taking care of myself is a way that I honor and worship God encourages me to do these things when I really don’t want to.
One of the words that I mentioned was, “rest.” What does that even mean??? Is it still in the dictionary??? Who rests these days???
“In returning and rest you will be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
I love this verse! Who would have thought that by resting we would gain strength? I never did until I practiced the art of quieting my soul and was strengthened by the Lord. Resting in this verse does not mean binge watching Netflix. It doesn’t mean mindlessly looking through social media. Rest is spending time with loved ones, reading scripture, praying, taking a nap, going for a walk, laying in a hammock, or reading a good book. I think rest depends on the person, but I truly believe that rest doesn’t come from technology in the format that we most often use it these days.
Our health is so important. When we feel good we can do so much more, however we must realize that our physical health flows from our mental health and positive mental health comes from depending whole heartedly on God. Recently I became very sick. I had a mosquito borne virus called Dengue Fever. It’s very common in tropical areas like Haiti. Despite all that I knew about the virus none of that knowledge decreased the severe blow that it took to my health. I was so weak and hopeless without anyone to help take care of me in Haiti (there’s nothing like your mom when you’re sick). I had no energy at all, so I just laid in bed all day and slept. I saw that my lack of reading Scripture really took a toll on my mental and emotional health. It took me three weeks to recover and all the while I was trying to survive on my own strength instead of gaining strength from the Father and his Word. As soon as I did read my Bible after all of this, I instantly felt better. God’s word washed over me like a cleansing flood and I felt renewed. When I chose to trust Him He gave refreshment to my soul.
God says that you are altogether beautiful, there is no flaw in you. He says that he will give nations in exchange for you. He says that your name is, “His.” I think that when we see ourselves the way that God sees us things change. When we realize that our bodies are a gift given to us by God we take care of them differently. I think that when we really acknowledge the fact that our body is a temple for the one true God we reverently take care of ourselves. My prayer is that first and foremost we realize the power of our minds and take back what is ours. Everything else that we are and will be flows from our minds. Let’s let God into our every thought and rely on His Word like we never have before.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the way that you love us even when we don’t love ourselves by taking care of ourselves. Thank you that you come to live with and within us Lord. I pray that you would fill us up and make us whole, but only by You and Your Word. I pray that we would worship you with our bodies as a living sacrifice daily. I pray that you would clothe us in Your Armor to stand against the schemes of the enemy. Lord I pray that you would renew our minds daily and that scripture would come to life where before we were oblivious to It’s power. God thank you that you won the battle for us already. Please help us to walk in Your truth so that we may be victorious each day by depending on You. I pray that when we do fall victim to lies and deceit that you would light the way and that the truth would be visible. We love you SO much God! You make all things new, daily, and you are such a good, good Father. In Jesus’ beautiful name, Amen.
“Therefore we do not give up. Though our outer self is wasting away our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
I’m so sorry that most of my blogs are about trials. I really wanted to get away from that in the next writing that I did, but in living in Haiti I have come to know very well what it means to face trials of many kinds.
I hope this story makes you laugh. Now that I’m a few weeks removed from it I am able to laugh but when it happened to me I can assure you that I was not laughing. To set up the story that will make you laugh I need to share a bit about the current situation in Haiti. About a month ago we experienced a gas shortage. The gas stations were rationing the gas to only one gallon per person. Honestly I’m not sure about this correlation, but at the same time we stopped having city power for the amount of time that we should have it. We are supposed to have city power from 6 am- 9 pm but during this time we were only having it from 6 am- 2 pm. Due to the lack of city power, the mission where I work began running our generator more often which in turn caused our generator to begin having problems. These generator problems caused the directors to decide to take my house off of the generator which in turn is why my windows were open while I was sleeping. Because my windows were open while I was sleeping the biggest rat I’ve ever seen in my whole life crawled on to my bed. What did I do? Scream like the lady I am, try to fumigate the thing from under my bed where it was hiding with bug spray, and cried to the guard that a rat the size of a cat was under my bed until he came into my room to get it out. I will tell you that every thing in Haiti is bigger. The cockroaches, the rats, the mosquitos, but most of all the joy. At home I don’t think I would really experience these types of situations where I MUST rely on God for joy, strength, and peace.
Since the rat incident (I am still being teased by the kids for cuddling with a rat) life here hasn’t become much easier. For a week now we have been on lock down due to violent protests in the streets. That means no school, not much power, and an inability to go anywhere. For many people in Haiti that means no access to food, no water, no medicine, and no work. It is so easy in situations like this to want to give up. It is so easy to give in to fear during these times and not to trust God.
Every night we have devotion. One of the kids will share a message and then we all worship together. Last night I was feeling really upset due to the lack of power (you don’t realize how much you rely on it until you don’t have it) and just the current state of this country that I love. When things like this happen it makes me feel so small, like I’m not doing enough or praying hard enough. So I was praying fervently and while I prayed I quieted my soul and I heard God say, “I am here.” I honestly thought he had turned His eye to us. How could people be dying in the streets and He be here? How could children I know go without medicine that protects their life and He be here? How could we be living so uncomfortably (comfort is probably an idol for me that I am working on- this is so candid) and He be here? But He is here. These kids that I love so much are always pushing me to the Father. The way they live with abandon and with their hearts wide open shows me the hope of the Lord. For the week we have been making Valentines for our staff, playing thinking skills games, exploring engineering concepts with K’Nex, and getting caught up in good books. I never see any tension on their faces. I never see any worry in their eyes. I know they are children, sometimes oblivious to the trouble of the world, but I truly believe that children reveal so much to us about how to love and trust God.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” Matthew 18:4-5
I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t want to go home. I want to go home so bad. I miss my loved ones. I miss hot showers. I miss the freedom of having a car. I miss so many things that make life comfortable. In living in Haiti God is refining me. Sometimes the refining work that God is doing in us hurts. It is uncomfortable, it is painful, but it is in the refining that God is making us who we were meant to be. It is in the refining that God is going to bless us. The definition of refine is, “to remove impurities or unwanted elements from a substance.” Something that is so beautiful and so precious to us that must be refined are diamonds. I want to be seen as a diamond. I want to have the natural beauty and elegance in my heart that we see when we look at a diamond. But something that we must address is that if we want to be the diamond we must go through the refining. I really don’t believe that we can have one without the other.
I don’t want to write as if Haiti is a bad place. I love Haiti. It is beautiful and it is the home of 40 little people that I love more than life. However, as you can imagine, living in a third world country with civil unrest on your doorstep is definitely challenging. So I am praying diligently for peace and hope in this country and I hope that you will too.
Father, you are so good. You bring new mercies each morning and you provide strength that surpasses my knowledge. Thank you for the way that you work in us. Thank you for the way that you refine us. Thank you for that while you are refining us you never leave us or forsake us. Lord I pray for Haiti. I pray for your people here. I pray that your love and your light would radiate through the streets penetrating the darkness. God, I pray for the people unable to find food or water. I just pray that You would meet their needs Father and that you would sustain them in the way that only you can. We love you so, so much. Amen.
Putting together puzzles and imagining that we are under the sea and on a safari!
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2: 20
When I initially chose to obey God and move to Haiti I was so excited to be doing something I felt like I was born to do. I thought that when I came to this beautiful Caribbean island everything would be perfect and I would finally be content with my life. However this was not the case. My first six months in Haiti were hard. They were full of fear and frustration. They were full of doubt in God’s plan for me and my own ability to love others. So after a month back in America due to the passing of my grandmother and the holidays, I was ready and also dreading heading back to my home away from home in Haiti. Now that I have returned I see that those months of pain and tears and loneliness were not wasted. I see now that they all had a purpose. In trials and difficulties God grows us the most. When we weather the storm we see how strong our vessel actually is. How much more do we appreciate something or someone when we no longer have it? Being at home gave me time to realize how blessed I am that Jesus is using me and allowing me to be on such an amazing adventure with Him. During that time I was able to realize that the difficulties here in Haiti cannot ever compare to the glory that God is creating here.
Last semester my heart was overwhelmed with the cancer in my Granny’s body, the struggles of being a new parent (to 40 kids), the challenges of a third world country, and the distance between my loved ones and myself. Most days it was so hard for me to take my eyes off of my own self and put them on God and His plans for me. I was too busy focusing on what was wrong to see what was right, like 40 sweet smiles ready to be loved and love me in return. Before I came back to Haiti in January I prayed God would give me His heart and His eyes for this country that He has brought me to. Praying this prayer and keeping my eyes on Him has done wonders for my selfish heart.
Since I’ve been back in Haiti I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my kids at Have Faith Haiti. I made it a goal of mine for the new year to spend more time with the kids instead of working on grading papers and making lessons because truthfully the kids are why I’m here.
I’ve also been able to meet some other really beautiful children. I was able to go to Jehova Rafa which is a home for children with disabilities. All of the children there were abandoned. In Haiti people with disabilities are not cared for like they would be in America. Here in Haiti we aren’t blessed with the equipment, technology, or materials like the things I had in my classroom when I taught children with autism in America. I was able to meet the sweetest kids who despite their situations were beaming with joy.
I also was able to meet Sophia. She was abandoned on the doorstep of a malnutrition clinic not too far from where I live. She has what looks like hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is something that could be treated in America, but in Haiti the outcome for her is fatal. She is an older girl, who looks to be about five or six. Most babies with this disease pass away early in life so there could be hope for her!! Her story and her laugh when I tickled her captivated me.
These are the ones who are overlooked. They are who I want to stand for. The children who are said to have no chance of life or learning. I want to offer them the life and love of Jesus. The impoverished who are said to have no hope. I want them to have the hope I have in the Lord that no power of man can ever destroy. The outcast that are said to be unwanted I want to invite them into the family of the Father as coheirs with Christ.
One of the most difficult things to understand but the most freeing, fulfilling, and beautiful thing about God is He takes us just as we are. He made us to be who He wanted us to be. Therefore, when we come to Him he doesn’t want us to have our act together or our finances organized or our heart in order. He just wants us; broken, poor, needy, hungry. We all are all of those things.
“Find your self worth in the fact that God so desired a relationship with you that he laid down his own life to have it.”
I look at Sophia, I look at my kids who have been left without a traditional family, I look at the kids at Jehova Rafa and I know that it’s worth it.
The Holy Spirit lives in each one of us so essentially part of Jesus is in each of these people. The King of Heaven and Earth is worth it. The beloved Son of God who laid down His own life for me is worth it. He’s worth the days without power, He’s worth the mosquito bites, He’s worth the heat, He’s worth the homesickness. He is worth it. He gave His life to give me mine and the least that I could have done is live in Haiti and allow Him to work through me.
In keeping our eyes on the Lord we hear truth and we are given strength to endure the trials. When we remain in Him the very loud voice of the world that says it’s too much and we’re too weak fades away so that we can hear “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” God is worth it. The joy He brings from doing the hard things is worth it.
Father, thank you for the way you use even pain for our good and your glory. Lord thank you that you work all things together for the good of those who love you. I pray that you would enable us to keep our eyes on you. I pray that you would quiet the voice of the enemy and make your voice the loudest voice in our lives. I pray you would speak truths into our hearts. I pray that you would equip us, help us to be brave, and send us out on adventures beyond our imagination to give the sweet love you’ve given us to those that are overlooked. We love you so much Jesus. Amen.
I have been wanting to write and share what I do in Haiti, as well as explain a little about the organization where I am working.
The wonderful establishment where I am blessed to work is called Have Faith Haiti Mission. Here we care for 40 children from the age of 5 to the age of 18. The word, “care” encompasses providing for the children’s physical needs such as daily meals and teeth brushing, providing for their emotional needs such as hugs and bed time stories, providing for their spiritual needs such as Sunday school and nightly prayers, and providing for their educational needs such as too much math homework and nightly tutoring. Although we are one big family with common purposes, each child is beautifully made up of special qualities that make them all worthy of being adored.
Within the complex of our mission we have a dorm where the children sleep at night except for the oldest girls. These girls have the privilege of living with yours truly at what we refer to as, “The Pink House” (seriously every wall that forms our home is PINK- pink as in Peptobismol pink). The purpose of The Pink House, which is located one house down from the mission, is to teach the older girls how to cook, clean, form time management skills, and learn how to be independent as well as self sufficient. Back over at the mission, the dorm has a room for the little girls, middle aged girls, little boys, middle aged boys, and the big boys. Each room has several bunk beds and each night one of our beloved nannies sleeps in the room with the kids. We are blessed to have a staff of nannies who work in shifts to look after the children, make sure they get bathed, and are all in bed when it’s time to go to sleep. The nannies also braid the girls hair each Saturday and come up with activities for the younger kids when they are not in school. Not to mention they provide an ample amount of love and nurturing to our kids. Our dorm also has a living room where the kids love to watch movies and read.
Adjacent to the dorm is the kitchen where Ms. Meme and Ms. Loraine, our talented cooks, make the best sòspwa (Haitian bean sauce that will make you want to stay in Haiti forever) around. The kids are served three meals a day. The meals are planned out for each day of the week. On Mondays we have oatmeal for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch, and a sandwich for dinner. This is similar each day of the week. Due to Ms. Loraine and Ms. Meme cooking for so many people the menu and grocery list stay predictable each week.
Outside of the kitchen we have a lovely, multipurpose gazebo. The gazebo is often used for a game of gaga ball, Ultimate Have Faith Wresting, or a new dance routine. However, without fail every night it is used for devotion. Each night one of the older kids preaches about an important topic to all of the other children. All 40 of us pile into the gazebo to hear the speaker’s words of wisdom. Once preaching is over we sing. The kids love to sing and worship. Sometimes if they really want to hear a song they chant to our worship leader (a 16 year old named Chivensky with a talent for music and a heart for Jesus) as if they’re at a concert begging for an encore! Every night Chivensky leads worship along with the help of a few bongo drummers such as the very talented Louvenson (a 13 year old with the kindest heart). Once worship is over, we pray for the day and recite our memory verse of the month. My most favorite thing each day is the sound of little voices praising God each night. I love to hear the untarnished faith of a child as they joyfully sing to our Father.
Surrounding the gazebo is what we call the yard. The children make up games here with rocks or whatever they can find. The best thing I’ve seen yet is a bicycle the kids ride that has no tires, only the rims of the wheels. It also has no seat, but instead has an improvised seat in the form of an old Clorox jug. We also have a wonderful play house in the yard where the children can be found sailing a ship into the harbor or hiding from an enemy in a battle.
On the far end of our compound is our school, The Have Faith Haiti Bilingual School. Our school is based on an impressive curriculum and teaching methodology. We have no tests, students are not left behind if they don’t understand a concept, and we teach everything upon prior knowledge. We have students learning chemistry when they’re 9! I’m pretty sure they might be more intelligent than I am. The only students that attend our school are the students who live within our mission. We have a highly skilled group of teachers who provide a wonderful education to our students. The kids love to learn. They are so inquisitive and their thirst for knowledge continuously goes unquenched. Our school is an English school from 8:00- 11:30 meaning that the students learn many subjects but they are only speaking English. From 1:15- 4:45 our school is a French school meaning the students learn many subjects but only speak French. We have nine classes beginning with Preschool and going up to Secondary 1.
I am a teacher within our school, affectionately known as, “Ms. Kelsey”. I focus on individualized instruction for students who are struggling to learn in the same way as their peers. I create goals for them and track their improvement. I also work on teaching our teachers how to individualize and adapt instruction to students who need additional support. I am advising two high school students this year, working on our school newspaper, and teaching English to the cutest group of preschoolers you ever did see.
Next to our school we have a chapel where the kids have Sunday school and worship service every Sunday morning. Our school principal also doubles as our preacher. He leads the children spiritually in a relentless love for God.
On Saturdays the learning continues through music, Spanish, and Creole lessons, as well as tutoring. The students are offered music lessons in piano, guitar, and drums. Although the children know how to speak Creole they do not know how to read and write it, so on Saturdays a teacher comes and teaches the students how to do so. We also have a teacher that comes and teaches two Spanish classes.
Our mission and school are intertwined but not directly related. When it comes to the school I am a teacher, I work to get the materials all of our teachers need, and I lead the teachers in understanding special education. When it comes to the mission I lead a reading program, I work on our sponsorships, and I try my best to instruct the children any chance I get such as during cooking classes and the weekly Bible study I lead for the Pink House Girls (similar to the Pink Ladies but we don’t have jackets made yet).
Our mission and our school are ran by the love and service of so many people. For 40 kids and over 20 staff the laundry piles up! We have a beautiful co-work named Ms. Benita who does the laundry. The kids help wash the laundry by hand and then once it is dry they help fold it. Even so, this is a lot of laundry! We have the sweetest co-worker named Ms. Nancy who helps clean the entire mission along with the help of some of our smallest helpers. We have Mr. Germain, Mr. Michel, and Mr. Secrois who help us around the yard. They fix things, make sure water coolers are filled, and lend a helping hand wherever it is needed. We have several guards who rotate each day. They monitor who is coming in our gate and they provide security for our staff and children. We have amazing on site directors such as Mr. Yonel, Mr. Alain, and Ms. Gina. This trio is unmatched. The love, wisdom, and ambition they all have is what keeps this ship sailing towards future dreams and aspirations for the children. We also have two nurses, Ms. Larose and Ms. Nydie, who care for the children’s ailments, perform physical therapy for one of our children, and maintain routine check ups on the kids to make sure they all are okay.
It takes a village. I’ve never been a part of such a large family, but that is exactly what this is. We are a family. We care for each other and we encourage each other. We get annoyed with each other and we say I’m sorry (often) to each other.
God’s love is infused in Have Faith Haiti Mission. I know that he is pleased with the work of loving children and adults who are vulnerable. We don’t call Have Faith an orphanage. We call it a mission because although the children that live here may not have biological parents that care for them or that they see, they are not orphans. They are loved by so many. They are cared for, prayed for, and delighted in.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -1 James 1:27