There Is Beauty Here

I moved to Haiti on June 29th of this year. The day before I moved my Granny went to the hospital with a broken rib and a collapsed lung. Later we would find out that the cause was due to stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer. The news hit me with brutal force taking the breath right out of my own lungs. I was able to come home for a few weeks to go to Granny’s oncology appointments with her over the summer. When I flew back to Haiti that would be the last time I would see Granny as I always knew her.

Growing up Granny and I were inseparable. She taught me how to love, how to be strong, how to make homemade biscuits, how to pray, and how to give.

As I made arrangements to come home early to be with my grandma before she passed I heard God whisper to me, “there is beauty here.” If I’ve learned anything from living in Haiti or just from walking with God I know that He uses all things. I know that when the sorrow is deep and the hurt is strong God is still there, and he will use that sorrow and hurt for positive purposes. Nothing goes unseen from God’s eyes and unlike our minds that can only comprehend so much, God is able to understand our hearts and the way that they are feeling.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

“… but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

I guess we all face various seasons in life. Seasons in which we are effortlessly intertwined with God, and seasons where it seems that God is no where to be found.

Right now I’m at home feeling out of place because I should be in Haiti, but you know I think I’m right where I should be. Leaning into the grieving. Leaning into the pain of my family and my own. Leaning into the unknown and the unplanned.

No matter how far I wander from God, no matter how many days I go without praying, no matter how many mornings my Bible remains unopened, no matter how many times my lips do not sing His praise he continues to call me by name, which is “His” (Isaiah 43:1).

I think that life is about connection. Life is about love and loss. It’s about embracing what we have and when we no longer have it carrying on all the things that what we did have taught us. I truly think that everything Jesus has taught me since I chose to give Him my heart can benefit others. I don’t think that I have it all figured out, but when the teenage girls I live with lose sight of their faith I can  share from personal experience that no matter how far they wander God is still holding them close.

Living in Haiti I now know that I have been so blessed to have a Granny that loved me so. I’m so blessed to have been raised by her to love God and to love His people. I am so blessed to have been raised with love and compassion and interest. I’m so thankful that God allowed me to go home and tell Granny that I had been missing her before she passed. I am so blessed to have heard her say, “I missed you more.” That was the last thing that she said to me, but I am so blessed to know in my heart without any doubt at all that she loved me. I’m even more blessed that she taught me that even though she loves me, God loves me so much more. He loves me more than I could ever imagine or comprehend.

Recently in following God to Haiti for the year I have often felt that the place where I was at in life was hard or not where I wanted to be. When I came home to be with my grandmother before she passed I felt like that was not where I wanted to be. In the days after Granny went to be with Jesus I felt like being at home with my family was not where I wanted to be. In quieting my loud thoughts I now see that God has me where he needs me. He takes us where he can use us and then he draws us back in and gives us rest. Instead of wasting all of our energy fighting God and His will we should surrender and let him hold us in the exact place where he has put us. So many times I am like Jacob wrestling God and when I do finally accept what He has given me it’s because I am exhausted in all forms of the word. I pray that with every wave of life we learn to trust Him more and more. I pray that we would not have a faith that turns from God with every blow from life, but instead would find comfort in the arms of our loving, loving Father. The Father who formed us and knows us in the most sincere way we will ever be known, and who loves us without condition or end.

 

Lord I pray that You will show us the beauty and who You are in all stages of life. Jesus I pray that when we cannot see that You would hold us and give us Your eyes. God please help us to not waste any event in our lives, but instead to turn to You and Your love. You are so good to us. You never leave us or forsake us, even in times when it may feel that way. Thank you for Earthly grandmas that allow us to taste some of your glory. Thank you for love in the fragile human form we experience. Thank you for how you bless us so God, even when we are unaware of what you are working together for our good. 

 

 

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Ms. Kelsey

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

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Pictured is our director, Ms. Cara, the French teachers, English teachers, and students. We clean up nicely!
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My beloved Pink House Girls
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Sunday morning worship
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Our play house and yard

Loving Deeply

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu 

 

Today my sweet boyfriend Taylor flew back to North Carolina after an amazing week in Haiti. Last Thursday he ventured to our little Caribbean island for his first experience of life in a country very different from his own. We spent the week fumbling through speaking Creole, secretly stealing kisses on the cheek, and laughing constantly. We ventured from the beach up to the mountain of Fort Jacque. We held malnourished babies and played with the very healthy children that I take care of. We ate Haitian food and squeezed onto one moto together. We loved those around us without borders or limits, and it was the sweetest week.

Taylor and I met when we were at the ripe age of 16. I was a sassy girl looking for trouble and he had a heart of gold. Our time together then was short lived. Little did I know he would become the one six years later to make my heart beat a little faster. We spent our years during college a part at different schools but we always kept in touch. When we graduated from college our paths found their way back to each other in the simplest and most beautiful way.

Taylor has always had a way of loving me through my brokenness. I have a history of believing the lies of the enemy, that I’m not good enough but too much at the same time. Taylor has always crushed those lies instantly. I never thought that I was deserving of someone to love me in such a relentless way. However, in an earthly picture of my Father’s love for me, Taylor loves me without question.

What drew me to Haiti for the first time was the simple yet rich life I experienced here. In the same way, I was drawn to Taylor by the depth of his heart and intelligence as well as the simple way he lived and loved. As I decided that moving to Haiti would no longer be a dream, but instead a reality my boyfriend was not thrilled. I’m not sure who would be thrilled to have their girlfriend move away for a year. As the days slipped away and my suitcases became packed, ready to go, fear settled deep in my chest. I assumed Taylor would say that I should stay home but instead he said, “this is your dream. You are strong and you CAN do this.” The first night I called him crying I was expecting an, “I told you so,” but instead I was met with comforting words and encouragement.

Being loved and loving someone in return gives us strength and courage. Love takes strength and it also takes courage. Courage to risk pain or to experience immense joy. Strength to be patient, kind, and vulnerable. Knowing love from the Father and through relationships we are enabled to bloom like the flowers we were destined to be, and through this we know that God is love.

God changes hearts. All of those years ago when I thought Taylor wasn’t the one for me Jesus was preparing my heart to love and be loved by someone who is so good for me it’s almost too good to be true. When fear settles in my heart and cripples me from living fearlessly, God is quickly on his way to change my heart. In the same way, this past week I have seen how God changed Taylor’s heart from being unsure of Haiti to embracing the people and place that I love with open arms.

 

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These boys were inseparable ALL week!!!

 

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We both got onto one moto to ride 45 minutes up the mountain for this view. Needless to say, at first Taylor was not happy with me.

 

Father, thank you for your love. Thank you for allowing us to experience earthly love in an imperfect way that always points us back to you. Thank you for the way you work all things together for our good, even when we don’t know it yet. Thank you for how you change our hearts and give us the life you’ve always wanted for us. Thank you for giving us people to come along side us in our mess, and hurt, and adventures, and joy who inspire us and make us better. Lord thank you for the joys of life and the sorrows, because in those sorrows we savor the joy. You are too good to me God and I love you. Amen. 

 

Princess of the Promiser

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” -Hebrews 10:23

He who promised is faithful. God who promises is so faithful. What does it mean for God to be faithful? So many times in my life my idea of God’s faithfulness is the ease of my life. God’s faithfulness to me sounds like happiness, and comfort, and simplicity. God’s faithfulness doesn’t really feel like being alone, and being immersed in darkness, and hurt. God’s faithfulness doesn’t sound like serving, and serving, and serving some more. God is faithful to me when I am full, and when I am loved, and when I am held. However, I have found that none of this is true. When I am tired and when I am weary Jesus meets me and he is faithful. When I pour out love and receive none Jesus is faithful to love me in return.

What has God promised to me? What has God promised to us, the ones who love him and want to serve Him? He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised that he delights in us. He has promised that he is with us when we pass through deep waters. 

When I live a simple, easy life I act as if I do not need God. This is so harsh for me to verbalize, but it is so true. When I am living for myself, in my comfort, with the ones I love I don’t need my Heavenly Father to carry me. Although I have seen that when I am at my weakest this is when I am the closest to the Lord because I am 100% dependent on his strength and love. Just like He has promised, He comes to my rescue.

Recently one of the kids from the mission wrote about herself that she was “the daughter of the King.” This made me cry because she had recently come to me with questions about her faith. She told me that she is struggling with understanding all of the rules involving religion. I’ve been trying (probably insufficiently) to explain to her that God doesn’t want our rule following. I think he actually loves rule breakers (see Paul, Rahab, and Moses to only name a few). The Bible beautifully depicts how God actually used people who broke the rules and didn’t measure up to be a part of the lineage of our Savior. To me there is nothing more beautiful. God using broken, messy, imperfect, chronic rule breakers to do Kingdom work.

Just like these Biblical rule breakers, I’m probably the last person who should be responsible for loving people and children in a third world country. I’m selfish, I’m tired, and my reserve of love often runs dry. However, as soon as I start to feel parched I feel the spring of living water well up inside of me. I feel the water of life flowing through my veins enabling me to give this water of life to others. God’s promise has been fulfilled once again.

Thinking of “daughter of the King” created spinning wheels in my mind about who else I am. I am the, “daughter of the King.” I am the, “delight of the highest donor.” I am the, “beloved of the Bestower.” I am the, “friend of the Father.” I am the, “princess of the promiser.”

God promises to be faithful. He promises to come through. He promises that if we will just be still he will meet us where we are and as the ultimate Promiser he will provide for his princesses and princes.

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I love this photo because it looks like Heaven is coming to touch me. I also just love nature because it SCREAMS of God’s beauty and goodness. 

 

For Such a Time as This

Today I have lived in Haiti for one month. One month doesn’t seem that long, unless of course you’ve moved away from everything that has made you feel secure for the last 24 years of your life.
As I reflect on a month away from my home, the job I loved, my family, and my boyfriend I feel empty places but I also feel so full and so held. I’ve never experienced Jesus sustaining me and filling me up like I have in this month.
I’ve recently been studying Jesus’ heart for injustice and the idea that comfort is an idol. God did not call me to sit at home and be comfortable. He called me to go to the places where I don’t know the language or the culture and love others well. Sometimes when I’m feeling like I’m not changing the world (like I had hoped) I start to feel frustrated and wonder why I’m in Haiti anyway. I wonder “couldn’t I do this same job at home?”. Then I’m reminded that the school I’m working at has never had a special education teacher before. The country where I’m currently living does not view people with disabilities very highly, and God gave me such a big heart for people who have special needs and need someone to be their voice. So I guess no I couldn’t do this same job at home. God called me to Haiti for a specific purpose to really see these kids and to love them well.
When we follow Jesus and take on the servant’s heart he called us to rather than the self righteous heart the world calls us to we will venture into places that seem like they aren’t good for us. We’ll be asked to do things that are hard and that hurt, but oh the joy that comes from being in the center of God’s will for you. Oh the joy of a “Miss Kelsey can I help you” and an “I love you” with a kiss on the cheek. Oh the joy of children who once were illiterate entering into high school for the first time. Oh the joy of saying yes to the exceedingly and abundantly bigger work of Jesus Christ.

Some days my time in Haiti feels like an eternity and other days it feels like the speed of butterfly wings. Whatever it may be I will feel it and embrace it and continue to lean into what Jesus has called me to because this is so good and I don’t want to miss a thing.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 NIV

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Love these silly girls! We’re having some fun before we start back to school!!

Beautiful Women

“We all move forward when

we recognize how resilient

 and striking the women

around us are.”

-Rupi Kaur

 

Within the past week I’ve been dealing with some girl drama. I live with 4 girls age 12- 15. I’ve now got 4 new baby sisters to lead into womanhood. Honestly I do not miss that age at all. Teen years can be full of so much hurt and insecurity. But as I think back on those days and ALL of the mistakes I made I know that God used that pain and time of life to help me grow into the woman I am today.

 

Being a woman is so beautiful. I know many women only experience hurt from other women, but I think God designed our female hearts to be able to breathe into other female hearts in such a special way. Females offer life to the world. We offer love and emotion.

 

Walking the girls through their disagreements reminded me of the struggles I had with friendships when I was younger. I’m thankful now that I journeyed through those times so that I can now walk my new little sisters through this stage of life. I want them to know they are strong and powerful, and it’s okay if another woman is strong and powerful as well. God uses all of us together to achieve his purposes. Instead of arguing we should be lifting each other up and celebrating each other.

 

Today I celebrate being a woman and loving all of the women in my life especially my new little sisters!

 

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Equipping

As I’ve transitioned to living in Haiti it hasn’t been easy. A few days after I unpacked my bags and settled into a new home I found out my grandmother who I’m very close to has a cancerous tumor. A few days later some of the staff had to go get our children that were stuck in traffic for three hours due to roadblocks around us and violent protesting. Last night I went to bed with no shower and not much battery left on my phone to let me loved ones know I was okay. Although none of these things are ideal God has sustained me and brought so much peace into my heart.

From the beginning of this journey I have felt unprepared and unqualified. I am learning every day that I don’t have to have a 10 point lesson plan and Pinterest crafts ready. All I need is a heart willing to love and to be used by God.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

What I’ve come to know so far is that I don’t have it all figured out and I’m not equipped for this, but every day Jesus is equipping me with His love. All that He asks of me each day is that I reside in Him and to let Him use me.

As someone who has always liked to have a firm grip on my life and the things I feel are in my control, it has honestly been so refreshing to let myself breathe and give God the driver’s sear for a change.

I also have learned so much from the children at the mission. No matter what is going on around them they are so full of joy and life. I’m so thankful God has allowed me to spend my days with them during this season of life. In the 10 days I have lived here they have already changed my thoughts and attitude on how I embrace life.