This is a special post by Ashley Wingate, one of the awesome staff at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. Thought you needed to see this!!
MY HEART BEHIND THIS MINISTRY
Chosen – Redeemed – Forgiven – Adopted – Immeasurably Loved….
Wow. Aren’t those words that you want to define you? Well they do. These labels are placed on us by our Savior.
I’ve struggled with not having a lot of self-confidence in the past…often feeling worthless…never good enough. I tried way to long to find my worth in my relationships of this world…how those people viewed me. I often got let down. I felt like I was in a never winning battle with myself. Until God started capturing my heart. The moment when I realized he wanted more then just religious acts from me and that he wanted my heart…my world changed. I allowed what his Word said about me to define who I was.
I’ll never forget my freshman year in college when it clicked while I was sitting in front of the ocean thinking…who will ever love me THIS much…who will ever give me something so beautiful as the ocean? No one.
I was sought after…He wanted a relationship with me so much that he went to the cross…he was beaten…he was bruised…he was mocked…
Simply because He loved me. I was that special to Him. And not just me, but each one of us. That’s why His love is immeasurable.
We did a Bible study on Ephesians last year and that’s where those words stem from…Ephesians 1 says we were chosen, redeemed, forgiven, adopted, immeasurably loved. I write those very words everywhere cause it reminds me of who God says I am. The words sought after came from a friend’s blog…when I read those two words I was in awe cause those words were such a perfect example of the way God loves us.
I have been blessed for the past year to work with some pretty amazing kids while teaching pre-school in the nutrition program. However, God has continued to bring my attention and my heart back to their moms. I’ve only lived in Haiti for the past year and a half, but during that time I’ve noticed how poorly women get treated here. I feel like they are seen has having little to no value. I hear story after story about how men have more then one family, how the mom is the only one actually taking care of the kids, or how sex is often used as a source of payment instead of it being something sacred. These women are in their 20′s to lower 30′s and they have multiple kids that they are taking care of on their own. My heart breaks for them.
I want them to know their worth. That they are sought after. That they are chosen, redeemed, forgiven, adopted, and immeasurably loved.
They love their children and on top of everything else the world and this culture throws at them I don’t want the fact that they feel like they can’t take care of their children to be the cherry on top. I’m not a mother, but I can’t imagine the burden that weighs on you if you feel like you’re not able to take care of your child.
All that to say I’ve been searching for a small sewing project that I could teach these women to do that would also be manageable.
THE COIN PURSE MINISTRY
After spending several mornings searching the internet and Pinterest (I knew that would be useful for something) I found a patten for a coin purse. It looked pretty easy to teach as well as make. My hope is to raise enough money to get enough materials to bring back with me in January to make 100 coin purses. Granted if this seems to be a popular idea then I’m all for raising more. *Again this is just something the Lord laid on my heart…it’s a trial run…and I don’t know all the odds and ends yet.* I just wanted to get the word out before I got home so I could start working on raising the money.
I’m wanting to raise $5 a bag which for 100 purses will be $500 all together. I’m working on getting a group of women to help me put these bags together while I’m home so that I can have them ready for the mom’s when I get back in January. In each bag I want to include:
- two pieces of pre-cut fabric
- a needle
- a coin purse frame (which I found I can order in bulk off of Amazon)
After a mom gets done sewing her purse I will then place their name inside (so that I know who to pay) and I’m hoping to sell them for $10. While I’m first starting up $5 of that will go back into buying more supplies and then the other $5 will go to the mom.
I’m working on a set of rules as well as a Bible study so that we can dig into the Word first each time we meet and discuss their value and worth in the Lord’s eyes. I’m hoping to meet with them on Saturday mornings.
If you are interested in helping with this ministry in any way please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know where to send the money to. If you think you will be interested in purchasing one of these coin purses please email me as well. And if you just have any other questions, advice, or wisdom for me I would love that to…I’m kinda walking by faith with this one.
Below are pictures of 23 of the moms that are interested in this ministry. I met with them last weekend and they all seemed very excited and anxious to get to sewing! Please take time to look through their pictures and read about some of their story…they are amazing women and I want you to know them by name and face so if anything you can be praying for them.
Nadia has one child, Louvinsky, which is in class with me. She is a 17 year old who has never been to school. She still lives at home with her parents and Louvinsky’s father isn’t in the picture. She hasn’t been able to find a job and is really excited about the coin purse ministry. She see’s this as an opportunity to provide (even if it is in a small way) for herself and most importantly Louvinsky.
Roselene is 38 and has 6 kids, one of which is in the nutrition program (Stoly). She is married, however it’s been very difficult for her and her husband to find work that pays enough to provide for 6 children as well as themselves. She stopped school at grade 3 and is currently unemployed. She would love to learn how to sew, but doesn’t have the money to do so. She is very excited about this opportunity not only to get the chance to do what she loves, but as another way to provide for her family.
Gislene is 21 years old and has 3 kids, one (Vielene) is in pre-school with me. She isn’t married, but the father does live with her. She said he doesn’t really help out financially. She was never able to go to school, but says she loves to sew. Therefore, she is really excited about being able to make something to sell and having another way to provide for her children.
Cedeline is 23 and has one child, Wedeline, who comes to pre-school with me. She is on her own taking care of Wedeline and can’t find a job. When she had Wedeline she had to stop going to school, she was is the 8th grade. While talking to her she expressed her desire to go back to school so that she could open up more opportunities for herself in being able to provide for her family. Until then she is really excited about this small opportunity of sewing the coin purses.
Guerda is such a sweet 24 year old who is the only provider and care-taker of her two girls. Both of her girls use to be in our baby-orphange ministry at NWHCM, however when we had to cut back on programs that was one of the first to go. Several of the babies we placed back in their homes if we knew it was a safe environment and her two girls were some of the few. Guerda loves these girls and I saw that through her frequent visits to the baby orphanage. Though it’s hard for her to provide for them without a job, being able to bring the girls to the nutrition program has been a huge help to her she said. She had to stop school at grade 7 once she had Katiana (her first daughter who is in pre-school with me), but she loves learning especially learning how to sew and speak English. She’s excited to have a way to provide for herself and her girls, even if it is in a small way.
Guerline is 24 and has one child, Samite, who comes to the nutrition program. She is the only one who takes care of Samite, the father isn’t in the picture. After having Samite she had to stop school at grade 9, however she really hopes she gets the chance to go back. She really wants to learn English and is excited about having a way to earn some money to help herself and her child.
Ifozie is 23 and has 4 children. She lives with her parents and the father of her children isn’t in the picture. She would love to go back to school to learn how to cook, but doesn’t have the means to. She is excited for this new opportunity so that she can have another way to help provide for her children and herself.
Medilia is 25 and has 4 kids. Marcnes, one of her children, comes to my pre-school class. She isn’t married and the father of the kids isn’t in the picture. After having her kids she quit going to school. She likes to cook and wants to go to school to learn how to make flower arrangements. She’s excited about having an opportunity to help provide for herself and her kids since she doesn’t have any other help.
Janette has an amazing heart, her family is very familiar around the mission, therefore I know a lot about her story. She is 45 and has 10 kids. One of her children is actually her nephew and she became his guardian after his mom passed away. I adore all her children and she’s actually come a long way in taking care of them and seems to be a really amazing mom. She is married, but he just recently left her and was never really able to find a consistent job to provide for their family. She hasn’t been able to find work either and had to stop school at grade 5. They were living in a shack until the rain and storms knocked it down and are now living in temporary housing that’s been paid for until we can get them a new house built (one of our staff members raised money to have them a house built). She would love to go back to school and to learn English so “she can understand Americans”. Her son Richie is in pre-school with me. She said she is always excited about other opportunity to provide for her family in some way.
Lou-Loune is 22 and has 2 kids. She is married and the dad seems to be a huge help. She went to school until grade 7 and would really love to go back, especially to learn how to make flower arrangements. She is excited about other way to help her children, herself, and her husband through this ministry.
Morlande is 26 and has 4 children. She is married, but her husband hasn’t been able to find work. She went to school until grade 6 and would really love to go back. She wants to learn how to sew. She’s really excited about this opportunity to learn how to sew something as well as provide for her family in some way.
Fi-Fi has 4 children and is married. This is her second time being married, because the father of her first three children passed away. She did go to school, but stopped at grade 2. She would love to go back to school and learn how to read. She’s excited about this ministry so that she can have some help in providing for 3 of her children since they no longer have a father.
Moleque is 23 and has 3 kids. She is married, but he lives in the Dominican. However, the father does help in providing for their family. She went to school until grade 6. She would love to go back to a school where she can learn different trades. She is very excited about this ministry, not only as a way of helping herself and her children but for learning something new too.
Saint Therese is 42 and has 4 children. She was married, but he passed away. Her youngest, Natchcard, comes to pre-school with me. She was never able to go to school. She adores her children and loves doing anything that involves them. She is really excited about learning something new and having another way to help herself and her children.
Guerlie is 20 and has three kids. One of her children isn’t her own, but his mom is disable and unable to take care of him so she took him in. His name is Wensley and he comes to pre-school with me. She went to school until grade 6 and would love to go back to some type of trade school to learn how to sew. She is grateful for another way to help provide for herself and her children.
Rosette is 24 and has two children. Her youngest, Ki-Ki, is in pre-school with me. She is such an amazing lady and was put in charge over all the moms by one of our Haitian leaders. She went to school until grade 2 and then stopped going. She loves to sew and is really excited about this opportunity to learn more about sewing and to help provide for her family in some way.
Marita is 21 and has two children. Both her children are in the nutrition program and her youngest, Marline, is in pre-school with me. She isn’t married, however the dad does help her as well as lives with them. She went to school until grade 6 and is really excited about an opportunity to learn something new, especially sewing because she’s very interested in it. She is grateful to have another way to help provide for herself and her family.
Erlande is 25 and has 3 kids. Her youngest, Jeffly, is in pre-school with me. She isn’t married, but the father does help out. She went to school until grade 8 and would really love to go back to a trade school and learn how to sew. She is happy to have a way to help provide for herself and her family.
Alieta is 27 and has three kids, her youngest, Lyse, is in pre-school class with me. She is married and was able to go to school until grade 7. She enjoys sewing and making beautiful flower arrangements. She’s excited for an opportunity to help herself and her family, even if it is in a small way.
Icelia is 47 and has 5 kids. Salmon, her youngest, is in pre-school class with me. She isn’t married and the father isn’t in the picture. She has never been to go to school, but she is excited for this opportunity to learn something new as well as have a way to provide for her family in some way.
Berlande had to become a mom at the very young age of 14. Her mother died and her father isn’t in the picture. She does live with her aunt and basically takes care of her three siblings. She went to school last year and was in grade 6, but didn’t have the funds to continue going this year. She really wants to go back to school and to be able to help her siblings in some way, so she is really excited about this opportunity.
Please be in prayer for these moms, their children, and the Lord’s guidance with this ministry.
As many of you may recall, at the end of the ’90s classic Forrest Gump, the film’s eponymous main character invests some of his hard-earned money in a “fruit company” by the name of Apple Computer Inc. A British site has done the math on what his investment might be worth today, and the results are staggering. If Forrest invested his Bubba Gump Shrimp Company profits in Apple to the tune of $100,000, he would have an estimated seven billion dollars today.
Since none of us had that kind of fortune, it is easy to think we can’t really invest in something that has incredible value. But is is simply not true. We can invest in a cause so much greater, that lasts so much longer, and that profits so much more than money. The scriptures put it this way:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
The $25.00 in the picture may not seem like much of a treasure. Until you know where it came from and what it is for. A young girl at LifeQuest Church has been hearing for a long time about the orphans at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. She wanted to do something to help and she heard that Mr. John and Mrs. Alana were going to see the orphans. She did extra chores around her house and earned $25.00. She gave it back to her mom and told her to give it to the orphans at Northwest Haiti.
This precious second grader knows nothing of investments, interest, or the stock market. What she knows is that there are children who don’t have very much and she wants to help.
So next week, while we are in Haiti, the Miriam Center kids are going to be treated to an awesome blessing because one girl invested for the long haul.
What are you investing in?
One of the ideas behind One Life Adventures was to connect churches and ministries together to serve missions and missionaries. We didn’t really have a blueprint for what that would look like, but we knew God had laid it on our hearts.
When Sent Life Church and LifeQuest Church partnered for our first trip into Haiti in June 2012, we knew we were on to a good way to bring local bodies of the church together to serve. What we didn’t know was that God would expand our vision and our opportunities while we were on the mission field.
While we were at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission several important items came to our attention. One that struck a chord in my heart was the need for some spiritual care for the missionaries serving at the mission. Haiti is an incredibly hard place to live. The electricity put out by a generator means you have a limited time to get accomplished what many of us take for granted daily. There is no mail service to speak of so letters and packages from home are not easily attainable. Most of the missionaries are separated from their families for months at a time and there is little in the way of “comfort food” to make life a little more relaxing.
In my conversations with the staff I also realized these people spend most of their time pouring out with very little being poured into them. This sparked a crazy idea for Paul and me; “what if we could pastor the missionaries?” I don’t mean move to Haiti and plant a church full of missionaries, but what could we do to make sure they were encouraged and blessed spiritually?
“Operation Barnabas” was birthed out of this question. If you are not familiar with it, you can read the details on the blog. The idea is simply to partner missionaries with people to pray for and encourage them on a regular basis. So far, we have about half the missionaries partnered with people. If you would like to join up, let me know and we will get you partnered.
The second step is a return trip to the mission in October 2012 to lead a staff retreat for the mission. I (John) and my wife Alana will be going October 8-13 to serve the mission staff. Paul is still trying to see if he can work all the details out to join us. Here is the thing: we need help.
The cost for the trip is about $950 per person. We need to have this paid off by September 8 in order to make this trip work. I am asking if you feel led to support us at any level, that you make a check out to LifeQuest Church and mail it to 3998 SW Leighton Farms Ave. Palm City, FL 34990.
Any amount of money will help and all of the money will be used to serve the mission staff and to breathe spiritual joy and health into their lives. I believe God wants this to happen and He will provide.
Please pray for us and the staff at NWHCM as we seek to model spiritual health and refreshment into one another’s lives.
So, here is the next phase project for One Life Adventures. Operation Barnabas is a prayer and encouragement ministry in support of the mission staff of Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. For those of you who may not know, Barnabas was a supporter and encourager of Paul in the New Testament. In fact his name literally means “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36)
Here is how it works:
- You will be given the name and e-mail address of a missionary with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.
- You will agree to pray for that missionary on a regular basis and to contact that missionary weekly through e-mail, Facebook or other contact and encourage them. You can send Bible verse, encouraging articles or quotes and find out special needs that they may have that you can pray for.
- You will become a regular part of feeding their souls as we support and encourage them in their ministry.
To sign-up for Operation Barnabas, contact John Harvey at John@lifequestchurch.com and you will be assigned a missionary. We will have more than one person assigned to each missionary. Thanks for your support.
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11
One of the most amazing aspects of having a heart and desire for missions and missionaries is how God shapes and challenges our hearts and minds in the task of going, serving, and sharing. But what happens after we return home? How does the investment of our life for a week in a Third World country really impact us in the First World? How do we keep a fire stoked for the people, the work, the full-time missionaries who impacted our lives so deeply while we were there? Is it possible for our “mission trip” to become a mission mindset?
Here are three very practical and powerful ways God has shown me to stoke the fire to serve the mission and missionaries I work with in Northwest Haiti now that we have been home for a few weeks.
REFLECT- “The beautiful thing about obedience is seeing what God had in mind.” Henri Nowen
We spent six months preparing for our trip and making sure we understood what it was we were heading into as we ventured to Haiti. Now that we are home, it is important to reflect at a deeper level to see what it was that God did in us and through us as we were serving.
To reflect is not to simply look at pictures or tell stories; although those things certainly help in the reflection process. To reflect is to dig into the deeper elements of our experience and to see what it was that God showed us. We answered the call to obedience to go to Haiti, now is the time we reflect back and see what it was that God wanted to show us about ourselves, our faith, our pride and Himself.
Now that we are home, reflect back and see what it was God wanted to show you in your obedience to serve him and others.
PRAY- “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
In Haiti we were driven to our knees to pray because we were helpless in our own power. Now that we are home, don’t lose the passion and desire to pray for what God opened our eyes to see and our hearts to feel. The need has not changed. The kids in the Miriam Center still have serious needs. The missionaries you got to know and love still are tired and weary; especially as the last groups of summer are coming and going this time of year. The mission still needs funds to carry on the ministry. The people we met going hut to hut are still hungry; spiritually and physically. The “Bracelet Bandits” still need Jesus.
By praying we can impact the eternal realm from our home and can partner with our Haitian family to be a part of the God work taking place in Haiti. Pray for one child, one missionary, one need, one bandit.
PREPARE- The habits of today will develop your foundations for the tomorrow.
If you begin now to prepare for how you are going to leverage your experience overseas to last more than one week, you will see an impact that is eternal and fruitful. Was your journey to Haiti a “one off” event in your life? What I mean is you can see your trip as simply an event that is now over or the beginning of a lifelong journey. Maybe you won’t return to Haiti or anywhere overseas, but God still wants you to be connected with his mission to the nations.
There are needs you can meet. You can raise funds for special projects. You can support a child in the Miriam Center. You can help fund the mission staff. You can raise awareness of the need and desperation of people you met. In short, you can continue to care and serve in the midst of life in the States.
God’s calling is not for the short-term. We may not serve overseas longterm and we may never see people we interacted with again, but God has given you a unique insight and perspective in the world of missions. Don’t waste what God has begun in your heart.
In the next few days I will be sharing some prayer needs. I am looking for people willing to commit to lift up God’s work in powerful, committed prayer. If you want to be part, keep an eye out for the updates or contact me directly.
One Life is not over!! In many ways, the journey has just begun!!!
Today is another guest post from my friend Karen Cottin. Karen taught on Treasure in the VBS in Haiti and God opened her eyes to some great truths we all need to be reminded of in our own lives.
TREASURE…I have been thinking a lot lately about the message that I was talking about at VBS in Haiti. When asked to do VBS God REALLY just kept pressing upon my heart TREASURE….TREASURE…TREASURE…
It started with a treasure box; on it saying in Creole, “I am Gods TREASURE.” Then the children had shiny gem stickers in which they could decorate their treasure boxes. I have been thinking a lot these past few weeks now that I am home and things are settling in. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The crazy part of this is, I didn’t realize how much of this was for me until I actually started teaching and preparing for it.
I am just going to be flat-out honest I have really not been “Treasuring God” in the way my heart truly should. I think because of that I have felt some disconnection like with any other relationship.
When you Treasure something you INVEST in IT BECAUSE YOU CARE ABOUT IT!!!! GOD INVESTED IN US IN A BIG WAY……. WITH HIS ONE AND ONLY SON . It hit me when I was in Haiti really hard as I was teaching, seeing these precious little faces treasure the small little things in life. I need to make sure that I spend my time INVESTING in HEAVENLY THINGS not EARTHLY THINGS.
I only say this because I am speaking from experience and not a good one by any means; one that leads you down a bad road!!!! We have to make sure we are putting no other relationship in front of our relationship with Christ. HE needs to be the first in our treasure box then our husbands, children and friends.
I sat one day at the top of the roof and remember just crying my heart out to GOD. The children looked at the shiny beautiful gems and there eyes lit up…..”That’s how God looks at me I question?” Yes, that’s how he does look at me and you, our messed up broken selves that we are. That’s how he looks at us and he wants us just the way that we are.
HE WILL USE US…. You Are a Treasure to God!
Today I am posting a Guest Blog from an awesome One Life Adventure Team member Karen Cottin. Karen did an amazing job of leading our VBS team in Haiti. This was her first mission trip and certainly her first time to a third world country. Karen has been growing like crazy spiritually and as a leader. Here are some of her raw thoughts about how God worked in Haiti.
Another restless night of not being about to go to sleep. Haiti the past few nights has just really been tugging really hard at me , so I decided instead of journaling it all tonight I AM GOING TO SHARE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS WITH YOU:)….. I wanted to share a story that came to mind as I was looking through some photos tonight, that just brought back some really STRONG moments for me on the trip. This one was after the first VBS, in the soccer field, a friend, Mary Barr, sat down on this big rock and ALL these children gathered around her. They knew she had something to give and it was GOOD!!!! They became so excited….. Their JOY over RAISINS gave ME TEAR FILLED EYES INSTANTLY….. I didn’t think she would even have enough to go around, but to my surprise once again there was plenty! I told her when I looked over seeing her feeding the children it reminded me of Jesus feeding the Five Thousand with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus took it and gave it to all the people; Mary took what little she had and gave it away…. Yes it wasn’t five thousand kids but the picture probably looked a little bit the same; at least I think it did. That being said we can be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we are, we don’t have to be in Haiti to touch a life, ONE LIFE MATTERS!!!!
I didn’t really understand my LACK of dependance on God until he took me out of my comfort zone, in a country so foreign to me with none of the comforts that I am so used to having. COMPLETELY depend on HIM? I had to ask myself and didn’t really like the response. If everything were the same and nothing was changing and we weren’t moving out of our comfort zones we REALLY wouldn’t need to DEPEND on GOD… RIGHT? I am not just talking about going to a foreign country without all the luxuries we have, just generally speaking. Well thats where I honestly have been for a long time. I get comfortable and start to fear change. Change is coming very soon for me. I am going to be starting a new job. To leave where I am is sad. They are like my family, but God has opened a door for me and I can’t fear. The lesson God showed me in HAITI was how much I NEED HIM I was COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON HIM. I am home now……. my DEPENDANCE on HIM should not change though the spoiled luxuries I have are back …. This girl of comfort is clinging to THE COMFORTER as I AM COMPLETELY DEPENDENT on HIM…. Trusting IN HIS PROMISES…IF HE CALLS US HE EQUIPS US!!!
Love God!! Love Others!! Prove It!!!
The picture at the beginning of this post is not of simply another store or nightclub. It is actually a voodoo temple in Ansefalor, Haiti. It is not just a voodoo temple, it is The Voodoo Temple. Haiti has a history of voodoo, but in the Northwest, this is the place to go if you want to invoke the spirits. The day we were in town, we were not allowed into the temple because they were sacrificing.
One of the shocking aspects of this scene is not that a voodoo temple is in the middle of town, but rather how common the temple looks. If you didn’t know any better you would never know what it actually is that takes place here. In fact, the doll the people worship in the temple, the one they believe has the power over their lives is called Sa Tan.
This morning I have been reflecting on my own life and how the subtle drift from holiness to evil occurs. I think I am doing great, I desire to do great, I want to be closer to Christ and then suddenly sin is knocking at my door. I honestly don’t believe that Christians set out to be lured into sin, but I think it happens with small baby steps away from holiness. And any drift from Christlike living is a drift toward evil.
Like Paul, I consider myself chief among sinners. I am by no means setting myself above anyone on this issue. But I see over and over again Christians who embrace culture without the recognition of the evil and destruction awaiting.
Let me give you two recent movies as examples of this drift in thinking. Adam Sandler has recently released a “comedy” based on the premise of a thirteen year old boy getting his middle school teacher pregnant. I know people who have embraced this premise as a “fantasy” without looking into the destruction of sexual abuse. What if the gender roles were reversed? Would we embrace a “comedy” of a teenage girl impregnated by her teacher?
This weekend, thousands of women have flocked to movie theaters to see “Magic Mike” about male strippers. Really? I know women who desire Godliness, who want Godliness from their husbands who are making this movie a “Girls Night Out.” If you think that sexual temptation and lust are male only problems, Satan has already gotten you to buy into his subtle drift away from holiness.
I am not promoting some type of legalistic, monastic lifestyle. I am certainly not telling anyone that I am free of all these temptations; Satan knows I am not that strong. But I am calling us to recognize Paul’s calling to realize we are dead to sin and therefore no longer embrace the subtle drift away from holiness (Romans 6:11). Don’t let what looks innocent fool you into believing it is innocent.
Returning home from Haiti is always an amazing, shocking, comforting and painful experience. You come home and realize while your body is home, your mind and soul are still drifting in some nether world between Haiti and home. Our team is fighting fatigue, virus, bruises, and how should I put this…Traveler’s Tummy. (Yes, some are on the Haiti diet plan!!!)
In the next few days I will write more posts, share more pictures and post some videos. None of them will do justice to the amazing encounters we had with Christ as we encountered his children in Haiti.
One aspect that is true in our culture as it is in Haiti….when you think you understand, something crazy happens. So many times while on the trip I heard the phrase “You won’t believe what God did.” Unfortunately in our hurried lives we often miss the God moments. My prayer is that the God moments will grab our attention, challenge our thoughts and change our actions.
As far as how the trip went, I could not be more proud of everyone on the One Life Adventures Team. There were no conflicts and the support and unity of 28 individuals made the week an amazing success. God provided unity and a sense of purpose that only he could have made happen.
Our world is filled with contrasts. There is incredible joy so often when a baby in born. In other ways human life is not valued and babies are seen as a burden. We see an incredible order to the universe, but we often have doubts that there is a creator. We abhor violence and abuse toward children, but Hollywood has just released a movie, a comedy no less, about a boy being abused by his middle school teacher. In light of so much contrast in our culture, it is no wonder Jesus used stark contrast to draw the line between his kingdom and the kingdom of this world.
One of the greatest contrasts in our world is the contrast between light and darkness. The moments before sunrise, which I don’t choose to see often, or the moments before nighttime are the blurred realities of contrast. In some places you can be in bright sunshine and then it seems like the next minute is the middle of the night. Light and darkness are earthly realities that point us to spiritual truth.
In John 3, Jesus is speaking to a religious man and telling him how to have eternal life. When Jesus speaks about himself he says this:
“Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light.” John 3:19
Darkness in scripture not only represents sin, but complete separation from God. Jesus, as the light of the world, came to shine into the darkness of humanity. But man, because of sin, has chosen to stay in the darkness of our own hearts and desires and reject the light of God.
One of our projects in Haiti will be in Ansefelour, a place of incredible darkness. Voodoo is alive and well in Haiti. It is not what we often picture from the movies or modern culture. Voodoo is one of the incredible dangers of darkness because people blend it so easily into their spiritual fabric. People have been deceived to believe you can practice voodoo and Christianity. The most dangerous place to live spiritually is not the complete darkness of sin, but in the twilight of believing you are int he light when you are really in the darkness.
As I was thinking this morning about the fact that next week we will be taking the light of Jesus into such a dark place, I couldn’t help but pray for Christ to take me deeper into his light of grace and forgiveness. My prayer is that I would not love the “spiritual twilight” but the noonday light of life in Jesus.
Is your life a contrast? Is your heart in light or darkness?
“But whoever lives by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what has been done has been done through God.” John 3:21
This is a special guest post from my awesome friend Melonnie Kelly at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. If you want to understand life in Haiti, read this post. You can also connect with Melonnie over at her blog http://Melonnieinhaiti.wordpress.com.
Have you ever wondered what it would take for a mother to willingly surrender the child she loves? Out of desperation, fear and love?
My heart hurts. Seriously. These past few months have been crazy, emotional, hard… all of the above.
Our mission has been struggling to keep up financially with all of the growth we’ve experienced over the past several years. While the excitement is in getting “bigger” and “better” and reaching as many people as possible… the reality is that that kind of growth takes massive financial support. Support that can be difficult to maintain through things like an earthquake or cholera or a bad economy. So decisions are being made. Hard ones. To cut where we need to cut and to not grow until we are able to take care of what we already have in a way that is honoring to God. I am so proud of the leadership of NWHCM in the ways that they are committed to getting us back on track. It all sounds so good and exciting… and then today happened. And I found out that the “hard” decisions are hard for a reason… they are hard because they hurt.
Today a mom made the decision to abandon her severely malnourished, special needs child at our mission. She had apparently come hoping that we would have a spot for him in the Miriam Center, our special needs orphanage. When she was told that we do not have room for any more children in our residential program (but we do have an outreach program available) she chose to set her tiny little boy in a corner and sneak away. As much as I want to hate this mom, I can’t help but be heartbroken for her. How did she get to that point? I have to believe that she did this awful thing out of a deep love and desire for her child to be well cared for in a way that she clearly couldn’t.
For so long (too long) our answer has been to try to make it work. To say “it’s just one more…” and ignore the fact that we already have too many mouths to feed because we can’t bear to turn a needy child away. It was out of a desire to do GOOD that we suddenly find ourselves overcrowded and struggling to make ends meet. Remember that commitment to change and making the hard decisions I mentioned? Well here it was… time to make that choice. As meetings were had and phone calls were made it was obvious that the right decision was not going to be an easy one. I watched at Stephanie fed this sweet boy a much needed meal and fell in love as I saw his shy smiles. I held this tiny body all afternoon and just prayed over him that God would guide each person involved in his care, both short term and long term, that God would bring this baby back to good health… that God would forgive his mother for making the poor choice to leave her boy behind.
In the end, we knew that the changes need to start now. Though the city officials advice, Stephanie and Jackenson brought the boy to the Port de Paix hospital where he will be well taken care of and then hopefully reunited with members of his family. It. Was. Hard. To say I shed a tear or two would be a gross understatement. To know that we did right by the 47 children already in our Miriam Center was enough. I pray that God will bless our efforts to be obedient to him and committed to making the necessary changes as they come. I pray that God will provide the finances we need to ensure that we never have to turn away a needy family again… knowing that our programs are finally running the way they should be. I pray that God has that little boy wrapped in His arms tonight and that He’ll never let go.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Sometimes connections are made in the least likely of places. For instance, I lived one year of my life, fourth grade, in Nashville, TN. I moved back to Memphis, graduated from high school and went to college in California. One day my college roommate and I were talking and he said he lived in Nashville in fourth grade. I asked him what school he attended and he said West Mead. “Me, too.” I asked what teacher he had. “Mrs. Lyons.” “Me, too!” Sure enough, I went home a few weeks later and found an old class photo; you know the old 1970’s edition with the plaid pants and stripped shirts. Sure enough, there was David on one end of the front row and me on the other.
The first trip I took to Haiti was with a guy named Shaun King who I had never met before. He organized about 70 people from all over the US to come and help dig out a hill for the foundation of a new orphanage. It was at that moment I was hooked. I determined on that trip that I would be connected with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and that somehow I would help make a difference there. I have already been back once and leave again in 11 days for my next trip.
It has been so great to keep up with some of the people I met in Haiti that first time. Thanks to FaceBook and Twitter, we are able to connect and keep up with each others lives. In fact, just this morning while checking FaceBook one of the young ladies on our trip chatted with me about my upcoming trip. And on my trip coming up, one of the my friends I met who lives in Colorado actually is going. Connection!
Last year on our medical trip, my team met three young ladies from Michigan who were going to the mission in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. They were not sure what they were going to do, but one was a fourth year medical student, one was a nursing student and one was a sign language expert. They joined our team of three and the six of us formed Team Lollipop!! (Because every kid got a lollipop after their physical.) Connection!
The other awesome connection is that One Life Adventures grew out of a partnership with my friend and fellow pastor Paul Phipps. He pastors Sent Life Church and I pastor LifeQuest. The members of our churches who are going have bonded over planning, fund raising, praying and packing to go. The connections between these two parts of the body of Christ has been amazing to see and is an incredible example of how church should be. Connection!
On my adventures to Haiti, I have connected with the staff at the mission, other volunteers at the mission, and especially the kids at the Miriam Center. Next week I will be able to introduce my son Zach to my Haitian buddies. He is so excited to meet Jean, Den Den, Owens, Steven and all the rest. Connection!
In order to live out the command of Christ to “love God and love others” we must be connected. Who are you connecting with in your life? Who is growing with you and pushing you to grow in your faith? The one constant in all humanity, the one need we all share: Connection!
As we have prepared for our One Life Adventure trip to Haiti, I have had some great conversations with team members about what they are expecting and what they fear. The answers have ranged from “I’m afraid to fly,” to “I am afraid I’m going to cry the entire trip” to “I’m afraid I’m going to get sick.” All of our human fears and emotions are valid. We think we have all kinds of control and power over circumstances, but ultimately we are not in control; and that is a good thing.
If I were in control, I would never do anything risky because I would already know the outcome. If I were in control I would never see the miraculous happen because I am not capable of the miraculous. If I were in control, I would never step out of my “comfort zone,” because let’s face it, it’s a “comfort zone” because we are comfortable there.
But since I am not in control I can see God bring amazing to life. I can see him take someone who has never flown and place them in a Third World country to serve. I can see him take someone who is afraid of their emotions and birth in them a passion for ministry and service. I can see him take someone who is afraid of getting sick and help them to trust the Great Physician.
How do I know this is true? Because that is what he has done for me in my journey’s to Haiti. In our lack of control we give God room to grow in us and through us. And we can see God do the miraculous in the impossible.
Don’t worry when you are out of control. Rest in the arms of the One who is.
One Life Adventures heads to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in three weeks. Over the last few months we have seen God do amazing things. He has brought people from two churches and four states together to form a team to tackle numerous projects. He has provided funds for people who had no idea how they would pay for the trip. He has brought unity and a sense of purpose to this team. But yesterday, God’s provision took on a whole nutha level of amazing!!
As we have planned for this mission trip, we have asked for donations of money, clothes, supplies and anything else that might be used to serve the people of Haiti. Autumn, the therapy director for the Miriam Center had some items shipped to us that we are going to carry in, and then we also bought some items that would need to be shipped. That was pretty easy and straight forward. But then, God showed up.
One of our trip participants, Karen, had asked for donations of items from parents at the pre-school where she works. She had some clothes and diapers and other stuff that you would expect. One woman heard about what we were doing and where we were going and told Karen she had some medical supplies that maybe we could use in Haiti.
She showed up at Karen’s house with about fifty cases of items. She had pads to put on beds for children and adults who deal with night-time issues. She had feeding tubes for patients that couldn’t eat. And she had 27 cases of high calorie, high nutrition formula for people who are in desperate need of calories.
That is all really impressive and amazing until you find out that rest of the story. You see formula in Haiti is like gold. It is so expensive that often missions and orphanages have to go to the Dominican Republic to buy it. And if it is a special type formula like the one that was donated, it is almost impossible to get your hands on. This formula is so great because one tablespoon is 500 calories. Now, for Americans that doesn’t sound like a very good deal; but for Haitians clinging to life, that is exactly what they need to get their weight up and to get the nutrition to get healthy.
The other aspect to remember is that this was donated formula. Karen looked it up on-line and the cost of each case is $140.00. We had 27 cases DONATED!!! That is $3,800.00 of donated formula that will keep children and at risk adults alive. Yesterday we delivered 1,616 pounds of food and supplies to be flown to Haiti by Missionary Flights International. Another God moment!!
We remember the stories in scripture of how God provided for people in their time of need. He fed the Israelites manna and quail in the desert. Jesus himself fed thousands of people with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread. I have discovered that God is still in the food service business, and he is feeding people today with modern-day miracles.
Today, would you please stop and thank our Lord that people in Haiti will have nutrition they need because people they have never met, moved by the hand of God that they cannot see, used what they had to make sure that life could go on.
One Life Adventures because Every Life Matters!!!
I will never forget the moment: I was standing in the middle of a field in Haiti completely overwhelmed with emotion. It wasn’t tired or hot or hungry. It was pain and frustration and calling. It was the moment of recognition in my life that there were two directions to go: obedience or rebellion.
It was July, 2010. I had come to Haiti because I needed a break from my church ministry. I was there with a group of people I had never met before. We came from all over the United States and at least one “Soul Sister” from Canada. We became close as we shoveled dirt, played with kids in the ocean and took crazy pictures of the Miriam Center kids sticking their tongues out at us. (This is a special pose they learned from their mommy, Courtney!)
In that field as we heard about the dreams and vision for a new Miriam Center and a new place for these precious children God spoke to my heart in a powerful way: “what are you going to do?” I had no idea. Honestly I had only come to Haiti for a renewal and to work in anonymity. I had no intentions of being connected. That’s the beauty of God, he has plans we will never fully understand.
As I was confronted, I began to weep at what was, is and could be in that place. What was, at least for me, was a nation of poverty, brokenness and pain. It still is in so many ways, but up until that moment it was just a place “over there.” On that field, in that place, on that day, it became more.
What is, is the reality that there are incredible servants of Christ, doing impossible work, in impossible situations with no fanfare and little earthly recognition. I began to put faces to those who serve, Courtney, Melonnie, Grant, Janiel, Maureen, and so many others. I began to put faces to those they serve: Jean, Steven, DenDen and all my “Haitian Children.” I cried.
What could be is a focused, intentional partnership between my life and the life of Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, it’s staff, and the people of Haiti. In that moment I made the decision that I was going all in to help serve this place. That night in our team meeting I announced that I was in. I came home and announced to LifeQuest that I was passionate about this place, these people and this ministry and that I was going to lead our church to serve here at some level.
In 2011, three of us went. Dr. Kris Walker, Carlos Kreamer and myself traveled again to NWHCM with the goal of doing medical evaluations and charts for as many kids as possible. God sovereignly doubled our team to include another doctor, Cece, a nursing student, Cayla, and a sign language interpreter, Brianna, so that we could accomplish more than we had planned. Team Lollipop had an awesome time serving the mission.
Now, in June 2012, 28 people from three states and two churches are traveling again. One friend, Brea from my trip in 2010 is joining us from Colorado. Carlos is returning with me again this year. And my son Zach is going with me to meet all of my incredible buddies at the Miriam Center. We will be doing Vacation Bible Schools, physical therapy, construction, and medical care. And along the way we will love on and play with as many children as possible.
God took my dream and has done more than I could imagine. It is amazing to me that a place I didn’t even know existed two years ago is now so engrained in my that I feel compelled to drag so many others to experience the joy of life in such a poor, broken, needy, desperately beautiful place.
So, be careful about what dreams you may have. God just may call you to bring them to life.
This is a picture of the playroom at The Miriam Center at Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. I have had some great moments in there.
This place houses some incredible special needs children who live in Haiti. Without NWHCM, most of these children wouldn’t be here today. One Life Adventures is made up of a group from Sent Life Church in Port St. Lucie, Florida and LifeQuest Church from Palm City, FL. We will be traveling June 19-26 to the mission to serve the mission and the community. The goal of One Life Adventures is to make an impact in the name of Jesus on the lives of these precious people in one of the poorest sections of Haiti. We are using the simple motto “One Life Matters” because in our world and culture today it is so easy to forget that every life is an important life. You can follow our journey through this last month of training and as we make this trip. Each step of the way we will update, post pictures and list prayer needs. I pray that you will join us on this incredible adventure to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people of Haiti.